Sometimes things just don’t go your way. You can have talent, you can cultivate intrigue, and you can deliver something that feels different and exciting, but despite all that, things just don’t shake the way you need them to. Unfortunately NXT’s tag team The Ascension is all too familiar with bad breaks. We all can’t be Milhouse with flood pants.
The Ascension was originally formed in August of 2011 on FCW, as a quartet of superstars (Kenneth Cameron, Conor O’Brian, Epico and Raquel Diaz) founded by Ricardo Rodriguez. Things have certainly changed since then. By October that year Rodriguez was no longer affiliated with The Ascension and the characters became darker and far more surreal. It wasn’t long before Epico was called up to the main roster to team with his cousin Primo, which eliminated him from the stable. Soon afterward Raquel Diaz received a bit of a singles push and was separated from the group, and Conor fell victim to injury, leaving Kenneth Cameron as the only active member of The Ascension. During his time as the only member of The Ascension, Cameron actually thrived but things really picked up when O’Brian returned from injury and the tag team became one of the most interesting acts in all of developmental. Unfortunately another bad break was around the corner, as Cameron would be released later that year leaving O’Brian as the only remaining factor of The Ascension on NXT (a role in which he did not exactly flourish), until he was eventually paired with Rick Victor, giving us our current incarnation of The Ascension.
As you may have probably deduced, this week’s A Matter of Character is going to take a long hard look at the new NXT Tag Team Champions, The Ascension. From concept to personnel, I am going to analyze this team and point out their strengths and weaknesses, all the while making suggestions for improvement where I see fit. Let’s Do This!
When it comes the aesthetics, I’m not sure there is anyone that tops The Ascension for me on NXT (maybe Tyler Breeze). They’ve got the flash that you need to stand out amongst the crowd. Their ring gear is pretty unique, their entrance is very different from everyone else’s, and the entire concept of their pairing is out there which I like a lot. In a weird way, all this lends to my main problem with them, which is that I like the concept, the idea of The Ascension, but in action they miss the mark, a lot of the time because of the concept.
Allow me to explain. From their ring gear to their contacts, to their facial expressions, these guys look scary. Their entrance feels surreal and intimidating, and the superstars have completely bought in to the act and are giving it everything it needs. That being said in the ring, the gimmick always loses me, partially because I don’t believe these characters would wrestle conventionally. Don’t get me wrong, they are not bad wrestlers at all, it’s just there are too many times where I don’t think that they’re wrestling completely jives with their characters. Rick Victor is technically the better wrestler of the two, but has struggled to meld the character with his wrestling style if you ask me. O’Brian is definitely the better of the two as far as making the darker and almost supernatural aspects of their characters part of his in-ring style. If they find the way to make the in-ring work click with the look and the characters, they’ll definitely have something unforgettable, but as of right now they are more flash than substance as far as their physical traits are concerned.
Conor O’Brian and Rick Victor are very simple characters when it comes to their personalities. They say very little, and when they do speak, it’s in concise and almost prophetic. Rick Victor is far calmer in his demeanor than his cohort Conor O’Brian, who often explodes into fits of violent rage. They are like a pair of psychopaths, the crazy violent one who is always on edge (O’Brian) and the calm contemplative one that you’re not quite sure exactly what he’ll do, but you know it’ll be twisted when it happens (Victor). In that sense they balance one another very well.
There is an ominous presence about The Ascension, and you definitely feel their presence whenever they’re on screen. The fact that they’re personalities are veiled to us, and their nature is very much a mystery, definitely factors into the crafting of the atmosphere that comes across in every segment involving The Ascension. They are dangerous, yet intriguing. They’re insane, yet well spoken to the point of being oddly hypnotic. The Ascension as an act works mainly because they are scary due to the supernatural aspects in their gimmick and their proclivity to violence, but they are also in a peculiar way harmonic, and larger than life, which makes people desire and admire their presence.
WORDS & ACTIONS
As I’ve already said, The Ascension speak in very succinct and prophetic clips. They do not drone on, and they are not speaking to us as though they are trying to convince anyone of what they prophesize. They are absolute in their assertions, and are talking at us rather than to us. The nearly clinical and very cold style of their promo work, combined with their ominous presence and the brevity of their speeches all work beautifully in tandem with one another. Conor O’Brian and Rick Victory are fine performers and I’m certainly a fan of their way of doing promos within the confines of The Ascension and wouldn’t change a damn thing.
When it comes to analyzing the actions of The Ascension, other than my gripe with the way some of their ring work comes across I like almost everything about them. I really like the fact that they pay attention to small details in their characters, the way Victor is eerily stoic in his demeanor when not in action, the way that Conor always looks ready to detonate into a raging force of nature. They both seem otherworldly in the way that they carry themselves, which is perfect. I like that they stalk their victims from afar and strike suddenly and viciously, which makes them seem more predatory. If I have a complaint, it’s that they don’t incorporate enough supernatural elements into the characters for my liking.
One of my major issues with The Ascension for quite some time now has been that they lack any real motivation or purpose. They work as a concept, visually and ambiently but at the end of the day they are completely devoid of tangible prospects. What are their intentions? What do they aspire to? What is their reason for existence? We have zero knowledge about any of that, and while mystery is great when it comes to these guys’ personalities, I need to know what motivates them to completely buy into a concept such as The Ascension. The problem is I’m not sure that anyone in the WWE even knows what The Ascension are. Are they supernatural? In some aspects they seem to be, but it isn’t clear. Are they simply gothic mortals? Seems like the most reasonable explanation but its incredibly boring if they are.
If you ask me, I’d fully commit to them being supernatural. They are demons in mortal form. They’ve risen from hell itself to destroy the “heroes” and “angels” and bring about the “Fall of Man” (which is the name of their finishing maneuver). Sure they want to win titles but wreaking havoc and eventually rising to the point where they can attack the heavens themselves is their ultimate goal, as represented in their mission statement “The Ascension Will Rise”. Either way the WWE needs to commit to some kind of back-story with these guys so that they have a clear motivation and purpose for existence.
For supernatural heels such as these two, their conflict would only be external. Their intentions are set and they have no qualms about the evil they will need to commit in order to achieve their goals. Their only conflict is the resistance of others. They are like demonic Terminators, always pressing forward, always working towards a goal, and their rivals are the only resistance or conflict they shall ever encounter.
In the opening of this piece, I listed all the setbacks that The Ascension have encountered since their inception in 2011, but failed to mention their biggest obstacle right now, and that is the fact that Bray Wyatt and The Wyatt Family exist and have already been called up to the main roster. You see The Wyatts are a bit too similar to what The Ascension are in my opinion, and having them both exist in the WWE narrative with no brand extension to keep the separate seems like overkill (Unless The Wyatts were to turn babyface and they could feud with one another). It would certainly be overkill to have them both debut on TV within the same calendar year of one another. With that in mind, it will likely be some time before The Ascension can escape the shackles of developmental. That being said I know how I’d like them to debut.
I’d say they WWE should debut them on October 31st 2014 (which happens to land on a Friday). Leading up to their first appearance, I’d have them creepily interrupt vignettes or videos for others superstars, appearing as dark shadows in white noise. Say on Raw they were airing a video package for Kofi Kingston, the video would experience technical difficulties and cut to white noise. As the weeks would progress two shadowy figures would become more and more pronounced in the white noise on screen, and eventually we will be able to make out words in the white noise: “With The Fall of Man, The Ascension Will Rise”.
I’d even have their voices be heard faintly on commentary, as if leading up to Halloween, the WWE is being haunted/communicating with dark forces. Then on Smackdown, the white noise would flare up, confusing everyone in the arena. The white noise would fade and the shadowy figures would become clear in the image on the titantron, revealing Rick Victor and Conor O’Brian who will state crystal clear “With The Fall of Man, The Ascension Will Rise”. The video would the cut to black, and the arena would be dark. When the lights eventually turned back on, the victorious superstar’s (from the match taking place immediately prior to the interruption) eyes will be black and they will be standing still in the ring with Rick Victor and Conor O’Brian flanking him. The superstar, whomever it may be, will stand there unable to move, eyes blackened as The Ascension stare at him before hitting the Fall of Man finishing maneuver. Then they disappear as suddenly as they arrived. I think such a debut would leave a lasting and possibly traumatizing impression on the viewer.
There you have it, but as always I want to know what you think! Do you find The Ascension as intriguing a concept as I do? Do you think they need a better-defined purpose/motivation? Can they and The Wyatts coexist on the main roster or are they too similar?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying thank you Vince Gilligan for giving us a beautiful and satisfying end to Breaking Bad, thank you James Spader for giving me one semi-interesting network drama in The Blacklist that I can watch on a weekly basis, and thank you Haim for releasing an album full of awesome jams that I can listen to for weeks to come. It’s been a good week. Have a great weekend everybody!