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The James Ellsworth Phenomenon

Zack Heydorn  dissects the lie that is the rise of James Ellsworth in the WWE.

There is a phenomenon in the WWE right now. Can you guess what it is?

Ok, stop guessing and I’ll help. No, it isn’t the revival of the women’s division (thank you Sasha Banks and Charlotte), or the fact that two former indie darlings are the WWE’s top champions (thank you Kevin Owens and AJ Styles), or even that NXT is continuing its rise as a reliable third brand in WWE (thank you NXT Takeover: Toronto).

Nope. It’s that James Ellsworth is gallivanting around SmackDown Live as a main eventer. Not all phenomenon’s’ are good ones and if you threw up in your mouth a little bit just now, welcome to the club. If you haven’t yet, you soon will.

When the WWE split into two brands in July, an era of new opportunity arrived in the company. Because of the split, performers like Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, Rusev, the entire women’s divisions on both shows, the entire tag team divisions on both shows, and all potential NXT call-ups were supposed to have the chance to shine. To take the brass ring and run it down the field for a touchdown. To the WWE’s credit, many of those performers have upped their game and are doing bigger things. Especially all of the women and The Miz. That said, if you turned on SmackDown Live regularly for the last month. A small, skinny, clumsy, and untalented character by the name of James Ellsworth is in the main event and desecrating all over it.

Who is James Ellsworth? A great question and one you should be asking. James Ellsworth is the guy that took the very first squash beating from Braun Stroman on Monday Night Raw.

He was then heralded and praised by the internet due to his funny facial expressions throughout the beat-down. He was then a cult hero and a meme master on social media. That hero got another shot at TV time over on SmackDown Live soon after his raw debut as a simple prop in the Dean Ambrose/AJ Styles program. His cult followers reacted, and the guy has been in the main event scene for over a month now.

I just threw up again.

James Ellsworth does not have any true discernible strengths as a pro wrestler. He doesn’t have a good look, he isn’t fluid in the ring, and he can’t cut a great promo to save his misshaped chin. He’s a comedic performer at best, but usually is more the joke than the comedian. Yet, there he is with multiple victories over AJ Styles and more WWE World Championship matches than Bray Wyatt … ever. His “rise”, if you can even call it that, is the epitome of nonsensical writing by the WWE. The SmackDown Live writing team has more talent at its disposal than any other time in the history of the show. All they can come up with is James Ellsworth? It’s flabbergasting.

His involvement has hindered the AJ Styles championship run. Of course, all AJ Styles matches thus far in WWE have been stellar. But the story he gets stuck with is that this loser, cult-hero, gimmick wanna-be wrestler has his number? That Dean Ambrose can utilize a nobody like James Ellsworth to get in the head of AJ Styles? AJ Styles is the best in the world at the moment. He’s beaten everyone from Roman Reigns to John Cena. But a guy like James Ellsworth can get in his head? More so than his actual challenger, Dean Ambrose? The story makes no sense. With AJ at the level he’s at now, the story should be the amazing asshole champion who believes nobody is on his level and therefore doesn’t want to defend the belt vs. every challenger on the roster. Man to man. Instead, we get James Ellsworth.

The Ellsworth factor has also hindered the Dean Ambrose babyface run. Ellsworth has made him look extremely weak. Ambrose is the top good guy on SmackDown Live. He should be able to stand on his own and work this feud with AJ. Yet, everywhere we turn its Ambrose cutting a promo with his “little buddy” James Ellsworth by his side. It’s cheesy. Nothing in the world of wrestling is worse than something written to be funny that turns out to look stupid. That’s what you get with these segments with Ambrose and Ellsworth, and it has started to kill the Dean Ambrose allure. Now it’s hard to watch and take him seriously when cutting a real promo. Dean Ambrose is good enough. He doesn’t need pointless props to help tell his stories.

All in all, “James Ellsworth” is an astronomical lazy piece of writing by the WWE. I can understand that the writers heard the Ellsworth reaction and ran with it a little. They could sell a couple t-shirts and create some funny moments on TV. I get it. That stuff happens deep in the middle of the card and not in the main events. If a character like James Ellsworth is getting title shot after title shot, what does that say about the Bray Wyatt’s and Randy Orton’s of the world. That James Ellsworth is better than them? James Ellsworth is a novelty. Novelties wear off and quickly become forgotten.

It’s important to point out that this isn’t an indictment of James Ellsworth, the actual man. Props to that guy. He’s parlayed this nonsense of a character into a WWE contract. More power to him. This is an indictment on the character and that character’s position on the show. SmackDown Live is supposed to be the land of opportunity. Opportunity for wrestlers. Not wrestler caricatures like Ellsworth. Because of James Ellsworth the WWE has diluted the word opportunity and what the brand split was supposed to be about. They mistakenly doubled down on a cult hero in the spirit of opportunity, but at the same time spit in the face of that word and all those truly worthy of his spot.

End this madness. Fold the hand that is James Ellsworth and let’s pretend it never happened. What? James Ellsworth has a title shot coming up?

Sorry, threw up yet again there.