Why the 'New Nation' Was Doomed From the Start
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 08.18.2014
With rumors flying that the stable of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E has been scuttled, 411's Wyatt Beougher looks at how the stable was fighting an uphill battle from the start and what WWE could've done to make them successful!
Introduction: Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot of talk surrounding the nascent stable composed of Xavier Woods, Big E, and Kofi Kingston. At first it was in relation to why they were paired up, but earlier this week, all of the speculation turned to whether or not they'd been quietly disbanded. The trio appeared together during Hulk Hogan's birthday party on RAW, dressed alike and wearing similar expressions on their faces, but over this past weekend, and then again on Tuesday's tapings, both Kofi and Big E appeared without their cohorts and also continued to work as faces. Is the stable done before they really had a chance to get going? I do not know the answer to that one, but I will look at why I think the stable was doomed from the start.
One of the biggest factors going against any type of stable that the WWE would put together comprised largely of African-American athletes is the inherent comparison to the original Nation of Domination. The Rock was far and away the biggest breakout star from that group, but both Faarooq and D'Lo Brown had respectable careers with the WWE and Mark Henry went on to become a World Champion and one of the most consistently entertaining performers on the roster over the past few years. It would be extremely difficult in today's WWE for the trio of Woods, Kingston, and Big E to make that kind of lasting impression. Perhaps more troubling, though, is the notion that they were formed as a way for the WWE to mock an article written by The Atlantic's Dion Beary regarding the issue of racism in the WWE. I am not going to put any credence in that theory, because while I do think that the WWE seems to have pigeonholed their African-American performers into a handful of tropes, I will freely admit that I do not know enough about what goes on backstage to identify if that is actually a function of racism, or just the WWE's notoriously awful creative team. In all honesty, I would imagine that the WWE writing team is largely male, largely middle-aged, and largely Caucasian, which means that they probably do not have a clue as to how to write for an African-American character in today's society. Still though, the simple fact that said theory even exists means that the stable was going to have to fight an uphill battle just to overcome that stigma.
The gold standard for African-American stables in the WWE.
Another reason that I do not think the so-called "New Nation" had a chance at succeeding is because they were trying to create the wrong hierarchy within the group. Xavier Woods was the presumed leader, but the problem with that is that he is arguably the least charismatic member of the group. Granted, he is a PhD candidate in psychology, but that has yet to translate to him playing a realistic, compelling character on a professional wrestling program, much less one that could conceivably lead either Kofi or Big E. For evidence of this, for most of his TNA career, Woods played a character based on Apollo Creed from the Rocky movies, yet when he was feuding with Rusev, he cut a promo that was filled with inaccuracies regarding Rocky IV. In NXT, he played/plays a "geek" character, but beyond wearing pants with "Over 9000" on them and yelling "It's Morphin' Time" before doing his rolling, jumping clothesline, he never really seemed all that geeky. It's the same criticism levelled at Olivia Munn and a lot of other self-professed "geek girls" - they put on airs about liking video games or cult movies, but they can't actually describe anything that happens in them, or give you specific examples of what they like about something. Xavier Woods was a fake geek girl, and that was still more believable than his turn as R-Truth's dancing, funk-loving sidekick, which debuted Woods to the main roster audience and quickly revealed that he had about as much personality as a dirty gym sock. And maybe I am completely off-base here, and "possibly militant African-American faction leader" was Woods' transition from Rocky Maivia to The Rock, as playing an exaggerated version of his real personality might have finally let him shine, but based on his body of work thus far and his enlistment promo to Kofi and Big E, I do not think that I am being too hard on him.
As for Kofi and Big E, why would they agree to follow a guy who has been on the WWE roster for significantly less time than they have? Kofi made his main roster debut in WWECW in January of 2008 and Big E debuted in December of 2012, while Woods never appeared on a main roster show until November 2013. Then there is the fact that both Kingston and Big E have been champions in the WWE while Woods has not, with Big E actually holding the NXT belt while he and Woods were in the developmental promotion at the same time. And it would be hard to argue that they followed Woods because of some physical advantage, because Big E is a much more imposing physical specimen and Kingston is far more athletic. I understand that the WWE was trying to make it about Woods' intelligence and message, but realistically, Woods would need a significant improvement in his charisma to make this story even remotely believable. If the WWE does decide to continue with this storyline, they would do well to have Big E take over the leadership of the group as both its most physically impressive and most charismatic member.
This guy should've taken the leadership reigns away from Woods.
Another reason that I don't think the group was bound for much success was because I have very little faith in the WWE's booking team to take existing characters, put them together, and make them popular. They have proven that they can book three-man factions well (look no further than the Shield right up until their breakup and the Wyatt family from their debut until Wrestlemania of this year), but that seems to be largely confined to unknown entities that they can give a strong debut to and keep momentum going for. This is indicative of the problems with the writing staff as a whole and their inability to actually get people over once their initial momentum has stalled, something that I've touched on before. Sadly, I have no faith that the writing staff of 2014 could find something constructive to do with these guys even if they had not picked the wrong guy to lead the group. The fact that the only things that they did during their brief run were beat Slater Gator on Main Event and Woods doing commentary during an Usos/RybAxel match while Kingston and Big E looked on pretty much speaks to my point.
"So Wyatt," you might be asking, "What could the WWE have done differently to make this stable work?"
Honestly, as I said before, I think it was always going to be an uphill struggle based simply on the fact that a lot of fans were dismissing this as the WWE taking a shot at The Atlantic (and there were even a few that believed it to be the WWE's answer to TNA's MLK stable). If the WWE were dead set on making the stable happen, though, the first order of business would've been a reorganization - have Woods be the one that brought them together, but make sure it's clear that Big E is the leader of the faction. Also, I think it might've eliminated some of the "WWE is just responding to allegations of racism" complaints if they would have brought R-Truth into the group at first, and then immediately turned on him for continuing to dance for the people, something Woods expressly told Kofi and Big E wouldn't get them anywhere. It would also be very important to ensure that they aren't full-blown heels - explain that they have a mission statement and show that they are going to stand behind it. Have them beat down a team like RybAxel after beating them in a match because they're angry that Ryback and Axel got singles title shots while Kofi was largely forgotten, but give them a clean win over Los Matadores where Woods cuts a promo after the match about them getting saddled with such a stereotypical gimmick. And also important is to not play up any kind of "black militant" theme or have them raising their fists in the ring - the goal is to put as much distance between this group and the original Nation of Domination as possible, to hopefully limit the comparisons between the two as much as possible.
What might've been...
I am also a sucker for the Freebird Rules, so put differing combinations of the three members up against established tag teams and let them feel like an important thing - highlight Big E's power and Kofi's athleticism, and actually make Woods seem like he's smarter than the opposition, either as the ringleader when Big E and Kofi are wrestling, or as an Edge-type opportunist when he's actually wrestling. Call out the Usos for perpetuating the Samoan stereotype to set up a title match, or point out that Randy Orton has had literally everything he's ever had in the WWE handed to him on a silver platter immediately after a three-on-one beatdown. Let Big E be the one who finally unifies the Intercontinental and United States titles, since that rumor has been floating around for several months now. Basically, all it would take is for the WWE to actually commit to making these guys feel like a force to be reckoned with, something that's been severely missing since the Shield break-up and Cena's burial of the Wyatt family. But since I doubt that'll ever happen, it looks like we're back to bland face Kofi, misused Big E, and directionless Xavier Woods (unless you count losing to CJ Parker in NXT). And while I maintain that the stable had very little chance of actually being successful in the modern-day WWE, especially in comparison to its 90's predecessor, at least it would've been something different for all three men, something that would've given them some sort of purpose, no matter how vague. Of course, we also heard that the WWE was dropping the Rusev/Swagger storyline in the wake of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 being shot down over the Ukraine, and that obviously turned out to be incorrect, so that there is still a chance that they could prove me wrong with this fledgling Nation yet.
Wyatt Beougher is a lifelong fan of professional wrestling who has been writing for 411 for over three years and currently hosts MMA Fact or Fiction and reviews Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.