It was a simple mistake and nothing more. We all know this. Being a competitor in any sport comes with great risk to one’s physical body, and on many occasions, we as fans have the both the honor and privilege of watching our heroes succeed, collecting titles and accolades, often forgetting that on the other side of that coin, we sometimes have the unfortunate task of watching them procure injuries, leaving that ever popular tag line “Don’t Try This at Home” lingering on the brain.
It was the scariest WWE moment of 2016 for me, personally. A moment I will never forget witnessing live. The site was the Allstate Arena in Chicago, IL and WWE had just kicked off its annual installment of “Payback”, one of the less heralded chapters in WWE’s yearly cycle of PPV offerings. 2016’s edition was destined to be different though, as the youthful card boasted many highly anticipated matches including the match that opened the show, pitting a pair of NXT imported tag teams “The Vaudevillains” against the red-hot “Enzo & Big Cass” to determine a number one contender for the WWE tag team titles.
Just minutes into the contest, Simon Gotch tagged into the match, taking Enzo Amore by the head and quickly whipping him into the ropes. The moment he began the maneuver, I cringed, seeing how short of a distance there was between Enzo and the ropes and adding the excessive amount of force Gotch put behind it, made it feel more like I was solving an algebraic equation that was calculated to end in failure than it ever seemed like a wrestling hold. Inevitable, Enzo hit the middle rope, temple first, while making an effort to get his head low enough to clear the rope, and instead, violently crashed head first into the mat, before sailing out of the ring where he quickly went cross-eyed and laid motionless on the floor. The fall looked so awful that referee promptly hopped through the ropes to check on Enzo’s well being and while doing so, Gotch made his way over to Enzo and attempted to lift the lifeless man off the floor by his head, before the referee intervened and through up the “X” signal, calling for medical attention.
In the following days, much was made about Gotch’s pair of mistakes in this contest. Many former and current pro-wrestlers were highly opinionated on what transpired, including “Stone Cold” Steve Austin who seemed to share and echo the opinions of many (including myself) on the matter:
“My thoughts on that are, Gotch, when you’re throwing a man through the ropes at that short of a distance, you back off the horsepower. You threw him in with way too much force. I know it was unintentional [and] I know you were excited, but when you’re that close, you’ve got to slow the horsepower down, and, basically, you just kind of guide him. Give him a little bit of momentum, but you threw him so hard, so close, he couldn’t control anything that resulted in that wicked bump. And, one more mistake: you went and picked him up by his head when he was really in a bad position [and he] looked bad. You’ve got to be able to sense that. So, two messages. Don’t use that much horsepower that close to the [ropes]. It’s dangerous. And don’t pick a man up by his head if you have an inkling that something went wrong…I’m not coming down on Gotch and I think the excitement got a hold of him, but, man, [it was] a really scary bump. Gotch, check on a man before you grab someone by the head if you suspect anything. And that’s just words of wisdom. I’m not eating your ass out. I’m just saying, ‘hey, ease up on the horsepower’.”
Days before this incident even occurred, a small piece of news hit many sources stating that Vince McMahon was already having second thoughts about bringing the Vaudevillains to the main roster, some sources stating McMahon was both “soured” and thought the gimmick was “stupid” and silly in nature, criticizing NXT for not preparing characters and gimmicks suitable for the main roster. It had been less than a month, and already the Vaudevillains seemed to be working with two strikes against them following the Enzo incident at “Payback”, so what happened next makes me shake my head in complete disbelief.
On July 19th, as Smackdown Live hit the airwaves for the very first time WWE began its latest “brand extension” with a televised draft that would see each respective show (Raw or Smackdown) divvy up sides and reset the course for many young superstars searching for an opportunity that began with what the brand extension offers the most of… more television time. Before the show even started, Simon Gotch was involved in a brief backstage altercation with Sin Cara, which was deemed as a one-sided fight favoring the former “Lucha Dragon”. Though some sources say Sin Cara threw an unopened can of soda at Gotch’s face and others claim he threw a punch, the general consensus was that Gotch lost the fight which was dubbed as a “quick and one-sided destruction” by the Wrestling Observer. Every source seemed to agree with that fact as well as many stating that Simon Gotch is well-known for getting himself in hot water with other superstars, often times running his mouth and upsetting others.
In less than two months time, Simon Gotch had seemingly undone any moment of merit that the Vaudevillains had ever enjoyed as a team. Many forget they once reigned as NXT tag team champions. They also forget that they introduced the casual wrestling fan to Leva Bates, better known as “Blue Pants” during her NXT tenure. Those same people also seem to forget about how the other half of this duo, Aiden English, has suffered the effects of Gotch’s poor decision making in the process. Since the faux pas of mid 2016, the team of English & Gotch have been virtually non-existent to the WWE universe, relegated to putting over lesser teams like “Breezango” and “The Hype Bros” rather than contending for Smackdown’s tag team titles in the very few instances they have been allotted TV time.
The Vaudevillains are a team that I deeply believe in and hope will rebound over time. Both are amazing competitors that gel well together and have the talent to turn things back in their favor. Only time will tell if they can flip the script and get back to relevance. Until then, this is a message for Simon Gotch, from a huge fan and supporter.
And that message is simply “Please, please, please, get out of your own way!”
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image credit – WWE