After so many years of WWE programming, and seeing so many “giants” rise through the ranks of RAW and Smackdown, it’s likely that every fan of Enzo & Cass throughout their time in NXT and then the main roster knew that, eventually, Big Cass would be going solo. It’s been talked about for some time that given the right circumstance and proper direction, Cass could be a major player in WWE on his own. We even got to see a small glimpse of it on Monday Night RAW last year, when Enzo Amore was temporarily injured, and Cass found himself in a fatal four-way for the Universal Championship. Make no mistake, Big Cass has all of the potential of a major singles run ahead of him.
This just wasn’t the way to make it happen.
Enzo & Cass were the most popular tag team to ever compete in NXT, and rivaled the popularity of great competitors such as Finn Balor and Sami Zayn as well. That popularity initially carried over to Monday Night RAW, and it seemed the “smack-talkin’ Skywalker” and Big Cass would be primed to build on their NXT efforts. However, while their time in NXT was filled with great matches, it was more important that it was filled with near-successes. While Enzo’s gift of gab positioned the duo for great popularity, it was the numerous times Enzo and Cass came painstakingly close to becoming NXT Champions that endeared the team to the NXT faithful. However, on the main roster, Enzo & Cass were rarely within arms reach of the tag titles, with their closest opportunity likely being WrestleMania 33, in a match where they were favored until the exact moment The Hardy Boyz arrived. Unfortunately, without building that reputation on the main roster, while Enzo and Cass were always entertaining, it was nearly impossible for the two to build the same connection as they had in NXT, which ultimately lessened the impact of Big Cass turning on his best friend a few weeks ago on RAW.
So, WWE decided that rather than build another tag team to challenge Sheamus & Cesaro, that splitting Enzo and Cass was the better option. However, even WWE realized that the simple turn was not a big enough story, so instead they began the long, convoluted story of Enzo and Cass each seemingly being blindsided backstage, and the search for their assailant. To say the eventual payoff involving Kurt Angle, Corey Graves, Big Show, The Revival, Enzo and Cass was a bit underwhelming is likely an understatement, matched only by the long-winded promo by Cass that followed. Would it have been so difficult to simply have Angle show the footage of Cass faking an attack, Enzo turning around confused and being met with a vicious Cass boot? Sometimes simple is still the best path, and in this case, I’d argue the extra dramatics added to this story only hindered the final impact. That being said, even at this point in the story, I felt WWE had an opportunity, which they yet again rushed.
After Cass betrayed Enzo for two straight weeks on RAW, I thought that while I didn’t love the way they got there, Enzo vs. Cass would be a significant SummerSlam match if built correctly. I expected Enzo to initially resist fighting his best friend, continuing to either convince Cass to reconsider, or staying away as he healed from Cass’ many attacks. Meanwhile, Cass would run through opponents for several weeks, all the while verbally lambasting Enzo and building the hatred between the two, and eventually Enzo would return to RAW in a crazed manner, gaining a bit of revenge as well as the upper hand on Cass leading into a major grudge match at SummerSlam. With WWE’s ability to create amazing promo packages and tell stories through recap, there’s no question this match would have been highly anticipated after six-eight weeks of preparation heading into SummerSlam. Instead, we had to rush a squash match onto an already full Great Balls of Fire card, burying the match early in the night and ensuring that the live crowd was mostly silent during the entire match, despite Enzo’s best efforts with a last-minute promo.
One of the most frequent complaints about WWE is their shortsighted nature in many segments, and I feel that the handling of the Enzo/Cass feud is a prime example of that very issue. It’s nearly impossible to see any growth in this rivalry moving forward after the squash of Enzo, as it’s difficult to believe Enzo could make any real changes to his game to close the canyon-esque gap between the two. And, likely more importantly, it’s unlikely the fan interest will demand a second meeting between the two as well. So, instead of creating another Shawn Michaels/Marty Jannetty barbershop window moment that would be remembered for decades, instead we have a moment reminiscent of the widely forgotten Edge & Christian rivalry. In both cases, rather than being deeply moved or highly invested in the separation, everyone is left simply counting the days until the team reunites.