Has Titus O'Neil's ship sailed?
A native of the greater Tampa Bay area, Titus O'Neil was planted in a sports and sports entertainment gold mine from birth. He would eventually realize just how athletic he was as he became a standout football player, even being a member of the 1996 National Champion Florida Gators football team. O'Neil also saw success on the gridiron, beyond his collegiate years. He would go on to play briefly in the NFL, for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Titus would also have several stints in the Arena Football League as well.
In 2009, Titus O'Neil signed a developmental contract with the WWE. He would be assigned to FCW, was the Tampa predecessor to what is now known as the highly successful NXT. Due to his impressive size and stature, it was only a matter of time until the main roster came calling.
Standing 6'6" tipping the scales at a solid 270 pounds, O'Neil had the size and presence needed to appear intimidating. The intangibles are what many would questions. Nevertheless, Titus worked hard to mold himself into a complete performer. He developed a solid in-ring arsenal and eventually got comfortable enough behind the mic, that his promo work became much more natural.
It wasn't long before Titus and Darren Young were paired together. While the duo never picked up very many wins, they were certainly entertaining and a good portion of fans gravitated to their "millions of dollars" antics. Darren Young and Titus O'Neil weren't racking up titles, but they were serving their purpose and they were also providing the occasional comedic relief which is sometimes needed in an industry where most storylines are based around more serious, brute angles.
Fast forward to the Daniel retirement speech on Raw, which was this past February. While all the superstars had convened out onto the entrance stage, Bryan gave a passionate and tearful speech about his desire to compete, but his inability to do so any longer.
After the speech, Vince began to make his way back towards the back and during this time, Titus grabbed the boss man in what some claim was a playful manner. Unfortunately for O'Neil, Mr. McMahon didn't see things that way.
Video footage of the incident shows a seemingly agitated McMahon shoving Titus O'Neil back, while everyone else, including Triple H and Stephanie look on in disbelief. The following night before Smackdown was taped, O'Neil was sent home for what was initially a 90-day suspension. After heavy backlash, the suspension was reduced to 60 days. The reason given for the disciplinary action was "unprofessional conduct."
In the weeks since his return, we've seen a small glimmer of hope, as O'Neil has been involved in a united States Title feud with Rusev. However, it appears that feud has very little steam left in it, if any at all.
It almost looks as if WWE officials went the safe route by inserting Titus into a higher profile storyline than we are used to seeing him involved in. It's sort of like a "cover your rear" approach. But, now that the smoke has somewhat cleared, we can probably expect to see things go back to normal for O'Neil and that's too bad.
Titus O'Neil has every tool needed to be a top star. He has the size, he has the in-ring attributes needed to succeed in this business and he's shown major improvement in other areas, including displaying a higher degree of charisma and taking bumps and selling for his opponent.
Right now, Titus is battling from behind the proverbial 8-ball. Not only does he have to work to get into Vince McMahon’s good graces, he also has to work against the one enemy that no one can defeat and that is father time.
Titus will turn 40 years old next April and in an industry where the top guys are getting younger by the day, he simply must do something extraordinary, on a consistent basis, to even get the attention of those in charge of making creative decisions. Not to mention the fact that NXT will never make it any easier.
Professional wrestling is an ever-evolving, fast-paced business. Many who may have found success in other promotions, they will likely find out quickly that things are different at this level. If you're not giving it your all, there's someone else, just on the other side of the door, anxiously waiting to take your place.
It's a world of here today, gone today and Titus O'Neil has been fortunate enough to remain employed with the world's top wrestling company, for over seven years now. That's feat in itself, especially considering the number of times he's been able to avoid the annual cuts.
So, the question at hand is simple, yet the answer is complex. What is the problem with Titus O'Neil? With his size, look and overall athletic ability, why has he not made it to the top yet? Contrary to what many may believe, is don't necessarily believe this is a matter racial inequality.
Honestly, I think it's just a situation where the pond is stocked with prime cuts and Titus simply does not have a high enough ceiling to invest into his future, as of right now anyhow. It goes back to the fact that there's entirely too many younger guys, many of which came into the WWE with an already established following and have the look and skill-set to accompany that.
For example, Apollo Crews. Apollo is 11 years younger than O'Neil, he definitely had a strong following when he signed with WWE and he's just as athletically gifted, of not more so, than Titus. At the end of the day, it just makes better sense to invest more time and effort into Apollo Crews.
Titus O'Neil is a good professional wrestler. He is also a good man. In fact, I'd go a bit further and say O'Neil is a GREAT man. His commitment to his community is a true testament of exactly what type of person he is and the character he possesses.
The bottom line is that there isn't anything wrong with Titus O'Neil, as an individual performer. He's just a product of his era and this era is probably the most competitive or all time. With the plethora of quality talent on both the main roster, as well as the NXT roster, you must be great and do great, not just some of the time, but all of the time.
There's the possibility that the upcoming brand-split will help Titus. However, there's also that chance that it could make things even more difficult for superstars like O'Neil. Time will ultimately give the final verdict.