The disgust that flowed around the internet when Neville lost his crown to Enzo Amore at No Mercy was entirely understandable. He had been a demonstrably brilliant heel champion, putting on more quality matches than anyone in WWE this year; from his show-stealing match at Royal Rumble to my match of the night at WrestleMania with Austin Aries when the sun was still shining in Orlando.
‘The Neville Level’ was not just a moniker, but it was a true statement. No one touched the malice, arrogance, and sheer talent that Neville swaggered around Raw and 205 Live with this year. Which is why his abrupt, seemingly permanent, departure from WWE is so disappointing for the fans.
Why Neville left
We can’t know the exact reason. No one will say right now, and once Neville is released or his non-compete expires, I suspect he won’t be allowed to. However, the word is that last week on Raw he was booked to lose a non-title match to Enzo in the main event, and that was the final straw for him and he walked out. He then didn’t show up for 205 Live and has seemingly left the company.
No one who has watched WWE in 2017 should be in any doubt that Neville has been deeply impressive this year, but with 205 Live becoming the “Enzo Amore Show” and having denied Austin Aries’ request to be “promoted” from the cruiserweight division following their program together it is clear that he had a ceiling within the company.
With former NXT champions such as Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, and Sami Zayn, who are well within Neville’s body image, in the ‘heavyweight’ division and both getting over and being given top of the card angles there really is no reason why Neville couldn’t make it on the ‘main roster’.
After Neville lost his title we asked what was next for him, and the answer was basically “Send him to SmackDown Live, let him work with AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and the rest and be awesome”. After all, AJ Styles is small but he is so good at what he does that it doesn’t matter. Neville is the same.
However, after they said no to Aries they clearly were going to say no to Neville, and so when he found out he was booked to lose to Enzo again, and thus be dumped from the top of the division it was clear he had hit his ceiling, so why not leave?
Is PAC back?
For those that don’t know, PAC was Neville’s name on the independent scene before he came to WWE. He debuted in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG, the #1 non-televised indie) in 2006 against AJ Styles, he has squared off against the likes of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in that promotion, and won their tag team titles with Roderick Strong.
PAC’s return to the independent scene would seemingly add fuel to the roaring fire that they have become. New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) has been expanding it’s fan base in the west as well as putting on it’s first self-run show in America this year. Bullet Club is earning the ire of WWE, with their shirts now commonplace at WWE shows and arguably outnumbering any individual at the company. The success that Cody Rhodes has had since leaving WWE has shown the model for those that do fall out with “the fed”. Austin Aries is now available for bookings and has said that he is doing better financially than he did with WWE.
There are plenty of "indy superstars" who do very well for themselves outside of WWE and I do not doubt that Neville will be one of those should he choose to continue plying his trade away from WWE.
The British scene
When PAC signed with WWE in 2012, he wasn't missing too much back in his native England in terms of wrestling. Only a few months before he signed, PROGRESS put on it's first show. A few months after he signed, Revolution Pro Wrestling (RPW) put on their first show.
Those two companies have exploded in the years since and boast sellout crowds at nearly all their shows, including when they go to the States and put on shows around WrestleMania, even if PAC doesn't quite latch on to the American indies or decide to go to Japan, there is a red-hot British scene that he can be a part of.
The latest trio of brilliant British grapplers have extended the desire for UK talent around the world, with Zack Sabre Jr, Will Ospreay, and Marty Scurll all regular fixtures in promotions across the globe, and even being trusted with championships in PWG and NJPW.
There are some huge matches to be had in Britain for PAC, should the icon of high-flying make a return to the world of independent wrestling, and oh boy do I hope he does.
With Lucha Forever establishing itself, with Will Ospreay breaking down barriers as the first British winner on both the Best of Super Juniors tournament and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title, with the Australian scene starting to explode, and with the internet making merchandising easier than ever, there is so much potential for Neville to be a far bigger force in wrestling than WWE would ever have allowed him to be.
Their failure to 'promote' him from 205 Live is a grave error, but also one that other memebers of that roster should take note of, no matter how over Drew Gulak, TJP, or Cedric Alexander get, if WWE have no desire to even free NXT's most decorated alumni from it then the will never give anyone else a shot at even the US title, nevermind a WWE Championship run.
The King departed at the peak of his powers within WWE and once his release is negotiated he will only continue to rise.
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