It looks like Darren Young is progressing along the path to becoming “great again,” or better than initially speculated. Not only is Young now the current No. 1 contender for the Intercontinental Championship, but he may also be in the beginning phase of a promising storyline that pits him against the Miz.
The turn of events leading up to this opportunity was a bit on the bizarre side. Young was taken under the wing of none other than WWE Hall of Famer Bob Backlund a couple of months ago. Since then, wrestling fans had mostly seen vignettes where Bob is attempting to impart his decades of wrestling wisdom to Young.
The clips were somewhat lackluster, and you only need glimpse the YouTube like-to-dislike ratio to understand how poorly received the vignettes were. The message from WWE fans was clear: Enough with the life lessons — let’s see Darren Young in action!
Well, as reported by the Daily Wrestling News, Young faced Miz, who’s the current Intercontinental Champion, during a WWE Live event in Huntington, West Virginia. Young won by disqualification, and that wasn’t all that went down. It was alleged by an observer that “Backlund’s ringside antics for Young didn’t go over well.”
Weeks of promoting this duo weren’t exactly enough to bring the crowd around, suggesting the storyline was little more than a dud. It seemed the “make Darren Young great again” gimmick was proving to be a big waste of time.
— Justin LaBar (@JustinLaBar) July 12, 2016
That outlook would seemingly change during July 11’s Monday Night Raw episode, which was broadcast live from Detroit, Michigan. The show opened with a battle royal featuring a “who’s who” of mid-carders, all vying for the chance to face the Miz at WWE Battleground.
In an interesting turn of events, Darren Young won by lying down. Seriously. In the immediate aftermath of a double elimination, Darren Young was left alone. And just like that, Darren Young is now the No. 1 contender for the Intercontinental Championship, with a match on a PPV event. He’s clearly the face to Miz’s heel, but will that fact be enough to justify a push decisive toward WWE history?
— eWrestlingNews.com (@ewrestlingnews) June 15, 2016
In 2013, Darren Young came out as gay.
Despite the support he’d gotten from fellow wrestlers — including WWE Superstar John Cena — and fans, the decision seemed to be hurting rather than helping his WWE career. First, there was the follow-up announcement by Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon that while Young was gay, his character was not.
“Darren Young was the first WWE superstar to really come out as being homosexual, but his character in the show is not. At least, we haven’t done anything with it either way — just yet.”
That might seem like a rather odd, if not infuriating cop-out. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not unheard of for gay men and women to play characters that are heterosexual or straight men and women. So on its face, this isn’t as head-scratching a concept as one would think.
But more worrying was the move by the WWE to leave Darren Young off the card for a trip to the United Arab Emirates, effectively punishing the wrestler for the Middle Eastern nation’s blatant homophobia.
I feel like no none has my back and it upsets me. The struggle is real. I'm human.
— nodaysoff D-Young (@DarrenYoungWWE) February 11, 2015
Although there appears to be trepidation that WWE fans wouldn’t welcome a gay wrestler or cheer for one, that wasn’t the case when Young won his chance at a title. The Detroit crowd actually cheered when Backlund lifted up Young in celebration and chanted his name.
Interestingly, the video where we see the “eccentric” life coach Backland celebrating with his happy, but bewildered protégé was much more well-received than any of the “life lessons” videos posted to YouTube by WWE.
Darren Young, who’d been absent from action for several months, warned Miz that he’d never faced someone like D. Young. Except, that’s not correct.
But with storylines changing all the time in the WWE, perhaps there was a philosophical rather than literal meaning behind the wrestler’s statement.
— The Miz (@mikethemiz) July 12, 2016
So that’s that: Darren Young’s storyline could take him in a direction where he’d be the first openly gay man to hold a WWE belt, at least behind the scenes. With his character not gay (yet), it’s hard to know how the WWE would play the angle in the event of a win at Battleground.
Even if Darren loses, it appears that the weeks of promo are paying off, with fans becoming a bit more receptive towards Young. The hilariously awkward clash of opposites in Darren Young and Bob Backlund might have hit pay dirt after all.
Do you think the WWE’s attempts to “make Darren Young great again” will pay off? Share why or why not in the comment section below!
[Image via WWE.com]