Baron Corbin is in dire need of some adjustments if his WWE career is going to survive the next few years.
This past episode of Monday Night Raw saw him lose yet again (this time to Dexter Lumis) which prompted John “Bradshaw” Layfield to quit being his manager, ending their partnership that has only lasted the past few months (starting in October).
But this wasn’t a case where Corbin dropped him, or they were forced to go their separate ways, or WWE just quietly stopped having JBL show up.
Instead, JBL ridiculed Corbin. He equated managing him to trying to polish a turd. This was a burial and a demeaning segment for Corbin’s character. There is no question about it: he just downgraded.
And this isn’t even the first time this has happened, either. That is the trouble of it all.
Corbin was on a hot streak until he failed as Mr. Money in the Bank. While he had some noteworthy moments here and there, those are few and far between. More often than not, he’s chastised and the butt of the joke.
Corbin was King of the Ring. He was Constable of Monday Night Raw. Happy Corbin was a thing. Why isn’t any of it working?
In this edition of Save a Superstar, I’ll be pitching 10 ideas I think could work for how to recalibrate Baron Corbin and make him more successful.
Turn Baron Corbin Babyface
One thing they haven’t tried to do with Corbin since his days in NXT is to put him on the babyface alignment side of the roster.
Look. Some people are natural heels or faces. Rey Mysterio cannot work as well as a villain. The Miz just doesn’t connect as a hero. Overall, Corbin is certainly more of a heel, and I think that’s why WWE has been hesitant to even try this.
But sometimes, doing the opposite can be surprising. Hollywood Hogan was an amazing character shift. The Tribal Chief is the best version of Roman Reigns so far. If you go back to the first era of The Undertaker and compare his run as a heel to his babyface run, those fans back in 1990 wouldn’t be able to believe it.
What if Corbin’s been sitting on a fantastic babyface character all this time and WWE just hasn’t pulled the trigger?
At this point, he’s been beaten down so much that it is hard not to sympathize with him at least a little. Bum Ass Corbin would have been a better time to turn him face, I think, than now. But now that JBL has abandoned him, maybe a redemption arc is on the way.
Book him to lose. He loses his confidence (not his money, wife, etc, since that’s already been done). The key is to go back to Bum Ass Corbin without him doing the exact same sad sack “down on my luck” things. He has to be more serious about it, like he’s questioning whether he should still be competing at all anymore.
Maybe have him approach someone backstage like Edge and ask for advice. That guy can write him off in a sense of “Why would I help you? You’ve been a dick to everyone. Go to hell. This is probably a setup, anyway.” but Corbin can try to prove himself to the babyfaces that he’s having a change of heart. Maybe he tries to train some with Chad Gable and Otis as a new recruit to Alpha Academy or something.
Eventually, have him save another babyface from an attack. Give him something noteworthy, like that he fights off Imperium to save Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (once those two teams are feuding for the tag titles, as I assume KO/SZ are winning those belts from The Usos at WrestleMania). That could turn the crowd officially in his favor.
If it doesn’t work, turn him heel again. But if you don’t try, how do you know for sure?
As often as WWE tries to make Corbin a loser, they swing the pendulum back and forth to give him more credibility every couple months.
One of the things they perpetually go back to is that he’s a three-time Golden Gloves champion. But all they do with that information is say it. They never incorporate that into his character whatsoever.
So let’s have him get motivated. He wants to get back to his roots. Since he’s not a former world champion in WWE, but he did win this three times, he can be shown training to do more boxing combat. Maybe that’s the missing ingredient to his lack of in-ring success, in a kayfabe sense.
Then, go into the boxer side of this gimmick. Have him tape up his fists and throw more strikes. Put him in more traditional boxing trunks. If Grayson Waller can wear it, why not Corbin?
I don’t think this is a recipe for instant success that will immediately get him over like gangbusters and turn him into the next John Cena, but I do think it has a chance to be something that injects more interest in Corbin overall.
Lone Wolf Badass
Remember when Corbin was in NXT as The Lone Wolf, wrecking people in just a few seconds? The crowd would start counting. He’d hit End of Days and win in no time flat.
That isn’t the type of lightning in a bottle you can capture again and translate to the main roster. At least, not in the same way. It would take months of reconditioning, having him squash people every single week in just a few seconds.
But even if you don’t exactly do that, maybe Corbin can at least revert back to this more stoic destroyer character.
The Knights of the Lone Wolf was such a short attempt to give him some partners that I don’t even think it counts. Also, it doesn’t make any sense. He’s a Lone Wolf. Don’t give him partners.
But have him dress more like a badass, instead of coming out with a jazzy casino theme, smiley and energetic. Treat him more seriously (and actually book him to win—a key element often ignored despite how it is the most obvious way to rehab a character) and people might think that he’s come back around to being “cool” again.
Unfortunately, the lack of the long hair hinders this. I don’t think you can put him in a wig or anything along those lines, and hair treatment is long past an option. But maybe there’s a cool way to do something different with this gimmick despite him being bald. After all, look at a character like Kratos.
Just get him out of the stupid hats and patterned short sleeve buttoned up shirts. That look isn’t going to carry over.
Disciple of The Judgment Day
Maybe The Lone Wolf doesn’t have to stay alone. In fact, that can be part of his rebirth gimmick if he’s recruited by The Judgment Day.
For a while, they were targeting people who were losing, trying to convert them over to the group. He’s in a perfectly vulnerable position for that. “You were a Lone Wolf, tried to be Happy and now, where has that gotten you? You need us.”
Corbin is very much into the macabre. Behind the scenes, he’s been shown to collect skulls and go to oddity shops and such. Let’s see more of that on screen! That’s a side of him they’ve yet to explore.
Make him the bizarre death-obsessed member of the cult. Imagine him standing next to Damian Priest as one of the more imposing tag teams, all decked out like two dudes who enjoy inflicting pain on other people.
Frankly, I think he’d be a better fit for the group than Finn Balor. If you need to boot someone out of it, take Balor out. But even if that’s not the case, you’ve got a good system going. Balor or Priest as the main event leader, the other as the midcard champion level, and Corbin can even team with Dominik Mysterio. Or, Dominik can be treated as the midcarder, Corbin/Priest as the tag team, and Balor as the leader. Rhea Ripley, naturally, serves her role as the women’s division representative of the group.
Turn Into the Skid: Corbin the Clown
Maybe WWE just doesn’t want Corbin to be taken seriously, though. Look at all they’ve been doing with him. That could be a sign they just want him to be a goofball heel.
If that’s the case, stop beating around the bush. Don’t make him a comedic loser who we also have to take seriously as a threat on a whim any week you decide he’s not a joke.
Make him a true joke—a full-blown loser—100% definitively a comedic character, with no ifs, ands or buts. Half-assing this jobber role for him doesn’t allow him to fully embrace it one way or another.
“Corbin the Clown” doesn’t mean he would be Doink the Clown with the face paint and all. Rather, just make it fully transparent that he’s extremely low on the totem pole and only use him as a jobber to the stars with diminishing returns. Since he’s still got a little steam, have him lose to people now who are bigger deals, but gradually go down the roster to the point that he can lose to someone like Akira Tozawa.
Also, any time someone from NXT gets called up, have them beat Corbin. Make it a running gag or something.
Make Baron Corbin a Manager
Want to just give up on Corbin as a wrestler? Well, considering he’s someone who can cut a decent promo, just make him the manager, rather than give him a manager.
It never made much sense to me why JBL was alongside him. Corbin didn’t need a mouthpiece. The issue has always been that he doesn’t have the right character for people to be invested in, but they didn’t go full-blown into anything JBL could bring to the table.
Corbin didn’t become a Wrestling God because he kept losing all his matches. He didn’t start wearing a cowboy hat and go back into the rich guy persona like a copycat JBL because, again, he just kept losing his poker games.
But maybe if the focus isn’t on Corbin, but rather, someone Corbin is supporting, he can be the mouthpiece for someone else who can’t cut a promo.
One person that comes to my mind is Von Wagner. That guy has an imposing look, but struggles on the mic. If he’s going to lose Mr. Stone, maybe Baron Corbin is the one who can boost up his verbal presence.
Give Baron Corbin Another Tag Team Partner
For that matter, what if he just teams up with Von Wagner, or someone else?
Madcap Moss and Happy Corbin wasn’t a team I was super fond of, but it did allow him to play off someone in a positive way, rather than to just trade verbal barbs with an opponent who would ridicule him.
The trouble with this is finding the right synergy and settling on a character that fits with Corbin. In particular, it is hard to do that when we don’t know what Corbin’s character is. But if WWE isn’t going to invest in repackaging him in any way and just wants him to be “Baron Corbin, whatever that means”, maybe he just needs to be put with someone else who is “some guy, whatever that means” like a Von Wagner.
If you want to reform The Hurt Business, maybe team Corbin with Omos? Try that out?
If you don’t want to go with someone similar to him, maybe go with the Odd Couple route. Pair him with someone he doesn’t seem to fit with AT ALL.
Use the house shows to experiment. Put him with Rick Boogs, Elias, Robert Roode, Noam Dar…whatever. See what could be interesting. For all we know, putting him with Quincy Elliott leads to something fun.
The NXT Reboot
One of the simplest things to try is to just make him a big fish in a small pond again.
Everyone who goes back to NXT is treated like a mega star. People go nuts for Natalya, Jinder Mahal and more.
Corbin popping up in NXT to have a reboot run could make all the difference, particularly if you combine that with some of the other ideas above. Lone Wolf works better in NXT with that small audience that can get behind it rather than on the main roster. The team with Von Wagner or whoever is an easier transition on NXT than to try to make it work on Raw or SmackDown.
This would at least give him an instant bump in notoriety. That might be the momentum-builder to start snowballing.
Revert Back to Football Tom
Way back during his early time in NXT, Corbin apparently earned the nickname “Football Tom” (his real name is Tom Pestock). This was, supposedly, because he had a more cavalier attitude to the wrestling industry and people didn’t think he was taking it seriously.
This is definitely a bit more inside baseball (or…inside football? How does that pun work?) but sometimes, playing into the smark side of things can pay off. Look at nWo, Bullet Club, The Kliq, the whole Yes Movement for Daniel Bryan and many more examples.
Admittedly, it isn’t my favorite idea, but what if Corbin adopted more of a gimmick based around not being a pro wrestler’s pro wrestler.
I don’t mean that he should suddenly start dressing like a football player, change his name to Football Tom, and yell “hut!” before doing his finisher or anything. This isn’t the ’80s. But maybe Corbin’s character could get some considerable heat in more of a Jericho Appreciation Society sort of way, where his character has a vendetta against the pro wrestling business and sports entertainment in general. That way, he rubs traditionalists the wrong way and can easily feud with a guy like Cody Rhodes who has this in his blood.
“This is just a paycheck to me. I don’t respect any of the legends. These fans don’t mean anything. Who gives a shit if the Intercontinental Championship was held by Stone Cold Steve Austin? You nerds are all excited about NXT using the In Your House graphics? How lame!” – In a sense, make him someone the audience hates because he hates the audience, and is willing to rustle some feathers more than to just say the local sports team sucks.
Maybe Baron Corbin Needs to Take Some Time Off
As a last case scenario, maybe Corbin is in the range where he would benefit from some time away.
Sometimes, the best thing for someone in this industry is to step aside, let people forget about the bad stuff and miss them, and come back with a renewed vigor.
Maybe that means releasing him from his contract to save some money, let him wrestle on the indies and go to places like Impact Wrestling and NWA to win some world titles and boost his stock, and then come back to finish his career in WWE. Perhaps it just means giving him a few months off television for a reset.
But in the meantime, if he’s still employed by WWE, start coming up with ideas. Don’t just have nothing in mind for him when he returns. Otherwise, he’ll just come back as the same old Baron Corbin and within a few weeks, you’ll end up diminishing his push and he’ll go back to square one.
What would you do with Baron Corbin if you were on WWE Creative? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!
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