There is an unfortunate trend with NXT call ups to the main roster. Whether it’s Alistair Black, Andrade Cien Almas or most recently Keith Lee. Everything that made them great in NXT gets gradually washed away. Theme songs are changed, gear altered and booking decisions that are just bizarre. The typical formula is weeks of squash matches, then vanishing from TV for weeks. They then come back, have matches against more well established talent and typically lose. In the process, becoming just like everyone else on the roster and then don’t feel special like they did back in NXT. At least they start strong right? Well then we have Retribution. Possibly the worst NXT call ups in history. Where did it all go wrong and how can it be fixed.
Doomed from the start?
Retribution first debuted on August 5th. Presented as something crazy to try and get ratings. How did this super strong group make their impact? Did they go after the top stars? Did they beat up people throughout the night. No they threw a Molotov cocktail at a generator and apparently sort of messed with the power for a bit. Not exactly ground breaking. Smackdown was better for the group though. They invaded the main event and destroyed the ring with a chainsaw. Cutting the ropes in a rather unique spot. The “anarchy” didn’t exactly get much better though. Throwing a concrete block at a window, flickering with the lights and messing with the graphics department. Still not providing much of a credible threat to the champions. We then had the group that didn’t play by the rules, play by the rules. They were exclusive for RAW for some reason, didn’t turn up on PPV events and were not a threat to the roster. The only time the group established any dominance was when all of the unknown extras turned up to provide assistance. Keep in mind the group only had five core members at this point.
My name is…
Despite the bad booking, the members of Retribution are good in ring workers. Shane Thorne has had some good matches on RAW pre-faction and Dominik Dijakovic’s series with Keith Lee has seen some of the most jaw dropping matches in NXT this year. But because this is a faction with “unknown” members, they all have nicknames. Presenting Mace, T-Bar and Slapjack. Even if weeks of five star matches happened in the ring, no one would take the group seriously with these names. Even the commentators couldn’t take them seriously with these names. Management were doing everything possible to make sure this group would not survive on RAW.
Presenting the leader.
Despite the masks, everyone could tell that the members of Retribution were Dominik Dijakovic, Shane Thorne, Dio Maddin, Mia Yim and Mercedes Martinez. The bigger mystery was who was behind the group and what was the motivation. The answer was revealed on October 5th. Mustafa Ali turned on his friends and aligned himself with the group. The motivation being that he was overlooked and under utilized on RAW. In a throw away line he also mentioned he was the Smackdown hacker, no reason why though. There then seemed to be no long term plan for the group. The only objective was to try and defeat The Hurt Business. They didn’t even try and take Bobby Lashley’s US title from him.
Bad luck and bad booking.
It’s not all been backstage decisions that have resulted in the demise of Ali and company. With a COVID-19 outbreak at the performance center, the extras had to isolate and stifled their momentum. They were not on TV or PPV for a number of weeks and people cared about them even less than before. Apart from a video promo or some more technological interference, they were off the shows entirely.
But then there is the booking decisions. They were taken out by a stereo dive of Drew Mcintyre and Keith Lee, they have lost every match with members of The Hurt Business, and The Fiend destroyed them single handed. Why should anyone care about an anarchist group that shows no dominance and little anarchy? Can they be saved? Possibly…
How to fix it?
There are three options depending on what to do with the members. Firstly, find a new target. The tag team division has been stripped bare and Asuka has beaten every member of both rosters. By capturing a championship, the group could at least show some dominance on the brand and make the divisions more interesting. Plus, Asuka vs Mia Yim would be great match. Option two is to become someones hired muscle. Not the most controversial to be someones henchmen but they could turn on their employer in the coming weeks. Retribution could be hired by The Miz to beat up a champion and help him cash in his Money in The Bank contract successfully.
Finally, there is the option to drop the group altogether and save the members. Even though everyone knows who the members are, in story line we do not. The group itself could be written off TV without unmasking. Then, there is the re-debut of Thorne et al as their own characters and try to forget their time in retribution with their amazing in ring work. It is never acknowledged that Dijakovic even looked like a former member of Retribution. However, this only works if the call ups are successful. And unfortunately, that never is a guarantee.