Baron Corbin—real name Tom Pestock—has made a name for himself in NXT through his unpredictability factor. Signed to the WWE straight out of the NFL, Corbin had no surrounding hype to his name. To most, he was just another football reject that WWE opted to sign. After making several NXT appearances as a jobber, the Baron Corbin character we see today officially debuted in grand fashion at NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way—squashing CJ Parker in just 29 seconds. With no buildup or even an entrance on TV, Corbin's quick victory caught the attention of NXT fans with his badass look and innovative End of Days finisher.
In the advent of his NXT run, Corbin established himself as a dominant force that should not be reckoned with. Initially being fed jobbers, the Full Sail University crowd took advantage of that and began counting the seconds it took before Corbin put his opponents away. Eventually, he was challenged by fellow undefeated NXT Superstar, Bull Dempsey. The Corbin vs. Dempsey feud culminated with Corbin amounting 3 big victories against the former NXT star.
As with any Superstar who goes undefeated, wrestling fans will eventually grow tired of the act. While squash matches have their place for a star, Full Sail fans demanded more of The Lone Wolf. Corbin's undefeated streak was finally snapped by Neville in the #1 Contenders tournament for the NXT Championship. With Corbin's streak finally over, this allowed for him to turn into a cocky heel and take on ECW veteran Rhyno, who recently had made his return to WWE. Defeating Rhyno in under 8 minutes at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, Corbin quickly reestablished his dominant status in NXT.
However, after his feud with Rhyno, Corbin's NXT stint became riddled with many shortcomings. While he continued to dominate his opponents, when it came to matches that mattered (such as tournament finals and battle royals), creative never pulled the trigger with Corbin. At NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, Samoa Joe defeated Corbin in 10 minutes—passing out to the Coquina Clutch.
In the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, Corbin teamed with former nemesis Rhyno. The gargantuan duo laid waste to NXT veterans The Ascension, newcomers Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa and the recently formed amateur wrestling duo of Jason Jordan and Chad Gable throughout the tournament. Ultimately, Corbin and Rhyno fell victim to the team of Finn Bálor and Samoa Joe in the finals match.
This was not Corbin's last shortcoming in his NXT run. Many assumed that Corbin would eventually achieve NXT Championship success. After his failed Tag Team Classic pursuit, Corbin took part in a battle royal to become the #1 Contender for the NXT Championship. Corbin made it to the final two before being eliminated by the newly signed independent star, Apollo Crews. In Corbin's last big victory, he defeated Crews at NXT TakeOver: London.
After defeating Crews, Corbin became cannon fodder for quickly-expanding NXT roster. In the twilight of his run, Corbin was defeated by both Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn in a #1 Contenders match for the NXT Championship by double submission. Instead of picking up any momentum after, NXT General Manager William Regal thrust Corbin into a feud with the newly signed former TNA star, Austin Aries. Aries eventually defeated Corbin at NXT TakeOver: Dallas.
That same weekend, Baron Corbin made his unannounced main roster debut at WrestleMania 32, eliminating Kane to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Much like his NXT debut, the crowd erupted as Corbin secured an unexpected victory on The Grandest Stage of Them All. However, that all quickly dissipated as Corbin soon entered a forgettable feud with the main roster veteran, Dolph Ziggler.
Corbin would destroy Ziggler in a post-match beatdown following his Monday Night Raw debut, which allowed for him to assert his dominance much akin to his NXT days. However, he faced his first main roster loss to Dolph Ziggler on the pre-show match at Payback—instantly spelling doom for The Lone Wolf. Corbin redeemed himself the following week on Monday Night Raw by defeating Ziggler.
Ziggler then challenged Corbin to a "technical wrestling match"—owing up to Ziggler's amateur wrestling prowess dating back to his childhood. As the match began, Ziggler strapped on his wrestling headgear and then proceeded to hit Corbin with a low-blow, leading to Corbin taking the victory. Corbin would later defeat Ziggler at Money in the Bank to win the feud.
Corbin's main roster career then stagnated, before ultimately being drafted to SmackDown Live as part of the new brand extension. He soon entered a feud with Kalisto in August, until Kalisto suffered an injury at a live event—unexpectedly halting the feud and leaving Corbin directionless once again. Corbin's biggest moment on SmackDown Live came when he defeated then-WWE Champion Dean Ambrose by disqualification due to interference from AJ Styles.
Following his victory against Ambrose, Corbin feuded with newly-drafted SmackDown Live Superstar, Jack Swagger. The feud, much like Kalisto's, was short-lived. Swagger defeated Corbin due to a referee mishap, but got his revenge at No Mercy by defeating the All-American American. Again, this was another feud that led to nowhere for The Lone Wolf.
Shortly after, Corbin was announced as a member of Team SmackDown Live to take on the star-studded Team Raw composed of Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens. One week later, Corbin faced off against a returning Kalisto in a 3-minute match. Kalisto got revenge on Corbin and, in turn, injured his leg and put him out of commission. This led to Corbin being replaced by SmackDown Live General Manager Shane McMahon for the traditional 5-on-5 elimination match at Survivor Series.
Had Corbin not been replaced, it could have proved to have been his new shining moment on the main roster. After several burner feuds with little to no direction, his placement on Team SmackDown Live was perfect for him. Standing at 6-foot-8, 275 lbs., Corbin was SmackDown's ideal answer to Raw's monster in Braun Strowman, albeit 100 lbs. less. This match would have allowed for Corbin to demonstrate his chops in the ring and prove he can put on an entertaining match while hanging with some of the best in the business.
I am a huge Baron Corbin fan, but seeing his mishandling on the main roster is quite disappointing. From his disdain of independent wrestling shtick (telling Apollo Crews he "should have stayed in Ring of Honor" even though he never wrestled there) to his promos on Talking Smack, Corbin has proven time and time again that he can cut great promos exuding cockiness and confidence. Through his entire NXT stint—albeit never attaining championship success—Corbin has put on entertaining, hard-hitting big man matches in a time where fans clamor for smaller wrestlers under 6-foot, 225 lbs.
I truly believe that with all of his talent, Baron Corbin will eventually succeed in WWE. However, his current treatment right now only serves to prove otherwise. Unless WWE creative pulls the trigger, Baron Corbin will never be able to grab the brass ring and break through the glass ceiling.
What do you think? Is Baron Corbin the real deal or is he just another big man in the wrong era? Leave your questions and comments below!