WWE: Neville & Stardust are comic book characters come to life, what their next conflict should feature

By Zach Dominello, Wrestling Observer

WWE Superstars are often referred to as the closest thing to real life comic book characters (well I’ve heard it at least once, and WWE has their own story about it). Superheroes come to life. John “Super” Cena’s is the most obvious example. He’s more of an American hero than Captain America could ever dream to be. Captain America probably has Cena posters up in his room in the Avengers Mansion which he looks to for motivation when New York is being invaded by Skrulls or attacked by terrorist agencies like HYDRA.

Recently, WWE has taken the “closest thing to real life comic book characters” idea to the next level by straight up portraying wrestlers as real life comic book characters. I’m referring to the villainous Stardust and the recently debuted (Not Adrian) Neville. As an early aside, the majority of comic book characters who have secret identities have first and last names: Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, Matt Murdock, etc. Why on earth Neville could no longer be Adrian Neville once he got to the main roster is beyond me? Vince’s thing with first names is weird. And for that matter, tell me one superhero whose superhero name is their family name. Batman isn’t “Wayne” when he’s flapping around with the Joker. Superman doesn’t go by “Kent” when he’s in superhero mode. Neville: worst superhero name ever. Aside over.

Neville is WWE’s resident comic book superhero. His power: defiance of gravity, or gravity memory loss. Gravity dementia causer? What else do you suppose gravity has forgotten? Its keys? Wouldn’t it be ironic if gravity forgot about paperweights. No, really. Would it be ironic? I’m never sure what’s irony and what’s just a funny coincidence. Anyway, he’s just really good and jumping and spinning. He’s the herald of the Altitude Era, which sounds cool but means nothing. And he has a cape, so that pretty much seals the deal. Neville is a superhero. What’s he done that’s all that superheroic? So far, not that much, but I’ll get to that later.

For now, what’s the one thing every great superhero story has? You guessed it probably! A supervillain. Batman has The Joker. Superman has Lex Luthor. Hawkeye has those weird Eastern European thugs that say “bro” a lot. Spider-Man has Doctor Octopus, Kraven, Vulture, Rhino (not the wrestler), and countless others. Following suit, WWE’s resident superhero has WWE’s resident supervillain, Stardust. Who just so happens to be a known comic book reader. And you know what, I am 100% for this. Me, and those 5 other kids watching who are digging this likely marriage comics and wrestling.

WWE in 2015, and for a while now, has been about providing something for everyone. They’ve got an audience that covers a wide age range, and more than one gender even. Each week, Raw is crammed with three hours of content that aims to please men, women, kids, teenagers, adults, wrestling purists, kittens, dogs, white people, black people, gay people, gay kittens. No matter how hard they try, pleasing everyone is an impossible task. So with that said, the idea of WWE Superstars literally becoming real life comic book heroes and villains in all likelihood isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some people prefer the pure wrestling stylings of a Cesaro, a Kevin Owens, or a Daniel Bryan, may his career rest in peace. Some like the larger than life characters and personalities of a John Cena, a Sting, an Undertaker, or a The Rock. Some liked the comedy antics of Santino Marella, may his career rest in peace, or the Powerpoint presentations of Super Sasadango Machine. Some people (me) like wrestlers (Kazuki Hirata) who dance a lot (TOKYOOOO!). Some like the realism that a guy like Brock Lesnar brings to the ring. Some of us even still like Kane, believe it or not.

Personally, I am probably WWE’s dream customer because I absolutely love it all, and I’ve got the ridiculously large amount of wrestling T-shirts to prove it. I also read (and write) way too many comic books for any respectable, married with one child 30+ year old man. That’s why I’m totally, completely, heart and soul down with Stardust and Neville playing superhero and supervillain.

What I’m most excited about is the world of comic book stories and tropes that is open for WWE to explore. There are so many directions they can go with Stardust and Neville, so many stories they can try that ordinarily would be out of place on a wrestling program. With Stardust and Neville committed to their comic book inspired characters, they can go places that the more straight forward Superstars like Randy Orton and Sheamus can’t. That’s not a knock on those two Superstars. They’ve got their roles to play just like everyone else, their roles are just different to Neville and Stardust’s, and involve a different kind of storytelling.

I might be getting into backseat booker territory here, talking about worlds of possibilities and directions WWE characters can go. The cynical fan in me (in us all?) is far from convinced WWE will get close to doing anything beyond the usual uninspired mid-card rivalries that they slap together to pass the time and fill the hours between WrestleMania and SummerSlam seasons. Worst case scenario: Stardust continues to give a bunch of villainous promos while Neville reacts like he he’s never heard a villain say villainy things before, like he did on the past Monday Night Raw. Neville’s “what the hell is this weirdo talking about?” expression on Monday night broke my superhero loving heart a little.

I don’t know exactly what a better reaction would have been, but it just felt like Neville forgot that his character is a superhero, which he may not yet realise it is. Again, cape. His reaction was less that of a superhero, and more that of a cookie cutter, people pleasing WWE Superstar. Thor wouldn’t have stood there with that dumbfounded look on his face. Thor would have got out of the ring, gone to the back, found Stardust, and inserted Mjolnir where the stars don’t shine. Having said that, it’s only early days. Stardust and Neville are still in that getting to know each other phase. There’s plenty of fun to be had. Whether or not we’ll have any is TBD. With a noted comic book reader Cody Rhodes involved, I’d say there’s as good a chance as any.

Then there’s the Amell element. (Not Green) Arrow’s Stephen Amell, who plays Oliver Queen/Arrow on the show, is continuing to simultaneously tease and shoot down talk of appearing on WWE television in some manner, whether as a Raw guest host, or involved in some kind of program with Cody Rhodes. Meanwhile, Stardust is 100% all in with his quest to, I don’t know, lure Stephen Amell – who Stardust thinks really is the DC hero Green Arrow – into his lair where he’ll defeat Amell and take his place as the star of the hit CW TV show, Arrow, which he doesn’t realise is not real life. Maybe. Whatever his motivation, Stardust wants Amell on WWE TV. He’s even changed the name of his trademark rolling cutter move to “The Queen’s Crossbow,” and he stole Arrow’s trademark line, “You have failed this city.” So at least we know one half of this potential equation is determined to make it happen and has no ifs or buts about it. Even if they don’t have a match, I’d love to see Amell come in and assist Neville in some way in his feud with Stardust. Classic superhero team-up!

Speaking of things I want, or in this case what I don’t want, is for Stardust and Neville to end up having a regular, forgettable mid-card feud. Rather, I want the superhero and supervillain elements to be played up in new and creative ways. Do something different, WWE. It’s a risk, and it may fall flat on its face, but give creativity a try. Lucha Underground’s proven, at least critically, that there’s more than one way to present pro wrestling. LU’s movie style segments, while B-grade movie at best, are incredibly entertaining.

I want to see Stardust and Neville get into some comic book universe situations. Stardust is a comic book villain. Doing a basic run in and costing Neville a match or two isn’t going to cut it. That’s what wrestlers do. I want Stardust to do more supervillainy acts of injustice. Off the top of my head, instead of Stardust distracting Neville during a match, give Stardust some henchman. You’re not a real supervillain unless you’ve got your own henchmen. The Red Skull can tell you that. References, everyone! You can call them Stardust’s Starlings, and they can be fodder for Neville to deal with while Stardust pulls the strings. Starling is also a reference to Oliver Queen’s hometown of Starling City in the TV show (just Star City in the comics. No “ling”). So there’s that, too.

Something else I’d like to see them try, and it’s something I feel like WWE should really do more often, is show Stardust and Neville doing something outside the ring. Remember that great segment in WCW where Chris Jericho went on that Conspiracy Victim adventure around Washington? Or more recently when J&J Security took their new Cadillac out for a joyride around Chicago? Give these guys a set or a location and a film crew, and let them make some comic book inspired magic. Start simple. Stardust doesn’t need to have world dominating plans straight out of the cage. I’m just spitballing here, but nothing says superhero to me more than sad little orphaned kittens getting rescued.

How about Stardust kidnaps a litter of orphaned kittens from a poor child in a Neville T-shirt. What he wants to do with them, I have no idea. Make kitten pie perhaps? I saw that in a movie once. Train them into little Star Soldiers? Whatever. Then, you have your purple-caped crusader swoop in like a falcon (arrow), thwart Stardust’s plans and save the poor little kitties. The day is saved! All you need is a set, a camera, a few kittens, someone’s kid, and a little imagination.

Look, I’m obviously messing around a bit here, but my point is that if WWE are going to present Neville like he’s some kind of hero out of a comic book, and Stardust as this wacky villain, why not take it to the next level? Venture out a bit, WWE Creative. You’ve failed (this city) the mid-card for too long. If Neville and Stardust are comic book inspired characters, don’t just settle for some cool graphics and costumes. Put some effort into it. I know that I, and all the kids watching at least, will get a kick out of it.