Full disclosure – I have known Drake Maverick personally for a number of years. When working with TNA on their international TV side of things, I was introduced to the man then known as Rockstar Spud during the pre-production phase of the British Boot Camp show.
Of course I was already aware of him as a talent since seeing him do his thing at an independent show in Hull as a very young man. I was a fan, but it wasn’t until I got to meet him in person that I saw the real Rockstar Spud in action.
I’m not shy to say, and I frequently did to anyone who would listen at the time, that he was going to go a long, long way in wrestling. And ahead of his potential final match in WWE tonight on NXT, I don’t think we are even close to his eventual ceiling.
For those that don’t remember, British Boot Camp was a programme on Challenge that first aired in 2013 with the idea of finding the next British wrestling star to work for TNA. As part of my role at the time, I was involved in the very first meetings with the TV network that got the ball rolling towards production of this show.
Want to know a little secret?
The whole premise behind the shows was meant to be a vehicle to launch The Blossom Twins to stardom.
They had impressed TNA management and a wholesome, talented pair of British twins seemed like a great act to get behind and promote. It was all systems go. Now to find two credible, up and coming Brits to fill out the other spots on the show’s roster.
Enter ‘Party’ Marty Scurll and Rockstar Spud.
Needless to say that as lovely and as awesome as The Blossoms were, it soon became clear that our two designated runners-up were so full of talent that they couldn’t be denied.
To the credit of the production team, they realised this very quickly and the whole show pivoted to accommodate the open field they now had.
When it aired in January 2013, the world saw Dixie Carter and Hulk Hogan announce that Rockstar Spud was the deserved winner!
As great as he clearly was, this was his ceiling wasn’t it? Feted by the biggest star in the history of the business and sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling (TNA’s feeder league at the time) to train and appear on their shows. Like so many X-Factor contestants over the years, winning the show was going to be Spud’s high point wasn’t it? Of course it was.
Until it wasn’t. In November of that year, Spud debuted on Impact with a drastically new character and demeanour. Gone was the ‘Rockstar’ in all but name. In his place as Dixie Carter’s new chief of staff.
How to describe this character? Imagine if someone took Gareth Keenan from The Office, injected him with Haribo and gave him a shopping spree on the Opposuits website. That comes pretty close.
Clad in eye-strainingly bright suits and bowties, the only thing higher than his voice was his spirits. He was portrayed as the bottom of the totem pole in a Team Carter that also included fellow Brit Nick Aldis as the spearhead and newcomer EC3 as the man who would clearly inherit that top mantle in time.
Spud was frankly, wonderful. He displayed enormous comic timing that could be compared not just to the best in wrestling but frankly, any physical comedian you can see on television today.
His character was a revelation and that was soon parlayed into a wonderful underdog face character, cast into opposition with his former ‘best friend’ EC3 that culminated in a dramatic, bloody, emotion filled hair vs hair match filmed at Wembley Arena that showed the world that Spud could carry his end of a serious programme with aplomb.
As it transpired, that was the high point of Spud’s run in the company. As the promotion spiralled through loss of talent, TV deals and a murky period of ownership pass the parcel, Spud found himself released from the promotion. What a great run he had.
Although his TNA career could only be described as a success, this was the end of his American wrestling journey wasn’t it? Of course it was.
More fool us that thought that. In January 2018, Spud, now Drake Maverick was introduced to the ‘WWE Universe’ as the new General Manager of the 205 Live brand.
Maverick was the brand’s first dedicated GM and portrayed the role with his trademark mix of charisma and seriousness that was becoming his hallmark. He had long since been a simple comedy character but it’s still important to note just how well Maverick is able to run through the gears between comedy and serious, dramatic storytelling.
Kurt Angle is the standard bearer for this type of ability. Matt Riddle also has the gift. Maverick is right up there with them. Maybe not as physically dominant, but in terms of eliciting genuine emotion from a crowd, very few do it better.
Maverick soon went on to a confusing role as the manager of The Authors Of Pain on Raw. A replacement for Paul Ellering and hopelessly miscast, Maverick was truly on a hiding to nothing in this role.
Given no real direction, the ‘highlight’ was sadly when he ‘wet himself’ during Survivor Series. Luckily, this role was quietly furloughed and Maverick was back solely as the 205 GM.
In 2019, WWE introduced the much maligned 24/7 Championship.
Although the early few weeks of the title’s existence were typified by an inept group of wrestlers chasing the champion around various locations like a dreadful Hanna-Barbera cartoon, two men emerged from the pack to give the absurd title some genuine meaning and to make the stories around it a true highlight of WWE programming for a time.
R-Truth and Maverick displayed very different types of comedy as they duelled over the title. Whilst Truth’s phyical, pratfalling farce was highly amusing, Maverick’s tortured, earnest try-hard was brought to life with comedy chops never before seen in wrestling.
It was a fantastically funny portrayal of a man who’s two goals in life were to be 24/7 Champion and to consummate his marriage.
Both goals remained just out of his reach throughout and kept audiences hanging on as to whether Maverick and his exasperated wife had finally got the deed done. Spud’s willingness to ‘show ass’ and his wonderful sense of physical and verbal comedy was just beyond anything else we have seen in wrestling comedy in years.
Maverick’s willingness to use his own real-life wedding as a setting for this comedy spoke volumes about the man’s passion for wrestling and his dedication to his craft. Something that will not have gone un-noticed by management.
On April 12th it was announced that Maverick would be part of the forthcoming tournament for the interim Cruiserweight Championship. Although he had been a very sporadic in ring competitor on 205 Live, this felt like Maverick’s launching pad as an in ring competitor in WWE. Many observers pegged him as a likely finalist or even winner.
Three days later, it was announced that Maverick was released from his WWE contract.
It was a shock and a bitter blow for many but of course, none more so than Maverick himself. However, fans soon wondered whether all as was as it seemed. We fans are well conditioned to understand that once WWE release you, you’re gone.
As soon as it’s made public you are off TV. In many cases, the first thing a talent will do is change their Twitter handle to their real name, set up a Pro Wrestling Tees store and start to plan live post-WWE.
Not so Maverick. Well, OK, he did. But first, within minutes of the release being announced we saw a genuinely heartbreaking video in which he poured his heart out over his release.
It was hard to watch the man behind the character give us such an open look at the real guy. But then…there were certain oddities in the video. Why did he suggest that if he were to win the tournament he could save his job? Surely he would be replaced in the tournament with immediate effect?
Not only did we see him compete but his release became part of his on-screen story as both he and the commentators referenced him fighting for his job. What on earth was going on? This is not how WWE plays the game.
Speculation soon ran rampant that this was not all as it seemed. That this was all part of a storyline. Maybe. Or maybe not. If I know anything about the real life James Curtin is that he is not only the hardest working man you will meet in wrestling (OK, jointly with Jeremy Borash), but he also is much more strategic than most of his peers.
What if this release was as real as the others but instead of turning his immediate attention to his WWE exit, what if he immediately began planning for his WWE return?
Cards on the table, I have long said to friends that I think Maverick has an enormous future in WWE. And by that, I mean as part of the team shaping the future of the company once his in ring career winds down.
Drake Maverick has a sharp mind for the wrestling business and a work ethic to match while also being an extremely easy man to like. It is not very hard to imagine that his manner of going about the business, his passion, his workrate and his attitude would have been noticed by those in management he works closely with.
Maybe a couple of men who have trodden that wrestler-management path themselves? It’s massive speculation on my part but I suspect his dedication to the company he works (worked?) for will have been well noted as well as the manner of his departure.
I think this release was legit but instead of seeing it as the end of the road, Maverick has used it as an opportunity to further his brand, craft himself a storyline on his way out and increase the value of his stock both short and long term.
If I’m right then it would be fair to say nobody has ever used a WWE release smarter.
Yesterday saw the release of another Drake Maverick video. This one acknowledged and shared on WWE’s social media channels.
It’s clear this build up to tonight’s match with Kushida is being treated as almost a career match for Maverick.
Win or go home.
Was that the original plan? Who knows. But have you ever seen a release from the company used in such a positive way?
If tonight is the last we see of Drake Maverick in a WWE ring we can be sure of a few things.
The moment will mean everything. All of the very real emotions of the man, James Curtin, will be on display on Drake Maverick’s face and if he hurts, the audience will hurt with him.
Tonight will not be his last moment in a WWE ring. It won’t even be his most important. Not even close.
Because Drake Maverick is going to be an influential figure in the future of WWE. This might be a bump in the road or it might be his next gear. Either way, there is much, much more to come.
I’m done with assuming ceilings for Maverick. He’s proved us all wrong every step of the way.
Now I am damn sure he is going to prove me right.