The Undisputed Era: Hunting in Packs

In the wrestling playbook, creating a faction is an interesting route to take. Though often somewhat effective, groups that leave a genuine impact are few and far between. In fact, you could probably count on one hand the amount of factions that have truly mattered in the grand scheme of things. It’s one thing to be a handpicked batch of great talent but becoming a true unit is a whole other challenge in itself. As far as impact, I think it’s undeniable that NXT’s Undisputed Era has a long way to go. However, the ingredients may indeed be in place, now more than ever.

Believe it or not, it was almost exactly a year ago that this stable begun. Whilst the talent of that initial trio was quite obvious from the start, I must say that I personally found the whole direction to be slightly forced. The idea was a simple one, aligning three incoming talents with history between them and in doing so, adding a brand new layer to NXT’s fabric. However, it also felt at times like an almost half-hearted attempt at capturing something “cool,” a presentation made for the ‘super indie’ that NXT had become.

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Now again, I don’t mean that as a critique of anyone, it was just my own initial reaction. It didn't feel particularly organic or natural to me, instead more reminiscent of the kind of faction that TNA would so often turn to in a creative lull. Nonetheless, WarGames looked as though it help the trio find their stride, with standout showings across the board. As the weeks went by, the consistency of their performances would continue to impress too, with Cole quite visibly getting more comfortable with each in-ring showing.

Fish & O’Reilly remained what they’d been for quite a few years at that juncture: an elite tag team pairing capable of good work against just about anyone. However, after a strong start to 2018, the duo’s tag title reign would hit a roadblock, with Bobby Fish suffering a disheartening injury that would side-line him for quite some time. No longer available for TakeOver: New Orleans, an audible would be called, adding another headline to what would prove to be a simply pivotal event for The Undisputed Era.

It started with the rather obscene 6-man ladder match, the NXT North American title hanging high above their heads. In what was a stacked group of talent, Cole found himself to be the most over man in center ring, eventually retrieving the title to become its first ever owner. This was a genuine moment for Cole, whose popularity had only grown since his debut 8 months prior. Now the holder of a brand new title, Cole was quite obviously ready to enter the next chapter of his NXT career, even if not right away.

Nonetheless, The Undisputed Era’s night still had some key action left. With Fish injured, Cole initially stepped in to defend their titles, eventually allowing for a dramatic finish just moments later. Needing backup, one of The Era’s greatest rivals would finally join their side, with Roderick Strong betraying Pete Dunne, and helping the group to maintain their grip on the gold. At the time, it was a logical step, both in character and out. It’s a move that had been teased on TV before, and now was clearly the time with O’Reilly legitimately requiring a partner.

In hindsight though, that storyline beat gave the faction exactly the feel and tone that they needed. The treachery that came with Strong’s alignment was perfect, pushing The Era in a direction that’s since served them well. This group has been on the heel side from the start, that’s never been in doubt, but there’s an extra nastiness and spite since New Orleans. Whether they are in the midst of an in-ring thriller or a classic villainous beat-down, The Era are united in their deceitful dominance, genuine antagonists to their core.

This new coat of aggression was clearer than ever in O’Reilly and Strong’s sublime recent tag title rematch opposite Moustache Mountain. Tenacious from the start and aggressive throughout, desperate like all great heels should be. They were overtly vicious too, assaulting Trent Seven’s leg in a fashion almost reminiscent of another time. In Brooklyn, this faction will be cheered like heroes but in their absolute defence, they truly have zero redeeming qualities at this point in time. As an act, there’s no more they can do, some crowds just can’t be swayed.

With the Moustache Mountain rubber match looming and Cole defending his title opposite Ricochet, NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn is an interesting event for The Undisputed Era. The one year anniversary of their initial formation, this is the natural place for some reflection. Honestly though, it’s hard to imagine them doing anything but delivering on Saturday night, and as Bobby Fish’s recovery slowly inches closer with each passing month, the table is seemingly now more set than ever for this faction to truly make their mark. Four immense talents with elite skills across the board and more than that, a genuine synergy between them.

As Fish can attest though, pro wrestling rarely allows for a predictable journey, and with a potential main roster run possibly just around the corner, it’s hard to confidently contemplate where this act will be in another year’s time. With that being said, this is a group of performers capable of almost anything, especially when combined together. The Undisputed Era may be quite startlingly popular but at root, this is a faction rich with traditional traits. An arrogant centerpiece surrounded by ruthless outlaws, a group of men desperate to dominate by hook or by crook.

Cheer them if you must but The Undisputed Era are absolute villains, nasty in control and cowardly in retreat. Bad guys to their core, and refreshingly so too.

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