On March 31, 2007, Axel, along with his mother, siblings, and his grandfather represented his father "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig at the 2007 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony by accepting the award on his behalf. On the October 26, 2007 episode of SmackDown, Axel teamed with Steve Fender in a loss to Jesse and Festus.
On June 1, 2010, it was announced that Axel would take part in the second season of NXT, using the ring name Michael McGillicutty, with Kofi Kingston as his pro. He made his NXT debut on the June 8 episode, but did not compete in a match. He made his in-ring debut on the following edition of NXT, teaming with Kingston in a tag team match, where they defeated Mark Henry and Lucky Cannon. In the first poll on June 29, McGillicutty was ranked third, behind Kaval and Percy Watson. On the July 20 episode of NXT, McGillicutty earned immunity from elimination in the next poll by completing an obstacle course in the fastest time. On the following episode of NXT, he moved up to first place in the second poll. After six consecutive victories, McGillicutty suffered his first loss on the August 3 episode of NXT, when he was defeated by pro The Miz. On August 9 the rookies appeared in a six-man tag team match on Raw, in which McGillicutty teamed with Husky Harris and Alex Riley to defeat Lucky Cannon, Kaval and Percy Watson. The following night on NXT, his team lost a rematch when McGillicutty was pinned by Kaval. In the next poll later that night, McGillicutty relinquished the first place ranking back to Kaval, slipping to second place. In the season finale on August 31, McGillicutty ended the competition in second place, being beaten by Kaval. At the end of the show, McGillicutty turned heel by attacking Kaval with the other eliminated rookies.
In October 2010, at Hell in a Cell, McGillicutty and Husky Harris disguised themselves as fans and interfered during the match between John Cena and Wade Barrett. This allowed Barrett to pin Cena and win the match, forcing Cena to join The Nexus per the pre-match stipulation. McGillicutty's and Harris' identities were revealed on the following day's episode of Raw, though Barrett claimed he had not asked for their help and refused to make them full time members of The Nexus. The following week, McGillicutty and Harris interfered in a match between Cena and The Miz, costing Cena the match and prompting Barrett to give them the opportunity to win membership in The Nexus. On the October 18 episode of Raw, McGillicutty and Harris were unable to earn a place in The Nexus when they lost to Cena and Randy Orton in a tag team match. Despite this, Barrett confirmed both he and Harris were members on the October 25 episode of Raw.
In January 2011 CM Punk took over The Nexus and had each of its members put through an initiation. McGillicutty passed his initiation, a beatdown from the rest of the group, and was allowed to remain a member of Nexus, alongside Punk, Harris and David Otunga. The following month, Punk was announced as the WrestleMania XXVII opponent for Randy Orton, and as a result, each member of The Nexus was scheduled to face Orton in the month prior to WrestleMania. McGillicutty faced and lost to Orton on the February 28 episode of Raw, and after the match Orton punted McGillicutty in the head. The angle was used to write McGillicutty off television. Despite this, McGillicutty returned on the April 11 episode of Raw with the other New Nexus members, preventing Orton from earning a WWE Championship match.
On the May 23 episode of Raw, McGillicutty teamed with fellow Nexus member David Otunga to win the WWE Tag Team Championship from Kane and The Big Show with the help interference from fellow New Nexus members Mason Ryan and Punk. They made their only successful title defense against The Usos on the July 29 edition of SmackDown. After CM Punk left the New Nexus when his WWE contract expired on July 17, Otunga and McGillicutty competed against Santino Marella and Zack Ryder on the August 1 edition of Raw without any Nexus gear or armbands, and with all Nexus logos removed from their TitanTron, effectively signaling the end of the New Nexus. On the August 22 episode of Raw, Otunga and McGillicutty lost the Tag Team Championship to Air Boom (Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne). After a minor feud with Jerry Lawler, the duo parted ways.
McGillicutty returned on the October 6 edition of WWE Superstars, defeating Percy Watson. On the October 20 edition of WWE Superstars, he teamed up with Drew McIntyre; they lost against WWE Tag Team Champions Air Boom (Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne). He then started a mini-feud with Alex Riley. On the November 24 edition of WWE Superstars he ended Riley's winning streak of 3 matches in a shock victory. He then fought Riley again on January 4, edition of NXT Redemption in a losing effort. On the January 26 edition of of WWE Superstars, McGillicutty was defeated by Kofi Kingston. He continued his losing streak on February 9, edition of WWE Superstars, in a tag team match with JTG against Primo & Epico and on the February 15 edition of NXT Redemption against Percy Watson. On February 23, edition of WWE Superstars, he broke his losing streak by defeating Alex Riley.
In late February 2012, McGillicutty mocked Tyson Kidd's lack of wrestling heritage, starting a feud. McGillicutty then beat Kidd on the February 29 episode of NXT Redemption. McGillicutty continued to insult Kidd by claiming that Kidd would never be a true 'Hart', and Kidd received a rematch on the March 21 edition of NXT Redemption, where he defeated McGillicutty. Kidd and McGillicutty faced off in a third match on the April 11 episode of NXT, resulting in Kidd triumphant over McGillicutty. McGillicutty then began appearing on the sixth season of NXT, which became the developmental territory for WWE, losing to rival Tyson Kidd on the first episode on June 20. On the July 26 episode of NXT, McGillicutty teamed with Johnny Curtis to defeat Bo Dallas and Derrick Bateman. Commentator Byron Saxton dubbed the tag team "Aggressively Weird", a merger of adjectives based on McGuillicutty's aggressive style and Curtis' weird personality. Although the team had an auspicious beginning, they experienced their first loss against the team of Kidd and Justin Gabriel on the August 23 NXT episode. They would also lose to The Usos on the August 16 edition of Superstars.
On the August 8 episode of NXT, McGillicutty was inserted into the Gold Rush Tournament to crown the first NXT Champion, where he defeated Justin Gabriel in the quarter-finals during the August 8 episode. In the semi-finals on August 15, McGillicutty faced Seth Rollins, who won the match. On the September 12 episode of NXT, McGillicutty defeated Tyson Kidd to become the #1 contender to the NXT Championship. On the October 10 episode of NXT, McGillicutty was defeated by champion Seth Rollins. He got another championship shot (this time, for the WWE Tag Team Championship). He and Johnny Curtis would lose to Team Hell No on NXT in November. On December 14, he lost to Brodus Clay on WWE Superstars.
On the May 20, 2013 episode of Raw, McGillicutty became Paul Heyman's third client under the name Curtis Axel. Later that night, Axel wrestled Triple H in his debut match, which ended with a victory for Axel by knockout, after Triple H suffered concussion-like symptoms and collapsed outside the ring. On the May 24 episode of SmackDown, Axel defeated Sin Cara. Three days later on Raw, Axel faced WWE Champion John Cena in a non-title match and won by count-out after Cena walked out to investigate an incoming ambulance. The following week on Raw, Axel again defeated Cena via count-out in a No Disqualification Match after Ryback put Cena through a table. On the June 7 episode of SmackDown, Axel defeated Chris Jericho with a roll-up after Jericho was distracted by CM Punk's music playing, but was attacked by him following the victory. Later on an episode of Raw, Axel defeated Triple H twice in one night when during their first match of the night Vince McMahon appeared and ended the match with Triple H losing by disqualification. Moments after, however, Triple H demanded the match be restarted, but - like the first time - Vince McMahon came back and ended the match with a Triple H forfeit, despite Triple H having no such intentions.
On June 16, 2013, Axel defeated The Miz and Wade Barrett at Payback to become the new WWE Intercontinental Champion. The next night on RAW, he extended his winning streak by defeating Sin Cara with his new finisher. Axel made his first televised title defense on the following episode of SmackDown, defeating Barrett in a rematch. On the June 24 Raw, Axel saved Paul Heyman's former client CM Punk from an assault by the Prime Time Players, much to the dismay of Punk. The next week on July 1, they teamed together to defeat the PTP's after much miscommunication. Axel suffered his first loss since becoming Heyman's client on the July 8 episode of Raw, when he was pinned by Chris Jericho in a non-title match. He would lose again to Jericho four days later on SmackDown, this time by countout. After the match, Axel went berserk, tearing up the announce table. Two days later at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, Axel defeated The Miz to retain the Intercontinental Championship. After the match, Axel and Heyman made a surprise entrance near the end of the Money in the Bank ladder match for the WWE Championship and forced the hands of both Daniel Bryan and CM Punk respectively. Axel made another title defense on the following episode of SmackDown, defeating Chris Jericho.
Axel then began feuding with CM Punk alongside Paul Heyman. Axel was then set to team with Heyman in an elimination handicap match against Punk at Night of Champions. During the pay-per-view, Heyman begged Triple H to cancel the match, but Triple H refused, not only confirming the match, but making Axel defend his Intercontinental Championship against Kofi Kingston, who had beaten him twice. Axel would defeat Kingston and retain the title, but he would be eliminated by Punk later in the night, leaving Heyman alone to fight Punk by himself. Ryback would then later interfere in the match by slamming Punk through a table. At WWE Battleground, on October 6th, he would defeat R-Truth with the Intercontinental championship on the line. The next night on Raw, Axel teamed up with Ryback to face R-Truth and CM Punk. R-Truth picked up the victory for his team, pinning Axel. On the October 11 edition of SmackDown Axel once again retained the Intercontinental Championship against R-Truth. At Hell in a Cell, Axel was scheduled to defend his title against Big E Langston, however the match was cancelled due to Curtis' hip injury. He lost the title to Langston on the November 18 edition of Raw. Axel then failed to regain the Intercontinental Championship at Survivor Series.
Later however, he and Ryback won a non title match against Cody Rhodes and Goldust, putting them in line for a future WWE Tag Team Championship shot, but they lost at TLC. On the Elimination Chamber kick off, Rybaxel were accompanied to the ring by Axel's grandfather Larry "The Axe" Hennig. On the March 28 episode of SmackDown, Rybaxel along with other tag teams attacked The Shield under orders from Kane and were rewarded with a WWE Tag Team Championship shot on the WrestleMania XXX pre-show which they lost. On the April 14 episode of Raw, along with nine other superstars, they attacked The Shield again under orders from Triple H. After Rybaxel began a winning streak, they earned a tag titles shot on 28 April on Raw, but lost to The Usos again. At Payback, RybAxel defeated Cody Rhodes and Goldust, and at Money in the Bank, RybAxel faced Goldust and Stardust in a losing effort. At Battleground, Axel competed in a 19-man battle royal for the vacant WWE Intercontinental Championship which was won by The Miz. Axel returned in November after a hiatus due to a supposed injury. Then on WWE Superstars after Axel lost to Adam Rose, Ryback greeted Axel backstage to explain where he was. They mutually agreed to go their separate ways and he suggested they may regroup again in the future. On December 18 episode of NXT, Axel appeared backstage, telling NXT General Manager William Regal he 'wants in' on NXT, hinting Axel might move down to NXT. Regal told him he may have a spot in the future. On the January 8, 2015 episode of NXT, Axel would get his opportunity, in a losing effort against Hideo Itami.
In the 2015 Royal Rumble Curtis was the 6th entrant, but was attacked by Erick Rowan, preventing him from entering the ring. Axel then referred to himself as "the true winner of the Royal Rumble" and trended on Twitter after never technically being eliminated from the match.
On the February 2 episode of Raw, when Axel voiced his complaints, he was assaulted by Dean Ambrose who threw Axel over the top rope declaring "now you're eliminated". Afterward in an interview Axel protested that he still wasn't eliminated from the Royal Rumble match, and that he still deserved a shot at Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. WWE would later report that he does have grounds to demand a title match at WrestleMania, as going over the top rope is the only way by the rules to be officially eliminated. Axel was defeated by Rowan on the following week's episode of Main Event. Axel then began an angle where he began referring to himself as "the true winner" of the Royal Rumble, claiming that he still had not been eliminated from the match and that he thus deserved a match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. This involved Axel interrupting segments involving the likes of Dean Ambrose, John Cena, and Rusev to protest his cause, and also led to Axel starting his own hashtag (#AxelMania). On the February 23 episode of Raw, Axel announced that he would participate in the second annual André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 31. On the March 23 episode of Raw, Axel would confront guest star Snoop Dogg, only for Snoop to bring out Hulk Hogan to confront Axel, with Hogan and Snoop removing Axel from the ring after Axel tried to attack Hogan. At WrestleMania 31, Axel would be the first man eliminated in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal when Axel was crowd-surfed out of the ring by the other 28 competitors. On the May 11 episode of Raw, Axel turned face when he shook hands with Damien Sandow (dressed as "Macho Mandow"), similar to the handshake of The Mega Powers when they formed a tag team. After this, Axel began impersonating Hulk Hogan while teaming with Sandow. "The Mega Powers" were defeated by the Ascension on the Payback kickoff show. The Meta Powers interrupted The Miz's Miz TV with Daniel Bryan, at the Elimination Chamber kickoff show. Axel and Sandow ceased their AxelMania and Macho Mandow imitations on July 24, after WWE fired Hulk Hogan and severed all ties with him. On the August 21 edition of Superstars, Axel returned to singles competition and reverted back to his old look, defeating Adam Rose. Axel would then lose to Braun Strowman on the September 30 episode of WWE Main Event. On the New Year's Eve 2015 edition of SmackDown, Axel announced his spot in the 2016 Royal Rumble, claiming that he still wasn't eliminated from the previous Rumble.
On the January 4, 2016 episode of Raw, Axel, along with Bo Dallas and Adam Rose, came to the ring with Heath Slater to support him in his match with Dolph Ziggler. After Slater won, the group were identified as "social outcasts", and Axel proclaimed that his "chains are off", turning him heel and aligning him with Slater, Dallas, and Rose. However, on the January 11 Raw, he, as well as the other members of the group, seemingly turned face by helping Ryback fend off the Wyatt Family. The face turn proved to be false, however, as the Outcasts once again played heels when they defeated the team of Jack Swagger, Goldust, Zack Ryder, and Damien Sandow on the January 14 SmackDown. At the 2016 Royal Rumble, Axel was finally officially eliminated from the match by the debuting AJ Styles. Axel would also lose to Styles in a singles match on the January 28 SmackDown. On the January 19 episode of Main Event, Axel and Heath Slater defeated The Dudley Boyz in a tag team match. On February 21 at WWE Fastlane, Axel defeated R-Truth in a singles match. On the March 17, 2016 episode of SmackDown, The Social Outcasts announced they would be participants in the 3rd annual André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32, which was won by unannounced participant Baron Corbin. On the weeks that followed, Axel and The Outcasts shared losses to another newcomer, Apollo Crews. In May, The Social Outcasts began filming The Marine 5: Battleground, taking them out of action.
The Social Outcasts returned on the June 27 episode of Raw, confronting Enzo Amore and Big Cass. The following week on Raw, The Social Outcasts faced Enzo Amore and Big Cass in a losing effort. On July 19, at the 2016 WWE draft, Axel was drafted to Raw alongside Bo Dallas. Heath Slater, however, was not drafted, therefore seemingly splitting up the Social Outcasts. The week after on Raw, Axel was nicknamed "Mr. Irrelevant" due to being the last draft pick for Raw. Axel then stated that they "saved the best for last", before he was defeated by a returning Neville. On October 10, 2016, Axel returned to Raw, teaming with Bo Dallas and losing to Sami Zayn and Neville. On October 17, Axel was at Dallas's side when he beat Neville in a one on one match, but afterwards was attacked and beaten by Dallas, turning Axel back to face and possibly setting up a feud between the two. On the October 24th edition of Raw, Axel lost to Dallas.