By Darren Gutteridge
It's a well known, and often mocked, fact that independent wrestling knowledge is not my strong suit. In fact, if you want to know something about independent British guys, you are usually better off asking my fellow Dot Net staffer and NXT audio cohort, Zack Zimmerman. But even I had heard the buzz surrounding Prince Devitt, who will soon be making his way to NXT and the WWE Performance Center.
So, when the opportunity arose to see him in my neck of the woods last week, I jumped at the chance. And after just one match on a very run of the mill show, I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, Prince Devitt has "it."
Don't worry, this isn't going to a be a deep, searching article about the definition of said "it factor." Many have tried, but it is ultimately an intangible thing that defies definition. No, my aim here is to use this one Revolution Pro Wrestling show that took place on a rainy night at Aston University to examine the others guys that appeared, and what made Devitt stand head and shoulder above them.
And it's not like the show featured 15 tomato cans – it was a nice mix of local heroes, big UK names and internationally recognized stars. The most useful guy for comparison was an unfortunate no show however, as "airplane issues" were blamed for the absence of recently released NXT star Danny Burch, who was set to make his first post-WWE appearance under his old name of Martin Stone. He would have made the perfect sounding board for a guy WWE feels they don't need, starring on the same card as one they feel they do. Fortunately, there were two wrestlers of similar standing that make for good comparisons anyway.
While never a part of the company, "Party" Marty Scurll was a guy TNA liked the look of so much that they featured him on their UK reality show, British Bootcamp. He lost out to Rockstar Spud in the end, but has used the exposure to really cement himself as the UK's top heel. He didn't wrestle on this show due to a shoulder injury, but he did cut a promo, and while he got across everything he needed to with confidence, he didn't stand out in any way. Other heels cut very similar, equally confident promos elsewhere on the card, and Scurll did nothing that set him apart. So while he may be doing well in the small pond of Britain, Scurll may not be destined for anything more because he lacks "it".
Someone who did enjoy a good tenure in TNA was Doug Williams. Over his five year stay with the company, he displayed many admirable traits, all of which were on show in Aston. A gifted technical grappler, he logically wore down his much larger opponent, Dave "Bastard" Mastiff. He had the crowd on side the whole way, which was no easy feat considering Mastiff is a big local star. And, even at the age of 41, he was one of the best looking guys physique-wise on the card. But, while he is perfectly competent in all areas of his game, I see him as a fantastic journeyman, but not someone who you feel could be a huge, world wide star. For all his traits, the one he seemingly lacks is "it".
So what then did Devitt do that made him shine brightest of all? Well as I said, defining "it" is too difficult, but there are a lot of little things I can point to as a starting points. His chops were just that little bit sharper. His kicks were just that little bit crisper. While he may not be the biggest guy, he looked like the blueprint for your ideal indie star these days, which someone who goes to a gym (e.g. not me) would describe as "really well defined for his size."
The biggest compliment I can pay him was the way he engaged the crowd without much effort. While he was preaching to the converted a little, judging by the one or two "Prince is Dead" t-shirts dotted about, he was the only guy throughout the night that kept everyone noisy during his match. Everyone popped for the big spots. Everyone booed his opponent during his heat segments. And, even though he lost his match, he was the only man to receive a standing ovation all night. When he ran down to make the save in the main event, and subsequently went straight to the gimmick table, full grown men sprinted to be the first in line to meet him. Even if everyone who brought tickets wasn't sold on Devitt's potential to begin with, he seemingly made a believer of everyone by the end.
And now he is swapping the wet and dreary roads of inner-city Birmingham for the sun drenched streets of Florida. There is always the chance he'll be one of those talented guys who for some reason can't make a go of it in NXT. As Zim put it to me recently, for all his potential, he could be dubbed "El Hijo Del Gobbledygooker", and sink like a (Martin) Stone. But if you look at the guys currently ruling the roost – Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, Corey Graves etc. - you can see how easily Devitt could fit in, with him being similar to them both in terms of build and work style. Should it not work out, we'll happily have him back performing over here, but I for one hope he is capable of making the transition from having "it" to being "it" in the WWE.
<i>Thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts on the article, add me on Twitter - @DazatheG</i>