By Haydn Gleed
When wrestling fans are discussing the current product and some of its failings, if they are pushed to give their ideas on how to improve the stale WWE product, the most common belief to create a new and exciting product is to call up the likes of Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura or some other talent from the NXT roster. I don’t agree with that philosophy.
As you read this on the December 16, 2016, it’s exactly a year since I attended NXT Takeover: London. With a feeling of nostalgia of a good event and an equally great trip with a good friend, I decided to have a look at the card. Would it surprise you if I told you that eight out of the 12 wrestlers on this card are now on the main roster? Equally astonishing is there were 13 other wrestlers involved in pre and post event matches that weren’t on the Takeover card, and eight of them are also now on the main roster. This means 16 of the 25 acts used now call either Raw or Smackdown their home, or to put it another way, 64 percent of the talent involved that night have been called up.
To show you I’m not talking nonsense, the talent in question are Chad Gable, Jason Jordan, Aiden English, Simon Gotch, Zack Ryder, Mojo Rawley, Alexa Bliss, Sami Zayn, Emma, Dana Brooke, Enzo Amore, Colin Cassady, Carmella, Baron Corbin, Apollo Crews, Bayley, Nia Jax, and Finn Balor. When you add the fact that Kevin Owens, Sasha Banks, and Tyler Breeze wrestled on at least one of the previous two Takeovers prior to this, that would be a roster that most wrestling companies would love to start off with, let alone being called up into the mix of established stars already on the main roster.
Can we hand on our hearts say that any of these talents have been used to their full potential and made a significant impact. Obviously, Balor could have made a real difference but we will never know what impact his rise to the main roster would have been long term due to injury. However, aside from brief moments of light most of the above have fizzled. Baron Corbin, or Bill Murray as I now call him given that he is stuck in Groundhog Day. Beat enhancement wrestlers, face Dolph Ziggler, beat jobbers, beat up Kalisto, #They say our love won’t pay the rent…# and repeat.
The Vaudevillans fizzled out quickly after an encouraging start, American Alpha are being wasted for whatever reason. Apollo Crews smiles a lot. Nia Jax is MIA. Emma is scheduled to premiere in 2045 (at this rate). Tyler Breeze looks like he’s about to break into YMCA at any given moment. Enzo Amore chases after married women. Bayley’s character is about as deep as a glass of water. Dana Brooke’s strength is talking rather than wrestling, so naturally they make her wrestle more and talk less. Big Cass can’t manage basic things like waiting until his music stops before speaking and so on so forth.
I know it’s not the talent or indeed the fault of the writers when it comes to the way the wrestlers are booked. I can appreciate how difficult it must be for writers to come up with ideas, feel passionate about them, and then have them shot down by Vince McMahon. So much so I have sympathy and understanding that you end up feeling like the best thing for your pride and sense of self worth is to write for the audience of one. But when you look at the NXT Takeover: London show, it wasn’t the best Takeover to that point, but every single character was well defined and was in well-crafted feuds that mattered. There wasn’t the sense that anything had just been thrown out there, unlike how a lot of these talents feel a year on in brand specific pre-show matches. The reason I bring this up is those writers who put together the Takeover show are still within the bubble of WWE, hell Ryan Ward lead writer of the NXT product at the time has been promoted to a prominent position on Smackdown so why can’t they do their job as effectively as they did a year ago on the main roster? Because of the filter and the ultimate decision maker, Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
So why can’t the talent seemingly get over by using the same gimmicks on the main roster as they did on NXT? Does WWE just assume that everybody knows the backstory of the characters they call up and do a lazy job introducing them? Are the audiences more/less easier to please than the casual fans? Or is it simply that Vince McMahon doesn’t “get” why wrestlers like Sami Zayn or Neville when he sees them because they look too much like leprechauns and elves in his warped mind? With all the reports out of WWE indicating that Vince McMahon’s behavior has become more erratic over the years, it wouldn’t shock me if he felt that NXT was competition and he had to promote the talent that came through development differently, in “the McMahon” way because we don’t want our stars made somewhere else dammit!
So the issue is quite clearly with Vince McMahon and his philosophies. Some would argue it’s his age and he’s set in his way, which is a fair point but if that’s the case and the product is suffering something needs to be done to restructure the way the shows are written. I wrote a blog about 18 months ago talking about the talent who had been called up around that time and how they were being misused. I came up with the suggestion at the time that the writers for NXT should be brought up with the talent that they write for and be the exclusive writer and champion for that particular wrestler. That way you get the consistency of character and somebody backstage who can make the argument to the higher ups as to why this character would do X,Y & Z and more importantly get over doing it.
Will this happen? No it won’t, but the stats remain 64 percent of the NXT talent on the praised NXT Takeover: London event from 12 months ago and not one of them has gone on to improve the product or move the needle in a meaningful way magnifies the problem. The fact that I wrote 18 months ago about talent being wasted from NXT and I am still talking about it now is alarming. Development is supposed to develop wrestlers into superstars, but yet a returning star from 15 years ago is ten times a bigger attraction than anybody brought up from WWE development at any point in the last five years. Hell, the argument could be made that Rhyno, a mid-card star from the original ECW, means more than the majority of the London: Takeover 64 percent.
So is bringing more talent from NXT up to the main roster the answer? No it’s not, it’s bringing more of the NXT philosophy’s and the more up to date edginess and storytelling that we saw twelve months ago, because as we have seen with the 64 percent of Takeover: London on the main roster, it’s not just the talent alone that make an event or company special.
Agree/Disagree? Hey it’s all good. One of the best things about supporting wrestling is the debate that can spring up from opinions. Let me know yours @haydngleed or via email firstname.lastname@example.org