After watching the events of this past week with last season’s NXT cast “invading” Raw and destroying John Cena and the new season of NXT I have really got to say I am a bit disappointed in the WWE developmental process. Sure the invasion angle was different and probably the best thing I have seen on Raw in quite a long time but in analyzing the past and current season of NXT as well as the talent that is being developed as we speak in FCW and well I am not that optimistic for the future of WWE. It is this columnist’s opinion that most of these guys that you are seeing just really aren’t that good and many of them have been at this for more than a few years. It’s no secret people WWE has undergone a youth movement but if this is what they are potentially going to give us for the next 10 to 15 years than I have to say that I am not too tickled with what we have to look forward to. It is one thing though to criticize something and it is a whole other monster to try and fix it. Let’s look at some ideas for fixing WWE developmental…you’re reading “Wrestling Rumblings.”
The first idea most people have when broaching this topic is that WWE should expand their developmental territories. The theory being is that you can move these guys along and they will get different training for different trainers and also get a chance to perform in front of different audiences. As wrestling fans we tend to think more often than not that we have a great idea of what’s over and the truth is that what is over in New York, NY may not be over in Rutland, VT. Wrestling is like food in that it comes in all sorts of recipes and flavors and as with food that is not common in some areas some wrestling styles can sort of be an acquired taste. Conventional wisdom would say that these guys would get to swing around to 4 or 5 different areas, learn from different guys in the business that have “made it” and get a hang for what to do in front of different audiences. I used to subscribe to that logic also and after years of meeting and talking to people in the business that are much smarter than I am, I’ve come to the conclusion that conventional wisdom is stupid. Don’t get me wrong the logic behind this move would be perfect if the WWE front office didn’t mandate that there wrestlers look, move and work the same way in training. In other words it doesn’t really matter how much you move around WWE is going to have all there instructors teach you what they want you to learn, how they want you to learn it without much room for variety. I could be wrong but knowing some who have went through the system when there was more than one territory that really seems to be the case and having more than one territory with that thought process still prevailing would be a colossal waste of time and money.
An idea I had that I thought would really make things interesting is for guys in developmental to go out and work other independents. My thinking in this is that you can’t really improve in anything until you are around people that are better than you or for that matter that just think differently than you. You would think that a guy in WWE developmental would be better than a guy in an independent promotion but that is not necessarily always the case and well even if the situation were to occur where it were, it would be a good opportunity to see if a guy could carry another talent to a quality match. The same logic that came with the previous idea would also apply to this one as talents who work independent groups would be exposed to different fan bases in different areas and get more of a handle on how to cater to certain kinds of fans, thus improving upon their crowd psychology and having them more battle tested for when they do get that call up to the main roster. Of course when I had that idea I failed to remember that I live in a very imperfect wrestling world and while just as the other idea on paper seemed like a good one there is certain variables that would ultimately cause the demise of this idea as well. Like the fact that there are some bitter independent guys who depending on who it is that is in front of them at the moment may not have the professionalism that one may expect from someone they are working with, which potentially puts a traveling talent at risk. There is a lot of negative feelings towards talents that have been in developmental without having really gone through the independent route and some independent wrestlers have told me that some of these WWE developmental guys tend to think that they are “more talented than they really are” and that this would create issues as well. After all if you are the WWE developmental wrestler who has that problem how can you learn if you think you already know everything? There is also the chance that your wrestler can pick up bad habits, things you don’t want him necessarily doing. How can you put him here to learn if there is nothing there that you want them to learn or you don’t necessarily agree with those out there that they are learning it from? Sure you can maybe minimize that by hand picking opponents but something tells me that would be more of a nightmare for independent promoters who already have a hard enough time putting together a card without having a WWE developmental guy who is really nothing at the moment throw a monkey wrench into their plans. There are so many other reasons as to why what I thought was a great idea at the time would be an epic fail so let’s just move on.
I started looking at some of the developmental talent and there history before WWE and noticed that there are a great many guys who have gone through the WWE developmental system who really haven’t been anywhere else. Sure you have guys who turn out to be decent talents like Jack Swagger and every so often you can even crank out a mega star like Brock Lesnar but the odds of that happening is very slim and I am more interested in a developmental system that has a higher ratio of success. When I think of a developmental system I tend to look at it as a finishing school and when applying that logic I think it would be a good idea if WWE can focus on signing guys to developmental contracts who have had at least 3 to 5 years experience in the independent circuit. Why do I suggest this? Well the most impressive looking guys to me in the ring in WWE lately have been guys who have had good independent runs. Guys like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. Yes I am well aware of their history in Ring of Honor but these guys were honing their skills years before ROH. Just like the other two ideas though this one is flawed as well. You see for every Daniel Bryan there is a Darren Young who has been wrestling for 8 years and still doesn’t really impress anyone in the ring. As a matter of fact for those who wanted to criticize the level of talent that was on the first season of NXT here is a nice tidbit for you, other than David Otunga who has just completed his first full year in the wrestling business while he was on NXT every other person on that show had at least 5 years of wrestling experience amongst them and other than Otunga and Skip Sheffield who have been in the WWE developmental system from day one they have all had a minimum of 3 years of performing in independents. Now before everyone wants to tell me that these guys are very young and still have tons of time to get better I just want to inform everyone that the average age of those that were on NXT is about 29 years old. Most wrestlers tend to usually hit their stride right around the age of 30. There is a good chance that these guys have already peaked and if I am wrong and they peak late how much longer can we expect them to be around for? WWE needs quality guys now, not later.
Another idea I had is more of an extension of one that is already in progress and that’s having developmental guys work more WWE house shows. While it is true that WWE usually will call a guy up to work house shows when they want to get a better look at him to see if he is ready for TV how about having a period in every guys contract where they work a month of WWE house shows? As stated before the only way you can really can become a better in ring performer is by working with those that are better than you. It would be a good experience for everyone under developmental contract to have a certain number of matches in front of that crowd, with a strong performer when TV is not a factor. The other alternative is to have a lesser used WWE talent like a Fit Finlay go and work developmental for an extended amount of time every so often so that talents like him can work with and teach the younger guys. I am sure it is not as simple as I am making it sound but then again maybe it is, the fact of the matter is the current status pro is not getting guys ready. I know there is a lot of interest right now in this NXT faction that seems to be starting up and it has the potential to be a main event angle for a few months but the meat and potatoes of what could be millions of dollars made really rests on what happens inside of the ring. Not run ins, not microphone work, or cool gimmicks. Talent has to be prepared to work inside the ring.
I’m going to wrap up this week’s column but of course before I do that I have to give the people something to do. While it has been poorly promoted and in most fans minds is somewhat of an afterthought TNA Slammiversary is this Sunday and on paper the card looks to be a decent one and may even be one worth watching….maybe. Of course I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and well that’s it for this week, next week I will try to do better and until then I am out.