Raw is tonight, but it’s hard to care. It has disappointed too many weeks in a row, at a time when WWE usually hits on all cylinders. I’m still hyped for the Rumble, but the weekly TV shows until then will take an effort to get through.
FCW = Failure to Create Wrestlers
I’ll preface this by stating that until this past week, I’ve never watched an entire episode of any of WWE’s developmental federation’s shows. I have caught a match here and there when something was recommended, and have enjoyed some of those matches. But this weekend, I used some downtime to watch 3 straight episodes of FCW, starting with the Dec 25th episode, to the January 8th edition. And I never realized how bad it would be.
I read about comparisons to the greatness that was ECW on Sci-Fi, with the intention of crediting the roster structure to a flat proving ground, not with a defined ‘MAIN EVENT, MIDCARD, JOBBER’ structure. At least, I think that’s what I read the compliments towards FCW to be based on. Unfortunately, there’s no apt comparison to ECW, unless if basing it on the terrible 2007-2008 time frame (Chavo Guerrero as ECW World Champion? Ugh.) The FCW program was incredibly dull, and poorly delivered.
It came as no surprise to see that this breeding ground is what is delivering such top notch talent to WWE like Jinder Mahal, Johnny Curtis, Alex Riley, and Heath Slater. While I’m a firm believer that everyone on the main WWE roster deserves a spot, and has potential to be used properly (not main event potential, but long term potential nonetheless), most of the no-name FCW graduates have failed to reach anything close to resembling success in the WWE.
Now, I said most, so I don’t need replies of “But, but…but Wade Barrett! And, uh…” I know that there have been some successful FCW call-ups. I just don’t think the success rate is all too high.
Now, I can’t blame the roster entirely, because as we’ve seen from the WWE call ups, the most successful ones are the repackaged superstars. When they graduate as the exact same bland and generic persona they have in FCW, they end up dropped into obscurity thanks to being bland and generic. But, for every Heath Slater, there’s a Brodus Clay. Now, while it’s WAY too early to judge Clay’s future prominence, I do sense tremendous things for the big man, with the main reason that he’s doing the exact opposite of what FCW trained him to be. He’s not everyone’s ‘cup of tea,’ but there’s no denying that he stands out in today’s WWE by being a bit more flamboyant and over the top. He’s not a complete gimmick either, like a Papa Shango, or Boogeyman. He’s just a wrestler who likes to be funky. It’s moldable, adaptable, malleable. There’s room to move. Yet, had he debuted as generic beast, it would have pigeonholed him slightly, especially considering he isn’t the top “generic beast” in the WWE.
Now, I can see the reason behind stripping these athletes down to the basic characters that they are. There is an understanding that comes from not depending on gimmicks or crutches to get over. The problem is, they are on a downward spiral the minute they do this thanks to competing for spots against guys that have earned their FCW position by already working the indy.
See, while the IWC will always side with Ring of Honor wrestlers against a wrestler from a regional territory (just due to knowledge of those wrestlers), there’s a reason for the success of ROH guys in the WWE. ROH is a much better developmental federation, because they are learning to connect with different audiences every night, and still without the promo videos, WWE production, and creative teams writing the entire organization’s storylines. It’s not a canned audience, nor the same arena every night. ROH produces wrestling events across the country. So when Jon/MoxleyDean Ambrose signs with FCW, he’s taking a major step down to learn supposed fundamentals. While I won’t deny that FCW can help certain individuals some aspects to performing for WWE, most of the ROH guys do not. They have the tools already. Someone like Tyler Black/Seth Rollins is benefitting from the time in Florida, while Antonio Cesaro is not. Now, there could be things that I don’t see that help Cesaro refine his skills for WWE, but what I saw from him on FCW did not seem altered enough to warrant the demotion to the Florida based developmental fed.
There’s no secret that the names most mentioned ready to be called up are Claudio, Jon and Tyler. Freely, I’ll admit it’s because they were known names in wrestling before signing with WWE. But there’s something to be said about how they are head and shoulders above most of the other FCW talent due to their previous experience. In the end though, barring a few exceptions, FCW is more of the same bland and generic personas we see from the call ups to both NXT and the main roster. This includes former ROH guys, who are a shell of their former selves.
I never thought I would ever see wrestling worse than today’s WWE Divas division. FCW changed that. I shouldn’t be shocked, since this is the home of failed Tough Enough contestants Ariane and Christina. They might go under aliases, but there’s no hiding the lack of talent they equally displayed on USA network in Stone Cold’s ring. They are awful. One tag match that stood out involved Alicia Fox’s sister leaning over the ropes to make a tag, even though the action was in the center of the ring, and her partner was not in a predicament. Her partner was then involved in an irish whip, and when the diva connected with the ropes to bounce back to the center of the ring, sister Fox fell into the ring due to having her body over the rope for the tag. I won’t blame women as a gender, but it seems that female wrestlers are rarely competent when it comes to making up for botches, and this was no different. They just stood around waiting for the referee to get the fallen Diva back to her corner on the outside.
The only Divas that showed any promise were Aksana and Racquel Diaz. Aksana displayed some decent physicality, while Diaz had charisma with a promo. Outside of those 2, the Diva’s are a terrible addition to the show, much like on Raw (and to a lesser extent, Smackdown).
Bland leading the Bland
There was a great moment of potential when someone’s theme music hit and it was intense and powerful, unlike the standard generic rock themes, and the lighting changed drastically. The terrible announcers informed me that this is the standard for a stable called The Ascension. I was impressed with the production for this entrance. The wrestler who represented the stable was pulling off his actions well, perfectly displaying a character befitting the soundtrack of his theme music. Everything fit together, and made a production that would fit perfectly in today’s WWE, and bring something new to the table.
Then, his name was announced. Kenneth Cameron.
Now THAT is an impressive name.
What the **** is wrong with this picture? Wasn’t Kenneth Cameron the name of the guy who was 200 lbs in 1988 and was squashed on my Saturday afternoon WWE program by the Ultimate Warrior in 2minutes? It sure sounds like a ****ing jobber name. And this is an issue with almost everyone brought through FCW. It’s a ****ing disgrace. At the very least, find a ****ing nickname for these guys to stand out. Batista is not an impressive name, but he was at least garnered the nickname “The Animal” and it helped mold his future in WWE. If anything, all it does if give these performers some sort of hook. While Drew McIntyre never really amounted to much, the “Chosen One” gimmick helped give him the initial opportunity, something the name Drew McIntyre wouldn’t have allowed.
Had Kenneth Cameron been announced as “The Killer” Kenneth Cameron, or something similar, I wouldn’t have had any issues. Debuting a name like Kenneth Cameron will not create fanfare. Lots of wrestling fans, the younger audience that WWE targets especially, desire a super hero performer. They don’t want crazy super powers, but something needs to make these men stand out from the local bar bruiser sitting in the drunk tank.
Look at the successes from FCW recently in the WWE. David Otunga, while not a superstar by any means, is getting over finally as with the coffee sipping lawyer persona. It’s not going to lead him to a WWE Title, but it is enough to accept his position on WWE TV. Wade Barrett is someone who has the tools to succeed, and may have FCW to thank for that, but was on a downward slope out of main eventing last year to the midcard. It took the “Barrett Barrage” to help switch gears. Not a nickname, but still something associated to him that helps the audience recognize the man.
Once again, LOPforums is wrong, and FCW sucks. I was told of its great potential, but I think it’s more a case of IWC geeks holding on to their hipster mentality, and hating what’s mainstream for the sake of it. While the recent main page has had lots of bad things to say about ROH, it’s hard to imagine it’s worse than FCW.
Judge for yourself though. If you’re reading this, than you have access to FCW. I went to youtube, and set up playlist of the recent FCW shows.
I invite everyone to give it their own viewing, this is just my opinion. I will try to continue to watch once in a while, as my interest in seeing the new talents has not died. But it’s hard to get excited over most of these Create-A-Wrestler borefest performers.
While I was entertained by the event in Brazil, I must say that it left a bad taste in my mouth. It started with the Silva vs Prater fight, as I felt that the win for Silva was wrong. I saw the punches to the back of the head, and replays showed that some were in fact fouls. But Joe Rogan goes into the octagon to berate the referee for his call, refusing to accept that some shots hit. Now, while I think the DQ loss for Silva was too strong, allowing him the victory for something illegal also seems incorrect. A no-contest should have been the result, but it seemed they dropped the ball on that tough call.
Then it continued with the Vitor Belfort vs Anthony Johnson fight. While I don’t deny that AJ would be cut no matter the result, the way that the action was stood up so quickly showed that the pressure was on to make sure he left in losing fashion. Again, I don’t disagree with punishing Johnson, this felt that the fight was fixed, and that’s not the right way to go about it.
And in the main event, champion Jose Aldo successfully defended his featherweight crown, but did it in controversial fashion also. While in no way nearly as detrimental to the finish as the previous 2 issues I had, he broke the rules in major fashion. His opponent was Chad Mendes, an undefeated wrestling based MMA fighter, who had the gameplan of taking down Aldo, and controlling the action. This isn’t a debate on excitement factor, so don’t let that cloud your judgment. In a significant effort to take down Aldo, where Mendes had Aldo in the air and off his feet, Aldo grabbed the fence. This isn’t not allowed, and it was blatant. Now, it wasn’t a large enough infraction to deserve a point being taken away, it’s hard to ignore when considering how the fight continued. Mendes couldn’t get control like he had hoped, and the time he seemed to finally have brought the fight to his level was when Aldo’s grip was in the chain-link.
So, I don’t know how to feel about the event in general. While some of the action was impressive, it all seemed mired in bullshit that ruined the night of action. Maybe time will help understand and accept how it went down, but 2 days out, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow.
Derek (via email):
I like your list of tag teams - especially the prankster stable as its a creative way to utilize those guys' talents and the Mason/Zeke team. I might throw Dibiase in their b/c he's a bit more well known and his Dibiase posse character would fit in with the prankster/regular guy gimmick. The other monster team that is still in FCW is Titus/Percy but I don't think they are ready to be called up yet. I always thought that it would be cool to have a team that kind of stereotyped meathead gym rats. It could be an entertaining heel gimmick (think "I lift things up and put them down") and Mason/Zeke could pull it off as well, I think. Mason/Zeke would actually be a great foil to Air Boom - though I wish they would flesh out their stories more by giving them mic time. Now that Bo Rotunda is back I hope he debuts with Husky Harris. I think they'd be a better 'southern boys' team then Dibiase/Slater. Dibiase has improved but man, Slater needs to get future endeavored.
My biggest problem with tag teams now is that nobody on them is really very charismatic or good on the mic. The division at least needs heel teams to be able to carry the slack in this department for storyline purposes. I actually think Bo/Husky could be the answer to this but I think they'd be better suited as faces (as WWE is a bit heel heavy and Husky has a little bit of that relatability/southern charm/badassedness that got Steve Austin over so milk that, I say). JTG/Hunico is a good idea but seeing JTG mentioned in a tag team just makes me lament the loss of Cryme Time, a tag team I really enjoyed for its gimmick and how well both wrestlers pulled it off. I also think it would be entertaining to have a tag team where one member is a heel and the other is a face, and the face gets annoyed with the heel for cheating. Maybe Ambrose/Rollins could pull that off when they debut? Obviously it would lead to a feud one day but I think it would be kind of funny to stretch it out. The other tag team would be Leo Kruger/Justin Gabriel since they are both South African and have wrestled together. They could have a sort of aristocrat gimmick, but a little different than Alberto. I'd have them be kind of flamboyant and eccentric/strange as opposed to just arrogant/superior. Maybe kind of like an update of Rick the Model but with a kind of out-there Lady Gaga edge to it.
The option of FCW stars coming into WWE as a tag team is always a great idea in my opinion. These teams can be thrown together at the last minute, but because they debut together, fans are too stupid to know better. Also, adding any FCW talent to a current WWE star as a team is fine with me too. I only discussed current WWE stars, ignored the option of FCW guys. For the most part, I don’t know them well enough to know if they would fit.
I suggested Slater with Dibiase because I think the only way they could establish themselves is as a face team. DiBiase is showing a side of himself that is likable, and I sense that from Slater as well, even if only as the goofy but likable dumb yokel. Your idea for Zeke/Mason is a good one, I would love to see that. I don’t see it working as a heel for too long, this as such an easy opening to become amusing, much like Zack Ryder’s broski character.
As for charisma, I must say that a lot of these guys are better than given credit for. Justin Gabriel for example can definitely deliver a promo. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been given the opportunity much. But he’d definitely be the type of guy to carry the mic skills on a team.
I think your expectations are too high. While I’ll never claim Shawn Michaels to be the most charismatic man in WWE, he is one of the better natural speakers in history. But if you look at his early Rockers promos, along with his heel work staring in 1992, he was nowhere near as good as he was by the time he retired. So instead of comparing charisma and mic skills to HBK circa 2010, remember what he was like in 1990 instead. And I think more than enough of these guys reach that level, and would get better with time.
And on that note, peace out.
Feel free to email me a comment (Email PEN15). One of the best parts of writing is the discussions that come out of it. I don’t look at the facebook comments too much, so I’ll hope for your email instead. My hope is that your response could be used in a column to publicly discuss your comments.
Follow me on Twitter if you wish, though I don't really do much with it.