WWE + ROH = Awesome.
I must admit, after a few months of finding most WWE programming to be lackadaisical, the past couple of weeks have been a nice change of pace. Outside of the still boring WWE title scene, both Raw and Smackdown has done a terrific job of sharing the spotlight among the more interesting wrestlers. It's made the overall WWE experience to be a lot more satisfying. I mentally started thinking of the aspects I'm enjoying recently, and I noticed a trend. While NXT is definitely a step above what FCW was producing, the focal point seems the be those with experience before joining the ranks of WWE. I used ROH in the title, so I'll stick with that as a basis, but truly the independent wrestling scene has influenced WWE is ways HHH and Vince may never admit to.
An obvious starting point. The Shield have taken WWE by storm. While a lot of their success should be credited to the WWE creative and booking teams, there's no doubt that this project would not have worked with just any NXT call up. Roman Reigns has the bloodline that will help him out where his lack of experience would normally do him in, while adding necessary size and strength to the stable. But there's little doubt that the former ROH stars are the backbone of the group. Seth Rollins is the former Tyler Black. Black was featured on the CM Punk DVD as someone Punk trained while in ROH. Tyler made a name for himself in Ring of Honor after Punk moved onto OVW and WWE, and he did it by being a part of a stable. In 2007, ROH was in the middle of what I consider their prime. Not only were they delivering lots of awesome matches, but the storylines and characters were top notch to match. A major move into the “sports entertainment” side of things was their Age of the Fall angle. It never panned out to be as major as their debut was, but it was still the perfect starting point for Tyler Black to take the independent wrestling scene by storm.
ROH VideoWire 9-20-07 by Ringofhonor
Anchored by the mic skills of Jimmy Jacobs, the brawling of Necro Butcher, and the wrestling ability of Tyler Black, The Age of the Fall were very much the blueprint for the Shield to debut. Seth Rollins is the byproduct of standard indy wrestling: can wrestle better than most, but struggles when talking. Taking a page out of Paul Heyman's ECW booking of hiding the flaws of their talents, Seth Rollins doesn't talk very much, but has made his impact in the ring. The guy can go. He learned a lot in ROH, and found himself at the top of their food chain due to overwhelming crowd support for his in ring skills. He may never be CM Punk on the microphone, but only a fool would say Seth is supposed to be the next Punk. They don't wrestle, look (anymore), or talk similar at all.
Seth may never be a major star, but Dean Ambrose has a lot more potential. I wouldn't say Dean is more talented in general, but he offers more of what WWE looks for. Ambrose has been compared to a lot of great mic workers, but most common has been Roddy Piper. You can see that from his WWE TV time, as he's a natural leader with a knack for finding the perfect line and timing for the camera. That's a skill so rarely found, especially by someone working his first time in the big leagues. He hasn't shown the charisma as much as ability to know what to say and when. I have no doubt that he has the charisma, but in a stable it can't be as prominent due to sharing the spotlight. It's pretty obvious that the former Jon Moxley had mic skills long before signed to anything with the name McMahon on it, and thankfully he's got the in ring skills to match. He might not be the next Bret Hart or Ric Flair, but he's got a bright future thanks to everything he learned before becoming a WWE employee.
Is there any doubt that Daniel Bryan is the hottest thing on WWE TV today? While lots of credit has to go to The Shield, it's Daniel Bryan who has become the star. More than Sheamus, Randy Orton, Kane, Ryback, the Undertaker and John Cena, the largest reaction anyone has received against the Shield is Daniel Bryan. The science that allowed Rey Mysterio to become the WWE's top underdog for over a decade is allowing Daniel Bryan to steal the show from Dolph Ziggler on a regular basis. What's funny, to me at least, is that Bryan Danielson was heralded as the best wrestler in the world for years. Yet right now in the WWE, he's already fallen into the “__ moves of doom” issue that has been mislabeled on several top wrestlers. Daniel Bryan has learned the WWE style, and adapted it from his extensive indy skills, and combined everything into a complete package. While his mic skills aren't legendary, he's miles better than anyone seemed expect him to be. There's no hesitation from the writing team to give him a microphone and carry an interview or segment. Then, he gets in the ring, and lights up the crowd better than anyone in WWE today.
Daniel Bryan is very much a solid WWE product, as he's a shell of his former Bryan Danielson self. But that's not a bad thing. As a shell, I mean he's found the key things he knows to do from his ROH experience, and perfected them for the larger audiences and TV land. I think that's what keeps us long time Danielson fans salivating for more, because we know that these 10-15 minute tag matches aren't giving him a chance to do everything he's capable of. With the rumors flying of a Daniel Bryan vs John Cena title match in the near future, there's no doubt that we will be in for a treat. If this match takes place on Pay Per View, Daniel Bryan will work a perfect WWE style match while bringing in some ROH moments as well. John Cena is a much better wrestler than it seems anyone gives him credit for, and Daniel Bryan will most likely look like the better performer. But for Bryan to pull off anything related to his indy work in the WWE requires a dance partner who can adapt. I have no doubt Cena will be a fine foil for Bryan to show off his skills.
Overall, Bryan may lack the size that WWE requires to capitalize on making a superstar, but Daniel Bryan's work as Bryan Danielson has build a more solid foundation than any graduate of FCW ever has.
Wyatt Family (Luke Harper)
I recently read an interview with Randy Orton talking about how Batista stood out as a big man due to his physique and size, whereas Ryback is only 6'1”. The first thing I thought of was how I couldn't wait for Luke Harper to debut on WWE.
No, Luke Harper is never going to be confused for Batista, or be labeled as a roid user. But he's a big man who can go. It's strange, because no matter how often anyone rants about how Vince loves his big men, there's an array of failed pushes for these hosses over the years. He has given up (too quickly, in my opinion) on Luke Gallows, Mike Knox, Matt Morgan, Snitsky, and Heidenreich. While none of them are true stars, I felt they all offered more than enough to earn a WWE paycheck. Especially because I've been saying for over a decade that WWE needs to team up 2 of these giants, and let them run roughshod over the tag division. Snitsky and Heidenreich seemed to me on that path, but it never happened. It's a shame that Knux and DOC are now in TNA and Aces and Eights, and may just go that route sooner than later.
Well, instead of teaming up 2 existing giants, WWE is introducing 2 new ones together. Awesome. The Wyatt Family is headed by Bray as the leader and main talker of the group. But much like Roddy Piper in the 80s, I expect Bray to do very little wrestling at first. He'll have Erick Rowan and Luke Harper doing most of the muscle work. Harper is a rare example of a man over 6'6” that has ROH experience. No shock, but he can wrestle. Is he better than the previously mentioned failed big men? I wouldn't say that. I think they are all rather evenly skilled. What will make Harper stand out will be his debut in the stable and team. He'll get to work in the WWE for several months or years before he NEEDS to work on his own. That means that not only will he have WWE experience under his belt by this point, but the ROH Brodie Lee background as well. Something tells me he won't fail like the others.
I wish I had better things to say for Antonio, but sadly I don't expect him to ever make it big. I sensed it even when 2012 was calling for him to be one of the WWE top prospects in the future. While most ROH guys have found comfort on the microphone, Cesaro is never going to get over that hump. What he does bring to the table though is amazing in ring work. It isn't enough. But it's still damn impressive. His future is most likely going to be attributed to a tag partner, much like his ROH Career. The former Claudio Castagnoli was more than capable being succesful in singles action, but he will always be best known for his work with Chris Hero as one half of the Kings of Wrestling tag team. Hero is no Kassius Ohno, and they will most likely not team up again. But it doesn't mean he can't find a new partner. Someone who can work the microphone, but lacks some of the in ring skill Antonio is a natural at. Someone with a very similar look, build, and European background. The former US Champion should form a bond with the current Intercontinental Champion sooner rather than later. Much like Luke Harper will benefit from working in a tag team to start his WWE run, and just like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Edge, Cesaro and Barrett can spend some time honing their skills for the WWE as a team. And I have no doubt they'd find success as they fill the gaps in each others games. If Wade Barrett spent some time in ROH, he might not need a Cesaro today to break out.
Does this really need an explanation?
How the Indies have fixed WWE Developmental
OVW was a tremendous breeding ground for WWE potentials. Randy Orton, Batista, Brock Lesnar, CM Punk and John Cena all graduated from the promotion run by Danny Davis, and funded by WWE. But OVW was soon dumped in favor of FCW in Florida, and WWE has struggled to find their next crop of stars ever since. FCW was producing decently talented guys in the ring, but never ever found an ounce of personality.
FCW is still around, but the format has been completely scrapped and reformatted into a division of NXT. What a change it was. Not only is the booking for NXT a lot better than FCW ever was, but we are starting to see some of the talent have charisma. This is because instead of training these guys to wrestle, they have started letting them explore personalities and characters. It seems like this is common sense, but it's been a long time since we saw as many call ups that showed potential in areas outside of the actual wrestling. Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose already have more character development than Sheamus and Damian Sandow have ever had.
WWE realized that the indy wrestling background doesn't need to be altered in a major way. Daniel Bryan spent very little time in FCW, and he found a way to work the “WWE Style”. It seems they've discovered that the real work needed to be done on these guys is to give them an environment where they can work on interacting with the crowd. In the squared circle, everyone hired is fully capable of holding their own. It would have been so easy to cut Michael McGillicutty and Husky Harris after their lame Nexus pushes. But WWE knew these guys deserved better. So they were sent back to FCW/NXT, and let them work. And over time, they found their perfect personas to be brought back to WWE and be given a much fairer shot.
ROH and indy wrestling teaches these guys a lot. But when you're working for various promotions, traveling, and living a very busy life across the world, you don't have a lot of time to practice the other aspects of professional wrestling. FCW/NXT is finally be shaped to give these guys that outlet. Former WWE stars are giving their perspective on working in the ring, but more importantly how to carry themselves for the fans, talking in the microphone, and displaying their personalities for a world wide audience. ROH is WWE's true developmental promotion for in-ring work. I'm glad they've come to accept that. NXT and FCW should be the playground for them to work with wrestling minds, staying local to concentrate on their craft, and unlocking the doors for these guys to succeed in the WWE.
ROH teaches them to wrestle like a wrestler. FCW/NXT teaches them to talk like a wrestler.
And on that note, Peace out
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