The reason Vince McMahon currently finds himself with such a small cadre of big name stars is because he’s spent almost a decade neglecting the development of new ones. At the start of the millennium WWE had ties to Les Thatcher’s Heartland Wrestling Association, the short-lived Memphis Championship Wrestling, and Jim Cornette’s Ohio Valley Wrestling. Both the HWA and MCW were dropped as developmental territories in the early years of the decade, leaving OVW with the sole responsibility of training the WWE superstars of tomorrow.
WWE attempted to establish a satellite league they had more control over (OVW was privately owned, it was not part of the WWE corporation). Deep South Wrestling was launched in September 2005 and was shut down in April 2007. Yes, the WWE-owned developmental system lasted less than two years, mainly because nobody in charge of DSW was willing to take a stand against the counterproductive way WWE management wanted the company run.
Shortly before DSW was shut down Florida Championship Wrestling was launched, ostensibly as a DSW replacement. Putting a different crew in charge and attempting to keep more of a distance, the hope was that FCW would become the developmental league DSW had failed to be.
The WWE-OVW relationship, meanwhile, lasted until early 2008. It finally collapsed because Vince McMahon and John Laurinatis couldn’t stand working with wrestling promoters that weren’t their subordinates.
Which leaves FCW as WWE’s last remaining satellite league.
The goal of FCW (and any other company WWE sets up for this purpose, for that matter) should be to help teach prospective “Superstars” the basics, and polish the more experienced individuals by helping them understand the aspects of the business they’ve yet to master. Helping all members of the roster to create a compelling, realistic character that will appeal to WWE’s fans should very much be a priority too.
Sadly, what FCW seems to do is nothing of the sort. All people signed by WWE, male or female, experienced wrestlers, foreign stars, and college wrestling standouts that have never watched a professional wrestling match, are sent to the Florida promotion to be taught to wrestle and talk like everyone else.
This is harmful to WWE’s long term business. Why is anyone going to care of Wrestler A feuds with Wrestler B when their match, and the build up to it, is exactly like everything else on the show? They’re not going to. If wrestlers are allowed to create unique characters, interact naturally, and work different styles then RAW and SmackDown will become more varied and have a broader appeal to the fickle television audience. WWE, with its current system, is limiting itself.
In an ideal world the company would return to having three or four satellite leagues, each run by a mixture of experienced wrestlers and bookers, such as Dusty Rhodes and Jim Cornette, and young, apprentice bookers, who can learn their craft on the smaller stage alongside the wrestlers. With the different booking teams and training regimens that would be utilised each organisation would gradually take on its own unique atmosphere and style, both with the writing and the wrestling.
Surely it’s better to have three or four companies to send rookies to than just one? Even if they only learn one new thing in each company, that’s two or three more things than they’re going to learn with the current system.
I don’t know for certain, but I would guess that the main reason none of this has happened is because the running costs would be high. But WWE is a mutli-million dollar company, so the few million needed to establish and maintain two or three minor leagues would be a drop in the ocean to them. If the developmental system is going to give us tomorrow’s Austins, Rocks, Hogans and Cenas, then isn’t it worth any price?
Of course it is.