Monday 13 February 2012

Hero's Welcome

After months of anticipation WWE has finally signed Chris Hero to a developmental contract.

For those you who are unfamiliar with his work Chris Hero is a guy who’s been working on the US independent wrestling scene for around a decade, and has also completed multiple tours for Japan’s Pro Wrestling NOAH. He cuts a great promo, has a well-defined persona, and puts a lot of strikes into his matches, most notably the rolling elbow. Want some examples of his matches? I can oblige. Click here for Chris Hero v Delirious; here for the Kings of Wrestling v the Super Smash Brothers; and here and here for Hero v KENTA.
It was originally thought he would sign last Autumn alongside his Kings of Wrestling partner Claudio Castagnoli. The delay is apparently due to Hero’s unnaturally high testosterone levels. They caused him to fail various WWE medicals and held up the signing process. Yep, he’s possibly too manly for WWE but they’ve signed him anyway.
Castagnoli signed in mid-September and was immediately posted to developmental league Florida Championship Wrestling where his ring name became Antonio Cesaro. This is the treatment almost everybody signed to the company can expect and Hero isn’t likely to be any different. FCW is meant to polish wrestlers and help them prepare for the WWE style of working, as well as ensuring the wrestlers on the main roster see the newcomers as having “paid their dues.”

The name change protocol exists in order to give WWE legal rights to its performers names. Were Hero to make a name for himself in WWE using the Chris Hero ring name he could theoretically leave and use the exposure to help further his career on the independent circuit or in rival promotion TNA. By forcing a name change WWE ensures they have the legal rights to whatever name Hero (real name Chris Spradlin) becomes famous under. In short it’s all about WWE making sure they’re the only ones who can make money.
The question now is will Hero and Castagnoli be reunited as a unit in FCW? If WWE were serious about rebuilding their battered doubles scene putting Hero and Castagnoli together would be a great first step. That is, of course, if the creative team (and Vince McMahon) could swallow their pride and let the two replicate their Kings of Wrestling act in a WWE setting. A new team name would, obviously, be a necessity but their characters and teamwork would enable them to be a fine centrepiece for the tag scene.

Are the Kings of Wrestling future WWE tag team champions?

WWE’s only other tag team of note, Air Boom, would be great underdog babyface opponents for the rechristened Kings. In an ideal world each team would be built up for a few months with the goal being to have them clash in an upper mid-card position on a pay-per-view in May or June. If they’re treated as stars as the tag team titles are shown to mean something to all four men then fans could be persuaded to care again.
Sadly we don’t live in a perfect world and the chances of WWE calling Hero and Castagnoli up to the main roster as a package and using them correctly are slim. It’s more likely that they will be called up separately as singles guys and find themselves niches in the middle of the card for the next year or so. In today’s WWE nothing moves quickly, especially if you have a reputation as a favourite of independent wrestling fans. Both men will have to earn themselves new spots.

The good news is that both men have done it before. They can play either good guy or bad guy convincingly and have the size and look that WWE tend to like in their superstars.
I expect Hero will be in FCW until the summer at the earliest but make it to RAW or SmackDown by the end of the year. Hopefully he’ll be given a fair shot at making it and not used senselessly, as was the case with Johnny Curtis last year. If he’s allowed to play a character he’s comfortable with, ideally ‘The Young Knockout Kid’ ROH fans are used to seeing him as, or a variant on it at least, then Hero could be a top guy in WWE in a couple of years’ time.

Hero v Punk at WrestleMania XXX? Don’t rule it out yet.

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