But for all the similarities there is one important difference. The NXT crowd doesn’t have the malicious streak the ECW regulars did.
Take, for example, the recent debut of Adam Rose. It’s not a secret that he is the artist formerly known as Leo Kruger. He’d only made his final appearance under the former name on the New Year’s Day episode of NXT. With such a significant character change taking place in such an obvious fashion in so short a space of time (the Rose character’s first appearance was on March 6) it would have been easy for the crowd to mock it with a chant. But they didn’t.
Had a wrestler changed their character in this short a timeframe in ECW they would almost certainly have been met with derisive chants. Heyman never booked such a rapid change to people already on his roster, but those who made the move from WCW or the WWF and adopted new ring names in the land of Extreme found themselves mocked. The obvious example is Justin Credible. When he first rocked up in ECW he was met with chants of “You’re still Aldo!” in reference to his previous stint as Aldo Montoya in the WWF.
It was only last year that Bray Wyatt found himself confronted with chants for Husky Harris during his debut segment on RAW. His new character has caught on to such an extent that Husky has for the most part been dispelled from our minds. But that the fans thought to chant it to begin with, when the Husky Harris name hadn’t been uttered on a WWE broadcast in well over two years, shows that wrestling fans still get a kick out of making character changes awkward.
The NXT gang seem a generally more positive bunch. And here I’m not simply talking about them choosing not to chant about Leo Kruger. They did more than that. They embraced Adam Rose.
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That’s exactly what the Rose character needed in order to work. Had has aisle partying, hip thrusts, and mid-match dancing been met with indifference it wouldn’t have recovered. He’s the sort of character who needed immediate acceptance in order to work. Characters of this type suffer from becoming overfamiliar (because there’s not a huge amount of progression they can make without drastic character alterations) and so need a strong start to create as much a fan base as possible.
The NXT crowd has been a big part of the character’s success, but it’s not been the only part. Adam Rose is a unique character within WWE. His large entourage of quirky characters helps to set him apart (and puts me in mind of seventies spy-fi shows, though I can’t really see why). The same goes for his prancing entrance (which extends into matches) and his catchy music. At first I thought it was the sort of character that would only really work in front of the small, regular crowd that NXT provides. But I’ve since changed my mind and think that it could work on the main roster, if WWE reused the approach of showing his backstage parties and rotated peculiar characters in and out of the entourage.
Adam Rose is a fun character and one that works. Wrestling, and WWE, needs more people like that. I want to see him succeed. And I’m thankful to the NXT crowd for not burying him as they could have done.