Specifically I want to talk about the booking of Bull Dempsey and Baron Corbin. They only interacted for the first time on the November 20 NXT episode but it’s clear where the story’s going to go.
Corbin is undefeated since his introduction to NXT as a featured performer. All of his matches have lasted a matter of seconds. The crowd, realising this, have begun counting along during his matches to see how long the unlucky jobbers pitted against him can last. It’s a good bit of fun and works pretty well with Corbin’s self-assuredness.
Bull Dempsey does not have such an impressive record. Like Corbin he took a defeat on TV before becoming a regular. Unlike Corbin he’s also been on the losing side of matches since then, coming up short against The Vaudevillains alongside Mojo Rawley (although it was Rawley who took the pin). While he has won the majority of his matches he’s not done so in so dominant a fashion.
In Bull’s favour is the fact that the audience took to him early on. In his programme against the bland Mojo it was the powerful, monstrous Dempsey that the audience backed. They clearly liked him. It’s that fact that makes the decision to have him be the man to give Corbin his first real rivalry so good. Dempsey was clearly intended as a heel but the crowd took to him and turned him face. Rather than trying to force them to boo him because that was the plan the writing team have instead given them a reason to boo him.
|Note that they have the same hair.|
They’ve done this by demonstrating that Bull is not as good as Baron Corbin on that November 20 episode. Corbin beat his opponent within a twenty-two count1 from the audience and smirked confidently (but somehow not in an especially heelish way) as Bull Dempsey marched passed on his way to the ring. Bull made quick work of his opponent. But not quick enough: the audience gave up counting shortly after the twenty-two mark and booed Dempsey for not being as dominant as Corbin. It was a good, simple story that set up a reason for the two to have a dispute and gave the audience a reason to care about it.
It also contrasted their characters. Corbin is all business and wants to win quickly and move on. Dempsey wants to win just as much, but he also wants to hurt people. There’s a maliciousness to Dempsey that isn’t present in Corbin.
It’s been said many times that you can’t push two monsters in the same promotion at the same time2. I think you can for a short time. In this case it’s simply a case of giving Corbin and Dempsey short, impressive wins of the sort we’ve seen from them up until now and then pitting them against one another. Obviously only one will win and become the one true resident monster. That’s the point. And in this case it will clearly be Baron Corbin.
1 Not twenty-two seconds. The audience does not count in seconds. They’re too quick. Just saying, yeah?
2 Are WWE achieving this with Kane, Mark Henry and Big Show? Of course not: all three have lost more often than they’ve won throughout their careers. They’re not monsters and it’s impossible to see them as such.