Sunday 11 October 2015

The VaudeHipsters

I like The Vaudevillains. They're talented guys who play well off one another and work well as a pairing. But their current gimmick is markedly different to the ones they had when they made their debuts and that's worth reflecting on. And it's one that may ultimately keep them as NXT guys, as opposed to WWE main roster guys.

The excellent 'Drama King' phase.
Aiden English first became a featured NXT performer in the latter half of 2013. He was a singer. Specifically a music hall singer (although he didn't actually sing in music halls what with being a wrestler ad all), emphatically not the sort of pseudo rock star wrestling has had an abundance of over the years (Chris Jericho, I'm looking your way, pal). And he actually could and did sing. He also had an entrance of above average flamboyance: he'd sing his way to the ring and be thrown roses after winning.

Aside from a rambling, hard to engage with rivalry against Big Cass there wasn't a great deal going on for English at this point. He clearly wasn't going to progress as a singles act. He lacked the physique, gripping promo skills or indy rep it takes to stand out in NXT as a lone star. Which is why someone made the smart decision to pair him up with someone as a tag guy.

That someone was, obviously, Simon Gotch. After a period of inactivity on the televised show English returned to Full Sail with Gotch and announced that they were The Vaudevillains, a clever name that acknowledged the music hall influences of 'The Drama King's' singles run and the Edwardian tropes of Gotch, who was sporting a waxed-up moustache and doing a circus strongman mixed with silent movie star routine. NXT has since become a show that has a healthy number of characters on it but at the time this level of detail for guys not at the top of the show stood out. It was engaging and helped them stand out. Which is the point, of course.

The pair were initially presented as bad guys. This worked for a while, mostly due to the strength of English's previous solo run. In terms of heelishness Gotch did very little for the tandem. His mute performance gave him an air of innocence and charm, not exactly the most intimidating, villainous traits a wrestler can have. The Full Sail crowd took to him even while they were still booing English.

The hipster lads.
Gradually they warmed to English too. Their various backstage skits aping the style of silent movies during their feud with the Lucha Dragons played a role in that opinion shift. Their music was a big part of it too. Catchy and carefree it encouraged people to clap along and engage with the entrance. Basically the two were never going to stay heels because pretty much everything they were given, from the above to feuding with the technically proficient and flashy but devoid of personality Lucha boys, was something that drew viewers in in a positive manner.

After their unsuccessful challenges against Sin Cara and Kalisto the 'villains were given a brief hiatus from NXT. They returned in June, fully embracing the babyface role and launching into a slow-building, eventually really very good series of matches with tag champs (Wesley) Blake and (Buddy) Murphy. There's a chance it could flare up again but that seems unlikely. The programme peaked at Takeover: Brooklyn on August 22 where English and Gotch dethroned BAMF for the NXT tag straps.

It was at that Takeover show that they were defined as hipsters for the first time. Which had been glaringly obvious for a while it just needed someone to verbalise it. They've got the joviality and facial hair generally associated with that subculture. It's not a bad move but it is a shame. A hipster tag team makes a great deal of sense but is it more than a music hall singer and a circus strongman teaming up to enjoy sepia entrances and a spot of wrestling? I don't think so. 

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