Saturday, 7 November 2015

Making NXT Phenomenal

AJ Styles. In terms of talent WWE could sign right now he's pretty much the pinnacle. Not because he'd be a nice addition to the main roster (not to say he wouldn't be) but because of what he could do for NXT.
'The Phenomenal One' appeals to people who like their wrestlers to wrestle. That's not always something that gets factored in with WWE fans. They like Hulk Hogan because of nostalgia (or maybe racism, who knows?), Steve Austin because he was an outspoken asskicker, Rock because he was a great promo, John Cena because of Reasons™. Styles is light on intangibles but can put together a red hot match given enough time and a semi-decent opponent. That's just not necessarily something that would help him connect with the average WWE viewer who had no knowledge of his former life in ROH, New Japan, and other respected groups.
Would Styles want to give up this spot for Monday nights wrestling R-Truth?
Styles would not get to do what he's best at on the main WWE roster. At least not until he'd earned his way to the top of the card with years of paying dues to The WWE System. Which, understandably, probably wouldn't appeal to him because he's getting paid main event money to headline in NJPW now. He'd have no reason to relocate other than money, and WWE are unlikely to pay him big bucks to work his way up through the mid-card. While Styles has stated many times money is his chief motivation for wrestling I can't see him trading his current career for the weekly grind of WWE's mid-card and the whiff of one of Vince's brass rings unless a frankly unrealistic sum of money was involved. 
If you're considering that WWE would race AJ to the top don't bother. That would break decades of routine and this is a company that takes routine very seriously. No, he'd have to earn his way there like everyone else. Because Vince is certain that the batch of guys who have come along since 2000 or so are all lazy millennials who just want to coast.
But Vince doesn't run NXT. Triple H does, and he's been shown to break routine for his league. Wrestlers who have made names for themselves outside of WWE have been signed and immediately pushed, helping it to become a show with its own style and narrative quirks and a far more satisfying watch than the average RAW. Immediately pushing guys like Finn Bálor, Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe and Apollo Crews has trained fans to expect the best in terms of booking for debuting stars. It is, as has been noted before, WWE's take on the indies.
AJ Styles is a star to any wrestling fan who follows any promotion that's not WWE. He emphatically would not be in Vince McMahon's eyes because he will only truly consider someone a star once they've been built up in his territory. But Styles could come into NXT and instantly be accepted by its fans and that's what NXT needs. A steady stream of fan-friendly signings to keep the momentum going as the men and women deemed prospects get bumped up to the main roster.
With the "brand" still being expanded and money-losing kinks being worked out (or at least minimised) signing someone who could help draw crowds on the scale the company wants NXT to operate on would clearly hold appeal. Like Joe, Styles doesn't look like a guy who'd be a sure fire success booked by Vinnie Mac. But booked by people who'd play to his strengths (wrestling) and disguise his weaknesses (talking, although he's miles better than he used to be) he could be an asset to the planned global expansion. 
Could this signing happen? Absolutely. Would this signing happen? Well, WWE could outbid New Japan with ease and attitudes to indy standouts have changed significantly over the last several years. Samoa Joe keeping his name shows Styles could keep his, handily explaining why he has a massive AJ tattooed on his side. He'd be of use to an area of the company that seems to be a priority. That had to count for something. It's by no means a definite thing but Styles in NXT could happen. And with Finn Bálor likely not far off a promotion the timing could be getting pretty good pretty soon because that rarely appearing top babyface spot is perfect for Styles.

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