On September 11th 2010 Colby ‘Tyler Black’ Lopez made his final appearance for Ring of Honor. Black had announced before that match that he had agreed to a WWE developmental deal and would be leaving the promotion, win or lose, after the September 11th show. He had also declared his intention to retain the title and leave as champion. Naturally this didn’t sit well with the ROH faithful, who pelted the champion with chants of “NXT” and “FCW” as he defended the title against Roderick Strong in one of the best matches of the year.
As the outgoing heel champion Black naturally lost the match, but the biggest losers that night were the ROH fans. Black had proven himself to be a capable and adaptable performer. His promos may have needed a little work, but his wrestling was sound and he was good enough at reading an audience to know that using John Cena’s patented “You can’t see me!” hand gesture and the Five Knuckle Shuffle would get him huge heat during his bout with Strong. No doubt about it, Tyler Black was one of Ring of Honor’s most dependable all-rounders.
So what have WWE done with Black since he signed his developmental contract? What they do with practically all independent wrestlers: changed his ring name (to Seth Rollins), stuck him in Florida Championship Wrestling and left him there for a year. This isn’t anything new. It’s exactly what they did to CM Punk when he signed a developmental deal (after a storyline very similar to Black’s at the end of his ROH run coincidentally) in 2005. It’s what they’ve done to Colt Cabana, Bryan Danielson, Bryan Kendrick and tons of other talented individuals over the years. Why do they do this? All together now...
To teach them how to work!
Yes, it’s WWE’s belief that you cannot succeed in “the big leagues” without having been taught to wrestle (or sports entertain) the ‘WWE style’. In the last five years or so only a handful of men and women have bypassed FCW and debuted straight onto the main roster. Bryan Danielson was told he would be debuting on the ECW replacement (which became NXT) when he re-signed with the promotion in late 2009, but ended up working a few FCW shows of his own volition, saying that he wanted to keep free of ring rust and stay in shape.
Kia ‘Awesome Kong/Kharma’ Stevens and Sin Cara (the original one, Luis Ignascio Urive Alvirde a.k.a. Mistico) are the only other two names that spring to mind as those deemed ready for the bright lights of Monday Night RAW. In the case of Kharma WWE made the right decision: she had been ready for a spot in WWE for years. But they got it completely wrong with the former Mistico. His inability to speak English and unfamiliarity with the US style (Mexican wrestling works to a noticably different pace and logic to wrestling anywhere else in the world (it’s part of its charm)) made him the ideal candidate for FCW. That he was deemed ready despite these severe limitations puzzled most fans and time has proven that it was the wrong decision. In turn that has proven that FCW is a useful tool but not one that can be applied to every wrestler the same way.
On an edition of Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast that was recorded around the time of his exit from Ring of Honor Black joked that he would be called up to NXT and given the ring name ‘Blyler Tack’, in reference to the massively unimaginative ‘Daniel Bryan’ ring name Bryan Danielson had been given, or ‘Gaylord Hanski’, in reference to the idiotic names of NXT’s second season. He was joking but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s longing for a spot on NXT now, silly ring name and all.
Black wasn’t and isn’t the perfect worker. As I noted above his promos could be better and he is (or was when he signed) used to the more frantic pace of indy matches and the stiff style of Ring of Honor. He did need to make some changes before appearing on RAW or SmackDown but a year is overkill. That WWE have had Heath Slater, David Otunga, Mason Ryan, David Hart Smith, Tyler Reks, Trent Baretta and various other no-hopers on TV throughout 2011 without giving Tyler Black a try is both astounding and moronic... especially at a time when WWE desperately needs to create new stars for its paper thin roster. He’s a star-in-waiting, and the sooner WWE realises that the better.