Tuesday 15 May 2012

Full Sail Ahead

WWE announced last week that NXT is no longer going to be recorded in conjunction with SmackDown on a Tuesday night. Instead the show, along with the TV output of developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling, will be recorded on Thursdays at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. This is a venue a short distance from the FCW training facility which is said to look fantastic on television and have a great live feel. It was hand-picked as the new location for FCW and NXT tapings by none other than Triple H, a man who’s been heavily involved in the talent development process of WWE for several years now.

I think this is a good move. The NXT portion of SmackDown tapings have provoked disinterest for at least eighteen months, largely because most people attending the tapings have no idea who the NXT regulars are and don’t care about finding out. That’s not a good atmosphere to have for a televised wrestling product (or an untelevised one come to that).

The impressive new location for FCW and NXT television shows

Instead of having crowd shots of dozens of people looking bored and restless the smaller venue will looked packed with excited, passionate fans. A regular venue will encourage regular fans who will form a more lively crowd and get to know the performers. They’ll have a reason for caring. There’s the potential for Full Sail to become like the ECW Arena: a relatively small venue that attracts loyal, passionate fans who decide who gets over.

A product that has excited fans on its TV show is more likely to be exciting to viewers at home.

Generally I’m against wrestling companies using the same venue on a weekly basis. I’ve been very outspoken against TNA in particular for their unwillingness to broadcast or tape IMPACT at different locations. The difference between TNA and FCW/NXT should be obvious though: TNA is a promotion alleging to operate on the national level while NXT and FCW are marketed as training grounds for the WWE stars of tomorrow. Ratings are not an issue for those leagues, training is.

FCW's current regular haunt is a dingy dive. The sooner they move location the better

It’s a great opportunity for the men and women of the two shows. They will be getting just as much screen time but in better surroundings and in front of more receptive fans. It will be a more positive atmosphere and one in which they can continue progressing towards the WWE main roster. That’s the entire point of FCW. Meanwhile NXT has become a sort of halfway house between FCW and the bright lights of RAW and SmackDown.

It’s also worth noting that WWE have confirmed Jim Ross will be on announcing duties for the first show, alongside ring veteran and talented colour commentator William Regal. Whether this will be a regular gig for the former RAW lead announcer remains to be seen but it will be good news if it is. JR is such a talented commentator that he’s practically a draw in his own right. It’s also great for the wrestlers on the FCW and NXT rosters to have the chance to have one of the best commentators ever call their matches.

How the change will impact WWE’s call-up process we can only guess at at this stage. Presumably it will remain largely unchanged:  if a wrestler is able to get over in front of the new crowd they’ll stand a better chance at being used in dark matches and at live events at RAW and SmackDown. That’s how Dean Ambrose and Antonio Cesaro have found their way to the big leagues in recent months. Hopefully the trend will continue and the crowds of Full Sail will help a new batch of WWE talent learn and develop into the stars WWE needs.

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