Until recently the last major piece of news regarding the move of the American Wolves from ring of Honor to WWE was that they’d attended a tryout weekend at the Florida training facility in September. They’d returned to ROH after that. There was talk of them being offered developmental contracts but they kept being announced for shows with ROH. There was nothing solid to support an argument for or against them joining WWE.
This was until last Thursday. On that day WWE held an NXT taping in their regular haunt of Full Sail University and Richards and Edwards appeared as a tag team. Billed as the American Pitbulls they wrestled NXT tag team champion The Ascension in a non-title match.
|The American Pitbulls|
Unsurprisingly Richards and Edwards lost the match. Equally unsurprisingly they were given new individual names to go with the collective one. Richards was introduced as John Cahill while Edwards has become Eric Philbin. There’s nothing about either name that screams “larger than life wrestling personality!” but at least the team name has remained solid.
Despite this surprising development the two are still confirmed for Ring of Honor’s Final Battle show on December 14th. Unlikely source Rob Feinstein has stated that this is because they’re being given an extended tryout with WWE. According to him Richards and Edwards (or, if you prefer, Cahill and Philbin) will wrestle at the next several NXT tapings before getting a run on SmackDown. If they can forge a connection with WWE fans during this time then, and only then, will they be offered contracts.
If true it’s an interesting approach from WWE. It’s also one I approve of. Giving wrestlers a chance to prove that they can fit into the WWE system is a better approach than just having them strut their stuff in front of company personnel. Getting over takes time. Working on NXT and SmackDown gives these guys, and any who follow them, the chance to create a following and an argument for being signed by WWE. It lets them prove they know how to do more than just have an exciting match.
Can Richards and Edwards get over, that’s the question. They managed to make it to the top of ROH together, but that’s a very different company to WWE. Fans of ROH appreciate lengthy, hard-hitting matches above anything else. They like a wrestler to have some charisma to them, but it’s not a prerequisite for success.
WWE fans, at least those who aren’t actively seeking out other forms of wrestling, are most concerned with characters. If a guy can wrestle well that’s great, but ultimately all someone needs is the conditioning to work a long match when required and a number of signature and finishing moves to slot into their matches.
So the question of success in WWE for the Wolves (or the Pitbulls) is less about their talent and more about whether they understand the key differences between the company they’ll be trying out for and the one for which they’ve spent the majority of the careers working. Both have been in wrestling long enough to know this sort of thing, and even if they had somehow convinced themselves they needed to concentrate on work rate they have friends in WWE (both road agents and members of the active roster) who would advise them otherwise.
Neither is known for their personality but I think they have enough in them to make an impression if they’re given the chance. They’re both worthy of WWE contracts and keeping them together as a unit would be the best (for business) move. I’m interested to see how they looked when facing O’Brian and Victor. And I’ll be looking forward to their matches against the likes of Wyatt Family and the Prime Time Players on SmackDown. If they have good matches against these sorts of guys they’ll deserve contracts.