Saturday 12 April 2014

The 2014 Debut Season

The April 7 episode of RAW saw the introduction of three NXT performers to WWE’s main roster, two via vignette and one live in New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center. The men who received the vignette treatment were Adam Rose and Bo Dallas. It was Paige who appeared in front of crowds and wrestled her first match as an official WWE Diva™.

Fresh blood was to be expected. It’s what WWE does every year after WrestleMania. TV time that had been dedicated to part-timers and video packages in the build-up to WrestleMania is given over to a new batch of wrestlers, the hope being that some or all of them will connect with viewers and become a significant star. Traditionally the next really big show after ‘Mania is SumemrSlam, which gives WWE a few months where it can be a bit experimental and give viewers some new people to invest in.

The Adam Rose videos showed him partying on his Erotic Express tour bus. It’s an approach that had been used a little over a month earlier when introducing him to NXT (repackaging him after his time as Leo Kruger). It succeeded in interesting people in the character there so I imagine the same will be achieved a second time around. A word of warning here: Rose’s entrance music is catchy.

The idea is that Rose is a party animal turned wrestler. In NXT he has been accompanied to the ring by a large entourage of quirkily dressed individuals that has included a Spartan, a pirate, a dude in a bowler hat and suit, a human silhouette, and a variety of men and women kitted out in a decidedly sixties motif. His matches there have been nothing special but they weren’t intended to be. As seen in NXT Rose is a fun character whose job is to give people an entrance they can get into, wrestle disposable matches and be popular.

There’s nothing that makes me think the move to the main roster will change that. I expect Rose will continue to work short matches for the foreseeable future. The appeal of the character is the entourage and the party entrance, not lengthy, hard fought matches (although Rose is capable of them, as demonstrated by his time as Kruger).

While the Adam Rose videos made their subject the star by placing him at the centre of them the Bo Dallas videos took a different approach. They featured shots of various outdoor activities as Dallas provided a motivational voiceover, the highlight of which was when he said people misread the word “impossible” as something negative, saying it should actually be read “I’m possible”. He was only briefly seen at the end of the videos.

Bo Dallas in a Shawn Michaels-inspired pose after winning the NXT championship.
Recasting him with a faux motivational speaker vibe makes perfect sense. Since returning to NXT after his brief foray on to the main roster early last year the Dallas character has developed into an egomaniac convinced that he’s adored by fans, turning every negative thing sent his way into a positive. “No!” chants have become “Bo!” chants and boos have become long shouts of the same. It’s not dissimilar to the early work of Kurt Angle, only in place of intensity, integrity and intelligence Dallas has the “Bolief!” of every fan in the building (and he’s said to be particularly popular in Bolivia).

I suspect the Angle model will provide a framework for Bo’s call-up. Overly emotional celebrations of minor matches and halting performances midway through would both fit well with the Bo character. But he’s not just an Angle clone. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him motivating crowds, promising to be a hero if they “Bolieve” in him. Basically he’s a ridiculous, misguided buffoon.

Paige, of course, made the biggest impact on RAW. She defeated AJ Lee in an impromptu match to win the WWE Divas championship. As she was already the NXT women’s championship this indicates that WWE has an awful lot of faith in her as a performer. And they should. She has been the most consistent in-ring performer in the developmental women’s division, and her work in SHIMMER shows that she’s had this talent for a while. In particular see her final outing for the promotion opposite (her mother) Saraya Knight.

There was some shrieking going on when this was taken.
With Paige having ended AJ Lee’s record setting 295 day reign as Divas champion a programme between the two seems inevitable. Which is about the best news possible for anyone who wants WWE to having a women’s division worth watching: Lee and Paige are probably the two best female wrestlers the company has.

I’m expecting a story in which Paige is told she’s out of her depth and a fluke champion by an aggressive AJ desperate to regain the gold. A rematch at Extreme Rules is seemingly inevitable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them clash at Payback and Money in the Bank. Longer term there are quality opponents waiting for her in Natalya, Emma, Brie Bella and her peers in NXT when they got promoted.

It’s good to see that WWE aren’t hanging about with adding names to the roster now that WrestleMania XXX’s in the books. And that the NXT system is working. Paige has been consistently good as both a character and an in-ring performer in NXT, while Dallas and Rose have both taken different paths to create characters that can work on the bigger stage. All three now have the chance to strut their stuff.

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