Every once and awhile you hear rumblings that WWE isn’t interested in wrestlers who have made a name for themselves on the indies. They want guys they can mold from scratch and build up as prototypical WWE superstars—fresh, eager minds, that they don’t have to reprogram to work a certain way.
But take a look at the current main roster. You have Dean Ambrose; he toiled away on the indie scene for many years and was even world champion in multiple promotions before being snatched up. Luke Harper, one of the best big men in the world today, was a staple of multiple small promotions, including Chikara. Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, and CM Punk were not only mainstays of the third largest active American wrestling promotion, Ring of Honor, they were all world champs as well. Finally, there’s Cesaro, who may be the most accomplished of all these men before signing a contract with the fed.
I’m not going to go into some rambling diatribe about who should be used in which way and who should be going after which title. There’s nothing more boring to me than go-nowhere conversations about who should be getting “pushed.” But, objectively, I think it’s fair to say these six men have done well for themselves on the main roster. They’ve all held titles. They all (Punk aside) get TV time. None of them have the cringe-worthy names or gimmicks that wrestling fans so readily fear. But that’s just the main roster. How about WWE’s developmental system, NXT?
Ever heard of Pac? It’s fine if you haven’t, but you really should check him out. He’s probably one of the top three high-flyers in the world along with Jack Evans and Ricochet. Oh, and he’s the NXT champion. Signed to a developmental contract in 2012, Pac now goes by Adrian Neville and is the centerpiece of NXT programming. El Generico—arguably the most natural babyface in wrestling in the last decade—performs on NXT as Sami Zayn. Samuray Del Sol, an amazing lucha style wrestler who I’m sure more then a few people will blindly label “just another Rey Mysterio” despite that fact he’s really good, is featured on NXT as Kalisto. Heck, even modern “death match” icon Drake Younger can now be seen wearing referee stripes on NXT programming.
But wait, there’s more.
Yet to be featured on TV, WWE has former indie darling Sami Callihan under contract as Solomon Crowe. And how about all the recent big time signees? You know, the guys you’ve seen pictures of shaking hands with HHH? The company now has perhaps the biggest name in Japanese pro wrestling with KENTA along with Prince Devitt, one of the top heels in New Japan Pro Wrestling, the second largest wrestling promotion in the world. Don’t forget about Kevin Steen, who may be the biggest indie star left in the North American wrestling scene (he’s Canadian).
That’s one hell of a list: seven of the most talented workers in the world (eight if you include Younger). That’s your developmental roster. That’s your future of WWE programming. Will they all be successful on the main roster? Likely not. A guy like Neville, while exciting to watch, struggles both in terms of charisma and promos. All of these guys will have to overcome the issue of being undersized. While top star Daniel Bryan proved that you can break through that glass ceiling as a smaller wrestler in the modern era, that doesn’t mean everyone will be as lucky. Seven of the eight men listed are (shoot height) between 5’8″-5’11” tall. Ironically, the smallest man of the group, Del Sol (standing at roughly 5’6″), will likely have the fewest obstacles to overcome. Also, in terms of body type (aside from Steen and Kalisto), no one really stands out. Everyone is in that 180-200lb range. These issues aside, it’s hard for me to imagine we won’t have at least a few future stars out of this group.
Who do you think will have the best career in WWE out of this pool of talent? Who will struggle the most? Leave your comments below!