Mark for War

Mark for War: No Wrestler Left Behind

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This week, ESPN aired a piece on their docu-series E:60 entitled WWE: Behind the Curtain.

The piece focused on WWE developmental and the journey of a few select superstars from wrestling’s version of the “minor leagues” to the majors.

I am an avid ESPN watcher, and obviously an avid wrestling watcher. I was not happy when I heard this piece was in the works.  ESPN and WWE shouldn’t mix, frankly. WWE isn’t sports; it’s sports entertainment. Why mix them, other than for a ratings slam dunk? 

That said, I knew there was a good chance I’d love it, even if I disagreed with its existence. ESPN has a flair for documenting the dramatic. Wrestling thrives with a dramatic presentation. A match made in heaven, if you will. And yes, I loved this piece.

If you haven’t seen this, the piece focuses on NXT, with the majority it have been shot around two years ago. 

We get to see fresh faced NXT dudes (now full fledged WWE superstars) walking around backstage, and training in the ring, all before hitting their first RAW.

Early on, I was drawn in when I saw Triple H (who everyone refers to colloquially as “Hunter”) tutor a young Bray Wyatt on the proper way to dangle his lamp during his entrance. Pretty special.

First off, I’ve got to give a shout-out to Triple H and his vision for NXT. I feel said vision will benefit the main roster for years to come. Training superstars is pivotal. In theory, NXT will lead to less superstar flops in the future, and thus less annoyances from a fan standpoint.

I often cringe thinking of the mid-early-2000s WWE roster. Many superstars were pushed well before they were ready. Consequently, they flopped.

One of the better examples I could give is Shelton Benjamin. He was amazing in the ring, had a great look, a great theme song, you name it. But ultimately, he couldn’t cut a promo to save his life. A weekly NXT show would have done wonders for him, unlike the underwhelming help OVW provided him.

Back to the documentary… 

Behind the Curtain (horrible title) focuses on three then-up-and-coming superstars.

I found everyone’s journey genuinely interesting. Here are my thoughts on the few dudes who were addressed in the piece, and ultimately what I feel is in store for them going foward.

Adam Rose

He’s the documentary’s main focus, and rightfully so, I guess.

Rose is a man that is living on borrowed time in the wrestling world, if you will. He is 35 years old, and just recently made it on to WWE TV. When superstars in their early 20s are getting called up left and right these days, Rose is already fighting an uphill age battle.

His character, in my opinion, missed the mark upon its WWE debut, and is now playing catch-up. There were two similar characters that I feel the WWE should have brought in as full fledged heels off the bat, and didn’t: Adam Rose and Broadus Clay.

Nothing is more annoying then a party boy with an entourage or a big dancing asshole wearing obnoxious clothing. These were the two characters WWE fed us. Add a full-fledged arrogant/shit don’t stink streak to them, and they would have been money. Broadus Clay was eventually released, essentially due to lack of crowd connection, and Adam Rose is currently tittering on extinction. I sadly see Rose getting released by WWE sooner rather than later.

It’s sad for me to say this, because Rose genuinely seems like awesome guy in this piece. He happens to be fighting an every day battle with a birth defect his son has, which heavily affects his life on a daily basis. It’s hard to not feel heavily for Rose after watching this.

But again, I don’t see Rose lasting for much longer. There’s too many sharks about to be thrown in to the mix, and a second stint for Rose in NXT, as stated in the documentary, is off the table at this point. What would rule is if Rose could get involved in a training capacity with WWE if his wrestling career ends. Rose seems more personable than the average superstar. He communicates well with his trainers and understands wrestling psychology heavily. With more and more NXT stars coming up yearly, a guy like Rose could be utilized. 

Xavier Woods

XW has the desire to be the first wrestler in history to have a legit PHd (as noted several times in this docu-piece). Not like Isaac Yankem. He wants to be a REAL doctor.

Woods showed me a couple things in this piece. The first is that I think he is unbelievably intelligent, which will help him evolve in the business. His self-analysis seems to be strong, often a weakness for many wrestlers.

I sadly feel that Woods has a cliché streak that has seemed to have followed his whole career to this point. Woods started out in TNA as Consequences Creed, a carbon copy rip off of Apollo Creed from the Rocky Films. This piece shows Woods’ obsession with 90s nostalgia and how that carries over in to his character (at least until he made the WWE roster). Nostalgia always hurts more than it helps. It shows that the person behind a character lacks an original idea. It can be fed to a crowd in small doses, like when Cena had the throwback Super Mario Bros. shirt, or CM Punk had the Ramones shirt. But at the end of the day, you better be able to stand on your own two feet with an original gimmick. Contrary to popular belief, everything hasn’t been done before. Look at a guy like Daniel Bryan, for example. Talk about a superstar who carved his own niche. He looks, acts, talks, and wrestles differently than arguably anyone in WWE history.

Sadly, I don’t think Woods will ever make a full connection with the WWE Universe as the go to cruiserweight (which seems to be his ceiling). He doesn’t have the Rey Mysterio like originality and charisma (these shoes with eventually be filled by Neville, if anyone).

However, I think ultimately Woods could succeed HEAVILY in WWE under a different roll. For starters, if WWE ever wanted to push the presence of full-time managers  once again, Woods would flourish. He a small man with a big mouth. This is the Jimmy Hart/ Jimmy Cornette recipe for success. He can also bump like a beast. As part of The New Day, Woods plays a crossover roll, where he is sort of already the team’s honoree manager. However, if he ever went full-fledged with said roll, I think the shoe would fit. Worst-case scenario, Woods will be able to find a roll in WWE behind the scenes. He’s without a doubt a smart man with drive. WWE would be stupid to not utilize him behind the scenes if it comes to that.

Corey Graves

Call me crazy (and I’m sure many of you will in the comments section), but I feel Corey Graves is going to be a big commentary star some day.

Hear me out. 

I am a huge Michael Cole fan. He has an original voice, which he has spent years crafting. I’ve learned through Cole and other greats that this is the key to wrestling commentary: having an original voice. This is what separates the career of Jim Ross from Jonathan Coachman, for example. Coachman is a legit anchor on ESPN now and, all things considered, a success in the commentary world. However, I’d argue that ESPN preaches conformity in voice before originality. Coach always fell short on having that coveted original voice in his WWE year. He always came across like he was doing his best Michael Cole impression.

This is where a guy like Corey Graves could differ. If you listen to his commentary on NXT, or the Raw preshow, he speaks with conviction, lending his color calls a certain seriousness, which almost reminds me of the a UFC color man, for lack of a better comparison. His look is also very original, which for sure doesn’t hurt. As noted by Michael Hayes in this doc-piece, the “suit with the tattoos” look works. The best thing WWE could do is take this guy and push him heavily as the voice of NXT. He fits the renegade, new-blood image they want to have.

I feel that Cole and JBL are the JR and Lawler of the future. That will unfold organically and work swimmingly. What helps Graves, unlike in the case of Rose, is that he’s young breaking into an old man’s job. If he carves his niche early, he may be able to make an easy transition in to the big chair if that day ever comes. 

This is close to a must-watch. It’s only an hour long including commercials. Dive in to it, and let me know your thoughts below. 

Match of the Week: ESPN Documentary, Behind the Curtain

I found a bootleg stream for you. You can thank me later.

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