WWE is on the lookout for their next breakout Superstar from the independent wrestling scene. To aid this cause, WWE held a tryout camp last week in Tampa where they invited 30 of the best prospects in North America to be scouted by their NXT trainers and former WWE Head of Talent Relations Jim Ross.
It was almost a who's-who of the top young indy stars on the circuit. Prominent names familiar to Cagesiders would include Ring Of Honor's Adam Cole and Mike Bennett, former New Japan and ROH wrestler Ricky Reyes, Dragon Gate USA's Samuray del Sol, Extreme Rising's Luke Hawx and ex OVW / ECW / FCW performer Gavin (or Shawn) Spears.
Despite complaints that head NXT trainer Bill Demott's Sergeant Major style of teaching had caused a recent epidemic of needless injuries inside WWE's developmental promotion, it was business as usual at the tryouts.
According to PWInsider.com's Mike Johnson, the camp was a hellish few days for those involved with the end result being another pile of broken bodies:
"The tryout was described as really, really brutal, especially on those who hadn't been through heavy, heavy pro wrestling style workouts in the past. One person claimed there was as many as 14 injuries over the course of the weekend from the workout, although others estimated that it was closer to 9-10 and that those with a good pedigree in the business and "had an idea as to what they were getting into" were fine."
This wasn't entirely an exercise in pointless sadism, as it did have the benefit of weeding out any recruited athletes that simply weren't cut out for the grind of the wrestling business. Indeed, apparently one poor soul wanted to tap out before the first day was over, so gruelling were the drills that they had to do. But is it really necessary for the talent who have been wrestling on a regular basis for many years to go through all that?
Those in attendance will know in the next few weeks whether they made the cut or not. Perhaps the favourites to be signed would be the two experienced hands from ROH, Bennett and Cole, who according to Dave Meltzer in his latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter made a positive impression on the NXT higher ups:
"Both Mike Bennett and Adam Cole were at the camp. Both did well, but it's way too early to know if either will be signed. Given Cole's look and ability, and that he had a good camp, I'd think he would be signed."
In the case of Cole, his WWE signing may pose a challenge for ROH management, as he's currently their World Television Champion, but they're confident that he'll do the time honoured tradition of doing a job on the way out, because he's a good guy like that:
"The company feels that even if Cole is signed, that he'll be professional come back and drop the title, unlike what happened with Kenny King."
Personally I'd want to have that in writing, but it's highly unlikely that WWE would force him to drop everything immediately like TNA did with King. The time it takes for their physicals to get done should offer Cole enough time to do the right thing, should that be necessary.
Regarding Bennett, his signing could potentially lead to his current girlfriend and valet, Maria Kanellis, also returning to the company where she made her name as a WWE Diva from 2004-2010. With their top female characters leaving in droves over the past 12 months, the return of a familiar and beautiful face would be a welcome addition to WWE's TV screens.