We're back again with our third installment of Doctor NXT, a feature where I dissect a member of the NXT roster and give my diagnosis on their situation. You can catch my breakdown of NXT Tag Team Champions the Ascension here, and last week I broke down NXT Champion Adrian Neville.
This week, we will be discussing one of NXT's most polarizing figures, the leader of the Bo-lievers, Bo Dallas.
WHO IS HE?
Bo Dallas is a third-generation superstar with a serious amount of wrestling talent in the family. His maternal grandfather is Blackjack Mulligan (Bo wears the glove on his right hand as a tribute to Blackjack), his maternal uncles are the Windhams (Barry and Kendall), his father is Mike Rotunda, aka IRS, and of course his brother is Bray Wyatt.
Bo is only 23 years of age, but been signed to WWE developmental for over five years now - he came straight out of high school to train at FCW. At first he just had a super generic babyface character, but due to extreme negative crowd response, his character has evolved (more on that process in the next section) to become something quite brilliant - a delusional troll heel who acts way over the top wholesome and lame, but "doesn't realize" that everyone hates him for it, he thinks everyone loves him.
The only thing it can really be compared to in terms of past gimmicks is Kurt Angle's heel character back in the late 90s/early 2000s when he did his "3 I's" shtick. It's really so brilliant because he's taken what was essential "go away" heat and turned it into legitimate heel heat by noticing the things that annoyed people about his character, turning them up to 11, and then going above and beyond that. He's done a great job with the little touches that make his character so brilliant.
He'll do things like calling older and more experience wrestlers like Sami Zayn "kid," or talking about how John Cena is his hero. He basically acts like a parody of Cena and Hulk Hogan - when he says you can do anything if you Bo-lieve, it's like Hogan and Cena with the demandments and the hustle/loyalty/respect, only it is actually intended to be annoying but has figured out a way to turn that into a legit heel character with depth.
The character is that he believes in his heart that all the fans (his Bo-lievers) love him, because he's just so pure and wholesome and great, and he comes up with ways to convince himself everyone loves him in the face of the fans booing him lustily (he says they're not Booing, they're Bo-ing, the "no more bo" chant is a demand to "know more bo!," he responds to "boring" chants with "yes, this is Bo's ring!" etc.). But underneath that veneer he's actually an insecure, petty, mean rage monster and a sore loser who throws temper tantrums and can't stand it when he doesn't get what he wants. He acts like the wholesome role model but then has times when he snaps and you can see the edge underneath. He really deserves all the credit in the world for being someone who was universally hated by the IWC, only to have taken all that hate and turned it back around to the point that he is now almost an IWC favorite.
WHAT HAS HE BEEN UP TO, AND WHAT IS HE UP TO NOW?
Until last spring, as mentioned above, Bo was just a lame, super generic baby face. His character was that he is a 3rd generation guy and a young southern boy with lots of "fire and desire" (that was seriously his catchphrase"). At one point they tried to give it a little twist where he was like masochistic or something, but regardless, his character was lame, he was not incompetent in the ring but was highly boring, and his promos evoked Jumpin' Jeff Farmer. As you might expect, between that, his naturally punchable face, and the fact that despite all this he still got screen time, he did not have many fans. It was around this time that he entered the Royal Rumble and beat Wade Barrett on Raw the next night.
The NXT crowd turned on Bo viciously, booing the fuck out of him, and chanting "No more Bo!" every time he came out and wrestled, and even turning their backs on him during matches. But that's when someone in developmental got smart and thought, what if we basically kept his character the same, but turned him heel? You can see the very beginnings of this in a promo he did with Adrian Neville right before they lost their tag team titles, and in the beginning it was very subtle. Even up to the time that Bo won the NXT title from Big E in June and beyond, many fans didn't realize that Bo was trolling them, but if you go back and look closely, this all started in about April of last year right before he and Neville lost the titles.
Gradually, they got more and more obvious with it, and by the end of the year, the Bo character we have now was in full swing. As mentioned above, he won the title from Big E in June by ramming his head into an accidentally exposed turnbuckle - this is Bo's signature as a heel, because he's not an outright heel where the character considers himself villainous, he would not cheat outright, but multiple times he has won by "inadvertently" taking advantage of something illegal.
Anyway, he first defeated Leo Kruger in a title defense, then started an excellent program with Sami Zayn. After making a successful title defense, he went on a "World Tour"to places like Bo-livia and Cam'Bo'Dia to "sports entertain" in front of sold out crowds. He held a celebration after becoming the longest reigning NXT champ of all time where he handed out cookies to the crowd. Basically, he got really good at pretending to be a good guy while actually trolling the hell out of everyone and being annoying as all hell. Great stuff.
He started a feud with Adrian Neville at the end of last year, and lost the title to him at NXT Arrival. Since then, his biggest highlight was holding a Daniel Bryan style "Occupy NXT" movement asking his Bo-lievers to join him in the ring and demand a title shot, only to be devastated and have a breakdown when nobody joined him. Even better, the next week he was chipper as ever, saying that Bo-lievers are law abiders and thus didn't want to illegally enter the ring, and that his Bo Dallas Hotline was ringing of the hook with just as much support as ever (by the way, I hope so badly that becomes a real thing!).
Bo won't be long for NXT, though, as vignettes have been airing on Raw for him for the past month or so.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HIM, AND WHAT DOES "EVERYONE ELSE" THINK OF HIM?
I never hated him as much as everyone else to begin with, despite his annoying face and smile, but I certainly didn't like him - I think it's fair to say he was objectively bad at that point. I caught on early to the heel turn though, and basically for the last year I have found him entertaining as hell. I'm a definite Bo-liever. The guy makes me laugh more than any "actual" comedy wrestler like Santino. It's really stunning how he went from being one of the worst parts of NXT to one of the best. That's one of the great things about NXT - seeing these guys develop right before your eyes.
As for the IWC in general, it took a lot of people a long time to catch on to the heel turn - I remember even as late as August or September people didn't realize what he was doing - but by this point, response to him is generally positive, and I would say the majority of fans share my enthusiasm for him.
But there is still a contingent who hates him - some people just hate his face no matter what (understandable I guess!), other people don't give him credit for taking the X-Pac heat and turning it into real heat, insisting that he still sucks and it's just the particular circumstances of the NXT crowd and some good booking that have turned him entertaining. There's still a good portion of people who will now admit that he's good at being annoying but nothing else. But I think his promo ability has actually gotten quite good. As for his ring ability, let's look at that in the next section.
HOW IS HIS MOVE SET/IN RING ABILITY?
Although he has improved, this is an area he could still stand to get better. As a face, his fundamentals were good, and he is a very good seller, but he had no exciting moves at all, and generally worked boring matches. As a heel, his style works much better - he doesn't need flashy moves, and he's got a pretty good grasp on psychology, though his matches can still be boring without a quality opponent.
For the longest time, his biggest problem was lack of a decent finisher. He used to use the spear, but his version of it was not that great, and now Roman Reigns has a corner on that market. Then for a while he was using a Magnum TA-style belly-to-belly to a running opponent straight into a pin cover - good for the purposes of getting the quick surprise fluky win, but come on, it's a belly to belly suplex and you're using it as a finisher (no offense to Bayley!). It's a pretty good move in general - I liked when he busted it out in the match with Tyson Kidd this past week - but no good as a finisher.
He recently switched to using a double arm DDT. Not everyone loves it, but I think it's a great improvement, and I'm happy with it. His other sigs include: a rope running bulldog (like the one Spike Dudley used to do) which I like to refer to as the Bo-dog; a scorpion death drop/reverse DDT; and a series of short arm elbows followed by a clothesline. So for a heel his move set isn't bad, and I think he has the instincts and fundamentals to be a good in-ring guy instead of just being OK.
HAS HE BEEN IMPROVING, AND HOW CAN HE FURTHER IMPROVE?
As has been discussed all throughout this article, Bo has improved by leaps and bounds over the course of the last year especially, probably more than anyone else at NXT. It seems like every week he's improved. And he's still only 23.
I don't really have much in terms of a specific prescription for him to get better - just keep doing what he's been doing. Some people have gotten worried about how he will translate to the main roster because of the organic character change that happened in NXT and how that can't or won't be replicated, but I don't see a problem - honestly, you see a guy come out and start acting like Bo, you're gonna boo the shit out of him and want him to get his ass kicked. Or, you'll think he's hilarious, and love him. Works fine for him either way.
What do you guys think about Bo Dallas? Please leave your comments below.
NEXT TIME: SAMI ZAYN