And you thought his brother had it rough...
When one looks at the booking process of NXT today, it could easily be described by the unkind viewer as something resembling a five-year-old getting two really cool toys and bashing them together. This is not a criticism but more a point that the current product resembles a kind of uber Ring of Honor, where wrestling connoisseurs can see dream matches featuring wrestlers from all over the globe.
It wasn't always this way.
In fact, before guys like Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, and Samoa Joe graced the ring in Full Sail, NXT resembled a bigger, better funded ECW. Sure, you had your technical wizards like Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins, and Adrian Neville but the roster also had home grown dudes that essentially needed to create gimmicks themselves. And for everyone who complains that NXT graduates are only good if they have an indie pedigree and point to Roman Reigns, two other graduates of NXT without indie pedigrees are Bray Wyatt and Big E. And lord knows how dull Raw would be without the Wyatts or the New Day...
Anyway, another mainstay during this first phase of NXT was this guy:
Taylor Rotunda, like his big brother Windham Rotunda (aka Bray Wyatt), seems to have a mind for the wrestling business that is beyond his years. Christened Bo Dallas, he began his stint in NXT as a whiter than white meat babyface whose good looks made him look like he wouldn't have been out of place playing bass guitar with Hanson rather than wrestling for championships.
However, on June 12, 2013, that's exactly what he did, defeating Big E for the coveted NXT title. However, it was soon clear the NXT crowd were not prepared to accept Dallas as a babyface, going so far as to turn their back on his entrance and cheering whoever he was in the ring against. The beauty of it, though, was that as head booker of NXT Triple H didn't go into panic stations about this trying to upend everything nor did he attempt to hold back the tidal waves of public opinion. Instead, he just let Dallas gradually tweak his character until it began to reflect a disingenuous side that aligned with the fans hatred of him. After losing in the very first ladder match in NXT history to Adrian Neville, Dallas began making his way to the sunny climbs of the main roster.
So why did it all go wrong?
Firstly, I should point out here that I am not suggesting that Dallas is world title material. However, having mid-carders is not a bad thing. There is a massive glut of near-main event level talent at the moment in WWE with Dean Ambrose, Reigns, Rollins, John Cena, Wyatt, Randy Orton, and Kevin Owens, not to mention guys like Rusev, Cesaro, Alberto Del Rio, Chris Jericho, Sheamus and Sami Zayn, who are just behind or have been there before. Fundamentals of capitalism say that you can't just feud them against each other all the time without someone looking weak. In this way, a mid-carder can feud with one of these guys and give them a bit of momentum back before they come up for a bigger challenge. Furthermore, mid-carders are a great way to make the numbers on stables like the Ministry because not everyone could be the Undertaker. However, today's WWE almost has a view that its stars need to be main event or nothing -- an attitude that has left good to decent mid-card acts like Dallas out in the cold a bit, while potential monsters like Bray Wyatt can't even buy a win because everyone they feud with is in WWE's future plans. If only they had...oh, I don't know, some sort of mid-carder...
Having said that, in NXT Dallas' outfit was interesting for its total generic appearance. In a show that included all sorts of colourful characters (CJ Parker!) Dallas' white briefs and boots looked almost rebellious. However, when he was taken up to the main roster...this same uniform seemed to just blend in to several other guys who wore a similar outfit.
Furthermore, he was given a slow burn storyline that all of a sudden became rushed. Dallas was establishing a 'winning streak' with wins over opponents such as Sin Cara and Fandango after which he would often run a victory lap of the ring in an attempt to (eventually) come off as a bit of a sore winner. The beauty of this streak was that Dallas didn't need to be pushed on PPV straight away- as long as he kept winning on TV he could just get on the fans nerves while creative positioned for his first big feud.
And then Vince McMahon had to get involved.
Y'see Dallas' streak was a great way to keep him relevant while allowing him to build slowly. If you kept it going you could have had JBL start making ridiculous comparisons to Goldberg while the other commentators howl in outrage. All the time that win meter could have kept ticking up into the twenties and even thirties -- including the odd pre-show PPV match before eventually another newcomer from NXT or maybe a star returning from injury breaks his streak and triggers Dallas' first real feud.
Instead he loses his first match to R-Truth.
Look, I have no issue with Ron Killings as a gatekeeper for the new talent. But the definition of a 'gatekeeper' is someone that can put over other, newer talent in a big way. Unfortunately, it needs to be done in a way that the universe can take notice, not stuffed down in some TV show as an afterthought.
All this because Vince apparently didn't 'get' the gimmick.
Or maybe he got it too well...
Look, we all know how much VInce loves dyed in the wool babyfaces like Hulk Hogan and John Cena. They're easy to market, fun for kids and appeal to a lot of demographics. But the thing is that unlike Stone Cold Steve Austin, Cena and Hogan can come across as...insincere. When Austin spoke about knowing our pain we believed him because he was a beer swillin' redneck from Texas who had gone from gimmick after gimmick as well as promotion after promotion to be where he is. When Cena says that he can feel your pain it can kinda come off as similar to when Mitt Romney says that he knew about Stock car racing because he knew some of the owners (incidentally, during the 2012 campaign Romney did get his picture taken with Mr Hustle, Loyalty and Respect). In this way it would not be totally surprising if Vince decided that the Bo Dallas gimmick was too big a risk simply because it would make people realise that often Cena was talking down to the audience rather than with them.
And that's article 61! Next time we look at perhaps the most overbooked match in WCW history! See you then!
#60 Brock Lesnar's First Year Back in WWE
The InVasion Saga
Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy
Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos
Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action
Article Four: "WHY AUSTIN DAMMIT?! WHY?