Ray Leppan was widely considered to be the star of the ESPN E:60 special on WWE's Developmental system that aired this past Tuesday, May 5th.
If you haven't seen the show, you're probably asking, "who the heck is Ray Leppan?" The South African wrestler has been with WWE in FCW and NXT since 2010, mostly working as a character named Leo Kruger, and was called up to the main roster last year as Adam Rose. The documentary focused on two tasks: the effort the company & its contracted talent puts into creating sports entertainers and humanizing the men & women who dream of wrestling on Raw.
Though he shares a "starring" role with Matt Polinsky (Corey Graves) and Austin Watson (Xavier Woods), Leppan's story was especially poignent because of his age - he'll turn 36 this Summer - and the health of his young son Maverick, who has already out-lived doctors' expectations due to a birth defect that requires he be fed via a surgically-implanted tub in his abdomen.
While his real-life struggles would hopefully not be considered for use in a wrestling gimmick, the ESPN doc did raise the question of whether the party boy Adam Rose character is limiting Leppan's potential. Interviews he gave around the time of his transition from Kruger - a role that was many things in the time he played it, but most famously was a deranged sportsman in the vein of Marvel Comics' Spider-man foe Kraven the Hunter - indicated that the switch was a collaborative decision, and the playing the Russell Brand-esque leader of the Rosebuds was a closer match to his real life personality.
On E:60, Leppan was shown to be very worried about the switch, but willing to try whatever it took to make it in WWE and give him the best opportunity to provide for Maverick, his wife, Cassandra and another son, Levi.
He told Brian Fritz at The Sporting News:
I had a pretty good idea of where I was. I had been in developmental already for so long. I had a pretty good idea. I had seen enough people come and go to know that I was at that point, especially with my age at the time and the amount of years I had been in developmental. I had a pretty good idea that I was close to either going up or going out.
When the gimmick was a hit with the small, insular crowd that NXT tapes before at Full Sail University in Florida, the decision was made to rush Adam Rose to the bright lights of the main roster.
Things there didn't go as well. The character was outshined by a member of his entourage who wore a rabbit costume, and is currently undergoing a heel turn on the undercard. Which is a shame, because Leppan is good hand in the ring (Cagesiders who read my NXT recaps during his tenure there will know that I'm a BIG fan of his Spinebuster) and while Leo Kruger probably isn't a future WWE champion, the gimmick is easy to understand and work into quick feuds.
Aware of this, and looking to seize the moment when his name is part of the larger conversation, Leppan tweeted fans this week asking which gimmick they prefer:
Let your voice be heard if you want kruger back tweet #WWEKruger ##WWE #WWEe60— Adam Rose (@WWEAdamRose) May 6, 2015
Whether or not WWE will let him choose which character to play is unknown, and, sadly, that he's only had about 800 responses (in the form of replies, favorites and re-Tweets) to his plea might not be the best sign.
Thoughts, Cagesiders? What's Ray Leppan's best shot at making money to be a father and husband doing what he loves?