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NXT TakeOver Shows Better Than PPVs, Rock/WWE, Next Top Diva, Forcing Talent

The following is today's edition of Ask WNW. Ask WNW is the most popular feature on the website where Richard Gray answers four questions daily, Monday through Friday. To submit your question for the next installment of Ask WNW, click here.
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In your opinion, should it be acceptable the NXT “developmental” roster outshines the main WWE roster with the TakeOver shows? From a main roster standpoint, I can’t imagine them being happy about being made to look secondary.

This is an interesting point and one that I knew I wanted to address after watching WWE NXT TakeOver: R Evolution (in fact the main event is on again here in the office as I type this). The NXT TakeOver shows are better than the main roster WWE pay-per-views, there’s just no getting around it. Now, why are the shows better?

In my opinion, the shows are better for a number of reasons. They focus on athletic wrestling matches without an agenda of trying to draw viewers to Raw the next night or sell the next pay-per-view, the venue features an intimate atmosphere with a hot crowd and the performers on the card know this is their chance. The TakeOver shows bring WWE’s developmental system to the forefront, exposing their work to the rest of the company and the fans. Talent working down there knows how big of an opportunity this is and their work reflects that.

On Thursday, we talked about complacency in WWE. How many workers looked complacent at NXT TakeOver?

It’s literally the perfect storm that makes for great TV, even though the talent, in most cases, isn’t as polished. However, I also think we could make a list of main roster talent that do not compare to the talented workers down in NXT but that’s a discussion for another day.

It’s difficult to compare NXT TakeOver shows to main roster WWE pay-per-views because the atmosphere is very different. I say all the time a hot crowd can make a wrestling match. On the flip side, a cold crowd can ruin a wrestling match. The crowd at Full Sail University is comprised of people familiar with the talent, usually features more “smarks” that are “in tune” with what’s going on and it’s a smaller venue that’s more intimate, which makes it louder.

Vince McMahon knows they cannot sell main roster shows solely on in-ring work, much like they can’t push talent solely on in-ring work. Remember, a good portion of the mainstream WWE fan base watches for the angles and storylines and couldn’t care less about how a match “looks.”

As for the reaction from the main roster, I’m sure that many recognize the points I’m bringing up here. If WWE ran a main roster show with the same format in the same venue, they too would blow the roof off. However, that’s just not the way it works.

But to answer your initial question, I think it’s great the NXT TakeOver shows are so good. Not just because I’m a fan myself and enjoy watching them but what would it say about “the future” of WWE if the shows weren’t outstanding? Could you imagine if the NXT roster laid an egg? That would suck the momentum out of the whole process and it’s imperative they continue to impress like they do each time out.

What was the point of The Rock coming back on Raw to insult Lana and Rusev, but not showing up at any another WWE event?

The Rock made a surprise appearance on the October 6, 2014 episode of Monday Night Raw because he was in New York City and they worked it out for him to do so. He also filmed an angle they used for the 15th Anniversary special of Smackdown. Rock was not used on that show for any other reason than to “pop the crowd” with a surprise appearance. At this point, he should be considered “doubtful” for Wrestlemania 31 next year, however, the relationship between Rock and WWE is good enough where they could work together again the future.

Should Sara Del Rey also be in charge of training the main roster Divas? After seeing the awesome Divas match between Charlotte and Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver, do you think the solution to improve Dvas matches on the main roster is to have Sara train them as well, or is this another example of the different points of view between Vince and Triple H?

I can’t help but think the reason Charlotte is flourishing into what will likely be the top Diva in WWE is in large part because of the in-ring training from Sara Del Ray. Del Ray is one of the best female in-ring workers in the history of the business and she’s clearly played a very important part in taking Charlotte to the next level. However, I also want to mention that the one thing Charlotte has that can’t be taught is her presence. The way she carries herself in front of the camera is something one can only be born with. Given who her father is, it’s very clear where she got that from.

As for Divas matches on the main roster not comparing to Divas matches at NXT TakeOver, when is the last time the main roster Divas got a chance to go 14 minutes in front of a crowd familiar with their storyline? The match between Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella at SummerSlam, which I felt was well worked, only got 11. It’s the same reason a Diva can thrive in Florida and tank when she gets called up. Even Paige, who has been around the business her entire life, gave us all a good scare before settling in.

It’s just very different because of the way WWE pushes their Divas. They’re ambassadors. They’re sex appeal. They’re reality stars. They are not promoted like they are on a level playing field with the male workers. I’m not saying that’s right either, in fact I think if given the chance the females could outshine the males in a lot of cases, but that’s the way it is.

Until there is a philosophical change in the way WWE utilizes their Divas, their matches will continue to be largely unforgettable.

Do you feel WWE forces newer Superstars on their audience too hard?

It depends on the situation. Sometimes, I don’t think WWE focuses on up and coming workers enough, whereas sometimes I feel they do force them. Rusev has gotten a tremendous amount of protection since coming to the main roster, where he looks completely unstoppable. We can’t seem to beg WWE to offer the same protection to Dolph Ziggler. Cesaro gets slighted for lacking charisma but Ryback is getting another opportunity in the top of the card.

I’m on WWE’s case about Roman Reigns right now because I don’t feel he’s being handled with “tact.” What I mean by this is Roman Reigns has what it takes to be a top star in WWE. He has the look, the athleticism/in-ring ability and the mic work (which to be honest, isn't completely there yet) to get him over big time. The problem is, WWE seems intent on forcing him at every stage. I noticed his babyface support had started to dwindle as we approached the fall, then he went out with the incarcerated hernia.

They did a pre-tape with him that aired on Raw back in October that made him look terrible and now have fans questioning the legitimacy of the Slammy voting by announcing him Superstar of the Year. It feels like they don’t have a solid plan in place for Reigns and have more or less decided “this is their guy” and they’re going to remind fans every step of the way. This mentality, which I feels insults the intelligence of the audience, is usually rejected by fans. The most successful pushes are those that are created organically through the support of the audience.

From the Ask WNW vault…

October 2013: Can you give us some background on The Wyatt Family and also trace the lineage of Bray Wyatt for us? - Bray Wyatt is a third generation pro wrestler as his grandfather is Blackjack Mulligan and his father is IRS. He’s also the nephew of Barry and Kendall Windham. He’s the brother of Bo Dallas, who is currently a standout in WWE developmental. Erick Rowan’s real name is Joseph Ruud and he worked in Japan and the Minnesota independent circuit prior to receiving a WWE developmental deal in 2011. Luke Harper is the former Brodie Lee and was very well known on the US independent circuit in promotions such as CHIKARA, Ring of Honor, EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA. He was signed just last year and has been on the fast track ever since.

The next installment of Ask WNW is scheduled to run on Monday, December 15, 2014.

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