ESPN Aired its WWE documentary today, hosted by Jeremy Schaap. Here are some highlights along with my thoughts. The documentary was not kayfabe so they referred to everyone by their real names unless they were in-character.
Right off the bat I knew there was going to be some tugging at the heartstrings throughout the show that I didn’t expect and hadn’t prepared for. The opening scene with Adam Rose was just a sampling of what was to come as we followed him, Xavier Woods, and Corey Graves from NXT to where they are today. Rose and his wife open the door to their young son, Maverick’s, room and Adam proceeds to feed him...through a syringe that connects to a tube in his stomach. Yeah. Take a second to let that sink in. Within seconds we are given a way to connect with and sympathize with the man in a way that WWE Creative hasn’t been able to replicate as long as Rose has been in the company. As the documentary continues and we delve more into his background and personal life I think Rose becomes a poster-child for WWE Creative’s flaws and is just the most recent example that we are truly in the midst of The Reality Era. It’s hard not to make this a Rose-centric article, but by far he was the one who was put over most by the show.
We learn that he had a troubled upbringing as a teen in South Africa. He spent two years homeless, fighting to stay alive with only the dream of being a wrestling superstar to keep him going. His original wrestling character “Z-max” was based on a character in the original Karate Kid. When his wife was 17 weeks pregnant an Ultrasound revealed that Maverick, as a fetus, had an Omphalocele. This is an abdominal wall defect where parts of his GI tract were forming externally. This is why they have to feed him the way they do. He says that for him wrestling is about, “preparing a future” for his family.
The difficulty in dealing with this situation, which Rose takes in stride ““waking up kids is way tougher than wrestling,”) is compounded by the trouble Rose’s NXT character at the time (Leo Kruger) is having generating excitement from the crowd. In the first of many unprecedented looks into a WWE Creative meeting Michael Hayes goes so far as to say that he wouldn’t pay to see Rose. A room full of people deciding talent’s fate. You have to have advocates in the room. Wrestling is a business at the end of the day. Vince even says they are, “investing in people and the characters they become.”
Woods background shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows that he has his Masters and is working towards his Doctorate while he wrestles. He wrestled in high school and took acting classes to overcome his fear of public speaking. He was even a cheerleader in college to increase his leaping ability and athleticism. The first iteration of Woods’ character is the man who is all 90’s. He busts out his bag of goodies, a large backpack designed to look like a turtle shell and revealed a myriad of seemingly random things from the decade including: a large bag of Pogs, a Skip-it, and a rubber horse-head mask. Much different than his current role. His work ethic and dedication to being the first professional wrestler with a Doctorate is admirable. Fans who were frustrated with how Woods or A New Day were booked prior to their current title run would be surprised to hear how many supporters Woods has in the Creative Room. Michael Cole went so far as to say he could be one of the faces of the company if they could find a character for him.
Graves was a wrestling fan so early one of his first birthday cakes had Hulk Hogan on it. His promising career was cut short due to a number of concussions, the last several of which were suffered within a short duration. With a family to support Graves feared his time with the WWE would be over. All he’d known since breaking into the industry was being in the ring and performing. His dedication and hard work earned him a two-year contract as an announcer, a role Graves continues to grow into. He’s done well enough and grown his character enough that he now hosts his own WWE Network show, Culture Shock.
I was surprised that we saw as much of much maligned Bill DeMott as we did, but we have to remember he was Head Trainer of NXT during the time this was filmed. There are no scenes that would lend credibility to the allegations that lead to his departure. He is portrayed in a coaching role, helping Rose to think less which helps him succeed once the Rose character actually debuts. Rose returns to backstage and looks like a weight has been lifted off of him before the two embrace. The character was a hit and drew “that was awesome” chants from the crowd.
The first thing I did when I finished watching was take to r/SC to see if I was alone in my reaction to the documentary and was glad that I wasn’t. All the top comments are about how Rose should get a push and people saying they would never boo him again, that there should be a “Maverick” chant, etc. etc. Those were all thoughts I had throughout the show. I did a bit of research on Rose when he returned to NXT recently to face Tyler Breeze. The match was quick, comedic, and entertaining. It was a great fit. There wasn’t a lot on the internet beside his Wiki page. I’ll guarantee you that changes soon and that Rose starts getting a lot more of a reaction from the crowd. Let’s hope the right people (person?) is paying attention and we begin to see an improvement in usage and character development involving more real life aspects of talent. I’m curious to see what others think and hope WWE uses this as a model to produce similar documentaries about its developmental talent for the Network. It gives them another forum for character development that is very different than their usual methods. We fans always agree that when wrestling is good, it’s amazing. Shows like this can help create those moments.
One of the best lines of the night, and a highlight I hope they play many years from now when he passes, came from the man at the top. Schaap asks him about what he’s learned from audiences that helps him develop characters Vince replies that it’s about understanding human psychology and articulating it. Here’s the exchange:
“How so?” Schaap asks.
Vince replies, straight-faced and matter-of-factly, “well...as you’re sitting here in front of me right now, you’re a little bit in awe of me and my presence.”
Schaap laughingly replies, “you can tell?!”
“I can feel that, ya know? It’s understanding, it’s feeling that audience. It’s visceral.”
Love him or hate him, McMahon and the Creative teams he’s lead have arguably created more big characters and more big moments than anyone not named Stan Lee or George Lucas.
What did you think about the show? Would you watch something like this on a monthly basis if it featured different developmental talent that we don’t get to see much of currently? Are you going to mark out for Adam Rose like never before?
**UPDATE** There's a short bonus clip featuring Big Cass on ESPN.com and another featuring Tyler Breeze. Glad they gave Cass a chance to show what he could do. He and Enzo are the most popular NXT tag team and I can't imagine one without the other just yet. It's good to see him so jacked, too. I think he may need that at the next level. Breeze continues to come into his own as a rising heel. He's taken the stereotypical narcissist male role and updated it, notably with Triple H's help. It was H's idea for Breeze to gaze into a cell phone rather than at a compact mirror. It's little touches like that one that can make a character.