A cautious approach might have Roman Reigns still fine-tuning his game in NXT, but given a shot at WWE's main roster, he has thrived along with his fellow members of The Shield.
Reigns' success and growth should have WWE eying Kassius Ohno, Corey Graves and Adrian Neville differently. An unfinished product before debuting as one of the Hounds of Justice at Survivor Series 2012, Reigns has grown tremendously with the help of a great story and elite foes.
WWE can wait until a guy is 100 percent ready before calling him, or it can take a guy who is still raw and throw him in the big leagues. If he starts hitting home runs, keep him up there. If he's continually striking out, send him back down for further development.
Reigns is clearly a home run hitter, having been a part of a growing collection of great matches. He was teeming with potential in NXT and has improved in two major areas since being called up.
Precision with Power Moves
During his time at NXT, some of Reigns' slams and throws lacked smoothness.
These power moves are meant to be performed in such a way as to maximize how dramatic they look while keeping the recipient as safe as possible. This is where Reigns needed to make progress. Some of his moves ended with his opponents falling at too awkward an angle.
Take the Samoan Drop that ended his match against Peter Orlov, for example. It lacked fluid movement and had Orlov landing too much on his side.
Compare that to when he hit the same move against John Cena at Elimination Chamber 2013. It's a far more fluid move and looks to have Cena in a better position on the landing than Orlov.
Watching Reigns in recent matches shows how his deftness with his moves is now matching the intensity he has always brought. Perhaps it was pressure or just practice that elevated his game, but either way, WWE has been rewarded with all the classic matches he's already contributed to its library.
In addition to the added precision of his offense, it's been Reigns’ upgraded responses to his foes' offense that has seen the most development.
Reigns was never the type of performer unwilling to sell his opponent's offense, but his reactions to pain in the ring were not always convincing.
Refer to his FCW match against Leo Kruger to see this in action.
There were times during the match where Reigns was supposed to be beaten down, but his level of exhaustion seemed to shift. Crawling on the mat, he showed flashes of looking too energized to fit in with the in-ring narrative.
Since being called up, Reigns has been able to channel his intensity into great, theatrical performances.
His recent match against Daniel Bryan is a prime example.
Watch how his head falls limp after Bryan's corner dropkick. Watch his eyes widen when Bryan locks him in the No Lock. Even after his victory, Reigns walks slowly from the ring, still wincing from the fight.
This change in Reigns has taken him from very good to great in rapid fashion.
One has to wonder if he would have sharpened those skills as quickly as he has if he was still in NXT. Going up against the best has brought out his best.
To continue the baseball analogy from earlier, it's tough to know how good a guy is until he's up against big-league pitching.
Reigns looked good against Kruger, Orlov and other guys in developmental, but being able to face off against WWE's elite has helped him undergo a transformation into a star.
Since last November, Reigns has been in the ring with guys like Cena, Sheamus, Randy Orton, Big Show, Undertaker, Bryan and Kane. Sticking him opposite these names gave WWE a chance to see what Reigns was capable of. Were he to be outshined again and again, the company would know Reigns would be a better fit for NXT.
Some of NXT's prospects are just too green to be tested in this way, but there are certainly a number of guys who have been in developmental for an extended time who could benefit from being thrown in with the big boys.
NXT can't simulate the intensity of the limelight and can't offer the elite talent one faces on the main roster.
WWE needs to scour through its NXT talent and wonder if another Reigns is among that group, a talent on the verge of greatness who just needs to undergo a trial by fire.
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