In a few short weeks, Adam Rose exploded onto the scene in NXT and left an indelible mark on the vocal, passionate fans inside Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla. With an entourage known as his Rosebuds and an energetic entrance that captivated the audience, he was something fresh, new and exciting.
With the success of the character in developmental, WWE hoped that the character would translate to the audience at large. Thus far, it has been far more difficult than expected.
At Payback on June 1, Rose is expected to make his in-ring debut for WWE. His opponent, based on everything that has happened since the May 5 episode of Raw, will be former WWE World Heavyweight champion Jack Swagger.
Luckily for Rose, he could not have possibly drawn a better first opponent.
Swagger is an above-average ring worker who can regularly be counted on to deliver a good match. His work with wrestlers of all sizes and styles has made him a valuable asset to the company, which is likely the reason he has received as many opportunities as he has over the years.
He is an unselfish worker who has no problem allowing his opponent get over on him.
With five years of main roster competition under his belt, and matches against main event talent such as John Cena, Randy Orton, Triple H, The Undertaker and Daniel Bryan on his resume, Swagger has mixed it up with the top talent the industry has to offer.
He is a veteran of the WWE style and knows exactly what it takes to make an impression on the audience. After all, he won the ECW Championship very early in his WWE career.
Rose, on the other hand, has had a rather inauspicious start to his main roster career.
Despite receiving several entertaining vignettes prior to his arrival and keeping the character essentially the same as it was in NXT, fans have not gravitated to it the way management had hoped.
The crowd has not responded to him with the same excitement that they had inside Full Sail University. Those fans were as much a part of the success of the Rose character as the performer and production team were. They created a fun atmosphere by singing along with his entrance music, dancing in the stands and cheering the character's every move.
That reaction, that sense of fun has been sorely missing thus far.
With Payback taking place in the passionate wrestling city of Chicago, the company has the opportunity to rehabilitate the Rose persona in a single night. To do that, it will have to allow him to have a match that plays up the fun-loving nature of the character without allowing the bout to descend into an exercise in comedy.
If Rose can prove that he can hang with a respected in-ring worker such as Swagger, he will gain the respect of the audience, which really has no reason to cheer the South African Superstar outside of an elaborate entrance that features a grown man in a bunny costume.
If he cannot convince the typically hot crowd to buy into his character and his ring work during a match with someone so consistently solid as Swagger, Rose may be doomed.
Regardless, Swagger is the greatest hope Rose has of making the impact that everyone expected him to right out of the gate.
His long-term success, if there is to be any, depends on the work they do together come June 1.