WWE NXT: A Lost Chance to Maintain Superstars' Much-Needed Momentum
Don't believe it? I've got two words for you. What are they? The answer is simple...it’s the name of the man in the picture. It can be found in the video below as well, props to those of you who have it right away.
For the impatient and lacking history, the man pictured is Barry Horowitz. He is among an older crop of long gone wrestlers such as Reno Riggins, Duane Gill and the Brooklyn Brawler. The IWC and many behind the scenes call guys like them “jobbers,” as they are solely there to lose, get paid, and go home. In other words, they’re seen as doing bare minimum, like many do at a dead end job. They’re seen as treating entertaining, a business that is defined by passion and charisma and desire, as a grind and feel that losing will still pay their bills. Barry Horowitz did an interview, that I happened to find on YouTube and brought here as well, take a peek...
...where he states emphatically that he does not appreciate the term jobber, and prefers to call what he wrestled in “enhancement matches.” Now, while his statement hasn’t stopped me from using the term occasionally, depending on the individual case, it has given me serious feast for thought.
Mainly because jobbing isn’t just for the grunts anymore. Jobbing is now a term associated by many with either top, established talent, or talent with the potential to be big stars, leading in major part to the huge decline in appeal for both WWE and TNA. After all, by starting shows like Raw back in the day with a few simple matches that went star vs. jobber, not only added suspense for the main event to arrive, but it also gave us stern reminders that new stars were forces to be reckoned with, and established stars deserved to be taken seriously. The stars in those situations could pull either their favorite moves or try some new ones they hadn't done before. They didn't need to put their best face forward because they were a shoo-in, and we all knew it. They weren’t in the same category as the lower down guys…they earned their spots at the top.
Just about every time we’d see guys like Mr. Horowitz back then, we were assured that there was absolutely no way they could win. The commentators would make allusions to their losing streaks, they would point out how often they get beaten, but as you can see in this next video, his match against the late Chris Candido (then called Skip from a group called the Bodydonnas…kind of the health-nut precursor to the Simon System) made commentators stand up and take notice. JR coins the famous “Horowitz wins” line, because for a guy like Barry to win was pretty unheard of. Check it out...
Incidentally, for those who read my last article regarding commentary by The King and JR, found here...
...take a good long listen to JR doing commentary. Much different stuff than what you'll hear these days, no? Sunny needs to go the wood shed? When was the last time you can remember hearing about the wood shed?
Anyway...despite Horowitz making a living off of being a punching bag to showcase new and established talent, by pulling out a considerable upset against Skip, it lent a lot to Skip’s character and his cockiness being overblown and bigger than his skill could match, something that many cocky heels over the past few years could have used, a leveling bump down the ladder to remind them that they need to wrestle better. Not to mention, the crowd went…NUTS! Granted, much smaller crowd than your average Raw crowd these days, but for the time period…absolutely nuts!
Fans often forget, when flaming guys like Kaval and Bryan for their losses. We all love seeing the underdog pull out a victory...but in order to be an underdog? You need to lose a ton of matches first.
Just ask Jeff Hardy. The majority of his career has been spent as an underdog. Past few years, he's been winning WORLD titles, and I guarantee a fair amount of people watching TNA Bound for Glory on 10/10/10 still saw him as the underdog going against Anderson and Angle.
The interesting thing is, since Barry Horowitz was around in wrestling for such a long time, he could hardly be considered a green rookie that didn’t have any skills. He’d at least appear to give new stars that were really talented in the ring a brief run for their money before he threw the matches, because he really was talented himself. However, eventually, Barry, Reno, Duane, the Brawler and their ilk would slowly fade away from our TV sets, replaced by local wrestling talent wherever shows happened to occur, and eventually, even the local squash talent wouldn’t be found on TV except once in a blue moon.
Fact is, WWE and TNA both have been attempting to take advantage of the urgency of pitting only established stars against each other, the idea being that a card of only stars facing stars looks to be a more interesting setup than having stars just beat on random no-names, but effectively, they’ve been ruining many potentially big pushes over the past two plus years by having certain stars lose too many times in succession.
Just ask Evan Bourne. He hasn't been around in WWE very long and he can say he pinned a legend like Chris Jericho cleanly. But in months and months, he hasn't decisively won a match that wasn't seriously ruined by run-ins and scripted interruptions. Truly, I believe his time is still yet to come, and I still enjoy seeing Evan wrestle, and of course "fly the un-friendly skies," but unfortunately, many people have already written him off as just a useless punching bag and almost sound like they're refusing to root for him.
For a long time now, when a new wrestler has debuted, we’ve been forced to watch someone established (occasionally someone in the middle of a push) take a backseat and lose momentum simply because someone new was coming in, thus replacing the star’s popularity and respect with that of the newcomer’s. That’s what was so great about guys like Barry Horowitz. Not one single star performer would have to lose momentum in favor of someone new. Guys like Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, Bret Hart and his family, were all top stars in the early days of Raw and if heavily gimmicked wrestlers like Duke Droese and Thurmann Plugg had debuted in their first match and been scripted to beat Shawn, Kevin, Scott and Bret, our favorite legends wouldn’t have stayed on top for nearly as long. And since Duke and Holly didn't stick around very long themselves, neither would WWE. Because of guys like Horowitz, everyone could keep the notoriety that they’d worked so hard to build, they could keep their records intact, and if they happened to lose to a fellow established star in a main event match typically much longer than the enhancement matches against guys like Horowitz, it made them look that much better.
In the toddler years of Monday Night Raw (buy the DVD, it’s extremely insightful), you would occasionally see a 1-hour episode feature no more than 3 matches, two of which were against enhancement talent, forcing a viewer to have to wait till the end to see one single main event, which was the only match of the night that involved exclusively established stars. Could you see WWE do that these days?
I once could have seen it...and it was because of NXT.
With the second death of ECW came the black and yellow show, and despite not knowing what it would be about initially, we came to find that NXT would house a contest for rookies looking to become a "breakout star," whatever the hell that means exactly. I knew right away that many people would groan about it, and I groaned along with them, but after a while of seeing what it would yield (Nexus notwithstanding, though I am certainly not "against us"), the show really grew on me. It was nurturing a new crop of rookies to take on all level of pros. Some pros were winners, guys and girls who had won titles and high profile matches in the past. Other established pros hadn’t won quite as much or even been around very long, but with new rookies to challenge them, it only looked to be a healthy decision for the company to make.
Guys like Barry Horowitz were practically guaranteed to lose. I say practically because after beating Skip, at least for me, it put the results of his subsequent matches into question, however, aside from the two matches where Horowitz upset Skip, every other match you see Horowitz participate in will feature him losing, and he was actually a halfway talented wrestler. With the new NXT rookies, for the first time, when they got in the ring with a pro, they wouldn’t have been just a faceless name that we haven’t heard of or seen before. They would have been someone we know: we’d seen them perform, we’d heard what they had to say, we knew about their pasts, we’d seen them pull out wins and take losses on the chin. Best of all, we could make the same sort of judgments about them performing well that we could make about new stars that we saw debut years and years ago.
The best part was that many of these rookies had extensive backgrounds and had been wrestling on the independent circuits for a while, so they knew what they were doing and yet, when seeing Bryan take the United States title from The Miz at Night of Champions, it’s still considered something of an upset. An impressive upset by a guy that everyone knows has worked hard to get where he is. If AJ or Naomi or Maxine were to challenge Divas like Layla or Natalya for the belt after Season 3 ends and they were to win after a skillful and exciting showing? It would still be considered an upset and many of us would be very pleased at seeing new blood threaten to change the landscape with just their presence.
After all, change, unlike the old school fast food commercials claim, is not inherently good. It’s good because it provides an opportunity for something better.
Legendary wrestlers are great to watch. What's their one downfall? We tend to know what to expect from them. New guys like Wade Barrett, Daniel Bryan, Justin Gabriel, and Kaval are going to seriously test the mettle of established stars like Kofi Kingston, Randy Orton, John Cena, Rey Mysterio, and many others. If they lose? Chalk it up to them being green and needing to get used to the pressure of being on TV. Kaval has already lost how many times on Smackdown? Three? Four? Since he’s still classified as a rookie, I don’t find it nearly as disappointing as when a star that’s proven himself or herself loses to a new performer that is planned to be billed as a top star, just because they’re new. Sheamus beating Bryan on Monday Night Raw recently was disappointing for Bryan, but makes Sheamus looks better than he ever has since winning (no, not losing, winning) his WWE Championship. Guys like Kaval and Bryan are new to being mega superstars and getting incredible exposure compared to being in FCW, OVW, ROH...or even TNA. Sometimes, people in that position need time to feel things out before their niche is found. That's realistic and believable, and if Kaval or Bryan lose a few more times because of it, I can understand.
I just hope Kaval isn't the next Maven (in that Maven disappeared, not that he was that bad), they are both bald, after all. Although, Maven did eliminate Undertaker during a Royal Rumble match, that was pretty sweet, look at this...
In some ways, when rookies win, they get beat down like a dog, yes. Some stars don't take upsets very lightly, other times they give them the respect they deserve along with the crowd. Undertaker has always been huge, even during his days as a heel, but the crowd still cheered for Maven when he eliminated the Deadman. Undertaker took some humiliation on the chin and a young kid looked like a big shot for a minute.
NXT was in the process of giving birth to an entire generation of Jeff Hardys, Mavens, and John Morrisons, looking for their chance to make their marks and be champions. With its move to purely an online medium, in the form of nxt.wwe.com, it seems only a matter of time before the idea of new rookies, struggling for their shot in the spotlight, will be buried for good. Shawn Michaels had to lose plenty in his early days...and those losses are what made "the boyhood dream" sparkle and shine so brightly when he finally achieved it.
Why do you think Sheamus winning the title wasn't considered a boyhood dream, despite his desire to "cut off his hand to win the title back?" He hadn't paid his dues...that's why. Beating Bryan cleanly? It'll likely mean Bryan will see a challenge he's yet to overcome and fight to finally win. Sheamus, should he win more clean victories, will slowly solidify him as the true talent that he is.
Legacies take time to build, they don't get etched into history overnight. Very rarely does a new wrestler show up anymore and take us by such surprise that we jump back and get shocked as strongly as we used to get. Like Barry Horowitz said above in the first video (sorry I put links in and didn't embed...for some reason, my writing dashboard isn't working right), "in every match, there has to be a winner and there has to be a loser." Not every fan gets their wish with every match, in the end, at least one person is going to be disappointed.
With new NXT rookies, and the potential for a new Tough Enough run, a new crop of rookies will remind us why our current batch of stars are in WWE at all...and if a new rookie should pull out an upset? Who knows where their journey might lead.
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