When Sunny Dhinsa and Gzim Selmani stormed into the ring at WWE NXT TakeOver: The End and roared as they laid out American Alpha, few fans knew who these men were. That will change in a hurry.
NXT's newest tag team will ride size, intensity and sports backgrounds to big success within the developmental brand.
After the NXT Tag Team Championship match at last week's TakeOver event, Jason Jordan and Chad Gable had little time to process their loss. Just moments after The Revival dethroned the champs, a pair of bruisers in black garbs pounced. Dhinsa and Selmani smashed American Alpha, with the announcers acting just as stunned as the audience.
"Who in the hell are these monsters, Tom?" Corey Graves wondered aloud.
The short answer is they are The Authors of Pain, a duo made up of recently signed big men. And to help introduce these unknown titans to fans, WWE Hall of Famer Paul Ellering will stand in their corner moving forward.
The famed manager, who is best known for leading The Road Warriors, is the ideal mouthpiece for Selmani and Dhinsa. He affords them instant credibility and can work the mic while they grunt and growl in the background.
Both members of The Authors of Pain are new to the pro wrestling world. But each has a strong foundation to build on, having fought in other arenas.
Even as a young man, Dhinsa showed great potential on the mat. The British Columbia, Canada, native was a standout amateur wrestler.
According to the Simon Fraser University website, Dhinsa finished second at the Pan-Am Games in 2011 and was the Canadian champion in 2012. He made it to the gold-medal match of the 2013 Senior National Championships as a heavyweight.
The Abbotsford News noted, "The living room of the Dhinsa family home doubles as a wrestling museum, and an impressive one at that."
In 2014, F4WOnline.com (h/t Mike Killam of Wrestle Zone) reported WWE had signed Dhinsa after he chose to pursue a career in the squared circle rather than seek a spot in the Olympics. In the last few months, WWE began pairing him with Selmani, with the pair often donning skull masks as they wrestled at house shows.
Dhinsa's power was a major strength for him as an amateur. He did well to gain control of foes and push them around at times. That will come in handy in his new enterprise.
With a thick frame, tattoos covering his right shoulder and a solid menacing glare, he has the look to pull off a monster heel role.
Thriving on a stage built on over-the-top antics will be his biggest challenge. The amateur game didn't require any of that from him. And in interviews (like this one) during his pre-WWE career, he comes off as an understated, nice guy.
Morphing into a beast every week will be key.
The man known as The Albanian Psycho during his days as an MMA fighter will have an easier transition to sports entertainment than his partner will. Selmani showed flashes of a personality befitting a pro wrestler as a cage fighter.
As seen on his Sherdog profile, Selmani went 4-2 as a pro, with three of those victories coming by submission. His victories were of the overwhelming variety, as he won three fights in a row that didn't go past the two-minute mark.
WWE scouts had to like his toughness and power, but it was his presence that likely grabbed their attention. Selmani displays braggadocio that irks many in an MMA setting but is right at home in the wrestling ring. He showboated after wins and played to the crowd.
In 2015, WWE announced it had signed Selmani along with talents like Rich Swann and Christopher Girard.
In a matter of months, he was teaming with Dhinsa as the two experimented with The Authors of Pain gimmick. It's an act that suits him well. Selmani is 6'3", fought at around 250 pounds and looks the part of a bloodthirsty in-ring predator.
He promises to be the star of the group—at least early on. His "it" factor forces fans to notice him.
The Authors of Pain will take a path much like former NXT tag champs The Ascension took when they ruled the developmental brand in 2013 and 2014. Expect Selmani and Dhinsa to pummel no-name teams in short bouts as they prep for a revenge story with American Alpha.
WWE booked The Ascension to be a dominant force despite Viktor not looking like a guy who could annihilate most foes. With a more imposing team now on the loose, count on WWE reprising the narrative it told with The Ascension—but with better results.
Having Ellering behind them will be a huge boost, too. Will Pruett of ProWrestling.net pointed out he will serve as a useful device for the newcomers:
With Ellering at the helm, Selmani and Dhinsa will have to do minimal talking, which will allow them to grow over time as talkers. They can focus on steamrolling and savagery for now. That will play to their strengths and mask their inexperience.
And with the NXT tag division thinner thanks to Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady and The Vaudevillains moving to the main roster, the road is clear for The Authors of Pain to be one of the brand's best teams in a hurry.
Whether that will translate to success beyond NXT is hard to gauge. Let's see them tear up the Full Sail landscape for a while first.