Has WWE Succeeded in Building Up New Talent with Post-WrestleMania Booking?

Anthony Mango@@ToeKneeManGoFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2020

Has WWE Succeeded in Building Up New Talent with Post-WrestleMania Booking?

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    Credit: WWE.com

    While there is no true season in WWE, the unofficial rule of thumb has always been that WrestleMania hits the reset button every year.

    Normally, the Superstar Shake-up follows The Show of Shows to freshen things up. It's a tried-and-tested method to get fans talking about things to come, particularly with an influx of new talent.

    This year, though, things have been different. Instead of a raucous post-WrestleMania crowd energized for NXT call-ups, shocking returns and surprising debuts, we got what's been referred to as "Black Wednesday." 

    On April 15, WWE released countless employees from all areas of the company, including dozens of Superstars.

    One would assume the talent WWE decided to keep was at least in line for a push. After all, with a less bloated roster, new stars had to be in the works to fill the void, right?

    Two months later, it seems even that may have been too much to hope for.

Monday Night Flaws

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    Remember Shane Thorne and Brendan Vink? WWE doesn't seem to.
    Remember Shane Thorne and Brendan Vink? WWE doesn't seem to.Credit: WWE.com

    Paul Heyman is no longer executive director of Raw, having been replaced by Bruce Prichard, who will now oversee both brands.

    It may seem as though new talents have lost their biggest supporter—which may be true—but Heyman wasn't batting 1000, either.

    Bianca Belair should have been one of the biggest acquisitions for any roster after leaving NXT, but where's she been these past two months? For two nights, she and The Street Profits wrestled several matches against Zelina Vega's crew. Then, she disappeared.

    Instead of fighting for the Money in the Bank briefcase, feuding with anyone or even just having squash matches, she's had three appearances on Main Event—the program WWE cares so little about it never mentions it even exists.

    Shayna Baszler lost her WrestleMania 36 match against Becky Lynch. Even without The Man on the roster at the moment, The Queen of Spades has been pushed aside in favor of Nia Jax and Charlotte Flair.

    Liv Morgan isn't new, but the idea of her being taken seriously is. Somehow, though, she's hit or miss when WWE wants to do something with her. She was gone for the whole of May and can't string more than two wins together.

    Riddick Moss is no longer trying to do something with the 24/7 Championship, or anything at all.

    While MVP has done wonders for Bobby Lashley's credibility and may take Apollo Crews to even further heights, whatever happened to Brendan Vink and Shane Thorne? They were his clients, too.

    They're stuck on Main Event, too, wrestling Cedric Alexander and Ricochet, who were billed as an "exciting, new tag team" a few weeks ago before they disappearing.

All Hail Seth Rollins and Zelina Vega

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    Behold Angel Garza and Austin Theory, the two exceptions.
    Behold Angel Garza and Austin Theory, the two exceptions.Credit: WWE.com

    The only real developments have come with the crews of Zelina Vega and Seth Rollins.

    Austin Theory was an emergency replacement for an injured Andrade at WrestleMania 36, which gave him an instant bump from rookie in development to a full-fledged member of the Raw roster.

    Since then, he shifted over to joining The Monday Night Messiah as another disciple alongside Murphy, which will be a better fit for him in the long run.

    Rollins may also pay off as a great influence on Rey Mysterio's son's career now that Dominick has joined the fight against Raw's heel stable.

    Meanwhile, Vega's group continues to crumble but not without Angel Garza standing out. He's been great from the start of his WWE career and only continues to improve.

    The rivalry with Andrade may push him to the next level and turn him into a true star WWE can bank on for many years to come.

    If not, there's always the group of miscellaneous ninjas following Akira Tozawa these days, right? At least, that's Jordan Omogbehin's push at the moment, if you can call it that.

SmackDown Is Blue in the Face for Not Having Even Tried

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    Is it too cheap to insert a joke about this group being forgotten about?
    Is it too cheap to insert a joke about this group being forgotten about?Credit: WWE.com

    SmackDown has been horrendous with building new stars recently, even though there have been plenty of ways to do that.

    Bayley has no one left to feud with after being the women's champion for over a year. Why wasn't someone from NXT moved over to the blue brand to start a program with her?

    Sami Zayn vacated the Intercontinental Championship, and everyone vying for it in a tournament was an established star—some past their primes like Jeff Hardy and Sheamus.

    The only addition to the roster post-WrestleMania was The Forgotten Sons. WWE started to build them before easing up on their victories and reverting back to promos. Jaxson Ryker then put the group in hot water with a tweet that even teammates Steve Cutler and Wesley Blake voiced their disagreement with.

    Granted, that one isn't WWE Creative's fault, but it means The Forgotten Sons have been put on hold for the time being.

    Matt Riddle has joined the roster, which is great news. Hopefully, he'll be the exception to the past two months and actually get enough attention and momentum to go further than he did in NXT.

NXT Proves It Can Be Done

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Speaking of NXT, it should come to no surprise the black-and-gold brand has had the best track record in building new talent after WrestleMania.

    The Interim Cruiserweight Championship tournament gave us strong showings for the debuting Jake Atlas and a renewed Drake Maverick. Ultimately, the biggest push came to another new star with now-champion El Hijo del Fantasma's transformation into Santos Escobar, alongside Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde.

    Tehuti Miles has gone from an unrecognizable Performance Center name to a true member of the cruiserweight division with his appearances on 205 Live.

    Indus Sher hit a bump in the road with a few missing weeks, but Rinku and Saurav are back on television, which means Bivens Enterprises is rising.

    Timothy Thatcher stepped in to replace Pete Dunne as Riddle's tag team partner, setting up an NXT Tag Team Championship switch and subsequent feud with The King of Bros. Oddly, Thatcher even got the last laugh, beating Riddle in the Fight Pit match as the stallion's final NXT appearance.

    Then, there's Karrion Kross, who destroyed Tommaso Ciampa at TakeOver: In Your House. It's no small feat to take out a former NXT champion who has been the soul of the brand in recent years. He already seems poised to challenge Adam Cole for the NXT Championship.

    Dexter Lumis has Cole in his sights, too, and has gone from someone who only wrestled once in the NXT Breakout tournament last June to a regular performer with some impressive durability.

But Even NXT Has Had Issues

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    Both Rhea Ripley and Robert Stone have seen much better days.
    Both Rhea Ripley and Robert Stone have seen much better days.Credit: WWE.com

    Of course, there have still been plenty of hiccups, even in NXT.

    Chelsea Green scored a win alongside Charlotte Flair, only to drop Robert Stone and sit back and do nothing. Stone looks defeated and on the outs while Green is losing steam each week WWE doesn't do something with her.

    Rhea Ripley's loss at WrestleMania 36 was an absurd reversal of fortune after her meteoric rise last fall. There's no telling if WWE will be able to make up for that mistake somewhere down the line.

    Santana Garrett is one of the perpetual losers with NXT, while Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez already seem ready to break up. And Mercedes Martinez hasn't been seen in months.

    NXT shows it's possible to build new stars, but even the brand that is dedicated to the process has had some struggles.

    So has WWE succeeded in building up new talent after WrestleMania 36? Not quite, unfortunately.

    However, in an era when fans are desperate for something new and many established Superstars are sitting on the bench, now is the time the company must kick that into gear.

    If not, there may not be so many fans willing to return to arenas when everything goes back to normal, as it will just be more of the same.


    Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, Spotify, Apple podcasts and more. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.