Advice for WWE Creative: How to Get the Most out of Nikki ASHJuly 12, 2021
Advice for WWE Creative: How to Get the Most out of Nikki ASH
Look! On Monday Night Raw! It's not a bird! It's not a plane! It's Nikki ASH!
WWE Superstar Nikki Cross has undergone a change in recent weeks to take on a new superhero persona.
There is a lot of potential for this succeed and be a major boon for her career, but if it's not handled with the proper care and attention, this gimmick could be disastrous.
Let's break down how WWE can let this character soar to new heights rather than come crashing down to a bleak reality.
Examining the Situation
This change came about out of nowhere. For months, Cross was left with nothing to do, barely making any appearances on Raw—and when she did, it was in a losing capacity.
Then, randomly, she was inserted into the feud between Rhea Ripley and Charlotte Flair in a most peculiar fashion. At no point was she treated like a legitimate threat in the Raw Women's Championship scene, but she scored victories over both women.
Those were hollow wins by count-out and such, but it provided a boost to her self-confidence that seems to have spawned this idea of believing in yourself and being an inspiration.
Out of that came the phrase "almost a superhero," which Nikki converted into her new moniker going forward, Nikki ASH.
That may or may not have been in the works for a while or something on the fly to avoid having her Cross surname on the same roster as Karrion Kross, who seems poised to come up to the Raw roster after wrestling on Main Event.
If all WWE wanted to do was avoid the name confusion, that's not a great sign there is a ton of faith in this new gimmick. However, it could be a fun character, a great change of pace for her and something that not only rejuvenates her status on the roster but could also be quite the hit if the writers put in the effort.
WWE Must Actually Push Her or Might as Well Not Bother
The first step toward success is wanting to succeed. WWE is often transparent—intentionally or not—about whether the company cares about a story or a performer.
When that person or feud is a big deal, it's given lots of attention, taken seriously and advertised as something the fans should care about. Take Roman Reigns and his Tribal Chief gimmick, for example.
Likewise, when WWE isn't invested in something, you can tell.
A wrestler will not get an entrance, and the commentators will talk over their match about other storylines. A storyline will be pushed aside any week there isn't room enough to put it on the card, even if another story has four segments dedicated to it.
For Nikki ASH to get anywhere, WWE has to act as if it believes in this character. If fans can smell from a mile away that it's a short-term gimmick not meant to catch on, nobody will bother getting invested in it for fear of wasting their energy.
That will lead to a lack of a response from the live crowd, which WWE will assume means nobody likes ASH herself, and she will be blamed rather than acknowledging how she was set up for failure.
Essentially, for this to matter, it has to matter.
Give Her a Worthy Nemesis
An old adage is that a hero is only as good as their villain. That is because it's in the reflection of evil that good shines the brightest.
Batman comes off more unhinged when he's some guy in a costume beating up common thugs, but he's a superhero and savior of humanity when up against the manic chaos Joker inflicts on Gotham City.
Likewise, in professional wrestling, the heels are the ones dictating the stories and giving the babyfaces something to fight against. Without an enemy, everyone is just some wrestler fighting another wrestler.
ASH won't come off as a superhero if she's wrestling Nia Jax, Eva Marie and other generic women who could just as easily face Naomi or any other Superstar in a straight-up wrestling match.
That is why The Undertaker was given larger-than-life or fantastical opponents like Giant Gonzalez, Kamala, Kane and Mankind. These villains had an other-wordly element to them that juxtaposed The Phenom's mythical status.
If ASH is up against someone like Alexa Bliss and her twisted dark magic, she can be a superhero seeking to restore the good in her former best friend. But if she's fighting Shayna Baszler, she's just a woman in a superhero costume a few months before Halloween.
Show Off How She's Different than Other Babyfaces
It isn't just in a superhero's enemies that their character can stand out but also in their friends.
Keeping with the Batman comparisons, one of the most interesting usages of the character is his relationship with the Justice League and how dramatically different he is compared to Superman. Being near each other accentuates their individual traits so each character isn't just another cape but one is a cynical, brooding hyper-intelligent jerk while the other is an ever-optimistic wholesome boy scout.
When teaming with other babyfaces, WWE needs to accentuate how she's not just another member of the team like everyone else.
Naomi wears glow in the dark gear, and Asuka has colorful attire too. How is ASH not just another person with a neat outfit and more of a different person entirely?
She should wrestle differently than everyone else. Let her do more aerial maneuvers as if she's flying, pose like a silly superhero would and play into the gimmick more often.
If she looks ridiculous in comparison, that may be more endearing than anything else. She would be a lovable goof in the way it's heartwarming to see a child run around with a towel on pretending they have powers.
Hurricane Helms was a beloved comedic character in the face of guys like The Rock. Mighty Molly was a far cry from a serious powerhouse like Awesome Kong. Both superhero gimmicks were tons of fun.
That will only help make the other babyfaces more legitimate too, as they will look tougher and more serious in comparison.
Otherwise, ASH will feel like when you change the skin of a character in a video game and the moveset stays the same, meaning the gameplay has no variety.
Give Her a Sidekick
Batman can't always have Superman or The Flash in his stories, but one of the best additions to that franchise came in the introduction of his sidekick, Robin, who was so influential and popular that Bruce Wayne has more than a dozen other allies by his side like Batgirl, Huntress and more.
Professional wrestling isn't exactly the same medium as comics, but there are crossovers. A sidekick can be pulled off in its own way in sports entertainment too.
For example, Batman and Nightwing teaming up on a mission isn't too far from ASH having a partner with whom she can fight for the Women's Tag Team Championship.
The Bat Family is merely a collection of allies working together. In wrestling, that's a stable or a faction.
Assuming ASH gets over enough with the crowd that WWE is able to expand on her role, she can be the inspiration for more superhero-esque characters who want to join the crusade and stand beside her, leading to an Avengers-style group.
Capitalize on Merchandise Possibilities
One other major aspect WWE would have to capitalize on once she's been taken seriously with a push and given enough character depth, is to maximize the potential profits with her merchandise.
If there are no T-shirts available for her character, that's less word of mouth. The more people you saw with an Austin 3:16 shirt in the Attitude Era, the more it became a must-buy product and the easier WWE saw how popular Stone Cold was.
Superheroes open themselves up to massive costume changes. It's a trick the toy business has been exploiting for years.
Each Iron Man armor is a new toy to sell. As is Spider-Man's symbiote suit compared to his traditional red and blue outfit.
ASH can follow the same trend, similar to John Cena's revolving color wheel of shirts that ran through the entire rainbow.
With new outfits, that means new clothing options, new versions of action figures and custom DLC packs for the next video game.
If she wins a championship, she should be given a custom belt design. That instantly becomes a collector's item and something that makes her stand out.
WWE could even create an actual comic book based on her character and use that for promotional tie-ins and crossovers with more mainstream superhero intellectual properties. If WWE can tap into the fans from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and convert some of them, that's a ton of eyes to the product and a lot more cash coming in.
ASH is almost a superhero, and if WWE treats her character like the comic book industry does with Black Widow or Wonder Woman, the sky's not even the limit for this gimmick.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.