Friday, August 1, 2014

The NXT Process: Charlotte

Charlotte's journey is not done yet, but she's come a long way
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Charlotte perhaps had the best match on last night's episode of NXT. It helped that she was in the ring with a bona fide pre-WWE wrestling legend in Becky Lynch, but her performance was good regardless of caliber of opponent. Last night was a piece of evidence that Charlotte may in fact be NXT's biggest success story to date, despite the fact that I wouldn't call her one of the five best overall talents on the roster right now to date. However, despite the fact that she still has a bit to go before she can be ready for a theoretical prime time that would allow her to become fully actualized as a professional wrestler (because even right now on a main roster with an improving atmosphere for women, the best spotlight for her remains NXT), she has already come quite a long way in her journey and provides the best "pro" for the NXT process as it stands.

One could argue that Charlotte's signing was due to reasons that had nothing to do with her potential as a wrestling performer. She possessed two traits that WWE seems to love; she's a leggy, attractive blonde woman, and her father is a legend in the wrestling industry. She didn't even start out as a wrestler, and when she transitioned into the ring, she could barely walk and chew gum at the same time. She had an awkward lack of coordination, and her movements in the ring looked like bad choreography. I know I wanted to see less of her and more of Sasha Banks, Summer Rae, Bayley, or even this mythical Lynch character of whom I'd heard so much but never actually got to see her exploits in Japan and the indies. However, Charlotte kept getting those reps, kept getting put in the ring, and each week, she got better and better.

NXT's biggest disconnect is that while it is a televised promotion that is displayed for fan consumption, it's still very much a developmental territory. This leg of the company is certainly where wrestlers go to get better or to get acclimatized to the WWE style after spending so much time in the spirit wilds of independent wrestling or puroresu. The only way someone can get better or more comfortable with a style is if they get as many reps as they can. Charlotte got all that time to hone her skills, and she improved each week to the point where she and Nattie Neidhart arguably had the best match at Takeover. Whether or not it was objectively better than Tyler Breeze vs. Sami Zayn is irrelevant. The fact that it legitimately deserves to be in the conversation is what impresses me.

Of course, Charlotte has been spotty in the ring since then, but even in her down matches, like the contest vs. Summer Rae on last week's episode, she showed signs of being a competent wrestler on a consistent basis. Only the true elite wrestlers in WWE have standout performances every week, and really, not even Daniel Bryan or Sheamus are above having a stinker of a match every once in awhile. Being good some of the time or most of the time is better than being outright bad, and Charlotte is on her way to being up to the standards of the main roster, regardless of gender.

Charlotte has grown from lanky, awkward legacy hire to able representative of the NXT women's division and deserving Champion over her career thus far, and because her growth has been visible the whole time, she is able to prove that the Performance Center and NXT are worthy investments of time and money. Not everyone will take to the training there, and of course not every signee will even need to "improve" in developmental as much as they might need to get used to working WWE's rings and adjust to its norms and practices. But if enough wrestlers like Charlotte can be produced by the WWE's educational system, then it will not only prove to be the best investment the company ever made, but a future blueprint for other would-be mainstream national promotions to follow in the future.