Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The NXT Woman In Most Need of Development

Lynch has half the game down, but she needs to drastically work on the other half
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Dana Brooke is the poster child for the NXT's dichotomy between premium brand and developmental territory. Her debut match against Blue Pants was cringeworthy at best, and her televised development has been glacial since then. It's worth mentioning that she's only been wrestling for less than a year and that not everyone can pick up the in-ring game right away. However, the art of professional wrestling is not just about what you can do in the ring, and Brooke is actually ahead of the curve in terms of personality, formed character, and promos. If the house show tour is any indication, she's slowly improving in the ring, and the current regime at the Performance Center has been conducive to wrestlers, especially women, making huge strides in short amount of time in the ring, see Charlotte and Alexa Bliss. As bad as her outlook is now, she seems not to be the woman in the worst shape in NXT in terms of making it to the next level. For that reason, neither is Carmella.

In fact, and this might seem like a hot take to some, the woman who has the furthest to go in terms of being ready for the main roster is Becky Lynch. Of course, this will come as a shock to many of her fans, and given her background, pedigree, and phenomenal in-ring ability, she has many. I don't deny that she is supremely talented in the ring. She will be at the very least on Sasha Banks' level if not slightly above it in terms of working ability when they meet on Wednesday, and her wrestling ability on its own is certainly enough to get her marquee matches at Takeover events and might be enough to allow her to run as NXT Women's Champion.

That being said, skating in NXT, in front of a skewed crowd, is not the same as being ready to tackle the main roster, especially if the standards for women are being raised to the same levels as they are for men (as they rightfully should be). Lynch has had trouble finding a character that has been more than "wrestler," which in this day and age would be fine if she had a comfort level with the microphone that allowed her to speak without jitters. She hasn't really had much of a chance to speak, however. Backstage segments have come at a premium (and those can be shot and re-shot until they're gotten correct), and her first dalliance with a live mic during the contract signing was fraught with hemming that a science student has when giving a presentation in front of a large group. Of course, Banks' rubber-stamping of her signature and the fracas that followed overshadowed Lynch's woes, but they were present in the face of the crowd at Full Sail and for those who watched the show on first run or on demand on The Network.

Of course, her lack of character may be hurting her development. She was given an ethnically reductive "Riverdance" gimmick on her introduction to the NXT roster, and outside of "tagging along with Sasha Banks," "splitting with Banks on the sly between Takeover: R-Evolution and Takeover: Rival," and "making puns on Twitter," she's really had nothing to latch onto, nothing she could make her own. To be completely fair, NXT Creative's attempts at giving her a character have been lacking, for sure. The Riverdance thing was one-note, and it was killed almost immediately, but Creative not only has had barely anything for her, she's really not done a whole lot to develop a persona. One week, she's in patchwork gear which suggests that she could work a latch-key kid gimmick or some kind of thrift-store punk with an Irish flair. But then Rival comes around, and she's in sheeny red-and-silver gear. And she's given very little time to expound on motivations, and when she does, it's mostly boilerplate stuff about how it's taken her so long to get to NXT without the innate charm or charisma that someone like Kevin Owens has.

Of course, whether or not she NEEDS to develop something any further depends on how one views NXT, and I'm afraid it's a debate that may never be settled, because the brand seems to have an eternal identity crisis of what it wants to be. If it's a premium brand of WWE as noted by its status as a selling point for The Network, then Lynch is fine right now, and will continue to be fine if she becomes a NXT lifer who has no designs on moving up to the main roster. That class of wrestler has yet to be invented, and it may not become evident until it's 2020 and Tyler Breeze is still mucking around as the Sting of NXT. Still, if a crowd accepts you for who you are, then you have no need of drastic change. She can be the "wrestler" character archetype and do nothing but go all out four times a year live and maybe a few times in between on the taped shows, and she can have a pretty comfy existence.

But if it is truly a developmental territory, and its function is to get wrestlers ready for the rigors of WWE's main roster, then Lynch is in just as much need of seasoning and fine-tuning as folks like Brooke, Carmella, and even Bliss do. In fact, she's probably more behind the curve in her area of deficiency than the others are in theirs, and while it is blunted by her supreme ability to work matches, it's still a sign that she needs to work on her complete game longer than some may think. She could use some help from Creative, sure, but in a company where the people in the writers' room oftentimes fail the talent they're supposed to help, Lynch is going to have to improve and make herself known to the room if she wants to get to and thrive on the main roster.