Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ricochet, Candice LeRae, War Machine, Come on Down

LeRae comin'
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
The next class to enter the Performance Center has formally been announced, and the worst kept secrets in wrestling have been unveiled formally. WWE has announced today that Ricochet and War Machine (the tag team featuring Raymond Rowe and Hanson, not the scumbag MMA fighter who is in jail for abusing ex-girlfriend Christy Mack) will report to the Performance Center. Candice LeRae is also signed and expected to be formally announced later today. LeRae wrestled in the Mae Young Classic and has made a few enhancement appearances for NXT before making her soft debut with the company in a dark match before the latest round of tapings for the developmental/premium brand.

Ricochet, who has also wrestled as Helios in Chikara and Prince Puma in Lucha Underground, is the biggest catch this round and perhaps the biggest signing since taking on Kevin Steen. He's a well-traveled wrestler whose aerial exploits are both celebrated and bemoaned by wrestling fans worldwide, depending on whom you ask. His list of promotions for which he has taken a starring role is immense: Dragon Gate, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, EVOLVE, Lucha Underground. While he's known for his high-flying, he's also shown versatility and aptitude for other kinds of wrestling that will help him excel in WWE. His course of action will probably involve a stop in NXT before moving onto the main roster. Whether or not he's shackled to the cruiserweight division is a mystery. I could see him bypassing it because of his frame and his star power, but with Vince McMahon, anyone special can be made into just another person. It's the most infuriating talent in the world.

War Machine comes in with runs at the top of both Ring of Honor's and NJPW's tag team divisions. Rowe is a seasoned indie veteran who began his tenure in the Cleveland area before branching down into Texas. He actually is luckier than even his tag partner to be in this spot, because he got into a pretty bad motorcycle accident a few years back that put him out a year and nearly ended his career. Hanson, despite being a bit bigger and less muscular, actually got bigger hops for a large man wrestler. Hanson's beginnings lay in the New England area. He burst into ROH via the 2014 Top Prospect tournament. He and Rowe formed War Machine shortly after, and the rest as they say is history. One might wonder where War Machine fits into WWE right now as a team, especially since WWE already has the Bludgeon Brothers on Smackdown. Then again, the company loves its redundancies. Just look at the similar rises of both Absolution and the Riottttttttt Squad.

LeRae comes to WWE as the most interesting female talent on the indies in the last decade or so. Rather than making her name through SHIMMER, she made headway as one of only a handful of women to get dates in PWG, rising from the ranks of low-card comedy worker against Joey Ryan to Tag Team Champions with Joey Ryan. LeRae and Ryan famously worked one of the most violent Guerrilla Warfare matches against the Young Bucks, in which LeRae wore a crimson mask rating a straight ten on the Muta Scale. It was from there where she segued into stardom in women's promotions before parlaying that into a spot in the Mae Young Classic. In fact, she comes into WWE/NXT with a feud already brewing against Shayna Baszler stemming from her run in said MYC.

This class of Performance Center entrants includes a few other notable names, via Casey Michael from Squared Circle Sirens. Kavita Devi, another MYC competitor and the first ever Indian female wrestler, and Kacy Catanzaro, who rose to fame in American Ninja Warrior will both report with this class.

And of course, the grind never stops when it comes to people signing with WWE. Several big Impact Wrestling stars are finishing up with the company, including Ethan Carter III, Bobby Lashley, and Laurel van Ness/Chelsea Green. Carter, who competed in WWE as Derrick Bateman, and Green, who competed on the last incarnation of Tough Enough, both have been rumored to have interest from WWE, and Rockstar Spud, who has signed with WWE and whose debut is imminent, stoked flames for Carter's return on Twitter.

So another round of indie stars is culled to WWE, but with this class, it doesn't feel like the scene at large lost anyone who left something on the table. Ricochet, LeRae, and even War Machine felt like they did all they could outside of the corporate arena and now were ready to make the big bucks, or at least have the chance to. Whether or not WWE will utilize their talents to their full benefit remains to be seen. The company has a spotty record of which talents it can strike gold with, and the ones that it does end up getting importunely hurt at the wrong time, like Samoa Joe last week on RAW. It's clear that the company needs to overhaul a lot in order to make working for it the dream job that it should be, both from a creative and a labor-relations standpoint. But that still doesn't stop people from signing. Hopefully, all four of these wrestlers can realize a pinnacle of their careers that they deserve.