WWE launches NXT on February 23rd from Milwaukee in an attempt to introduce the audience to some new talents. The show, based on Tough Enough and UFC Ultimate Fighter, introduces 8 men from Florida Championship Wrestling. Each will be mentored by one established WWE superstar and the current idea is to do two or three ‘seasons’ per year, with the top stars at the end of each being brought onto the Raw or Smackdown rosters.
Vince McMahon told Variety Magazine that “These kids crash and burn a lot. By putting them into this environment, we’ll find out if they can make it. There’s no better ways to develop skills than being in front of an audience. And that makes for good television. ECW feels old, it feels tired. Sometimes our brands need freshening up. You have to continue to invent yourself.” The idea is that the new guys will be able to get over by demonstrating their personalities in a reality TV show format rather than trading wins and losses on a C-show. The current plan is to introduce them with ‘reality’ segments before they wrestle.
Here is the rundown of the initial NXT crew:
– Justin Gabriel – The 28 year-old has been wrestling as Justin Angel in FCW and is the son of a South African wrestling promoter. He began wrestling there in 1997 and moved to the UK in 2000 after his father died. He worked for FWA and won several modelling physique contests before signing a WWE developmental deal in 2008. He was one of the standout performers in FCW due to his good acrobatic ability. Real name Paul Lloyd Jr, he will be mentored by Matt Hardy.
– Heath Slater – The 26 year-old was trained by Curtis Hughes in Atlanta and began wrestling in 2004. He worked in DSW and FCW after signing a WWE developmental deal in 2007. He has died his hair red in order to distinguish himself from his look-a-like, Edge. He will have a rock star gimmick and be mentored by Christian.
– Michael Tarver – The 32 year-old is the son of a boxer and has lately been doing a one-punch knockout gimmick. Real name Tyron Evans, he will be mentored by Carlito.
– Skip Sheffield – The 28 year-old bodybuilder made it to the final four of Tough Enough in 2004. He was signed to a developmental deal by WWE at that time but was later fired after failing a drugs test. He was brought back a year later as part of a tag team called High Dosage, which was a tongue-in-cheek name due to his Batista-like physique. Real name Ryan Reeves, he is currently doing a cowboy gimmick and will be mentored by MVP.
– Daniel Bryan – The 28 year-old, formerly known as Bryan Danielson, started wrestling in 1999 and was signed by WWE in 2000. He was later released from his developmental contract and wrestled for, among others, ROH, New Japan and Pro Wrestling NOAH. He will be mentored by The Miz.
– Darren Young – The 30 year-old has been on the indie circuit for several years, including multiple appearances as an enhancement talent and extra on WWE programming. He started wrestling in 2002 and was signed to a formal developmental deal last year. Real name Fred Rosser, he will be mentored by C.M. Punk.
– David Otunga – The 29 year-old is engaged to Jennifer Hudson and the couple had a child together last year. He is a Harvard graduate who left his job at a prominent firm to pursue a wrestling career. He appeared on the VH1 reality show I Love New York in 2007 and signed with WWE in 2008. He will be mentored by R-Truth.
– Wade Barrett – The 29 year-old started wrestling in the UK in 2004 and was signed to a developmental deal in 2007. He worked in OVW and later in FCW with British tag team partners Paul Burchill and Drew McIntyre. He is a naturally abrasive and arrogant heel with a great speaking voice. Real name Stuart Bennett, he will be mentored by Chris Jericho.
Joe Hennig, Brett Dibiase and Kaval (a.k.a. Low Ki) were at first chosen as part of a 12 man group for the first season but are now being kept for the second season instead. WWE is still planning on incorporating an interactive element into the show. The Scottish promotion SWA, which used the NXT name for their own developmental shows, has reached an agreement with WWE over the rights of the initials.
Credit: Wrestling Observer
Tags: Bryan Danielson, chris jericho, Daniel Bryan, ECW, Justin Gabriel, NXT, ROH, The Miz, vince mcmahon, WWE