Issues with WWE Developmental System – Overhaul Stalled, FCW Not Producing Stars Like OVW (John Cena, Randy Orton)

Over a year ago, Triple H took over WWE’s developmental system and a huge overhaul was promised. However, this just hasn’t happened and FCW has simply stalled both in terms of producing stars and offering a productive environment.

According to the below report from the March 19 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the only two currrent relevant WWE superstars who mostly got started in FCW and improved significantly are Sheamus (who actually wrestled for years in Europe but did improve significantly in Florida) and Wade Barrett (who did wrestle in OVW as Stu Sanders). The report also references Tamina Snuka and The Usos being in FCW, but they were brought through the system quickly based on their heritage and natural wrestling ability. Therefore, the biggest current FCW-only made star in WWE right now is actually David Otunga, who is used more for his legal degree right now than his actual wrestling ability.

If you compare that to OVW — WWE’s previous developmental territory — you’ll see that OVW wins by a country mile. Says The Wrestling Observer:

OVW produced John Cena (who did get started in California but he credits his best training in Louisville), Randy Orton (who had maybe three matches when he came to Louisville), Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, Jack Swagger, The Miz, Santino Marella, Beth Phoenix, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler and Dave Bautista (who is the one guy who has little positive to say about OVW). Whether that is credited to Jim Ross’ eye (and by that I mean his entire staff which included Bruce Prichard, Gerald Brisco and others at the time), or the training by Danny Davis, or the guidance of Jim Cornette and later Paul Heyman, these two paragraphs speak volumes.

The report goes onto state that OVW was dropped because of several reasons, including Triple H and Shawn Michaels being negative about the territory citing that people who never drew money could never teach others to draw money. However, The Observer makes a great point to counter this saying that “in every other sport, some of the best coaches were not necessarily people who were superstars as players.”

Currently, FCW has 45-50 wrestlers in training, but apparently the environment is just not what it should be considering it could be a direct line to WWE. The Observer says, “Some of that is because the mentality of working a match in WWE is very different from the independent level. Yet, even with WWE being so much about look, the best talents in FCW, Seth Rollins (formerly Tyler Black) and Dean Ambrose (formerly Jon Moxley) were trained and spent years doing independent style.”

The Observer goes on to explain more about the current FCW system and what’s going wrong:

FCW is run by Steve Keirn, a local wrestling star from the territorial days, and the main coaches are Ricky Steamboat, Tom Prichard, Norman Smiley, Joey Mercury, and the creative coach is Dusty Rhodes. On paper, you would think that’s a good staff. Rhodes has more all-around experience than all but a few men in modern wrestling, and was one of the biggest stars in wrestling history. Steamboat is one of the best workers ever, particularly at being a babyface. Prichard was a good worker in his day, and also has the experience of the pitfalls of the business. And he has a lot of experience as a coach, dating back to the OVW heyday. Smiley is there for his background in shooting, and he’s very well respected. Mercury understands the more current working style, and is young enough to be able to lead and teach.

But in watching the TV, there are obvious problems. For whatever reason, the fans who come to the gym in Tampa don’t react. And the talent is taught to learn basics and not to play to the crowd. It creates a completely dead environment. It is almost impossible to watch FCW and truly get a read of who, at least when it comes to working a match on the big stage, would be able to make it and not make it. You can watch the tapes and see who can talk, or who has a look, or who doesn’t screw up spots. But I’ve never seen a place when it comes to scouting talent to see if they can make it that you get so little out of watching.

Finally, the report offers an evaluation of current FCW talent, including giving William Regal credit for being “the best color commentator in the business today.” Other names mentioned and evaluated are Byron Saxton (30), Corey Graves (28), Dean Ambrose (26), Seth Rollins (25, best known as former ROH champion Tyler Black), Rick Victor (31), Raquel Diaz (22, real name Shaul Guerrero, Eddie and Vickie’s daughter), Antonio Cesaro (31, better known as Claudio Castagnoli), Bo Rotundo (21, Taylor Rotunda), Husky Harris (24, Windham Rotunda), Summer Rae (Danielle Monet, former lingerie football league star), and more.

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Source: The Wrestling Observer