For the last ten years or so I have followed the WWE’s developmental system. I’ve been following since the WWE’s developmental system covered both Heartland Wrestling Association (HWA) and Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) shortly after the WWE purchased WCW. I remember when they left OVW moved over to Deep South Wrestling (DSW) and then finally to where they are today at Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW).
For years the WWE’s developmental talent would be filled with talents that the WWE found either through second or third generation, overseas talents and some talents that honed in on their crafts on the independent circuit. Now the WWE’s developmental territory, FCW, is mostly filled with an independent wrestling promoters dream. It appears that the more notable independent wrestling talents that sign with the WWE the more we realize that the WWE may be changing their theories in their developmental territory.
It wasn’t too long ago that independent wrestling talents like CM Punk and Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) were looked down upon by the WWE. When the WWE signed such top independent talents like these two it was considered a big deal because it went against the way the company built their developmental territory. Now they are looked at as WWE developmental pioneers for other independent wrestlers and it’s no shock that those two stars most recently held both World Championships at the same time, it showed it was a changing of the guard for the WWE and also the developmental territory.
In the last couple of years the WWE has signed independent talents like Tyler Black (Seth Rollins), Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose), Claudio Castagnoli (Antonio Cesaro), Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno) and most recently, Brodie Lee. These five stars could and would headline any independent wrestling show in the United States & were five of the top independent wrestling stars on the circuit. The WWE finally put aside their opinion of the independent wrestling circuit and tapped into a wealth of talent that already has a strong fan base.
These talents aren’t stars that are just starting out in professional wrestling; these are talents that have been showcased on television, iPPVs and in front of pretty good sized crowds for an independent show. They know what they are doing so there isn’t much to work on except developing them into the “WWE way” rather then the “independent wrestling way.” I believe this methodology the WWE put in place for the developmental system will prove to help usher in a good era of professional wrestling for their company.
Case in point, go back to the WWE in 1997 and look at what the WWE did during that time. The WWE took talents or even sent talents to Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and those seeds they planted to develop wrestlers helped give us the “attitude era” in the late-90s/early-2000s. The WWE got away from that once ECW closed and some may argue that the WWE’s developmental system suffered because of such.
Now in a way the WWE is back with that same method of developing wrestlers and taking talents that are pretty well groomed & working them into being even bigger stars that the independent wrestling circuit couldn’t do for them. I believe this is only the beginning of that theory and will continue to prove that the WWE is on the right track to saving their product for the wrestling fan. The independent wrestling circuit is filled with top talents that can make immediate impacts once signed to a developmental deal and then taken up to the main roster.
Guys like Kevin Steen, Sami Callihan, Davey Richards, Eddie Edwards, Adam Cole and The Briscoe Brothers are just a short amount of names on a very talented independent circuit that can be signed to a WWE developmental deal in the course of the next year. Independent wrestling has always been filled with a world of a talent and the WWE always tried to steer clear away from that because they have always been so “anti-independent wrestling” or “anti-internet wrestling community.” Well it looks like the WWE is finally seeing that is the right course of action after “experiments” like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan have worked out so well for the company.
The WWE developmental system is getting to the point right now where you can argue that FCW may be better television then RAW or Smackdown on a weekly basis. I have watched some FCW shows over the course of the last couple months and I’d have to agree with those fans who have enjoyed FCW over RAW or Smackdown. They are filled with already well groomed talents from the independent circuit and talents who have done pretty well in FCW as well like Richie Steamboat & the former Nexus member, Husky Harris.
I guess CM Punk was right when he said change was coming to the WWE.
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