Most independent wrestlers aspire to be in WWE. With the perceived edict by WWE that “they are not looking for indie wrestlers” these days might discourage some people.
Don’t let it.
I haven’t read or heard any declaration by WWE that they have excluded looking at any and all independent performers. No doubt they would prefer to teach someone from scratch with no bad habits but if they see an exceptional talent on the independent scene that has potential, I believe they will sign them. It would be ridiculous to limit where you find talent. One thing we always understood when I was coaching developmental was you never knew who might be a break out star.
CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Stone Cold Steve Austin are three guys who were looked at as “mid card at best” when they first arrived in WWE. While Punk and Bryan gained a reputation on the indies, Austin had the opportunity to work various promotions including USWA, ECW and WCW before becoming a major break out star defining the Attitude Era…
There are countless names that were never pegged as top guys for one reason or another. But they came in, got over in the ring and understood how to maneuver and manipulate their way into featured attractions… Chris Jericho is a talented performer who was NEVER supposed to be a main eventer, much less a Unified World Champion by defeating two of the biggest stars ever and yet he accomplished that and so much more…
When the territory system became extinct (AKA put out of business) Vince McMahon realized he needed to put something in place to develop new stars or business would suffer. The lifeblood of pro wrestling/sports entertainment is fresh, new faces.
The developmental system officially started in 1996. Through various coaches, trainers and managers the developmental system has put the majority of Superstars seen on WWE programming in dominant positions. Talent came from every conceivable place.
Most of the ones who had a passion, love and understood the dynamics of what they were getting into were successful.
I had the opportunity to see many different athletes come in and try their hand at being a WWE Superstar.
One thing that really irked me was when the developmental manager at the time would tell an athlete from another sport who readily admitted they knew nothing about wrestling, “Don’t worry, they’ll teach you. It’s easy!”
What? It’s “easy”??? Really…
So let me get this straight… You have a guy who prepared his whole life to be a professional football player, was a big star in high school and college and gets cut right before the season starts. The guy has watched WWE with his buddies occasionally and they all know it’s “fake” but hell, looks like it could be fun. And you’re going to pay him how much??
So we would be graced by this former football star believing in his mind he’s doing us all a favor and we should be honored to be in his presence, come in and proceed to show us how good he can throw a “fake” punch on his first day. Right… You’re going to learn the basics like locking up and bumping and by the way, you won’t be throwing a punch, strike or kick for the first six months, so how about shutting up and pay attention.
Usually those guys flounder when they realize it’s not so “easy” and realize this isn’t where they want to be. Some quit. Some milked the system for all it was worth until management finally took our advice and cut their losses.
Not all athletes from other sports approached WWE, wrestling or training that way but there were enough who did that made me wonder why they are really there…
Was it because they washed out of their first love and figured WWE would be an easy ride to make a lot of money? Yeah, some really felt that way.
It’s great if you can recruit athletes from other sports who are willing to put just as much effort into learning the art form of ‘sports entertainment’ as they did with their first love.
The same holds true for independent wrestlers. Just because you had your first match ten years ago doesn’t mean you’ve been wrestling for ten years! That 8 year stretch you took off after wrestling once every three months doesn’t count…
A lot of indie guys have bad habits that are hard to break. Some believe because they performed in front of 45 screaming family members at the local flea market they are ready for the big time.
One of my favorite stories is when a certain “recruiter” signed a big fella on his look and so called ‘experience.’ This fella I’ll call ‘Ron’ had supposedly been wrestling for ten years in the Midwest. Now he was signed to the WWE…
Ron had a scruffy beard, 6’5” and around 280 lbs. A sloppy, out of shape 280… The guy couldn’t lock up properly and when I asked him why, he said “I normally just go out there and beat people up.”
I had new people and tryouts come for the morning and afternoon classes back then and after the first session I told Ron he had an hour break and I’d see him after lunch.
Right before the second class, a student came up to me and said “Ron told me to tell you he needed to go back to his room and take a nap.”
I was dumbfounded. Ron was gone the next week.
On the other hand there were a lot of passionate, dedicated guys and girls whose only dream and goal was to be a wrestler. They weren’t the biggest but they could out-wrestle and out-work most of the class. They might have got a look once or twice only to be told “creative has nothing for you.”
In the old days there was a “booker” and if you were in the company, it was up to that booker to find a place for you on the card. Then it was up to that individual to get over and move up or move out. But at least they were given a fair shot.
Bill Watts had a big man territory in Louisiana and his philosophy was to have big, mean, ugly monsters have knockdown, drag out matches around the horn. They were believable alright but by the early to mid-1980s, houses were dwindling.
Enter the smaller, action oriented teams of the Rock and Roll and Midnight Express. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson against Bobby Eaton, Dennis Condry and Jim Cornette managing proved to be the right combination of youth, action and charisma to spark the territory and do the best business it had seen in years! Watts tried something new and it worked. In an earlier time he might have scoffed at the idea of putting anybody under 6’3” 250 lbs. in the main event but with venues selling out Bill Watts understood this was certainly “best for business.”
I believe WWE brass will do what’s right for business. Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at the big picture, but in the end those in charge will do the right thing. That goes for signing that indie talent out there who won’t be denied…
But just because you think you should be in WWE doesn’t mean you’re ready.
The 10,000 hour rule would apply here just as much, if not more so. In order to get better and become great, you mustn’t just practice, get booked on live events at the same place every month; You have to get noticeably better and be prepared before even thinking about WWE.
It’s not as easy as it looks and not just anyone can do it.
But I have to believe there are some who can and will. Follow your dreams. Work hard to accomplish your goals. And never, never, never give up.
Thanks for reading.