WWE 2008 Talent Initiative, Successful or EPIC FAIL?

by on 19th September 2008

2008 has seen WWE bring in yet another “talent initiative”. I remember they did one of those last year which lasted a few months then was dropped like a hooker with herpes. For those who don’t remember, last time one of these was done, it introduced us to The Boogeyman, Ken Kennedy, Bobby Lashley, Finlay and a bunch of “little people”, as part of WWE’s “junior” division. So, I was thinking, maybe we could take a look at the talent initiative for 2008 and see where we see these talents going and if they’ll be sticking around or getting a pink slip/P45 in a few months. This isn’t just on ECW (where Teddy announced it), it includes new talent introduced to SmackDown! and RAW as well.

First of all, let’s take a look at the awesome debut that was….Braden Walker. We all know the story, Chris Harris leaves TNA, burning his bridges on the way out, signs with WWE, heads down to Florida to gain weight and obviously forget how to wrestle in the process, finally gets called to the big show (well, the C show, but you get the picture), gets given the gayest name this side of Joe Swagger (who I will discuss later on). So, Braden makes his debut cutting one of the most wooden promos I’ve ever seen, “Knock Knock”….”who’s there?” “Braden Walker, and I’m gonna knock ya brains out”, classic. Then let us not forget his amazing promo where he told Matt Hardy he had his back, only to get asked “What’s your name again?” Classic. Oh, he put on 2 shit matches with Armando Estrada and James Curtis and was subsequently fired….Sorry, about your damn luck.

Next up is James Curtis. You may remember him from such gimmicks as “The Teachers Pets” on SmackDown! for a month or two when Michelle McCool was managing him and Aaron “Idol” Stevens (remember that? Well, no matter, not many people do). Well, he was never introduced as part of the talent initiative officially, but since he was called up from developmental to job to Braden Walker before also being released, I thought I’d include him, even if it’s just for padding and to make this blog seem longer, it’s the only time he’ll be getting mentioned so, let’s give him the 3 minutes it takes for a dyslexic monkey to read this passage before he is forgotten again.

Ricky Ortiz was introduced the week before good old Braden, and he is still employed. The man has the charisma of Scott Hall’s toothpick, but he has something going for him that neither of the aforementioned did, a following, however small it may be, he also has somewhat of a gimmick for people to care about (some swinging towel thing). Well, WWE apparently hands out these towels before his entrance for people to swing in the air (similar to how the original ECW used to give out Styrofoam heads before Al Snow matches, on this note, with the current climate, I wonder if someone got a towel to the eye, would WWE be accountable since they give them out, and would anyone try and sue for that?). It is unique as I don’t think anyone in WWE has anything similar, so there is his selling point (just keep him off the microphone)

More recently, Gavin Spears was debuted in ECW. Well, had I not looked it up on Wikipedia, I wouldn’t have even known he was a part of it. Apparently, he debuted, jobbed twice (to Ricky Ortiz and Super Crazy), cut a promo about how he was the “crown jewel of the talent initiative and subsequently disappeared back to Florida. So, already a jobber, I don’t see him being pushed too far, he just seems to look too generic, nobody seemed to care about him.

Ryan Braddock jobbed to Ricky Ortiz as well. To me, this is a bad sign. 3 of 5 of these new talents so far have debuted as jobbers and one of the 2 that won has been released. Ryan Braddock doesn’t look anything out of the ordinary, in fact, I would compare him to a de-gimmicked (new word) version of Kevin Thorne (remember him as well?). WWE is debuting these new guys, but as we’ve seen so far, with the exception of Ortiz, none of them have been given anything to differentiate them from any other generic jobber.

Over on SmackDown! we have seen the debut of a couple of different superstars too. Scotty Goldman was debuted facing THE Brian Kendrick. Not a good move. As a huge supporter of Colt Cabana, I know how funny he is, I know how good he is in the ring and hate to see how WWE is wasting him as another jobber. His debut seemed uninspired. You could tell he was there as an official member of the roster when he was given the picture in picture treatment introducing himself. Well, it just seemed as if he didn’t care about it.

“The All American” Jack Swagger debuted on ECW last week defeating a jobber, and he defeated former NWA tag team champion Chase Stevens this week. He has a nickname, but he doesn’t seem to have anything different about his look than any of those mentioned above.

Dolph Ziggler (the worst name since Braden Walker), made his first appearance on RAW on Monday night. Well, Dolph is actually Nic Nehmeth (Nicky from the Spirit Squad and formerly Kerwin White’s caddy for all of 3 weeks or so). Well, he’s yet to make his in-ring debut, but based on the success of his previous gimmicks I doubt it will, oh, and he’s called Dolph Ziggler too.

Finally, there has only been one real success story of the whole talent initiative, his name is Evan Bourne. While he was also given a stupid name by the WWE’s random name generator, but he is the only one who has been treated as more than a jobber. He has wins over people like Chavo Guerrero and Mike Knox. The main reason I think he has gotten over is because WWE haven’t put as many restrictions on him as they have on other talent, and due to his in-ring style, he has gotten over. Bourne is someone (like Cabana/Goldman) that I have followed from his ROH days, he is a great worker and I am glad he is getting a chance to shine in WWE.

So, besides the WWE pornstar brigade (admit it, reading those you’d think you were reading a list of pornstars). In all, I’d say it’s a failure. We’ve gotten 1 or 2 superstars who have potential, but debuting too many new superstars in a small period of time and jobbing ¾ of them out on their debut (and from there on out). Yet to win a match we have Scotty Goldman, Ryan Braddock and Gavin Spears, Dolph Ziggler hasn’t had his debut match yet and Jack Swagger has been around 2 weeks.

WWE needs to find a way to give these new talents personality. Give the paying customers a reason to care about them and not just think of them as jobbers. At this point, the WWE talent initiative has been an Epic Fail, I’m not saying that can’t change, I’m just doubtful it will.

Want to make a comment, feel free and any comments that are worthy will be either replied to or brought up in a future edition, if you want to email me your thoughts, my email address is chris@totalwrestling.net. I make an attempt to answer any emails sent to me.

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