The first episode of Breaking Ground is all about getting to know a few main characters, what they are about and what there struggles are. William Regal tells us that a working character is everything and details are more important than some people think they are.
It’s almost like the first unwritten law in the wrestling business that you have to make an impression with your first appearance. If you make your first match on TV in NXT or the WWE, audiences are trained to get you and your character at first glance or they will give you a hard time of not caring about you. If you haven’t got anything else that makes up for lack of muscle or a voice or an interesting face or wrestling skills. But usually the most important – as WWE never fails to suggest – is your ability to create a body that seems like larger than life.
Just recently I saw a lot of arguing by WWE fans about the lack of muscle on Dean Ambrose’s body. For me this kind of talk just indicates two things:
- the audience is well trained by WWE indeed that they simply don’t accept wrestlers who have a normal body but can do extraordinary things inside the ring or on the mic – the most important thing to most fans is the look, that first impression;
- if wrestling fans argue about a wrestler’s appearance, they certainly don’t have other things to argue about.
Since this is mainly a blog about Dean Ambrose, I have to bring up his example. Because he’s simply the perfect wrestler: he works his gimmick to near perfection because he never breaks character when he’s working for WWE, his mic skills are second to none because he’s able to draw you into a storyline or be hyped for his coming match with just one little promo, he is able to bring the best match to any opponent that he is given and if he’s given a bit of match time, he creates storylines that draw you in emotionally how it should be in wrestling. So, Dean Ambrose is someone who impresses on second look and that’s why he isn’t the first guy in WWE. Because he doesn’t have the WWE / wrestling look of a larger than life superstar.
But Breaking Ground is all about the people in NXT, not WWE. This point might be scientific but it’s not entirely. Yes, NXT belongs to WWE but there is a huge difference in appearances, matches and characters. As a developmental area, in NXT you can create something new and fresh, you can make characters, try something that might not work, so you try something else. And if you’ve got the confidence in yourself and your character, trainers are willing to work with you.
First, we saw Tino Sabbatelli and heard his story. I’m usually a bit suspicious about ex-NFL players like him, Roman Reigns or Baron Corbin. They failed at one sport because of talent or an injury, so they came to NXT because they think it’s easy to do and easy to get a lot of money. Like I said, that’s just me being biased. Because in my mind they didn’t chose wrestling as first option, they probably don’t love the business as much as wrestlers who watched as a kid and trained since they were sixteen. In my mind, they just see wrestling as business. So, I’m usually very hard on such wrestlers and they probably won’t ever grow on me. But at least I can see this desire in Sabbatelli’s eyes. He wants to prove himself, especially after coming back from concussion, and he wants to make it in NXT. When I’m writing this here, we are already in 2016 and Sabbatelli still wasn’t seen on NXT TV.
Baron Corbin also had a main part in this first episode of Breaking Ground. I actually was impressed when I’ve seen these old pictures of him as an NFL player. I always got the impression that he must have lost a lot of weight and he did. That’s determination and the willingness to get in shape for the wrestling business. I also got the impression that Breaking Ground was used to get more depth to Baron Corbin’s character and also make the WWE audience getting used to him. What Corbin said and like he appeared as the Lone Wolf at the gym seemed highly in character to me. Not a bad thing to build him and his character. And he certainly learns and gets better. Unfortunately he isn’t really good on the mic.
Then we went to the female section of NXT and assistant coach Sara Del Rey (in WWE known as Sara Amato). We saw her in a training session for Nhooph, with 19 years of age the youngest female wrestler in NXT. She trains for three years now but what we have seen in this first episode from her didn’t impress me. I couldn’t see any passion or self confidence about her. And I doubt that she’s got the willingness to make it in the wrestling business. The same points stand for Devin Taylor who I actually liked as a backstage announcer. But after a couple of injuries she might have lost real passion and the belief to make it. Like we already know, Devin Taylor was later released from NXT.
Now what I said before about Dean Ambrose, you can also sense in William Regal. When he was still wrestling – and he also said it in his book that he liked being a big guy with huge muscles – he used to have a big body. This desire to get bigger also created problems with pills and drugs and that’s always a big problem in wrestling. If you want to make it in WWE but lack in wrestling skills, you know you have to get bigger. But some people don’t want to put much work into it or their bodies simply aren’t made for getting bigger, even if they train the hardest. So they take some steroids and pills and get bigger this way.
I seriously hope that those days are really over. And obviously William Regal himself stands for something else in wrestling: the unique ability to work any gimmick given and being a marvelous entertainer. So he very much stands for having an eye for the details in character building, the ability to work believable promos and make one wrestler a unique entertainer. The only thing I can’t agree with him is that the character of Mojo Rawley works. He might work if he’s considered as highly annoying but he’s still marketed as a babyface, so I just don’t enjoy anything about him. But maybe that’s just me. If you love Mojo Rawley and want to discuss this with me, just leave a comment on here.
And William Regal said another very important thing. Everything you do needs to mean something – not just for yourself but also for the audience. If you do something, the audience instantly has to get why you do it. So, body movement, facial expressions and what you say, all have to fit your character. You can’t play dead one moment just to be at your full power self the next moment – accept for you wanting to trick your opponent. If you wanted to trick your opponent, you also have to make it obvious to the audience. But if you aren’t believable, your audience won’t care about you.
The cliffhanger for the second episode was the fitness test for Tino Sabbatelli. Would he pass it, so he can still be a part of NXT? That’s what we’ll see in the next episode of Breaking Ground.