Layin' The Quackdown, MFX Ramblings

DeMott, NXT and the rise of the geeks.

This week, instead of ‘Layin’ the Quackdown’ on some serious social or political issue, I’m going back to my roots to write about pro-wrestling.  I’m not saying pro-wrestling isn’t important, but let’s be realistic here; in a world full of ISIS horror, Russian military aggression and Justin Bieber pretending he has a sense of humour about himself, commenting on pro-wrestling isn’t the most hardcore or taxing subject I could write about.   Then again, thanks to recent stories about one man and his behaviour, there are some serious issues to address in the world of WWE.

Ah, Bill DeMott.  It’s safe to say this guy isn’t going to be high on the WWE HR Department’s Christmas card list this year.  To those of you who haven’t been following this story, the long and short of it is that DeMott, while head trainer for WWE’s developmental system, was allegedly a cruel bully, who subjected his trainees to dangerous and degrading training practices.  He also allegedly made a number of racist, sexist and homophobic insults to a number of different trainees.

When the trainees raised issues or complained, he and WWE allegedly dealt with them in the most haphazard way possible; with more intimidation, half-assed investigations, ignoring their complaints completely and eventually firing most, if not all, of the trainees who complained about Bill’s conduct.  So far, so damning.

Of course, all of these allegations are just that – allegations.  Whether or not they’re completely factually true or not is barely the point anymore.  The court of public opinion and outrage has spoken.  With the internet squawking in delight at another scandal and DeMott already resigned from his post, sadly the truth of what went on is really secondary to the latest cause de celebre of Twitter.

I’m not defending DeMott by the way.  I just find it amusing that so many fans on Twitter seem to have deep insider knowledge on a situation most of them didn’t even know about until the story broke last week.

On first hearing these allegations, I thought perhaps DeMott was simply one of those old school wrestling trainers you read about.  The kind of guy who wants to ‘protect the business’ (which is pointless in this day and age) by being as harsh as he can to newcomers.  Or that he uses this kind of behaviour to weed out the weaker trainees, by breaking them physically and mentally, to see if they’re tough enough (pardon the pun) to hang in the brutal and cut throat world of pro-wrestling.

Then the more I read about what he allegedly did, said and allowed to happen on his watch, the more I realised he sounds like a really nasty piece of work; a high school gym teacher bully; a guy who used racist, sexist and homophobic language in the workplace; and physical punishment and intimidation to those who couldn’t fight back, all under the guise of ‘training’ and ‘motivation.’  If true, there’s no excuse for his behaviour in this day and age.

Maybe in a 1970s AWA training camp, out in Verne’s barn in frozen Minnesota, you could get away with it.  But in 2013 (when most of the allegations stem from) in a publically traded corporate entity like WWE?  That isn’t going to fly.  Even if HHH thinks you’re a good trainer.

From reading about his history in Wrestling Observer this week, and the details on the allegations against DeMott – if true – this all looks like a massive failure on WWE’s part to protect both its employees and its corporate image.

Then again, after the scandals involving the BBC and Penn State, we really shouldn’t be surprised when large corporations and institutions put the abhorrent behaviour of one (who is powerful and important) above the safety and well-being of the many, and then do whatever they can to cover up and bury their mistake.

You’d have thought in today’s corporate and highly sensitive WWE that they wouldn’t make this kind of error of judgement.  Then again, after the allegations from Albert Del Rio, casual racism and discrimination seems to permeate from the top down in that organisation.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the New Day gimmick – talk about a racial stereotype!

One interesting point that Dave Meltzer made on this subject was: why was DeMott kept on and allowed to run their developmental system in such a draconian and unsafe fashion, when his track record for producing talent is so weak?

Think about it, put aside all the guys who came into NXT during his tenure as head trainer who were already excellent thanks to their work on the Indy scene.  DeMott has no claim to any of their talent, skills or success.  Then look at the crop of guys who came through FCW – again, nothing to do with big Bill.

The more you think about it, the more it boggles the mind that with his lack of success in producing stars he directly trained, that WWE would keep the guy around and protect him so much.  I guess they just liked to fashion their training regime after Full Metal Jacket and were happy for a few Private Piles to fall by the wayside.

Then again, Jimmy Savile was one of the most unbearably annoying and odious little cretins on TV and yet the BBC allegedly turned a blind eye to his rampant sexual assaults for decades.  Sometimes an institution takes the view that if they just ignore, deny and bury these kinds of allegations, eventually they’ll go away.  They go into ‘reputation damage control’ mode.

But as the last few big scandals have shown, these kinds of allegations never truly go away.  The damage it can do to your reputation is much larger, than if you’d just addressed the issue early on and avoided a cover up.

Ugh, right, enough of this.  Let’s leave this subject behind and look to the future, to a place that Bill DeMott will no longer have anything to do with.

NXT!  Yay!  The best Indy promotion in the world!  That isn’t an Indy promotion!  The show that is supposed to be WWE’s developmental territory, but is now the best viable alternative to the snore fests that are RAW and Smackdown!

Have you noticed how WWE are now marketing NXT as an alternative to RAW?  Like it’s the smarks show of choice.  They’ve even started encouraging the ‘better than RAW’ chant!

HHH is smart, we all know that.  Look at his career path in WWE.  The man is a shining example of why it’s not survival of the toughest in wrestling; it’s survival of the smartest.  As soon as HHH got control of the WWE’s developmental system he began to learn and adapt.  Like a true apex predator (not you Randy, you’ve still got another hour of beating up Seth Rollins from RAW last week to worry about) HHH surveyed the land, made a few changes to his tactics and then struck when the time was right.

NXT is the only WWE show I watch these days, because it truly feels like it’s catered directly at me – the thirty something, hardcore wrestling fan, who thinks he knows all about working and will spend time on the internet trying to convince people of that…and usually failing.  The guy who will buy a Bullet Club t-shirt and talk about the fact Uhaa Nation is going to be ‘such a huge star’ when he arrives in WWE (which I hope he will be).  You know who I’m talking about; chances are you’re one of us too!

HHH quickly recognised that the WWE fan-base that would watch NXT, have a totally different idea from Vince about who gets over (more on that in a moment).  While he himself came from the big muscles, long, flowing hair generation that Vince loves so blindly and pigheadedly.  HHH has obviously recognised that it’s great workers (and not the guys with great looks/bodies) that connect with the hardcore fans these days.

Granted, he’s still got a taste for the tall and talentless (I’m looking at you Baron Corbin and your sad face belly), but there’s no denying that his focus has shifted to great workers and it’s paying off in droves at the moment in NXT.

With the influx of top male Indy talent to the promotion and a healthy dose of talented female wrestlers – who are given the character, storyline support and crucially match time to get over – NXT is flourishing.

It’s almost a moot point now if the guys and girls rocking that show will be a success in WWE.  I’d be quite happy to see them all stay in NXT (on main roster money of course) and have the freedom, time and creative support to do what they currently do.

I cringe when I hear that Adrian Neville or Sami Zayn might be called up to the main roster soon.  I cringe because I have no faith whatsoever in that team of writers and Vince McMahon.  You hear about the gimmicks they might be saddled with and you have to say,

“Well, it might work.  You never know.  Let’s give ‘em a chance, at least they’re on RAW, right guys?  Right?” 

Screw that.

We know what’s going to happen.  Adam Rose is what’s going to happen.  Fandango is what’s going to happen.  Lost Matadors and The New Day is what’s going to happen.  They’ll be saddled with gimmicks that appear scientifically designed to fail.  Vince will pay attention for a week or two and then go back to finding ways to make Roman Reigns appear like an extra from Revenge of the Nerds, who was cut from the movie for being too nerdy.

This lack of faith isn’t my smark talking.  It’s learning from history.  It’s being conditioned by more than a decade of utterly baffling and rotten creative decisions by Vince and his crew of writers.  It’s knowing that no matter how good someone is (oh, hey Daniel Bryan) that if Vince doesn’t think you fit, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Apart from maybe get so over that he’s forced to change all his plans for the biggest show of the year (oh, hey Daniel Bryan), but don’t expect that to ever happen again (hey, whatever happened to Daniel Bryan?).  Still, at least we’ve got Rocky Maivia in a bullet proof vest headlining Wrestlemania this year…

Actually, I don’t mind Roman Reigns.  I’m just using comedic license and smarky one liners to make my point.  Which is simple: VINCE, LEAVE NXT ALONE!  Keep the roster as it is.  Bring in some more Indy stand outs on a six monthly rotation.  It’s not brain surgery, just let that brand grow and let the guys who don’t have Indy experience continue to train and learn at the Performance Centre and on live shows.

There’s no rush to bring them up to the main roster.  In fact, you could even keep them on NXT, up their pay and start running them as a ROH-level promotion.  There’s no rush to start putting them on TV.  You’ve only got about 40 hours of original TV content to fill each week and you’ve got RYBACK.  And R-TRUTH.  Those are your corner stones.  Those are the guys people want to see on TV.  Those are the guys that are needed on RAW, Smackdown, Main Event, Superstars, Total Divas etc.

Leave Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, Kevin Owens, Hideo Itami, Finn Balor and Tyler Breeze where they are for another year or two.  Look Vince, none of these guys can draw anyway, so just ignore them and let HHH and his crew keeping doing what they’re doing.

I know that’s a selfish message, but come on, at least this way it means I’ve got one WWE TV show I can watch, without wanting to punch myself in the face repeatedly at the sheer stupidity I’m witnessing.  So yeah, up their pay and let these guys be the stars of NXT, not the failed after thoughts of RAW.  Cool?  If you do that, we’ll all just pretend this Bill DeMott thing never happened.  Sounds like a fair trade to me.

Here’s a thought – why are the nerdy and ‘ironically’ over wrestlers more popular with a section of the WWE fan-base than the muscled up Greek God types?  It’s a trend that CM Punk started, Daniel Bryan took to the next level and now guys like Dolph Ziggler, Damien Mizdow and Curtis Axel continue apace.  These guys are all great workers, but they’re also kind of nerdy.  In character terms, they’re all underdogs, who don’t exactly scream ‘cool.’  And yet people love them?  Why?

I think it’s down to a couple of factors.  The first being that WWE fans, over the last ten years, have been wrongly conditioned to believe that THEY are the most important part of the show.  Hell, John Cena has made a career of telling people that his wins and losses don’t matter.  All that matters is that we, the fans, are entertained.  All they care about is our entertainment.   We MUST be entertained by them, otherwise they have failed us.  And we’re important, remember?

No one in WWE talks about winning a Title or kicking someone’s ass (apart from maybe Brock), most of them just talk about putting on the best show possible for the fans.  Basically, WWE has raised a generation of narcissists (not Lex Luger) and entitled little brats.  Their poor parenting is now coming back to bit them on the ass.

When you’re constantly told you’re the most important part of the show, a sense of entitlement is going to grow pretty quickly.  Just look at how ECW fans used to behave if you don’t believe me.  The trend to demand to be entertained, by our chosen entertainers (not those picked and pushed by WWE) has led to a ground swell of unruly behaviour: chants for crappy commentators while matches are happening in the ring; the complete rejection of anyone who is deemed to be being ‘shoved’ by the office; and the constant attempts to push WWE in a creative direction they don’t want to go in.

We are constantly told we’re important.  So in turn, we want to be entertained by those we find entertaining and those guys are a bit like us, underdogs, a bit nerdy, but with a love for pro-wrestling that is undying and undeniable.

That’s the second factor.  There’s a section of WWE fans who find it much easier to relate to a Daniel Bryan or a Curtis Axel than they do a Roman Reigns or a Randy Orton.  Why?  Well, let’s be honest here, more fans look and dress like Bryan and Axel, than they do Reigns and Orton.  It’s easier to relate and sympathise with someone who appears to be on your level – even if in real life they’re totally not.

I also think being a good worker is SO much more important to fans these days than it used to be.  A great deal of fans are smarter than ever and they can recognise when someone who sucks and is being pushed beyond their level of in-ring talent.

Wrestling used to thrive on these kind of guys on top, but these days fans can see through the smoke and mirrors and they want someone who looks a bit like them (only in much better shape) who can work a great match.  Guys like Punk, Bryan, Ziggler, Mizdow and Axel fit that role perfectly and I think that’s why fans find it so much easier to support these guys.

At least that’s my theory.  Maybe there’s some truth in that or maybe I’m miles off with that theory.  Maybe you think I’m talking about my ass.  Great, let me know in the comments section below.  That’s what it’s there for!

That’ll do for this week’s ‘Layin’ the Quackdown.’  It’s been fun to write about wrestling again and you never know, I might just do it again next week.  Cause I’ve just remembered Wrestlemania is in two weeks!  Wow, did not see that coming.  You would’ve thought WWE might build some heat to their feuds for that show.  So weird.  Anyway, I’m sure Vince has it all in hand and everything will go perfectly.  If it doesn’t, at least we still have NXT!

As always, thanks for reading, be sure to check out all the other blogs on the site and also check out the new MFX Podcast, which should hopefully be posted at the end of the week.

Until next time…

Peace

Duckman

  • Jason Z

    Great blog as always Sam. Want to post a more in depth comment but I am at work, so maybe tomorrow.

  • dq

    Agree with Jason, great blog, I always enjoyed anything I read from you in sltd. As far as demott goes, he is human and I find it a lot easier to forgive humans who err rather than the corporations who cover it up. I am a lot more disappointed in wwe over this than I am in demott. (Please don’t mix this up with me defending demotts actions in any way)

  • Josh Madrid

    Another good read Sam, definitely agree that NXT is the perfect indy show without being an actual indy company.