Monday, August 29, 2016

NXT: Veterans versus Rookies

Recently, there was some debate whether NXT House Shows were providing ample opportunity for developing wrestlers to work with veterans.

August 27, 2016 at the Maxwell Snyder Armory in Jacksonville, FL

  • Rich Swann defeats Steve Cutler
  • Daria defeats Billie Kay by DQ
  • Alexander Wolfe & Sawyer Fulton defeat Adrian Jaoude & Cezar Bononi
  • Oney Lorcan defeats Andrade Almas
  • Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa defeat The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson)
  • Bobby Roode defeats Riddick Moss
  • Ember Moon defeats Nikki Cross
  • Hideo Itami defeats Austin Aries

There was 20 wrestlers performing on this show. Immediately, the question becomes "what's your criteria for a veteran"?

There's four wrestlers who have less than five years of wrestling experience: Steve Cutler, Daria, Adrian Jaoude and Riddick Moss. It's tempting to say that "less than five years" automatically equals a Rookie. (However, it's worth noting how quickly people can progress - for instance Charlotte started performing on NXT house shows in October 2012 and is already one of the top female stars on the main roster on in WWE.)

Then there's a group of wrestlers who have been wrestling for between five and ten years: Rich Swann, Billie Kay, Sawyer Fulton, Oney Lorcan (the former Biff Busick), Nikki Cross (former Nikki Storm) and Ember Moon (the former Athena/Adrienne Reese). Classification for this group between Rookie/Veteran monikers is a lot fuzzier. This is especially true for women who often have less chances to wrestle on the independent scene.

Lastly, there's the wrestlers who have been performing for more than ten years. This includes Alexander Wolfe (Axel Tischer, debuted in 2004), Cezar Bononi (Brazilian who apparently debuted in 2004), Andrade Almas (former CMLL star La Sombra who debuted in 2003), Dash Wilder (who started on indies in 2005), Johnny Gargano (started on indies in 2005), Scott Dawson (started on indies in 2004), Tommaso Ciampa (started in 2005), Booby Roode (started in 1998), Hideo Itami (former NOAH star KENTA who debuted in 2000) and Austin Aries (who debuted in 2000).

It's difficult to unilaterally define who is a "vet" and who is a "rookie" just based on years of experience between initial wrestling debut and now. In reality, you want to overlay their experience with which companies they worked for and in what capacity. 

I went through the nearly 300 wrestlers who have wrestled an NXT match 2012-2016 and picked out the dozen or so that I'd consider "veterans": Finn Balor, Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe, Asuka, Hideo Itami, Kassius Ohno, Shinsuke Nakamura, Seth Rollins, Bobby Roode, Rhyno, William Regal, Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Jushin Thunder Liger. They all averaged more than a dozen years of experience (with majority with more than 15 years of wrestling experience). 
At the risk of oversimplification, let's use the rule "11+ years = veteran".

Under that definition we can define three types of matches:
  • A. Veteran vs. Rookie: at least one person in this match has more than 11 years of experience and at least one person in this match has less than 11 years of experience
  • B. Rookie vs Rookie: everyone in this match has less than 11 years of experience
  • C. Veteran vs Veteran: everyone in this match has at least 11 years of experience
Let's start by looking at NXT House Shows in Florida and just concentrate on singles matches (this includes multi-person matches, but wouldn't include tag team matches or battle royals or handicap matches):

In Year-to-date 2016, we've seen a large increase in the number of singles matches that solely rookies at the expense of matches that involved a veteran and a rookie. We are seeing more rookie vs rookie matches. Let's drill into that.

We've seen a real increase this year in singles matches between wrestlers who both have less than five years of experience (usually wrestlers that are real rookies and were trained by NXT staff such as Tino Sabbatelli vs Angelo Dawkins or Steve Cutler vs Josh Woods). There's been a decrease in the number of matches with wrestlers who each have five to ten years of experience (such as Apollo Crews vs Alex Riley or Rich Swann vs Elias Samson).

It's interesting to contrast this with the non-FL NXT House Show singles matches:

(We only have two years of history since non-FL NXT house show touring is a new phenomenon.)

You're seeing a lot more Veteran vs. Veteran match-ups this year on the "touring NXT" show (i.e. the out-of-state show where they load up with stars) like Itami/Aries, Finn Balor/Bobby Roode, Nakamura/Andrade, Zayn/Ciampa.

It's more nuanced when you want to look at Tag Team because there's a lot more people involved and you have to measure whether you are looking at the min, max or median experience of each team involved. That will have to wait until another day.

If I had to put my finger on what's different about 2016 it's that:

a) There is a non-FL touring brand which is utilizing wrestling veterans competing against each other more heavily than in prior year(s).

b) The change in the FL NXT house shows is that when wrestlers with less than a dozen years of experience are facing off, it's more often people who are both quite inexperienced (less than five years).

Analysis by Chris Harrington @mookieghana

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