February 11, 2008

With WWE officially severing ties with Ohio Valley Wrestling I thought I would take a look at WWE’s decision to terminate OVW as a developmental territory, in favour of Florida Championship Wrestling in Tampa. I was originally of the impression that the intent was to run both facilities in an effort to expand the developmental program but now it looks like the focus is on a super center of sort with the much bigger training facility in Tampa.

One of the biggest upsides to this decision is location. Geographically Florida is a far better spot for developmental, than Louisville, KY. WWE already has a strong base in Florida with a large portion of the talent roster, and agents living in the area. It will be very easy and inexpensive to have talent and agents make appearances in FCW, which can only benefit the developmental program. Having guest appearances by talent at events can help FCW draw fans and the more developmental talent has access to main roster talent and agents the quicker they will progress.

This was also a good financial decision as it should be much cheaper to run one larger system as opposed to two smaller ones. Housing all their developmental talent under one roof will cut operational cost and allow for a larger developmental talent pool under the same budget. I also think that having their entire focus in one place is allowing them to take a bigger role in FCW than they had in OVW, which will give WWE more control, which they will like.

OVW was owned and operated by Danny Davis long before it was a developmental system and there were times when the best interests of OVW were at cross purposes to WWE’s, which often created conflict. It was always an interesting balance because WWE wanted to call all the shots, but did not own nor control OVW as a company or business. I would imagine WWE has a better understanding of what they want out of a developmental program now and have likely structured their deal in FCW much more one sided where they have far more say and control; the fact that FCW is run by Steve Kern, who has been working as an agent for WWE for some time supports my theory. While Kern did have a wrestling school in Tampa, which has since been expanded to FCW, FCW as a territory was really created for and to WWE specifications. This doesn’t mean FCW will be more successful at producing talent that OVW was but it will likely make for a much happier WWE.

There are however a few downsides to WWE’s decision to move everyone to FCW, and I think the biggest is, in pulling out of OVW WWE is gambling somewhat by putting all their eggs in a relatively unproven basket. Say what you want about OVW but they have a pretty damn good track record. OVW has produced a lot of talent not the least of which being, John Cena, Dave Batista, and Randy Orton. OVW works, where Deep South Wrestling, WWE’s last attempt at a new developmental territory failed miserably. I’ve heard great things thus far about FCW but it is still a fairly new and unproven commodity. If unforeseen problems surface in FCW, there will be no back up system to fall back on, so FCW is now very much an all or nothing venture. Developmental territories take a lot of work and time getting set up so FCW will be WWE’s sole source of developmental talent for the foreseeable future.

The other big down side to one system, rather than the 2 (or more), is something that was often complained about with OVW, which is the production of “cookie cutter” wrestlers. As much as talent tries to find their own way, guys who learn in the same place from the same people tend to develop similar skills. WWE tends to pigeon hole talent into a specific style as it is, so with developmental talent not having the varied past from working different places, before reaching WWE TV, it is going to be even harder to find stand out and unique talent. This may be able to be over come somewhat by channeling a lot of different trainers and current talent through the FCW facility, but developing well rounded and unique talent is going to be the real challenge to WWE developmental.

I guess time will be the real measuring stick. As FCW develops and their talent is brought up to the main roster we will all get to decide whether this move was a good one. Here’s hoping.

Lance Storm