Since debuting in NXT in May 2013, Baron Corbin has had a rather tumultuous run in developmental. After around a year stuck in a spot as enhancement talent, Corbin was rebooted in May 2014, and has been a focus of developmental, to the point where a main roster call-up is on the horizon.
In spite of not having won any titles in NXT, the former offensive guard for the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals has been involved in high-profile feuds against the likes of Bull Dempsey, Rhyno, Samoa Joe and Apollo Crews, and securing singles wins against all of them bar Joe. It’s fair to say that in the current era of NXT, Corbin is not likely to get any meaningful run with the title, at least, not whilst Finn Balor, Sami Zayn and the like are part of the roster. With that in mind, having outlasted the Bull Dempseys of this world in developmental, perhaps it’s time to call up Corbin, and make him a long term project on the main roster.
It’s common knowledge that so far, the guys who have been given a call up from NXT haven’t exactly had legs. Out of the past two years, the only guy who came in with fanfare was Adam Rose, and he ended up in Superstars purgatory in double quick time.
So, how would I bring up Baron Corbin?
Firstly, I’d go all old school on this. Spend several weeks building up his debut. Start off with a really short vignette, with the first showing the stereotypical night shots of Corbin getting onto his motorbike in the middle of a rain shower, and keep the focus fixed in the distance as he rides off.
Week two, show a little more. Have Corbin in the rain again, but talk about his path to the wrestling ring. Mention his gridiron career, and show him riding into the distance again, a man of few words. The following week, show a bit more of Corbin talking, perhaps with a clip or two of his brief career in the NFL. Add in a few fleeting clips from Breaking Ground, where Corbin complains about being ready… and then start the countdown to his debut.
Repeat that last vignette for a week or two, removing the football clips and instead showing flashes of Corbin squashing guys and hitting some of the more impressive End of Days attempts. Even if they need to be re-shot at the Performance Centre in order to not bury future call ups. Announce his debut, preferably on a Raw or a pay per view (but definitely not a SmackDown). And then we wait.
On debut night, start with the first vignette of Corbin getting on his bike, then fade and return to him pulling into the backstage area, and coming through the curtain to his typical NXT spotlight and fast zoom entrance. Corbin’s debut must not be against a WWE-signed talent. Go back to the old days of the “local talent” and have Corbin win in less than thirty seconds, naturally with the End of Days. Camera follows Corbin backstage, as he hops on his bike and rides away.
SmackDown only recaps the segment, and on the second week, we cut out the bike intro, with Corbin getting the spotlight/fast zoom intro for a match against another tomato can. Another quick win, we see Corbin walk to the back, and after a break he rides away, in a sort of modern day “Shawn Michaels has left the building” gimmick.
Repeat the squash matches for a month, perhaps including a bonus squash match on a pay per view. Then you start with the name guys – and assuming that Corbin is accepted as a heel by the crowds, we start with a short feud against a guy who can carry him, but also make the moves look effective – Neville. That match takes place on a pay per view, and goes about ten minutes, ending with an acrobatic and impressive looking flip from Neville into the End of Days.
After the Neville feud, we briefly go back to squash matches, as Corbin quietly builds up a rather hollow winning streak, augmented by wins on the house show circuit against either NXT guys or perhaps in mixed man tag team matches (if WWE listens to my idea about borrowing that booking idea from New Japan), but crucially, he doesn’t end up on the losing side.
At this time, I’d avoid from putting Corbin anywhere near the main event, instead, slotting him as a credible secondary championship contender. Now, the main difference here is that WWE needs to get into the habit of not burying whomever holds the United States or Intercontinental championship, and build up a babyface champion who has never crossed paths with Corbin at any point in this run.
The match itself should be the longest that Corbin has had in WWE, but not much longer – say around 15 minutes, given that that’s been his limit in NXT to date – with Corbin controlling the match without it ever coming across as a squash. In this example, I’ll use Kalisto who (at time of writing) is the United States champion, and is currently a more credible high-flying performer than Neville. Kalisto would be small enough to get realistically rag-dolled by the larger Corbin, but also able to mount an offence that would would come across as more than the “slip on a banana peel” finish should Kalisto win.
There’s two ways you can go here – but neither of them should involve Corbin taking a loss. Either Corbin wins the belt via pinfall or knockout, setting up a rematch at the next pay-per-view, where Corbin’s win should be more decisive, bordering on a squash. From there, Corbin should be protected in the usual cycle of having local talent wheeled in every week to lose in short order, before cycling in fresh challengers for pay-per-views; whether the challengers are named or crowned after, say, a mini-tournament or battle royal, the aim should be for Corbin to be a throwback to the old Saturday Night 6:05 wrestling, in that you only see Corbin against no-names on TV, but you have to pay to see him (either at live events, or on pay-per-view).
The end game, of course, is that whilst we don’t have a true main event-level superstar (such as a John Cena, Randy Orton or even a Roman Reigns), you have an attraction who has been built up as the fans pay to see the chance of him finally being beaten, upon when you’re faced with the Goldberg conundrum of what you do next. Knowing WWE, we’re more likely to see Corbin appear as a random debutant on Raw, or a mystery man in a tag match than with any kind of build; and yes, whilst Corbin isn’t the flavour of the month when it comes to being a worker, it’s worth remembering that neither was Bill Goldberg. In my mind, Corbin’s more advanced now than Goldberg was when he made his WCW debut, and history will show that he turned out pretty well in the end!