A JDB Blurb…
Yes, I know it was her idea. Let’s get that out of the way right now before the trolls comment before reading this piece (and you know they will).
Nicola Glencross, otherwise known as Nikki Storm on the Indies, started her career in 2008. Form her humble beginnings in Scotland she rose through the ranks of the independent wrestling scene in short time. She became a mainstay for ICW and Pro Wrestling: Eve, before eventually making the jump to Shimmer and WSU. Before we get into NXT, however…
The Progression of Nikki Glencross
She dubbed herself “The Best Wrestler in the Galaxy” — and she wasn’t far off. Storm was, and is, still an exceptional talent. The proof in her ability can be seen as far back as 2014 in a match between her and Kellie Slater for Shimmer in 2014.
Notice the color scheme, the promo ability, and outfit color pallet. (Look familiar?)
It wasn’t long before she caught the eye of WWE brass. She signed with NXT in 2015, but she wouldn’t be Nikki Storm anymore…
Enter SAnity. In this clip, Impact Wresting star Eric Young directs other current Impact Wrestling star Madman Fulton and the recrently released Alexander Wolfe to dismantle current AEW star Tye Shawn Spears Dillinger.
Oh yeah, and notice how Nikki Cross is no longer “The Best in the Galaxy”, nor is she cutting a great promo, but simply acting like a lunatic.
…and this is fine. Character repackaging is a part of wrestling life.
“Crazy Nikki” stuck. I enjoyed it at the time. In fact, here she is taking out
Macey Estrella Lacey Evans in 2017.
The gimmick stuck for sometime, but without explanation, Nikki stopped being unhinged. Sure, she was quirky, but she was now suddenly tamer, and was paired with Alexa Bliss.
Enter “The Fiend” who unexplainably targets Alexa Bliss, which is outside of his natural character purpose and progression. Without explanation, Alexa Bliss suddenly turns evil. Bray did a thing, and now she’s an evil hypnotoad. There is no reason given for Alexa Bliss to veer towards the darkside…
The friendship starts to weaken because of…reasons…
After disappearing into the either, and facing Charlotte on two occasions for absolutely no reason, she appears…
…as a superhero.
Now this repackage is going to draw comparisons to Might Molly, and that’s fine. For me, it’s reminiscent of her original Indies gimmick, but turned up to 11. This is her idea, and wrestlers should always have creative say over what their gimmick is and isn’t. So what’s the problem? How does this tie into WWE creative?
Because the natural character progression is absent.
Without explanation, Nikki Cross went from crazed, to tamed, to irrelevant, to superpowered. Nothing occurred in her backstory to lead her to these transformations, and nothing likely will. If WWE creative were doing their job, and more importantly, Vince McMahon, Cross would have entered into NXT as her “Best in the Galaxy” gimmick IN THE FIRST PLACE.
But even with Crazy Nikki, there could have been a story to explain her transformation into what she would become. Perhaps an event, or circumstance that tamed the former SAnity member. But this didn’t happen.
As she explained on Raw Talk, she simply put on a costume and felt good about it.
This is how WWE creative fails not just Nikki Cross, but a plethora of WWE talent.
Natural Progression ≠ WWE
As I have explained in the past, character evolution is important to professional wrestling. It’s why we currently have “Hangman” Adam Page with the Dark Order. Tony Khan didn’t just wake up one day and said to himself “Adam Page in the Dark Order. Yes! I am a genius!”
Page was in The Elite. After the fame of AEW hit, he started to feel like he didn’t fit in and started drinking, even while he was successful. Omega and The Young Bucks would eventually drive him out of the group where he became a beloved loner. Soon after, the Dark Order tried over and over again to recruit him. After having his back on multiple occasions, Page would soon call The Dark Order his friends, though not “officially” in the group. As teased in the most recent BTE episode, Page’s destiny with the AEW World Championship likely awaits, bringing the story full circle.
That’s how you naturally progress a character. With Nikki Cross, we never got such progression. So for a fan like myself who appreciates good writing, it doesn’t come off as the next chapter in Nikki Cross’s WWE career, but more like “Oh, she’s doing this now…uh, okay?”
And this happens time and time again with WWE wrestlers and WWE creative.
If you keep simply slapping random gimmicks on talent without explanation or progression, regardless if it’s their idea or not, it makes it that much harder to invest in said talent.
Vince McMahon and Co. aren’t content with letting their roster be who they want to be, how they want to be it. You can justify it all you want by telling me that they’re a publicly traded company, or that they have to answer to a network, so they need a tighter grip on what their talents do. Or that they’re a PG product, so they need to micromanage what their talent does…
AEW doesn’t dictate the gimmicks of their wrestlers and they’re in a 3-year TV deal on a network that ranks higher than USA in collective weekly ratings.
It’s a Vince McMahon and WWE creative problem. Bar none.
For many, character progression means diddly-squat. For the many who defend WWE on a weekly basis, a lack of sensical writing and sudden gimmick changes will be justified.
But here’s the thing…
Some fans just expect better. And it’s not that WWE writers are incapable of writing long-term character progression. If you take a look at Roman Reigns, his development into his current persona has been a long time in the making, and makes perfect sense at this stage of his career.
And it’s because they mostly let Roman Reigns be Roman Reigns. They didn’t slap a silly gimmick on him when fans rejected him, or put him with a laughable mask-wearing hacker stable. He was just Roman Reigns, who became sick and tired of the fans’ bullshit. He found natural alliances with the Usos, and a natural hypeman in Paul Heyman who was looking for the next big payday after Brock Lesnar.
But as mentioned prior, this happens so far and few between, that much of the product becomes unwatchable — because I am unable to invest in most of the roster, because I am not sold on the believability of their own personas. Even if their personas make sense in their own progression, they rarely act as their character would.
So Raw just becomes a product much like Whose Line Is It Anyway, “where the points are made up and the rules don’t matter. “
This is professional wrestling, not improv. WWE creative, and Vince McMahon, fail their own wrestlers and halt their character progression. If they would simply let their talent hold 100% creative control over their own gimmicks, and be who they want to actually be, the product would improve exponentially.