On June 11 of this year, the world of professional wrestling lost one of the greatest talents the world has ever known in Dusty Rhodes. After a decades long career that inspired many of today’s superstars, Rhodes took an important role in developing that very same talent that idolized him. He played an integral role to World Wrestling Entertainment’s Performance Center in Florida. Rhodes’ passing left not only a hole in the hearts of wrestling fans, but at NXT as well.
To say Dusty had the gift of gab would be an understatement. Rhodes is widely recognized by many both inside and outside the industry as one of, if not the greatest talker the business has ever known. It would surprise no one to learn that his role in developing talent at NXT involved promo performance. Although it was one of many positions he held, it was also the one that made the most sense. Now that some time has passed since we said our final goodbyes to the American Dream, we can begin to ask about what legends of the business could step up and take on the unenviable task of replacing Dusty Rhodes as the promo professor of NXT.
When discussing the greatest promo men ever, Jake Roberts is a name that should be mentioned side by side along with Rhodes. While many have praised his unmatched psychology inside the ring, some forget that there is a psychology to a promo as well, and Roberts understood that psychology better than most. He knew when his volume needed to be loud or soft, and could pull out the perfect quote at a moment’s notice. Jake has said in interviews that his favorite part of the business was being behind the curtain, but his health and personal problems stood in the way. With Jake seemingly in a positive place once more, it would be the perfect time to bring him on as a mentor, and maybe a cautionary tale to the WWE’s latest recruits.
“Superstar” Billy Graham has had a rocky relationship with WWE, but no one can deny that on the microphone, Billy Graham was magic. He is often referred to as the most imitated superstar in wrestling history, with countless industry stars naming Billy as their influence. When one looks back on his work, it isn’t difficult to see why. Graham not only had a sense of style about him, but he could talk people into arenas around the country. His delivery was unique and when he needed to change his character drastically, so did his delivery of promos. It’s obvious he either meticulously studied his craft, or had a natural gift for talking in front of a camera. Either way, Billy Graham would be an excellent choice to help build the “Superstars” of tomorrow.
There is an old saying that goes “Those who can’t do, teach!” While we all know that Colt Cabana certainly can do, both inside the squared circle and outside of it, the elusive brass ring of WWE has eluded him throughout his career. He had a forgettable stay with the company from 2007-2009, then built his name doing something that was completely unique at the time. Colt created the first popular pro wrestling podcast, the architype for which shows like The Steve Austin Show, Talk Is Jericho, and The Ross Report follow today. He also has a string of incredibly popular web series based around the art of the wrestling promo. This is a guy that survives on his ability to wield the microphone. It also isn’t unheard of for WWE to look towards the independent ranks in order to find talent. The heralded NXT Women’s Division can largely be attributed to the work of former indy stand out Sara Del Ray, who was hired as the head trainer for the NXT Divas. Perhaps a Ring of Honor reunion at Full Sail University would be a recipe for good times and great memories.
While Jerry “The King” Lawler is still actively calling WWE programming each week, most can see that his days next to Michael Cole will be over sooner rather than later. Vince McMahon likes young faces on his television screen, and despite Jerry having the enthusiasm of a young man, the addition of Byron Saxton to WWE broadcasts are a sign that one day soon, Jerry’s time will be over. Of course, that doesn’t mean that his years of knowledge and experience can’t still be put to use crafting the minds of Full Sail University and passing on the promo skills that made him the King of wrestling. Lawler has elicited vile hatred and loving sympathy throughout his career. He knows how to hook a crowd and keep them coming back. His addition to the staff of NXT would be a welcome one.
During the heyday of Extreme Championship Wrestling, Mick Foley helped bring the company to new heights with his captivating interview style. A style that he parlayed into a Hall of Fame career. When listing Mick’s greatest attributes, his interviews are often brought up because of the raw, powerful emotion that he not only displayed on screen, but was able to bring out in the audience. Many of Mick’s greatest moments have involved him with a microphone, including the famous “This is Your Life” sketch with The Rock. It was a segment so good that it garnered one of the highest ratings in RAW history. Foley often talked about going to a special state of mind for his interviews, a place he called Promo Land. Perhaps it’s time he joined the Full Sail Staff and took a few NXT hopefuls along for the ride.
Ross is known as the voice of a generation when it comes to professional wrestling and has made some of the most memorable calls in history. In short, the man knows how to tell a story. If you need any further proof, just listen to his podcast, the Ross Report. More often than not, his thoughts and opinions on the world of pro wrestling are just as fascinating as his guests. Good Ol’ JR also knows a thing or two about developing talent, as he was the head of talent relations for years. Communication is this guys’ forte, so why not use it when it comes to the next generation of WWE superstars? You’d be goofier than a pet ‘coon not to at least consider him.
No matter who is chosen with the unenviable task of taking over the duties of Dusty Rhodes, no one can really replace the American Dream. He was a one of a kind talent, and judging from the outpouring of love from his students in NXT, a one of a kind teacher as well. Regardless, life goes on and a successor will someday need to be named. These are just a few choices that came to my mind. For all we know, Vince McMahon may choose someone outside the wrestling business, as he is known to do from time to time. Perhaps you have your own choices? Leave them in the comments below or tweet it out using the hashtag #NewDream. Whoever it is that fills the spot, I wish them all the luck in the world. They’ve got some large cowboy boots to fill.