Leon Ruff is your new WWE NXT North American Champion. Who saw this one coming?
WWE prides itself as being a place where “anything can happen”. Jobbers can ascend to the main event in the span of a few matches. Rivalries and friendships that are stronger than steel are forged and ended in the blink of an eye. Pro wrestling itself is a spectacle of modern-day gladiator battles. The unexpected comes with the ticket you buy to watch.
And yet, we continually see an issue in WWE. The heel champion will stoop again and again to win. The monstrous juggernaut who has been tearing through the roster will eventually be stopped by a main event talent. And Cesaro will forever be in the mid-card. You come to expect things from WWE due to their proven habits. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing when it’s a proven formula that works in drawing crowds. At least for the company making a profit.
But sometimes, you desire not what is safe. You want a bit of danger thrown into the mix. Something that will actually have you blinking, awestruck in surprise by what you just saw. Regardless if it was good or bad.
Last Wednesday, we saw just this on WWE NXT television when Johnny Gargano, full of gumption and bravado, came out with his little wheel and recently won North American Championship. Reminding the crowd-both in story and out of story-to his misfortune in losing his previous two singles titles in the first defense, Johnny claimed he was going to “beat the curse!” tonight.
By using a rigged wheel to select a challenger that night. The rig was obvious. Leon Ruff’s name tacked on with paper as opposed to being put onto the wheel properly. Johnny doing the general wrestling style of over exaggerated emotion in “shock” of how Leon was selected. The cherry on top being the commentators outright stating that it’s rigged.
Which just makes it all the more satisfying when Johnny Gargano is distracted by the appearance of the previous North American Champion, Damian Priest, allowing Leon Ruff to score the crucifix pin and secure a huge David Vs Goliath victory in the title.
Surprise would be the wrong word to describe Leon’s win. You get the feeling of what’s going to happen due to just how cocky to a comedic extent the heel champion in Gargano is. But the idea of Leon winning the title-having been a jobber and most memorable moment being Karrion Kross’s debut victory-is just something you come to WWE wishing you could see.
For the unexpected to happen. Now comes the question is WWE can follow on this strong opening.
Flaws in the execution of what was a good idea come to mind. The most forthright of it being how the North American Title was seemingly reduced to a plot device for Priest to further his personal rivalry with Gargano, barely caring about winning it back as he helps Ruff escape from the wraith of Gargano.
Still, this is an easily rectified flaw. WWE simply needs to give us the underdog champion that can be found in Leon Ruff. Not simply leave it content with having him trade back the title to Gargano by next week for it to become once more a point in his rivalry with Priest.
If WWE wants to capitalize on Leon Ruff’s shocking title win, one thing is needed after a good idea:
Follow-through. And we’ll see how WWE fares with living up to their reputation as the land of where “anything can happen.”