A few days ago I was watching the episode of the WWE Network original series Table For 3 featuring The New Day. It was the first episode I’ve seen and if you haven’t checked it out yet you really should. Watching three performers just sit down and talk about the business, life, their relationships and inside jokes makes for compelling viewing. Even more so when it’s these three individuals.
The first thing I was stuck by was how quickly and naturally their conversation started and evolved and how well they played off of each other. It is clear that this group shares a true friendship and they bring the best out of each other. Real feeling, real emotion is arguably the most important thing for pro wrestling to access. This was been proven by the Steve Austin-Vince McMahon feud and most recently by the Sasha Banks-Bayley feud. Their real life friendship and chemistry has played a huge part of why they’ve connected with the crowd.
The second and more important thing that struck me was Xavier Woods saying that starting this group was his idea and something he fought for. I had been away from WWE programming for years and New Day was just forming around the time I was making my way back. I assumed the stable was nothing but a cheesy, tired and hacky gimmick thought up by Vince. Hearing the comments by Xavier, Big E and Kofi about the work that went into developing their group was pretty eye-opening.
Xavier said at one point that what he was truly asking for was the opportunity to fail. He figured that if he was given an opportunity to properly express himself, he would find a way to succeed. When Big E and Kofi became involved he knew that the three of them could make it work for each other. All they needed was a chance. This reminded me of Vince talking about talent reaching for the “brass ring” and John Cena saying the next true Superstar will be someone who isn’t afraid to take chances.
Prior to The New Day forming, Big E was a forgotten and former Intercontinental Champion. Kofi Kingston had been relegated to little more than a Royal Rumble prop. Xavier Woods was just a tag team partner for R-Truth. With their roles in the company fairly inconsequential, the trio decided to forge a new path so to speak.
The first opportunity I had to see The New Day up close was at this year’s Royal Rumble. They got a lukewarm response from the crowd as babyfaces as well as a half-hearted effort by commentary to put them over. They were relegated to the pre-show and ultimately dropped their match to Cesaro and Tyson Kidd.
Five months later, I was fortunate enough to see them in Baltimore at Payback. They were clearly much more developed as characters and as a unit. They generated legitimate heat with their talk of positivity as well as a scathing Big E promo on Baltimore Orioles star Adam Jones who was in attendance. It only intensified when they chastised the entire city of Baltimore. They ended up winning a 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match when Xavier (who wasn’t in the match) rolled up Cesaro for the pin.
Just three months later I attended NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. It was that day I realized The New Day was the most popular thing currently in pro wrestling. I heard “New Day Rocks” chants from the second I was within earshot. Every non-New Day chant was to The New Day’s rhythm. And this was on a show that The New Day wasn’t even a part of.
This should show Vince and the whole creative team something. Three performers who were languishing in mediocrity went out on their own, did their own thing, and got over by being true to themselves. The New Day wasn’t working at first, but after a year of plugging away and developing their characters they rose to a new level. It should show them that over-producing and over-scripting doesn’t work. It only serves to hold talent back.
It is clear that with The New Day making up their own cover songs, exaggerating their entrances, even incorporating a trombone into their act, they are pushing themselves and being given the freedom to try new things. Not only are they trying new things, but each new thing they try seems to put them over even further. Not everyone will have the same success, but if you trust the talent roster you’ve put together, you should allow them to be themselves.
Xavier Woods is a rare case. He is truly a rare and brilliant individual. He’s working on his PhD which is one type of smart, but in addition to masterminding his new faction, he also helped Tyler Breeze come up with the Tyler Breeze character in NXT. Whether Woods is sporting a new and interesting hairstyle, yelling about Big E’s “tricep meat”, talking about Kofi’s “Icarus game” or mocking his opponent’s entrance music on the trombone, he is always performing, always engaging. He actually reminds me of Paul Heyman in a lot of ways.
On top of Xavier’s performing, Big E has been a genius on the microphone and his hips, which has been a great compliment to his unique in-ring work. Kofi’s skip down the ramp has become a highlight on Raw every week, he’s become a lot more engaging and his entertaining, athletic style between the ropes has begun to matter more.
While The New Day has put an emphasis on being funny and entertaining, their most recent dealings with John Cena has shown that they can explore more serious and menacing avenues. Dragging an unconscious Dolph Ziggler from the back while Xavier dryly asked Cena if it was “serious enough” bordered on super-villainy. Ending the show by stomping Cena, Ziggler and the Dudley Boyz definitely brought them to another level. It was also a different flavor that most viewers didn’t see coming.
There is every chance that The New Day comes out on the wrong end of any fight they pick with John Cena. In two months we could be saying they are the next ones to have been buried. But that is beside the point at the moment. The point is, they have been given an opportunity to be themselves. They have been given an opportunity to continually add new wrinkles to their routine.
It feels like no one has been afforded that opportunity in years. Performers being themselves was a huge part of the success of the Attitude Era. Xavier Woods, Big E and Kofi Kingston are doing their version of reaching for the “brass ring”. It’s worked to get them over with fans and it’s worked to give them two Tag Team title reigns. What would be most important, though, is if it afforded more talent the opportunity to explore and take chances.
I’ve heard Triple H call the current landscape the “reality era”. If that is truly the case, it’s time to allow for more reality in the product. Hopefully The New Day will inspire a new day and a new time in sports entertainment.