The overall best wrestler on the American independent wrestling scene wrapped up his farewell tour this past weekend and will be reporting to WWE’s developmental territory in Florida, NXT. Kevin Steen has been the “top guy” on the indy scene for several years now. His matches, promos, and marketability have been a cut above anyone and everyone else on the indy scene since 2011. Steen has been a machine producing non stop entertaining matches, interviews, and t-shirts that also rival any wrestler that has ever been on the indy scene. The only thing holding him back from being signed by WWE has been his physique. Once Steen made the choice to start dropping weight, as he has done every month in 2014, WWE signed him to a developmental contract.
Kevin Steen has been a cornerstone of Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) and Ring of Honor (ROH) for over half a decade. His tag team run with El Generico (now Sami Zayn in NXT) and subsequent feud (both in PWG & ROH) put both men on the map nationally by showcasing both as complete talents in need of only a national stage to be showcased on.
If you have seen Kevin Steen live then you know he has the “it factor”. The intangible element that all wrestlers who have gone on to achieve super stardom have possessed.
Steen has also been one of the best handled or booked indy wrestling talents in recent memory. From 2009 forward Steen was presented by PWG and ROH as a big deal both in his tag team work, then as the vicious heel which was so well executed he became a face based on the consistent high quality entertainment value he offered. Good talent plus good promotion equals success in the entertainment industry at every level. Steen, ROH, and PWG are great examples of what good can come of management and talent working together for common goals.
Kevin Steen’s ROH World Title run of 2012-13 was the best thing the indy scene produced since the Summer of CM Punk in 2005. I’m getting goosebumps just writing and thinking about it now. Steen truly was on fire. His title win and every defense was as high level of a match that the indy scene is capable of producing with the talent they have to offer.
The die-hard pro wrestling fans of the independent scene truly love Kevin Steen. It is a type of admiration very few professional wrestlers reach but all aspire to. Steen is not only a great talker and mechanic in the ring, but he is also a money-maker. No one in the last ten years on the indy scene has been a merchandise producing machine like Kevin Steen has been. I don’t think many would object to Steen being given the label; Best Indy Scene T Shirt Producer Ever (forgive me Colt).
In the process of being signed by WWE, Steen laid a blueprint behind him of how to get signed by WWE. It’s called the Take Away All the Excuses Method. One by one Steen took every reason for WWE to not sign him away. Like Daniel Bryan on the main WWE roster, Steen kept improving until he became a complete performer, or as complete as an independent wrestler can become. WWE already doesn’t want to sign indy guys. They want body builders and football players, so if you’re an indy guy, and Steen was THE indy guy, then you have to work extra hard to get signed. Steen showed in 2014 he was willing to do whatever it took to get signed.
Steen had been pumping out great matches and great promos for years. When he showed that not only could he be marketed as well or better than any of his contemporaries, and was willing to get himself into the physical shape he openly lamented for years prior, WWE had no more reasons to not sign him to a developmental deal.
Make no mistake, as great as Steen is (great, not just good), he still needs to be developed. The weight he has lost up to his point in 2014 is only a start. He’ll have to learn how to work the WWE style which is a vast change from his 100 mph high spot centered style (a style I prefer). He’ll have to learn to perform for the hard camera and prove to both himself and WWE that he can cut the same high level of promos he is known for, without the high level of vulgarity that goes with his promos like PB & J.
But not since WWE signed CM Punk has an indy prospect had more potential for greatness on the big stage. If Cesaro, Sami Zayn, and Adrian Neville have gotten as far as they have with underdeveloped mic skills, what is going to happen when the best talker the indy scene has had in a decade gets a live WWE mic in his hands? If WWE is begrudgingly pushing a generation of undersized cruiserweights in NXT, what is going to happen when the most agile heavyweight in recent memory makes his television debut? If creative is having a hard time finding ways to market the growing crop of young prospects in Orlando, what is going to happen when the one man t-shirt machine arrives?
Kevin Steen did it all on the indy scene. He won the primary singles title of every major indy promotion in North America. He helped blaze a trail of leveraging social media as a means of getting over and making real money on the independent wrestling scene. He became so entertaining as a vicious heel that he became the most popular babyface wherever he performed, whenever he performed. He pushed all of the limits and all of the boundaries that can be pushed in the minor leagues of the pro wrestling world. Kevin Steen became the big fish in the small pond. When that happens in the world of professional wrestling, WWE usually comes calling. WWE should have come calling for Kevin Steen and they did.
Kevin Steen has everything it takes to be the next big thing in the WWE. He has earned the opportunity he is getting. Four years ago there wouldn’t have been much hope for Steen to get over on WWE’s main roster due to the full immersion of the PG Era. But in the time of Brock Lesnar, Bray Wyatt, and Dean Ambrose there is definitely a place for Kevin Steen in the big leagues. Here’s hoping management allows him to hit it out of the park.