The future of a WWE Superstar, or any pro wrestler for that matter, is no certain thing. So many factors, some controllable, some not, can determine the fate of a wrestler’s career. Only the smallest percent of WWE talents make it to the absolute top: the Shawn Michaels, The Rocks, the Austins, The Undertakers, the John Cenas. In the current era, the majority float around the middle. Some get close to breaking through the glass ceiling and separating themselves from the mid-card pack, while others spiral down into obscurity.
What is it that creates the divide and that differentiates a major star from an enhancement talent? Is it one’s work rate? Look? Mic skills? Charisma? Who one is or is not in a relationship with behind the scenes? That elusive and abstract “it” factor? Plain old dumb luck? Some wrestlers come along who seem to be the complete package, but wind up floundering, while another guy who throws the worst punches known to man and can’t take a bump to save his life gets pushed to the moon and becomes the face of the company for an entire generation. Sometimes, it almost feels like the decision to push or not push a performer is made completely at random.
This unpredictability is especially relevant for the "rookies" of WWE’s NXT for whom the future holds many different paths. Some will never make it past the developmental phase. Some will be promoted to the main roster only to be sent back after failing to get over like they had in NXT. The fortunate will go on to have a successful WWE career. One NXT wrestler who looks destined for big things in the WWE is Chad Gable.
Gable is at an exciting point in his pro wrestling career. He’s currently one of NXT’s most over talents, and has (almost) all the tools needed to become major star. While getting over with the fastidious NXT audience is a worthy accomplishment, they are a comparatively small sample size compared with the larger WWE fanbase. We’ve already seen acts that have gone over like gangbusters in NXT, but fall flat with the larger audience when brought up to the main roster.
To Gable’s credit, he has got over in NXT with his charisma and ability alone, as opposed to some outlandish gimmick, that, while initially entertaining, comes with a limited shelf life. This is a positive sign that Gable will be (G)able to connect with the wider WWE fanbase when he’s brought up to the main roster.
With that said, getting over with the audience is only part of the battle. Fortunately, Gable is a natural when it comes to actual wrestling. Before his arrival at NXT, Gable had trained and competed in folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman wrestling. He particularly excelled in the latter, winning a number of national championships, and placing ninth at the 2012 London Olympics. Gable has impressively transitioned from amateur to professional wrestling, creating a beautiful blend of sports entertainment and amateur wrestling styles in the process.
He has also shown himself to be very competent on the microphone. Mic work is often the downfall of even the most skilled wrestlers, and the saving grace of some of the less naturally gifted athletes. Do you think the Miz would have ever won the WWE Championship if he wasn’t such a good talker? Gable’s charisma and comedic timing come through not only in his wrestling, but more importantly (in sports entertainment) on the microphone. He’s a naturally gifted wrestler, he can talk, he’s charismatic, and he connects with audience. Gable has just about everything one needs to be top star in the WWE. Well, almost everything.
The only thing, at this point, that might stop Gable from making it to the tippy top is the dreaded size aspect. Gable is billed at 5’8” (173cm). In most professions, that would be irrelevant, but in WWE, admitted or not, size matters. The number of WWE champions under six feet tall can be counted on one hand (with a few extra fingers left over). Guys like Daniel Bryan and Rey Mysterio have proven that smaller wrestlers can reach the top, but in both cases, they were never really considered the top guys of the company like Cena has been.
With any luck, and if there’s any justice in the world, Chad Gable’s aforementioned attributes will be enough to overcome his sole drawback.
Only the most pessimistic of pessimists would doubt that Gable will make something of himself in the WWE. The real argument is to what extent will he make it. Will he become a top guy, a mid carder, a comedy act, a tag team lifer? Gable draws comparisons to a range of WWE wrestlers, past and present, who fill(ed) those various roles. Gable's destiny might be to emerge as the second coming, but of who?
The Next Kurt Angle?
Like Angle, Gable is a champion amateur wrestler. Like Angle, Gable represented his country in the Olympic Games, admittedly not faring quite as well despite not even having a broken frickin’ neck. Still, he wrestled in the Olympics. That’s probably, like, super hard to do. Like Angle, Gable transitioned into professional wrestling seemingly effortlessly. Like Angle, Gable’s a good talker with a knack for humour. It’s hard not to argue that Gable is Kurt Angle 2.0. The only real difference is height, and even there, the disparity is minor with Angle billed at 6-0”, four inches taller than Gable. Besides, don’t even try to tell me Gable couldn’t pull off an adorable little cowboy hat. Don’t. Even. Try.
The Next Daniel Bryan?
In case you haven’t been paying attention, Gable is a fan favourite at Full Sail Arena. Gable and tag partner Jason Jordan were the highlight of the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, getting some of the best reactions at NXT TakeOver: Respect despite failing to make the finals. Someone else who is (was?) good at getting the crowd behind him is Daniel Bryan. An argument could also be made for Gable becoming Bryan’s successor. They both have the distinction of being ”smaller guys” in the pro wrestling sense. Yet, it’s that smaller stature among the sea of ex-football playing, bodybuilding gladiators that helps make them such endearing underdogs. It might be the rabid support of the fans that ends up pushing Gable to that next level.
The Next Cesaro?
Of all Cesaro’s skills and attributes one could wish to share, like his amazing work in the ring and charming Swissness, Gable could end up sharing Cesaro’s one main undesirable attribute: being a super talented wrestler whom the fans clearly want to see succeed, but is never given any serious push because of the decision of one man based on vague, shaky reasons. Lamentably, that man is the one who decides who gets pushed and who gets to join the mid-card club. (Side note: nobody steal my Bullet Club Parody shirt #436: Mid Card Club.) Of course, if Chad Gable does become the next Cesaro, his first name will have to join Antonio, Adrian, and Wade up in first name heaven. First name heaven is, by the way, is conveniently located next to last name heaven, where Langston is currently residing.
The Next Santino Marella?
Here’s where that gift for great comedic timing and mic work might come back to bite Chad Gable in the behind. There’s nothing wrong with being the comedy guy. I love the comedy guy. Some of my best friends are comedy guys (I mean, they would be if I had friends). Sometimes you just want more for some wrestlers, especially one this early into his career. Having said that, WWE is missing that reliable comedy guy right now, and nobody, besides perhaps Damien Sandow, has really embraced that role since Santino’s departure from our TV screens. Gable does have a bit of a Les Kellett vibe about him in the ring. There are worse things than being the comedy guy; just ask Curtis Axel. Wait, on second thought…
If anything has been made clear from this exercise in comparisons, it’s that Chad Gable is a talented, well-rounded professional wrestler with the tools to make a name for himself in the biggest wrestling promotion in the world. But wrestling is wrestling and nothing is guaranteed.
Gable could blow out his knee like Seth Rollins before getting called up to the main roster. He could get a concussion that puts him on the shelf indefinitely like Daniel Bryan. Or, he could go on to become the next Kurt Angle and have a HOF worthy career. As flattering as it may be to be compared to such talented peers like Bryan and Cesaro, I don’t really want Gable to become the somebody.
Instead, what I truly hope is Chad Gable becomes the first Chad Gable, and that he makes his own mark on the wrestling world. And there’s no better time than now. He’s ready, willing, and Gable, after all.