August 1, 2014 by Joey Keogh
Earlier this week, after months of speculation, WWE finally confirmed what we’d all been hoping for – they’d signed indie fan favourite Fergal Devitt to their NXT division. The colourful Irishman was due to report to the Performance Centre in Orlando on Monday last, to begin training alongside fellow new recruit and countrywoman, Becky Lynch (no word yet on whether Devitt will also incorporate a jaunty jig into his entrance). The move follows his parting ways with previous employers New Japan Pro Wrestling, who made him a household name, more than six months ago. In the intervening months, he’s spent much of his time teasing fans on Twitter, with a constant barrage of posts bragging about how he’d “signed”, only to reveal he was autographing posters, etc.
Hailing from the quiet, seaside town of Bray, Co. Wicklow, Devitt first established himself on the indie circuit at home, founding the Irish strand of the NWA – he actually debuted around the same time as current WWE Superstar Sheamus, but because they worked for competing organisations, the two never came to blows – before training extensively in the UK. His big break occurred at a house show in Nashville, TN, where he was scouted by NJPW. A swift move to Tokyo followed, where he began his hugely successful eight-year tenure, during which he won the prestigious IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship three times, along with the Best Of the Super Juniors tournament twice, under the name Prince Devitt.
This is something I’ve been looking forward to since I was maybe four or five years old – Devitt, speaking to WWE.com about his signing
A fan favourite, both in Japan and abroad, Devitt first established himself as a top-tier guy by defeating homegrown wrestlers like Kazuchika Okada. However, he’s arguably most well-known on these shores for his part in forming the infamous Bullet Club – a brutal stable of Anglophones who blatantly cheated at every given opportunity, exhibited extremely aggressive behaviour, and who went down a storm with easily-shocked Japanese crowds. Known for his signature move – a two-footed curbstomp – Devitt’s defeat to Kota Ibushi in his final match for NJPW marked the end of his third and longest title run (he held it for over a thousand days in total). He followed up his departure from Japan with a host of appearances at indie shows all around the world, during which he showcased a remarkable affinity for comic book cosplay and ridiculously effective face-paint.
Devitt was always nuts [in the ring]. At the NWA Ireland 10th anniversary show, he wiped his nose with a copy of the Bray People and then hit Paul Tracey with a Sky digital box – a hometown fan, who watched Devitt compete in the indie shows, remarking on his “signature” ring style
In a piece enthusiastically-entitled “An utter phenomenon guaranteed to succeed”, Karl Mc Donald of the Independent notes that Devitt’s aggressive ring style might not fit in as well in the less-colourful confines of the WWE. Stating that, if he wrestles how he did in Japan, he would scare the kids, Mc Donald cites Daniel Bryan’s recent rise to prominence as proof that, if one works hard and is genuinely talented, it doesn’t necessarily matter if he doesn’t fit “the prototype of the American ‘superstar’”. Even so, several indie favourites have crashed and burned at WWE, in spite of the significant momentum behind them.
Prior to being signed, Devitt was described by WWE as “one of the most highly-touted free agents in sports entertainment” and it’s important to note that the company came looking for him, instead of the other way around, in spite of the fact he has little experience in the US. Although he’s an imposing dude, he isn’t quite as massive as Sheamo, nor does he possess a big, booming voice with which he could work the mic – an intrinsic part of what makes or breaks Superstars. Although Devitt claims his ultimate opponent would be John Cena, his personality isn’t easily tailored to fit the goofy persona favoured by the so-called face of the company – the two could feasibly enjoy a hell of a feud, though, given how utterly opposing their personae are. Another obvious choice for him to spar with is fellow countryman Sheamo, whom he only knew by reputation back home.
If you’re going to sign the short white guy, Fergal Devitt is as safe an investment as you’re going to find – The Independent, on Devitt’s signing
Whether we’ll get to see the flashier side of Devitt on NXT, or beyond, remains to be seen and he could just as easily slot into the main roster as fade into the background, depending on how the powers that be choose to handle him. He remarked, in an interview with WWE, that he doesn’t consider himself “the finished product” just yet and will be starting from scratch at NXT, which is a brave admission – especially from someone boasting Devitt’s confidence in the ring. But, given this is a man who prides himself on his ability to adapt to any situation, and that he’s been sought out as opposed to begging at Vince Mc Mahon’s feet, NXT is more than likely just the beginning of Devitt’s ever-increasing career trajectory.
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