Fergal Devitt signs with WWE: An utter phenomenon who is likely to succeed

Can the Irishman temper his aggressive style but maintain the attitude in the NXT era?

After months of waiting, WWE and Fergal Devitt yesterday confirmed that they had come to an agreement, with the former New Japan Pro Wrestling star reporting to the Performance Centre in Orlando. The Irish wrestler, who as Prince Devitt held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title three times for more than a thousand days in total, told WWE.com: “This is something I’ve been looking forward to since I was maybe four or five years old.”
 

The announcement was a long time coming. Devitt parted company with his Japanese employers more than six months ago and seemingly spent the entire intervening period teasing fans on Twitter with hints at the inevitable.

Devitt trained in the UK, but his break came when he was spotted by scouts for New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2005 while wrestling at a spot show in Nashville, Tennessee. Moving to Tokyo, he took to the ‘dojo’ lifestyle, training hard and living there even after he became an established name. By 2007, he had won his first title, the junior heavyweight tag belt. Three years later, he cut through the best of his weight class to take win the Best of the Super Junior tournament and then the junior heavyweight title itself, following in the footsteps of honourable gaijin such as Owen Hart and Chris Benoit, as well as Japanese legends like Jushin Liger.

From then on, he remained around the business end of the card, defeating top-tier homegrown wrestlers like Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi and forming Bullet Club, a stable of foul-mouthed Anglophones which shocked Japanese crowds with brashness, violence and, of course, cheating. His defeat to Kota Ibushi in his last match at the Tokyo Dome in January marked the end of his third and longest IWGP Junior Heavyweight title run. It also heralded the beginning of a world tour of indie shows in comic-book cosplay, ending only with his signing to WWE and presumably becoming subject to copyright laws.

It remains to be seen whether Devitt can succeed in the WWE environment, much less aggressive and more colourful than the Japanese promotion where he thrived. A shade below six feet tall, with a Celtic complexion and a malevolent whisper of a voice, he doesn’t fit the prototype of the American ‘superstar’.
One of the many impressive get-ups Devitt has displayed One of the many impressive get-ups Devitt has displayed

But there are reasons to be optimistic. The first is simply that the WWE came for him. He won’t seem imposing in the Land of Giants. He has little experience at any significant level in the United States. The company already has the ‘Irish guy’ box ticked. But the talent scouts and decision-makers of Stanford, Connecticut still decided that Devitt had whatever they’re looking for. Though the announcement didn’t come until yesterday, Devitt’s loss to Ibushi – and his subsequent disappearance from New Japan – pulled him out of a trajectory that seemed inevitably headed toward contention for the second most prestigious title in the world. In fact, his immediate replacement as the leader of Bullet Club, AJ Styles, won the gold on his first night. Promises, you feel, must have been made to Devitt.

The second reason Devitt is likely to succeed is simply that he is an utter phenomenon in the ring. His signature two-footed stomp seems, even in the context of strong-style Japanese wrestling, unnecessarily vicious. His movement and sense of space are impeccable. He wrestles like a man who wants to win the fight. If anything instructive has come from Daniel Bryan’s long, slow rise, it’s that being good at your job is sometimes enough, even if your muscles don’t pop.

But then again, Devitt’s muscles do pop – he is unlikely to run into the problems Chris Hero encountered with shedding his belly. He will work hard. His personality isn’t particularly conducive to a goofy gimmick, meaning WWE will probably at some point have to let him vituperate at the Miz before breaking his limbs – getting him over with the smarks. If you’re going to sign the short white guy, Fergal Devitt is as safe an investment as you’re going to find.

There are risks, however, for his career as much as for the WWE. Stardom in Japan is one thing, but the lure of being able to turn on the television for back-up when your aunt asks you what exactly it is you do for a living is a strong one, and plenty of indie wrestlers with momentum behind them have been deflated by the bureaucracy and the reprogramming of WWE’s developmental programme – not least the aforementioned Chris Hero.

The lustre of Devitt as the man who went toe to toe with Tanahashi will have faded if, in 18 months, he is out of the company and casting around for work in the super-indies. And, frankly, if he wrestles in the same style on Smackdown as he did in Japan, he will scare children. Whether he can temper the aggression but maintain the attitude is the great question of the NXT era.  

Read more: WWE Raw results
Daniel Bryan apprehends burglar
CM Punk 'never ever' returning to WWE

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor