Exclusive: Canyon Ceman discusses WWE scouting Indian talent, the possibility of NXT India & more
WWE is a machine that is always scouting for talent from all parts of the globe. Canyon Ceman, Senior Director of Talent Development is in India with producer Jeremy Borash and NXT Superstar Kavita Devi to shortlist promising candidates who can potentially make it to the WWE Performance Center.
I had a chance to catch up with Mr Ceman for an exclusive interview where he spoke about his objectives with the recent India visit. I also broached the topic of a Performance Center in India and NXT India. Be sure to read about it in the comments below.
How important is India as a market for WWE?
Ceman: India is one of our top international markets. In terms of audience size, it is our largest. Something like 89 million Indians watched WrestleMania 33, 50 million Indians watch RAW and SmackDown every week (on Sony Ten 1 and Sony Ten 1 HD). Sunday Dhamaal has 25 million tuning in. And those are numbers greater than any other international markets we have.
Our job is to now serve that audience with localised content in Hindi with more and more Indian talent over time and try and find a way to satisfy and grow that audience.
You conducted mini tryouts in Rohtak and Chandigarh. Why were these locations chosen as the site for the same?
Ceman: So what we did this week were not mini tryouts but casting calls. Tryouts are physical. Casting calls are essentially a filtering process for us to go from thousands of candidates down to the seventy that will receive an invite.
We chose these Universities because we had a network of relationships through an Indian talent scout that we have a relationship with. He basically directed his scouting efforts towards those two areas because of the deep athletic history and the volume of both students and young adults who are pursuing sports. Combat sports especially, in those areas.
There's a deep history of kushti and kabaddi and a variety of other sports that are very relevant for WWE in those areas.
Did the casting call live up to your expectations?
Ceman: Yes, so we saw several hundred athletes while we were here and out of those several hundred, we have selected approximately thirty to join us in Mumbai in March (for the tryouts). They are very diverse in their athletic backgrounds, the way they present themselves, their level of passion and knowledge about WWE.
From this week, thirty was a great result. And we have a variety of other sources that we are recruiting from. You've probably seen the social media and PR campaign we've run that directs people to the Performance Center website and we've got several thousand applicants there.
And then, we're also doing proacting recruiting efforts at wrestling schools and promotions. And we have this athlete specific effort through our recruiter here.
And then, we also have a Network based on five years of being here through our current WWE athletes like Satendar Dagar and Saura Gurjar and Rinku Singh and Kavita. And we get applicants from all these different sources and we choose the best.
What attributes do you search for in an aspiring WWE superstar?
Ceman: So the key attributes are world-class athleticism because sports entertainment is a very difficult thing to do. Then charisma. That sort of 'it' factor when someone walks into the room. When you can't wait to hear them speak or watch them move.
Elite work ethic, professionalism, and discipline that allows them to put in the work to get great at this complicated Performance art and also to represent our brand on a global stage and to represent their country.
That's probably the key and there are all sorts of other things as well.
From this pool of 70, how many will eventually go to the WWE Performance Center?
Ceman: So, we don't have a set number that we want to hire and I want to make this clear. This tryout could lead to many different outcomes. The first, as you said, is an invitation to join us at the Performance Center like the four athletes I've already mentioned.
That's probably the best case one and if we invite them there, then it means we think they have the potential to be on the main roster someday. Then we can also invite them to the UK Performance Center for training periods to evaluate them further and to see who, over a period of months, develops quickly.
And the longer term possibility is that we may have a Performance Center in India, so we may be looking for a higher volume of athletes to populate that. So, could we hire 2-5? Sure. Could we hire 10-15? That's also possible.
About a Performance Center in India, are there concrete plans in place or is this something you're planning for the future?
Ceman: There are no concrete plans in place right now. The key executives in our company will be making those decisions in the coming months. But, the fact that I'm here in India is not a coincidence. We're doing our due diligence. And when the time is right we'll make an informed decision about what the future of our India-plans look like.
Could this lead to NXT India as well?
Ceman: Those two things go together. If we do a Performance Center in India then the next step after that is to do an NXT India brand. But then again, that's not an announcement nor are those concrete plans. But WWE is globalising. We know that India is one of our key international markets.
And it makes all the sense to invest in this market with a Performance Center and a brand. But it's a matter of getting the timing right and all the details right. And that's what we're working on now.
Do you think NXT India will happen someday? Let us know in the comments.