There is no question that WWE’s breakout network-exclusive NXT brand is largely responsible for introducing some of today’s brightest wrestling stars to the masses. From former world champions, indy darlings, and Japanese strikers, to some of the most colorful women, cruiserweights, and characters of the last decade, most have stepped through the NXT curtain well on their way to dazzle crowds on Monday Night Raw or Smackdown Live! on Tuesdays. Patrick Clark will prove to be no different… Except, there is something about him that is. The newly dubbed “Velveteen Dream” has not only grabbed my attention, but has been able to spark my interest in a product I no longer really go out of my way to watch.
By now, as an assumed wrestling fan, you’ve probably heard the buzzing about Patrick Clark’s new gimmick kind of come and go. He has transformed from a hopeful upstart into a sex symbol known only as The Velveteen Dream. At this point, Velveteen Dream has been positioned as another face in NXT, alongside the rest of the highly promoted and talented roster of men and women that particular branch of WWE provides. But, it is no secret that Clark is basically an in-house creation. In fact, most of NXT’s top stars over the last couple of years have had their own fanbase brought to the company with them from the far-reaches of professional wrestling both domestic and international. Guys and girls like Hideo Itami brings a fanbase from Pro Wrestling NOAH, Asuka interests Joshi fans to tune in, Bobby Roode caters to fans of TNA, and Roderick Strong carries ROH fans on his back, for a few examples. This is worth noting, as it is the first thing that separates The Velveteen Dream from the current pack. Having only a cup of coffee in the independent scene, he stood as a relatively unknown worker in the American wrestling market.With his biggest claim to fame residing in the tag team scene for companies like Maryland Championship Wrestling and Combat Zone Wrestling, “Slugger Clark” (as he was then known) was far from the bright lights of most independent wrestlers who find themselves signed by the WWE.
Now, before I get into why I personally find The Velveteen Dream so interesting and unique, it is important to briefly cover where he stemmed from. For the casual watcher, they may not know some of the finer details of this story. One facet of which being, that Patrick Clark is only twenty-one years old! Debuting in 2014 for Maryland Championship Wrestling after only seven months of training, the eighteen year old splashed onto the scene and made decent waves. In most cases, a twenty-something independent wrestler would see the better half of a decade or more taking bookings with companies big and small all over the world before even being noticed, let alone given a chance at the big time. This would not be the path for Clark, as just a year into his career, he’d find a once in a lifetime opportunity drop in his lap.
Another thing that set Clark aside from most talents in WWE today, (other than guys like The Miz) is that he is a product of WWE’s Tough Enough system. In 2015, the sixth season of the highly anticipated returning series aired in June. Clark was seen as a shoe-in winner by fans, due to his seemingly deep knowledge of fandom and prior wrestling experience. In other words, he was there because he actually wanted to be a professional wrestler. However, it would not be Clark to win the $250,000 grand prize WWE contract. He would be eliminated in just the fifth episode, due to the judges feeling a lack of humility and a surplus of ego on his part. This setback would not prove to be a detrimental one though, as Clark would go on to be signed by the WWE in October of that very same year.
After some conditioning and advancement in his training at the WWE Performance Center, Clark would make his NXT debut on a live event in Florida in February of 2016. A few months later, in July, Patrick Clark would pop up on his first NXT taping where he would lose to the more established Austin Aries. It wouldn’t be for a little while into 2017, that The Dream was able to fully come to fruition. After a dull start, his WWE route with jumpstarted with a relaunch.
Alongside these points, the reason I consider myself a fan of The Velveteen Dream is simple. His character portrayal is one thing, but it is his dedication to who and what exactly The Velveteen Dream is in pro wrestling is nearly unmatched in today’s scene, in my estimation. His presentation and in-ring performance alone harkens back to the golden age of professional wrestling, serving as a love letter of sorts to some of the most famous stars of the profession’s past. While some may immediately be reminded of the sexual deviant cast of wrestling gimmick characters like Val Venus, Goldust, Orlando Jordan based on The Velveteen Dream’s surface, I see him to be more than just that. Guys like the enigmatic Randy Savage, flashy Rick Martel, egotistical Paul Orndorff, and the lustful Rick Rude are just some I’m fondly reminded of while experiencing The Velveteen Dream. To finally have a guy like this to compare to a classic eighties sex appeal heel that people love to hate is exactly what old school fans have longed for. He is currently building himself as a heel I would pay to see kick a little ass and then get his ass kicked in return. I believe Velveteen Dream is well on his way to being that guy for fans like me.
Not to mention, his physique fits his persona to a tee. The guy is ripped and knows it. There is a tangible elitist arrogance to him that permeates with each smirk he sends the camera’s way or knee he smears across the face of his opponent. From what I’ve seen so far, Patrick Clark has it. He looks good, performs well, and is rapidly getting better with each NXT appearance he makes. Don’t get me wrong, his body language and in-ring work still shows through a little green, but the great aggressiveness and real mean streak he brings to each bout holds the kinks at bay. The Velveteen Dream’s style is just a nice change of pace from the so usual over-pretty striking offense most young professionals offer today. In fact, during his matches, I have noticed a sense of no wasted ring space. He has the innate ability to present himself in a larger-than-life way whether it is the way he stretches out his limbs while on the go in an Irish whip or leaps sky-high for his rather well-executed elbow off the top rope.
Most importantly though, the passion is there. There is a viewable passion for professional wrestling and for this to work for The Velveteen Dream that he possesses. Sometimes, new guys are put into a questionable position because they have no pull to say no as a test to see if they can swim instead of sink. Most would see this gimmick as one of those kinds of tests. With that said,I don’t think Patrick Clark sees The Velveteen Dream as a test, which is why it is working. Just getting a bizarre, off the cuff gimmick to work isn’t the trick, either. The key is getting it work while at the same time still being perceived as a guy that could whoop another guy’s ass. He is delivering and doing himself justice, making a tough portrayal into a way to succeed. That isn’t easy to do, just ask Adam Rose! The difference is he was a guy who had the character half-heartedly down, without portraying a threatening bone in his body… And you can see how well that worked out.
Tying in with the passion and in ring style, his microphone skill is still yet to be showcased. His promos and verbal work in Tough Enough was among the best on the show, and there isn’t a doubt I have that I’m sure he is able to captivate just as much on the mic as he is between the ropes. After a few brief interviews backstage and a nice altercation with former NXT champion, Shinsuke Nakamura, there has been promise shown. With time and confidence, I fully expect for that piece of The Velveteen Dream to come together sooner rather than later.
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if Clark hasn’t been in theatre at some point in his life, I’d be floored. His Prince-meets-Jimi Hendrix character is spot on. The Velveteen Dream is able to impressively capture the androgynousness, free loving, and spirituality of those rockstars into one being. The character definitely works and boasts unlimited potential for deepness and evolution ahead. I just hope he and the creative staff of the WWE really sticks with it, as gimmicks like these (in most recent WWE years) tend to roll over and die rather quickly… Again, ask Adam Rose!
With all things considered, I just see The Velveteen Dream cut from a different cloth (crushed velvet, of course) than most of the guys that are popular or on top in the WWE right now. He comes across as something special, simply because he is offering crowds something so different from the indy or international stars that make up today’s norm. Even though history shows such over-the-top characters in the WWE having a hard time navigating the waters before they’re either shuffled down the card, reborn, or disappear completely, I look to The Velveteen Dream to break this mold. He oozes charisma without having said much yet, and is a serious athlete. It is my hope that with a gentle nod and blown kiss to some of the greats of this sport’s past, The Velveteen Dream springs toward a long and successful future!
What do you think of The Velveteen Dream? Do you see him as just another NXT flash in the pan, or something more? Let me know on social media or below in the comments!