NTI changing Friday nights

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August 01, 2006

WWE.com has learned that SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long intends on once again deploy a New Talent Initiative (NTI), promising a cavalcade of new, talented Superstars who will appear on SmackDown in the coming months.

Long launched the New Talent Initiative towards the end of last year and introduced a score of new stars such as Mr. Kennedy, the Boogeyman, Bobby Lashley and Finlay. Each of these men has had tremendous impact on SmackDown since their debut. Given what SmackDown has seen from such Superstars, one can only expect great things from the new wave that Long will introduce to WWE fans.

Mr. Kennedy arrived on SmackDown last August and quickly gained recognition with an impressive winning streak. With victories over Rey Mysterio, a pre-royalty King Booker and, most recently, consecutive wins over Batista (by disqualification and count-out), Kennedy's actions in the ring have been just as loud as his recurring self-introductions.

Current United States Champion Finlay has had quite the strong presence on SmackDown since his debut earlier this year. With his shillelagh held tight in his Irish palm, the Man Who Loves to Fight has bruised and pummeled his way through all SmackDown Superstars. Finlay earned the right to participate in the Inter-promotional Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 22 where he collided with his most noteable SmackDown rival -- another product of the NTI -- Bobby Lashley. On May 26, the Irishman gained an advantage in the form of his filthy and ravenous Leprechaun, Little Bastard. Assisted by his miniature friend, just weeks ago, Finlay scored a taste of United States Championship gold in WWE by defeating the former champion, Lashley.

The explosive young lion Bobby Lashley has used his imposing and uncanny strength to become one of SmackDown's franchise players, representing the brand in the RAW vs. SmackDown Survivor Series Match, the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania and a six-man tag match at Saturday Night's Main Event on July 15. After being robbed in the King of the Ring Finals by King Booker, Lashley became the U.S. Champion in May by defeating John Bradshaw Layfield -- a former WWE Champion. Since losing the championship to his nemesis, Finlay, Lashley has been intent on becoming U.S. Champion again en route to larger things on SmackDown.

And of course, the most unorthodox new talent of Long's intiative, the Boogeyman, has crept, wriggled and wormed his way into the favor of the SmackDown audience. Debuting back in the ring last December, Boogeyman has stalked and stood face-to-worm-stained-face with a number of top-tier SmackDown stars and is yet to be defeated in a WWE ring. After WrestleMania, King Booker and Queen Sharmell placed a restraining order on an already injured Boogeyman. Though he hasn't been seen since April , one can expect nothing but more surprises from the Boogeyman once he makes his ghastly reemergence from the Bottomless Pit.

What will Theodore Long's relaunch of the New Talent Initiative bring to SmackDown in the approaching months? Tune in to SmackDown every Friday night at 8/7 CT on UPN.

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