Happy freakin’ new year! Last week’s episode was kinda-sorta a recap of the events of NXT in 2013, highlighting pretty much all of the wrestlers who made it big last year. But it also featured the match between William Regal and Antonio Cesaro that everyone’s been looking forward to ever since Regal came to the aide of good ol’ Byron Saxton. So instead of covering 2/3rds of a recap show last week, today you’re just getting one big super-stuffed NXT review, with an additional added bonus of a look back on my 2013 WWE predictions and just how terribly I did with those. Nostradamus I ain’t.

Here are your videos.

 

Honestly, this week’s episode was a mixed bag for me. Half the show I really enjoyed, while the other half was pretty ineffectual. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for wrestling?

As for the events of the show, Alexander Rusev beat Kofi Kingston, Emma defeated Natalya to become #1 Contender to the NXT divas championship, and sing-off happened. Tyler Breeze also beat Mason Ryan and in the 2/3 falls main event, Sami Zayn beat Leo Kruger 2 falls to nothing.

Shockingly, I’m going to start with this review with tonight’s commentary.

Hey commentators! Do this every week!

Ringside commentary is one aspect of wrestling that is usually only noticeable when it’s awful and/or takes away from your enjoyment of the product. However, it’s not alone in this. There are a plethora of production aspects in wrestling or live theatre or any entertainment product that are most successful when you don’t even notice them at all. Like lighting, for example. The play starts and either you can see things going on onstage or it looks weird or dark or terrible. You don’t say to yourself, “Man, they lit that scene really well”, you just know when they screw up.

Tonight, the commentary team, for the most part, blended into the background of the show, did their jobs and remained undistracting. I don’t know if it was because Riley was toned down or because Regal and Phillips quickly undercut his sillier moments and let him rant when he made sense, but whatever happened tonight worked. Obviously there’s always a need for improvement, but I really think the commentary team deserves a high five and a cookie for tonight’s show.

Also, Tom gets an extra cookie for quietly explaining to Alex that an Ostrich does not, in fact, have fur.

Can we move on, please?

I’ve seen people write about how NXT is pretty good at progressing their characters through their storylines, but man, I am so ready for a certain group of wrestlers to move on to their next step or find another note or whatever it is that will make them more interesting to me. The two I’ll specifically call out are Alexander Rusev and Tyler Breeze. I know both men have potential but right now they are stuck. Rusev is currently a foreign guy with a foreign valet getting stupidly cheap heat and a squash match run. It’s just absurdly archaic, like something out of 1980s wrestling. Our first taste of Rusev was a random-ass match against Dolph Ziggler that made the dude look like an absolute hoss, so to go back to insulting “foreign language heat” and quick squash matches is a major step backwards.

Tyler Breeze on the other hand...where do I start? Again, let me preface this criticism by saying that I know the guy has talent. I suspect he has crazy high flying skills they don’t want to show us and I liked his final match against CJ Parker. But he depends too much on his character, has a finisher I can’t take seriously and has so far shown an inability to help his opponents. Yes, Photobombing Hippie, Guy they want to fire, and Roidy McGoo isn’t the strongest lineup in the world but where Enzo Amore and Aiden English succeed, Tyler Breeze fails.

And now that we’re on this train of negativity, we might as well talk about the…

Ridiculous NXT Sing-off

…because I didn’t hate it. I might watch wrestling more for quality wrestling matches than goofy segments but when something entertaining happens, it happens. This is why I can be a fan of Seth Rollins and Derrick Bateman at the same time.

Anyway, I think what struck me most about the segment was how entertained the audience was by Big Cazz’s songs. Yes, they’re just golden oldies with the words changed to fit Cazz’s (and Enzo’s) character and insult Aiden English, but the live crowd got a big kick out of the whole act. Considering that only a few months ago Cassidy was just a tall guy with trunks and no character, I’d say he’s come a long way. In fact, I think this feud between him and English is the most I’ve ever liked Cassidy or English. Maybe it’s because English is finally doing more than his “one note” or because he’s being entertaining while helping out his partner, but I’m beginning to see him in a better light.

Entertaining silliness or not…

I needed my in-ring wrestling tonight.

Thank God for the technicians of NXT. After RUSSIAN Lady, Bad Zoolander and Mason Ryan, I needed some quality action, and I got it.

Emma vs Natalya was a great matchup, highlighted by their trading awesome submissions back and forth. That Emma Lock that won that match: a thing of beauty.

The main event was also quality and resulted in a win that Sami really needed. I don’t think it will be as fondly remembered as Zane’s 2/3 falls match with Cesaro, but it stood out by not being that match with simply a different opponent. I especially liked how Sami and Kruger peppered in some different moves, like the Exploder Suplex into the corner and the Koji Clutch.

Now, for that match from last week’s show.

Antonio Cesaro vs William Regal was not a match you see every day in the WWE:

It did not have the NXT crowd chanting and cheering. It did not blow the roof off the place. But it was still a good match, carried by quality technical wrestling, story and brutal realism. I don’t think it will be universally praised, but for the WWE fan looking for a match that ticks different boxes than the typical Raw main event, I’d highly recommend it.

I don’t know enough about European wrestling to really talk about it, but if that style involves a lot of what I’d call technical wrestling and jockeying for control over a body part, then Cesaro and Regal definitely opened the match in that fashion. Cesaro’s rage eventually took over, resulting in the destruction of Regal’s knee, which Regal only really recovered from by taking out both of Cesaro’s arms. I can’t decide if a knee-drop disabling an arm is ridiculous or awesome, but either way it’s how Regal regained some momentum. Eventually Cesaro used sheer brutality via a double stomp to Regal’s vulnerable head, leading to an ending that was a little too HBK/HHH/Taker main event dramatic for my tastes. Still, the match was markedly different and sometimes that’s all you need.

What did you think of NXT over the past two weeks? Was Tensai way better last week on commentary than he usually is? Are you as over Tyler Breeze as I am? How good a decision did Renee Young make when she chose that dress she wore tonight? Let us know!

Twitter.com/LonestarTJR

PS, here are those predictions I made at the beginning of 2013. Let’s see how inaccurate they turned out to be.

1. CM Punk will retire.

Wow. I really said that, didn’t I? Welp, obviously I was wrong and he’s still wrestling. I think the dude’s spirit is starting to waver and wouldn’t be surprised if he retired this year, though.

2. Adam Cole with either become Ring of Honor World Champion or get signed by the WWE.

Ding ding ding! In 2013 Adam Cole became (and still is) the champion of two prominent American Indy promotions: PWG in California and ROH on the east coast. He is pretty much “the man” on the indy scene at the moment, which is amazing when you consider he’s only 24 years old. I was pretty sure the WWE gave him a look-see last year as well, but it will be better for him in the long run if he gets this experience as the top heel in multiple companies before moving into deeper waters.

3. Dolph Ziggler’s boyhood dream will come true.

Eh. I was right that Ziggler would win a big title but totally wrong about how he would do it, how important it would be or how long it would last. Stupid concussion.

4. Mass releases will come again.

Noooooooope. The WWE continues to keep all its main roster talent, despite some of them being very rarely seen on TV. So the “mass release” didn’t happen. However, a group of developmental wrestlers all got their pink slips at the same time. One of them just beat Sting. I’d call it a step up.

5. The Big Show and Kane won’t retire, if only just to spite me.

Yep, they spited me all the way through important feuds with the Shield and a failed main event run so bad even the WWE gave up on it.

So…..2.5 out of 5? I should have just asked 5 questions about John Cena and flipped a coin.