Greetings NXT faithful. I wasn’t able to cover last week’s show because of a holiday party at work (yes in January), which is a shame because the episode was actually the start of something pretty cool. I’ll give you the rundown of both episodes quickly and then talk about some common themes and interesting developments.

Last week’s show opened with the legendary Shawn Michaels announcing a tag team title tournament for the newly established NXT tag team championships. I never, ever thought I would type the words “Shawn Michaels” and “NXT” in the same sentence. In the opening round of that tournament the Wyatt Family beat Yoshi Tatsu and Percy Watson. Sasha Banks beat Alicia Fox for her first big win and Corey Graves beat Jake Carter before airing his professional grievances with an in-ring promo. In another tournament battle, Adrian Neville and Oliver Grey beat the 3MB pairing of Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre. In the main event, Big E Langston squashed Axel Keegan and was challenged via video screen by Conor O’ Brian in his Ascension 3.0 persona.

This week’s show opened with a tag tournament match between the team of Kassius Ohno and Leo Kruger and the returning Derrick Bateman and Alex Riley. The bad guys won with a nasty submission on Riley. Afterwards Corey Graves came out and slapped his submission finisher on Riley for more punishment. Mason Ryan then beat Sakamoto and scared my girlfriend with his giant trapezius muscles. Paige beat Aksana only to get blindsided by random ring announcer Summer Rae, aka the blond girl in the NXT opening. Sasha Banks was interviewed backstage and received a note from a secret admirer. In the main event Bo Dallas and Michael McGillicutty defeated Primo and Epico.

Got all that? Let’s talk about it.

NXT is now being made to look important:

The very best thing about this season of NXT is that it is made to look important. No longer is the show a c-grade afterthought but a place where the stars of tomorrow are presented as talented wrestlers with tons of potential. The new addition of NXT tag titles is just another way to fulfill the show’s new purpose and a tournament to crown the new champions is an excellent way to create multiple entertaining episodes. Having Shawn Michaels kick off the tournament is just surreal icing on the cake.

Tony Dawson is like the Megazord of Bad Announcers:

Complaining about bad announcing in the WWE (or wrestling in general) is like bitching about traffic; both are eternal annoyances not really worth our time or energy slighting. But good God Tony Dawson is terrible. If I took a shot every time the man says “For the win!” I would have been dead a month ago. That statement, which he goes to seemingly whenever possible, is just one of the many classic “stupid announcer tendencies” he embodies. He also busts out the “what a maneuver/what a move!” soundbite, calls the names of the finishers and nothing else, mentions twitter way too often, sounds like a dweebish, soulless tool, and talks in random excla-MATION!

The sad part about them using Dawson is that they’ve got a better option already working in the building. You know the voice that narrates the coming up next graphics? That’s Tom Phillips. Whenever they let him commentate I notice he does a much better job than poor Tony.

Adrian Neville and Oliver Grey are damn good:

What the quick results of the shows don’t explain is what a kickass combination Adrian Neville and Oliver Grey are as a team. I think a decent number of people are aware that Neville is an excellent high flyer but I had no idea who Oliver Grey was or what he could do before the tag tournament started. Let me tell you, Grey answered that quickly by showcasing great technical ability and incorporating a bit of judo into his offense as well. I was very impressed with the dichotomy of the team and what both members could provide. Neville won the match with a picture perfect twisting Shooting Star Press to the live audience’s delight.

Also, Drew McIntyre might be wearing a cowboy hat and rock star shades now but he still really knows what he’s doing inside the ring. It amazes me that he’s not higher on the card.

The new crop of NXT wrestlers are really hitting their stride:

Besides the new English invasion, a lot of newer NXT wrestlers are starting to hit their stride. Sasha Banks is doing well as the plucky young babyface, picking up her first big win against the
“experienced” Alicia Fox and apparently entering a storyline involving a secret admirer. My bet’s on it being Hornswoggle, but I’ve seen waaaaay to much NXT to not assume it’ll always be Hornswoggle. Corey Graves, who I really wasn’t impressed with at first, is developing nicely as well, standing out for his look and his submission wrestling style. I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes Langston’s first serious opponent.

Welcome back, backstage vignettes and hype videos:

One of the best things about season 5 of NXT was the variety of segments one could expect on each episode. Moving back and forth between backstage vignettes and in-ring action broke up the repetition inherent in a wrestling show and pushed storylines forward. For a bit this version of NXT seemed to forget that variety is the spice of life, but that has thankfully changed with a return to backstage vignettes, promotional videos and other bits designed to allow characters to interact with each other and tensions to rise more naturally. It’s definitely appreciated.

Injured wrestlers return:

Tonight’s show saw the in-ring return of Derrick Bateman, Alex Riley and….dammit, what’s his name. *Checks* Mason Ryan. Actually, I’m not totally sure Ryan was injured but wherever he was or why, he’s back now. Bateman came off well, taking quite the beating from Kassius Ohno and Leo Kruger and contributing a lot to tonight’s match of the night. Alex Riley and Mason Ryan pretty much just did what they’re known for and nothing else, thought Ryan did end things with a weak looking jackhammer. I guess that’s different.

So that was the past two weeks of NXT! While I think last week’s episode was a little stronger, both shows are good wrestling and worth your time. Next week we’ve got another round of the NXT tag team title tournament to look forward to, along with all the developing feuds of the many NXT wrestlers. Don’tcha dare miss it!