Hello, friends. Thursday’s episode of NXT was a bit of a set-up show, which makes this week a good time to talk about a couple of topics related to the creative process of the show.
First, the Wrestling Observer and its copy paste parasites have talked about the WWE no longer looking for talent from the American Independent scene, because of that group of wrestlers' collective lack of size and their "bad habits" that require breaking. Now, the immediate reaction to that bit of news should be, "Why are they limiting their options for talent?" But let me be devil's advocate here for a couple paragraphs.
As we've discussed a couple times already at TJR, the giants of the WWE are a rapidly disappearing breed. All the wrestlers most associated with the term "big man" currently on the roster are close to retirement, on part time deals, or nearly immobile. Ryback and Sheamus are exceptions to the rule, but all in all the WWE has gotten smaller over the years and there are few wrestlers currently in developmental that don't match that trend. Simply put, wrestling needs bodies of all sizes and right now there's a void a three-hundred pound or six foot, six inch guy needs to fill.
In addition to that need for larger wrestlers, the smaller, hard-working guys that might be shut out by this refreshed mandate for size are already well-represented in the greater WWE. There will always be fresh but overlooked new talent that deserve a shot at the big time, but let's take a look at just who got signed from the Indies over the past couple years.
Antonio Cesaro (Claudio Castagnoli)
Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero)
Sami Zayn (El Generico)
Seth Rollins (Tyler Black)
Dean Ambrose (John Moxley)
Adrian Neville (Pac)
Corey Graves (Sterling James Keenan)
Luke Harper (Brodie Lee)
Kalisto (Samuray Del Sol)
Solomon Crowe (Sami Callihan)
Sarah Del Rey
That's a pretty impressive list, one that doesn't even count Punk, Bryan, Evan Bourne or the briefly employed Low Ki and Colt Cabana. Arguably, the WWE picked up the best the independent scene had to offer. Now they're balancing themselves back out and looking for the other end of the body spectrum. And really, that's okay. Yes, the Briscoes, the American Wolves, Adam Cole, Mike Bennet and so many others are capable and ready, but think about how good they'll be and how many other seasoned wrestlers will be available in another year or two when the WWE starts looking at the independent scene again.
Now, for the other thing I’ve been thinking about as I’ve reviewed the new NXT over the months. One of the consequences from signing all those excellent wrestlers from the Indies and working so hard with the other athletes signed to developmental is that there are so many people on NXT that can wrestle a match, work a solid character, and are just entertaining in general. But there are only so many spots on the main roster, especially with the WWE seemingly unwilling to release wrestlers from their main shows. Mark my words, there will be a time when NXT will have way more main-roster ready acts than there are roster spots, creating a backlog of talent stagnating on NXT and potentially getting frustrated.
As for this week’s episode of NXT….
Everything Done Today was for Tomorrow’s Payoff:
Paige tried to help Emma, but cost her the victory in her match against Sasha Banks and then accidentally hit her afterwards. The Ascension squashed some jobbers. Alexander Rusev came out for his match alone and was followed later by a random lady in a dress. Tyler Breeze appeared only to cut off some of CJ Parker’s dreads after he got killed by Rusev. All of these things happened to set up other segments down the line, creating an episode that was heavy on build-up and light on immediate satisfaction. While I appreciate build-up as much as the next guy, and recognize its importance, tonight’s show felt a little off-balance. Sometimes a wrestling show needs a little more short-term excitement.
What did work tonight in that regard was the women’s match, everything involved in the Bo Dallas/Sami Zayn fallout and a bit of the stuff with Adrian Neville and Corey Graves. Emma vs Sasha Bank was easily match of the night for me, thought I wasn’t thrilled with the typical distraction ending. The stuff before that was pretty slick, with Emma being her usual adorable self and Sasha keeping my attention a lot better than she used to. It’s almost funny to think she used to be a generic good gal at this point, isn’t it?
Obviously tonight’s three promos surrounding the Dallas/Zayn situation were designed to build to a showdown in the coming weeks, but they were pretty damn entertaining in their own right. Dallas, I think, has officially won me over as the least coolest guy in the room and they were smart to make Sami recognize that JBL didn’t restart the match when logically doing so would favor him. JBL, for his part, cut an awesome little promo with Renee Young, effectively suspending Sami Zayn for his comments. That absence, and Dallas’s “vacation”, should let this feud simmer and grow while their time is given to other acts that need it.
And then there was Corey Graves. Well…Corey…
About that Heel Turn:
I don’t mean to pick on this dude, I swear. It’s not just him that’s disappointing, it’s the creative team writing this character.
First of all, I thought Adrian Neville immediately coming out during Corey’s “Why I did it” promo and getting into a fight was a smart move that showed the intensity of the feud and skipped the needless speech. I also thought Graves showed some improved submissions during their match tonight, and Adrian came out rightly hot after the opening bell.…but man, this heel turn for Graves is not going well, even after one show.
I had wondered why Corey was wearing a suit during his explanation promo, and then, after the commentators talked about it during the main event, I realized it was part of a stupid, stupid choice made on (I assume) the creative team’s account. The commentators claimed that “suit-wearing square” was what Corey Graves actually was, and “grungy, rebellious guy” was something Graves pretended to be in order to get people to like him.
Yeah. I’ll let that sink in. Corey Graves, the guy with all the ink, the punk haircut, the finger tattoos that spell “Stay Down”, and the still-very-much-the-same ring gear would rather wear a suit.
And with that load of BS out of the way, that was the NXT review for this week. There wasn’t much to talk about, really, so I hope you liked my little random creative-side observations. As for this week’s comment section question, how long do you think Tensai stays at the announce desk? I’m gonna guess not long. He didn’t add much to the conversation and got outwitted by Alex Riley. That’s never a good sign.