Good evening wrassle-friends. Before we get to tonight’s review, I’d like to take a moment to shill, er….talk to you about my latest book.
No, shut up! I write actual books! This one is called The Coiled Serpent and it’s a sequel to my first book, Pawns of Concilia. They’re basically fast-paced, action-packed fantasy fiction books for the reader that likes the idea of Game of Thrones but not necessarily how meandering it is. Both Serpent and Pawns are currently available in paperback or as e-books for Kindle. You can click on this link here for all the information on how to purchase them if you’re interested. And since a picture is worth at least 17 words, here is Serpent’s cover.
Pretty groovy eh? But enough of that, let’s get to the wrestling.
You know, I don’t think I’ve gotten an episode of NXT that necessitated reviewing as much as this one does in quite a while. To quickly recap, there was a lot of good, including some strong matches that saw Paige and Bo Dallas retain their championships, but also a lot of little annoyances that deserve some discussion as well. But let’s start on a positive note and talk about…
Dastardly, mustache-twirling villains:
Heather Hickey just got done talking about the baddens in the greater WWE and whether or not they are actually hated or not. Reading those articles made me feel…a little guilty, because I do enjoy villains that are entertaining for one reason or another. Whether it’s a sick line from Dean Ambrose about Andre the Giant’s ghost or Bo Dallas trying to be as cheesy/annoying as humanely possible, I guess my favorite bad guys are the ones that entertain me…and I’m not sure that’s supposed to be the case.
NXT as a whole seems to be filled with heels like that, partially because of their hipster-lite live audience and partially because Triple H runs the joint (from gorilla position apparently), and I’m pretty sure he plays a little loosy-goosy with the good guy/bad guy designations. So I guess if I had to pick a wrestler that gets all the Razor Ramons it’d be either Bo Dallas from four months ago or Corey Graves right now. Both of them are/were suitably hate-able.
Now, the opening backstage conversation between Dudley-do-Right villains Antonio Cesaro and Leo Kruger set NXT on a course for success. Both men played up the sliminess of their characters, again, to the point that I was greatly entertained by it. Sadly this would be the only segment these two were involved in that I didn’t have a minor grip with, but we’ll get to that later. We’ll keep the positivity train rolling with the Diva’s title match.
Paige vs Natalya was a good idea:
I sort of follow Total Divas, which hasn’t exactly shed the greatest light on Natalya, or at least the reality television character Natalaya presents or was edited into. It’s all very sticky and confusing. But pairing her up with Paige in the ring was an excellent decision and ended with both women looking better than they did coming into the match. Natalya finally got to have a match of decent length with someone whose skills overlapped hers enough to allow an ending that wasn’t “lucky rollup” and Paige got a strong victory over a capable opponent. If you want a more in-depth break down of the match and why I liked it, Natalya and Paige did some solid technical wrestling to open the bout but also worked in the brawly nastiness that attracts people to Paige. Both were cool things to see in a Diva’s match. Natalya also managed to slap on the sharpshooter but, in a really cool bit, Paige elected to roll Natalya head first in the turnbuckle instead of grabbing for a rope break. While Paige was half-hobbled she still managed to nail a nasty-looking Paige-turner for an impactful victory, selling her injured leg the entire time.
Seriously, bravo ladies, this was one of the best matches of Paige’s championship reign. Very well done.
I’m not entirely sure Mojo Rawley isn’t John Cena’s football player clone:
You can take that bold sentence as either a criticism of Mojo’s character or a prediction as to how far he’s going to go in the WWE. I’m not kidding when I say that I think he’s going to be the next NXT champion.
I’ve noticed it before, but tonight especially Mojo sounded like John Cena. I don’t think it’s something Mojo (Jojo?) can help, I think it’s just the way the guy’s voice sounds, but I can’t get the comparison out of my head when he speaks. Between the vocal similarity, the frequent use of his catch-phrase and tonight’s immediate squashing of French Macho Man’s rich guy gimmick, Rawley and the writers aren’t exactly running from Cena’s template, are they?
But for reals, Frenchie and Scott Dawson will be the jobbers Mojo eats while Dallas deals with his various opponents and when Rawley is built up enough he’ll take the title from Dallas. Mark my freakin’ words.
Byron Saxton, NPC:
Wrestling commentators (and referees, for that matter) are interesting characters within the realm of the WWE in that they are usually portrayed to be weak or unassuming in order to better contrast against the big, scary, larger-than-life wrestlers that surround them. This often forces former wrestlers, or at least the ones that never really made names for themselves as wrestlers, to lose their toughness and their abilities to take punches when placed in the announcer role. Josh Matthews would be the blueprint for this archetype and Byron Saxton is following in his footsteps.
In tonight’s “apology” segment with Antonio Cesaro, Saxton came off as almost inhuman, mostly because of his lack of reaction, verbal or otherwise, to anything Cesaro did for the majority of the bit. Then Byron was suddenly weirdly and obnoxiously defiant. It was off-putting and made him resemble a poorly written non-player-character from a video game more than a thinking, reacting, empathy-inspiring human being. The awkwardness he produced took me out of the moment and made me care less that he was being man-handled and harassed. It sort of undercut the segment.
While we’re on the subject of commentators, here’s something that’s been bugging me:
Tom Phillips is another in the long line of white-bread, vanilla, sorta-dweebish play by play announcers that the WWE has introduced, but dammit, he’s been the best one since Todd Grisham briefly figured out what he was doing. So I don’t understand the s**t he gets from his fellow commentators during NXT. And yes, this is an incredibly silly thing to be writing about, but hey, embellished fighting. Tom is the guy who sits there and successfully calls the action and peppers in the little nuggets necessary to sell the story of the match and reigns in the two other people sitting at the announce table that would rather talk about anything besides what’s happening on screen. He’s doing a good job, to the point where I don’t think most people are noticing that he’s doing a good job. He’s blending in, keeping the focus on the match and making it better in the process, ignoring the impulse to put himself over at the expense of the wrestlers and the overall product.
This is not something I feel Alex Riley and to a lesser extent Renee Young are doing at the moment. Instead they’re reaching for that entertainment factor, which can be fine in small doses, but too much can be way too distracting.
Oh and since he said something dumb enough tonight to finally make me do this…
The dumbest thing Alex Riley said this week:
To Renee Young, dismissively, of Bo Dallas, after she praised him: “You just think he’s better looking than Neville.”
This beat out another kind of sexist tease Alex did to Renee and his saying that Tyson Kidd looked like Eddie Guerrero. Instead of explaining why “You just think he’s better looking than Neville”, I’m going to assume you can put two and two together and leave this semi-related picture in for the giggles.
(Editor's note: Lonestar couldn't find a humorous picture addressing sexism that wasn't strangely kind of sexist in and of itself or lacked the F-word. So instead here's a picture of a puppy.)
Your maaaaaain event!:
Skipping the continuity issues that occur when you film a vignette explaining why Sami Zayn would cost Leo Kruger a victory but don’t bother telling the commentators or the audience about it and the segments with random heels doing heely things, because there’s only so long this review should really be, the main event was good. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little distracted by the weirdness happening on commentary, but the match was still strong. I liked the turnbuckle coming off but not actually leading to anything and Dallas being a whiny little jerk by leaving the ring multiple times. Neville looked great once again, which is interesting when you realize he only did like three moves. Just like last week I was surprised at the finish! I could have sworn Dallas just beat Neville like it was no big deal and moved on with his life, but this was much, much better.
What did you think of this week’s show? Did the quality in-ring stuff overcome the weird technical and acting snafus? How many Razor Ramons would you give Bo Dallas? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?