Sometimes, friends, things do not work out the way we expect them to. These past couple weeks of the NXT review have been delayed thanks to a combination of good old “family health stuff”, a massive winter storm causing multiple flight cancellations, NXT maybe temporarily becoming a Hulu Plus show again, the entire TJR website undergoing renovations and a dog eating my homework. So, um, yeah. Sorry about that.
This week we’re going to play the catch-up game again, reviewing two episodes of NXT at the same freakin’ time. I would expect a bit more commentary on the more recent episode, but we’ll get to that after the videos. Both of them should be free again, so feel free to check them out if you haven’t already.
To recap, a whole lot happened, including Corey Graves wrestling Adrian Neville in episode one, and what was almost a mini-greatest hits of NXT in episode two. Starting off first down the hill, because the Olympics, is…
The Developmental Call-up Blues:
I bet the call-up process to the greater WWE is a fascinating and potentially pants-s**tingly terrifying ordeal to go through. Right now we’ve got a stealth group of NXT wrestlers being introduced on Raw and Smackdown in what’s traditionally been a very awkward time of the year to be a new character in the WWE. I don’t catch every single show the WWE produces (especially lately), so I’ve had to read a bit of internet opinion to learn how Emma and Alexander Rusev are doing with the main-roster crowds. You all were kind enough to tell me what you thought of Rusev’s Rumble showing, and it sounds like the Bulgarian Brute might just have a chance. Emma though…doesn’t seem like she’s doing so hot, probably because they aren’t really nailing her appeal.
I guess this situation ties into a pattern I’ve noticed where the WWE will sometimes want you to be something different on the main roster than they wanted you to be in developmental. Creepy Johnny Curtis turning into a ball-room dancer and Roman Reigns going from conceited blue-chip athlete to swat-team member would be perfect examples of said phenomenon. Main-roster Emma so far seems to be pretty much consistent with the idea of her character on NXT, but they either haven’t yet gotten to the part where she’s presented as a capable wrestler or forgotten that that half of her is what makes the whole package work.
Maybe I’m in the minority, but I like Emma because she is an endearingly delusional, awkward and oblivious woman that also happens to be a technical assassin in the ring. So again, I’ll ask you guys: is it that the WWE isn’t presenting her the way she was on NXT or are the main-roster fans just not accepting her because she dances?
Corey Graves vs Adrian Neville was like a tiny John Cena vs Randy Orton:
Here me out.
The WWE certainly has its style of wrestling and they expect you to, for the most part, adhere to it. Brief face control, long heel control, face comeback, big spots from both wrestlers, finish. When a match is engaging (to you, specifically) these rigid designations aren’t as noticeable, but when you’re not into a match you can see the stitching behind the product. I found myself looking at both matches and seeing their basic building blocks, which is never an exciting way to ingest wrestling. In other words, the matches started off boring. But, after a certain point, the action in both picked up and I became more interested in what was going on.
I am certainly not a professional wrestler or a wrestling booker, but as a fan I wonder if it is necessary to always structure matches in this way. Surely some variety would be exciting? Maybe some matches don’t really need to go 12 or 20 minutes or what have you if the wrestlers can’t grab the audience’s attention for more than 4 or 8? Or, to put it another way, I don’t think the first 2/3rds of the Graves/Neville match made the last third any better, so why not just have the last third?
Charlotte being on NXT is currently the most nepotistic thing about NXT:
Consider this the pettiest thing I talk about this week.
I don’t think Charlotte would be in developmental if she wasn’t Ric Flair’s daughter. She doesn’t exactly look like all the other divas they’ve hired (not that this is inherently a problem) and they seem to keep her away from the ring as much as possible lately, which could indicate she still has a way to go in that regard. So if she doesn’t look like they probably want her to look and she doesn’t wrestle like they probably want her to wrestle, she doesn’t really show up in the timeline without her famous father, does she? As the son of two parents without any unfair advantages to offer their children, I find this…interesting.
This week’s episode flew by:
Finally the positive stuff! Where last week’s episode made me ponder why wrestling doesn’t work, this week’s show just had me paying attention to and enjoying wrestling as it was actually happening. The live promo segment with Antonio Cesaro and Sami Zayn was excellent, a tribute to the format of two dudes in the ring talking in order to sell a match. It was way, way more effective than Sami Zayn spouting a dumb babyface line into a camera backstage and managed to build up both men as good wrestlers, inject a deeper storyline going into the match and give us all another reason to root for Sami and boo Cesaro. It was awesome.
What was also awesome was NXT taking one of its least effective characters and pulling the trigger on turning him into a more fully realized, heel character. Obviously I’m talking about CJ Parker, who cut a promo lambasting the live audience for contributing to the negative human impact on the natural world. That character is a real person, someone you or someone you know has blocked on facebook in real life, not an outdated stereotype no one connected with.
And then there was the sweet-ass women’s trios match, which I have nothing but positive things to say about. But in particular, I very much appreciated Summer and Sasha’s spirited squirrel dashes in the corner to get away from Natalya during the opening moments of the match. It’s not often enough we get heels totally running for the hills when they’re outmatched.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The freakin’ Wyatt family came back to NXT for another victory lap and, man, if the Wyatt Family vs the Shield ends up being a match on the NXT Arrival special I will flip my shiz-nit.