-First, a word. Because the idea of NXT interests me, I’ll be discussing it (I deplore doing recaps, and you can find them nearly anywhere) for the time being, despite my horrendous track record of submitting, well, anything on time or at all to Pulse Wrestling over the course of the last three years. That being said, I’m going to try to keep these to same night or next day, to make sure that the show is fresh in my mind and that the ideas that pop in are cogent and available for the grasping at. There’ll be next to no rewriting, but I imagine that’s the case with nearly anything written on any wrestling site and, based on what makes it onto television, the vast majority of wrestling signs, either.
-That being said, I don’t really know what to expect. Supposedly, it’s a reality show, but it’s with developmental wrestlers whom WWE probably has a pretty good idea of what to do with. Are they really expecting not to use Bryan freaking Danielson on the main roster because he loses the competition to Darren Young, whose hair defies all known laws of physics and, probably, religious scripture? So, here’s the major question: are we getting reality, or scripted reality? If one man “wins,” is there any reason to believe that another talented member of the cast won’t find themselves on Raw or Smackdown?
-If nothing else, I am genuinely excited about seeing new wrestlers do new thing. I loved every time ECW busted out their “New Superstar Initiative” flubbledyhoo and brought in someone whom I’d never heard of. Sure, there have been a few Braden Walkers and Ricky Ortizes (who really believes a basic splash is a finisher in 2009 unless they’re 700 pounds? Come ON.), but we’ve also gotten Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne out of the deal, not to mention, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, recent world champion Sheamus. Hey, I actually like the guy, and even I think it was way too soon.
-So, there we have it. Eight new superstars, quasi-reality…let’s go.
-Hosts are Michael Cole and Josh Matthews. Sure, why not?
-After the fun little video package opening, camera goes backstage to show the row of eight guys, and I’m happy to say that Bryan Danielson is dressed like Bryan Danielson. Hey, don’t fix it if they ain’t broke. Everyone just kind of stands around smiling like goofs, and dear GOD why does one of them have a cowboy gimmick? Did I hit my head and wake up in 1988? Were Sam Houston and Bobby Duncum Jr. so ludicrously popular because they were freaking COWBOYS? Ugh…I’d hoped it wasn’t true, but there it is. Well, if he’s any good, they can drop that nonsense and let him just kick ass.
-Man, “Daniel Bryan” is short. Like, really short…sure, not Mysterio short, but still. I never realized how small the guy was; I mean, Miz just TOWERS over him, and it’s not like he’s one of the larger guys on the roster. That being said, compared to Miz, he is a bit of a charisma vacuum, but that’s like saying that compared to Michelle McCool, someone who eats actual food instead of a diet subsisting of wheat thins and mineral water is morbidly obese. Ba-zing!
-And yes, Miz, his charisma IS as dry as the Mojave Devert. And yes, dear reader, the spelling is intentional.
-Matt Striker is backstage, and I like him, so hooray. Moving on.
-Okay, first major point: the show is obviously all staged, and there’s really no reality show element to it at all. Miz talks about how if Bryan doesn’t show any charisma out in the ring, then he’s going to go out and slap him around a little. Of course, Bryan doesn’t know this. But, being that this is professional wrestling and not ultimate fighting, OF COURSE Bryan knows what’s going to happen, because wrestling is fake, ladies and gentleman. So, now everyone knows that there’s nothing on the show to be taken seriously, and we can all move on and enjoy some wrestling. Let’s pray it’s time for Daniel Bryan to, and I quote, “kick someone’s f’ing head in.”
Segment One: Daniel Bryan
-Okay, he comes off as a bit of an “Oh shucks” kind of guy but there’s something interestingly earnest about him, especially when he apologizes to all of his fans for not having his mentor be William Regal. In the words of Scott Keith, I love shoot comments that aren’t supposed to be shoot comments. Miz, naturally, comes out to pick on him, but Bryan loses a couple of points for telling Miz that he’ll “submit him.” That doesn’t actually make sense, but his later attempt at a catchphrase, “You tap or you snap,” isn’t too bad as far as catchphrases go. Plus, with his confrontation with The Miz, he did indeed show a good amount of charisma, mocking Miz’s odd path to wrestling fame, i.e. going on a reality show and getting a fauxhawk. Miz says he didn’t show enough charisma, slaps him, then walks out. Bryan is unfazed, which I like. He might not have looked like a mega-star but, much to my shock, he totally held his own with one of the most charismatic and entertaining superstars in the country. As far as I’m concerned, it’s Bryan’s show to lose.
COMMERCIAL…let’s go out to the lobby, and have ourselves a treat…
-We return, and Bryan is interviewed by Matt Striker, who talks about how he was embarrassed on live television by Miz’s slap, and Bryan replies simply that he’s not embarrassed at all by being slapped, and that when he gets the chance, Miz should worry, as he slaps a whole lot harder than Miz does. Touche’. Matt Striker kind of gives him some bite back, though, which I didn’t expect. It’s all story, of course, with Danielson flouting his experience and being told that it doesn’t really matter in the WWE as the company is a whole other level, but I kind of like that they’re not going to just let him be right about everything right away. Know why? Because as awesome as the guy is in the ring, and he is, his mic skills, as far as we’re seeing here, are still a whole lot of average. Now, we all know that he CAN give great interviews, but it tends to be more the exception than the rule. I want the guy to succeed as much as anyone, and be unbelievably awesome, but if he wants to be a main eventer, as we all know he can be, he really does need to work on communicating effectively, not stumbling over words, etc. Guy has the skills of the main event, but the speaking ability of a midcarder, and that WILL hold him back.
Segment Two: Michael Tarver
-Carlito comes out with the big man to introduce him, but then it goes to a video package right away. Talks about his childhood, his skills (knockout king), how he wants to prove himself, etc., and this is the reality show stuff. It’s still a video package, but hey, we learn more about him, which is fine. FCW footage if you’re interested in seeing, you know, wrestling on your wrestling show. And does he remind anyone else of Paul Mooney when he speaks?
-Hooray! Actual wrestling! But first, a video package of Heath Slater!
Segment Three: Heath Slater
-“I’m a rock star without the instrument.” Sure you are. Seeing him prance around in and around the ring, he comes off more as someone who’s pretending to be a wrestler than an actual wrestler. Decent look, but the hair is an odd length, too short to be long and too long to be short. Actually, without any wrist bands, he looks kind of like a red-headed Brian Kendrick.
Carlito and Michael Tarver vs. Christian and Heath Slater
-Heath Slater is trying to pump up the crowd, but the crowd doesn’t really care. It’s fairly generic tag formula match, with Heath playing face in peril, Carlito and Tarver taking turns beating him up. You know, if this was my first match on national television, I may go out of my way to do some of my more impressive stuff, but right now, it’s nothing you haven’t seen. Once Heath makes the tag, however, and we have Christian and Carlito in the ring, we start to see that these guys are obviously, well, the pros, as what they do flows, as opposed to the slightly more janky stuff that Heath and Tarver can put together. Not bad, mind you, but it just doesn’t flow as well. In the end, Carlito tags in Tarver, but he just ends up eating a Killswitch while Slater takes out Carlito.
Winners: Christian and Heath Slater
-Again, Heath’s dancing around to Christian’s music just comes off as silly. Maybe he can find the right level of energy for it, but it’s less like a rockstar and more like a kid playing Rock Band, and not even one of the good songs.
-Backstage, as we go to commercial, we see what I’m sure will be my favorite image of the entire night, as Darren Young, dressed in a coat that seems to be made out of no less than four (hopefully fake) cheetahs and adorned with a chain around his neck, is talking excitedly to CM Punk and the Straight Edge Society, and they’re all looking at him like he’s THE WEIRDEST THING THEY’VE EVER SEEN. Serena looks confused, or disgusted, or unsure, while Punk carries a mixture of boredom and disbelief and Gallows just seems to smell something funny, which I’m guessing is hair products or spray tan. I could have sworn that Young was black, but I’m honestly not sure.
Oh, and R-Truth is talking to David Otunga, who at least looks like a beast, if a bit hungover with those glasses and the hood. The two rooks are going to fight next apparently, so huzzah.
-Punk’s interview detailing how he doesn’t even know why he’s on this show is nicely done, as it starts out funny in that respect, but ends up becoming another opportunity to spread his message. “I mentor Luke Gallows and Serena, and if Darren Young wants my leadership, he should think about accepting straight edge into his life.” Hey, I have no qualms about them shaving that ridiculous quaff. By the way, Young is the “South Beach party boy,” and he certainly seems excited to be there, and that’s all we’re going to get.
Segment Four: David Otunga
-A video package tells us a bit more about David Otunga, which is essentially that a) he’s from Hollywood, and thus better than everyone, and b) he’s engaged to Jennifer Hudson. That’s more or less it. Oh, he also went to Harvard Law School leading to a line that I love: “Know who else went to Harvard Law School? THE PRESIDENT.” Big cocky heel character, although I admit that “Google me” could actually be a halfway decent catchphrase if used correctly.
-Otunga also gains major points by not caring, at all, about R-Truth’s singalong entrance. He just ignores him, and pretends that none of it’s even happening. However, can someone explain to me why Otunga has patterns etched into his hair? Didn’t that drop out of style shortly after Kid N’ Play?
Darren Young vs. David Otunga
-As I was writing the previous sentence, I looked up, and Otunga had already won with a spinebuster. Rewinding, it wasn’t even that great a spinebuster. So far, the rooks bore me. However, extra point for CM Punk being horrendously bored by the whole thing, and just walking out with the Society, leaving Young in the middle of the ring like the loser he is.
Winner: David Otunga
-Holy guacamole…tonight, in the main event, we’re getting DANIEL BRYAN VS. CHRIS JERICHO. I am the happiest boy in the whole wide world.
-Raw Recap, not recapping it…obviously.
-Chris Jericho out with Wade Barrett, British former bareknuckle boxer who actually looks kind of sort of like TNA’s Brutus Magnus, at least in the facial department. As far as I’m concerned, it can be hard to say someone looks British, but he does, so if he ever needs to fall back on the “I’m British and snobby and better than you, wanker lorry scones knickers” gimmick, he can do so. Looks like a natural snobby heel, actually, and he hasn’t said a word.
-Next week, Matt Hardy and Justin Gabriel
-Whoa, Barrett speaks, and he can’t do the snobby thing, as the accent is a rough cockney. Put him and Burchill together as badass British brawlers. You’re welcome, WWE. Jericho wants him to introduce him, and Barrett tries to suck up a bit first, singing Jericho’s praises, but he stops him, grabs the mic, and says, “I just want you to introduce me.” Oh, Chris Jericho, you’re so modest.
-Out comes Miz and Bryan, who just bumps right on past his mentor and holds up the one finger. No, not that finger, the pointer, which is what he’s been doing since, well, ever. Let’s hope some of your old fans are in the audience, good sir. Also, when he jumps in the ring, dude gets some air. Oh please, by all that’s holy, let these two get some time, and let Jericho make him look like a million bucks.
Daniel Bryan vs. Chris Jericho
-Bryan tries to start out with a handshake, which I like, as no one ever does that anymore. Plus, it almost suggests a level of naivete, and whether that’s concscious or not, it’s interesting.
-Also, how short is Daniel Bryan? So short that he makes Chris Jericho look big. Matchwise, there’s a nasty bump where Bryan does a tope suicida and gets powerslammed right into the edge of the announce table, so big ouch right there, but my two favorite parts are smaller moments. First, Bryan catches Jericho in a heel hook, and it’s done so quickly and so smoothly that you don’t stop to realize how complicated it is, and it’s a wonderful little thing that shows just how good Bryan is. Secondly, Jericho does the Lion Tamer, the way it was MEANT to be, with his knee on his opponent’s back, and that makes me happy.
-The match is fine, and makes Bryan look good, but the bigger thing here is the argument between Josh Matthews and Michael Cole. While Matthews extols the virtues of Bryan, and how anyone can go on the Internet and find out all about him, Cole basically calls the whole thing a load of garbage and talks about how wrestling in front of fifty people in a high school gym doesn’t make you a superstar. You know what? He has a bit of a point. Bryan is talented, and looks good, but he looks so small compared even to Chris Jericho. He’s really someone who’s going to have to get over with his stellar ring work and sweet-ass submission moves, such as when he inevitably busts out the Cattle Mutilation.
-Alas, Bryan must tap out to the Lion Tamer after eating a Code Breaker, but he looks pretty good in defeat. Of course, Miz beating the crap out of him after the match probably isn’t much consolation.
Winner: Chris Jericho
-It’s a reality show with no reality, so I’m hoping that WWE will stop referring to NXT as a reality show, because it’s not in any way. It’s scripted, for better or for worse, and it’s another wrestling show, albeit with wrestling that isn’t quite as good as what was on ECW on Tuesday nights. Ultimately, the show is less about who these eight men are than what they can show, and how their relationships are with the mentors. However, being that the entire show is a scripted program, it’s ultimately up to WWE who we like and support. The only way for these men to show their potential in the WWE is to allow each of them to have time to form matches of decent length with each other and let the fans decide who they like or dislike, and gauge reactions. But, because Darren Young was made to look like a loser tonight, the WWE fans (or Universe, if you must) are going to see him as one, and who knows if he’ll ever catch on.
-Also, if this is a competition, and one person is supposed to get a contract, or something akin to it, how exactly does this competition work? It would seem that WWE forgot to explain it to us in their inaugural broadcast. Whoopsie.
-Long story short, the show has potential, but it’s far from the innovative evolution they promised. It’s a wrestling show, and I’m still looking forward to seeing more of the rookies, but if you want the show to be different, it takes a lot more than having Matt Striker ask people questions during the match. Next week, I think a Breaking Holds will be required discussing what this show could and should be, as opposed to what it’s appearing to be.
-That’s all she wrote for now. Comments section is below. Excelsior.
Tags: chris jericho, Daniel Bryan, NXT, WWE, wwe nxt