-So here we are for week two of NXT, and apparently we’re going to focus on the South African Justin Gabriel and the (ugh) cowboy Skip Sheffield. I’m kind of hoping that we get a bit more Daniel Bryan and some advancement relating to Darren Young’s relationship with CM Punk and the Straight Edge Society, but let’s see what gruel WWE has to feed me this Tuesday night.
-Recap video package. It reminds me how unimpressed with Heath Slater I was and how nasty Bryan’s bump into the announce table was.
-And out comes R-Truth with David Otunga, who seems only slightly less bored than last week with Truth’s singalong rap.
-We’re thrown back to Matt Striker, who’s referred to as the host of the show. Alright, if you say so. Anywho, he actually explains how this thing is a competition of any sort! Good, I was hoping they’d get around to explaining the central conceit of their show at some point. Long story short, it goes like this: at the end of the season, the pros will get to vote on who’s in and who’s out, but no pro can vote for or against their own rookie. Some will rise, some will go away, or so he says. Really, I can’t imagine that, if WWE likes someone but the pros don’t, that they’ll end up without a contract. That’s also suggesting that the pros are voting autonomously, which I’m sure isn’t the case. This thing is all story, far as I can tell. Actually, I figure that WWE generally knows what they want with these guys, so why put anyone on television if they’re not going to be used at all?
Match One: David Otunga vs. Darren Young
-Well, it’s already lasted longer than it took me to write this entrance, so Young’s off to a better start. seriously, though, Young looks like a joke, and the crowd starts to boo him VICIOUSLY as he goes into a chinlock, but then he stomps on the crowd, and everyone starts happily clapping along. Wrestling fans are weird.
-Naturally, the highlight of the first half of the match is CM Punk looking confused as to what the hell is going on, and why he’s here at all. It’s just beautiful. As for the rest of the match, who can be bothered? It’s fairly generic, although Young has a quasi-interesting neckbreaker-using-the-ropes thingy, and we go to commercial as Young sends Otunga out of the ring with a dropkick. Young seems to be trying out there, but the audience just has no interest in liking this goof, either because of his connection to Punk, or just because he’s some happy, clapping, silly-haired wonk with no personality or interesting aspects beyond that.
-And we return to…a kravate by Young on Otunga…so, fancy chinlock. More CM Punk greatness: as Young suplexes Otunga, Punk, hood up, looks up and around as if he’s ticked off that he’s here instead of watching Lost like everyone else. Man, Young has used about four or five restholds in this match, always going back to chinlocks or kravates. This guy’s in outstanding shape, so he can’t possibly be tired, which means he simply doesn’t know what to do. Maybe this guy’s just not ready for television, which is of course the point of this show. Holy crap, ANOTHER chinlock. This is ridiculous, and the match is just going on with no rhyme or rhythm, and finally Otunga starts to get some offense going and shoulderblocks Young out.
-Ah ha, something remotely interesting! Gallows goes and gets in Otunga’s face when he’s outside, thus distracting R-Truth and the ref. Otunga gets back in, ducks a clothesline from Young, and Punk, who before had entertained himself by playing with his gum, grabs Otunga’s foot and distracts him, giving Young the opportunity to hit his finisher, a sort of rotating full-nelson faceplant (I pray there are better descriptions than mine online), and nabs the pin. Punk, never suggesting any sort of attachment, only a sort of barely amused micro-smile, motions to Gallows and Serena, and exit together, leaving Young to celebrate in the ring. Huh.
Winner: Darren Young
-Well, Young sucks, but the potential storyline with Punk actually makes me want to keep this guy around. Not through any ability of his own, naturally, but just to see what Punk has in store for him.
-Otunga shoves R-Truth when he gets in the ring, being all frustrated and what not. I know, David; if I’d been pinned following a lame finisher and a series of restholds, I’d be frustrated, too. I mean, the guy’s not even sweating.
Segment One: Daniel Bryan
-He points out that he’s not really a rookie, even though that’s what they’re called. Points out that he was trained by Shawn Micheals, and comes off as earnest, natural and real, which is nice. Otunga’s video package felt like a character vignette, and this just makes him seem like a chill, cool guy who wants to be the best and headline Wrestlemania.
-Going back to the announcers, Michael Cole talks about Josh Matthews and all of his little “Twitter geeks” who loved Daniel Bryan last week, but immediately buries him as someone who hasn’t learned to perform at the WWE level yet, and I totally, totally dig how Cole is a face on Raw and a heel on NXT. I know that a lot of people hate Cole, and think that he’s the worst announcer in the history of the universe (always remember that Mike Adamle is a phone call away), but I’m generally fine with him, although I can’t stand how he mis/overuses the word “vintage,” just like everybody else. Still, having him here as the voice of “big WWE” and Matthews as the independent wrestling fan is really interesting. Now, the question (nee’, the story) is whether Cole can ever be won over by Bryan who, let’s face it, is going to end up on the main roster unless he’s hit by a tractor trailer.
-Everyone, knock on wood.
-Matthews sings Bryan’s praises as they do a minor recap of his match with Chris Jericho, including the nasty bump against the announce table, Jericho busting out the Lion Tamer version of the Boston Crab (hooray again!), and Miz kicking his ass afterwards.
-Bryan is getting his bruise checked out backstage, and Miz comes by to tell him that a) he’s dirt and that b) “even when you have a boo-boo, you still have to compete.” Bryan’s got a match with Wade Barrett, Jericho’s rookie, next, and gives him a nice solid love tap on the bruise to wish him luck. With Bryan’s ability and Miz’s utter dickitude, this is something I can get behind.
-During the break, David Otunga was interviewed by Matt Striker, but Truth comes out to interrupt him because he’s all pissed and whatnot concerning being shoved. The confrontation lasts about two seconds before Truth pushes him, and Otunga pushes back, and they wrestle on the ground for a bit before they’re separated by refs. Whatever.
-Out comes Chris Jericho, looking dapper as alaways in a black suit, with British rookie Wade Barrett. Jericho continues to make me happy: “It’s time for all of you failures to meet the latest success story in the WWE. My protege’, Wade Barrett.” Oh, Jericho and his calling everyone in the audience failures. You make my heel side squeal with evil child delight.
Segment Two: Wade Barrett
-He’s from Manchester and says (now keep in mind that these numbers could just be WWE fakery) that he is 6’7″ and 270 pounds. He’s apparently the biggest guy on NXT, but holy crap, that’s a big Englishman. From the clips, seems to have a lot of personality in the ring, but talks a lot about being a bare-knuckle fighting champion in Europe, and how the driving force behind his career is to make money. Sounds like a pretty good heel to me.
-Oh, before I forget to mention it, every rookie has their own NXT twitter feed. Cute little item. It’s generally their name, followed by “NXT.”
Match Two: Wade Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan
-Barrett certainly looks like a giant compared to Daniel Bryan, which works just fine here. GREAT move, where Bryan jumps to the apron and runs off it with a flying knee right to the chest of Barrett on the outside. Super sweet. Of course, that being said, Bryan immediately botches a springboard back into the ring, but plays it off as if the injured ribs are the culprit there. Well, cover the best you can, but still. Jericho is on commentary, which is wonderful, and crows about taking credit for anything Barrett does, since he is his protege after all. Then, Barrett gives Bryan a forward fireman’s carry slam, and we’re apparently done here. Hmm…well, not necessarily the best way to book “the best wrestler in the world,” but other guys need to win, too, and I’m guessing this is all part of something bigger. Let me rephrase that…I hope this is part of something bigger.
Winner: Wade Barrett
-Jericho gives Bryan a couple of kicks while he’s done just for funsies, and then gives him the awesome version of the Walls of Jericho yet again. Miz, naturally, is nowhere to be found.
-Interesting note: according to Michael Cole, all of the pros are pissed at Daniel Bryan for disrespecting the Miz, as they view it as him insulting all of the pros. I’m hopefully barking up the wrong tree here, but this sort of reminds me of the fiasco that Public Enemy went through in their short time in the WWE. Remember the gimmick WWE had for them? It was that everybody hated them for where they used to work, and so they never won a single match, and were immediately beaten down anytime they showed their faces remotely close to a wrestling ring. To be fair, Public Enemy wasn’t all that good at that point, may they both rest in peace, but that’s also not how to utilize talent in any capacity. Countless talentless lunkheads have gotten far in WWE because they were booked to be great no matter how terrible they were.
-I’m not saying this is going to happen to Bryan, but if they are trying to make a story where none of the pros are on Bryan’s side, the only way he’ll come out of it smelling half-decently is if he a) earns their respect, b) learns to respect even morons like the Miz, or c) beats all comers so that it doesn’t matter how the hell the pros feel about him.
-Coming up, tag match with Matt Hardy and Justin Gabriel taking on William Regal and Skip Sheffield.
-Raw Recap. Yippedeedoodahday.
-While we’re waiting, who wants to take bets on Barrett turning on Jericho at the end of all of this? Any takers? They’re both way too comfy and happy with each other, and Barrett’s enormous sucking of up last week only seems to foreshadow that he’s buttering him up so that that he can take him down all the more easily later on.
-And, amazingly, that perfectly segues into the announcers talking about how well Heath Slater and Christian get along, and we cut to Heath telling Christian how awesome they were as they work out. Christian comes off as what the mentors are supposed to be: he keeps Heath’s ego in check, points out that the cheers he got last week were Christian fans, not Heath Slater fans (good point), and pushes him to be better. “Remember, I’m not just mentoring you, I’m evaluating you.” Are we going to keep Christian and Heath as the control in this experiment, using Young/Punk and Miz/Bryan as more experimental cases here? I can live with that.
-Matt Striker interviews Justin Gabriel and Matt Hardy. Gabriel’s super-tight white shirt does him no favors, as it actually makes him look kind of chubby instead of muscular or cut. Also, he calls Matt Hardy “sensei,” which immediately makes me dislike him. Matt, alas, has gone back to being terrible on the mic, and seems to have had no one look over what he was going to say and decided to let him improvise. I don’t know what happened to Matt Hardy during his injury, but it sucked all of the coolness and talent out of the guy. Remember when he was ECW champion and was just being awesome every single week, having great matches with everyone and their mother? What about going back to Matt Hardy Version 1.0, when he was the funniest guy on the Smackdown roster and getting Shannon Moore and Crash Hardy over by proxy? Today, he just seems a meandering shadow of both of those better, earlier Matt Hardys, and it makes me a bit sad, because I used to really like him.
-Watching Regal and Sheffield enter amuses me, because Regal just walks down to his evil Darth Vader music, and Sheffield, all cowboyed up in vest and ten (or maybe eight) gallon hat is shouting at the crowd all pumped up as if the speakers are blaring “Biscuits and Gravy.” These two are so scary different that I’m curious as to what exactly WWE has in mind for the two of them.
-Plus note for Skip Sheffield? His twitter account is “CornfedMeathead.” Works for me. Sheffield is, indeed, big and meaty.
-Regal’s look of disgust at Sheffield tells all the story that’s needed, but hell, let’s go to video package for old time’s sake.
Segment Three: Skip Sheffield
-“Am I the smartest guy in the world? Heck no! Do I know kung-fu, MMA? Heck no! I’m an entertainer. That’s what I do.” So, his gimmick is that he’s a big dumb guy who likes to have fun and just goes full throttle into everything. Alright. Hell, he’s gonna put the pedal THROUGH the metal. His words, not mine.
-Cole buries Sheffield immediately, essentially asking what the hell the big doofus was just talking about in his video package. To a degree, I must concede his point.
-Matt Hardy’s music still gets a huge pop and HOLY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS JUSTIN GABRIEL WEARING?! He’s dressed like Elektra from Daredevil! Thank god he takes it off to reveal some basic white trunks underneath, because Jesus Christ, that thing has got to go. Not good.
-At this point, right before the match starts, I have to stop the tape as Cole relates something that Regal told him: “Skip Sheffield has the personality of an open grave.” Now THAT’S comedy.
Match Three: Matt Hardy and Justin Gabriel vs. William Regal and Skip Sheffield
-Gabriel is a high flier and Sheffield is a brawler; no surprise there. Interestingly, Gabriel and Hardy do a bunch of Hardy Boyz offense on Sheffield, including a version of poetry in motion. Well, it was established before that they got along, so it shouldn’t be a huge shock or anything. I’m interested to see how Regal interacts with Sheffield, if at all.
-Regal’s in, beating up on Justin Gabriel, including a pretty awesome butterfly suplex. After beating the hell out of Gabriel, Regal looks at Sheffield and yells, “That’s what you need to do.” When Hardy tags in, Regal is on him immediately, and just beats the tar out of him. Wow, Regal is looking great here, dominating the other team and ordering Sheffield around. Unfortunately, Sheffield has one of my least favorite moves, “the big splash,” but because it’s not meant to be a finisher, I can abide by it. Actually, it’s rather nice-looking, and seems like it actually hits with some impact, unlike the pathetic thing that Ricky Ortiz used as a finisher. It’s kind of neat to see both teams working as, well, teams; there’s no over-dramatic nonsense, even though Regal obviously isn’t fond of Sheffield.
-Regal to Sheffield: “Get up, you clown.” And then, “Don’t mess around doing STUPID, STUPID THINGS.” God, Regal is so good at this role…of course, then he eats a Twist of Fate, and Justin Gabriel is tagged in, who finishes Regal with a 450 splash. Skip Sheffield, it should be noted, doesn’t try to interrupt the count, and just lets Regal lose. Now, is that because he dislikes Regal, is following Regal’s instructions to watch and learn, or is he just stupid? I HATE when tag team wrestlers stand idly by and let their man get pinned. You can blame poor planning by the wrestlers or just lazy booking, but it doesn’t make sense unless one wrestler is actively angry at the other.
Winners: Matt Hardy and Justin Gabriel
-Matt Striker is backstage with the other six rookies (Daniel Bryan still selling the ribs as if he can barely stand), and Carlito comes out with an apple, takes a big bite…and spits it in Heath Slater’s face. Carlito’s snickering explanation: “That’s cool.” Matt Striker’s final line of the show: “That’s NXT.” Umm, alright.
-We’re finally getting an idea on who has potential and who still has a long way to go. David Otunga vs. Darren Young was a joke, a shining example of two Not-Ready-For Primetime-Players, although I think Otunga has a decent look to him and a fiance’ who won an academy award for best supporting actress, so at least one of those is bound to take him to Raw or Smackdown. Daniel Bryan is still Daniel Bryan, so that’s cool and all, and Wade Barrett is both big AND British, although we all know how well that went for Paul Burchill. Justin Gabriel and Skip Sheffield are fine thus far.
-But ultimately, I didn’t really feel all that great about the show, despite having a bunch of smaller moments that I enjoyed. I like the way that the announcers interact with each other, and I enjoy seeing a bunch of these guys, but the wrestling is so hit-or-miss that it’s hard to really grab onto any one or two performances, and the entire show feels disjointed. It doesn’t quite have the flow of Raw or Smackdown yet, but I suppose that’s to be expected. The show has already evolved a bit since last week, which is nice as it shows that they’re listening to some of their critics, but I’m not fully “grabbed” yet. I think a Heath Slater/Carlito mini-feud may be good, as it allows the younger guys to be in the ring with veterans who are calling the matches for them and making them look good.
-That, and I want to see a rematch between Wade Barrett and Daniel Bryan. Let Bryan come back next week, healed up from his rib injury, and give the big man a run for his money. Let’s see how he responds to the Cattle Mutilation, and see how Jericho responds when his rookie fails for the first time.
Tags: carlito, chris jericho, cm punk, Daniel Bryan, Darren Young, David Otunga, Justin Gabriel, NXT, R-Truth, Skip Sheffield, Wade Barrett