-Personally, I’m hoping to see some significant wrestling, even something the length of Bryan/Jericho from the first week, but I’m not holding my breath. Still, I suppose that the whole point of the show is that it’s a learning process for most of the rookies, so we should expect more Otunga/Young snoozefests than Bryan/Jericho-type future classics.
-We get a recap of last week, and I’m reminded of how good Wade Barrett looked in his brief match with Daniel Bryan. Also, for the WWE’s sake, I hope David Otunga picks up the pace, as his mainstream crossover appeal is strong if he ends up being any good.
-This is more of a thought from Raw last night, but I loved how Skip Sheffield called Regal “Coach Regal” the whole night, and how he’s just such a positively thinking doofus compared to Regal’s incredible capacity for evil. If they wanted to, WWE could use Regal to turn the fun-loving Sheffield into a monstrous heel enforcer, or Sheffield’s unbridled enthusiasm could make Regal remember the better part of himself, such as how he was turned when he had to watch over Eugene back in the day. At first, he can’t stand being given an assignment he sees to be beneath him, but the other character is so naturally good-hearted that Regal becomes a true mentor and leader, until his naturally insidious tendencies re-emerge, of course. Still, I imagine that WWE will just feud the two of them, because that seems to be the easier way around things.
Match One: R-Truth and David Otunga vs. The Miz and Daniel Bryan
-Hopefully, they’re done selling Bryan’s rib injury and he can get back to the business of kicking ass and taking names. Of course, the Miz starts out by giving a dickish pep talk to Daniel Bryan, pointing out that he hasn’t won a match yet, and that he hasn’t proven a thing to anyone. Well, to be fair, Bryan’s first opponent was the world champion, but other than that, Miz has a point. Bryan, for his part, gives a bit of a hateful look, but not THAT hateful. Of course, Miz also says that if Bryan gets pinned in this match, Miz will get him thrown off NXT. Huh
-Bryan spends the early part of the match getting the crap kicked out of him, and Miz gets involved for a second only to be thrown over the top, and Otunga and Truth follow up with an assisted somersault plancha, sending Truth over the top and onto Miz and Bryan. This looks like a good time to insert a commercial. And, like clockwork…
-Watching the flow of the match, Miz and Bryan are an even odder team than we already think they are. Sure, Bryan has more experience than Miz, but Miz is charismatic yadda yadda yadda, but the big thing here with them is that Bryan is generally portrayed as a face, while Miz is unabashedly a heel. There’s a decent amount of this on the NXT roster (Punk and Young, Sheffield and Regal), but it’s so strange to see these guys tagging up, because I’m not sure how the audience knows who to cheer for. But hey, the feud between Miz and Bryan, when they get around to it, will be awesome, so I can live with it.
-This match has a couple of fun moments, some intentional, some not. One personal favorite is how Bryan breaks up a pin by kicking Otunga, and it takes him a minute to remember that someone kicked him, so he should probably sell like it hurt or something and stop pinning the Miz. Then, when Bryan tags himself in, some badass indy offense ensues, with Bryan doing his top-rope front dropkick and nearly stepping on Otunga’s head, as the guy was so close. Landing is only slightly awkward, but Bryan? Sells the ribs. From TWO WEEKS AGO. Good man. He also locks Otunga in a heel hook, and it’s not looking good for Team OtungaTruth, so of course Miz tags himself in, and of course he slaps Bryan for some reason, and of course the referee is distracted which allows Truth to kick Miz’s teeth in with a leg lariat, and of course Otunga gives Miz a one-arm spinebuster for the pin. So I’m guessing that really is his finisher? Eh. Weak sauce. Plus, I’m pretty sure that Kozlov uses that same move as his finisher, for as long as he continues to remain employed by the company, anyway.
Winners: R-Truth and David Otunga
-Speaking of finishers, that reminds me; does anyone else find it humorous that poor Michael Tarver’s entire gimmick has been used by Big Show for nearly a year, and now this young guy might have to alter everything about what brought him to the dance because WWE finds it impossible that two dudes can be good at punching people? I say let him keep the knockout punch as a finisher. His works because he’s an awesome boxer, and Big Show’s works because his fist is the size of a toaster. There, done and explained forever. You’re welcome, WWE.
-Anyway, Bryan didn’t lose, so he’s still in. Bryan walks away, leaving Miz in the ring. Despite Miz losing the fall, he still threatens Bryan and tells him that he’ll have him out of NXT. In a neat touch, Bryan threatens a strike, and Miz backs away right quick.
Segment One: Heath Slater Interview
-He talks about Carlito spitting apple in his face. He’s angry, natch, and the two of them will be competing tonight, and apparently it’s next. Alright, let’s see what Slater’s got.
-Matt Striker interviews Miz, and when he asks Miz if he’s the one that let the team down by losing, he just rattles off all of his accomplishments and titles, and says that a team is two people, and if a team is two people, where the hell’s Daniel Bryan, huh? Huh?!
-Oh, there he is.
-He confronts Miz right there, telling him that all of his teammates have carried him in the past. Miz takes offense, calling himself the pro, and the talent on all of his teams, and Bryan simply responds that if he’s the talent, then how come he’s the one who lost. He pushes him hard, and storms off, leaving the Miz speechless for what may be the first time in months that anyone has gotten the better of Miz in a war of words. It was intense, and made Bryan look capable (enough) on the mic, and I like how it suggests that Miz may realize that he is sometimes wrong. It’s not necessarily what’s best for the character, but it’s real, and in that sense, I really like it. However, what I would like to happen isn’t necessarily what should, and probably not what will. In a perfect world, as the weeks go on, their partnership strengthens, to the point where Miz learns to lighten up a bit (but only a bit) and Bryan gains a very, very grudging respect for Miz and his accomplishments. Basically, Miz doesn’t see him as just another rookie, and Bryan doesn’t hate him for being his “mentor” despite having less experience. They don’t like each other, but they still manage to have a beneficial partnership.
-That being said, I do want to see these guys eventually feud, as they really are such polar opposites, so my idea doesn’t necessarily fly. Regardless, I’m curious to see where it goes.
Segment Two: Justin Gabriel
-Justin Gabriel. His father was a wrestler in Africa…who wore a pink best and bow tie. Okey doke. The footage makes this guy look spectacular, kind of a South African AJ Styles, which is what Matt Hardy compared him to on Youtube awhile back. They even show video of him busting out a swanton bomb, thus showing, I suppose, that WWE doesn’t really need Jeff Hardy to do flippy floppy moves.
-Of course, his mic skills are a bit on the weak side. Not awful, mind you, just…weak. His interview segment in the video package is great, but when talking with Matt Hardy a minute later, everything just feels canned and bland. Which rhymes.
-Hardy and Gabriel are interrupted by Chris Jericho and Wade Barrett (the latter of which he’ll be facing in the main event tonight), and Jericho reiterates how Barrett is his protege, and he’s super awesome, etc. Barrett also has trouble pronouncing the word “favorite” more than once, but hey, it’s live television, and he’s a rookie, so I suppose it’s no big deal. If the match goes longer than three minutes, then I’m interested to see what we get in a one-on-one match between the two.
Match Two: Heath Slater vs. Carlito
-Neat touch as Carlito tries to spit apple in his face again, and Slater ducks. Aaaaaand ads!
-We come back to Slater in an armbar. WWE, where anything can happen!
-I’m glad that Carlito is a coach on this show, because he’s never on television anymore, and I think that, when motivated, he’s a good wrestler and a great talker. Sure, he’s motivated maybe once every two years, but I get to see the guy wrestle again, and that works as well as anything else. The match between Carlito and Slater is solid, if unspectacular, although Carlito busts out a neat little sit-down spinebuster. Ending comes when Carlito goes for a Backstabber, but after a few counters and near falls, Slater rolls him up out of the corner and steals it.
Winner: Heath Slater
Segment Three: Darren Young
-With that absurd fur coat and wacky glasses, his entrance attire makes him look like Buckwheat from the Little Rascals grew up to be a mediocre and moderately successful pimp. He comes off naturally enough in his interview, but oh MAN does this guy need to be retooled as someone who isn’t, well, such a tool.
-Again, CM Punk is the highlight of the show, as he’s talking to Serena and Luke Gallows about Young, and Young is RIGHT THERE behind him. It’s not that Punk doesn’t know he’s there; he just doesn’t see Young as much more than a housecat, i.e. “Oh, Mr. Whiskers hates when someone’s sitting in that chair by the windowsill, but you know how he can be sometimes.” Love it. Then, Young manages to say what every damn face in the company that’s encountered Punk should have said ages ago, and would have made the Jeff Hardy feud so much less infuriating and irresponsible: “Punk, I respect your straight edge lifestyle, but why can’t I live my life the way I want to?” Succinct, to the point, and perfectly understandable and respectable. Too bad Hardy could only say, “Yeah, well I’m gonna be the WWE CHAM-PEE-YUN!” See kids, you don’t have to like drugs to hate CM Punk. It’s alright to hate him just for being a preachy, cheating douchenozzle.
-CM Punk pushes for Young to be straight edge, however, essentially saying that it’s the only way he’s going to get any help from Punk. Also, side-note: Luke Gallows is MUCH softer spoken than one would expect, and his voice isn’t nearly as low as one would expect, either. That’s not to say that he sounds like Mike Tyson, or anything, but you figure he’d have a bellow to him.
-Raw Recap, Wrestlemania Rundown.
Match Three: Wade Barrett vs. Justin Gabriel
-In a pleasant turn of events, Justin Gabriel isn’t dressed like Elektra tonight, instead just wearing a Matt Hardy tank in addition to his wrestling attire. Works for me, at least until he gets his own merch.
-Cole makes a salient point, namely that these are the two rookies that seem to most take on the personalities of their pros. Indeed, Barrett is an arrogant prickish heel, and Gabriel is a high-flying risk-taker. Not that hardy takes many risks anymore, but like Matt Hardy when he was entertaining. Cole also says some interesting things about Wade Barrett, explaining why he wears the jacket over his shoulders instead of normally, as well as why he wears a different color rose each time. Well, I find them interesting. This could also mean that I’m almost miraculously boring as a human being.
-Match is fun, but too short. Both of these guys show a ton of promise, and I really can’t wait to see what they turn into. Highlights for Barrett include a sweet slingshot backbreaker, and genuinely looking like a monster. Yes, the guy is big, but he’s not Matt Morgan big, which in some ways is almost prohibitive. Hopefully, he’ll be a “big man” who isn’t so massive that he’s singled out as a “big man” wrestler, and will be flexible enough to take bumps from smaller guys without the whole thing looking silly.
-Gabriel, for his part, moves very well, and reverses a superplex attempt into the 450 splash for the pin. Like I said, too short, and I would have loved to see these guys get some time to build something.
-Oh, and Jericho yelling to the announce team, repeatedly, that every aggressive thing Barrett did was “his influence?” Nice touch, Mr. Jericho. Nice touch indeed.
Winner: Justin Gabriel
-Hey, Jericho attacked Hardy from behind! He knocks him out of the ring, and then hits Gabriel with a Codebreaker, and the kid takes it like a man. And AGAIN Jericho is using the real Walls of Jericho! HOORAY FOR THE RETURN OF THE LIONTAMER! Man, did Vince finally realize how badass that thing looks, and that it was worth making Jericho look dangerous at the expense of making his finisher realistically escapable?
-What does it say that I’m more excited about that than any of the stuff from the rookies?
-Let the kids wrestle. That’s all I want. I want to see what the rookies can do in a ten minute match, because if they can’t put that together, even with the help of the pros, then maybe these guys really aren’t ready for prime-time. As far as I can tell, Justin Gabriel, Wade Barrett, and Daniel Bryan are on the road to Raw or Smackdown, and Heath Slater may be alright. Otunga still bores me, Young needs to be completely repackaged, and I haven’t seen enough of Tarver or Sheffield to make any judgments yet. So, right now, it’s about 50/50 for coming out of this thing with some worthwhile contenders, but what we really need to see is what these guys are capable of in an actual wrestling match that lasts more than fives minutes. It may not be the most entertaining thing in the world, but it will definitely give viewers an idea of who they can conceivably vote for (if the WWE Universe really does get some say, as suggested by Matt Striker earlier in the show). After the awful Otunga/Young match from last week, we see that those two are, perhaps, not quite the right guys for the main roster. Yes, it exposes them, but some of these guys need to be exposed if we’re to decide who we want on our main wrestling shows.
-That’s all for now. Comment away, kids.
Tags: carlito, chris jericho, Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, miz, NXT, R-Truth, Wade Barrett