-Quick note before we start: Shawn Michael’s retirement speech this past Monday was possibly the most genuine thing I’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring, and if he STAYS retired, I don’t think there’s a wrestler who went out better. Mick Foley made HHH a megastar, but then came back repeatedly, making the retirement seem more like a gimmick than anything real, although, to his credit, he never claimed that he would fully retire. Ric Flair, famously, pisses away his legacy by the day, destroying memories that are getting older and harder to remember, back when people considered him the best in the world. Now, we all know he’s the best wrestler of all time because people keep telling us that he’s the best wrestler of all time. One of my best friends, who never watched old NWA and WCW programming, has no idea why people think Flair is any good at all. I keep meaning to buy him one of those 3-disc Flair collections to show him why, as I have great memories of he and Steamboat chopping the hell out of each other and going to hour-long draws. Of course, I was eight at the time, but I think it still holds up.
-But really, short of The Rock, this is a pretty well done retirement…IF it sticks. We shall see.
-This is LIVE from my DVR, which is why this wasn’t posted at midnight last night. Still, next day isn’t SO bad, especially by my standards. As long as I’m free Tuesday nights, I’ll try to watch it live and get this thing up by the evening of. That being said, if it’s not posted by six in the evening the following day, that’s out of my hands.
-There’s an alternate opening, which shows some highlights and goes over the point of the show, as well as the criteria that they finally figured out that they would judge the rookies by, you know, once they figured out that they should probably judge the rookies somehow. As much as WWE pushes this as an innovative reality/wrestling show with a format straight from the braincase of Vince McMahon himself, I feel like some of these things have been figured out as they went along. I’m not saying that there’s anything WRONG with that, but I find it worth noting, and so I have.
-My guess is that they’re treating this as a possible jumping-on point to new viewers, but any viewers are already wrestling fans, and have probably heard all about it by now. They go over the boys and the judging criteria, which are, again (and probably for the last time) as follows: Wins and Losses, Strength of Opponents, Work Ethic, and “It” factor. Oh, and then we go to the normal opening. I hope you like the song “Wild and Young,” because here it comes, sports fans! And hey, they have pyro! Was that always there? The fans seem good and pumped, because there’s about to be the wrestling on the magic picture machine! I’m not sure they know it’s NXT, as they might not be quite as excited.
-Striker is in the ring (like, say, a host of the show might do), and introduces the rooks. Heath Slater gets a good pop, while Tarver and Young get nothing (Young looks a bit pissed by that). Gabriel is well received, Sheffield, ignored, Otunga gets kind of a mixed bag, and some nice cheers for Daniel Bryan. Wade Barrett is booed, but he’s a heel, one of the only guys who is ABSOLUTELY a villain. They line up in the ring, and it seems like there’s just gonna be a big ol’ poll up on the screen.
-Ooh, Young is number 8. And I was starting to like him, too. Tarver is next, which doesn’t surprise me. I dig the guy, but he’s had next to nothing to do. Sheffield is six, also to little surprise. David Otunga is five, which I actually agree with. Heath Slater is fourth, and he seems fine with that, as am I. Gabriel, third, and the crowd really likes this kid. I mean, they totally pop for him, on par with or possibly more than for Daniel Bryan, who the entire show has been essentially built around. Wade Barrett, unsurprisingly, is number two, leaving Bryan at number one, and, oh man, should those two feud. You have the clear heel and the clear face, and if the whole show ends up with those two getting ten minutes to wail into each other, then the show has told their story well. I’m looking forward to Cole bitching about Daniel Bryan being number one, as I’m sure is only moments away.
-Young is asked by Striker how it feels to be eight, and blames his situation with CM Punk, forgetting to mention that it sounds like he has marbles in his mouth when he speaks. I don’t get it; his one on one interview makes him sound clear and articulate, but I suppose his nerves get the better of him here, as he sounds more timid. Come on, “South Beach Party Boy,” wow me! That or shave that head, go straight edge, and form a big bad tag team with Luke Gallows. Bryan gets interviewed next, and IMMEDIATELY starts talking smack, calling out Cole for picking on him for lack of “It Factor” (crowd boos Cole, as if that takes a lot of effort to spur), and then saying that some of the other contestants might be married to people that are famous, but can’t wrestle. David Otunga, naturally, is PISSED, and the crowd “oohs” his certainly sick burn. Wow…that…that was kind of a heelish, mean-spirited thing to say…is Daniel Bryan just playing a slightly more arrogant Bryan Danielson? Otunga and Bryan face down, and Otunga says how he has the least experience of the rookies (really?), but that he’s got a ton of charisma, while talking to Bryan is like eating mashed potatoes. Okay, first off, huh? Second off, listening to Otunga speak isn’t exactly captivating television. None of these guys are really super natural on the microphone, but it’s early, and some are probably nervous, so I suppose I can forgive them cutting their teeth out here.
-Also, Bryan makes my point by saying, “Eating mashed potatoes? Does anyone even know what that means?” Nope.
-In six weeks, there will be another pro’s poll, and the lowest ranked person will be eliminated. Each week after that, one person will be eliminated until there are only four guys left, and then they’ll compete for their contract, as well as a title match at a pay-per-view against a champion of their choosing. Should we already book Miz vs. Daniel Bryan for that one? The only other one I can think of would be Wade Barrett vs. Jericho, but heel vs. heel matches kind of suck, and I kind of expect Edge to be champ by then. Oh, and there’ll be a battle royal tonight with all of the rookies, and the winner gets to host Monday Night Raw. Yippee. In other news, WWE couldn’t find a D-list celebrity, Hall of Famer, or athlete-who-is-also-a-fan for next week. Who wants to wager that it will be Michael Tarver? Thought so.
-Michael Cole goes on a HUGE rant bashing Bryan, and he almost seems legitimately ticked off. If he’s not, it’s the best acting Cole has ever done, so kudos to him.
-Next: Raw Pros vs. Smackdown Pros in an eight-man tag. Alright then.
Match One: Carlito, Christian, William Regal, and The Miz vs. Wade Barrett, CM Punk, Matt Hardy and R-Truth
-Jericho has Wade Barrett tagging along, and, now that I notice it, Chris Jericho is wearing a suit…and it seems Wade Barrett will be wrestling for him tonight. Jericho is resting from Wrestlemania, so he’s sitting this one out. Also, when asked who he voted for, he, forgetting the rules that the pros theoretically followed, says Wade Barrett. When Matthews points out that he’s unable to vote for his own rookie, Jericho replies, “I do what I want.” Cole starts laughing and then, forgetting that he’s on television, says, “Ooh, I love Jericho, anyway, here we go…” I think Cole became a fan for a second, which amuses me.
-Also, if you think I’m doing anything resembling move-for-move recapping of an eight man match, you, gentle reader, are out of your proverbial mind. However, it’s off to a great start, where Truth punches Carlito right in the mouth, sending apple flying through the air like tickertape. I also like how Punk almost disliked Truth for bothering to tag him in, but he does in anyway, and Jericho puts over how great a wrestler he is. Regal is tagged in, and he gets down on his knees and begs for them to either switch rookies, or for Punk to save him straight-edge style. The announcers say the former, I’m not completely sure it’s not the latter. Still, Punk just smiles and tags in Wade Barrett. Regal, ever the gentleman, shakes his hand, and then tags in Christian, having not applied a single hold or performed a single maneuver. This is almost more a segment that takes place in a wrestling ring an a match of any kind. Oddly enough, I’m not necessarily against it for NXT. This show is all about relationships, so why not put that front and center?
-Jericho, of course, asserts that Regal tagged out because he’s scared of Barrett. I can see that too, as I can’t imagine Chris Jericho ever lying to his viewers. After a brief exchange, Barrett tags in Matt Hardy, and the crowd still really likes this guy. Sorry, Matt isn’t doing it for me anymore. Also, instead of acknowledging any history between the two of them, Christian just tags in Miz. Hardy gets put on the top rope, but he wraps his legs around Miz and they both fall to the floor outside.
-We come back to a big exciting headlock from Carlito on Matt Hardy. Aaaaand that’s why he hasn’t been on Raw in months. It’s interesting how Cole has so completely embraced his heel role here, laughing at all of Jericho’s snide comments to Matthews. When Michael Cole says that he’s an expert on nerds, Jericho quips, “the voice of the WWE, ladies and gentleman.” People, if you’re able to watch NXT again (I’m not sure if Hulu has it), just listen to the Jericho commentary, as it’s just gold. He goes from discussing his own excellence to discussing the talent of the guys in the ring to the importance of the rookies. This feels like the one show where Jericho is allowed to be more or less himself, still fully embracing his heelish character, but with enough real Jericho to make him different. Oh, and there’s wrestling, too, and it’s good seeing Regal inthe ring hurting people again.
-Jericho, on Josh Matthews’ two matches of experience: “Don’t shoot on me, I might have to attack you.” Michael Cole: “Teeheehee!”
-Nice little segment comes between CM Punk and Christian, and man would I LOVE to see these guys wrestle more, but they’re on different shows. A few scant seconds later, we get the crazy finisher schmoz as everyone comes in and hits something or other, which allows Barrett to tag himself in just in time to eat a reverse DDT by Christian. The ref is distracted trying to get CM Punk out of the ring, giving Jericho the time to run to ringside and grab Christian’s ankle, keeping him busy just long enough for Barrett to recover, hit Christian with his fireman’s carry slam, and grab the pin for his team.
Winners: Wade Barrett, CM Punk, Matt Hardy and R-Truth
-I don’t do star ratings for television shows, but the match was watchable enough and made brilliant by Jericho’s commentary. Seriously, one of the best things about NXT is that the wrestlers tend to act like daddy isn’t paying attention, so they can just kind of act however they like, and it makes them far more interesting and well-rounded characters. Sometimes, the pros are a far more intriguing aspect of the show than the rookies. Just pay attention to Jericho, Punk and Regal for excellent examples of this.
-Also, Jericho is acting all buddy buddy with Punk, and I pray to the wrestling gods that we see more of those dudes interacting with each other.
-Shawn Michaels Wrestlemania, retirement, and career retrospective. It’s very nice.
Match 2: Rookie Battle Royal
-Everyone teams up on Barrett immediately, and he’s eliminated within seconds. With that business done, everyone gets down to the business of beating on each other, and we go to commercial.
-As we come back, Young is gone, and Sheffield took a backdrop out of the ring during commercial. Ooh, apparently, Young was eliminated by an awesome running elbow from Bryan. Tarver tries to take Bryan out, but gets eliminated while Bryan skins the cat. However, as he comes back in, Slater hits him with a crossbody, eliminating both of them. It’s down to David Otunga and Justin Gabriel, and I’m thinking Otunga’s got this one, as his whole gimmick is that he has a ton of personality, although I don’t know how much personalit someone has if their gimmick is that they have a lot of personality. Meanwhile, and the guys-hitting-each-other-front, Gabriel does an awesome kick combination, and then hits him with a 450 splash, of course, Gabriel then realizes that he has to throw out all 250-odd pounds of muscle and dead weight, and he can’t do it. Otunga hits Gabriel, and then just throws him over the top, as it’s something he can do without screwing up.
Winner: David Otunga
-R-Truth comes out to celebrate, and David Otunga will now guest host Monday Night Raw. Striker comes out to interview him, and, frankly, Otunga says little of note, other than that he wants 427 green M&Ms in his dressing room. Michael Cole yells about how, right there, is the It factor. He speaks about as well as Ezekial Jackson, Cole. He’s not the second coming of The Rock, and Daniel Bryan is looking more and more right.
-Six weeks in, and I’m still enjoying it well enough. It was a two-match show, and the battle royal was about three to four minutes long (not counting commercials), so it’s not like tonight was a great night for athletic competition, although there was certainly fun to be had in the pro vs. pro tag team match. Ultimately, the ranking adds another layer to the “competition,” as it gives wrestlers different motivations and reasons to like, hate, or feel indifferent to each other. Again, the show’s power is in their relationships, at least until they give some of the rookies a chance to cut loose in a match that lasts more than five minutes. That being said, Rey Mysterio and CM Punk had a hell of a match in 6:30, so maybe someone needs to step up.
-Commentary awaits, and I’ll see you next week.
Tags: chris jericho, Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, NXT, Wade Barrett