-To tell you the truth, I’ve actually found it harder to watch WWE programming since I learned of Bryan Danielson’s firing. It’s not that I was a massive fan of his or anything; sure, I liked him well enough when I caught his matches in Ring of Honor or elsewhere, and I wanted to see him succeed as much as anyone else, but I wouldn’t have called him my favorite wrestler. And yes, as I write this a scant four days after the news broke, I can’t help but feel unenthused about every part of the product. Is this what it’s come down to? A guy as good as him gets shown the door for a rule as oft broken as the one he broke, possibly unknowingly? I won’t take the time here to rail against the system, as Pulse Glazer did a much better job in his Tuesday Morning Backlash column, which you should all read if you haven’t. I’d link right to it, if I knew exactly how to do that, but seriously, check out the beefs he has, and I’ll just say, “ditto” right along with them.
-Alright, alright, into the recap. So far, I’m not crazy about the current crop of rookies, but that could change. I already like Kaval based on my prior knowledge, but no one else really grabs me. Also, Percy Watson reminds me of Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Must be the wacky dance moves.
-They replay the beating of the rookies by the pros from last week because, you know, it happened. This makes the choice of LayCool as Pros even weirder, as they can’t get physically involved in anything outside of a slap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with the “no violence against women” policy of WWE these days, but the possibility of antagonistic relationships with ALL of the pairings makes the intentional grouping of LayCool and Kaval a bit more mystifying. Quick sidenote: I’d love to see Kaval take to them, and they to him, and he becomes their deadly ninja enforcer.
-Matt Striker is in the ring, and introduces the rookies, who come out to little or no reception from the crowd. That’s okay; they’re new, and the audience, I suppose, doesn’t know how unbearably awesome Kaval/Low-ki is. But I pray they’ll learn. Anywho, Pros come out next, and most receive a basic reception, except for Kofi Kingston, who gets a massive pop, and Mark Henry, who ALSO gets a massive pop. Dammit, live audiences, stop cheering so loud for Mark Henry! Vince McMahon will think that you like seeing him wrestle, and we’ll have to ACTUALLY watch him wrestle. Nobody wants that, probably Mark Henry included. If his gimmick were sitting around, being big, and eating large pieces of chocolate cake, I’m sure everyone would be much, much happier.
-I’m amused that Striker refers to the rookies as “kids,” solely because Eli Cottonwood is half a decade away from 40. He’s older than half the Pros.
-MVP addresses the beatdown from last week, basically saying that it was an initiation, but also acknowledging that, fair or not, they paid for the transgressions of their predecessors. That being said, he also says that they’re going to do this competition the RIGHT way this time.
-MVP: “Can we let bygones be bygones?” The audience: “Nooooo!” They’re all booed when they shake hands and make up. Wow, fans would much rather have these guys at each other’s throats. Now that I think about it, maybe I would, too.
-There’s going to be a pro’s poll in two weeks, and now’s the time for opportunity, says Matt Striker. He calls forward Kaval and Alex Riley, and man, does he HATE Riley. Even calling him forward, there’s a look of just sheer disgust on his face. Did he pull a Randy Orton in Striker’s gym bag or something? Regardless of the possible sullying of Striker’s personal belongings, those two will compete tonight, and MAN I hope Kaval gets to unleash some of his incredible offense, getting over with the crowd Evan Bourne-style. LayCool are all over Kaval, grooming him like a poodle, and I may just warm up to them. They’re actually slightly more bearable that they’re not calling Mickie James fat and giving girls around the world horrible complexes about their bodies. Again, I see potential in a more permanent union between LayCool and Kaval.
-Before the match starts, LayCool introduces a video package, calling him both “cute” and “cuddly,” and drawing a…confused, shall we say…look from the man himself.
Rookie Video Package: Kaval
-He’s from Brooklyn, yo. Interesting that he relates his growing up in the military to the discipline he’s so proud of. They also show footage of him wrestling all over the world, including in front of 40,000 people in the Tokyo Dome. But that’s not like the real wrestling business, right Michael Cole?
Match One: Alex Riley vs. Kaval
-Kaval already breaks the mold by daring to wear pants instead of trunks. Wow, his kicks are HARD, and the crowd is reacting. Riley gets momentum for a bit, but Kaval comes back with some leg scissors in the corner, followed by a mule kick and a running front kick with a spin that puts Riley down for two. Riley counters a Kaval charge with a flapjack on the ropes, and LayCool coos and cheers on commentary. Did I forget to mention that they were on commentary? It’s not a coincidence.
-Armbars equal ratings, so shows Alex Riley. However, he shows a little something with a nice belly-to-back suplex/uranage combo. Cole continues to push The Miz as the greatest coach in NXT history. Great. While that’s going on, Kaval nabs Riley in a sunset flip, but then just gets up and whomps him in the chest with a double stomp. Ooh, the crowd liked that one. A crapload of kicks later, Kaval also locks in a dragon sleeper on the ropes. Man, the crowd is just oohing and aahing at everything the guy has. He holds it until four, and then springboards off the ropes and hits a flying kick to his face for two. More kicks, including a koppo kick (I think that’s what it’s called) out of the corner sets up Riley for the big double stomp off the top. However, because this is the WWE, thus meant to raise my ire at every turn, Riley moves out of the way, hits a TKO on Kaval, and gets the pin. Well, Kaval looked great, but all of that offense meant nothing, as Riley was able to eke out a win anyway. Hopefully, WWE fans will get behind Kaval, because the last thing another Internet darling needs is another losing streak gimmick, as that one worked out so well for Danielson, eh?
Winner: Alex Riley
-LayCool are, of course, upset. Cole figures that Riley’s victory is due to the Miz’s tutelage. Striker is in the ring with Riley, who says that Miz is partying in LA (he was at E3 this afternoon along with Eve Torres, I know), and that he was invited to go, but he told Miz that he could take care of this one all by himself. LayCool applauds Kaval, and even though they’re not used to losing (unless it takes fifteen seconds, right Michelle? BOOM!), but that he was really good for his first match, and that they can work with him.
-The Pros’ takes? John Morrisson says that Morrison is at a lipo consult (Kofi confirms), but really liked both of them, specifically complimenting Kaval on his kicks. Zach Ryder, who has a massive mole or SOMETHING on the right side of his face, only cares about his rookie, but thought the new ring anouncer chick was hot, and tells her to give him a call. Funny enough; I like Ryder, so I’ll take it as analysis. Cole thinks this is the most hilarious thing he’s ever heard. Cole and Matthews are asked, and they think both were great. What is this, elementary school soccer? Does EVERYONE get a trophy tonight?
Rookie Video Package: Eli Cottonwood
-He’s a biggun’. Like Kaval, he’s a product of a military family, and also played a whole bunch of basketball across the country before going into pro wrestling. What’s he afraid of? HIMSELF. Seriously though, he seems to be going along with his FCW gimmick, which is, essentially, that he’s crazy. I’ll take it. The coming weeks will, naturally, show if he’s any good or not.
-Recap of the NXT Season One Rookies being dicks from last night, and the Raw Roster’s reaction to said dickitude. And by the way, my hopeful friends, I wouldn’t put too much stock into Bryan Danielson being the limo driver. WWE probably just figures it’s “random evil limo driver.” A friend of mine suggested that it might be Chris Jericho, as he was the only one who wasn’t notably at ringside. Also, only in wrestling is a bunch of dudes running around in panties considered intimidating.
-After recapping Fatal Four Way, we’re shown a video of a backstage conversation between Zach Ryder (yay!) and his rookie, Titus O’Neil (boooo…). Titus is in the locker room, minding his own business, when Ryder comes in and, as if to make him seem like an actual human, apologizes, says that they both have tempers, but that they should respect everybody, and that they should just start fresh. He even says, “You’re new, I’m kinda new, I’ve been here for three years.” They pound fists, and Titus echos him with, “Gotta respect everybody,” and the two of them are cool. Wow. Neat, poignant little moment, as Cole and Josh say that it seems we’ll be learning more about the Pros, too. Now, THAT’S an idea I find interesting.
Rookie Video Package: Husky Harris
-One day, someone in WWE Management will have to explain to me how guys who have fathers named “Rotundo” and “Hennig” end up with the last names “Harris” and “McGillicutty.” Anyway, I generally like this guy, even if Glazer thinks that he has stupid facial expressions. He describes his style as unorthodox, and I kind of agree. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.
Match Two: Kofi Kingston and Michael McGillicutty vs. Mark Henry and Lucky Cannon
-Kofi and Henry start out, but Henry wants McGillicutty (apparently ignoring the massive “Kofi” chant that breaks out). After only a second or two, it’s easy to see that McGillicutty belongs in a wrestling ring. His movements are smooth and natural, and perhaps his facial expressions are a bit much, but I’d almost rather a guy oversell than undersell. Lucky Cannon tagged in, and they exchange headlocks and armdrags and whatnot. Cole tells a story of how Cannon, when he was a sheriff’s deputy, was hit in the head with a metal bar when he was 21 and was put into a coma. Lost 45 pounds, too, and yet here he is today. Pretty amazing, I suppose. Kofi tagged in, beats up Cannon a bit, then tags out, and boy does McGillicutty have a nice dropkick. Man, do I HATE typing McGillicutty over and over again. Know what would be a crapload easier? Hennig. Wow, that was SO easy.
-Headlocks equal ratings! I know it’s the second time that I’ve used that joke in this recap, but when I come back to Cannon in a headlock, it just comes to me. Cannon escapes and comes back with a big boot. Don’t quite know what to make of Cannon. I’ve heard he’s nothing great. Josh Matthews: “There’s so much that Lucky Cannon can learn from Mark Henry not only about what to do inside the ring, but what to do in the locker room as well.” Are you sure about that first part, Josh? Ask yourself; ask yourself hard. More headlockery, this time on McGillicutty. They start playing with shoulderblocks and rope runs, but then they get rid of all that pesky energy when Cannon puts McGillicutty in another headlock. That breaks, and Cannon misses a crossbody out of the corner, and McGillicutty runs at him with a spinning neckbreaker unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and this match is done.
Winner: Michael McGillicutty
-Kofi likes McGillicutty, and thinks he has something to prove, which is a compliment. Henry says he was lucky (hardy har) to get a rookie like Cannon, but says he still has a long way to go.
-Let’s ask us some pro-fessionals! Cody Rhodes gets booed like MAD, and his first comment? “Lucky Cannon…you got a real dumb look on your face, you know that?” And that’s a heel, ladies and gentlemen. “You do realize that you just lost? Listen, here’s the way this works: the guys who win get paid more than the guys…than the losers. And that’s what you are tonight, a loser.” He looks at his sheet. “What, you played in the CFL, played arena football, did somebody say to you, ‘Hey kid, you have a good look. You should be a wrestler’? Huh. I’ll tell you what you are. You’re all style, and you’re no substance.” Damn. Mark Henry doesn’t take kindly to that, and asks him to put his money where his mouth is. He challenges Cody to a match with Lucky, and Striker jumps on that one like a live grenade. He accepts, but for next week. Striker asks what we can expect from Cody Rhodes after a week to get ready, and Cody responds. “What can we expect…well…” Then, he hits Striker in the back, knocking him off the ramp onto the concrete. Wow. MVP isn’t cool with that, nor is anyone else, it seems. Again, that is a HEEL, ladies and gentlemen.
-Me likey Kaval, me mostly likey McGilliHennig, and haven’t made any decisions regarding Cannon or Riley. I suppose Riley is alright, but he beat Kaval, thus earning my ire. Honestly, after two weeks, it’s still not quite enough time to get a bead on these guys, although I will say I’m getting some strange Mr. Kennedy vibes from Alex Riley. By that, I mean that there’s a loudmouth quality to him that I saw in one Ken Anderson, and if cultivated, his interviews could tread into stronger territory.
-At the end of the show, however, the biggest takeaway I have is an odd sense of interest in the possibility of seeing more from the Pros than the rookies. Cody Rhodes being remarkably evil? Yes please. LayCool sort of acting like faces, albeit oblivious ones? I’m interested. Zach Ryder being seen as a human being? This might be the reason why WWE decided to put relative rookies and lesser stars on the show as Pros; why not give the established guys a chance to shine in their own way, much like Regal did in the first season? Of course, I’d rather Cody was highlighted on Smackdown each week, and Regal a bigger deal on Raw, but I’ll take what I can get, I suppose.
Tags: Alex Riley, kaval, Kofi Kingston, lucky cannon, Mark Henry, michael mcgillicutty