With this past week’s NXT Rival, it has become glaringly obvious that the WWE’s Main Talent and those that are down in Florida are two different breeds. I think that it is time to give my take on it at the very least.
Let’s look first at what we have from the main roster. With Raw and Smackdown no longer having separate brands and the storylines getting stale, it seems like it is getting harder and harder to watch the product. Mismanaged storylines such as the removal of the Authority at Survivor Series have many in the IWC shaking their heads at the very least. Talents that are liked are usually teased at getting ahead while talent that Vince and those in the back in management want to go with are given the real push.
Enter Roman Reigns.
When he was a part of the Shield, he was liked. This is mainly because the group was unique and had a good chemistry with one another. Each member had their own little bit that added up to the whole of the group. But once that group was broken up by Rollins’ betrayal, everyone else seemed to find their voice. Reigns has stayed the same. He still has the vest. He still has the same music. He still has the moves that he used to perform in his own rallies while part of the group. He even has the same catchphrase. There is nothing truly new about him. But the minds that control the storylines of WWE have decided that this is enough for him to be considered enough of a star to push to the moon. But we saw the result of that with the Royal Rumble. No one wanted him to win. Everyone knew he would win. Those two things led to the entire match being turned on by the crowd from the moment that Daniel Bryan was eliminated. So, as with last year, there are rumors that the entire storyline for Wrestlemania 31 has changed yet again to include Daniel Bryan. History repeats itself, but I do not believe that we will get the same happy ending that we got at the end of the 30th anniversary. I believe that either the crowd will be happy with a Lesnar win, or the entire thing will fall apart with Reigns taking the title as they likely originally wanted. We have likely traded one load for another with Cena exiting the main spotlight for the moment only to have Reigns take the powerhouse spot.
That is your main storyline for the WWE. In NXT however, we have an interesting story going on at the moment at multiple levels. At NXT Rival, we have Kevin Owens beating Sami Zayn until he couldn’t perform anymore to get the belt off of him. These two are definitely crowd favorites and everyone from the crowd to the IWC seemed to love the match. No doubt we will see Zayn return for his title rematch soon enough. But now we have a number one contender that rose from a tournament held over the past few tapings for the Network. All of which drove us to the Finals match between Finn Balor and Adrian Neville. This was another phenomenal match with a great story being told with the action in the ring. The commentary (which I will get to later) stated that both of them were daredevils and they didn’t know why Neville was taking it slowly with Balor. It was clear that Neville knew that Balor was in his “darker side” and was more dangerous the faster that he was allowed to go. So he slowed the match. Finally he lost control of Balor, which resulted in Balor getting his #1 Contender spot. Both of these stories alone would likely beat any one that Raw or Smackdown is currently broadcasting.
Divas vs. NXT
Moving on to the next point, we have the Diva’s Division in the WWE and the Women’s Division in NXT. The Fatal Four Way match at NXT Rival was a clear sign that there is a huge divide in talent between the Main Roster and NXT. Paige has been wasted for the most part by being moved up to the ‘big leagues’. She had one good run and story with AJ Lee and then she has faded behind the storyline that we supposedly wanted with the Bellas. The story with Nikki and Brie has been light in entertainment to say the least. The feud between the two was short lived and long forgotten by the end of the 30 day stipulation that was added at Hell in a Cell last year. Since then, we have gotten stale stories between the Divas that I can’t even explain because it is just that memorable.
Back to NXT and the current stories there. We have the feud between Charlotte and Sasha Banks. I haven’t even fully kept up with NXT (to my embarrassment) due to being frustrated with the main product. But the story is kept up to where I can follow it with the brilliant videos and the commentary (getting a hint?) letting me know what I have missed. Sasha has been taking shots at Charlotte with her family name and whatnot. Meanwhile, we have Bailey that has been introduced as the superfan that has been getting to live her dream. But she is finding out as time goes on that she can’t be in awe as much as she is forced to get more aggressive in her hunt for the title. This has been shown brilliantly with her interactions with Charlotte and the attack that led to the Fatal Four Way in the first place. Becky Lynch was sort of new to the feud, but this is to be expected in NXT and I am sure that we will hear more about her as time goes on.
That being said, the women in this match put on a clinic for what women’s wrestling should be. Hell, they showed what just plain WRESTLING should be. None of the weak looking moves. None of the botches that seem commonplace. No catfights. Instead, we get a technical level that is miles ahead of what most of the Divas roster can accomplish. And no, I don’t consider the women of NXT to be Divas despite what they are trying to get across on commentary. Divas has a stigma, I feel, in the WWE. These are mostly those with limited wrestling skill along with storylines that have mainly followed along relationships with the male roster members. You have your outliers from the past and present such as Paige, AJ Lee, Lita, Mickie James and even Trish Stratus. But otherwise, it is slow, sloppy looking wrestling all around from what I have seen as of recent. Nothing that compares to what we saw Wednesday night. It is just too exciting to even compare the two.
Now, according to most that watch the product, we come to one of the biggest differences. The announcers for the Main Roster (JBL, Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, Booker T and Byron Saxton) have been severely lacking as of late. From giggling when they are supposed to be calling a match, putting down talent before they even have a chance to stand (Ascension) and just plain not following the action at times, it is getting more and more frustrating to have the volume up during a match on the Main Roster. JBL has some of the problems with this. He is a heel commentator whose style tends to mimic Fox News to me. Look at the facts as you see them, ignore how they might affect those that you favor (“Rah-Rah Cheerleader”) At other times, this persona vanishes when he is having fun with those that he is announcing with. Usually, this includes Cole and Lawler. Michael Cole has been put in the main spot of announcers with being the new voice of the WWE’s Reality Era. Long gone are the full explanations of what happens in the ring. Bring on the “Vintage”, the “out of nowhere” and the blandness. Booker T was brought back to the main lines when Jerry Lawler went out with a medical issue. Now, he has improved to an infinite degree from when he was first starting. I don’t think that he botches any lines as much as he used to and his thoughts are expressed in a much more fluid manner. That isn’t to say that occasionally that side of him doesn’t pop out. But the main problem is him fitting comfortably into the bad habits of the main announce team. The main one being that, in an instant, things will get completely off topic from what is happening in the ring. Either they will get off on a joke between them and they will spend a large amount of time on that, only being distracted by a pin attempt; or they will simply focus on a storyline that is happening later on in the show or the overarching line that the show is based around instead of the action in the ring. As for Lawler, he is…well…Jerry Lawler. He is the same that he always has been. Mostly he is there to be a face if needed, to exclaim loudly at important times and every once in a while, be that creepy Uncle Jerry we all knew and loved in the Attitude Era. Byron Saxton…I can’t really comment on. He is new from what I know of and I haven’t seen a lot of him so I can’t say anything bad or good.
Now, we get to the NXT Announcers. Let’s take the crew that was on the NXT Takeover special. Rich Brennan, Corey Graves and Jason Albert. What a difference there is between these two groups. We get a team that follows the action. We get a team that is fully interested in the product. And seemingly most important, no matter the alignment of the announcers, no one really gets put down in any way. At the most, we get one of them saying that he has to prove himself in NXT, but that is the entire story of this place. Making it here means making it to the WWE, so yes, they have to prove themselves amongst those going for the Main Roster. And usually, by the end of the match, the announcers will all agree that the person gave it their all. Even with the Sami Zayn storyline leading into the REvolution event, we heard how Sami is too nice of a guy to win a title. We got a tease of that being the case, but Zayn eventually won while keeping his morals. And the announcer that brought it up the entire time gave him credit for being himself instead of harping on it further as someone like JBL would do. Everything that you feel during this is just right and nearly always a feel good moment. You don’t get that a lot (Wrestlemania 30 with Bryan being the exception to the rule) with the Main Roster. As an aside, we don’t even get the hard sell on the Network. Now, we know that if we are watching this show, we are already watching it on the Network. But that doesn’t stop commercials during the Rival event from pitching how the Network is free to new subscribers. You could have the announcers pitch keeping the Network after this month, but you don’t even have to do that. The action pitches the value on its own.
Believe it or not, I could go on. But the points that I have brought up should be more than enough to give a conclusion on how I feel about the products of the Main Roster and the group down at NXT. I have stated this in other opinions, but it is just insanely difficult for me to see just how better a show that is in a static location with wrestlers that are pushed in training from day to day are THIS much better than those on the Main Roster. Perhaps it is complacency from being there that long for some.
Or perhaps it is just the millennial in me.
Tags: NXT, NXT Takeover: Rival