– Be sure to follow our recap of NXT season 1 on its delightfully-organized tag page and catch up on any episodes you might’ve missed. Justin Roberts is only like 12 weeks away from being choked to death with a tie, so get on this now.
– Every share is a vote for Daniel Bryan. Let’s keep him on the show, guys!
– Your comments are also greatly appreciated. Let’s talk about the 4-year old wrestling that was treading water four episodes in.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT, originally airing March 9, 2010.
Best: Tonight We’re The Franz Fravorite!
“WOO YEAH TONIGHT WE’RE STARTING OFF THE SHOW, NO RIDICULOUS BACKSTAGE CONVERSATIONS FOR ME THIS WEEK. I CAN SLAP A TORNADOOOO WHEN I LIVE FOR THE MOMENT THERE AIN’T NO AIN’T NO IN ME or whatever that lyric is YEAHHH”
“shit wait this makes me jeff hardy, doesn’t it.”
Worst: Missed Opportunities
The opening match is a pretty solid tag affair pitting Matt Hardy and Justin Gabriel against Darren Young and the Straight Edge Savior version of CM Punk, aka “Wild and Young.” Punk sneaks in while the referee’s occupied and Goes To Sleeps (?) Matt Hardy so Young can pin him, then orders Luke Gallows to beat up Young anyway. The announcers are all, “well now I’m REALLY confused” and yeah, me too, but it’s less about confusion and more about how depressing the missed opportunities of NXT season 1 are.
The first and most obvious one is that Justin Gabriel is pretty bad-ass. Here he’s a young guy with a legit international pedigree who is putting on the best non-Bryan Danielson matches on the show. He’s got fire and just enough personality to make it work, and we haven’t yet learned that he doesn’t have much in the tank besides “being able to comb my hair.” Shortly after this show he joins the Nexus and becomes the bullet in their gun, getting his 450 splash over as this heavily-protected, deadly finish that can even incapacitate John Cena, the least incapacitatable person in the history of wrestling. Fast forward a few years and Gabriel is a nobody who keeps getting put in D-grade tag teams before somebody gets hurt and he gets tossed aside. Why did Justin Gabriel never become a thing? Why couldn’t he still be?
The second big missed opportunity is the Darren Young/CM Punk storyline, which I feel like I’m gonna write about every week. The Straight Edge Society is the GREATEST, an easy, judgmental gimmick that is just BEGGING for young, impressionable party boy stars with stupid haircuts to fall under their influence and get transformed into something dirty and square. The story here seems to be playing out with a Wyatt Family vibe, with Punk continually confusing and breaking down Young to gain control over him and force him into giving up his individuality, but … well, spoiler alert, that doesn’t happen. Young’s off the show in the second week of eliminations and doesn’t become a Prime Time Player until he gets booted out of the Nexus (for losing to John Cena, natch) and getting one of those offscreen Ryback refreshes.
So yeah, watching Justin Gabriel wrestle Darren Young makes me wonder what the hell happened, and why these guys didn’t go in their natural directions. I guess I’ll have a better understanding of that when the rookies start getting ranked in a couple of weeks and everything stops making sense.
Worst: So I Guess Big Show Has Always Loved Syphoning Daniel Bryan’s Heat
“You wanna know what he does on his little BLYOGS?” – Michael Cole, a guy who in a few years would be starring in a YouTube show and shilling the WWE App 5 times per show every show
Because NXT hates you and wants you to die, the second match of the night pits NXT Rookie Daniel Bryan, a guy I’m assuming you’ve never heard of, against former World Heavyweight Champion The Great Khali. This is Bryan’s second match against a world champion in four shows, which probably seems fair to a guy like Skip Sheffield who is ALSO on this reality TV show and has wrestled 1 1/2 times period.
Anyway, Bryan/Khali is basically what you’d expect — surprisingly good because Bryan could make wrestling a bag of laundry entertaining, and also kinda shitty because Khali ends up no-selling everything and handflopping Bryan in the head to pick up the win. He even pins him with a foot on his chest. That seems condescending at first, but I guess I can’t remember Khali ever going for a lateral press, so whatever. After the match Big Show — the once and future king of showing up to make sure nobody cares as much about Daniel Bryan as they should — comes to the ring to confront Khali and … nope, he just chokeslams Bryan. Whoops! Show is Miz’s tag team partner here, so, uh, couldn’t Show have just wrestled Bryan instead? Cut out the rigid middleman?
Worst: LIKE I SAID, BE SURE TO ENJOY WRESTLEMANIA 26
Bret Hart’s gonna be there. I bet that match will be GREAT.
Best: Heath Slater Doing Corkscrew Planchas
When I think back to watching NXT when it originally aired, I remember all of these matches being bad. Turns out I was swayed too much by the deadness of the crowd (who don’t give a shit about what’s happening because they’re live at a WWE show and will only react to people, situations and words they already know) … some of this stuff is pretty good, like Heath Slater dragged out Michael Tarver’s best-ever WWE match and hitting a damn corkscrew plancha on him in the process. The crowd reacts with mild silence and Michael Cole just ignores it and has a conversation with Josh about whether or not his win/loss statistics are correct. BECAUSE THIS IS A SHOW WHERE ROOKIES ARE TRYING TO BE POPULAR WITH WRESTLING FANS.
Slater gets the win with a roll-up that doesn’t look great because even Michael Tarver’s butt is a little sloppy, improving to 3-0. As a reminder, even though the announcers obsess about win-loss records the win-loss records don’t mean anything, and eliminations will occur based on the votes of the WWE Pros, except they won’t because management eliminates the first two guys by decree. How are you liking this revolutionary concept in television history?
Worst: The Wrong Entrance Themes For The Wrong Guys
As I mentioned, these NXT shows are taped in front of Raw and Smackdown-ready crowds, so they want to react and interact with wrestlers they know, join in on catchphrases they know how to sing and wear shirts that were either $10 too expensive or begged for. It’s not to say that they’re stupid or anything, they’re just used to a thing and that’s what they want.
So if you’re trying to get some NXT rookies over as heels and some over as faces, why are you making faces come out to recognizably heel entrance themes and vice versa? Justin Gabriel gets Matt Hardy’s theme and Heath Slater gets Christian’s, but Daniel Bryan’s out there trying to get face reactions while ‘I CAME TO PLAY’ blares in the background. Skip Sheffield has it even worse. He’s a cornfed meathead in a cowboy hat and a little vest and he LOVES YOU THE FANS but he’s walking out trying to get cheered with William Regal’s ominous instrumental backing him? What’s that?
If you want to pair heels and faces up so you can tell a bunch of different pro vs. rookie stories, that’s fine, but damn, let them come out to American Bang.
Best: It’s A Shoot, Brother!
Skip Sheffield has SHOOOOOOT written across his ass. Just wanted to make you aware of that forever.
There isn’t much to say about the Skip/Wade Barrett main-event other than Jericho going full TALK ABOUT WADE BARRETT and the Shoot Panties, but it was fine. It seems crazy unfair to me that Skip’s only gotten to wrestle twice in four shows with an “evaluation week” coming up, but I know how bent out of shape about the Internet he eventually gets so I’ll let it slide.
And hey, Wade Barrett’s got a bright future in WWE, pending the discovery of any bad news.