NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces. But its primary goal is to make future superstars who will one day grace our televisions on Raw. Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week we find out if the show’s gone SAWFFFFFFT after last episode’s Match of the Year main event.
Corey Graves attacked by The Ascension
The Ascension manhandles Corey Graves during a backstage interview with Renée Young in classic, effective wrestling trope to set up this episode’s main event. And, as a special bonus, Graves is injured and unable to compete.
The beatdown was fine, but O’Brian needs to work on his maniacal laughter, as it comes off more Dr. Evil than intimidating. And while Rick Victor’s black contact lenses look cool under the sweet lights during their intro, in the interview segment he just looks blind. Watch this segment again – Victor looks ridiculous trying to stare down Graves. Oof.
Maybe I’m being a much too cynical wrestling fan, but I just don’t think The Ascension can work as serious evil dudes, especially not after what The Wyatt Family accomplished portraying of actual honest-to-God wrestling evil. And after Conor O’Brian’s performance in the main event, I’m not sure what WWE thinks of him either.
Verdict: Superstars worthy.
CJ Parker vs. Tyler Breeze
Tyler Breeze debuted his bitchy voice on last week’s episode, and this week we’re treated to his “stinkface,” which is just as glorious. His contempt for CJ Parker and his awful hippie lifestyle just oozes through the arena; I especially loved his repeated screams of “you’re disgusting.” Last week I wondered if his character was too close to Fandango’s, at least in execution. Here Breeze was a determined, angry wrestler bent on revenge. He had clear purpose and executed it in character, something Fandango hasn’t done yet.
This is a wonderful combination of silly gimmicks that work so well together, but it spells bad news for the newly minted Phish-Fanatic (Phanatics? I don’t even want to know, to be honest). I’m not sure how he’ll work against another opponent – sort of like how Swagger’s “real American” gimmick was seemingly constructed to go against a babyface Mexican champion in Alberto Del Rio and not much else. After that feud, the Zeb Colter angle , while enjoyable, hasn’t had any teeth. Without Prince Pretty to bounce off, not sure Moonchild has any legs either.
But Breeze can play his iPhone obsessed duckfaced perfection against anyone and it’ll work. I would have liked have seen a longer match here, especially since Breeze’s first couple of bouts were quick squashes, but I’ll never complain about “foreign object” victories for heels. A quick 4G to the forehead was enough to capture the victory for Breeze, and continue a great debut run in NXT.
Verdict: Main Event worthy.
Emma interview with Renee Young
This was a nice, quick segment to re-ignite Emma’s beef with Summer Rae, who injured her enough to miss out on a NXT Women’s Championship match with Paige. Another great example of how NXT sets up clean and easy-to-follow NXT feuds. Even the most inconsequential matchups (outside of jobber squashes) are given enough juice for the viewers to understand who these people are and what they want. If WWE gave the mid-card feuds even a fraction of the attention NXT does, the overall story would be much richer.
Also, putting Emma and Renee together is too much cute at once. I had to watch one of those Sarah McLachlan Animal Abuse commercials just to even things out.
Verdict: Raw worthy.
Emma vs. Summer Rae
Summer Rae targeting Emma’s injured shoulder was fucking great. As I wrote earlier, NXT does the small stuff well. Summer injured that shoulder in her attack three weeks ago, and working it over again gives her in-ring credibility.
I loved how this match evolved into a submission war with Summer’s cool looking leggy full-nelson leading (screaming, “Ask Her!”) to the Dil-Emma in the same sequence. A nice 5-minute match that keeps Emma strong for a future title match, and keeping Summer effective in the ring and ultra heelish with the Bubble Solution blinding after the match. I love it! Two foreign object appearances in one show. NXT is after my heart.
Verdict: Raw worthy.
Scott Dawson/Sylvester Lefort confrontation with Enzo Amore/Colin Cassidy
Four insane men in one room making zero sense. SAWFT! I did enjoy Dawson’s sad “ooh” response to Sylvester’s reason why he hadn’t been paid yet. Trying to grade segments like this is impossible, if judging it by main-roster standards. Sure, it’s ridiculous stuff, but it’s so great to see guys who get to be characters and having some fun, which is something severely lacking in WWE beyond guys like Damien Sandow. So it might be stupid at times, but at least they’re not afraid to let loose and give us the goofy.
Verdict: Main Event worthy.
Summer Rae cuts down Sasha Banks
I like how this promo was lite on the normal Diva name-calling and heavy on Summer’s intensity and desire to be a WWE superstar. She correctly touts she’s on the main roster, but claims she doesn’t need to slum it down in NXT. This is complete bullshit, of course, not just because the Women’s wrestling in NXT far surpasses WWE, but also ‘cause Summer has yet to have a match on the main roster. As a heel promo, her intensity and “backbone” angle about kicking Paige’s was a nice complement to AJ’s promo on RAW. If they can keep this strong focus of feuds being about the best women’s wrestler, the division will only get better and better.
Scott Dawson vs. Enzo Amore
Not a lot of great wrestling on this episode of NXT, which I’ll forgive after getting a Match of the Year candidate last week. This match really just set up Alexander Rusev joining Sylvester Lefort’s Legionaries group, which the announcers curiously no-sold as it happened. This was a classic mid-card Raw style clusterfuck of a spot, with the patented distraction finish to round things off.
Scott Dawson’s gas station mechanic gimmick will get him nowhere, I can’t believe there’s somebody backstage that thinks this is great. If the entire hook is “redneck hangs out with sweaty Frenchman” then yikes. Dawson is fine in the ring, and if William Regal compares you to Arn fucking Anderson each week, you can’t suck. Just drop the menial labor schtick and give him anything else to do.
Enzo and Big Cass are supposed to be heels, but “S-A-W-F-T SAWWWWWFFFFTTT“ is as over as anything in NXT, and The Realest Guys in the Room are a better version of 3MB – hilarious heels that are fun to watch get beat up. I watched this episode three times, and I laughed each time on Enzo’s “zero dimes” line.
Verdict: SmackDown! worthy for Enzo/Big Cass, Main Event (at best) for everyone else.
Sami Zayn Promo
I have to admit, as soon as I realized Renee was interviewing Zayn, my first thought was “I HOPE THEY GET MARRIED ON RAW ONE DAY THEY ARE SO CUTE TOGETHER.” Then Zayn went ahead and called her “a ray of sunshine.” C’mon guys, I’m trying to write a macho wrestling column here, try not to make me feel all squishy inside.
ANYWAY, how great was this segment? Zayn is a bona fide star already, and giving him extended mic time against the Bo Dallas Experience was a great way to highlight him even further. Zayn cut Dallas down without acting like a dickface, and anytime a face does that an angel gets its wings. For anyone worried that he might not work without the El Generico gimmick, it’s clear now that he and WWE felt his natural personality, incredible in-ring skills and charisma would make him a star. You know, just like the two other guys who followed a similar path, Punk and Bryan. Not a bad way to start your WWE career.
Dallas took his cluelessness to another level with a “Boo-Urns” esque lunatic rant about how much the people love him, all while wearing a suit only Harry or Lloyd could love. He seems to relish his new role stealth-heel role completely, wearing his 100-watt shit-eating grin in the most punchable way possible. I’m actually a little surprised he’s pulling it off so well. Also, his line, “Just because a couple of people on the internet said you had a good match” was a great way to introduce some of the meta-heat Triple H is using on the main roster down in NXT. I’m a Bo-liever, at least this version of his character.
Verdict: Raw worthy.
Adrian Neville vs. Conor O’Brian
This is probably the worst main event on NXT since I’ve been watching. I like Adrian Neville, but as he showed with his match against Dean Ambrose a few weeks ago, he’s not ready to carry a match just yet. His work is fine here, his offense for a high-flyer is stronger than main-roster guys like Kofi and RVD, but he has little to no crowd interaction to really engage the audience. As a tag-team wrestler, he could have been brought up yesterday, but unless he wants to get stuck in Justin Gabriel/Evan Bourne purgatory, he needs a little more seasoning.
And what to make of Conor O’Brian? Considering he should be positioned as the big hulking heel of NXT, he kind of got his ass kicked in this match. The booking isn’t his fault, but I was surprised by how little they let him shine here. Sure, The Ascension got to “stand tall” after the match, further setting up the main NXT tag feud, but O’Brian was weakened in the process. Vulnerability is tough to sell while portraying a cosplaying steampunk psychopath. Getting pinned clean in the middle of the ring doesn’t bode well for how confident management is in your Hoss skills either.
Verdict: Superstars worthy.