NXT Scouting Report: A Cool Breeze Blowin’

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: Who will stand out in a huge 8-man Tag main event? 

Sami Zayn vs. Curt Hawkins

One of my favorite running subplots of Sami Zayn matches is how much his impressive background is brought up by the announcing team. When William Regal  gives his impeccable color analysis, he always mentions Zayn’s international resume and 10-year plus career in THIS BUSINESS. Just two weeks ago Bo Dallas cut a promo where he constantly played up his experience over Zayn’s as subtle joke for fans in the know. And of course, the constant barrage of “Ole!” chants when Zayn does awesome Generico-esque stuff in the ring.

Somebody forgot to slip Alex Riley that memo, as he constantly refers to Zayn’s inexperience and “young” career without a hint of Bo Dallas’ winking knowledge. I’m not surprised that Riley doesn’t pay attention to the indies, as he’s probably too busy writing The Miz/Matt Ryan slash fic to pay much attention. Don’t get me wrong, Riley put over Zayn quite a bit during this match. But this “The Natural” moniker he tried to get started is goofy. Zayn’s decade long career prior to NXT has as much to do with how polished his ring skills are – at least as much as his “natural” ability. I don’t expect ROH and Generico shout-outs on NXT – but Riley’s the only guy seemingly not in on the fact that Zayn isn’t exactly green.

As far as the match went, it was pretty standard stuff – which normally would be just fine. But after getting such high quality action during Zayn’s tussles with The Real Americans, Hawkins just wasn’t up to snuff, the first 3rd of the match where Hawkins dominated the ring wasn’t believable. He might be considered “main roster talent,” but the crowd – who’ve been in a constant state of euphoria during the last few Zayn matches – wasn’t buying what Hawkins was selling. The best part of the match was Zayn’s sell of Hawkins’ enziguri – I loved how he collapsed to the mat, weakly grasping for his opponent as he crumpled. He made Hawkins look tough! Zayn will always pull out a solid match- he’s the closest to Daniel Bryan in the regard going in any level of WWE.

Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.

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Aiden English vs. Local Jobber

Man, I am sucker for this kind of crap. Just ridiculous stuff from Aiden English, who’s gimmick is “Daniel Day Lewis as a pro-wrestler” and I am ALL IN. The spotlight, the not-so-great Pirates of Penzance vocal stylings, the gentleman artist ring awareness. It’s got the air of Damien Sandow’s gimmick, just like Tyler Breeze echoes Fandango. Similar but with enough distinction that I they could both work on the main roster. And just like that fantastic time Sandow sang Randy Orton’s theme song – if English can change his lyrics based on his opponent and current feud – that’ll put him over automatically. Who wouldn’t love that? Listen to the pop he receives when he takes an encore performance – that crowd is hype.

It’s goofy and stupid and I love the shit out of it.

Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.

Bo Dallas Interview with Renée Young

Bo Dallas just threw shade at Curt Hawkins and he had a legitimate point! Bo Dallas used the word nifty in a wrestling promo! Bo Dallas almost made the uber-professional Renée Young lose it on camera and start laughing! What I’m trying to say is, Bo Dallas is a treasure right now and I hope this character translates to the big stage because it is glorious.

Verdict: Raw worthy.

The Ascension/Tyler Breeze/Leo Kruger vs. Corey Graves/Xavier Woods/CJ Parker/Adrian Neville – 8-man Tag-Match

It is difficult to tell a coherent story in any kind of wrestling matchup, as the balance between pure wrestling, television promotion priorities, and performers abilities all have to merge into one single purpose. NXT somehow pulled off a nice little story in an 8-man tag match that could’ve been a giant clusterfuck of opposing gimmicks, feuds, and varying levels of competence is impressive. Most of these guys I’m lukewarm on, but thankfully NXT decided to make the entire match about the wrestler head and shoulders above the rest: Tyler Breeze.

Breeze wanted no part of this random grouping of NXT top guys, shrinking up on the ring apron and even shaking his head when a pro-Breeze chant started up in the crowd. When he did finally tag in, the crowd exploded with approval, and Breeze pulled the perfect heel move. The threw a couple of punches and raced back to his corner. The crowd loved it so much it got a “this is awesome” chant – not for the quality of wrestling but Breeze’s pure dedication to character. I love how much the NXT crowd cares about such things, and it goes a long way to help establish the giant personalities WWE is searching for. They appreciate the nuance and Breeze gives it too them.

And to prove the crowd right for focusing on the singular greatness of Tyler Breeze, the match ending was completely  focused on his unwillingness to get his hands dirty. His compadres in evil bounced, leaving him to fend for himself during an onslaught of babyface fire. Parker, Woods, Graves and then Neville took turns landing huge blows on Breeze to humiliated him as much as possible. Breeze was a champ selling their offense, stumbling around the ring like a 3am drunk desperate to find his car keys on the sidewalk. But despite posing over the fallen heel at the conclusion on their onslaught – the focus was clearly on Breeze. While the four faces shared time mugging for the NXT crowd over his disposed body, Breeze captured all the heel heat for himself. Eight supposed future WWE superstars sharing a ring together – but only one advanced his character and made the match about him while still making everyone look good. Impressive stuff from Tyler Breeze.

Verdict: Smackdown! worthy. 

Matthew Timmons runs the stat-centric WWE website Kayfabermetrics, and can be harassed on Twitter @matthewtimmons.