It’s NXT Season 4. Let’s see if the returning to male rookies change can help us.

To recap our new pairings:

Rookie / Pro
Johnny Curtis / R-Truth
Byron Saxton / Chris Masters
Brodus Clay / Ted Dibiase
Jacob Novak / Dolph Ziggler
Derrick Bateman / Daniel Bryan
Conor O’Brien / Alberto Del Rio

No Michael Cole tonight. Instead we get the off pairing of Todd Grisham and Josh Matthews. A bit of a whitebread announce team, but they should be inoffensive.

R-Truth calls his rookie the hottest thing since grits. Brodus Clay has a Bam Bam Bigelow build. Daniel Bryan as a pro still tickles me. And Del Rio brings his personal ring announcer and a Mercedes even to a B-show like NXT. Conor O’Brien has a crazy look about him. They give the rookies 30 seconds to try to impress. Johnny Curtis fails utterly. Brodus Clay can at least sound like a heel. Byron Saxton generically kisses up to the audience as well to no avail. Jacob Novak rambles on about Monopoly and owning his competition. Derrick Bateman is in his home state and goes for the cheap pop. He’s Mantastic. Conor O’Brien admits he looks like a rat, but rats are sole survivors and he’s going to take the cheese. We get our first rookie/pro conflict as Del Rio calls his rookie boring, just like Daniel Bryan. This leads to a pro/rookie tag team main event.

Oh yeah, Bryon Saxton used to be on the ECW announce team with Josh Matthews. I wonder if he can wrestle. But the first match is Johnny Curtis versus Jacob Novak. Why is Maryse taking notes? It looks like these two have spent enough time in development to wrestle a basic match. Curtis at least manages a top rope Legdrop for the win. Bland but a big step up from most season 3 matches. Brodus Clay used to be a bodyguard for Snoop Dog. He’ll probably get less contact highs in WWE.

Rookie challenge #1, with immunity at stake once again, involves setting up a ladder to grab a flag then run back looking for the best time. Brodus is not quick. Byron doesn’t really try, just acts cocky. Jacob Novak does okay and that is enough to win.

We come to the main event, where the pros look a lot better than the rookies. Daniel Bryan does an insanely long airplane spin and shows no sign of being dizzy after it. Both Bryan and Bateman show they are willing to dive to the outside. But, in the end, Del Rio gets Bateman in the Cross Arm-breaker and the rookie taps out immediately.

So an attempt has been made to make this show credible again. The new announce team was a huge improvement. The announcers were actually willing to stay in the background and let the show be more important that their banter. Which is not to say they had no banter but I actually liked the pair. This could be the team of the future for all we know.