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wwe nxtThe NXT program started as a crappy reality TV style show where the results were probably rigged. It was pretty bad. That didn’t stop me from watching it, because it showcased some of the up and coming talent that would form the future of the show. The first winner of NXT season one was Wade Barrett, who is still on the main roster, although I’ve got bad news for him, his new gimmick sucks.

The real story of season one was Daniel Bryan, aka Brian Danielson. Danielson was one of the biggest stars of the indie, Japan and Ring of Honor when WWE signed him. He was horribly misused at first but now he is the most over member of the WWE roster.

Over a year ago, NXT changed its format. Gone was the voting, the eliminations and the stupid ass challenges. Instead, NXT became a straightforward, hour-long wrestling show. Matches and promos were the same as regular shows and the show had its own home, Full Sail University. And, slowly and quietly, NXT developed into one of the best wrestling shows on TV today.

NXT now offers a chance for developmental talent to practice the skills they will need to be a star on WWE. NXT also has a singles, women and even tag team championships. These championships are a bit of a double edged sword. If one wins one then either one must quickly lose it in order to move up to the main roster, or one gets stuck in NXT as champion. Current NXT champion Bo Dallas may have held the title for close to a year; but he’s only had a sniff of the main shows.

Incidentally, Bo Dallas is actually Bo Rotundo, son of Mike Rotundo, aka Irwin R Shyster. Bo’s brother was once known as Husky Harris. But after a successful stint in NXT he has been incredible successfully repacked as Bray Wyatt, leader of the Wyatt family.

NXT Stars

Repackaging stars is a big deal in NXT. It’s how Johnny Curtis became Fandango. It’s how Skip Sheffield became Rybak. There are some people with real potential in NXT at the moment. Alexander Rusev has already been in this year’s Royal Rumble and promos are running for him on RAW and Samckdown.

The tag team champions, the Ascension, have promise. New WWE Diva Emma has been showing up in the WWE crowd. Aiden English, whose gimmick is a Broadway actor and singer, is vastly entertaining. Tyler Breeze, a Milan model who constantly takes selfies with his smartphone and doesn’t like being hit in the face, shows a lot of promise. The problem with the NXT crowds, who are smart wrestling fans, is they tend to cheer the talented wrestlers rather than supporting the faces and booing the heels.

When the WWE network goes live NXT will be there. Four episodes of NXT every month is worth about half the price of a network subscription all by itself. In the meantime, find the show on the internet. If you have only one hour to spare for wrestling each week there are worse choices than NXT.

Posted on February 16th, 2014 by Lucian | Leave a Comment
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Royal Rumble

I think it is pretty obvious that WWE has screwed the pooch with this year’s Royal Rumble. What’s the main attraction of the Royal Rumble? Anyone can see that it is the Royal Rumble match!

Yet here we sit, a week from the event and I’m not sure they’ve announced even half the people in it. Who have they announced? Dave Batista, a man I’ve never been impressed with, who has finally decided to come back because, apparently, it’s not so easy to become a movie star. And beyond him? Alberto Del Rio, a man who has fallen so low down the card he jobbed to Sin Cara about a month ago. Then you throw in Kofi Kingston, a man who nobody thinks has a shot, yet they muddy the waters by giving him a win over the champion. Who does that help? Is Kingston going to become number one contender? Not with “Captain Ego”, Brock Lesnar in line first even after Superman Cena.  Right now there is not one credible person in the Rumble other than Batista, and if you go into the match knowing who is going to win then what’s the point? Other entries include CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, and Roman Reigns.

What else does the Rumble have? Well, we’ve got John Cena versus Randy Orton in a rematch of one of the most historic matches in fifty years, the unification of the WWE and the World Heavyweight championships. And there is Big Show versus Brock Lesnar. With the launch of the WWE Network just about a month away, WWE needs to be bring their A+ game more than ever. They unified the titles a month early. They’ve paid barely any attention to the Royal Rumble match and they’ve let Brock Lesnar just crown himself the next #1 contender. The Royal Rumble is going to decide one half of the main event at Wrestlemania. There’s only one champion left for the winner to challenge. Turning it into a throwaway match is just like throwing away money.

I was watching NXT about a month ago, if my research is right it was the 200th episode. The NXT Tag Team champions, a title I hold in slightly higher prestige than the TNA Knockouts Tag Titles, known as The Ascension, had issues an open challenge to any tag team in the world. They were answered by The American… Pitbulls? Here are some highlights.

The Wolves

Now any Ring of Honor fan, or fan of indie or Japanese wrestling knows The American Wolves. Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards have been as famous as you can get without working for TNA or WWE for years now. Which means, of course, once they come to WWE they must be “repackaged.” I’ve never understood why WWE has come to believe every wrestler they hire needs a new name, a new gimmick and near whitewash of their history. I can understand WWE not wanting to acknowledge TNA. TNA at least passes for a vague shadowy ghost of a spectra of a wisp of a challenge to them. But Ring of Honor?

WWE uses RoH as much as a development territory as they do NXT. Where do you think CM Punk came from? Why was CM Punk the last guy they let keep his name? Punk got over in WWE by being the same guy he got over as in the indies and RoH. Bryan Danielson and Daniel Bryan are all but the same and Bryan became Superstar of the Year as voted by the fans. Even worse the pair became Derek Billington (Richards) and John Cahill (Edwards). WWE changed their names and, of course, came up with what my Irish friend Conor could only describe as “shite names.” However that is not the worst news of this story. WWE let the Wolves go. Rather than signing one of the best teams of the modern day, they let them go to TNA. It’s maddening for me to learn this. What’s even more upsetting is I may have to start watching TNA again just to see them.

I’m neither wild nor young anymore yet I still watch NXT. R-Truth is back to asking “wassap?” and people aren’t Crunk anymore. Dolph is perfect. And Dolph is going to face Johnny Curtis. It’s an okay match but that has more to do with Ziggler’s improving ability to carry a match than it has to do with Cutis’s skill. Curtis does hit one big, but an unspectacular aerial move, which misses to set up Ziggler’s win. Derrick Bateman faces Conor O’Brien. Kofi Kingston fills in for Daniel Bryan. The rat man comes up with the win after an unimpressive match.

The first challenge is the Power of the Punch with 2 points to the winner and a chance to earn 3 if they can beat Alex Reilly’s record. Derrick Bateman starts but Johnny Curtis immediately beats him. Byron Saxton doesn’t beat Bateman let alone Curtis. Connor O’Brien makes a cheese joke before failing miserably. Novak gets the coaching to take off his blazer. A mediocre punch. Brodus Clay is last and yet gets a poor score. This punch machine sucks. So Curtis gets 2 points and Reilly’s record is safe.

Byron Saxton gets a shot at Ted Dibiase and with Dibiase in a “hitting rock bottom” storyline Saxton could pick up the win here. After a short match where Dibiase is in control Brodus hits Saxton outside the ring. The problem is it’s right in front of the referee so Saxton gets the win by DQ. Dibiase has Maryse slap Brodus a few times as punishment. Is rookie/pro dissention even novel on this show any more?

This brings us to the NXT Talent show. Derrick Bateman is reading a Haiku. It’s a cheap New York plug and the crowd still doesn’t get behind him. Johnny Curtis flag dances. He actually knows what he is doing and he gets some love from the crowd. Byron Saxton reads a fairy tale. It’s awful and goes on forever. The crowd totally turns on him and the buzzer hits to. Connor O’ Brien tells jokes. Terrible, terrible jokes. Jacob Novak models. Josh has taken over Michael Cole’s place of running down the show when it is stupid. Brodus claims he can make anyone look cool so they send out Michael Cole. He’s as annoying as ever and does Clay no favors by pretending to be his friend. Johnny Curtis is the only one who didn’t look idiotic and incompetent so he manages to win. Only one more immunity point but he is well in the lead. Brodus breaks his ribbon and it turns into a brawl. Brodus totally dominates so he can have some hope of getting votes.

The competitions were stupid this week. We had Josh Matthews channeling Michael Cole then, to make matters worse, we had Michael Cole. The wrestling was not great so this show sank back to the poor level we’ve come to expect. Johnny Curtis looks like the golden boy of this season but we’ll get a better picture after we get some rankings, assuming we get them at all.

It occurs to me that I’d much rather see NXT dropped and WWE produce an adult wrestling show and to keep it completely separate. No cross-promotion. Don’t even brand it WWE. Do 2-hour specials instead of PPVs. Air later in the evening and don’t be afraid to be TV-14. Use new guys and a few vets and try to do what ECW should have been. It couldn’t be worse than this.

Posted on December 30th, 2010 by Lucian | Leave a Comment (1)
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Hi loyal readers! I’m back from a long visit with my parents and catching up on wrestling. So you’re not going to get my usual level of detail until I’m caught up.

Brief Smackdown thoughts:

  • If Smackdown wasn’t my favorite show to begin with, a Green Day theme would take it over the top.
  • Orton and Miz’s match was fine and the ending works perfectly for The Miz’s gimmick.
  • It’s good Edge is the champ, but they should have had the rematch tonight and sent Kane lumbering back to the midcard where he, sadly, belongs these days.
  • Drew MacIntyre utterly squashes Kaval. Kaval was released after this match. Nice way to show the guy the door. Only Drew McIntyre may be a lost cause at this point and pairing him with Kelly Kelly is like sewing a dead albatross to his ass.
  • The Kingston/Mysterio vs. Swagger/Del Rio match must have been Vince’s Christmas gift to fans of actual wrestling.
  • Sadly, the main event is John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guererro. Ziggler and Cena give it their all but the post-match attack by CM Punk totally steals the spotlight.

So there’s WWE’s X-mas present to us all. Not bad, but losing Kaval so soon makes NXT even less important than it was. RAW next, then TNA.

Posted on December 29th, 2010 by Lucian | Comments Off on Wrestling Recap: Xmas Wrestling
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No I did not see the PPV. I may have a chance later, but I read the spoilers and there were no surprises on the RAW side of things. So RAW starts with the Miz gloating over still being champion. He is interrupted by Alex Reilly playing Ghost of Christmas Past. No sign of Cole. Lawler and CM Punk are unaccompanied on the announce desk. Cole shows up, sadly, as Ghost of Christmas Present. Miz remains unrepentant. Christmas Future is a still image of the Miz-Girl on the Tron with overlaid moving lips, ala Conan O’Brien. John Morrison gets to provide the interruption. Morrison’s title shot will be “sometime soon”, so probably not being saved for Royal Rumble. Morrison goes after Miz and Reilly but Sheamus arrives to take Morrison down. Anonymous GM books a six-man tag between Miz, Reilly and Sheamus versus Morrison, Lawler and Orton. Orton ambushes the Miz to punctuate the segment.

Cole is back on commentary and Natalya has joined the gang to make it an even 4. A Triple Threat is on to determine a #1 contender to the Diva’s Championship. Eve, Alicia and Melina. No great talents here. Some good spots in the match and Melina wins, which is the lesser of three evils. Natalya tries to make nice with her challenger but gets bitch slapped for her efforts.

Nexus is not supposed to be here tonight. Daniel “Why am I stuck with the Bella Twins” Bryan faces William “I’m not retired yet” Regal. This is an excellent match. The student surpasses the master as Bryan makes Regal tap, really quickly, to the LaBell lock. He gets a kiss from both Bellas as a reward and doesn’t seem to know how to deal with it. There’s some random crap with Tamina and Maryse getting in an argument while standing on Santino’s back. And Mark Henry’s joy at no Nexus is curtailed by Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guererro being in da house.

We have a mixed tag with Santino joining with Tamina to face Ted Dibiase and Maryse. Santino’s constant attempts to use the Cobra make this comical and take away from a nice Superfly Splash by Tamina that gets her the win.

We’re at the midpoint of the show. Time to bring out John Cena. Cena wastes a lot of time being cutesy. They break with their own tradition and show some actual footage from last night’s PPV. It’s the scene where Cena brings down an avalanche of chairs on Wade Barrett. Barrett is safely under a palate so it’s not that big a deal. Hopefully he plugged his ears. Cena plans to be in the Royal Rumble. That’s when Vickie Guererro and Dolph Ziggler interrupt. But the hot Houston crowd will not let Vickie speak. Cena plays along but it gets a little silly after three minutes. Vickie wants an apology from Lawler for fat jokes. Which just leads to Cena and the King trading even more crappy fat jokes about a woman who barely looks fat any more. E-GM books Cena to face Ziggler – right now!

A surprisingly pro-Cena crowd cheers him on as he takes on the Intercontinental Champion. It’s a decent match for TV. Dolph taps to the STF, but Vickie has the ref distracted. That lets Ziggler recover and actually hit a Zig Zag, but that’s not enough for the pin. Cena’s Attitude Adjustment is enough to hold down the kid. Then CM Punk hits Cena with a chair and storms off. Is he recovered now? Sheamus and Lawler play duelling kings. Dolph wants Cena on Smackdown tomorrow, but Vickie inserts herself to make it a handicap match… Because I really want to see Vickie wrestle when she seems so unwilling to take a bump.

Miz now carries his title in a briefcase, which Reilly carries, so he’s not still lugging the old Money in the Bank briefcase around but still has a handy weapon to interfere with. We went from a two man announce team with no Cole at the start of the night to just Cole for the main event. Talk about a reversal of fortunes. Oh no, Josh Matthews just joined Cole. So we’re reuniting the announce team of NXT Season 3? Brilliant.

It’s a long match and Morrison gets beat on by the heels for most of it. Orton gets in against The Miz. It breaks down and Lawler winds up legal, but Orton sneaks in and lands The Miz with an RKO and Lawler gets a pin on the WWE Champion. Celebrations are cut off by the E-GM plugging Smackdown. He adds an Orton v. Miz match for the show. Now we Canadians don’t get to see the show early so I won’t be recapping it until next week if at all.

Tonight’s RAW didn’t advance many storylines. With the Royal Rumble not until late January we’re going to need some filler before the drive to that show can begin in earnest. Hence John Morrison and Melina getting title shots. I expect both those shots to be resolved before the Rumble itself. What does the Rumble have in store? Who knows?

After RAW I saw the PPV. It was pretty decent and exciting given how safe WWE tries to work these days. The opening ladder match was a great start. John Morrison continued to break out as a future star. Edge cemented a place in the Hall of Fame if he can just stay on Vince’s good side, or by then Hunter and Steph’s. The Miz continued as the second coming of the Honky Tonk Man with his cheap tactics. The Smackdown main event benefited from adding Rey Rey and Del Rio. The women’s table match was okay. If I had been footing the bill for the replay I might have thought differently but I had a good time overall.

That brings us to NXT, the next show to air in Canada. We get the wheelbarrow challenge again tonight. This time the Soaring Eagle gets to be the passenger. The second competition is trivia. But the trivia is actually really intelligently designed this week. Striker gives a category (former WWE champions, 2010 PPVs) and the rookies have to name something that fits. When they screw up they are gone. No stupid air horns vastly improves this. Derrick Bateman wins both challenges for a total of 3 immunity points. Even the wrestling is pretty good this week. The vignettes between rookie and pro are entertaining. Add in the decent announce team of Todd Grisham and Josh Matthews and this shows is better than its been since season one. I guess the show really only became a joke because WWE treats Women’s Wrestling as a joke.

Loyal readers I am off for the holidays and will have no wrestling access until the 28th. I’m not sure I’ll be able to cover all the shows I miss when I get back but don’t worry, the column will continue before the New Year! For those who have something to celebrate these days (what with Hanukkah being well over) I wish you happy holidays!

Posted on December 23rd, 2010 by Lucian | Comments Off on Wrestling Recap: Raw & NXT Week Ending 12/25/10
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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.

Posted on December 9th, 2010 by Lucian | Comments Off on Wrestling Recap: WWE NEXT Season 4 Begins!
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For so long I have hoped this day would come. The end of season 3 of WWE NXT. Can you imagine if they had started with 8 rookies like the other seasons did? Let’s hope they stick with six when they return to male rookies next season. Cole has to address RAW to start. He claims he’s not even sure why he cost Jerry Lawler the title and that he will speaks to Lawler privately if he is able. But until Monday, he reserves comment.

Vickie still hates her rookie as she introduces her. Naomi doesn’t even get an intro. Kelly Kelly is not here but she sends video well wishes. Letting Kelly speak only hurts her appeal. Kelly does has a good excuse, she’s on the Tribute to the Troops tour. We’re debuting the fourth season rookies tonight and Cole is already demeaning the future.

We’ll see some eliminated rookie Divas in action later when The Bellas team with AJ to take on Maxine, Aksana and Alicia Fox. Oh, it’s now? It’s not much of a match but at least AJ gets to pick up a win over Maxine and she shares a kiss with Primo. Yeah he’ll really help your career.

The last divas get to trash talk each other. Kaitlyn feels Naomi was impressive at first then flatlined. She’s stepped up throughout. Naomi feels she’s ready to go Then she decides to plug herself and say how great it’s been rather than running down Kaitlyn. Next, they have a match. Watching the match I have to agree that Kaitlyn is a poor wrestler even by the miserable standards of the WWE Divas. Yet she gets the win on a terrible looking roll-up. Vickie introduces Dolph Ziggler. He’s a pro next season which means we’re not getting rid of Vickie. Dolph is wearing a sports jacket and a leather tie over a bare chest.

The crazy thing is, other than Kelly Kelly, all the pros are here. This season is so low rent none of them were needed on the overseas tour. WWE promos always make things seem more dramatic than they actually were. So Daniel Bryan has gone from rookie to pro in just four seasons?

They bring back the four eliminated rookies, even Jamie who was legit released. Jamie and Maxine pick Naomi to win. AJ stands by her friend Kaitlyn. Aksana flirts with Matt Stryker before pulling the tired crap of saying she should still win. Alberto Del Rio is going to be a pro? That pretty much guarantees season 4 will be better than 3.

So here are the rookies and pros. Really boring crop of names among the rookies.

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

And, with little fanfare, Kaitlyn wins. Kaitlyn is certainly a Cinderella story. She was a last second replacement. She had never had a match before NXT. Yet, doesn’t WWE trumpet on their PSAs that these moves take years of training to perfect and do safely? Yet someone starts wrestling on WWE TV? Not a good message. Kaitlyn probably won’t last long. Maybe when she ends up in TNA she can make something of herself.

Posted on December 1st, 2010 by Lucian | Comments Off on Wrestling Recap: WWE NXT Season 3 Finale
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