THE NXT REPORT (12/4/14)
It's hard to believe that NXT's next special is less than a week away. The "pay-per-view" has only existed in name for three weeks and it doesn't seem as though it has been represented too much outside of NXT.
Last week was a slow week that didn't particularly expand upon the top rivalries or storylines, focusing more on building the midcard.
While it would be nice to have seen a little more development (and celebration) for the upcoming pay-per-view (the last one was September 11th), the top feud between Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville has a lot of steam going into next Thursday thanks to this episode's final segment.
My connection to the Network wasn't very strong, so the experience wasn't too pleasant and made it difficult to evaluate the show fairly (this is a technical issue that should be resolved once I get a new computer).
The night started off with an enhancement match for Charlotte and then a good promo-exchange with Sasha Banks. The intensity of this feud will come to fruition at the pay-per-view itself. I can foresee some good vignettes and talking head segments leading into this bout. There's a lot of emotion behind the match (just as there is with the men's championship), which informs the character's actions and the significance of everything they do. This is something NXT does exceedingly well with its top rivalries - September's Take Over event was overflowing with emotional intensity.
The Finn Balor/Hideo Itami feud with The Ascension could be seen as a nice way of easing the new guys in and easing the old guys out. And perhaps it is, but everyone involved lacks some direction. The Ascension just seem like they're hanging around, overstaying their welcome. Balor and Itami haven't yet been officially recognized as a tag team. They're basically just two impressive new NXT performers who've been sandwiched together. And that's fine for now, but it would help both if they had some championship gold in mind, and started fighting for the tag titles following R-Evolution (which is a rather strange and awkward name for a pay-per-view).
The Vaudevillians keep fluctuating between slapstick and genuine heelishness, and it's destroying them. Commentary and their new genuinely terrible entrance music keeps trying to sell this gimmick as a serious heel-team. This is an impossible (and pointless) sell for The Vaudevillians. Just look at the name of the tag team! The gimmick is about comedy through and through. There's absolutely nothing serious about it nor should there be. To try and make them anything other than what they fundamentally are is to guarantee their demise. The schizophrenia of the company is epitomized in the presentation of these two; showing them in old-timey movie vignettes that are purposefully bad "humor" and then having them come out to a dirge on the same night. The people want to enjoy this gimmick. Let them enjoy it, WWE. Bring back that happy, clappy tune and let us laugh ourselves out of a post-ironic depression.
Let this stupidity be what it is.
Bull Dempsey took out a jobber in a few seconds. Baron Corbin then came down to the ring and took out a jobber in a few seconds. It's remarkable how completely different these two experiences are. One is angsty and slightly unenjoyable, where the other is a thrill. Perhaps my bias against singlets is showing, but Bull Dempsey doesn't seem to be experiencing the least bit of joy when he performs. I understand exactly what his gimmick is supposed to be, but his "throwback" and serious style has yet to evolve to a convincing place. He seems only like he doesn't want to be out there, when I suspect the exact opposite is true. The character isn't taking pleasure in anything - he's just mad all the time for reasons I have to infer. No one wants to watch someone who is just mad all the time, especially when they're not presented in a captivating way. Maybe he needs some mic time to make his personality a little more recognizable and resonant. And I do think some new attire would really help his cause. Some jeans. Tights.
Anything other than what he's currently wearing.
Corbin, on the other hand, is instantly likable. The only fear with him is whether or not he's any good in the ring - because we have yet to see him wrestle a full match. Hopefully his inevitable fight with Bull will be a chance for both talents to shine.
The roster just keeps expanding and expanding, and each of these seasoned performers (Itami, Balor, Kevin Steen/Owens) could stake a claim for the title, which means some people will get overlooked. These new guys are all just more captivating than some of the other NXT performers who came out of the WWE's performance center. So a traffic jam seems inevitable, especially given that there's only two male titles to chase.
Sami Zayn turned in yet another superb promo, slapping Adrian in the face and screaming, "this isn't about respect between you and me!"
The two have managed to create an emotionally complicated story where neither is a complacent or vindictive heel, where they remain friends, but where there is still intense conflict. Pro-wrestling fans are so accustomed to John Cena's purposefully bad jokes and Triple H's occasionally laborious heel-speeches and Ryback and Roman Reigns' trite three word promos that it's a genuine shock to hear actual, unbridled passion.
Sami earns a positive reaction from viewers despite being a somewhat narrow-minded character because he's speaking with zeal. He's completely sympathetic, but he's also obsessed to a destructive degree. That's interesting. That's worth-watching. Simple, but powerful, and very clearly the best feud in the WWE today.
This segment was the first real thing I've seen from the company all week, and it's because the performers went out to that ring and were given the freedom to work.
Hopefully NXT continues the trend of delivering spectacular specials that spotlight the absolute best in the roster, a roster who represents (arguably) the best the WWE has to offer.
Thank you for reading. Come back Tuesday for The Raw Review! Enjoy your weekend! Feel free to follow and subscribe on the social media gimmicks:
Photos via WWE screen capture.