Friday, February 28, 2014

NXT ArRival

My last exposure to NXT was when "Wild & Young" was the theme song, so it's been awhile since I've been familiar with this particular brand of WWE programming. In fact, when WWE dismantled FCW and rebranded it as NXT was probably the point when I was watching the least amount of wrestling, so I was out of the loop on what they were even doing for quite a while.

"NXT Champions? Tapings separate from Smackdown? It's actually watchable? Huh?!"

I've still never seen a regular weekly show from NXT, but I've at least tried to familiarize myself with the brand over the last couple of months. I know Bo Dallas is the long-reigning champion whose character is a classic babyface completely oblivious to the fact that the crowd loathes him, I know the women actually get to wrestle and I know Sami Zayn is awesome.

I was quite excited to check out NXT ArRival (randOm capitaliZation iS nEat) last night since it would be the first proper live show on the WWE Network and I'd finally see what all the fuss was about.

I was not disappointed, which is not something I've been able to say about any WWE show in awhile. It's novel to watch a wrestling show that doesn't feel like it's actively trying to piss you off, it almost made me feel like a kid again. I don't have a particular investment in these characters one way or another, it's just the guys (and gals) I like and want to see win.

And I think it'll be lost in the shuffle for how good the actual event was, but the pre-show with Renee Young, Kevin Nash, Bret Hart, Paul Heyman and numerous video packages introducing the talent was fantastic. If this is a sign of things to come on the WWE Network, it's going to be well worth the $10 a month.

In the opening contest, Sami Zayn battle Cesaro in the fourth match against each other, with Zayn determined to prove he's better than the Swiss Superman. I've heard Cesaro described as the "final boss" of NXT and if this match is any indication, expect to see Zayn on the main roster very, very soon.

I've long been a fan of Zayn, loved him as El Generico in ROH, but I'm genuinely surprised he wrestled under a mask for so long, the guy has a great, expressive face and is a great talker on top of being a fantastic in-ring performer.

This was the perfect match to open the show too, these guys beat the hell out of each other and did stuff I've never seen in wrestling, let alone in the notoriously conservative WWE ring. Cesaro won after a NASTY~! uppercut and a definitive Neutralizer, but there were no losers in a match like this. The two shared a hug afterward and I like to think Cesaro told him "let's do this again at WrestleMania 31."

Mojo Rawley vs. CJ Parker was a pretty quick glorified squash with Rawley getting all the attention. "I don't get hyped, I stay hyped" is a decent slogan, but the dude looks like a high school assistant football coach.

NXT Tag Champions The Ascension vs. Too Cool (yes, that Too Cool) met in the first title match of the show, Too Cool were mystery opponents for the champs. I like The Ascension, a total throwback to the late 90s, all the way down to the bad hair and even worse tattoos, even their gear is late 90s indie-tastic. Only thing missing is a manager, what's The Sinister Minister up to? Ascension plowed through Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay and remain champs, are there many teams in NXT for them to face?

Paige vs. Emma for the NXT Women's Championship was just terrific. I'd argue that it was the best hyped match of the night, I know next-to-nothing about either woman aside from the little exposure I've had to Emma on Raw the last few weeks, but I felt like I knew them and their stories as I watched this show. Yeah, they talked about a women's match before the match took place, which is practically unheard of in today's WWE, they don't even talk about the Diva's matches during the Diva's matches on Raw.

I didn't really have a favorite in this one, I like Paige's anti-Diva attitude, I like the fact that Emma is a giant dork and doesn't fall into the WWE Diva archetypes of "Sexy Babe," "Evil Whore" or "lol, she's ugly." I would've been happy with either winning, but once Paige busted out the Scorpion Cross Lock, I was sold.

Tyler Breeze's selfie entrance is really funny.

He was supposed to have a match with Xavier Woods, but

Tyler Breeze's selfie entrance is really funny.

He was supposed to have a match with Xavier Woods, but

Tyler Breeze's selfie entrance is really funny.

He was supposed to have a match with Xavier Woods, but

Tyler Breeze's selfie entrance is really funny.

He was supposed to have a match with Xavier Woods, but

Tyler Breeze's selfie entrance is really funny.

He was supposed to have a match with Xavier Woods, but

Tyler Breeze's selfie entrance is really funny.

He was supposed to have a match with Xavier Woods, but

Tyler Breeze's selfie entrance is really funny.

He was supposed to have a match with Xavier Woods, but

Tyler Breeze's selfie entrance is really funny.

After some technical difficulties (that hopefully get fixed by WrestleMania), I jumped back into the show midway through the main event of NXT Champion Bo Dallas defending against Adrian Neville in NXT's first-ever ladder match.

Adrian Neville seems like the perfect wrestler, right? He's shorter than the typical WWE wrestler, but the dude is ripped and a high-flyer? That corkscrew Shooting Star Press is insane. I've seen moves like that done plenty of times, I just don't understand the logistics of it. How do you even make your brain do that?

Neville ended Bo's 250+ day reign as NXT Champ by hitting that move while Dallas was laying on a ladder. Ow. Ow Ow Ow. Not the best match of the night, but it had stiff competition from Zayn/Cesaro and Paige/Emma, but a great main event and seems like a perfect launch point for NXT now that the WWE Network is here.

Call it whatever you want, but NXT is what the ECW revival should've been (and arguably became in its later days): the best of the young up and comers performing in front of a smaller, intimate crowd. With NXT, WWE is essentially running its own indie promotion and letting it do its own thing, which is so weird for a company so meticulous about everything looking "big." But NXT did look big last night, with its sleek production and terrific wrestling, it was as close as we're going to get to having a viable second promotion in the United States.

Don't tell WWE, but if I got events like this once a month on top of a fun weekly NXT program, I'd pay $10 for that alone, let alone all the other great content that comes with the Network. I'm still really irritated with what's going on with the buildup to WrestleMania right now, but WWE earned a ton of goodwill back with ArRival.