NXT this week was rightly dominated by a battle between the rookies to make ‘an impression.’ In search of immunity, all eight rookies took part in the obstacle course challenge which dominated the show. The idea was fine, quite an athletic challenge and more importantly, not goofy as hell! It was ruined by the ‘obstacle’ of having to drink a beverage. While the rest of the course was quite quick to get through, the drinking took up far too long. We must have spend a good few minutes watching wrestlers drinking a drink! Surely they ran through this and realised it was bad viewing? Well, obviously not …
With reference to the matches, the Daniel Bryan-Michael Tarver match was very good, as i’ve come to expect from not only Bryan, but Tarver too. I understand they’ve asked Tarver not to use his ‘kill-shot’ punch as a finisher anymore (due to it clashing with the Big Show), but readers will remember my enthusiasm for that inverted/reverse slam he used last week, well given that he used it to put Bryan down this week, it looks like it may be his new finisher.
The Truth-Otunga match was hardly much to write home about, a bit of a squash really, but it looks like it might progress the relationship between the two.
The real impressions, however, were made on the mic. Otunga, who’s in-ring ability – as i’ve just suggested – isn’t the best, again ruled the school on the mic, burying the feeble Justin Gabriel. Tarver has a great mic style that couldn’t contrast with Otunga’s more. He’s intense but clear, and comes out with some pretty dark stuff, like this week when he referred to his fellow rookies as ‘walking dead bodies.’ Another one that really impressed – and indeed, has converted – me is Wade Barrett. He converted me in the ring long ago, but i’ve never been sure about his voice, or more specifically, his accent. But, unlike many Mancunians, he really puts himself forward with eloquence and a class that makes him seem superior.
So, with the first elimination this week, I thought i’d show you all the ranking I would personally give the rookies (though I know some of the rankings on TV are continuations of storylines and the like), and maybe a prediction for the elimination. For me, the pack is split, roughly, in two, with four outshining the rest more and more every week. So here’s my ranking, grouped roughly according to the level they’re at:
1. Daniel Bryan (The best in ring, a unique, likeable personality, and can hold his own on the mic usually)
2. David Otunga (Not the best in the ring, but this can be learned. Meanwhile, the guy exhudes ‘superstar’ and has fitted right in amongst the main roster when he’s been there. The best on the mic)
3. Wade Barrett (Big, physical guy, good in the ring (did a good job with Cena last Monday), and a class act in demenour and on the mic)
4. Michael Tarver (Very good in the ring (probably underrated), has an interesting/mysterious character and genuinely intimidating, especially on the mic)
5. Darren Young (Very low until recently. Has had a good storyline with Punk though, with good backstage segments and decent matches and mic-work)
6. Skip Sheffield (A solid, funny and likeable guy. Not great in any department, but a touch above the guys below him (on my list))
7. Heath Slater (Goofy look, so-so in the ring, has very little charisma, and often very little vocabulary)
8. Justin Gabriel (A one-spot-wonder (though the 450 splash is incredible) Boring to watch – at-least out of the ring, smarmy, has less charisma than Slater, says the blandest things on the mic possible)
This doesn’t reflect how WWE feels though. It seems they’re high on Gabriel and Slater, and perhaps less so on Tarver, but there you go! Obviously, my wish for who I want to go can’t come true seen as Gabriel has immunity, so with that in mind, i’m going to predict either Skip Sheffield or Michael Tarver, but probably Tarver. I really hope this isn’t the case (and that if it is, he could still make the main roster some day), and while I thought this ‘I should be eliminated’ stuff was a reason to think he wont be eliminated, I can’t see who else it would be. The others all seem to have some form of storyline/profile momentum where Tarver perhaps doesn’t. Obviously, if it was up to me, it would be Slater (seen as Gabriel’s immune), but they’d hardly let someone pin Jericho and then throw them off the show!