The show started out with the Pros talking about what they are looking for in an NXT winner. It’s usually a good segment when the pros are involved and talking about the competition. It’s an extra string to their bow and I find it interesting. However, this segment was a bit repetative, with nothing particularly new being said. I would rather they were asked questions about each other’s rookies and their opinions on them, that would have made for more dynamic viewing I think.
What the show did this this week, better than any of the previous weeks, is get over the tension and sense of competition in the show. Having the pros on stage really helped this, and during the matches on the show, there was a real sense of the importance of a win or a loss. This made it all the more surprising that, after losing, Heath Slater moved up a place. Surely it would have done no harm to have had him win. It would have gotten over his improvement in the rankings, as well as the precariousness of Gabriel’s position.
I’ve been critical of Slater and Gabriel almost throughout this series, but I must say, they both put on their best matches so far. This is no huge compliment, but a positive nonetheless. I think it’s that, when they’re in the ring with someone else, they tend to be carried by the opponent, and therefore look a bit subdued. Maybe working with each other negated this affect. The (in-ring) problems with these two are broadly converse: Slater is ok generally, but lacks any distinctive moves, whereas Gabriel has an absolutely fantastic finisher, but little else. This can obviously be improved on, but there are other problems they have, most namely in the charisma department which is harder to fix. Nonetheless, kudos for their improvement.
NXT has a lot of potential in my eyes, it is still evolving, and one innovation I liked was the inclusion of previously eliminated rookies. This negates the worry i’ve mentioned before about an increasingly either an empty or repetative show it could turn in to as more rookies are eliminated. I hope they continue to keep them around. As the title of this post suggests, it was this segment which was the most memorable of the night, with Daniel Bryan showing off his character even more and amping up the intensity with his nerdy nemisis, Michael Cole. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen an announcer angle, and while I know many aren’t too keen on them, I’m quite fond of them if they’re not done too often, a good example being Tazz-J.R. in (I think) 2000. Unlike that ‘feud’, however, the roles are different. It is Cole who has been playing the heel (explaining his more heel-like comments/opinions recently) and Bryan the face, and what better way to get over as a face than by hitting Cole in his! This has an interesting metropolis-periphery dynamic too it, and with Bryan as face, shows an admirable self-knowledge from WWE creative about its mainstream position in the industry. By showing that the arrogance that Cole is characterised by when talking about ‘the indys’ and his dismissive ignorance of (for lack of a better term) ‘alternative’ lifestyles (e.g. being a vegan, not owning a TV) are the characteristics of a heel, they suggest that these are characteristics that the WWE neither agrees with, nor shares. This could be very intriguing. I wonder if we’ll see it end in a match of some sort. If we do, lets hope it isn’t an embarrassment. That wouldn’t do Bryan any good.
Unsurprisingly, it was Darren Young who got the boot. It was suggested on commentary that he had struggled to show off his character. This si certainly true. While to a degree this may have been intentional, his whole party animal thing didn’t come across well at all! His mini-feud with Punk/Gallows made him interesting, but once that died, i’m afraid he had little to offer.
So now for my updated standings:
1) David Otunga (Didn’t see much of him this week unfortunately. I hear they’re giving him lots of dark matches etc to hone his skills)
2) Wade Barrett
3) Heath Slater
4) Justin Gabriel (I nearly moved him up to 3 because I think he improved a littel more than Slater and has a potential dark side. However, I think he’d be just as bad as his pro at actually showing it). It’s a pretty clear cut division in my rankings between the two who I would like to see on the main roster, and the two i’m not really interested in seeing.
As for who will go next week, i’ve been pretty cynical in the past that ‘management’ seem to be high on Slater and Gabriel, and so they wouldn’t go, but I think one of their NXT journeys is going to be over next. It’s difficult to tell, but instinctively i’m going to say it’ll be Gabriel that will be eliminated.