In what I suppose was the penultimate hurdle in this season of NXT, two rookies were elimitated this week – the two that I predicted! But more on that as it comes along.
The first duties of the night were to conduct another ‘talk the talk’ style challenge. I do like these segments as it’s always interesting and worthwhile to hear the guys talk, and it doesn’t take up too much time. Percy Watson was first up, giving another likeable but unmoving speech consisting mostly of him saying ‘y’know what i’m saying,’ ‘oh yeah,’ and ‘baby.’ Alex Riley again showed his Miz influenced charisma, choosing a good category to speak on: himself. He did revert to this ‘Varsity Villain’ character again though, a character which needs to be scrapped. McGillicutty swayed between charisma and empty bragging. OK, but not standout. Given that he chose the seemingly narrow topic of ‘cowboy boots,’ Husky Harris gave a good promo about their significance with powerful wrong-doers and his heritage. The most memorable – despite its cringeworthiness – was Kaval’s decision to rap his promo. I don’t know if this is something he’s done in the past, or whether it was mean to be slightly embarrassing, but it was. Some of it seemed quite tight, but it mostly didn’t ‘flow’ very well at all. Still, there’s no arguments about who stole the segment. Shockingly, his last words in the promo were about being ‘Total Nonstop Action,’ which must have been a deliberate reference to WWE’s closest (but distant) rivals. I wonder if that was written for him, or whether it was a gutsy, risky, move on Kaval’s part.
Then came the first elimination straight away – a pleasanr surprise that I liked, and it was revealed that Percy Watson was the 4th person to be eliminated. That positioning was about right, so no arguments here. This isn’t even speculation, but a suggestion, but I think Watson could make a pretty cool tag team with newly exiled Darren Young as South Beach Part Boys or something. Whether now is the right time or not, it remains to be seen. I can’t see an eliminated NXT guy hitting the main roster before the winner of the season, but you never know, maybe in the future.
The first match of the night saw Zack Ryder take on Michael McGillicutty. I was glad to see Ryder get some booking, because on entry to NXT, he was pretty hot and on a rise it seemed, but as soon as his rookie was the first to be eliminated, he’s been a fringe figure on NXT and RAW. The pairing with McGillicutty was a good one though, as the two similarly built superstars matched each other well in the ring. For a while I worried that Ryder was basically jobbing to McGillicutty, who was finally showing us some of that ‘ruthless aggression’ he had promised us; but eventually, Ryder turned it around, taking advantage of the rookie’s naivity and guillotining him on the top tope and hitting his Rough Ryder for the win. A good but familiar story there of a ‘pro’ being more weathered and wiley than a ‘rookie.’ As soon as McGillicutty went down, I wondered whether it might be to legitimise his elimination later in the night, having lost his previous two matches as well. As it turned out of course, that wasn’t the case.
In what could be described as something of a mini-rivalry, Kaval took on Husky Harris next in what would be their third – and best – confrontation. It started out with Husky controlling the match with his bullish, bullying style, but as soon as Kaval turned the momentum around, he was in control for most of the rest of the match, and set up a highlight reel style match of his moves, hitting a series of moves and kicks, the best being some sort of short-arm liger kick. Despite that, Husky didn’t look too weak, which of course made Kaval look all the stronger, winning with his Warrior’s Way (I still can’t think how the victim can take that move!). Kaval is certainly on a charge, but whether he will win the competition will depend on how things pan out in the last two weeks. Speaking of Kaval, it seems management are putting out feelers about forming a relationship with Layla (who, you’ll remember, took it upon herself to kiss Kaval two weeks ago). Now, I don’t think Kaval needs this, but I do like a superstar-diva relationship angle, so i’m all for it, as long as it’s not totally goofy. It also seems like another possible aspect leading to the probable (and maybe even imminant) split of LayCool. I’m certainly interested.
Next up we had Kofi Kingston taking on Alex Riley. This match had some potential, but if I remember correctly, was really quite short with neither really showcasing much Kingston went over with his Trouble in Paradise.
Before the second elimination of the night, Matt Striker asked commentaors Michael Cole and Josh Matthews their opinions on who should be eliminated and who should win the competition. Cole was typically bombastic in his blasting of the ‘minor leagues,’ made all the funnier and delusional since Riley – who he picked to win – had just lost so quickly. Surprisingly, Matthews agreed with Cole, citing Kaval’s rap (which was bad) as a reason for him to be elimated, before awkwardly high-fiving Cole in the lame way Cole pulls off so well. I wonder whether Matthews is going to become part of some sort of heel establishment (against the ‘weird’ ‘minor leagues’) on commentary. I doubt it, as their arguments thus far have had great chemistry, but his actions were strange.
The last action of the night was to eliminate a second rookie, that rookie being Husky Harris. This guy has a lot of talent and a good character, so I think we’ll see him back on TV pretty soon, but for now, it was probably the right decision as the other three have all come across as potential winners and have had good progressions throughout the competition, whereas Harris – although very good – hasn’t had so interesting a progression. Upon hearing this, Harris’s pro, Cody Rhodes went nuts, defending his rookie (though probably for the good of his own reputation), putting the other pros and rookies down before attacking Kaval with the help of his rookie. The other pros came to Kaval’s aid however, and turned the tide before Kaval hit a huge Warrior’s Way from the top rope to the floor. With that, Harris and Cody backed off, leaving an atmosphere of ‘the eye of the storm’ in the NXT competition – an atmosphere that should be encouraged. What highlights that even more is the fact that (I don’t think anyway) any of the fellow remaining rookies jumped in to help him like has hapenned in previous weeks in similar situations. It really is survival of the fittest.