The return to the male format of NXT was bittersweet for me as the competition became serious again; this however meant that my worst fears about season 3 being treated as comedy was because it had female contestants.
The first impressions each rookie had the opportunity to give were obviously crucial, and while i’ll give a more general view of my first impressions of the rookies at the end of the post, i’ll also talk about this first segment. Conor O’Brien is a weird one … litearlly. He’s actually ok on the mic, but his ‘rat’ gimmick has to be toned down. The idea in itself is ok, and the idea of someone engaging with that unfortunate similarity and running with it as a heel trait is good, but when he starts impersonating a cartoon rat, it starts becoming difficult to take him seriously. I like the look of Derrick Bateman so far. He seems a little more unique than the others, and being teamed with Daniel Bryan will do him all sorts of favours. He came a cross as a promising face. Before this episode I thought I was going to hate Jacob Novak, and I still don’t like his gimmick. He doesn’t look like great business-like heel. He just doesn’t come across as powerful in that way. He too is an ok talker though, so we’ll see where he goes. Byron Saxton is clearly the most confident on the mic and has a great look. That in itslef makes him an immediate favourite for me. If he can wrestle well, he could be a big deal. Think about it, David Otunga couldn’t wrestle that well but he had everything else going for him and he’s a big star now. If Saxton has all that and can put on decent matches, he has a future. The one who I was most looking forward to before the season started was, perhaps surprisingly, Brodus Clay. If he’s a good wrestler, he could be a really fresh entity in the WWE, something of a Mabel/Viscera, but more articulate. His promo (and his ‘introducing’ video) indeed made him seem intelligent and articulate, and that places with an aggressive, unique style could be money. The one that perhaps made the least impression on me was Johnny Curtis. I actually can’t remember what he said, which obviously isn’t good.
Curtis did, however, have a nice match with Jacob Novak. Indeed, both matches were good this week. Very naturally paced without being spectacular. A solid opening which saw which saw the face, Curtis, beating the heel, Novak, who it seems will be under tough scrutiny from his pro, Dolph Ziggler.
The main event saw Derrick Bateman and Daniel Bryan take on Conor O’Brien and Alberto Del Rio. Just the idea of Bryan and Del Rio in the same ring is somewhat tantalizing, and all four men did a good job in this match. One of the reasons i’m high on Bateman so far is that he and Bryan seem to be rubbing off each other nicely and Bateman is taking on some of Bryan’s traits which is always a good aspect of the pro-rookie relationship and in that vein, Bateman pulled of a Bryan-esque Suicide Dive. Nice stuff. Eventually however, Del Rio took advantage of the rookie’s lack of experience to get him in an armbar for the win.
So my initial thoughts on the rookies are that it’s too early to rule anyone out, but at this time, the three that have risen above the rest are Byron Saxton, Derrick Bateman and Brodus Clay. Each of those have interesting characters that are more than a one-dimensional gimmick it seems, especially Clay. Clay also has the best name. Apart from him and also Saxton, the other names are a bit bland to me. I like the turn wrestling has turned to make more realistic wrestling characters, but some of these names are so un-interesting that they don’t seem to fit in the spectacle. At the very least, as with Brodus Clay and Byron Saxton, the names should fit the character. Novak was better than I expected, but he needs a gimmick tweek, as does Conor O’Brien, while Johnny Curtis needs to do something to stand out!