DarkFox’s NXT review – February 5, 2014

WWE NXT LogoEditor’s note: OWW is pleased to welcome DarkFox to its editorial staff!  DarkFox is one of the radio hosts of Mark Out Radio.  Listen to it here: www.morelikeradio.com/live.

Our announce team this week, which seems to have stopped playing musical chairs for now, is Byron Saxton (heel), Tom Phillips (straight) and Tensai (face). While I love William Regal in the announce position, he has trouble maintaining his gimmick. Saxton and Phillips do well staying on point and dragging Tensai back into line when necessary. I would prefer to hear Alex Riley do face commentating, but NXT will likely shuffle talent around Tom Phillips who has come a long way in less than a year calling the matches straight.

In an effort to make NXT ready for a switch to a live show, it’s being filmed closer to air date as we quickly approach the launch of the WWE Network. Some matches have been re-performed while others scrapped and replaced with something new.

This is both a good thing and a bad.

It’s great because now it seems like NXT is truly part of the WWE, and not it’s red-headed step-child. It’s bad because now the announce team will be tempted to talk about main roster feuds and gimmicks while the developmental guys & girls are working their assess of in the ring.

Alexander Rusev d Sin Cara (Hunico) – 2/5

There’s a recap here of two weeks ago when Sin Cara ran-in on Rusev’s post-match beat-down of Xavier Woods. Lana comes out and intros her client Alexander Rusev. Here’s the thing (unless you’re incredibly talented) if you’re doing a lame Bulgarian accent, it’s going to sound like a lame Bulgarian accent. WWE Creative would have been better served to have Lana play an uptight rich American. They could have played off the 1% heat in real life and twisted into a work where Lana has purchased this Bulgarian muscle and he listens only to her.

Fortunately WWE can still fix this problem as Rusev has done most of the Bulgarian speaking parts in his teaser promos. Now is the time though WWE Creative. If you put Lana out there as a translator doing a goofy accent, she’s going to get destroyed. This isn’t the 80′s anymore.  If WWE does change Lana into a rich kid, they can package Rusev as a mercenary and his gimmick can be tweaked as the fans react to him. When the time is right for a face turn they can have Lana threaten his family or something equally two-dimensional to make the change stick. Right now though, if the fans shit on this gimmick…it’s back to NXT for a repackage. Which is a shame because Rusev is a great monster who actually sells his opponents.  In true WWE fashion though, immigrants are heels.

Also, would it at all be possible for WWE to stop bathing the ring in gold light for Sin Cara’s matches? Sin Cara hits the ropes and nearly biffs a cross body, which Rusev saves with a lightning quick short drop kick. Another nearly missed spot with the hunakarana, however both guys adjusted mid-flight and the move went off well. Overall though, this was a fairly disappointing match. It just seemed like they couldn’t gel in ring and there were a lot of botches that had to be covered up.

Emma d Alicia Fox – 3/5

Renee Young joins the announce team and instantly makes my day brighter. (That wasn’t creepy at all.)  Recap of five weeks ago when Emma made Natalya tap out and some mouth breather at ringside had the Australian flag backwards for Emma. Look, it’s Florida…so I guess I’m happy it’s the right side up. After the match they got it right thanks to the fatter fan.

I’m not big on Alicia Fox, however she started off the match shot out of a canon. Unfortunately she started botching the hell out of everything leading up to the end. Some people might say that was a work, but I’ve seen enough Fox matches to know what an attempt at a burial looks like. Emma says something to the ref after the third botch, then rolls away. The ref talks to Fox and they take the match home. That’s not a coincidence either. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and Fox sold the Emma-Lock well.

Post-match promo as Emma claims the championship match she’s been the #1 contender for since June, despite eight #1 contender matches since then that didn’t involve her. Nice job booking.

Post-Post-match run in from Sasha Banks, Summer Rae, Charlotte & Alicia Fox. Natalya and Bayley make the save. Charlotte’s repackage as a heel isn’t getting over at all. She has undeniable talent, but she’s just lost on the card. Even when she does get a match, it always seems like she “tries out a new move” that doesn’t work or get over and she’s buried again on house shows.  What WWE should be doing with Charlotte is get rid of the gimmick. She’s Ashley Flair and make her a Real American. Have Zeb (aka Dutch Mantel) be her mentor. She can work mixed tags with Cesaro and Swagger, get instant pops with the “We The People” chant and work that heel heat while getting over. Like ALL Flairs do. NXT would only need to book the Real Americans for three or four shows. I just came up with that off of the top of my head, but if I had a team of six writers and one of them was the owners daughter….just saying.

Mason Ryan d Sylvester LaForte – 0.0

We’re informed by the announcers, which was well done by the way, that if Ryan loses he’ll have to sign with LaForte as his manager.  I’ve never seen LaForte wrestle, he has a very traditional style….but holy crap this was yet another Mason Ryan squash-fest of a match. Look dude, they already have you on the main roster…they call you Batista. You’re going to have to do something unique if you’re going to get called up. For those of you keeping score at home, Mason Ryan signed a five year WWE developmental deal. The average deal is two years. Mason Ryan is fast approaching the end of his initial WWE developmental deal. He was hot-shotted into becoming the FCW champ, he’s had a run as a member of Nexus, New Nexus and a brief two week run as Mason Ryan where he botched a serious move with Kofi Kingston and got sent back to NXT.

At what point is Ryan going to either learn from his mistakes, or WWE come to terms with the fact that he just can’t cut it beyond NXT. It was hard to tell if LaForte is any good. He certainly looks good in the ring and sold getting destroyed well.

Aiden English promo

Spotlight please. The sad thing here is, I love this gimmick. It hasn’t been done to death and the guys often entrusted with it can’t do it justice. The last time I was this entertained by a gimmicky “artiste” was Rick Martel and I consider that high praise. As a Canadian, I marked out to his rendition of the first few bars of our anthem as he sells his upcoming match with Tyson Kidd….however, he threatened a guy in a motorized scooter, not a wheelchair. But I’m just nit-picking at this point.

I know this is off topic, but I really like Kidd and the other high flyers WWE has that they don’t know what to do with. I still keep hearing rumors of a Lucha-style show being added as a WWE Network exclusive. With AAA being picked up by El Rey TV (produced by Mark Burnett), WWE would be better served coming up with a show of their own. They could even pre-tape it to start. I feel like WWE is leaving a lot of money on the table considering how well Chikara does. Putting AAA on American TV is only going to make matters worse for the WWE. Competition breeds innovation, but I think WWE should really be getting ahead of the curve on this one.

Sylvester LaForte promo

He’s going to get revenge. That is all.

Tyson Kidd d Aiden English – 2/5

Pre-match heel song from English. Some solid wrestling here, great back and forth. Of course the highlight was the audience screaming “sawft” when Big Cass came through the crowd and started taunting English.  English pre-sells Kidd’s neck-breaker from the top rope…which was odd. This leads to the pin and it’s all over within five minutes, which was a shame.

Adrian Neville d Corey Graves – 3.5/5

Graves’ second week back, looks like he’s put on 10-15 pounds of muscle. Graves catches Neville’s over the top rope plancha to the outside perfectly. Graves slows things down by working over the legs of Neville and working the heel heat. Neville plays up the leg perfectly and manages not to use a lot of moves with the “injured” leg. My only criticism of the end here was the Red Arrow, which I love, but it requires a lot of leg strength for an injured leg.

Bo Dallas comes comes down to the ring doing a very good job of looking menacing rather than his usually smiling heel gimmick. Hunter’s music plays and does what’s best of business and makes the match a ladder match. The IWC objected to him claiming it’s the first ever NXT ladder match, but it will be as the last ladder match was when it was still called Florida Championship Wrestling.

That all being said, this week’s NXT wasn’t good. Normally, I can find something constructive to say about almost anything…but I’m utterly speechless here. I’d like to come up with some pithy ironic observation, but the matches were mediocre at best. They were either too short, boring or just plain poorly performed. The highlight was the main event, but it didn’t live up to the precedent these guys have set. I think one of the biggest problems NXT has is the locker room is huge, but we see the same six guys and a rotation of main roster wrestlers. The women have basically pooled into the heels and the faces, which is fine…but the heels outnumber the faces and, forgive me but there’s no other word for it, cunty promos don’t sell matches to a predominantly male audience. We don’t watch America’s Next Top Model for a reason.

It looks as though Rusev, Neville, Dallas and Zayn are being groomed to be called up along with Emma and Paige. Sasha likely won’t get the call up because the main roster is either hot women, or hot women who can wrestle and only a handful of them can cut a promo that doesn’t leave you writhing on the floor with douche chills. Neville and Dallas will be little fish in a big pond, but look for Rusev and Zayn to get a nice debut push…then they’ll either sink or swim on reactions.  Otherwise we’ve got Enzo Amore , Colin Cassady, Tyler Breeze, Scott Dawson and the Ascension.

Now we’re being force fed Mojo Rawley…or as I’ve come to call him; John Cena mk 2. It’s time for NXT to start building the new batch so that when these guys get called up we don’t have a talent vacuum and end up with shows like this one where everyone has seen this all before and can’t be bothered to pop.

With the exception of Big Cass getting a “sawft” pop, of course.

David “DarkFox” Temrick is a published author and one of the hosts of Mark Out Radio which can be heard live Wednesday nights from 11pm-1am EST on www.morelikeradio.com/live