Jeff Tells Liz What Happend In “NXT Arrival”
Hey Liz, long time no Tell You What Happened In Stuff.
As you know, I am a fan of wrestling, specifically the WWE, the biggest wrestling company in the US. The WWE is a maddening company, capable of weaving excellent, nuanced storylines right along with pandering, misanthropic garbage, often on the same show. The quality of the actual wrestling in WWE right now is about as high as I’ve ever seen it, but the stories on the WWE’s flagship shows, Raw and Smackdown, are all over the map. However, recently there’s been one oasis of excellence in the WWE lineup: NXT, currently airing on the WWE Network.
I guess I should explain the WWE Network first, since it’s brand new and probably of interest to new media types who are curious about the future of television. I’m serious! If you’re the type of person of wonders why HBO won’t let people get HBOGo without a subscription, you should definitely pay attention to the prospects of the WWE Network.
You see, WWE has opted to put every single one of its monthly pay-per-views live on the Network. PPVs usually run about $60 per show. The Network is $9.99 a month. If you order every PPV, the Network is a no-brainer. If you only order one or two PPVs a year like I do, then the Network is still a no-brainer, because it includes all the shows you wouldn’t be willing to shell out $60 to buy, along the show you would buy, along with a ton of archived content.
The WWE owns the tape libraries of nearly every major wrestling company that existed in the US, and the WWE is slowly putting all that material on its Network, on demand. The cable companies have not been thrilled with the WWE’s decision to air its PPVs on the Network (Dish Network has vowed not to carry any more WWE PPVs at all). It’ll be fascinating to see how this pans out for the WWE financially, since they’ve completely cut out the cable middleman. Like I said, the future of television.
(I could go on about the WWE Network, but smarter people than me already have. Here’s a good piece by Bill Simmons and David Shoemaker at Grantland.)
So yeah, the Network is a big deal, and WWE has gone all out in promoting it, most significantly by having it go live a month before Wrestlemania, their biggest show of the year. In the short-term, however, they opted to air a live, PPV-level event for their web-only show, NXT. NXT is basically the WWE’s training leagues, a show for people WWE feels are on the cusp of being called up to Raw or Smackdown, but might need a bit more in-ring experience or fine-tuning of their character. It’s a place where a generic schlub like Husky Harris can decide he’d rather play an insane Bayou cult leader, so he becomes BRAY WYATT, THE EATER OF WORLDS. And obviously that is a change for the better.
Liz, I know this is running long and I still haven’t even gotten to the show I’m supposed to be telling you about yet, but I just need you to know that, while never acknowledged on camera, Bray Wyatt himself has indicated that he is a malevolent demon/entity that possessed Husky Harris.
@Charlie_WE He needed me, and i needed a vessel
— Bray Wyatt (@WWEBrayWyatt) January 17, 2013
So in its short existence (under two years), NXT has become WWE’s most consistently satisfying show. It’s only an hour long (Raw, the flagship show, is a punishing three hours), its storylines make sense, and its wrestling is above par. So when NXT Arrival aired the week the WWE Network went live, to get folks interested in the show, WWE stacked the card with the best possible matches. And since the NXT roster actually has a lot of very talented people on it, the card turned out to be vastly superior to most of the PPVs WWE has been asking people to actually pay for. The card was structured around three big matches, with some cool-down bouts in between. And here they are!
The show kicked off with a 23-minute classic between Swiss superman Cesaro and his NXT rival, Sami Zayn. Cesaro has actually been on the main roster for nearly two years now, where he’s currently part of a midcard tag team with Jack Swagger. However, he often wrestles on NXT, where they smartly book him to be the monster destroyer he is. Cesaro is legitimately crazy strong and he’s been allowed to show that on Raw and Smackdown lately. Crowds have started cheering him despite his being a heel, so I wouldn’t be surprised is he gets pushed up the card after Wrestlemania.
Sami Zayn debuted on NXT back in May, and immediately fell into a long-running feud with Cesaro. Zayn’s gimmick is little more than “nice guy who wrestles REALLY well”, but that’s really all you need with a performer as talented as Zayn. Both Zayn and Cesaro wrestled for years in the independent wrestling circuit. Cesaro under his real name, Claudio Castagnoli, largely with the same gimmick that he has in WWE (ie that he is European and insanely strong). Zayn, however, wrestled as the beloved El Generico, the generic luchador. He lost the mask and El Generico name once he got hired by WWE (WWE gives everyone new names when they get hired, so WWE can copyright them). These two wrestled each other dozens of times in the indies, but in WWE continuity, they’ve only wrestled a handful of times.
Liz, I’d love to tell you what happened in this match and why it was so awesome, but I’m afraid I can’t do it nearly the justice it deserves, so let me just point you to Brandon Stroud’s exceptional write-up and leave it at that. If you want the short version, Zayn fought valiantly but ultimately lost. In doing so, however, he finally earned Cesaro’s respect, which he so desperately craved. They hugged at the end. It was the best.
MOJO RAWLEY VS CJ PARKER
This was a short match between the recently-debuted Rawley and obnoxious hippe CJ Parker. Rawley won in short order with his finisher, which is hitting his opponent with his butt. Let’s just move on.
NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPSIONSHIP
THE ASCENSION (VIKTOR & KONNOR) VS TOO COOL (SCOTTY 2 HOTTY & GRANDMASTER SEXAY)
The Ascension are a couple of menacing goth-type heels. They’re NXT‘s only proper tag team at the moment, so they’ve spent the last several weeks beating random jobbers and looking scary. Too Cool was a comedy tag team back in the wrestling boom period of the Attitude Era (aka the Austin/Rock days). Since they were on the show strictly as a one-shot nostalgia act, The Ascension made short work of them.
NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
PAIGE VS EMMA
Paige is the self-proclaimed “anti-diva”, a sort of anti-establishment-by-way-of-Hot-Topic type. She’s an excellent wrestler and is due for a call up to the main roster any day now.
Emma… how do I even describe Emma? I guess “self-absorbed space cadet who is also a submission specialist” would be the most accurate description. Her entrance music is deliberately obnoxious and Emma does the weirdest, laziest dance to it. She’s also easily distracted by bubbles. And she insists on entering the ring by pulling herself up by the ring-ropes, even though she barely makes it every time. I know this all sounds terrible, but she’s incredibly likable. Maybe you need to just see her for yourself.
The NXT Women’s Championship was debuted fairly recently, and was won by Paige in a great match against Emma. Emma has spent the last several weeks beating every other woman on NXT in order to regain her #1 contendership. So this was a title match between the top two female faces of NXT. Liz, I’d love to tell you that women’s wrestling in the WWE is treated seriously, with interesting storylines and well-developed characters, but that’s almost never the case. On regular WWE PPVs, women’s matches are almost always filler, with the booking of the matches seeming like an afterthought. By those standards, the NXT Women’s Division is surprisingly sound, and Emma and Paige were given 15 minutes to prove just how good they are. And they did! Paige hit Emma with her usual finisher (the Paige Turner, naturally), but Emma was able to kick out, leading Paige to debut a new submission hold, which Emma duly tapped out to.
XAVIER WOODS VS. TYLER BREEZE
This wasn’t even a match; Bulgarian monster Alexander Rusev came out before the bell and destroyed both guys. But it gives me the opportunity to tell you about Tyler Breeze! Breeze’s gimmick is simply “What if Zoolander were a wrestler?” and it works out even better than it sounds. His entrance video is a selfie he shoots on his phone on the way to the ring. Witness the magic.
Love you, Tyler Breeze.
LADDER MATCH FOR THE NXT CHAMPIONSHIP
BO DALLAS VS. ADRIAN NEVILLE
Bo Dallas is the longest-running NXT Champion, although the commentators almost never mention that he’s only the third NXT Champion. (The other two were Seth Rollins and Big E Langston, both “graduated” to the main roster.) Dallas started out a smilin’ babyface, but due to a general lack of charisma and an extremely punchable face, audiences started booing him out of the building. Ingeniously, Dallas then turned heel, but his character still THOUGHT he was a face. He would come out to a chorus of boos but react as if the audience were cheering him. He developed deliberately lame catchphrases around his name, like “Don’t stop Bo-lievin’!” and referring to his non-existent fans as “Bo-lievers.” Definitely a case of NXT turning lemons into lemonade.
Adrian Neville is the #2 good guy on NXT (#1 is obviously Sami Zayn, but he had to have his rad match with Cesaro). His gimmick is “The Man That Gravity Forgot”, meaning he’s prone to flipping and doing crazy moves off the top rope. His finisher is the Red Arrow, a corkscrew shooting star press, and if you think that sounds rad, don’t worry. It is. Neville’s lacking a bit in the charisma department. He’s honestly a little weird-looking, and his English accent is extremely thick. Still, he’s a good enough wrestler to earn this spot.
A ladder match means that the title is suspended above the ring and the wrestlers need to climb a ladder and retrieve it. There are no disqualifications or count-outs, so ladder matches tend to guarantee a certain number of insane stunts. This one was no different, although it was a bit more subdued than many WWE ladder matches, particularly the annual multi-man Money In The Bank ladder matches. Since ladder matches are pretty dangerous, I think that’s for the best, really. These two had a fine back-and-forth match which came to an end when Neville delivered the Red Arrow to Dallas as he lay prone on a ladder down on the mat. So Neville became the new champion and received a handshake and endorsement from the WWE’s biggest star himself, John Cena.
The WWE screws up so many things that seem like no-brainers that it’s honestly refreshing to see a show from them where everything goes right. NXT Arrival had good storytelling, great matches, and was a great selling-point for the NXT talent and the WWE Network in general. If you’d like to know about all the things WWE is capable of doing wrong, stay tuned for when I tell you about Wrestlemania 30. Right now the main title match is between two guys the audience genuinely can’t stand! Should be a good time.