Most weeks NXT is WWE’s 2nd best show they produce (and sometimes the best.) But its primary goal is to produce future superstars to one day grace our televisions on Monday Night. Each week we’ll take a look at each individual segment and decide if it’s “Raw worthy.”
Bayley nails her role as the star-struck comic con groupie, I especially loved her hug-drives in the corner turnbuckles. She does bashful as well as The Ultimate Warrior did batshit. Showing some real character beats that would work on any WWE show, Bayley would be a welcome change in a stale women’s division with only one true character type.
Also, AJ’s visit to NXT let her stretch out a bit as well. Too small to “squash” anyone on Raw, this is as close as she’ll get to a dominant win. For whatever reason WWE wants no part of a woman’s champ who consistently looks strong. And this is the 2nd time we’ve seen her break out a Shining Wizard, so hopefully that’s a thing going forward.
Quick wrestling-nerd tangent: isn’t it a bit odd that right after a huge angle ends where Paige won the NXT Women’s Championship, AJ defends the supposedly more prestigious Divas title against somebody who randomly asked for it? Really just to try and get more hugs?
Where was Paige, Summer Rae, or even Emma complaining about not getting a crack at the butterfly belt? I know that’s some serious fantasy booking (Paige/AJ segment thanksssss) but at least acknowledging the more deserving NXT challengers could have given AJ an extra heel segment to work with as she brushed them off. Oh well.
Verdict: Raw worthy.
CJ Parker photobombs Tyler Breeze
Short but effective way to further Breeze’s introduction to the NXT universe (do we have to say that, is that a thing?) and setting up Parker’s re-introduction later in the show as a living 17-minute Phish guitar solo. My only concern with Breeze thus far is how similar this schtick is to Fandango, two guys with more important things to do than get hit in the face. Although through NXT exposure Breeze should have an even better grasp on his character than Fandango did when he debuted.
Verdict: Smackdown worthy.
The Ascension vs Ron Hicks & Michael Zaki
I’m not sure what the deal is with these cats. Are the supernatural, or just really serious dudes with a vaguely religious name? Oh, play-by-play guy Tony Phillips tells us they have “archaic and ancient principles,” so that clears it all up.
At least it’s encouraging that O’Brian and Rick Victor have some legit tag-team moves, which are lacking in the WWE tag-team division. But where do these guys fit in on the roster? The Wyatt Family already cornered the creepy ohgodwhatthefuck market, but in a more “real-world” way. The Ascension are basically steampunk Sons of Damien Demento, stuck in a wrestling world that doesn’t believe in magic anymore. Don’t see them on the main shows.
And hey Victor, those goggles, they do nothing!
Verdict: Superstars Worthy
CJ Parker vs Baron Corbin
I’m a sucker for ridiculous wrestling hometowns, and “Moonchild commune” is pretty funny. Mix that with play-by-play man Tom Phillips’ line “he looks like the Predator got hit over the head with a Jackson Pollock painting” and I at least enjoyed a bit of Parker’s segment. But his wrestling was blah, and this gimmick of a photobombing hippie who takes the brown acid while squeezing out two more pushups a day than Kassius Ohno doesn’t work for me.
But his confrontation with Breeze was fantastic, at least at showing how much more fun Breeze can be. Bonus points for Breeze debuting his glorious pissy voice. How could we ever root for Parker in this scenario? He’s Bo Dallas with dreads, a “stealth” heel nobody’s going to get behind. Not buying it. Can’t wait until he eats “Blue Steel” from Breeze (that’s what I’m calling his finisher until told otherwise.)
Verdict: House-show worthy for the match, Smackdown worthy for Breeze portion.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Alexander Rusev
Dolph Ziggler wrestling dudes that outweigh him by 100 pounds will always be great. As will giant Bulgarian beasts who slap their thighs before running shoulder blasts in the corner. How great was Rusev in his debut? A 300 pounder will a spinning heel kick and a splash of the top rope, all while looking like Sagat crosses with E. Honda? Throw in random taunting in Bulgarian and I’m sold.
Props to Dolph, coming down to NXT and letting Rusev kick his ass a bit. He didn’t let him too much because he can’t get shown up that badly by an NXT newbie, despite getting worked over being Dolph’s schtick. Can’t wait to see him maul jobbers for two months then annihilate Mason Ryan back to jolly Wales.
Verdict: Smackdown worthy.
Sami Zayn vs. Antonio Cesaro – ⅔ Falls Match
You’re going to read a lot about this match in the coming weeks, and deservedly so. One of the benefits of NXT is the freedom they have to work. The storylines are tight, easy to understand, and almost always about wrestling. There’s no reason this kind of feud can’t be used to make the Intercontinental title a prestigious belt again, coveted by men who value skill and possess the desire to be the best. There has to be space on Raw for these kinds of stories. Nick mentioned in his SummerSlam column earlier this week how he felt Del Rio was slowly evolving the World Heavyweight championship into a technical wrestling showcase. Feuds like Zayn/Cesaro could, and should, do that for the IC title as well.
Two things stood out the most in this instant classic, and I mean two things besides the unreal through-the-ropes spinning DDT or the Tornado DDT into Swiss Death reversal. One, how about that unbelievable neck crank Cesaro locks in for his first submission pin? Using a what’s normally a rest hold to crush your opponents throat, cut off his circulation, and put him to sleep. Props to Zayn for selling the hell out of with his barely conscious taps to the mat. William Regal puts over that move every Cesaro match he calls, and it was great to see it put to such good use.
Two, check out how quick Cesaro goes for the Neutralizer after his stunning feat-of-strength reversal. He immediately picks Zayn back up, pulls him into position, and crushes his body to the canvas. How many wrestlers do that anymore? After hitting such a killer move, most would preen and pose for the crowd forever before executing their finisher. But Zayn and Cesaro were telling a story in the ring, a wrestling story, each man desperate to defeat the other to prove their superior skill level. A man who wants to win wastes no time in the ring. Nothing gets my wrestling nerd going than purpose with each movement.
Verdict: WrestleMania 30 Intercontinental Title Match worthy.