NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces. But its primary goal is to make future superstars who will one day grace our televisions on Raw. Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week: Who will enter the first ever Bo Dallas Invitational?
Fandango & Summer Rae vs. Santino & Emma
One thing that really bummed me out about the final episodes of Breaking Bad was all the chatter about “good fans” and “watching the show the right way.” Anytime anyone tries to tell fans how they should enjoy or perceive any kind of art is just plain wrong and reeks of elitism. There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy or despise any kind of consumable product. That of course goes for wrestling as well, and maybe it’s even more crucial when storylines and characters can become so divisive.
So when I say I feel bad for people that don’t enjoy matches like this one, I don’t mean it in any sort of “you’re watching wrestling wrong” kind of way. If one wants all hardcore ECW matches because that’s what they like about the medium, then more power to ’em. There’s enough variety that something should work for just about everyone.
I feel bad because it’s so much fun, and I want everyone to enjoy this as much as I do. Good lord was this segment magical and I’m still smiling just thinking about it. Santino and Emma combining their entrances, the tag in hi-five gaffes, and all the ridiculous Cobra swapping was as fun as anything I’ve seen in NXT. They had great natural chemistry together and I’ll be sad every time Santino pops up on Raw without Emma close behind. A big reason why this worked is they let the segment breathe – on Raw this would have been three minutes and each spot rushed through. Also huge props to Fandango for his amazing sell of the Cobra Strike – I think his gum flew about 50 ft in the air.
Verdict: Raw worthy.
Okay, I know this was just a quick promo to give The Ascension some sinister vibes heading into their huge tag-team championship matchup, but I got ask: where is this “home” O’Brian and Victor grunt about? Is it some sort of alternate time or dimension? What are these dudes? Are they futuristic? Ancient? Highlander dudes without sweet swords? Until they get some direction beyond mysterious and growly, the main roster has no place for these weirdos. I’d also recommend canning the “hero” talk – too close to the Wyatt Family and Shield action plans. Get a distinct agenda and maybe we’ll talk.
Verdict: TNA worthy.
Kassius Ohno vs. Luke Harper
Promised myself this wouldn’t be a breakdown of the returning Kassius Ohno’s physique because I try my damnedest to stay away from the dirt sheets. But Ohno’s extended absence probably has roots in some sort of backstage shenanigans, considering he was gone for “four months” with no reported injury – so I can’t help but let it color my thinking heading into this matchup. Quick take: he looks fine, so hopefully if that was a problem it’s in the past. Now, as far as Ohno’s journey to the main roster, not sure what this match tells us. Luke Harper dominated the proceedings, which he should have as a conquering beast returning to NXT.
I was surprised, however, by the shortness, and — outside of a few flurries — how little Ohno got to do. For his big return to the ring, Ohno not only didn’t get to win, he didn’t even get something akin to Sami Zayn’s matches with Cesaro/Swagger – a loss that feels like a win because of the awesome. This didn’t feel like a new chapter in a storied rivalry – no after match kerfuffles to keep the narrative going – just a decisive, impressive victory for Harper. I don’t think this means that ‘management’ is still down on Ohno. There is no reason to bring him back if they didn’t think he had it. My guess is this was a way to ease him back into action, give him some frustrating losses, and push forward a storyline where Ohno can turn heel again and start an epic feud with Zayn.
Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.
Enzo Amore y Big Cass Promo
Just do yourself a favor and watch it, it’s pure gold.
TROAT. BIG MUSH. NO SHOES. SAWWWWWFT TACOS.
Verdict: Raw worthy.
Mojo Rawley Vignette
Ummmm… So this cat’s entire gimmick is he’s super hyped all day every day? I have no idea if this could work, but if we can somehow get a recreation of this scene with Rawley and Enzo Amore I’ll be a happy camper.
Verdict: Superstars worthy.
The Ascension vs. Corey Graves & Adrian Neville
I’m not into three out of four wrestlers involved in this match, and I’m afraid it’s leading me to incorrectly evaluate Adrian Neville. I get so jazzed when gets the hot tag I’m not sure if it’s because he’s performing great or I’m shell-shocked after another installment Rick Victor/Corey Graves rest-hold theatre.
In my notes it says that this was the best I’ve seen Neville since he’s teamed up with Hot Topic. His hot-tag offense late in the match was glorious, dare I say even D. Bry-eque. He mixed even more back-flip evasive maneuvers, and his offense seemed crisper, quicker, and a bit stronger. Hopefully this improvement wasn’t comparison camouflage and Neville is ready to fly high on Raw.
Putting the tag-team titles on The Ascension means somebody in NXT-land thinks these guys are ready to rule over Orlando. This is not necessarily a bad thing, regardless of how I feel. I’m reviewing based on what I think will play on Raw or Smackdown – and clearly I don’t think this team is ready. But I am interested in seeing what they can do now that they’re clearly positioned as the big bads of NXT. Hopefully that’ll jump start some interesting character development from these guys that makes them work.
Corey Graves still sucks.
Verdict: NXT worthy.
The Bo Dallas Invitational
In the normal heel handbook, this type of segment usually consists of the conceited bad guy cutting a promo about how unstoppable he’s become and there’s no one in the locker room that measures up. It’s a classic trope and works well to incite some serious babyface heat for anyone who takes on the challenge.
This could have been the moment this iteration of Bo Dallas’ amazing character starting slipping into traditional heel type stuff, but once again Dallas pulled off an amazing performance, twisting this segment into something that let him shine in his oblivious dick role. His genuine excitement giving some fresh-faced scrub a shot at the champ was adorable, and I loved how he showed concern for his random jobber opponent after the match. He could have easily acted cruel and dismissive, but he stayed true to the narrative and I love him for it. Almost as much as I loved his bizarre line-reading of “NXT CHAMPIONSHIP!!!” I have no clue what that was all about, but it made me laugh every time he did it.
The Leo Kruger and Antonio Cesaro part was clearly done just to set up a match/feud with each other, and it’s a great idea. Cesaro is a de facto wrestling instructor out there – clearly WWE brass like him in NXT for his ability to generate great matches out of anyone. Kruger intrigues me, I like his overall vibe but I’m not super sold on his ring work just yet. A few matches with Cesaro should tell us a lot.
Okay, I know I’m burying the lede with this almost-El Generico business at the end of The Bo Dallas Invitational, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it until now. This is something I knew WWE would always have in their back pocket, but deploying it so half-assed I’m just kinda stumped why they bothered. Storyline wise it makes sense, as Dallas decreed that Zayn was banned from his Invitational despite being a strong contender for the NXT championship. Zayn needed a way in, and donning a mask is a great tradition in wrestling when you need to get around the rules.
But with so much weight behind this particular wrestler wearing a mask, it just left me emotionally bent. I’m sure the fans who know nothing of Generico enjoyed the segment, but I can’t help but wonder if they blew a real opportunity to resurrect the legend of The Generic One down the road. Overall the segment was awesome and Zayn played it great, so I’m not going to downgrade it just because I couldn’t help but engage in some fantasy booking.
Verdict: Raw worthy.