While NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces, its primary goal is to make future superstars with Raw getting the cream of the crop, SmackDown nabs the leftovers and those who would probably better off staying on NXT than finding themselves on Main Event, or worse, Superstars .
Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment from the hourlong show (AVAILABLE FOR FREE ON HULU, SO WATCH IT) and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week: Can a beat-the-clock challenge help our burgeoning sports-entertainers shine?
Bo Dallas Homecoming
The most interesting thing to watch as Bo Dallas evolves his character over the coming months is how he handles increasingly hostile crowd. Oblivious Bo is funny, but at some point he needs to learn how to keep that gee-golly shitbird smile going while acknowledging the crowd when they’re ignoring a wordy segment like this week’s slide show. It’s easy when it’s some simple Boo-Urns stuff he can shrug off, but he had to work to get through all his material here. Nothing to worry about necessarily, just something to watch for going forward. Oh, and the two best Dallas lines this week: “There I sports entertained…” and “Did you come here for a cookie?” Oh, and it was nice of Olive Oil to let Bo borrow her shirt.
Overall this was a slam-dunk segment surrounding the championship, it makes the version on Raw seem unnecessarily complicated by comparison. Bo Dallas is the face of NXT, but the fans love Sami Zayn, and Sami wants to title. So JBL’s going to make him work to get there without sacrificing the integrity of the federation. So a beat-the-clock challenge is created to give the rest of the roster a fair shake and not just hand another shot to Zayn. SIDE NOTE: The beat-the-clock challenge is a pretty stupid way to determine a #1 contender because it really doesn’t prove any sort of higher skill level. But it squeezes several matches into one show while simultaneously giving each match urgency, direction and purpose. Tournaments are always preferable, but with NXT’s one hour running time, the story needs to move a bit quicker.
One other big positive form this segment: Zayn came across as a tough babyface without being a dick – “cheeseball” is a great way to get at Dallas without calling him something misogynistic. Hope that character thread continues.
This Belongs on … Raw
Big Cass vs. Alexander Rusev
Even if I’m going to give a beat-the-clock challenge a pass overall, I still need to criticize the wrestlers when they completely ignore logic trying to win the stipulation. Maybe somebody translated the rules into Bulgarian using Google Translate, but what the fuck was Rusev looking at the clock for!?! This was the very first match of the challenge! He had no time to beat! Come on!
Other than that bit of ridiculousness, this was a fine match that made both guys look pretty good. Rusev got to beat up a legit 7-foot dude, and Big Cass got some babyface props for his fighting spirit. His breaking out of Rusev’s first attempt at the Camel Clutch was great, actually looking like a someone ripping and clawing to break a hold. So many times it looks like the guy applying the hold just kind of quits or forgets they are in a wrestling match.
This Belongs On … NXT
Adrian Neville Interview
I’d normally hate to celebrate a concussion of a sports entertainer. But in this case…
THANK YOU NEV-ILLE! CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP. THANK YOU NEV-ILLE! CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP.
This Belongs On … SmackDown
The variety of female characters that grace NXT is outstanding. And I’d be hard pressed to choose anyone over Bayley as my favorite right now. How can you not love this girl? There is some serious babyface sympathy here, but without her seeming weak or helpless. Outstanding.
This Belongs On … Raw
Tyler Breeze vs. Kassius Ohno
Oh god, no one told me Ohno would still be on these episodes. Does this mean we have to sit through four weeks of Ohno matches and promos knowing his fate? Oy vey. Ohno wasn’t a personal favorite of mine, but I know how much he meant to a lot of independent wrestling fans, and I always appreciated his cerebral, big strike wrestling style. It was on full display here as Ohno only went for quick pins. You know, to try and actually wrestle to the stipulation. Not surprising he’d be one of the only guys who understood the rules and wrestled accordingly.
On the plus side, it was nice to see Breeze straight-up dominate most of this match despite the loss. He looked quick, aggressive, and — despite the goofy section with Ohno lying outside and the count-out possibility ignored – focused. Getting in the ring with some one of Ohno’s caliber showed a bit more of Breeze’s in-ring knowledge and timing. The finale of the match, with reversal after reversal, flowed well and improved Breeze all-around stock even more.
This Belongs On … SmackDown
Hunico/Camacho vs. Jobby Jobbers
This Belongs On … Superstars
Kassius Ohno Interview
Aiden English vs. Adrian Neville
Okay, so now as the beat-the-clock challenge progresses, I’m starting to even 2nd guess my self whether it has any merit at all. This might just be me whining because it makes my job scouting a bit tougher, but these matches become breakneck and jittery so quick, characterization is mostly lost – and evaluating character is half of my job. Although one could say English’s attempt at a high risk maneuver at the top rope with under 30 seconds shows off his characters lack of ring awareness, we’d have to penalize just about every participant for pulling bonehead shit like that.
But, this match was still strong – both men looked spry and game, with Neville looking especially crisp after wrestling with a “knee injury” the past couple of weeks. Still not sure what kind of character Neville will go with when he finally gets called up – if he wants to stand out past guys like Tyson Kidd or Justin Gabriel he’ll need something more than high-flying skills and an accent. Hasn’t worked for those guys.
This Belongs on … SmackDown
Leo Kruger vs. Sami Zayn
Did you see that thumbs up Zayn gave the tie-tied little girl in the front row during his entrance? What a great guy, that Sami Zayn. Can’t find a more naturally like-able wrestler going. I was hoping that we’d get Sami on the big stage around this time, as maybe a surprise Survivor Series participant or teaming up with Punk/Bryan against the Wyatts, but as long as we get solid matches each week on NXT out of him, I can be a patient fan.
We’ve seen these two do battle a few times already, and as Alex Riley pointed out (somehow without mentioning The Miz!) their contrast in styles is a pleasing experience. I had been spoiled that Neville vs. Zayn was happening soon, so I saw the beat-the-clock challenge tie coming a mile away. But seeing the timing and skill it takes to pull of getting that spot juuuuust right was awesome. Kudos to Kruger, Zayn, and ref dude for pulling it off.
Also, big ups for Bo Dallas changing into his trunks to watch this match. Always gotta be ready for a fight.