nxt series 4: late to the party

Last week I asked you to pray for me in case I had to watch NXT for a Striker-fix. On Tuesday morning when I was informed that Jerry Lawler was still firmly lodged in his commentary chair, I prepared myself for the yellow brand. You see, Andrew and I couldn’t quite face another series of NXT. We watched adoringly through series one. Then absorbed every episode of series two without missing a beat. We were totally on board with this Wild and Young lifestyle they were peddling, even if the majority of it was a combination of Total Wipeout and Wheel of Fortune with a bit of bonus wrestling chucked in.

Then series three came. How wonderful – a whole series of NXT dedicated to the Divas. It seemed so….progressive. We had always wanted there to be a Divas-only show of some sorts. It was a marvellous idea, until it all went wrong. They didn’t just fill it with the usual NXT silliness, they made it so embarrassing we didn’t even watch the final few episodes. And it wasn’t just that they didn’t care. They cared so little they made their indifference part of the storyline. Michael Cole reached a new level of aggravating hobgoblin and the show was cancelled on US TV. It was still available on some channels, but with the US audience forced to watch online (if at all) and the catch-up videos region-locked, series three of NXT just fell off the radar for us.

When series four started and I realised Mason Ryan wasn’t going to be a rookie, we decided to give it a miss. That changed this week. With my Matt Striker quota knocked down to one Superstars match, I decided to watch an episode of NXT. Andrew very kindly decided to take the televisual bullet too and watch with me. How very ‘you jump, I jump’. Anyway, a strange thing happened…..we enjoyed it! Maybe it was the absence of Michael Cole, maybe it was the fact that everything else went misty when Mr. Striker appeared on my screen (still wearing his special NXT shoes) but we didn’t have to watch through our fingers as expected.

It’s strange joining a show in the middle of a series. I’ve seen a few episodes of FCW over the past year in an attempt to catch some of Mason Ryan’s developmental matches. So the faces were vaguely familiar. I can’t say I was paying attention to much of the detail while impatiently skipping through FCW though.  We’re very late to the party on this series. In fact, we’re so late to the party, all that’s left are some dodgy prawn quiches and some flat Coca-Cola. Still, I thought it might be fun to run through this episode and record some first impressions of the remaining contestants…..

It’s nice to see that nothing’s changed on NXT. They’re still playing silly, rigged party games and pretending they’re important. On many levels, it’s quite comforting. This week it was everyone’s favourite fake punch-up – Rock ‘em-Sock ‘em Rookie Challenge. Classic!

Okay, so Johnny Curtis is invited to climb onto a podium first. We’ll call him The Looker. He’s the one where you scan the opening credits for the one boy you might favour because he was blessed with more handsome genes than the others. This involves cocking an eyebrow, doing a sideways smile and greeting him with an almost purred hellooooooooo. Also, he has R-Truth as a mentor, so he needs some kind of advantage.

The Looker has to face Derrick Bateman in the rocky socky fighty thing. We’ll call Bateman ‘Thinks-He’s-Funny’.

Between ourselves, he is actually quite funny. In preparation for this episode of NXT we watched some Bateman YouTubes and laughed. He’s in! Thinks-He’s-Funny endeared himself to the crowd by wearing a piece of cheese on his head and it seemed to work wonderfully. I’ll give it a try myself:

Double cheese

They bash each other a bit and Thinks-He’s-Funny wins. Then Byron Saxton steps up.

Byron was always enjoyable on commentary but as a wrestler he seems a little wet. He also appears to be the whitest black guy I’ve ever seen. Even more so than the fella on Antiques Roadshow.

We’ll call Byron ‘Antiques’.  His opponent is Brodus Clay. We’ll call him Bowser.

NUFF SAID!

Bowser refuses to play, mainly because he thinks the spikes on his tail will pierce the inflatable cushion or something. Antiques wins by default and goes on to beat Thinks-He’s-Funny. He looks happier than that time someone brought 300 year-old walnut sideboard to the Roadshow and it was worth £20,000. They watch the replay and Matt Striker announces they’ll have rematch. Antiques wins again.

Apparently the big NXT meme this series is to call Dolph Ziggler ‘turd’. The story goes that he changed his name to Dolph from Turd Ferguson. Riiiiiiight.  It’s amazing how little wrestling shows make sense when you haven’t been watching from the start of the series. How anyone ever gets into this nonsense is a mystery to me. At least chanting ‘turd’ at someone is slightly offensive. Better than Mr. Ziggles, right?

So Antiques and Thinks-He’s-Funny have a match. I won’t pretend I remember much about it. Daniel Bryan was in one corner dressed in a jumper and slacks, and Dolph Ziggler was being awesome in the other corner while wearing a Zack Ryder t-shirt. That’s all I need for a good time. Antiques tapped out, Dolph was angry. Bryan was ecstatic.

Then they played a game of The Price is Right. Bowser looked like he just wanted to get it over with, Antiques seemed to think it was beneath him to appraise anything that wasn’t over a hundred years old, Thinks-He’s-Funny went for the laffs and The Looker took it extremely seriously. Striker, Mathews, Grisham and Chimel were in their element. Matt Striker seemed particularly enamoured with his role as gameshow host. This made me happy. I have something of a penchant for trashy gameshows. Andrew pointed out at this point that should Striker ever get the gig hosting Million Pound Drop, I might explode. I would like to suggest that someone gets Davina McCall pregnant so we can make this happen while she’s on maternity leave.

Explosion imminent. (The answer is JLS, by the way.)

The Looker and R-Truth had an angry man-hug:

Then Looker had a match against Bowser. It was difficult to follow what was going on. Dolph was being still being awesome elbow-dropping cheese on the stage while Chris Masters encouraged the crowd to shout ‘turd’ again. Daniel Bryan was still happy.

Bowser wins the match. They both then find themselves tied for immunity. Not sure what happened after that. Matt Striker was being all cute, and officious, and over-sized cuffs, and………

Sorry. I was drifting. Antiques was eliminated. I’m told.

Maybe it is the lack of Michael Cole and maybe it is because Booker T is still sitting in Striker’s chair on Smackdown, but we think we might watch again next week. My enthusiasm for recapping it, however, ends here. I hadn’t realised how tricky writing about NXT is. I should give Andrew a retrospective pay rise for making such a beautiful job of the first three series. Well I would, if I actually paid him!