nxt: the seven (or eight) episode itch

(Note: This did start life as a perfectly normal Wrestlegasm NXT Recap, until I emailed it from one PC to another and the file corrupted. So I’m sorry, but you’ll to sit through this pile of old nonsense instead – Andrew)

I’d like to think that we here at Wrestlegasm.com are not your average wrestling fans. Ray, by her own admission, is a girly girl – as interested in cookery and cosmetics as she is camel clutches and clotheslines; while I like to think of myself, public opinion aside, as a reasonably cultured and intelligent man. Therefore I would assume that you, the wonderful readers of Wrestlegasm (yes, even the Matt Hardy fans) are not stereotypical wrestling fans – and as such have experienced at least one long-term relationship in your life.

Love – amazing isn’t it? The first fumbling moments of trying to find out every last morsel of information about the person that your heart desires more than any other. That first heady rush when you finally get together and you realise they are even more fantastic than you had dared imagine. The ephemeral wish that, although you’ve been let down in the past, this time could be different. This time could be the one, the one to prove that all is finally right with the world and that together you can achieve pure unadulterated bliss…

…then, slowly but surely, as it has every time before, things change. You begin to notice little things that annoy you, begin to realise that the effort just isn’t there anymore – that they hardly even seem to care what you think. Gradually you begin to question yourself. Was I wrong? Is this just another doomed relationship? Was I blinded to their flaws by the glaring light of the initial attraction? Should I get out now before I get hurt, or should I continue to try and see this through to the bitter end – ever hopeful that this will end with a fabulous bang rather than the usual drab whimper?

(If you are too young to have experienced this… well, I guess I owe you an apology for some of the comments and jokes I may have made earlier in the blog for a start. But, in order to understand this metaphor, you may want to replace the above with the following: “You know when you have a big bowl of Frosties they start off all delicious, sweet and crunchy. But then as you get towards the end of the bowl all the sugar has come off and they’re all flaccid and nasty? Horrible isn’t it?” Hope that helps)

I was unashamedly excited for NXT before it started. I had nothing but high hopes for the show, hopes which were raised even more when they announced the rookies and mentors. The first few episodes were amazing, watching them was a constant joy – the wrestling was well done, the interactions between Rookie and Mentor were interesting, even the original Introduction Videos were fun and well put together.

However, over the last two or three weeks things have started to slide slightly. I appreciate that this being the first series things are always going to be liable to change, and I have no issue with that. However, I do think that having some kind of competition structure in place before the series started may have been advantageous. The competition rules, once they were finally announced, have been changed at least once during this series so far. The prize is still apparently to become the “WWE’s next breakout star” – a phrase that simultaneously implies that there will be only one winner while also managing to tell us absolutely nothing about the actual prize.  Does the winner get a place on Raw? On Smackdown? Do they just get the subsequently announced title shot, but no actual roster place? Does only one person get a roster place, and if so what happens to the other seven? Do they go on to Series Two or do they go back to FCW?

Perhaps more importantly, will there even be a Series Two? With the recent news that Smackdown is moving to SciFi (and yes, I know it’s apparently SyFy but I’m not stooping to their level) it has been announced that NXT is being dropped from it’s current home on the channel. There have been rumours that NXT has been offered to Bravo, or that it may become a web-based series on WWE.com – but nothing is certain, especially as viewing figures have been dropping week on week. Part of the reason for the viewing figures sliding may be the product itself – a show with little WWE Superstar inclusion and a roster of relative unknowns will always struggle to find an audience unfortunately. But a lot of the reason has to be the bad timing of starting a new show, one that would benefit from a good deal of promotion on Raw and Smackdown, in the run-up to Wrestlemania. This meant that any promo time on the two main shows was understandably taken up advertising the Pay-Per-View, while NXT itself shared (at it’s worst) around two-thirds of its runtime to advertising Wrestlemania.

Over the last two weeks, NXT has become a combination of wrestling show, “It’s a Knockout” and “Who’s Line Is It Anyway” (if you’re too young to remember these two shows, think about Frosties again…) With keg carrying in Episode Seven and an improvisational promo competition in Series Eight. While these segments were admittedly fun, they did result in a lot less time for wrestling – something that was blatantly obvious last week during the Daniel Bryan/William Regal match.  It’s no secret that I adore both these guys, and with the history between them there was the potential for an amazing match with a ready built story attached. And, to be fair, it was a brilliant match – for the whole three minutes or so it was given.

I don’t want to sound like I’ve fallen out of love with NXT, because I really haven’t. There’s still some great wrestlers on there: Bryan obviously, but Wade Barrett has proven himself to be a great worker and a good promo, and Justin Gabriel seems to managing to avoid being tainted too much by Matt Hardy and is coming across really well. The interactions between Darren Young and the Straight Edge Society continue to be outstanding, and Skip Sheffield is still growing on me by the week. It’s always good to see our colleague Matt Striker really enjoying his work, while Josh Mathews and Michael Cole are doing a pretty good job, ably assisted by Jericho on occasion (who has to be either a manager or on commentary when the time comes to take it easy)

But I just feel like the shine is starting to come off NXT, and that makes me worried that there won’t be a second series – if viewing figure and popularity keep falling then the WWE are going to struggle to find a new home for it. I’ll be sticking with it, like an abused spouse – always hoping NXT will show me that same love and affection that it used to, back when it used to make more of an effort for me. But I’ve a horrible feeling that my love is misguided as usual, and that things will get worse…

and worse…