So, here we are again with another incredibly late NXT recap – and I may have been a tad harsh on NXT last week. It was one of those weeks and I was in a bad mood and I ended up comparing NXT to a cross between ‘It’s a Knockout’ and ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway’ which was, frankly, unfair. For this I apologise unreservedly – it was narrow-minded and petty of me to make such a trite comparison, especially given the fact that this week would draw on another classic piece of television history.
Yes, assuming you can still hear me over the sound of Ray’s girly squealing at the sight of new best friend Barri up there, this week NXT decided to model half the show on Gladiators – namely the Pugil Stick Duel round. Yes, the 8 rookies squared off in a knockout tournament to decide who was the best at standing on a wobbly platform and hitting each other with oversized cotton buds. What was the prize for this incredible achievement? A special feature on wwe.com, which actually turned out to be a complete rebranding of the site. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the WWE weren’t going to call this something daft like Pugil Stick Duel, or even Q-Tip Quarrel. No, that would be stupid… they called it the Rock ’em Sock ’em Rookies Challenge instead…
Anyway, this wasn’t a tournament without incident. First of all, and perhaps most importantly, it gave Daniel Bryan his first win. Admittedly it was by default when Michael Tarver threw down his stick and just stepped off the pedestal in a huff, but still, a win is a win and Bryan has been desperately short of those so far.
Tarver’s whole gimmick at the moment seems to be “I’ve no chance of winning this, so I’m not going to bother trying” – an almost fourth wall breaking blend of kayfabe and reality, even if by accident. Let’s face it, the only thing he has going for him is his line in snappy merchandise, so at least they’ll keep him warm while he’s sleeping in an alley somewhere.
Another feature they introduced this week was a section where each Pro could give their opinion on a particular Rookie, this week being Wade Barrett (yay!) and Heath Slater (boo!) All the Pros were in agreement (as are myself and Ray) that Wade is pretty awesome and will make a great addition to the main roster. Hardy called him “a complete package”, Christian said he was “physically impressive” and R-Truth said something unintelligible about kicking dogs so the WWE sensibly didn’t use it.
First actual match of the night was David “A-List” Otunga against Justin “Confirmed Bachelor” Gabriel. Both men were accompanied by their respective mentors, even R-Truth making a surprise post-mortem visit to support Gabriel.
Otunga still can’t wrestle much at all, whereas Gabriel is definitely one of the more talented Rookies on the NXT roster. Otunga’s gameplan seemed to consist mainly of restholds, shoulderblocks and fancy pants (which you may recall are Versace). This match seemed to be more about reigniting the dissension between Otunga and Truth. At the end of the match Gabriel went for a Sunset Flip, leaving Otunga calling to Truth to grab his hands and help him.
Truth declined Otunga’s rather forward request to hold hands, giving Gabriel the win.
Next up, Tarver came to the ring in his snazzy RUN NXT shirt, accompanied by Carlito in his less snazzy pyjamas. What pearl of wisdom did Tarver have for us?
In case you’re confused, no – that doesn’t make any sense. Still Tarver issued an open challenge to any Rookie – to be answered by everyone’s favourite Cornfed Meathead Skip Sheffield, offering the sage advice to “turn your upper lip upside down” and using Ray’s beloved alliteration, calling Tarver the “nitwit of negativity”.
So the match is set, Tarver vs Sheffield – let’s go! Or not, because what’s that noise?
Again, raising my voice to be heard over Ray’s Punk-related squeals, the two wrestlers in the ring were interrupted by the always awesome Straight Edge Saviour who inserted his rookie into the match.
This was a pretty fun match, with Sheffield and Tarver teaming up on Young throughout the match, leading to Luke Gallows coming out and interfering – jealously trying to cost Young the match. This was to no avail however, with Young getting the pin and Gallows sulking
Next up was the video featuring the Pros opinions on the increasingly annoying Heath Slater. Unlike Barrett the Pros seem to have mixed feelings, Jericho in particular explaining that he “hates the guy… every time he sees his face” – a feeling I can empathise with…
The main event was a match between the aforementioned Slater and Jericho – but as I can’t stand Slater I will refrain from commenting, suffice to say that Slater got the pin and Jericho did this:
What did you think of the whole thing Bryan?