Did you watch NXT last week? Yeah, pretty uneventful really wasn’t it? A quiz show followed by an interminably dull match between “Dashing” Cody Rhodes and MVP. While I’m a fan of Cody, MVP has done nothing of interest since his feud with He Who Must Not Be Named and just drains any interest I have in any segment he might be involved in. As such their isn’t really going to be a recap this week. I know, I know… I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from here.
As it happens, this series I haven’t really done much in the way of actual recaps; partly because of real life time constraints and partly because it’s just not been as eventful as the first series. Last week, for example, I bodged together a Jackie-style photostory about Layla and Kaval, which led to a comment from one of our regular readers:
Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion of course – this is the internet after all, a forum where even Matt Hardy is given a platform to speak whatever indecipherable inanity crosses his mind between sessions stuffing his face with pizza. As such I would like to point out before I start that this is no way meant as a slight against Roler42, who as I mentioned is a regular reader and commenter.
Arguing against the use of the word “wreckage” to describe this series of NXT is a slightly untenable position given that the WWE seem to have struggled to learn from the lessons they could have learnt from the first series, both “in-universe” and in real life. The whole justification for the Nexus’ actions over the last couple of months has been their shoddy treatment at the hands of WWE management – the obstacle courses… the improvised challenges… all things that have been reiterated this time round.
In fact, if anything, the Rookies this series have been treated even worse as some kind of pre-emptive punishment. Think back to the first episode, which culminated with the Pros jumping the Rookies and beating them in what Striker described as an “official welcome to NXT.” Since then, there have been unprovoked attacks by Pros on Rookies; a reintroduction of the ridiculous challenges, including the new “Kissing Competition”; and the same combination of random eliminations and rule changes at a moment’s notice. Surely this should lead the Rookies to form Nexus II or D-Generation NXT or NXT World Order or whatever?
However, while there is an argument to be made that you could possibly disparage this season of NXT as a “wreckage” – the idea that LayCool could “almost […] look like the best pros” seems to intimate that they are in fact, not the best Pros. Now, I was concerned when this pairing was first announced like most people. I was a fan of Kaval’s from his days wrestling in the indies, and I truthfully couldn’t abide Michelle McCool after the Mickie James/Beth Phoenix storylines. But both she and Layla have grown on me to such an extent that I genuinely don’t want them to break up the trio, even after tonight’s final. As such, I would posit that Laycool are indeed the best Pros on this series of NXT.
As always with this bizarre concotion that is Professional Wrestling, there are two ways to look at their tenure as Pros: either in kayfabe or in shoot terms (As an aside, I really hate using those phrases…) The easiest way to discuss this is one at a time, so let’s start with:
The easiest part to justify. LayCool have been the most consistently entertaining Pros on this series. Their interactions both with Kaval and with the other Rookies and Pros have been genius in places, and their comic timing (especially in the case of Layla) has come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of months. From a team that were involved in pretty dreadful storylines previously, reliant on a kind of Mean Girls schtick to get over – they have become “self professed” Co-Women’s Champions and have actually made the title interesting for the first time in some time, all while managing to increase the profile of Kaval on both NXT and Smackdown. While Kaval was obviously the most experienced and talented wrestler amongst the Rookies, his size was always going to be a stumbling block in getting the average WWE fan to accept him as anything other than a “plucky underdog”. Having him accompanied by Layla & McCool… having their characters slowly turn from incomprehension and incredulity to a genuine affection… culminating in them even stepping up to Husky Harris on his behalf… these things all give the fans another reason to like Kaval.
Where to start? From episode one’s Pros on Rookies beatdown, initiated when Layla and Michelle slapping Kaval, through to the last episode with their obvious delight at their charge’s success in the Trivia Quiz, Laycool have proven themselves to be the Pros with the most interest in and affection for their Rookie. With the possible exception of “Dashing” Cody Rhodes and Husky Harris, nobody else in this series has shown even close to the amount of connection. Sure Kofi and Mark Henry have been quite friendly with their Rookies, but there hasn’t been the same interaction and “journey” as with LayCool and Kaval.
Being given a Rookie who was obviously a better wrestler than they ever would be, they concentrated on bringing out Kaval’s personality and moulding him into the kind of person that the WWE Universe could (and indeed has) rally behind. Making him a customised t-shirt to wear, to showing him the importance of a nice smile, to Layla’s interference at the Kissing Competition: they really have been the most supportive mentors this time round.
I don’t know what will happen in tonight’s final, whether Kaval will win or whether it will go to someone like Alex Riley who, quite frankly, needs the push more. I know who I want to win, and that’s due, in part at least, to the relationship with Layla and Michelle. And this is why I hope they keep Layla and Kaval involved in some manner after this week, even if LayCool break up at Night of Champions. While I’m never a huge fan of romance storylines in WWE programming, this is one that has the potential to be genuinely entertaining and even, dare I say, touching.