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!


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n3xt: and so it begins… (the director’s cut)

Yikes. I wasn’t sure what to expect from NXT this series. I mentioned “worried trainwreck-type feelings” last week but if I’m honest that was partly born of pessimism and a hope that I would be pleasantly surprised. Let’s face it though, the only way you could be pleasantly surprised by the opening episode of N3XT would be if you had expected an X-Rated reenactment of the Katie Vick storyline with Eli Cottonwood playing HHH and a returning Big Daddy V playing the corpse.
Also, I now have “interracial gay fat porn” in my internet search history
[BOSS LADY RAY’S EDIT: If you happen to have found your way to this blog by Googling the statement above….. oh dear. Byeeeee!]
So now we’ve seen the first episode, is anybody actually expecting much from NXT this series? Judging by the opening episode that train-wreck is edging closer and closer. Getting past the new theme music is tricky enough, Boss Lady Ray for one was most upset at the loss of Wild and Young. Also on a purely aesthetic level, the addition of purple to the colour scheme doesn’t work for me I’m afraid. But they are nitpicking really, a way of avoiding talking about the true horrors to come.
Speaking of coming…
Seriously, this isn’t just a “heh… look at Goldust’s face! He looks like he’s really enjoying himself” joke. Read his twitter feed, the guy’s smitten.
Mind you, “Sinister Rape Genie” Primo doesn’t come across much better…
The whole show had the air of embarrassment about it, from Michael Cole fluffing his opening piece about “All-Rookie Divas” to Kelly Kelly reading her Rookie’s introduction from some kind of internal autocue. I’m struggling to find many positives for this series so far. The dance competition, which by now you are fully aware of, was just painful to watch, for the most part (despite the odd Striker-ism to lighten the mood) and the wrestling matches  were as painful as you would expect from a tag match where Kelly Kelly is the most talented of the four competitors.
However, there was one shining light this week. The one person that can hopefully raise this series from the depths. As you will remember from careful study of last weeks recap, Vickie Guerrero “sacked” her Rookie Aloisia. As always in wrestling, there’s a number of rumours flying round as to what actually happened – rumours which I’ll leave to other sites to go on about. However, who would her replacement be?
Oh Kaitlyn! Where have you been all my life? How do I adore thee? Let me count the ways.
1. Let’s not be coy here, she is very pretty and she has a great figure. And yes, by “figure” I mean “pair of boobs”. For all my blustering about women’s wrestling being more than just T&A (or TNA for that matter) and how in-ring ability is a must have, if we’re honest as wrestling fans I think we’ll all agree that appearance plays a large part in the popularity of certain wrestlers, male or female.
The majority of wrestlers at the top of the pile aren’t exactly hideous monsters (unless of course that’s their gimmick.) Cena, Orton, Punk, Edge, Jericho: I’m comfortable enough in my sexuality to say that they’re all good-looking guys. Even people like Matt bloody Hardy, the bane of my existence, has a certain appeal to some (at least that’s the impression I get when I insult him on here.)
Rightly or wrongly, we all prefer to look at people on screen that are attractive, and as such these people will become more popular with us. For example, I’ve made no secret in the past that I am a huge fan of Beth Phoenix, and I will be the first to admit that a lot of that is to do with the fact that she’s very attractive. Just to address the balance, Boss Lady Ray is the same: look at her obsessions over the course of this esteemed publication – John Cena, Randy Orton, CM Punk, HHH, Evan Bourne, Eli Cottonwood… all good wrestlers, all people that she finds attractive. The two things are inextricably linked in a business at least partly based on appearance.
2. She can act! Apart from a slightly rambling opening promo, her timing and mannerisms seem to be better that most of the Pros on this series already. I’ll be honest and say that, other than a few semi-naked photos, I don’t know much about Kaitlyn before NXT, but I assume there was some acting training in there somewhere. Her facial expressions, the way she reacted to Vickie throughout, her comic timing during the dance off – all point to someone with a talent for acting.
3. She’s actually a really good wrestler…
Well OK, I’ve no idea if she can wrestle at all. At this point I’m desperately hoping she can, otherwise I’m going to be really embarrassed at some time in the future. The thing is, she doesn’t need to be a brilliant wrestler to be a brilliant “Diva” – with the acting skills and good looks she only needs to be able to wrestle as well as someone like Maria could, and you could easily have her in the backstage-interviewer, occasionally getting beat up by the more powerful Divas. A big part of wrestling is the emotional pull of the babyface underdog getting beaten by a stronger heel opponent. As long as Kaitlyn can pull off a few basic moves and can sell as well as I think she’ll be able to, there’s a career there for the taking.
Hmmm… I had every intention of writing this as a regular recap, or at the very least a rant damning the treatment of women wrestlers on NXT, but somehow it’s turned into an almost cringeworthy treatise on “How I adore Kaitlyn, she’s so dreamy.”
Oh well, hopefully this week’s episode will feature a decent amount of wrestling and I can get back to writing about that. Oh, who am I kidding – it’ll be a pillow fight won’t it?

nxt: first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women…

So, the second series of NXT finished last week. As you are all no doubt aware by now, Kaval won. This was presumably due to the fact that the WWE are avid readers of this blog and form the majority of their booking decisions based on what we write. We’re the reason Matt Hardy hasn’t had a World Championship run yet. It’s OK, you’re welcome. No need to thank us.

Unfortunately however, apart from the actual winner reveal the only other thing of major note was a highly inexplicable brawl that happened afterwards. The losing Rookies stormed the ring and attacked Kaval. Then the Pros eventually ambled into the ring to save him. Then the Rookies and Pros kind of flailed at each other for a while. Then Alex Riley and Michael Thingy got back in the ring, where they started to attack the other Rookies, before remembering they were supposed to on their side. Then the Pros just got out of the ring and stood ineffectually a few feet away while everyone hit Kaval with their finishers. It was very strange, and I’m honestly not sure what the point of it was, other than to prove that most of them weren’t in a position to be on television in the first place. At one point Titus O’Neill “took” MVP’s Yakuza Kick in the corner, then walked away showing no sign that the move had ever happened – which at least led to this:

OK MVP, I take back what I said last week. Sorry

Anyway, of more import was the fact that they announced the Rookies for Series Three, and as rumoured it was an all-female line-up, at least for the Rookies. Ordinarily I would list them all and give a little background, but unfortunately the WWE insist on using FCW wrestlers that nobody outside the US gets a chance to see with any regularity. In fact, now we’ve established the influence and power that we hold over WWE, can we make a request that they start posting FCW episodes online somewhere? If nothing else, a certain lady that we all know and love would really appreciate the opportunity to get prepared for Mason Ryan…

Because of this I don’t know that much about any of the Rookies this time. In fact, despite what some Diva-based Dirt sheets might try to convince you about AJ Lee, there isn’t even an “indie darling” to get behind this series. This leaves us in the strange position of having an all-female roster who will be given a pretty short time to try and get themselves over as wrestlers, rather than eye-candy. As you’ll see, the Pros that have been chosen aren’t going to do much to help dispel the worried trainwreck-type feelings many of us are feeling either. But, being the dedicated contributor to this wonderful blog that I am (not to mention the fear of Boss Lady Ray’s anger sending shivers down my spine) I will attempt to introduce the Season 3 Rookies and Pros as best I can. Wish me luck…

“Primo is one of the most energetic young Superstars in WWE, so it’s only fitting that this San Juan-born competitor take the high-flying A.J. under his wing.  Like her WWE Pro, A.J. is of Puerto Rican descent, and the duo certainly has a lot in common. But will these similarities translate to victory in NXT season three for this exciting NXT Rookie Diva?”

Hmm… Primo? Really? I assume he was picked so he could discuss his fierce ruby slippers with his Rookie or something. As I intimated, some people have suggested that she will be the “internet darling” and focus of Michael Cole’s hatred this series, but seeing as she has a minimal amount of experience and exposure compared to Bryan or Kaval, I can’t see this happening personally. Still, by all accounts she’s not a bad wrestler compared to the others, so fingers crossed…

GEEK FACT: A.J. has seen all the “Friday the 13th” movies

“For nearly 15 years, Goldust has competed inside a WWE ring. The former Intercontinental Champion brings a great deal of experience to WWE NXT and will no doubt have a great deal of knowledge to offer his NXT Rookie Diva, Aksana. With her enthusiasm for fitness and competition, under The Bizarre Oneís tutelage, the Lithuanian-born beauty will surely be a favorite on WWE NXT season three.”

While I’m not sure of logic of having Primo mentor a female Rookie, Goldust fits very well. Obviously from a gimmick point of view, but also as a wrestler. He’s really come on over the last couple of years and seems to be in the best shape and wrestling ability he has been for ages. All I know about Aksana on the other hand is that she played the Tony Atlas role in the FCW version of the Abraham Washington show, and had a really annoying voice.

GEEK FACT: Aksana takes hot tea with milk and sweetener

“Although the WWE Universe may recognize Jamie as the beautiful blonde behind the microphone as the ring announcer for NXT, sheís ready to take off the heels and step between the ropes in a new role: Competitor. With the talented and naturally athletic duo of the The Bella Twins as her Pros, will NXT season three be double the fun – or prove to be double the trouble – for the Sarasota, Fla., native?”

Strangely, someone they brought in as a ring-announcer is now being pushed as a wrestler, something I can’t remeber happening before. I know Savannah/Angela Fong was a wrestler in FCW, but she I don’t recall her ever getting a match in the WWE? Anyway, Jamie Keyes (all the wrestlers seem to have lost their last names for some reason) is an almost capable ring announcer, but I have no idea how she’ll do in the ring. Although let’s hope she isn’t relying on her Pros for help and advice, unless one of the competitions involves standing next to a C-List celebrity host half-heartedly pretending to flirt.

GEEK FACT: Jamie enjoys looking at pictures in Playboy (that doesn’t sound right…)

“NXT Rookie Diva Maxine has a champagne taste with a champagne budget. Her confidence and beauty are only matched by her fierce nature when it comes to getting what she wants. And what she wants is the best of everything. Who better to be her WWE Pro than former Divas Champion Alicia Fox, whose stunning beauty and fierce determination has made her one of the top Divas on Monday Night Raw?”

Nope… not going to touch this one. I’ve been called racist before now for daring to impugn Alicia’s wrestling ability, so I’ll leave you to write your own jokes about how Maxine is a particularly unthreatening name for a wrestler, or how Alicia could maybe teach her how to botch even the most simple of moves – but if you do, then you’re racist too…

GEEK FACT: Maxine thinks Tajiri weighs too much to be a cruiserweight. (OK. That’s a strange thing to come out with. Sounds familiar though…)

“They’re spunky, they’re sporty and they both look great in a pair of pink high-tops. With all these similarities, NXT Rookie Diva Naomi and the sexy, smart and powerful Kelly Kelly should be tighter than a pair of spandex pants. So will these connections help the aspiring young competitor reach the top? Or do the former Orlando Magic dancer and the beautiful blonde have too much in common for their own good?”

OK. First things first. Searching for an image to use of Naomi Night, I accidentally did a Google Image Search for Naomi Knight instead. Not the same person at all, although the words “spunky” “sexy” and “spandex pants” in that WWE.com description were surprisingly accurate for both. I realise that anything I type here now is going to be ignored by most of our male readers as they visit for Google for some research, but actually I can’t tell you much about her either; other than the fact that in her picture on wwe.com she appears to be some of those trainers from Back to the Future.

GEEK FACT: Naomi & Shannon have ‘Moore Mattitude’ than their opponents.

Wait a minute, these aren’t bloody Geek Facts at all! They’re bloody Matt Facts! Bloody bloody Matt bloody Hardy getting his own back! Grr…

You never know, this might turn out to be a pleasant surprise. A.J. might turn out to be pretty good, and hopefully a couple of the others might be tolerable. Frankly I’m not sure, but there’s always the mystery 6th Rookie. Who will Vickie have got to replace Aloisa? Oh, sorry.. forgot to mention her didn’t I? She was the 6’9″ blonde who Vickie apparently “fired” before the first show has even broadcast.

Yep, that’s them. Sorry… her. That’s her. Nobody seems sure what’s actually gone on but I wouldn’t be surprised if she turns up at some point in the series. As to who will replace her, nobody knows: Sara Del Rey? Awesome Kong? Mae Young? Santina? By the time I get round to writing anything else we’ll know, and hopefully it’s someone awesome and the series can be saved. But in case it isn’t, I shall leave you with this thought: if the Bible has taught us nothing else – and it hasn’t – it’s that girls should stick to girls’ sports, such as hot-oil wrestling, foxy boxing, and such-and-such.

nxt: an open reply to a loyal reader

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.

Oh grow up...

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?

OK, maybe that wouldn't work...

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.

nxt episode nine: my perfect cusan

Sat upon her throne created from the shattered dreams and ambitions of many lesser, perhaps more opinionated wrestling blogs, Boss Lady Ray sets forth a decree.

In tonight's episode, the role of Boss Lady Ray will be performed by William Regal

I know… I know… no NXT recaps for the last 3 weeks – only a short mardy-arse article complaining about Tommy Dreamer and TNA raping the corpse of ECW again. An article which, I should point out, Mr Dreamer was gracious enough to comment on and compliment, thus making me feel like an even bigger tit than normal. But the truth is I did write recaps, honestly I did. But, due to technical ineptitude those recaps never saw the light of day. I might try and persuade Ray to let me put them as “bonus tracks” on include them as a bonus chapter in the inevitable book adaptation.

[BOSS LADY RAY’S EDIT: I can confirm that there was at least one NXT recap and it was my fault it didn’t get posted. I’ve been making up for it ever since.]

Still, it’s not like much has happened since the last recap. We had an assault course challenge and a talk show segment. Oh, and most upsettingly for Ray, we lost Eli Cottonwood…

So yes, after the Keg carry Competition, the Talk the Talk Challenge and the Obstacle Course we are well and truly back in the realm of tacky “Generation Game” style goofiness. Will this week be any exception? Well no, it wasn’t… in fact, I’ll give you a clue:

Yes, in their infinite wisdom, the WWE decided that the best way to take up the first half of the show was with a kissing competition. Now, I’ll be honest. I didn’t hate this as much as the rest of the internet seemed to (I’m sure others crankier than I will have had their “opinion” on the matter) but it was certainly not something I’d want to show someone who wasn’t a fan of wrestling. Still, even if I had my reservations, at least someone was happy:

Sadly, only minutes later Striker was to find that the Rookies wouldn’t actually be lining up to kiss him. Instead they would be kissing the self-proclaimed co-Women’s Champions (and best thing to happen to the WWE for a while) Layla and Michelle McCool in order to win a “fabulous package of prizes”

But no, seriously,  “real talk” and so on. First of all, kissing the Undertaker’s new wife “as long… as soft… and as passionately as you choose” is probably not going to much for your future career prospects.

Second of all; Layla, being the little English muffin that she is, is much too respectable to go around kissing the likes of Husky Harris for no reason. No, the BFF-champs had a replacement in mind to do the kissing for them:

If I was in the mood, I suppose I could write a bit about how this could be considered demeaning to women and how embarrassed the actress must have felt being insulted and laughed at – but let’s face it, this is the WWE. If you’re expecting a fair treatment of women (or men for that matter) based on character and personality over physical appearance, you’ve come to the wrong place.

First up is Husky Harris, and at the risk of completely contradicting my last sentence, I doubt he’s high on anyone’s list of wannabe kissers – and he pulls exceptionally creepy faces when he knows he’s about to get some.

Husky had a good go, although the whole “wipe the kiss off afterwards” thing never goes down too well in my experience. Next up, Michael thingy, you know… what’s his bloody surname?

After twirling Margarita round for a proper look at the goods, he pulled her close…

…and then, rather bizarrely, decided to lick her face. Either a tribute to the Bushwackers, or that’s just what the ladies go for nowadays

Michelle doing her famous "Excited Teapot" impression there.

Next up was Lucky Cannon. Now, you may recall that way back at the end of Series One I said that Lucky Cannon was probably the looker of the group – a fact I had verified at an extremely shrill volume and frequency watching an old FCW match of his in the bunker last night. It should come as no surprise then that Margarita seemed quite excited by the prospect

Lucky’s a romantic soul at heart. The chin-hold, the head tilt, the distinct lack of face licking… he’s a class act that one. Shame he’s no personality and he’s not that great a wrestler, but still: a class act.

Percy Watson was next, and I feel I owe him an apology. In the past I have criticised his lack of multiple facial expressions, when it turns out that this is his natural expression when confronted by girls. With Layla and Michelle being on NXT every week, he was just showing his revulsion.

I’m not one to cast aspersions on anybody’s sexuality, despite what Boss Lady Ray might imply elsewhere on this site. But for someone who describes himself as a “South Beach Party Boy” he definitely seems to have issues with kissing. Anyway, who’s up next? Supermodel extraordinaire Kaval! How would his Pros react? Would they play fair or would they interfere on his behalf?

Yeah, Layla wasn’t too keen on letting Kaval just go around kissing random women, even if they were Homecoming Queen once upon a time. But how about Kaval? Was he up for the challenge?

Apparently not. Still, there must be some way to get his courage up for the big kiss? Maybe his Pros could offer some encouragement of some sort?

Ah, that would do it. At the risk of sounding like a dirty old perv (I am a dirty old perv, I’d just rather not make it obvious), but Layla looks great at the moment – and her “taking one for the team” certainly seemed to do the trick. Kaval, rather dizzy from the experience, summoned up his fighting spirit and planted one on Margarita…

The last competitor in this feat of strength and skill? Alex Riley: the Varsity Villain. Out of all the Rookies, Riley seemed to the most into it.

All his efforts were for naught however, after Margarita announced that Lucky Cannon was actually the best kisser. His prize? Tonsilitis, gingivitis, halitosis, athletes foot and that uniquely American invention, cooties (I still don’t know what they are.)

So there we are, another week of NXT, another strange competition. But before I finish this I should leave you with one final romantic image. Perhaps the most tender embrace of the entire show.

Oh crap! I forgot! There was some wrestling as well after all this… Oh well, you don’t care about that stuff anyway…

nxt ep 5: soldiering on and other talking heads

So… NXT. Last week saw the dreaded return of the Keg Carry competition, this week: the Talk the Talk Challenge returned. I’ve a horrible feeling I’m going to be entering my miserable mid-series malaise again soon; the challenges have come around far too early this time and if they start drinking pop and juggling next week then it may be too much to bear…

Now, as it happens, this episode was broadcast on my birthday, and as a special treat Matt Striker was back to open the show, and he was looking pretty overjoyed by the fact that I’m now the same age as him again (those 10 days make all the difference, old man!)

Cheers Matt. You're a star

After the usual introductions of the Pros and Rookies, and the usual bout of “Good God, why did we give John Morrison a microphone again? He’s terrible!” Striker introduced the aforementioned Talk the Talk Challenge. The prize for the winner – their very own talk show on next weeks episode. Because that has to go well doesn’t it? What was the last regular talk show the WWE ran with?

Actually, while I think – it’s just occurred to me that with his white shirt, pink waistcoat and lithe, muscular frame *swoon* Matt Striker reminds me of someone. Someone I haven’t seen on TV for a long time. Like Striker, he was a fair and just man, with the power to fight off the forces of evil when necessary. And sure, he may look a little geeky in his slightly effeminate clothing and perfect coiffured hair, but underneath that pink waistcoat is a muscular warrior, just waiting to be unleashed…

Trust me, if he starts coming to the ring with a talking green tiger, you'll be impressed

As last year, the Talk the Talk Challenge was geared towards the winner they wanted – something evident in the “random” topics given to the Rookies.

They gave him glasses. The guy whose gimmick is wearing glasses was given glasses to talk about. Ironically, his glasses don't even have glass in them!

Chicken? Yeah, that's the expression I would have had too Kaval.

Eli went on a rant about how he was the only one "man" enough to grow a moustache and promised he would have one next week. Stay tuned folks!

Seriously, this isn't just a crappy screencap. Even the WWE don't know how to spell his name so they just didn't bother

Oh Matthew... you really are pushing it. The way you emphasised the second sylabble while staring straight at him? This isn't going to end in a handshake is it?

Best keep "Mum" Lucky, or you might get the "Axe"! Yep, a transatlantic deodorant pun!

"There's a lot of animals out there that I've come in..."

OK, so Alex Riley did finish that sentence with “…contact with in my life” but it really was an awkward time to pause. The WWE Universe, or at least the localised nebula in the arena, then voted for the winner – and given just how over Percy Watson seems to be with the crowd, and that he had a topic suited to him, it should be no surprise to find that he was the winner.

Now, I’m hoping that Percy’s talk show does well because he’s growing on me. I also hope that they have him write the questions on hyperbolic paraboloid shaped snacks and call the segment “Percy’s Pringles”. But most of all, I hope that none of you follow my twitter feed and realise that I made the same joke on there yesterday.

On to some wrestling now, but as it was Michael McThrillerMuddy vs Percy Watson all you need to know is that Michael won the match. Well, let’s face it, you don’t read the recaps on this blog to actually get in-depth move-by-move accounts and match details do you?

It's true, Vince is up most nights until 3 or 4am watching cats play piano

Next up, The Miz vs Kaval – a pretty good match albeit a glorified squash. The Miz basically had all the offence apart from a brief flurry from Kaval, including a really nice pin to Warriors Way double stomp

Ouch...

Main event time (ignoring the Raw recap which was frankly far inferior to anything Ray came up with) and a fairly dull tag match between Mark Henry/Lucky Cannon and “Dashing” Cody Rhodes/Husky Harris. Rhodes & Harris got the win and that was that. Excitingly though, this weeks has a few elements which might make it a slightly better episode.

First of all The Nexus are returning to NXT – how they’ll interact with the new Rookies remains to me seen, but other than the unfortunate blip of Bryan Danielson going astray, this storyline has been pretty impressive – so that’s something to look forward to.

Secondly, “Percy’s Pringles” – the snack based talk show paying tribute to Paul Bearer should be, at the very least, entertaining. And thirdly: