Mark for War

Mark for War: Who’s NXT?

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This week, my column topic was literally dictated by several of my wrestling buddies (no pun intended). Last Friday, I received about ten texts and several Facebook messages, all saying some variation of, “Dude, did you see the NXT show?!” 

Yes, I did see the show. And yes, it’s worth devoting a column to.

The wrestling world was buzzing about this past week’s NXT takeover show, R Evolution. There were countless great reviews on the show.  I think the best post show comment came from Triple H on Twitter: “Hey, can anyone help me? I’m missing a whole box of brass rings. #NXTtakeover.”

The NXT dudes tore it up for an hour. The cornerstones of the program were Sami Zayn’s NXT championship win, Kevin Owens (formally Kevin Steen)’s debut, and the inevitable confrontation between the two at the end of the show. All good things. The crowd loved the storytelling and action.

Here’s my analysis of NXT and what they’re doing with all that brass:

First off, I have few negative things to say out NXT action-wise (other than the fact that every frickin’ match has a spot where someone rolls outside the ring, only to get hit with some variation of a suicide dive or plancha by their opponent). The only problem I have with it is that the action is almost too un-WWE-like. It comes across like something you’d see at an ROH show: high spots, harder bumps, and an innovative style. The problem lies in the fact that these dudes are eventually going to come up to WWE, and their style is going to have to assimilate. Sami Zayn will go from a twenty minute spot fest on NXT to a five minute back and forth with Fandango on Raw. Then the inevitable, “Well, Sami Zayn’ sucks now,” or, “They’re burying Sami Zayn” comments begin. When CM Punk debuted in WWE, he had spent time in the indies, like ROH, beforehand, much like Zayn did. However, once he entered WWE (under the ECW umbrella), he started from scratch again. His moves were modified and he had to work his way up in a slew of short matches before getting the keys to the castle. These workhorse’s transformation from NXT to WWE will unfold in front of all the eyes of WWE Universe. Compare it to college football versus pro-football. Johnny Manziel gets so much shit for sucking in the NFL because we know how good he was in college. If we thought he had so much more potential based primarily on second-hand knowledge, we wouldn’t judge him as harshly. (Sorry for referencing sports, everyone.)

The second problem I have with NXT is an inevitable overexposure it will give certain superstars. For starters, I’ve seen a lot of these dudes wrestle for years already. I’ve seen Kevin Owens (Kevin Steen) wrestle probably twenty-five times live before, and many of those matches were against Sami Zayn (then El Generico). So now I’m on the verge of seeing the same feud for the tenth time, with I’m sure several more coming when they hit WWE. Speaking of Zayn, we saw the first major accomplishment of his career last week in him winning the NXT title.

Us wrestling fans have memories like elephants. Will we be as stoked for Zayn when he eventually wins his first Intercontinental title? Nope, because we’ll remember Zayn already grabbing the “brass ring” under our watch. Also, what happens when a dude tears it up in NXT for too long? Does he have to get elevated to WWE (or get released) even if it’s oversaturated or there’s no use for them at the time? 

Another problem I have is that the rebranding becoming difficult. John Cena started off his WWE developmental career as The Prototype. No one outside of thirty people in Louisville knew who the hell The Prototype was. So when us WWE fans were fed John Cena, we ate it. So say an Undertaker-ike gimmick (a good gimmick with potential longevity and legs) comes across a WWE’s bookers table, and they think Zayn would be good for it — it’s going to be hard to put it on Zayn because millions already know this developmental character as Sami Zayn. Developmental territories should not hinder gimmick changes in WWE. 

Speaking of gimmicks, NXT has its share of good and bad. When I see a team like the Vaudevillians head to the ring, I get super excited. They are as close to an old school throwback as we will ever get. Frankly, I’m surprised no one has used this name before. It’s so perfect for a heel-ish tag team. Not only do people hate villains, but they also hate vaudeville. Aiden English (awesome name) and Simon Gotch (horrible name) could be legit once they get to WWE. These guys having a different look, ring style, and bump-taking ability will really help them rise in the tag team division. 

I mentioned Simon Gotch’s name being horrible. (His real name is Josh Smith. How he got a worst wrestling name than his actual birth name beats me.) This is one of the bad things about NXT. Look at the roster. It’s a bunch of first and last name dudes. WHY WHY WHY are we getting away from wrestlers with one badass fake name? Remember Edge, Earthquake, The Undertaker? Those names rule! So everyone has to be a legit person now with a name that can appear on their driver’s license? This shit’s getting confusing. Of course, the only wrestlers who can escape the first and last name game are the female wrestlers (‘cuz they can’t have last names). Like the NXT Women’s Champion, and future WWE Diva, Charlotte. Great wrestler. God, it would be awesome if they turned her heel and modified her name to be “BAD CHARLOTTE.” Seriously. A little caché goes a long way. Remember Bam Bam Bigelow? His name was Scott Bigelow. They just replaced Scott with Bam Bam. Remember Mr. Hughes? His name was Curtis Hughes. Let’s start thinking a little outside the box with these names. If I were any of these NXT stars, I’d be begging the bookers for an atypical name. 

I’ve focused in on the negative obviously, but there’s no doubt that the NXT is a super-fun watch! We are no doubt seeing the genesis of a WWE documentary set to come out about eight years from now, which will focus on the company evolving because of the existence of NXT. If we take it at face value, NXT is doing what it’s supposed to do, which is entertain those that watch it and draw subscriptions to the WWE. I’m certain it will continue to do both. How crazy is the WWE landscape going to look like ten years from now once this NXT style of wrestling becomes the blueprint for the entire company? Imagine how many suicide dives and planchas we’ll get to see…

Match of the Week: The Briscoes vs. Kevin Steen and El Generico, Tag Team Title Ladder Match, ROH, MAN UP: Sept 15, 2007

I was lucky enough to witness this match live (long hair, Obituary shirt). This is one of the darkest, most depraved bump fests I’ve ever seen. The Briscoes are what I consider the measuring stick for tag teams, especially back in 2007. This matched wrapped up a year long feud they had with El Generico and Kevin Steen (Zayn and Owens) who, in the process, established themselves as two of the most versatile workers on the scene. Zayn and Owens will be the new age Edge and Christian. They’ve come up together, will follow each other their whole careers, tag together, feud, and in the end one will be great and the other will be a legend. Not sure which will be which yet.

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