But no sooner had I recovered from seeing Kenta’s debut hyped on the WWE’s flagship program, then Michael Cole was telling me that there would be a match between the four men in Thursday night’s main event…NEXT!
This was a pretty big deal.
NXT roster members have toured with the main roster in the past, but only worked dark matches and house shows. Tyson Kidd has been on WWE television before, but not for a long time outside of maybe Superstars. And this was the official debut for Tyler Breeze, NXT Champion Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn.
As the guy who’s been covering the weekly, hour-long program focused on the WWE’s Developmental program for going on two years now – once I got over my disbelief that Triple H’s baby was getting a chunk of a Kevin Dunn-produced program to advertise itself – I had a bunch of thoughts about the five minute segment and what it might mean for the future.
So here they are:
- Would love to hear a live show report (and had I know this was going down, I probably would have peeled myself off my couch and driven ten minutes across downtown B’more to be there) describe how this was set-up for the crowd. On TV, all four men got the “jobber entrance” where they were already in the ring when the show came back from commercial.
- And outside of a spirited “Olé” chant for Sami Zayn, the audience reacted about how you would expect them to for three guys most of them probably didn’t know and one guy they only know from Total Divas. It was pretty awesome to watch the crowd respond to the babyfaces’ comeback and hot finish, though. This was great reminder of how this art-form can connect with fans without words and despite language barriers via physical performance that appeals to basic emotion at the same time that it impresses with feats of athleticism.
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- Speaking of feats of athleticism, the best example of that was the response to Neville’s finisher, the Red Arrow. And make no mistake, while purpose 1a for this segment was to sell Thursday’s live special as a means to sell WWE Network, purpose 1b was to establish the current NXT champion for his main roster call-up. Roughly 90% of the announcer’s dialogue was focused on putting over the Man that Gravity Forgot (the rest was 5% being about how Sami is “gritty”, 5% about Tyson using NXT to climb out from his wife’s shadow and 0.0% about Prince Pretty).
- The treatment of the other three guys contributes to a pet theory that’s been percolating in my head ever since Triple H said that Vince McMahon told him he had just “launched a brand” following the success of the first live special from Florida, ArRIVAL. Add to that the rumors that Developmental talent was told to expect longer stays in NXT, the adding of merchandise to WWE shop for them and other factors, and I believe there’s an intent on WWE’s part to treat the show as a separate promotion. Their own in-house indy, if you will. Some performers, like Paige, will move through quickly because there is either a need for them on the main shows and others, like Kenta, because there’s money in them almost immediately. The majority will stay on Thursday nights as an incentive to keep hardcore fans paying $9.99 a month.
- While “The Quickening” vs. “Electric Boogaloo” vs. “The Secret of the Ooze” debate rages on on cSs and Wikipedia, WWE has decided to subtitle Takeover II with the match type that will main event the show. How exciting. Presumably Takeover: Fatal 4 Way kicks off the tradition of NXT live specials being treated like In Your House pay-per-views (PPVs) from the 90s.
- If you liked what you saw last night and can’t wait for Thursday, find Takeover (I: The First One) and watch Zayn vs. Breeze and Neville vs. Kidd from that show. The five-ish minutes on Raw was just a glimpse at what these men can do.
- Tyson’s “FACT” trunks are money.
What did you think? Curious as much to hear from the Raw-only viewers as much as from the regular NXT watchers. Was WWE’s NXT showcase a success? Will the show remain mostly a feeder system or develop into a parallel promotion that occasionally produces main roster acts?