Last night's show, streamed on WWE Network at 9PM Eastern time (and now available on Hulu, here or video embedded below), marked a new era for NXT. New theme song (boo), modified sets and graphics (yay)...we here at Cageside Seats felt the need to follow suit.
Step one was the open thread that Cagesiders demanded so they could watch the show and comment along with it.
Step two is more of a work in progress, with a bit of a modified approach to our weekly reactions. Nothing major - but please let us know what you think.
- A video package recaps the events of ArRIVAL last week.
- NXT champion Adrian Neville defeats Camacho.
- A promo by Neville is interrupted by former champ Bo Dallas, who promises to exercise his rematch clause "soon".
- Not telling anyone anything they didn't already know, but the WWE production team is good at their jobs. The ArRIVAL piece was chill-inducing, and probably did as much to make the show and the players in it feel like a big deal as anything else on the program.
- I guess Camacho is the designated enhancement talent for NXT? He doesn't instantly convey legitimacy the way the announce team acts like he does (he has had prominent shots at the tag and main belts because...he's been on Superstars?), but his ring work - especially his power game - is good enough that you don't ask too many questions once he's in there. One question that does remain is, why is still pretending to be a Latino gang member? If Hunico is Sin Cara full-time now, let a Tongan be Tongan.
- The champ's promo was well executed, but I'm not a huge fan of the content. "I don't look like much, but I can wrestle" is already Daniel Bryan's schtick, and I think it has given him extra barriers to climb over as much as it has elevated him. Hearing Adrian call himself an "elf-man" is a little too close to "goat face", too, and at least Bryan didn't call himself funny looking. At some point, I want my stars to act like stars.
- Audience reaction to The Man That Gravity Forgot's first appearance as champ was...not great. It doesn't help that they change his entrance theme once a month, either. That and the content of his promo makes it seem like they're trying a bunch of different things to see what sticks.
- "It's 'Bo' time". I wish Dallas was still champ - I just think there are more stories to tell with him at the top. And I want a few long matches between he and Sami Zayn, as I think working with a more complete storyteller like Zayn would be a big help to Bo at this point.
- A pair of backstage interviews from after ArRIVAL get Emma and Paige's thoughts on their title match, establish Ric Flair as Charlotte's hype man and set-up a match against the Aussie for tonight and a future program with the Womens champ.
- Charlotte uses her new "Dirtiest Diva in the Game" gimmick to defeat Emma.
- This is going to be something that bugs me for a while, I think, so bear with me and/or prepare your counter arguments, but "I'm just glad I earned Paige's respect" stuff from Emma just sucks. I'm a proponent of the (un)Reality Era and blurring the lines of kayfabe, but NXT is at risk of seriously devaluing their titles if all of the good guys and gals on the roster are just fighting for respect, or to be noticed, rather than to win.
- Remember when Charlotte wanted to establish herself as her own person rather than as a Flair? Yeah, that's ancient history. I actually think she did a better job of getting herself over in these interviews that Pops did. Her time off-screen these last few months was at least partially spent at promo school, and it paid off. Which is good, because it looks like she is the new top heel now that Summer Rae is too busy with the main shows. And Total Divas. And making movies.
- Speaking of The First Lady, I love that Sasha Banks brought her BFF to the ring even in her absence. Banks seems to be on a trajectory similar to her mentor's - she is mastering her character first. Hopefully the wrestling improvement is as noticeable for her as it has been for Summer, too.
- Poor Tom Phillips...actually trying to call a match while Renee Young is out there on commentary.
- Tough for Emma to take a second straight loss, but I imagine this may well have been her farewell to NXT for a while. This did a great deal to establish Charlotte's character and her credibility, so it certainly wasn't for naught. Love the acting job on the turned ankle from The Nature Girl, and the fluidity with which she hit her finisher.
- Sami Zayn is interviewed about his latest loss to Cesaro, and says that he got what he wanted out of the match.
- Corey Graves cut an in-ring promo about being pissed he was left off the ArRIVAL card, and running down Zayn and his opponent, Yoshi Tatsu.
- Graves tricks Tatsu into attacking him outside of the ring and gets a heel-riffic countout victory.
- Sami saves Yoshi from a post-match Lucky 13 and sets up our main event.
- Adam Rose has a party with everyone you're excited to see show up on NXT soon.
- Xavier Woods is mad as hell about Alexander Rusev kicking his ass, so he makes some Rocky IV references and challenges him to a match. Lana translates the Bulgarian's acceptance.
- Adam Rose debuts with a win over jobber Wesley Blake.
- The Savior of Misbehavior must have been in the interview room with Charlotte, because his promo tonight was probably the best one I've ever seen him give. I wish he'd left the acid-splashed skinny jeans at home, but at least they're age-appropriate attire for him. And now that he's a heel again, we're supposed to want to hate him, which seeing adult males in skinny jeans accomplishes for me.
- Just when I was getting ready to bitch and moan about them going to the "bad guy walks out" well, they twist the formula up. Loved this.
- The party segment was the most personality we've ever seen out of Devin Taylor. Good for her. As neat as it was to see the "Easter eggs" of folks like Kallisto, Solomon Crowe, Simon Gotch and Alexa Bliss as extras at the party, I kind of wish they had used folks we won't be asked to accept as heroes or villains in the coming weeks and months.
- I've never been his biggest fan, but Woods is a solid worker and a good talker. The way he's been handled since his call-up makes me think that they're just getting their money's worth out of him before going their separate ways. They've stripped his gimmick from him and given him a cross between Brodus Clay's and a generic Técnicos. There's no way I give him any chance of defeating Rusev next week.
- Okay, so, very mixed emotions about the Adam Rose thing. He looks like he's lost some weight, which says commitment to the gimmick to me. And he backs that up with his performance. I especially liked the playful way he integrated it into the first half of the match, like fending Blake off with his legs while in the ropes before connecting with a solid kick. But at some point he just turned into Leo Kruger. I'm never going to complain about DAT SPINEBUSTER, but I hope they explain why the poofy old rocker flips a switch to ass-kicker all of a sudden. And he should probably get a new finisher other than the Slice clothesline.
- I'm glad that Kruger has a new thing that's going to keep him on the roster and in a paycheck. And I think it's smart that NXT has embraced it's role as a creator of all kinds of acts, not just potential main eventers. But it bums me out that a guy as talented an in-ring worker as Leo has a gimmick that will see him working in the mid-card rather than joining The Shield.
- Sami Zayn defeated Corey Graves with a roll-up following a roughly ten minute match.
- Graves' new theme is nice. It's got a Trent Reznor vibe that really fits the character.
- The announcers actually spend time talking about how Corey chose to go after Zayn as opposed to Neville because Sami is the "most talked about" guy on NXT and beating him is a better way to "make a name for yourself" than by going after the champ. Despite trying to emphasize the importance of wins earlier, even William Regal participates in this nonsense. Seriously, just get rid of the belts if this is the narrative you're pushing.
- In addition to the improved microphone work, CG has also added some power moves to his arsenal that look good - particularly the fireman's carry backbreaker thing that was integral to the story of this match. I hope that, or something, becomes a secondary finisher for him. As much as I like his face-in-peril work when tagging, he's a more natural heel. And WWE heels with a submission finisher not named Kurt Angle always have a ceiling.
- Speaking of finishers...what's Zayn's? They're pushing the crap out of the Blue Thunder Bomb, but it gets kicked out of fairly regularly. It's been a while since I've seen him win, so I can't remember what he was using before the injury. The springboard tornado DDT? It's a testament to how many things he can do in the ring that, even though he definitely has signature spots, they never settle into a "five moves of doom".
- I like the relatively non-decisive clean win for The Likeable One here. He needed the win and Graves needed to look out-smarted more than beaten. Plus, I'd like to see more from these two, at least as a transitional feud before one of them goes after the title.
Solid wrestling that built toward the next big angles and a well-executed debut - regardless of your feelings toward it. I have some minor quibbles with the larger themes they're pushing, but nothing that is majorly impacting my enjoyment of the show - yet.
What did you all think of the first airing of NXT in its new WWE Network time slot?