AKA, The one where LOLCENAWINS
This could have been so damn good.
Let's set the scene before I spend the rest of this article crying into my keyboard.
Before it became its own mini-promotion, NXT was a show on Tuesday nights on SyFy, replacing the WWE version of ECW in February of 2010. It featured eight "rookies" competing for not only a roster spot, but a championship match for any title of their choosing too. Every week, the rookies would compete in a series of challenges, some of them wrestling related (for example, cut a thirty-second promo on something with no preparation), most of them not (chug pop, haul a beer keg around the ring, sell programs, etc). Each rookie had a "pro," who was an actual WWE wrestler who would mentor them. At the end of the show, the pros would all vote, and the rookie receiving the fewest votes would get voted off the show.
Basically, it was a WWE version of "Survivor."
The show itself was eh. Daniel Bryan debuted here and was immediately saddled with a losing-streak gimmick and given little chance to actually wrestle. Because when you have the best wrestler in North America on your show, God forbid he actually wrestle. But the show itself was sort of fun, if not a little stupid. It wasn't appointment television, but it was fine for what it was.
Anyway, pop got chugged, kegs got carried, promos got cut, and rookies got voted off. Wade Barrett ended up winning the whole thing. The show would have been consigned to the annals of "hey, remember when…" if not for what happened next (du du DUHHHHH).
On the June 7th edition of Monday Night Raw, John Cena and CM Punk were wrestling in the main event. The match was good if unremarkable. All eight rookies of NXT came down to ringside wearing matching black and yellow armbands and proceeded to beat the ever-loving piss out of everyone at ring side. And I mean everyone. Cena, Punk, Punk's Straight Edge Society stablemates, the ring itself, the announce tables, hell, even poor Justin Roberts got choked out by Bryan.
Here's where we have our first problem.
Bryan, in an attempt to be awesome, choked out Roberts with the latter's own tie and then spit on Cena (after giving him a wicked stiff shootkick to the head). This lead to the real-life (well, most likely real-life: there’s a persistent rumor it was all a work, but most credible sources say it was a legit firing) firing of Bryan Danielson from WWE. Whether it was because WWE's corporate sponsors objected to the violence or WWE itself didn't want anyone suing them after a kid choked out Daddy with a necktie I honestly don't know. Either way Danielson was fired and Daniel Bryan was kicked out of the new stable in absentia.
The new stable was called the Nexus and Barrett was their leader. They explained that their asskicking was a result of the poor treatment they all had received from their pros and that all seven members of the Nexus were united in getting WWE contracts for each and every member.
The Nexus feuded with Raw General Manager Bret Hart, John Cena and just about everyone else on the roster. Well, "feuding" isn't the right term. They would come through the crowd and beat the crap out of whoever was in the ring. It was very similar to how the Shield operated some two years later. Hart himself got hurt by the Nexus, so Vince McMahon removed him from power and installed a new anonymous GM, who relayed his orders via email to Michael Cole. This started both the Anonymous GM AND the Heel Michael Cole gimmicks, two of the worst gimmicks in the past five years in WWE. So that was great.
Moving onward, the GM gave all seven members of the Nexus contracts, but they still kept beating up people – including McMahon himself, who took Justin Gabriel's 450 top-rope splash like a boss. The real ire of the group was John Cena.
The group interfered in Cena's matches, costing him a title against Sheamus at the pay-per-view (PPV) just before SummerSlam. Cena had had enough, and told Barrett that at SummerSlam, he and six friends would fight all seven members of the Nexus in a match to settle things once and for all.
The last few Raw episodes leading up to SummerSlam featured Team WWE in disarray, as they kept bickering amongst each other. Meanwhile, Nexus was presented as both a unified front and extremely dangerous.
Members of Team WWE came and went, but on the day of the show Cena had five definite followers – Hart, Chris Jericho, Edge, R-Truth and John Morrison. Cena asked The Miz to be the seventh member, but Miz blew Cena off, saying he'd tell Cena on the day of the show if he was going to accept Cena's proposal and join the good guys.
The rest of SummerSlam wasn't good, although the Randy Orton-Sheamus match was not bad until the DQ ending. Kane and Rey Mysterio had a solid match which Kane won and it set up not only Undertaker's return, but the hundredth Undertaker-Kane feud since 1998.
The main event is finally here:
A video is shown recapping how we got here (big thanks to this video in helping me write this article!) Nexus comes out (to some decent heat) and Cena introduces the other five members of his team, to varying pops. Finally, Miz comes out, all ready to take his spot as the seventh member of Team WWE, when Cena tells him, thanks, but no thanks, we have a seventh guy who won't string us along like you did. Cena then introduces Daniel Bryan, freshly rehired from the indies. This of course leads to Cole blasting the decision over…and over…and over…again.
The match begins right away as the WWEers storm the ring and throw the Nexus outside. It is a 7-on-7 elimination tag. Bryan starts and eliminates Darren Young with what we now know as the LaBell/No/Yes Lock, but back then didn't have a name. In the interest of brevity, I'm not going to give a blow-by-blow account of this match. Suffice to say there were a lot of smoke and mirrors, as a huge chunk of the wrestlers in this match were either physically unable to take a bump (Hart) or green as all hell (all the Nexus guys with the exception of Barrett, Gabriel and possibly Slater).
The match progresses, guys are eliminated (we get our first Daniel Bryan chants, as he is booked to look great, eliminating a few guys) until we get to the endgame. It's Cena vs. Gabriel and Barrett. The two heels read Wrestling 101 and worked Cena over for a while. Lots of quick tags, lots of double teams, lots of heat. This was fine.
What happened next was not fine. Gabriel picks up the mats outside the ring and DDTs Cena on the exposed floor of the Staples Center. He rolls Cena's dead weight into the ring, goes to the top rope to hit his 450 splash (up until then, sold as a very credible finisher) only for Super Cena to no-sell a DDT to the exposed floor, dodge the splash, pin Gabriel (with no other move) and then literally thirty seconds later trap Barrett in the STF and force him to tap in the middle of the ring. Huge negative points to Matt Striker shrieking "WE WIN! WE WIN!" at the top of lungs too.
Of all the possible finishes (and there were several realistic ones), Vince and Co had to go with the one that benefited nobody.
There were so many different ways they could go with this match. They could have had someone turn heel and screw over Team WWE and join the Nexus (in the vein of Hogan being the third member of the nWo). They could have had Bryan come back as a Nexus-ite and actually have someone on that side of the ring who can actually wrestle to carry the in-ring action. They could have had Barrett cheat to beat Cena and set up a program with the two. Instead, they have Cena jump into the phone booth, change into his Superman outfit and bury two guys in a minute and a half.
It gets worse on the Raw the next night. Six of the seven Nexus members "won" in matches against Team WWE members, but only Barrett and Skip Sheffield (now Ryback) were presented with anything even remotely representing credibility, as both won their matches (over Chris Jericho and John Morrison respectively) clean. The other four Nexus members who won only won because of flukes and interference and countouts.
I understand the need to protect your top stars, but would Cena have really been so damaged by losing a de facto two-on-one match involving a DDT to the floor that it was worth feeding an entire stable to him? Imagine the mileage WWE could have gotten out of Nexus if they had won this match and continued to feud with Cena and his band of merry men? That’s a feud that can feasibly take you to the next year’s WrestleMania. You know, the WrestleMania headlined by Cena vs. Miz.
As you can imagine, the loss took all the wind out of the Nexus' sails, and the group puttered along until CM Punk took them over late in 2010. Cena went on to be the same old unbeatable Cena until losing more or less cleanly to Punk at 2011's Money in the Bank PPV.
Curtain Jerker's Match Rating – 2.75 stars for the match itself, -5 stars for the last minute.
Up Next – This next one is could easily be the main event of a house show. That's not a bad thing!Also in this series: