Full results from tonight's episode of WWE NXT, live on tape from Ottawa, Ontario:
- WWE Rookie Wade Barrett (with WWE Pro Chris Jericho) defeated WWE Rookie Darren Young after hitting his Fireman's Carry Slam.
- WWE Rookie Justin Gabriel (with WWE Pro Matt Hardy) defeated WWE Rookie Heath Slater (with WWE Pro Christian) after the 450 splash.
- Matt Striker opened the show differently than usual, introducing the WWE Pros first rather than the Rookies, and six of the eight pros came out (R-Truth and Carlito did not). He asked the pros what they are looking for in the rookies. Miz stated he was looking for it-factor, a guy who grabbed the attention of people flicking through the channels. William Regal said he was looking for adaptability, as he prided himself as being a man who could go from being funny to being down your throat at a moment's notice, vaguely threatening Miz. Punk said he chose not to explain his theory in front of the Canadian fans. Christian was looking for somebody who caught the attention of the fans. Matt Hardy claimed he was looking for somebody who had the total package (Luger?) to be the next WWE star. Chris Jericho wanted to vote for somebody whom he would pay money to see. It will be interesting to see if any of this will come back to play in the future.
- The Barrett/Young match was surprisingly decent. Young sucks, but Barrett looks like he's getting better, even if he's not really wrestling good pros every week like he should. CM Punk sat on the stage and watched the match rather than accompany Young, so they're back to the "Punk wants nothing to do with Darren Young" storyline. They've really been bipolar as to what this story actually is over the few weeks, some weeks he wants nothing to do with Young, some weeks he sees potential in him, make up your mind!
- They aired a David Otunga hype video, this one with pros offering opinions about him. Miz billed him as the #1 rookie. William Regal said he had a lot of things in his favor, while R-Truth said he had the it factor. Chris Jericho said he stood out as a personality more than anybody. Christian said that the in-ring talent has yet to match the personality, while CM Punk was stronger in his assessment, saying he was the worst NXT rookie and that he was going to hurt himself. Matt Hardy made fun of his sunglasses. The consensus seemed a lot more mixed than for somebody you'd think is a strong favorite to win.
- They did an in-ring segment with Michael Tarver and Daniel Bryan (introduced by that name). Striker once again asked why he was eliminated, and Tarver said it was done by pencil pushers who were afraid of him and who didn't have the decency to do it to his face. He claimed he was something different and revolutionary and stood out more than everybody else. Bryan did an interview saying he was the best person for the job, and how he was a self made man who WWE and Vince McMahon didn't create, and that was why he didn't make it. He claimed that pros Chris Jericho, William Regal, and even The Miz know how good he is, and claimed that he is better than the Miz, sparking a spirited rebuttal from Miz claiming Bryan was an indy star while he was the first man to be US champion and Unified tag team champion at the same time. Bryan then challenged Michael Cole's assertions against him, claiming that Cole was a parrot for Vince McMahon, then bullied Cole into a corner, saying he had more personality in his little finger than Cole had in his entire being, called him a poor man's replacement for Jim Ross, and slapped him in the face. Cole sold surprisingly little for Bryan here before Bryan was restrained by Matt Striker and referees. This segment started slow with the Tarver stuff, but picked up with the Bryan segment, clearly trying to look like a shoot even if it wasn't, and it had a nice out of control vibe that isn't always apparent on WWE TV. Worth tracking down to watch.
- Coming back from break, Josh Matthews said that Daniel Bryan was out of line, and Cole threatened to press charges on Bryan. Cole wound up leaving the announce position during the match. The Slater/Gabriel match was good, probably one of the best possible NXT matches remaining at this point (the ceiling for Gabriel/Barrett might be a little bit higher). A good, short match.
- Skip Sheffield did a backstage promo claiming he was voted off because WWE pros were threatened by him, saying they were afraid of his size and physique, likening it to the TV show Survivor. I suspect we'll see Sheffield again at some point, he's not a bad talker and he's pretty agile for such a juiced up guy.
- They did another pros video, this time for Darren Young. Punk called his remaining on the show miraculous. Chris Jericho admitted that he ranked Young last in the first poll, and also said he hated the haircut and the hairband. R-Truth offered sympathy for Young having Punk as a mentor, but said with some work he could be a WWE superstar one day. Miz admitted that there was something about Young that he liked, but he hasn't shown it to him yet (huh?). Overall, not as many people spoke about Young as they did about Otunga, which kind of signaled his demise. Plus, they'd have to do a video for the person getting voted out, or else that person would never get a video.
- The new Pros' Poll: 1. Wade Barrett, 2. David Otunga, 3. Heath Slater (this made no sense - Justin Gabriel just beat Slater and he moves below him in the poll?) 4. Justin Gabriel, 5. Darren Young. Finally! They should have eliminated Young before they did eliminations, he was probably the second worst in-ring guy on the show behind Otunga, and offered nothing on any level on this show. Young was offered the microphone by Striker and told him to tell the pros what he thought of their decision. Young instead thanked the WWE fans and claimed he had respect for all of the WWE pros and instead thanked everybody for the opportunity, before saying it would not be the last we saw of Darren Young. I suppose this was done to contrast him with Daniel Bryan and his tirade from earlier in the show.
With apologies to Darren Young, the big story coming out of this show was the Daniel Bryan segment. It sure seemed like the first step towards a new aggressive personality for Bryan to try to get the NXT stink off of him, and it was a positive one. Great segment, worth going out of your way to watch if only because it was different from the norm on WWE.
As for the rest of the show, the elimination of the challenges has been a plus. Most of them were pointless. This week's matches were largely OK or better. The booking continues to make little sense. Last week, Skip Sheffield lost to Darren Young and was voted out over Young anyway. This week, Justin Gabriel defeated Heath Slater, and Gabriel moved down a spot in the poll and Slater moved up a spot, I guess because they had to change the poll somehow from last week. Did Gabriel do something less "it-factor-y" than Slater this week that warranted a change of the polls? It still feels like they are wasting the pros by not having them wrestle the rookies every week, or hardly ever at all, but maybe with the final four next week we'll get four singles matches with pros facing rookies. Overall, it seems like they change what NXT is week to week, and I think it's for the detriment of the show.
This week's Cageside Seats NXT rankings:
4) Heath Slater (5-5, last week: 5) Remains at the bottom of the rankings. I have a hunch he's out next week, even though he moved up the polls.
3) David Otunga (5-5, last week: 2) Otunga's video was a lot more neutral than I thought. You have to figure that the NXT competition will end with a face wrestling a heel, and with Barrett locked in as the #1 wrestler on NXT, it doesn't figure to be Otunga wrestling as the heel in that one.
2) Justin Gabriel (6-3, last week: 4) Gabriel will probably lose on next week's show and move up in the rankings to avoid elimination, because this show doesn't make any sense. Anyway, I think a face and a heel have to be there at the end, and Gabriel is probably a little bit better than Slater.
1) Wade Barrett (7-4, last week: 1) Has been #1 in the Cageside rankings for a solid 2 months. At this point, it would be a huge upset if he didn't win.