Full Sail University (Winter Park, Florida)
I am no Corey Graves/Sterling James Keenan historian or anything, but I think this match has to be up there with his best work. Sterling James Keenan had a match versus CM Punk from IWC that I remember being okay but otherwise his work both on the indies and on NXT has been bland. For a guy who has been around for over a decade, the output just isn’t there. This is not a fantastic match or anything, but a solid TV match with a strong set up that instantly makes it one of the better Graves/Kennan matches I have seen.
In terms of the setup, Graves is scheduled to face Yoshi Tatsu earlier in the show. Graves does a pre-match whine, complaining about his exclusion from the NXT Arrival special. He calls out Zayn for some reason. Tatsu – on temporarily leave from hip-toss duty over at the Performance Center – is destroyed in short order. Zayn makes the save, pointing out that he was unaware that the two had an issue but he will nonetheless be more than willing to wrestle Graves later in the show. Zayn was good on the mic there and I liked the immediate payoff to Graves’ “woe is me” routine. The problem with WCW Raven was he whined a lot but was rarely called on it in any meaningful way. These sorts of heel gimmicks work a lot better when there are strong babyfaces to call them on their bullshit.
The match itself was a basic, solid TV match. Graves still lacks a real presence in the ring. He just goes through the motions, looking like he is concentrating on pulling off of his spots so much that he can’t do much else. He keeps it together here well enough and Zayn carries him along just fine. Graves got a fair bit of offense in and held his own. They kept him semi-protected at the end as well, with Zayn winning via roll up.
I’ll also use this space to point out that Adam Rose’s Russell Brand gimmick and accompanying entrance that debut on this show is good stuff. The entrance especially is the sort of fun, over-the-top stuff that will get over in some capacity. Unfortunately, this gimmick – like Russell Brand himself – feels like something that is going to wear out his welcome pretty quickly from overexposure, no matter how fund it seems at first.
TV Match | Common | Individual Performance (Zayn)