Category Archives: WWE NXT

(05/29) Tyler Breeze vs. Sami Zayn

Full Sail University (Winter Park, Florida)
Number One Contender to NXT Championship 

Booking a pretty boy against a wrestler the fans respect to get him over as tough and legit is not a new concept.  The WWE attempted that here with the vain Tyler Breeze going toe-to-toe with NXT darling Sami Zayn to prove he is more than just a pretty face.  Whether these things ultimately work largely depends on the follow up and ability of the wrestler but it is a time-tested method of pushing and giving depth to an otherwise one-dimensional heel gimmick.

What is less of a proven method for pushing a guy is the one being used for Zayn.  Baby faces tend to have a tough time remaining over when they continually fail to “win the big one”.  Just ask poor Lex Luger how well that worked out for him.  However, it did work – in a roundabout way – for Daniel Bryan recently even if that was not the initial intent.  WWE seems to be trying something similar with the popular Zayn where he continually loses in hopes that his supporters will rally around him even more.  In NXT – where the regular fans in Winter Park don’t necessarily represent an accurate crosshair of the WWE fan base – the presentation of Zayn as a guy who can’t win the big match won’t hurt him most likely.  Still, it seems like an odd way to push a guy even if it did (sort of) work with Bryan.

Speaking of Bryan, Zayn clearly has many of the same positive attributes that Bryan possesses.  He has a knack for taking a beating and garnering sympathy, perhaps as well as Bryan.  He compliments that with an explosive, high impact move set that is not quite at Bryan-like levels but could get there with some fine tuning.  It would be harsh to get on a guy for attempting to experiment and innovate in an environment designed for that precise purpose.  At the same time, it is clear Zayn is still working out his offense.  It might be a little too much at times and perhaps unnecessary, as demonstrated in this match when he struggled twice to pull off a variation power bomb maneuver.  He’s got the tools to potentially put it together in a nice, Daniel Bryan-like package for sure.

Breeze was good here and able to hold up his end of the deal – that is, he came away looking like more than just a one-note narcissistic character.  He still strikes me as a tag team whose best role would be part of a pretty boy heel tag team.  I am not sure he has the gimmick or the offense to work as a singles heel at this point.

This was a fine match that accomplished what it set out to, although it was probably the least of the “big three” matches on this card for me.

WWE Singles | Common | Quality & Hype

(03/06) Sami Zayn vs. Corey Graves

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)

(02/27) Bo Dallas (c) vs. Adrian Neville

Full-Sail University (Winter Park, Florida)
Ladder Match for the NXT Championship

On the US indies, the ladder match is still (largely) all about big spots and big bumps. In the WWE proper, I am not sure what the selling point of the singles ladder match is anymore. They really do not run them often enough these days to get a good feel. You get a Money in the Bank ladder match (or two) per year and a TLC match, but straight up singles ladder matches are few and far between in WWE.

Given that, it was kind of cool to get a straight up, non-big bump focused singles ladder match here since they do not come around too often. This was far from a stunt show. Neville and Dallas used the ladder for a few agility spots and there were one or two relatively safe falls. That is a fine line to walk in a ladder match but they pulled it off well. If the wrestlers pull out very little value-added ladder spots, then what’s the point of even having a ladder match? If they do a lot of big moves and bumps, they run the risk of turning the match into a messy stunt show. I thought they towed that line pretty well here.

Neville’s springboard over Dallas onto the ladder was the highlight move of the match. That took great agility and not an easy move at all to pull off as seamlessly as he did. I thought the ladder-assisted tornado DDT out of the corner was also a cool spot. There are other moves I am forgetting for sure, but in general I thought they did a nice job of providing a few cool moves without going overboard.

The slow climbing sections were also kept to the bare minimum. Those can be such a momentum killer in a ladder match.

The ending was somewhat unique for a ladder match, but well executed. Many ladder matches end with both guys climbing the ladder at the same time or one guy climbing to an easy victory after taking out his opponent with a big move. Here Neville climbed the ladder with Bo down outside the ring. Bo scrambled to get back in and climb with Neville already near the top. For a split second I thought he might cut him off. I thought it kept the ending from being completely telegraphed.

High Impact | Worthwhile | Quality

(02/27) Antonio Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn

Full-Sail University (Winter Park, Florida)

The first ever live NXT special and the first ever live special on the WWE Network kicked off with (presumably) the final match in the series between Zayn and Cesaro. The match was a strong kickoff to an important program. I am unsure that it is the high-quality MOTYC that some are making it out to be.

Cesaro and Zayn are natural opponents. Cesaro has strong power offense (and strong offense in general). He is also a good base. Zayn is a great seller and an impressive high-flyer. Zayn’s selling compliments Antonio’s offense. Cesaro’s base-abilities serve as a compliment to Zayn’s high-flying. You saw that on display in all of their matches, this one included. Zayn ate Cesaro’s uppercuts very well, both on the spot where Cesaro cut off his through the rope dive with an uppercut and on Cesaro’s normal “throw into an uppercut” move. Like always with Zayn, his selling in between moves was top notch. Cesaro handled Zayn’s flying well – the top rope hurricanrana, early lucha arm drag, and dive included. They are as much of complimentary wrestlers as any duo in WWE today.

Where the match tripped up was from a pacing standpoint, I thought. Zayn went into beat up-selling mode very early in the match which threw off the flow a bit. The match meandered around some at different points with Cesaro in control. That is a general weakness of Cesaro’s. He has these great, high-impact offensive spots but when he is charged with leading the offense for the parts in between those big spots, he is hit or miss. I felt he was a tad more miss here.

To that end, the match would have benefited from shedding about five minutes. They could have accomplished the same in that time but more efficiently & effectively and without the need for so much Cesaro offense in between big spots.

The ending stretch-run was strong, although I am not a fan of the kicking out at one-spot. It is less of a selling issue for me and more that it seems entirely unnecessary. The kick out did not get a particularly huge reaction and it feels like the same thing could have been accomplished by kicking out at two, then doing the whole fired up babyface routine before being pinned soon after. What did the one-count kick out do for Zayn? It didn’t seem to add anything and is just a poor gimmick.

This was a strong match and a well-worked opener, but I am not seeing the classic that some others are seeing.

High Impact | Watch It | Quality & Hype

(01/18) Tyler Breeze vs. Adrian Neville

January 15th (taped January 9th)
Full Sail University (Winter Park, Florida)

Tyler Breeze’s male model gimmick is over-the-top but there was a lot of good ineffectual heel work from him. He has a great deer in the headlights look which matches up perfectly with the gimmick. When he gets near falls during the match – which on a couple of occasions were simply the result of Neville missing an offensive move – rather than looking angry that he didn’t pick up the win, he looks scared. The potential for him to at least be a solid low-card heel in the vein of Heath Slater is certainly there.

Neville is likely ready for prime time. His flying is as smooth as ever and like with Breeze, his facial reactions really stood out. He probably fits best in a high-flying tag team at this point with high-flying partner (Justin Gabriel? Evan Bourn? Sami Zayn?), but he seems ready for the big stage once the WWE comes up with a plan for him.

TV Match | Watchable | Quality