Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On the air: WWE NXT (2010)

After all the hype, it's just another WWE show.

NXT, which launched on Tuesday, has 8 wrestlers called up from Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE's developmental program, paired with veteran mentors in the hopes that 1 will win a contract and be assigned to Monday Night Raw. Instead of being the hybrid of UFC's Ultimate Fighter and the former WWE/MTV series, Tough Enough, NXT comes across as a boot camp for wrestlers, redefining the phrase, "on the job training".

The focus of the opener was "rookie" Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson), whose decade of experience in American independent promotions such as Ring of Honor and in Japan doesn't mean squat as far as WWE is concerned, this despite the fact that Bryan was trained initially by Shawn Michaels. For now, Bryan has to deal with "The Miz" (Mike Mizanin, ex-The Real World), who went through the Tough Enough competition in 2004 when it was part of Smackdown. Miz, speaking for WWE's insane chairman/CEO, Vince McMahon, thinks Bryan lacks charisma & personality, two things supposedly essential to succeeding as a WWE superstar.
Miz slapped Bryan at the end of an opening promo, and after Bryan lost a tough match to current WWE World champ Chris Jericho, Miz struck again, attacking his fallen charge. By the time it's over, Miz's attitude toward his "protege" will change, and by extension, maybe McMahon's will, too, if he could ever be convinced to expand his myopic worldview.

The only other "name" in the field is David Otunga, who is engaged to singer and Oscar winning actress Jennifer Hudson ("Dreamgirls"). Otunga looked a little sloppy in beating fellow trainee Darren Young, but then they weren't given that much time, anyway. Common sense would've had Otunga paired with Miz, since they have something in common (Otunga's previous television experience was in the VH1 reality show, I Love New York), but we must remember that WWE doesn't deal in common sense all that much. If they did, much of its history might have to be rewritten.

Play-by-play announcer Michael Cole (Monday Night Raw) also represented for the corporate attitude against Bryan, an abrupt turnaround from his normal neutral role on Raw. It will be interesting if this carries over to Raw in the coming weeks, but Cole, a former radio news announcer in my home area, needs to work on perfecting his new "persona" if it's meant to be a long term thing.

McMahon has gone on record as saying that NXT will be a year-round program, like the rest of WWE's shows, meaning that each "season" of 13 weeks will be succeeded by the next one without any respite for the viewers or the production staff, and if this is the case, that would get them a leg up on Ultimate Fighter. They say McMahon doesn't acknowledge UFC as competition, but this proves otherwise, in this writer's opinion. By focusing strictly on the action in the ring, NXT is allowed to stand on its own without any comparisons. However, it also prevents the viewer from making a connection with the other "rookies", as the short video introductions won't do them justice. NXT, then, is a work in progress that should only get better with time.

Grade: B.

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