THE SPECIALISTS TUCKER'S LIVE INSTANT REACTION - NXT: Takeover vs. Summerslam highlights the glaring difference between two products
Aug 24, 2015 - 12:11:37 AM
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By Benjamin Tucker, PWTorch TV specialist
NXT: Takeover Live Score (9.0)
WWE Summerslam Live Score (6.5)
Both NXT and the main roster have a fantastic wealth of talent. While NXT's special event was met with near-universal praise, Summerslam was met with ridicule and scorn by the night's end. The Saturday show had a loud, rowdy crowd at the end of the four-hour event. Then, Sunday's crowd was at half the volume or less for two-thirds of the show before they chanted "bulls---" as they left the arena. This shows the effect writing has on the wrestling product.
NXT provided simple stories, but they were easy to follow and made the viewer root for the good guys to prevail. The Vaudevillains are cartoony characters that on the main roster would go neglected, but on Saturday they were raucously cheered as they won the Tag Team Titles. Why? They faced a challenge people could sympathize with (overcoming the jerky jocks and their "untouchable" female associate) and worked to overcome it. There was no swerve, no chicanery, only a clear-cut team of good guys working together to defeat the cheating bad guys.
Underdog Bayley vs. Boss Sasha Banks, Self-Absorbed Tyler Breeze vs. Legend Jushin Liger, Young Upstart Apollo Crews vs. Arrogant Tye Dillinger. This is what wrestling is about. A good guy beating a bad guy. And NXT's feuds are such that in most cases you pine for the babyface to prevail. If something isn't working (Baron Corbin as a face), the show modifies its trajectory to better suit the story and fanbase (Corbin as a heel). Takeover was a simple show with excellent wrestling.
Summerslam, on the other hand, was written as if the spirit of Vince Russo gained control of the WWE booking committee.
Going in to Summerslam, the main roster was already at a disadvantage. Characters like Undertaker were acting like a heel despite being universally cheered. The Divas have been feuding for over a month despite few having any defined characters of their own. Randy Orton and Sheamus are feuding over... well, a briefcase without the briefcase ont he line. Muddied stories without clear-cut faces in many instances or faces having little to overcome (as is always perceived to be the problem with John Cena matches).
But, when it came to show time, the matches largely delivered. The storytelling throughout the program, though, only got worse. While the NXT Women's Championship was defended in a grueling 20-minute match that put over both competitors and the title they were fighting for, the fate of the U.S. and WWE Titles were determined by talk show host Jon Stewart.
The obvious parallel here is to WCW putting their World Championship on David Arquette in 2000. While that is much more offensive than Stewart's interactions, the end result is similar, though to a different degree. This de-legitimizes WWE. It makes their stars look like vaudevillians (not Vaudevillains) putting on a show and being duped by the equivalent of Mr. Magoo. These people aren't untouchable superstars. Their titles change hands on the whim of a scrawny 50-something who an hour earlier was being dressed down by Paul Heyman. Not only that, the story itself makes zero sense. The Rock's famous heel swerve in 1998 where he won the WWF Championship is classic due to how obvious the swerve was in hindsight. There is no reason why Stewart should be helping Rollins, and no amount of retconning and post-event talking will change that. Stewart costing John Cena the championship was a move that made pro wrestling look like a sitcom. Even if Stewart becomes a TV regular, this initial moment will be seen as the PR stunt that it is.
But, hey, no one saw it coming at least!
Meanwhile, Taker-Lesnar humanized the Deadman by having him win in a fluky way, damaged Lesnar by putting another official loss on his record, and screwed over fans hoping for a legitimate finish to at least one of the main event matches.
But hey, Even Steven booking means neither come out looking weak, right? Right?
What's frustrating is the talent is there. There was not a single bad match on Summerslam, but some of the finishes took the wind out of the event's sails. Nothing was on the level of Bayley-Sasha from the night before (a serious Match of the Year contender), but the main event was wrestled well, as was Owens-Cesaro, Sheamus-Orton, Rollins-Cena (the probable match of the night), etc. Stephen Amell was surprisingly good as well, working most of the tag match with Stardust and Barrett. But this show suffered through a lack of simple storytelling, confusingly-presented characters, and swerves that in the long run will be seen as terrible choices. The main show writing could learn something from NXT, not WCW 2000.
Questions? Comments? Reactions? Find me on Twitter @BTuckerTorch, where I talk about wrestling and... stuff!
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