WWE NXT Report JAMES'S WWE NXT REPORT 6/20 - A look back at the complete NXT Redemption season
Jun 20, 2012 - 9:32:32 PM
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WWE NXT Season 5 Recap
By Justin James, PWTorch contributor
Well, folks, NXT: Redemption is wrapped up. And, while its replacement ("New NXT" or "NXT 6," I suppose) is supposedly airing somewhere and sometime on the Bright House network (a local cable provider in Florida), NXT does not seem to be coming back to WWE.com or Hulu any time soon. The NXT sub-site is not being updated, and NXT has been removed from the list of shows on WWE's website. With any luck, NXT 6 will be available online somewhere, as it seems like some of the hottest young talent around will be on it.
The NXT concept was a commercial bomb, that's for sure. It barely lasted into the middle of the third "season" before it disappeared into the bowels of WWE.com. But, its impact was huge. Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett were launched to the top of the pack after striking a chord with the audience on NXT. Brodus Clay and Ryback are having weekly squashes and appear to be very over with the crowd. A.J. is receiving massive amounts of critical acclaim for managing to steal the show of every scene she is in. Alex Riley still pops a crowd big-time, despite a lack of TV time. Aksana reached a nearly Santino-like level of comedy with her interactions with Teddy Long.
But, let's take a look at what NXT Redemption delivered. My Top 10 things that I will remember NXT Redemption for (in no particular order, except #1):
(1) Tyson Kidd
Tyson Kidd was, as William Regal said, the MVP of this show. He had a series of fantastic matches and Yoshi Tatsu, and managed to make not only a feud involving the leg of an action figure memorable, but put on a very good "XYZ on a pole" match. He started a face turn on NXT and any crowd who doesn't know him when his music hits sure remembers him by the end of the match.
Where do I start with Maxine? William Regal didn't say that she was the "MVP" of NXT Redemption, but did say that she made the biggest impact. That's an understatement. Maxine completely dominated the speaking segments she was involved in, and her personality and charisma are off the charts. Her acting skills are superb. While her in-ring work often needed refinement, her style was unique. I would love to see a Maxine-Layla feud with lots of talking, backstage strife, drama, and shenanigans.
(3) Derrick Bateman
How many NXT "rookies" inspire companies like Barber Shop Window to make shirts? Only Derrick Bateman. The guy is unbelievably likable. They couldn't make him a heel because even in the role he was too likable. His fan interaction is wonderful, and he responds to many of his followers on Twitter. Oh, and his in-ring? He brings a ton of intensity. Who can hate a guy who has a finisher called the "Sweet Meat Sizzler?"
(4) William Regal
William Regal is at a level that no one else is touching right now in the announcing role. As an authority figure, he (and his character) shined as the only ones in WWE acting like being in a position of responsibility meant being responsible. He managed to enhance everyone who stepped into that ring. If two of Ryback's jobbers showed up on NXT, by the end of the 90-second match, Regal would have convinced you that they were only a moment away from winning.
(5) Lucky Cannon
Who? Lucky Cannon was let go so early, and the "season" lasted so long, it's easy to forget about "Mr. Delish." Cannon came off like a metrosexual Ric Flair, bragging about his sexual exploits and sleazing his way into the dressing room of WWE's premier golddigger, Maryse, despite having an FCW-sized paycheck. His gimmick was bizarre and creepy, with makeup and even lip gloss at times. He was an instant heat magnet. It is a shame that his in-ring work was so lacking, because he could have done very will at a U.S. or Intercontinental Championship level otherwise.
(6) Johnny Curtis
It's hard to use the word "creepy" when thinking about Lucky Cannon without also talking about Johnny Curtis. Johnny Curtis was one R-rating away from being Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper's character in "Blue Velvet"). We're talking about a man than walks around with chloroform in his pocket and decides to kidnap his boss on a whim. Curtis had the mannerisms down pat, everything from hitting on women who clearly hated him the moment his girlfriend walked out the room to wearing a leather jacket and no shirt, regardless of the circumstances. Even his vehicle was thrown into the fray; everyone knew about Curtis's van, which I imagine had an ancient twin mattress in the back covered in body fluids and bars on the tinted windows. And, in-ring? Curtis delivered, big-time. He learned to sell pretty well, especially for a bigger wrestler. His top-rope leg drop would take him as far across the ring as anything Kofi Kingston does. Curtis is a star waiting for the right chance.
(7) A "saving throw" for the careers of JTG, Michael McGillicutty, Curt Hawkins, and Tyler Reks
For some time, NXT has been "the place where careers die." People who are sinking get sent there and either they snap out of the funk or they don't. Zack Ryder, MVP, and John Morrison are all examples of folks who couldn't turn time on NXT into money. Maryse, Vladimir Kozlov, and many more left or were future endeavored while on NXT. Cody Rhodes, The Miz, and Dolph Ziggler all took their careers to heights no one would have thought they would reach shortly after NXT helped them redefine themselves.
JTG, Michael McGillicutty, Curt Hawkins, and Tyler Reks have all been stuck in neutral for years. The only time they surfaced was for a brief match on Superstars or to be the equivalent of Ryback fodder. While it remains to be seen where their careers go from here (Reks and Hawkins had their latest angle being tied to John Laurinaitis, after all), the fact is that having a year on NXT may well have kept them on the roster for a year longer than anyone expected. All of them are talented and have unfilled potential, but were not being utilized in any way. JTG took a stale, tired look and poor in-ring presence and reinventing himself. Reks finally got some time to cut promos, develop a character, and show off his combination of size and agility which impressed me when he debuted on ECW. Michael McGillicutty had an outstanding yet short feud with Tyson Kidd, with a trio of top-flight matches. And, Curt Hawkins had the chance to establish himself as a reliable, veteran ring worker. Kudos to all four.
(8) Matt Striker
Poor Matt Striker. He's been the "host" of NXT for what seems like forever, the de facto authority figure for some time (yet constantly undercut by Josh Mathews), kidnapped for weeks at a time (being stashed in Curtis's mobile love shack van and being dragged into arenas when needed), and got kicked out of his office with the Ronald Reagan picture and guitar. And, what does he get for all of this? He got to put on his trunks for three glorious matches, and embarrassed most of the main event locker room with his innovative, fast-paced, technically-sound style.
(9) The resurgence of tag team and women's wrestling
If you only pay attention to Raw and Smackdown, it may be hard to understand where all of these tag teams are sprouting from lately. They almost all have their roots on NXT, where teams were formed, refined, and then sent into the main shows. The Primetime Players, The Usos, and Kidd/Gabriel (and before that, Kidd/Barreta) all have had the chance to gel on NXT and supplement the main shows. The same thing has happened for the Divas, although they have not been quite as visible at the main show level. If you wanted to see women's wrestling in WWE over the last year, NXT was the place to go.
(10) The stories
Everything you think you know about booking is wrong. Upset that titles are "watered down?" NXT didn't have titles and no one noticed. Think that people need lots of promo time to get over? It was rare for anyone to be doing an in-ring promo longer than a minute or two, and Maxine and Johnny Curtis were the only ones who consistently got backstage time in excess of a minute or two. What about interviews? Never happened. Vignettes and video packages? Once every few months. Not to beat a dead horse, but NXT Redemption successfully used a "XYZ on a pole" match to settle a feud, and it worked (don't show that sentence to Vince Russo, please).
Once the faux competition was dropped, NXT became a lot like "LOST." Everyone was trying to get off the NXT island to a place they had heard about (and some had even been too) known as "the main roster." Wrestling matches were something to keep peace on the island, settle inter-personal disputes, and somehow part of the magic needed to fly away to The Main Roster. As a result, even matches that were just thrown out there still had a purpose: to help get someone off the island eventually.
NXT Redemption was an effective show, because it featured a cast of believable, yet over-the-top characters (Maxine, Derrick Bateman, Johnny Curtis, and Kaitlyn in particular) forming and breaking alliances in the pursuit of an elusive goal. Isn't that the heart of good storytelling? Throw on top of that a good mix of talented veterans and rookies with a ton of potential, and add a dash of "enough time in the ring to tell a story" and you have all of the ingredients for a good professional wrestling show, which is exactly what NXT Redemption evolved into. And, it was smart enough to subtly poke fun at the pro wrestling genre as a whole, to boot.
While NXT Redemption will be remembered by few, it will be remembered fondly by those who stuck with it to the end.
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