January 22nd, 2014 saw WWE strengthen NXT further after the holiday lull. As mentioned in my last report, the product is being prepared for greater exposure due to the imminent WWE Network launch. While this will elevate the status of the show, the company is less likely to take chances with putting Performance Center talent on television. The NXT
Galaxy Universe will, essentially, become just another brand, behind what has been Raw and SmackDown.
Changes are continuing to emerge. With a slightly different opening highlighting different faces, NXT this time saw Eden Stiles – the real-life Brandi Rhodes, wife of Cody – on ring announcing duties. Ironically, she immediately surpassed all other long-term NXT women on this task, and has to be second only to Byron Saxton himself.
Adrian Neville moved back into the NXT Title picture after picking up a win over newcomer Wesley Blake, who didn’t look bad at all despite the cliché cowboy gimmick he’s been saddled with. One entertaining exchange saw the crowd-pleasing “Jumping Geordie” hack away at the country boy with chops, prompting the crowd to chant “one more time” – the Newcastle native didn’t disappoint, moving into the corner for another reverse knife-edge, only to get cut off by Wesley Blake in a brief moment of offence for the cowboy.
Charlotte Flair seemed way more comfortable in her new-found heel role alongside “BFF’s” Summer Rae and Sasha Banks as they were interviewed backstage. Charlotte cut a promo badmouthing Bayley, the fangirl she abandoned, Nattie Neidhart taking mercy on the young babyface and scheduled for a match against Summer Rae for later in the show.
Coming to the ring to the theme song of Brodus Clay (who stole it from Ernest Miller) Xavier Woods sought to pull a “Kofi Kingston” and gain revenge for his loss to Alexander Rusev, who was accompanied by Lana. It was not to be, and it’s fortunate, since the Bulgarian needs reinforcing and protecting if he is to remain WWE’s latest pet project, while Xavier Woods remains a poor imitation of R-Truth. After the match,
Hunico Sin Cara ran to the ring to stop Rusev inflicting further damage on Woods. Yes, WWE would still rather have Hunico pull double-duty under a mask, despite everyone knowing who he is after the apparent release of the original man behind the mask. Such is the power of the merchandising cashflow column in corporate WWE.
Once again, “heel” Antonio Cesaro was cheered, while “babyface” CJ Parker was jeered. I mentioned in my last report how CJ Parker needs urgent help before the character sucks the life from NXT, and here was further evidence, as fans supported the villainous Swiss strongman all through the match, buoyed by the giant swing spot after AC no-sold the effects of an airplane spin, leading us to believe Antonio Cesaro is impervious to dizziness. He hit the Neutralizer for the pin and the win.
Afterwards, Sami Zayn emerged on a crutch to the sounds of “olé” in order to request a rematch with Switzerland’s superman, after their 2013 classic. Ominously approaching the former El Generico, Antonio Cesaro got in his face with a resounding “no,” and simply exited, finally drawing heat from the crowd.
As Mike “The Miz” Mizanin was inexplicably interviewed backstage, CJ Parker interrupted him to finally acknowledge the fans booing him, in complete frustration. Though Miz is also a heel again (I think?), he took Parker to task on the interruption (and laughably continued to refer to himself as “the most must-see superstar in the WWE,” even adding that he has supposedly accomplished everything there is to do in WWE, in which case, shouldn’t he retire at the tender age of 33?). Parker slapped Miz before walking away. At least WWE are taking action on the CJ disaster, but I’m not convinced it will be enough to resurrect his budding career.
In a pre-recorded interview, Nattie Neidhart promised that, in 2014, she was going to “get hungry and forget (her) manners.” Though this was a reference to a promo by her father, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, while in the Hart Foundation faction circa 1997, the commentators either chose not to acknowledge it or it went over their heads, exposing their lack of knowledge. But then, pro wrestling history has never been important to WWE, so will surely never be on the commentators audition tape list of tests.
With that, Nattie beat Summer Rae in a match I had hoped to offer a little more for Summer. To be fair, though, Nattie has put over so many of NXT’s women the last several months, in matches afforded plenty of time, no one is going to complain here.
Backstage, the wheelchair-bound Enzo Amore was interviewed alongside Colin Cassady, as Aiden English claims he didn’t just beat Cass in the ring, but also in the vocals department despite the fact the fans decided Big Cass was a superior singer several weeks ago. As the former Matt Marquee began to sing to redeem himself from such a humiliating defeat, EA followed Cass out of shot, wheeling right over Aiden’s foot in the process, turning his crooning into a croaking, which was mildly amusing.
As part of his celebrations to honour his 224-day NXT Title reign, the hated Bo Dallas went to the ring to cut another disingenuous promo and herald the dropping of a banner to mark the occasion. Adrian Neville interrupted the proceedings in order to treat us to a promo of his own – and in fairness, the Geordie is still showing signs of slight improvement. The fans used a British colloquialism by calling Bo a “wanker,” perhaps not realising the severity of such an insult back in the UK. Referring to the previous “Beat the Clock” challenges where Neville last got a title shot by beating a “nobody” in 4:45 (that “nobody” being none other than Aiden English). Bo claimed it wouldn’t even take him that long to beat Neville next time. And so, Motorhead hit, and a pre-recorded promo by Triple H was passed off as a live impromptu interruption, where The Game booked a 4:45 time limit match where, if Dallas actually failed to beat Neville in that time, the title shot would be granted. Bo was forced to put his money where his mouth was, right there and then.
The match went ahead, with the NXT Champion in street clothes, his appearance as bland as his repertoire. In an uneventful match, Bo reeled as Neville simply ran around ringside to run the clock down by the 4:40 mark, a finish as uninspiring as the match itself. There’s nothing much many wrestlers can do with Dallas, to be fair, even if you’re “the man that gravity forgot.”
18 months ago, no one would have believed any claim that Bo Dallas would soon be in NXT while his brother Husky Harris verged on main eventing the main roster with a gimmick incorporating elements of Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Waylon Mercy. Granted, Bo is the NXT Champion, but if he loses that belt, where can he go then? The belt is the only thing keeping him relevant. As an oblivious heel in the vain of Honky Tonk Man in 1986 or Chris Jericho in his latter WCW days, Bo’s positioning is based on him being hated, yet apparently not realising it. However, many believe much of the heat is legitimate “go away” heat.
Bo Dallas is hated, because he’s painfully ordinary in the ring, and downright annoying as a personality, but never hated enough as a villain specifically because of his character’s lame attempts to endear himself to the audience. Without the NXT Title, he either heads to certain failure in a WWE main event landscape where even the likes of Curtis Axel can’t succeed, or he simply fades away in NXT. Soon, unless his family connections backstage can save him, there may indeed be “no mo’ Bo.”