By-The-Numbers

4 Feb

5-16-2013 2-45-48 PM

The January 29th, 2014 episode of NXT started with a bang as The Ascension squashed Mike Quiary and John Ikarino. The NXT Tag Team Champions have never been this over, unless we were deceived and the infamous production trust crowd noise was dubbed over. Nonetheless, The Ascension did look great here, as was intended.

Backstage, Sylvester LeFort – no longer managing a stable including the likes of the Dawson/Dylan tag team – was recruiting his next crop of talent. One such candidate was All-American amateur wrestler Cal Bishop, whose cauliflower ears provided too much of a distraction for the French manager.

Alex Riley and William Regal had an entertaining exchange as part of our commentary team before heel Corey Graves cut a promo followed by a convincing win over Camacho, who tapped out in mere minutes to his “Lucky 13” submission finisher. “Chicks Dig” Graves re-solidified his status as a strong singles wrestler with this win over Camacho, whose future remains a mystery while partner Hunico is flirting with a solo career of his own under the Sin Cara mask.

Antonio Cesaro was interviewed by Devon Taylor, who has been less than impressive thus far. The Swiss strongman said Sami Zayn shouldn’t be challenging him since he couldn’t beat him when he was 100%, and now he has an injured leg – before stopping himself, realising he’d been drawn back into Cesaro-Zayn dialogue, and simply walking away.

Elsewhere, LeFort was still “auditioning” for his next recruit. Unfortunately for him, a confused, creepy, effeminate bleached blonde wrestler asked “What audition?” before reluctantly letting go of the Frenchman’s hand after shaking it. Hopefully not a poor man’s Goldust!

Bayley, with Nattie Neidhart, faced Sasha “The Boss” Banks, who was accompanied by BFF’s Charlotte and Summer Rae. The feud continues, the dangling carrot being the potential for Bayley to finally gain an opportunity for vengeance against Charlotte, who abandoned her to join the “It” girls. Every combination of match-ups is being booked in the interim, which is standard by-the-numbers booking, something you can always rely on in NXT when you rarely get it on even shows like Raw or SmackDown. Bayley hit a suplex on Sasha for the pin and the win, bringing her one step closer to getting her hands on Charlotte.

Tyler Breeze beat Colin Cassady by pinfall with the Beauty Shot to end an entertaining match with excellent dynamics and good chemistry, after the videowall showed Aiden English threatening the wheelchair-bound Enzo Amore, who had run over his foot the previous week. Big Cass ran backstage, but EA seemed fine, leading to another hilarious exchange between the “Certified G’s.”

Again following on from weekly storylines, Miz made CJ Parker tap to his notoriously dodgy Flair figure-four leglock, bringing to an abrupt halt their feud and burying Parker, who is still in desperate need of a bigger change than a mere heel turn (and Miz is the last wrestler to reinforce an opponent’s heel status, since he’s still barely cheered by even the NXT Full Sail crowd). The highlight of the match was Regal’s commentary.

Backstage, it was Sami Zayn’s turn to continue the Zayn-Cesaro narrative. Wearing a wonderful “Free Syria” t-shirt (he has Syrian ancestry), Sam said that he won’t take no for an answer from Cesaro so easily, adding that he’ll have to say “No” to his face next week. This was a little odd, since Antonio had already told him “no” right to his face on the stage just last week. Still, again, it’s simply designed to put off the blow-off to the feud  and keep us hanging in there, but I thought this was lazy writing by NXT’s standards; the backstage interviews were thrown in there as though all other ideas had gone. Why not have Sami interrupt Cesaro’s own interview, and Antonio shove over Zayn while he was on his crutch? That would have increased the heat a little, built anticipation, while making it about more than repeating the word “no.” Only Daniel Bryan can pull that off.

Backstage, Sylvester LeFort finally seemed to have his man – however, mighty Welshman Mason Ryan told Sly he’d only let him manage him if he could actually defeat him in the ring. This set up an intriguing scenario, but leaves us wondering how it would work if Ryan was actually beaten by the slight Frenchman, only to have to accept his tutelage despite the humiliation – or would that itself be the story?

The excellent Renee Paquette Young interviewed Adrian Neville who was to sign a contract for his title shot with NXT Champion Bo Dallas, which was strange, since the previous week saw Triple H book an impromptu match, at will, with Bo having to wrestle in his street clothes – so why contracts are suddenly necessary is baffling. This may be NXT, but it’s still WWE, so we can’t have our hopes too high when it comes to logic.

After swerving the audience – and Adrian Neville – into believing he was going to no-show, Bo came to the ring and told the Jumpin’ Geordie to watch why he was champion, before beating the wasted Danny Burch, a “soccer hooligan” who excelled on the English independent circuit as West Ham United supporter and skinhead Martin Stone.

After this match, Bo signed the contract, then delivered a cheap-shot to Neville, who sprang back at him through the ropes, knocking him to the floor, before the two brawled up the aisle and the show ended. I’d have liked to have seen officials or security men issue a pull-apart for the ending, which fell flat a little without anything like that, though this whole feud isn’t helped by the shallowness of the two characters involved.

Overall, this show still delivered the usual levels of enjoyment we can expect from NXT, but there were some signs of sloppy writing and booking which left it below the standards we’ve come to anticipate from the offerings of the developmental programme.

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