Written by Jordan Stynes – @prostynes
After the absolute shitshow that was Backlash, followed by Raw and that god awful Bobby Lashley promo, I was grateful for NXT on Wednesday night. We saw a Ricochet and Velveteen Dream feud kick off, the in-ring debut of EC3 on NXT TV, a decent match between Heavy Machinery and War Raiders and an excellent hard hitting encounter between Ciampa and Kassius Ohno. All of this in just an hour.
Triple H and his team should be applauded for their work with NXT. Every week we get an hour of decent action and simple storytelling. It is easily digestible and straightforward to follow. As opposed to Raw and Smackdown every week which features convoluted storytelling and little continuity. Braun Strowman helping Roman Reigns after months of feuding is just one recent example. NXT have a plan for its booking whereas Raw and Smackdown seem to be booked by the hour, except for Reigns and Lesnar of course.
NXT has that cool “indie” feel around it that started with guys like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Finn Balor. But instead of going away from that philosophy they embraced it. They signed more “indie” stars like Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Roderick Strong, Drew McIntyre etc. The most recent raid of the indies was remarkable. Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish, Ricochet and EC3 all signed to the yellow brand. NXT cards are starting to look like PWG shows and I bloody love it. Its fresh and exciting. The main roster has been Roman Reigns for the last 3 years.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it’s just about the signings. They are producing exceptional homegrown talent too. Velveteen Dream, AOP, The IIconics, Rusev, Baron Corbin and the entire main roster women’s division. It is a well oiled machine that produces great talent and TV.
As a side note, if the WWE UK thing ever gets going then I hope we get something similar and that they keep Vince far far away from it.
Every few months we get the amazing NXT Takeover specials. Two and a half to three hours of great wrestling and satisfying conclusions to storylines. NXT Takeover New Orleans stole WrestleMania weekend. It has to be somewhat embarrassing when your biggest show of the year is overshadowed by what is intended to be your “developmental” brand. While I am not the biggest fan of Dave Meltzer’s star ratings, he has given three NXT matches five stars since the start of 2018. The last main roster match to receive five stars was CM Punk vs John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011. I am not saying the main roster can’t produce great matches, they just lack great story to back them up. Which leads me perfectly on to my next point.
NXT has been telling fantastic stories for a while now. The biggest one over the last few years has been between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. NXT caught lightning in a bottle with this feud. They took the biggest babyface tag team and split them into the biggest babyface and the biggest heel in the company.
They went from being best friends chasing the tag team titles to bitter enemies. It all aligned perfectly and even benefited from Ciampa being out for months with an ACL injury. It gave Johnny Gargano time to become “Johnny Wrestling”. He went on to feud with Almas and produced a series of great matches including the five star rated match at NXT Takeover Philadelphia. They kept the Ciampa story going by having Zelina Vega wear a DIY shirt to distract Gargano during matches. Finally Ciampa recovered from injury and returned to attack Gargano. They met at NXT Takeover New Orleans in yet another five star rated match. At this stage just call Johnny Gargano “Johnny Five Star”. With another match against Ciampa at NXT Takeover Chicago maybe he can add five more stars to his belt.
NXT is the only thing that I find interesting about WWE at the moment. I become more frustrated week by week with idiotic booking and their insistence on making Roman Reigns the “face” of the company. Do they really not see what is going on? I am at my wits end with this. They have so much more talent that they could use. Let somebody else dethrone Brock Lesnar and just put all of this behind them. My problem is not with Reigns himself but with the booking. What in the last year tells us that Roman is being held down by Vince or “the powers that be”? It comes off as a parody of itself with the smarter fans because they know Vince is the one pushing Roman. For for the love of god they pay people to write this stuff!
If they want Roman to get over just turn him heel. Embrace the hatred. Take Roman off TV for a few months, give Seth Rollins the title and have Roman return to challenge him. They will boo him because he is a heel and then in time they might begin to cheer him and he can turn face again. It’s really not too hard to book.
What else needs to happen before they change something? It’s been three years. Can you imagine what else they could have done creatively in those three years? People say Vince is a genius. If he is such a genius why can’t he see what is going on? IT’S NOT WORKING! For the love of god.
I am just going to finish with a note. Please, PLEASE DO NOT PUSH BOBBY LASHLEY! He’s DOA.