I’ve been toying with the idea of this for a little bit now to do this post – one I’m not exactly sure what it will turn out to be – but I feel like I want to do this. I wanted to write about NXT and how it’s helped reignite my love for professional wrestling as a whole. (Lucha Underground has as well, but that came along later.)
I’ve been a fan of wrestling since 2001. And while I’ve always found enjoyment in it, I would only call the first few years of it to be amazing. After 2006 things started to go downhill. I would say earlier if RVD hadn’t won the WWE title in 2006 and he was my first favorite wrestler. I don’t know – I imagine everyone has some kind of grace period when they first start watching when everything was awesome – and then as time goes by and things change and people leave, that love for it starts to diminish. 2007 was horrible, 2008 was good, 2009 was horrible, 2010 was good in the beginning, 2011 was great in the summer, 2012 and 2013 were only good for CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Dolph Ziggler for the most part. But for the most part it had gotten dull and boring with seemingly no hope to change. CM Punk leaving in 2014 only made things worse – I was in a place where I didn’t have a “guy,” if you know what I mean. Everyone has that one guy that they back over anyone – for me it started with RVD in 2001, then it became RVD and Randy Orton in 2004, and then just Orton in 2007, and then CM Punk in 2011. (A few months later it became Dean Ambrose on the main roster.)
Regardless, I still needed something to give life to my passion for wrestling. I didn’t watch much of the indies. I had watched TNA from 2006 to sometime in 2010 when it turned to shit, and then from mid 2011 to either the end of 2012 or 2013 – I don’t remember. But I haven’t watched TNA since then and I never will again barring drastic changes. I watched ROH a couple of times in 2010 when I found we had a network that aired them, but then we moved and didn’t get them anymore. It was literally like, two or three weeks. And I won’t go out of my way to find ways to watch them on my computer – I’m very particular on where I go on the internet and I feel like streaming sites are easy places to get unwanted programs on my computer. And frankly, I was watching so much wrestling already and I didn’t want to add anymore into my weekly schedule if I didn’t have to. There’s only so much I can watch along with everything else I watched – there’s only so much time.
I started watching NXT in December of 2013. Yea, I got in before it was the cool thing to do. (HA.) Credit for that goes to John and Ashton from the podcast TWITWOW (so all of the one persons who reads my blogs go listen to them on Youtube – they’ve mentioned me recently so I’ll plug them….Even if I have no real audience lol.) So I either randomly listened to one of their NXT reviews or they mentioned enough related to NXT that it caught my interest. I don’t remember – it was 2013 after all. But at some point I found out that I could watch it on Hulu, so I started to. (Thanks to Twitter I can confirm that I discovered this on 12/20/13.)
The first people to draw me in were Sami Zayn, Paige, Adrian Neville, and Leo Kruger. I also enjoyed the Ascension and Emma. I already loved Cesaro, and he still was making some appearances on NXT. The only people I didn’t like at all were Mojo Rawley (still hate him), C.J. Parker, and the Legionnaires.. I didn’t care for Aiden English (he was pre-Vaudevillains, now I like him), and I didn’t care for Colin Cassady much because he was on his own – Enzo was hurt at the time, but once he was healed I loved them as a team.
Obviously I’d heard of Sami Zayn often from his days as El Generico, but as I’ve already said, I never watched the indies. However I did see one El Generico match on one of those few episodes of ROH I watched against Davey Richards. But I instantly loved him, and his feud with Cesaro was probably what hooked me into NXT the most in the beginning. And I can’t wait to finally watch that two out of three falls match between them now that I have the best of NXT dvd! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that in full.
I instantly fell in love with Paige. I’d heard of her in the months before this multiple times. Women’s wrestling in WWE was basically on its deathbed – we were all pretty much clinging on to AJ Lee for dear life at that point because there was almost nothing else. Natalya was good but she’s literally the worst. (I mean, you block me on Twitter for absolutely no reason and I’m going to be salty.) And that was it. So when I saw Paige, someone who was good in the ring, had a character I liked, and is basically my type in terms of look (Rocker chick/punk/nerd is my thing – Paige falls in it, AJ falls in it, Scags falls in it…Whatever I can’t help myself lol) she instantly became my new favorite. Or at least her and A.J., and I immediately was desperate for an A.J./Paige feud. I remember Paige debuting on Raw and I literally screamed “THANK YOU” at the tv because of that – see WWE, it’s not that complicated to get someone excited about women’s wrestling – just give them what they want from it. (More on that later.) That A.J./Paige feud didn’t get nearly as much time, good writing, etc. that it should have, though. It hurts looking back on it.
The curious case of Leo Kruger….I immediately liked him, and then he was gone. And he became Adam Rose. And while I enjoyed that character in the beginning, we can see how good that did for him. And I’d literally seen him as Kruger like two or three times, and that’s all I needed to know that I loved that character. Sad times.
I naturally loved Adrian Neville too, but I’ve never been a fan of Bo Dallas, so their feud didn’t do much for me. And their ladder match I wasn’t a big fan of.
I enjoyed The Ascension a lot – even moreso when they had non-squash matches.
I liked Emma as her original character in NXT and then it just died on the main roster. Now she’s back to being amazing on NXT.
I loved that NXT used Tyson Kidd too. I always thought he was really good but he went nowhere on the main product so it was nice to see him being treated like a main event competitor.
It took a while to warm up to Tyler Breeze – I never thought he was untalented or anything, because his match with Sami at Takeover 1 showed that he clearly was talented. But it took a while to warm up to him.
And then WWE signed the now Hideo Itami, Finn Balor, and Kevin Owens and got themselves a lot of buzz. A lot of eyes were drawn to them once they got on the network with Airrival and now with these signings everyone was talking about them. Obviously I’d heard of all them before for a while. And I knew that of the three, Finn Balor was going to be the one I was most excited for. (And he is my new “guy.”) I do really like Itami and I love Kevin Owens, but Balor is my new favorite guy.
The thing NXT has done for me most, though, is really create a love for women’s wrestling inside of me. Now, I’ve never not liked women’s wrestling or anything like that – I loved Lita, to a point I loved Trish (but she was overrated), and I loved Mickie James, but let’s be honest – WWE has almost never put any effort into their women’s division. Outside of the Trish and Lita feud, and the Trish and Mickie feud, there was pretty much nothing for years until A.J. vs. Kaitlyn. (At least I loved that feud, anyway.) Over the past few years, as I’ve become a fan of (and have a massive celebrity crush on) Allison Scagliotti, and finding myself really only powerfully rooting for women on The Voice and things like that, I began to embrace feminism (because at some point you realize why you love someone so much and then can’t help but want to share those same values…) so it was high time that I expected more out of WWE, considering it was a big part of my life, and in NXT I got that.
Paige and Emma was really good at Airrival. And while I was originally skeptical of Charlotte because of what Team TWITWOW had said about her at the beginning of her title push in 2014 – because I hadn’t seen much of her, she proved at Takeover how good she can be (outside of her promos.) Of course, she’s back to having some issues on the main roster now.
Sasha Banks and Bayley took a little while for me to warm up to. I never disliked them or anything, but I wasn’t in loved with them immediately. (I absolutely love them, Paige, and Becky now.) Maybe it’s because they didn’t get a longer, more extended match for a while. I think with me I need to see wrestlers perform in a ten or fifteen minute long match before I can decide that I like them or not. Bayley did have a match with Charlotte at Takeover Fatal 4 Way and it was good, but it wasn’t really until Takeover Rival that I really liked her and then her title push that I loved her.
Sasha, on the other hand, it only took her first match on a Takeover special for me to love her, against Charlotte at R Evolution. And she immediately became my favorite still in NXT. And I wanted that belt on her immediately. While I respected Charlotte and thought she was good, I’ve never truly loved her. So I was just kind of waiting for someone to step up as the one I wanted to dethrone her. And Sasha rose to the occasion.
Becky Lynch also debuted in the middle of 2014 and I did immediately like her, outside of her stereotypical Irish character in the beginning. I mean, she was a rocker chick in the beginning too, which again is my type, and then she would later have a steampunk-y style and goggles and I loved that too. Why? Because with the goggles and the orange hair she was basically NXT’s Claudia Donovan, only my favorite tv character ever on one of my favorite ever shows Warehouse 13, played by my favorite actress Allison Scagliotti – kind of hard not to like her.
The resemblance is uncanny.
Becky and Sasha as a team also helped me become a fan of Sasha, too – if I remember correctly they became a team before R Evolution.
And while the live special matches in 2014 were great – I think Charlotte/Sasha was probably the best – the ones in 2015 were amazing. (Well, we’re talking title matches now – there are non-title women’s matches in 2015 too which is great, but they aren’t the main focus. And I wouldn’t classify Bayley/Nia as amazing either.) But the first four women’s title matches at the takeover shows all made me cry. I have no problem admitting that. All of them were so good – the fatal 4-way because Sasha won the title, Sasha/Becky because it was so damn good and the crowd singing Becky’s theme after she lost, Sasha/Bayley because the match was so damn good, the crowd was amazing and it’s now one of my favorite crowd reactions to a title win EVER, and the moment with the four of them doing a curtain call at the end, and then Bayley/Sasha II because it main evented, was an ironwoman match, and was so damn good too.
And if anything from NXT seems like a movement, it is women’s wrestling. They have shown what can be produced with great characters and good writing and the proper amount of time, hype, and build. WWE has never had an amazing women’s division before this – they had good talent here and there, and/or a good storyline here and there – but all of it at once was never something they had. And now that I’d found that on NXT, it was another thing that helped me love it that much more.
I have so much pride in these four.
But now that three of these women are on the main roster, it’s a little painful. Because while women’s wrestling is respected in NXT, it’s still got a long way to go on the main product. They seem to be taking some small steps in the right direction – with the Charlotte/Becky/Sasha match at Mania, that’s one of few things I’m looking forward to on Mania. But then they have the Brie Bella and Lana thing and Paige, as good as she is, is being dragged into this. So it’s almost a wash.
I also love Alexa Bliss and I like Carmella. Blue Pants was fun. Asuka is amazing. I’m waiting for Peyton Royce and Billie Kay to really be used. Dana Brooke and Nia Jax are serviceable heels but they probably won’t amount to much more. And it’s worth saying again that Emma is still great.
NXT also shows what a great tag team division looks like. SAWFT, BAMF, Vaudevillains, American Alpha, the Revival, the Lucha Dragons, the Ascension. So good.
I love Finn Balor. I love the demon gimmick, and I await the Balor Club’s arrival. And while I do love him, if he lost the title soon, I’m ready for it.
Sami Zayn winning the title at R Evolution was amazing.
I loved the Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn feud.
And I can’t not name Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Apollo Crews, Shinsuke Nakamura, among others, who have come in or are coming in. Samoa Joe has been great.
Baron Corbin has grown so much in the past year, and he’s become my favorite heel on the show probably besides Samoa Joe. (And he’ll get that title shot he deserves eventually.)
Also, the theme songs these days for NXT have been great. Some on the main roster too, but the number of good themes that I’ve bought since they went to CFO$ has gone up a lot. Finn Balor’s theme is one of the best piece’s of music I’ve ever heard.
I also love that they have good commentary. I loved when Renee Young and William Regal did commentary. And I love Corey Graves as a commentator too – it kind of sucks because I didn’t really get to watch him compete much – he came back for a little bit in 2014 and I immediately liked him, but then he got hurt again and forced not to compete again. But I’m glad they put him on commentary because he’s good at it.
I also love that it’s in a small venue. I’ve grown to appreciate and love small venues for shows a lot more recently. Maybe it’s just that main WWE shows cause me vast emotional damage these days, but smaller is better. Full Sail is good, the Lucha Underground temple is amazing. And when NXT leaves Full Sail, it seems important because it doesn’t happen often. Granted, Full Sail does get on my nerves sometimes – the “Hey we want some Bayley” chants need to die a painful death. If you watch the title match between Bayley and Alexa Bliss from November you’ll see what I mean. Those fans pissed me off so much – flames. Flames….On the side of my face. (Clue reference.) I remember Mick Foley shaming these fans for that and an article written about them and I was relieved to have not been the only one. But these chants caught on and will not die.
I guess that’s all I really have to say about it. I love NXT and I’m so happy it’s brought my love for wrestling back to what it should be. Again, Lucha Underground does that too because it’s amazing – and on a week to week basis it’s the BEST wrestling show on tv. It’s even better than NXT week to week, and I have no problems saying that. But NXT feels different to me. NXT feels like it’s mine.
I feel that way because to me, NXT feels like something I am a part of. It doesn’t feel to me like just something I watch on tv. I feel like I’m a part of it, that the wrestlers are like some kind of surrogate family or something even though I’ve never met any of them – it’s like they’re “mine” and that I’m proud of all their success like I would be if they were a brother or sister. I feel like NXT is my show and I will defend it from anyone who even tries to say something negative about it in my presence. And I was thankful to see not one, but two NXT house shows this January when they came through Chicago. Both shows were great – Sami Zayn had the match of the night twice, one with Finn Balor, and an even better one against Tommaso Ciampa, which is one of the best live matches I’ve ever seen. (And I’ve gone to thirty WWE shows before this since 2001. I don’t think a match will ever surpass Punk/Cena from MITB but this is close to the top.)
With Takeover Dallas a few weeks away and how stacked that show is – maybe their most stacked show to date – I felt obligated to write about this. The show is certainly going to blow WrestleMania out of the water. So, thank you NXT, for reminding me why I love wrestling. It’s been sorely needed.
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