Tag Archives: Justin Gabriel

WWE NXT review (Sept. 18): Neville and Zayn vs. Kidd and O’Neil; Hideo Itami debuts

If you have $9.99 and the bravery to watch RAW every week, you know for a fact that WWE’s best show is NOT on Monday nights, and hasn’t been for a while. If you hadn’t quite figured it out, NXT provided a hell of a hint last week. NXT Takeover 2 (review here) was the company’s best show of the year to date in terms of the stuff that matters. You know, the stuff in the 20-by-20 box. (Photo gallery here)

NXT has the benefit of quarterly special events, meaning there are about 12 weeks to build to each event. So how do we follow up such a great event?

With Titus O’Neil, of course!

All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming.
All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming.

Hold up … Superstars isn’t for another hour! Eh, maybe he’s just early. Nope, he has an actual reason to be here and honor us with his presence. The rationale here: NXT showed up on RAW last week? He’s gonna “take some of y’all’s time.” Very well.

Sami Zayn puts this to a merciful end. Or so we believe.

NXT 091814 Sami Zayn

After some gimmick infringement (who doesn’t mock the Omega sign and the bark), he kicks some knowledge.

I’m so glad you’re here, because you really are filling a giant void of what we need here in NXT, which is a giant buffoon who couldn’t win a match to save his life. And hey, news flash, OK? While you’re busy getting beaten up by bunnies, we’re here in NXT STEALING. THE. SHOW!

NXT 091814 Titus O'Neil

That would qualify as shots fired, right?

Titus offers to steal this show by offering the beating of a lifetime in a match.

Did someone suggest wrestling?

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville

The champ can’t wait to join in the debate here. Because if anyone wants to challenge NXT, he’s the one to defend it. Sami makes sure we’re clear Neville’s the only man to defend the show because he’s the champ (well, duh, Sami), and the man who may have actually stolen the show at Takeover 2 makes sure he has a say as well.

Tyson Kidd calls Zayn and Neville losers, with the only difference being one has a belt and the other doesn’t. Kidd then brings up a valid, shall we say, fact: Wouldn’t you do what Neville did at Takeover 2, pull the ref out of the ring to prevent a 3 count and do whatever it takes to keep the belt? Sami gets it, but said it wouldn’t really fit his moral compass. Neville informs Sami that’s why the belt will NEVER really fit on his waist.

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville Sami Zayn

That DOES qualify as shots fired.

Titus doesn’t care about all this — nor should he — so he turns the attention back to himself, just in time for the General Manager to call out a tag team match, playas!

Sorry, wrong GM.

Or is it?

“Gentlemen, please. This is a fighting show, not a whining show. So I suggest we somehow get to fighting.”

NXT 091814 William Regal

William Regal then tells us what’s best for business: All four men competing … O’Neil and Kidd vs. Zayn and Neville. Holla holla holla!

Obligatory Teddy Long joke aside, Regal has a point. NXT has been more about fighting than whining. But it was refreshing and interesting to see how some of the top NXT guys would fit in a RAW or SmackDown setting by leading off the show with promo time, and there really were no weak spots in the nearly-10-minute opening segment.

Three matches and a video package later, it’s main event time.

Good thing Titus brought his trunks and boots, or else that could’ve been awkward. Though if Cody Rhodes can defend the Intercontinental Championship in a suit, and if heel Jeff Hardy can defend a world championship in a tie with a cigarette …

(I swear I was the only mark for heel Hardy in TNA in 2010-11. Just an angsty, vicious human being. I even didn’t mind that purple custom belt until it went elsewhere.)

Anyway, back on topic. We’re still hammering home the “Zayn hasn’t won the big one” angle. After all, he hasn’t. Luckily, his partner has.

TYSON KIDD & TITUS O’NEIL vs. NXT Champion ADRIAN NEVILLE & SAMI ZAYN

Zayn starts … and Neville tags himself in after maybe 15 seconds. He’s already having a much easier time getting into the ring than last week. Armdrag and quick cover from the champ, and after he pulls Kidd into the corner, Zayn makes turnabout fair play in two forms — blind tag AND a standing moonsault as a “Better than Neville!” chant breaks out.

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville 2

Neville tags in and responds with a corkscrew Shooting Star Press. A STANDING corkscrew Shooting Star Press. Damn, son.

NXT 091814 Sami Zayn 2

Cover for 2, because he mostly connected with the lower body. Damn him for not being perfect. Headlock time, and Titus is super impatient. OK, not really. But it looks like he wouldn’t mind getting into the ring.

Neville’s ready to go outside to dive on Kidd, but Zayn cockblocks him and hits the springboard moonsault. This happened in reverse last week. Break time after a stellar 3 minutes.

Sheamus with an entertaining Be A Star spot, then Titus finally gets into the match as we return at 3:40.

One backbreaker. Two backbreakers. One nonchalant toss of his 200-pound foe. One tag to Kidd. You know, if they wanted, they could have Titus in NXT as just a freaking monster. At his size, against a top card that averaged 199 pounds in last week’s main event, he’s downright gargantuan. Anyway, Tyson works a headlock as Neville wants a tag …

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville 3

… then shifts to the front facelock.

Titus gets a tag, and he continues to just manhandle Sami. Abdominal stretch at 6:20; Neville still calling for a tag. Zayn tries to elbow his way out, but Titus hits a forearm and elbow drop to the back. Then he stands on Sami’s face. Some people probably wish that would happen to Tyson’s pretty face.

NXT 091814 Tyson Kidd 2

Tyson gets in, applies the Tree of Woe and works away, including a headlock. Goes for a guillotine legdrop, but Sami escapes. The quintessential face in peril crawls to no avail.

Ever notice how heels ALWAYS work better in a thrown-together situation than faces? It’s like they’re so evil and bad, but they’re so much better at the whole teamwork thing. He slams Sami, drags him to the corner and tags. Tyson all about working the neck, this time with his foot, then back to the headlock. Armdrag escape, but a back kick from Kidd stops him in his tracks. Legdrop to the back of the neck, and Zayn finds a neutral corner. Titus with a slap to the chest, then charges the corner twice and misses. HOT TAG TO NEVILLE at 10:50.

Kidd’s in, and he’ll get the brunt of this fast-paced attack. Standing moonsault, but Titus makes the save. Sami goes after Titus. Neville up top, but Titus pushes him off right into Tyson’s knees. All Kidd needs to do is cover, and the champ is pinned.

NXT 091814 Titus O'Neil Tyson Kidd

Time: 11:39

Technical Merit: All four men brought it, with even O’Neil getting scientific and buying into the team concept of trying to break Zayn’s neck. Kidd is the best all-around mat grappler you’ll see in WWE besides Brock Lesnar, and Zayn and Neville’s one-upmanship not only furthered the story, but was great from a maneuver standpoint. The last guy on the main roster who could’ve probably hit that standing corkscrew Shooting Star was John Morrison, and he’s been gone for years.

Artistic Impression: The friends are fighting, and the heel(s) have the upper hand as we start the three-month build for the next Takeover. Tyson Kidd really has found himself as a cocky heel chameleon who can mesh with anyone, and it’ll be interesting to see where they go with his end of the story going forward. The aftermath of this match HAS to build toward Neville v. Zayn, which is the best fresh singles match NXT could provide right now. It feels like Neville’s in a slow turn at the moment, while Zayn will be the aw-shucks babyface until the day he dies. He played the bumbling face in peril beautifully, which helped one of the better WWE tag matches you’ll see.

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/4

NXT 091814 Tyson Kidd

•••

NXT 091814 Charlotte

Call me a traditionalist, but I have a problem with a champion coming out first in any situation. Even if it’s for a surprise Emma appearance. Also, welcome back, Emma!

NXT Women’s Champion CHARLOTTE vs. EMMA

Emma dances around a bit …

NXT 091814 Emma

… but Charlotte ain’t got no time for that. She does have time to grab the belt and inform us she is, in fact the champ.

NXT 091814 Charlotte Emma

Emma takes one look and swats it away. Within a minute, that earned her a figure-four headlock combination. Emma gets rolled around, then bridges into a cover. Emma continues to use her unorthodox style, then hits an orthodox kick from her back. Charlotte responds with an orthodox shot to the back, then goes up top. Emma puts a stop to that, hits an elbow, ducks a charge and rolls up. Some more dancing, and some pushes to the ground. More dancing and an Emmamite Sandwich until the champ grabs her while she’s between the ropes. The yank of the head ends up sending Emma’s feet into Charlotte’s face, then Emma hits a crossbody for 2. This displeases the champion, who hits a neckbreaker, then Darwin’s favorite finisher: Natural Selection.

NXT 091814 Charlotte 2

Time: 4:07

It’s kind of disappointing how overplayed Emma’s quirkiness is, especially in terms of her moveset. As Emma proved at NXT ArRIVAL, she’s a great wrestler. Let her dance around and be weird before and after the bell, but let her actually compete! When you have two solid athletes and only 4 minutes, they should be athletic, not being all … Emma-like.

•••

NXT 091814 Justin Gabriel

You know how some shows try to make you believe things are happening live? WWE is throwing that out the window this week, because Justin Gabriel is pulling a Thursday night double. To his credit, he’s wearing the same gear on both shows. To his detriment, he’s jobbing on both shows.

NXT 091814 Hideo Itami

OK, confession time: I’ve never seen Hideo Itami wrestle. And not just because that’s been his name for a week. I never saw him as KENTA, mainly because it took me until about May to watch anything outside WWE, WCW or TNA. Hell, I just watched the first like half-hour of my first (non-WWE) ECW show earlier this week. Thanks to a dissenting Roku 3, I’ll have to either start over or do some fast-forwarding later to finish the show.

HIDEO ITAMI vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

Gabriel with an early headlock, then some acrobatics from Hideo. Nice leapfrog and elbow, and when Gabriel goes for a leapfrog, Hideo puts on the brakes, leaps and hits a one-footed kick to the jaw. OK, I’m on board. Hideo tries to pull Gabriel back into the ring by the hair, but Gabriel takes out the legs, re-enters and hits a double underhook suplex for 2. Hooks the arms from behind, and when Hideo tries to escape, Justin hits a knee to the side. A second double underhook attempt blocked this time, and Hideo’s kickboxing skills are on display.

Then he taunts Gabriel by kicking him in the head while imploring him to get up. Some more kicks, one from inside and one from the apron, then a springboard short dropkick. Hideo comes into the corner with a boot, then a running short dropkick. Up top, and Hideo hits the two-foot stomp for the win.

NXT 091814 Hideo Itami 2

Time: 3:39

Soon after, he has company. Some vicious high-impact offense and one Fall of Man later, the former NXT Tag Team champions are angry AND satisfied.

NXT 091814 The Ascension

Would YOU want to mess with The Ascension right now?

Anyway, Hideo’s debut? Decent. Maybe it’s because how much force would actually be applied to the point of impact, but he only got about a third of that stomp. Besides that, if you want some good, martial arts/kickboxing-based offense, he’s your man. He’s apparently quite busy in this set of tapings, so maybe we’ll get to see more.

Also, sign me up for more Justin Gabriel. If this were WCW, TNA or Ruthless Agression-era SmackDown, Gabriel would be a top heel in a cruiserweight/X Division capacity. In WWE? He’s enhancement talent with a vicious side.

•••

NXT 091814 CJ Parker

I hoped we saw the last of CJ Parker at Takeover 2, courtesy of one Baron Corbin. But here the hippie with the X-Pac heat is back.

Oh, thank God. So is Corbin.

NXT 091814 Baron Corbin

BARON CORBIN vs. CJ PARKER

How tall does Corbin have to be to weigh 285? Like, he doesn’t look jacked or anything. Just tall. Alex Riley informs us the answer is 6-foot-8. Parker actually gets about four punches in after a corner charge from Corbin, but the End of Days comes quickly and without remorse. Hey, at least CJ lasted longer this time!

Time: :41

Corbin will be a star, and within 3 months of making the main roster, I’ll probably be dissing all the fangirls gushing about how ridiculously good-looking he is. To be fair, though, he has the look.

NXT 091814 Baron Corbin 2

I may have to get my Twitter bestie/NXT and indy guru (Hi, Heather!) on the horn to discuss the extent of Corbin’s ability, since she’s seen him work more than 40 seconds at a time and she’s high on him. But, even in this tiny sample size, he’s much more vicious and believable in his couple moves so far than, say, Mojo Rawley.

Also, I LOVE the fact that he hasn’t said a word. Not like he’s had time, but you get the point. Arrive, kick ass, depart.

•••

After some shaky Big Cass camera work, we meet Carmella, a skinny Jersey girl type who wants a job. She wants to be “a fighta,” and she proves it by huffing a medicine ball into Enzo Amore‘s gut. How you doin’ indeed.

What did you think of NXT and the direction it appears to be headed? Comment below or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

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WWE Superstars review (Sept. 18): Wyatt Family vs. Matadores, Sin Cara-Gabriel III

This is cool.

All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming unless noted.
All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming unless noted.

So is this.

Superstars 091814 Erick Rowan

And this.

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper

What’s not cool is the ear-bleeding vocal intro. Just terrible oversinging. On the bright side, we at least know this week’s Superstars will be off to a good start. So who will everyone’s favorite heel tag team face?

Superstars 091814 Matadores intro Superstars 091814 Los Matadores El Torito

Oh my God. This will be a bloodbath. Though I appreciate Justin Roberts‘ proper pronunciation on the jobbers’ intro.

THE WYATT FAMILY (Luke Harper & Erick Rowan) vs. LOS MATADORES (Diego & Fernando, w/El Torito)

I think we’ve determined Fernando is starting this match. Rowan beats him down, then tags to the worker of the pair. Tag attempt at 1:15, but Fernando eats Harper’s boot instead. Gator roll time, and it feels like we’re just buying time. Headlock time as El Torito gets on the apron …

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper El Torito

… and provides a distraction as Fernando hits an enziguiri. Hot tag to Diego, who’s actually gaining momentum? Drop toehold into the ropes, and a … 619? No, just a slide onto Harper and out. Cover at 3:00, and Rowan makes the save.

Fernando and Rowan are forced outside in that order, then a Clothesline From Hell … OK, it was just from Harper … results in victory.

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper 2

Time: 3:19

That was an interesting quickie match, in that the jobber team actually handled some business. An abrupt ending, but how long did you think Los Matadores would actually hang?

•••

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara

I can’t remember who asked it, but the question was posed on Twitter: What exactly is the point of Superstars? Right now, it appears to be a Sin Cara vs. Justin Gabriel series.

The Lucha Dragon took the first matchup. The World British Super Duper Championship Wrestling champion took the second last week. This, my friends, is the rubber match. Also, kinda hope Cara comes out with NXT gold. Damn. No dice, but a NICE T-shirt of the new squad.

Superstars 091814 Sin Cara

Both wrestlers, especially Gabriel, would probably be better off working with the NXT roster. Hell, Sin Cara will be as one-half of the tag champs. The problem is Gabriel’s a tweener — a perfect fit for NXT without enough of a character, but too experienced in a WWE sense to not be on the main roster. If NXT gained that ECW/WCW popularity Triple H desires, it would be fine to just move him over. But, as a developmental show and no real character for Gabriel, it doesn’t work. At least Tyson Kidd has a pretty good heel persona to show for his efforts.

Gabriel with some new gear tonight. Not as … motocrossy.

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel

Can we get this man some late ’90s Shift gear? Maybe something from the iconic Jeff Emig collection? Make him wear the jersey, too.

motorcyclemuseum.org
motorcyclemuseum.org

NXT Tag Team Champion SIN CARA vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

The battle of the high flyers is quite physical early. Cara’s just chopping the hell out of Gabriel, but a kick and an intriguing rollup turn the tide. Some punches, a corner crossbody and an apron rollup, but Cara rolls out. Gabriel ducks the kick, rollup, rollout, connect on the kick, and Cara gets 2.

This is fun. The little guys should stereotypically be running and flying and all that, but they’re unleashing strikes and kicks, and even some mat-based stuff. It’s unexpected, but it works.

Cara goes for maybe a double underhook powerbomb, but Gabriel blocks and reverses into a back bodydrop. Back to throwing hands in the corner, but Sin Cara hits a sitout slam for 2.

First real high risk comes from the masked one off the top at 3:00, but Gabriel dropkicks him in the gut. Both men down, and it’s break time.

We return around 3:45, and it’s rest hold time. Gabriel releases, but only to destroy Cara’s back with an impactful kick combo and a stomp his foot on the throat. Kinda looked like Sin Cara tapped there. Mask removal gimmick time to no avail. Vertical suplex follows, and Gabriel rolls through into an arm hold. Sin Cara reverses and goes for a German, but Gabriel lands on his feet, then a kick to the gut and a lariat. Interesting cover — knee to the chest and a leg hook — for 2. Russian legsweep? No, abdominal stretch, with an elbow into the side for good measures. The luchador back bodydrops out, rejects Gabriel’s corner advances twice, then rolls him through into what looked like a single-arm powerbomb.

Pair of springboard crossbodies after some rest, then a somewhat clumsy headscissors. Kick from the apron, then a senton for 2 as Gabriel grabs the rope. Smart move, and Sin Cara is perplexed.

Gabriel hits a punch, a kick and an elbow, then a not-so-hot moonsault for 2. One thing he can hit, though, is the 450 … only he won’t get the chance, because Cara crotches him.

Cara goes for the top-rope Frankensteiner, meaning this is almost over. Gabriel rolls Cara through for 2, but Cara flips Gabriel and gets 3. Not bad, gentlemen.

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel 2

Time: 9:15

Technical Merit: I loved what they did with this match, but the execution got a little spotty at times. *insert Sin Cara joke here* Credit, though, for the attempt.

Artistic Impression: It’s cool to see a miniseries like this, even though you either have to be a hardcore fan or maybe have no life to find it. The past two matches have been solid, and you feel the story build with different elements of the second match coming into the third, especially with the finish. The question is whether a story with these two men is something people want to see.

TOTAL SCORE: **

WWE Midcard Report (Sept. 9-11): Rollins vs. Swagger, plus Cesaro and The Ascension

If you’re as disenchanted with the WWE product every week as I am — and judging by Twitter, you are — it gets better than RAW. No, I’m not just talking about NXT Takeover, which will get a thorough (and likely glowing) review from the champ later this evening.

Main Event is consistently better than RAW. You get three or four matches, only one of which is usually a dud, and you don’t have to deal with the Bella Twins or John Cena or anything that seems to drag on and give the “same old stuff” feel. Cena showed up that one time, but it doesn’t happen often.

Not only was Main Event better, but if you skipped through the RAW recaps … Superstars was better. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but there was a good match hidden in there this week that made it worthwhile for at least a few minutes.

These shows are why the Midcard Report exists: To shine a light on the competitors and matches that don’t get seen too often, as well as to remind people it gets better than what you’re seeing. If you don’t like it, then just go watch Nitro. Hell, I’d rather watch that than RAW anyway. #nWo4Life

•••

We kick off the midweek with “breaking news” in the form of two Night of Champions matches:

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins Roman Reigns Main Event 090914 Randy Orton Chris Jericho

Gotta say I like both of those, especially the second one. Randy Orton has been somewhat handcuffed by facing Roman Reigns in the recent past; now he gets someone who has chemistry with him AND ability. Chris Jericho may not be the best in the world at what he does anymore, but he’s still damn near.

Anyway, it’s promo time with the other new NOC combatant, Seth Rollins. Apparently it’s a new episode of “Where Are They Now?” with The Shield.

Main Event 090914 The Shield
All images are screenshots from WWE programming.

They were dominant, and they put WWE on notice. But where’s Dean Ambrose, the unstable, unrelenting one? Well, he made a fatal error by going head-to-head with Rollins and getting curbstomped twice. Excellent use of college dormitory furniture!

Main Event 090914 Dean Ambrose

Rollins brings up a valid point: Ambrose himself probably doesn’t know where he is. Another one, to me anyway: Who cares?

Moving right along to Reigns, and a jealous moment from Rollins. All he heard is Roman this, Roman that, Roman is the future of PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING. That’s all caps because you don’t hear it in WWE anymore. Frankly, Roman is all we hear about now. I guess it’s Seth’s fault, because he’s taking credit for creating him and leading him to success. But his future is obsolete, and Seth will destroy what he created.

RAW 090814 Roman Reigns 2

You know, if he can avoid being impaled by steel cage spikes.

Oh yeah, there’s one more segment to this promo, which is just verbal masturbation. He says he’s the future, and he’s the future World Heavyweight Champion.

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins 2

Apparently Jack Swagger (?!?!) has had enough. Zeb Colter rationalizes this bit by saying Rollins isn’t a great strategist, but rather someone who wants to talk about his enemies from far away and is too scared to do anything about it.

Main Event 090914 Zeb Colter Jack Swagger

Zeb’s more than willing to see, through Swagger, whether Rollins is a coward, or a Real American. I guess it works for the latest round of “Seth Rollins needs someone to wrestle.”

Main Event 090914 Jack Swagger

SETH ROLLINS vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter)

Rollins is hot out of the gate, with his right hand, educated feet and quick moves giving him an advantage for about 15 seconds. Swagger’s shoulder deals a pair of crushing blows as Rollins regroups.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

We’re back at about 2:10, and Rollins is back outside. This time, Swagger joins him and uses his power edge to introduce Seth to numerous hard objects. Rollins speeds up and outsmarts Swagger, and he gets a chance to stomp and choke away in the corner. Nice lariat from a man with about a 50-pound disadvantage, then he uses Swagger’s own arm as a weardown weapon. He tosses Swagger into the corner, charges into him with the elbow and waits for Swagger to rise. Maybe he shouldn’t have, though, because Jack catches Seth from the second rope and hits the belly-to-belly. Pair of shoulders from the Big Show/Erick Rowan collection, then the big boot and the Swaggerbomb. Takedown and cover for 2. Jack tries to gain some ride time, but Seth escapes and scores with a kick. Now the elementary, yet effective, fists to the back of the head. Enough of those will neutralize someone, right? Nope. Swagger is unfazed, and with some persistence, slaps on the Patriot Lock. Rollins squirms around and finally finds the ropes. He tries to leap over, but Jack just catches him, deposits him in the corner and goes for Kurt Angle‘s traditional toss from the second rope, but no dice. Seth hits the knee to the head, then the curbstomp. He’ll sell the ankle a bit, but he will do so victoriously.

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins 3

Time: 8:59

Technical Merit: Both men can work, and they work pretty well together for this being a one-off.

Artistic Impression: Seth is an interesting case. He’s a great wrestler, and he has the Money In The Bank briefcase, but he looks vulnerable in every single match, no matter the opponent. It seems like it would help everyone look good, but it’s at a risk of making himself look bad when he needs to be built up really strong.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

Be very, very quiet. Slatergator are hunting wabbits! No, seriously.

Main Event 090914 Titus O'Neil Heath Slater

Apparently Titus O’Neil wants to catch Adam Rose‘s bunny in an attempt to enhance his chances of winning matches. Sound strategy, I think! After all, Bugs Bunny ruined a LOT of Elmer Fudd‘s plans.

After the next match, Slatergator tries to catch the bunny, to no avail. Titus catches Heath instead.

Main Event 090914 Heath Slater

So without the rabbit neutralized, Titus must march on against Rose. Yay.

TITUS O’NEIL (w/Heath Slater) vs. ADAM ROSE (w/The Rosebuds)

Titus is squashing Rose for the first 1:15, but then the bunny runs in … or hops in. Slater opts for a sneak tactic, climbing under the ring and trying to catch the rabbit, who hits an enziguiri?! His workrate is better than Rose’s! Anyway, Rose pushes Titus into Slater and gets the rollup to help this mercifully end. I’m so FREAKING sick of Adam Rose.

Main Event 090914 Titus O'Neil 2

Time: 2:01

•••

Main Event 090914 Cesaro

Who wouldn’t buy one of those Cesaro towels? Are they for sale? I need to look this up. I’d use a set.

Oh my … we’re about to feel REALLY sorry for Zack Ryder. Nice brotee, though.

Main Event 090914 Zack Ryder

CESARO vs. ZACK RYDER

Cesaro shoulder block, but Ryder gets back up, and gets the early advantage with a flapjack AND a dropkick. But that’s shortlived. Cesaro trips Ryder up on the apron, and the left knee pays for it. Stomp on the chest, then a spinning toehold when we’re back inside, but he misses a short dropkick in the corner intended for the knee. Ryder hits the Broski Boot and a splash to the outside, but the left knee is still hurting. He goes for something off the top rope, but Cesaro hits the swing and turns it into a SICK submission hold, a modified clover leaf.

Main Event 090914 Cesaro Zack Ryder

It’s academic.

Time: 2:22

Main Event 090914 Cesaro Renee Young

Now it’s promo time, and Cesaro calls out Renee Young for sounding surprised he beat Ryder. Young then says she’s not, and Cesaro makes The Champ lose it for about a solid minute.

“Zack Ryder is a former United States Champion. Who are you to doubt Zack Ryder?

That’s right. Cesaro gave him the El Dandy treatment. Considering Bret Hart‘s classic promo had to do with the U.S. Title, which Ryder held and Cesaro is pursuing, that’s absolute gold.

I’m just bummed Cesaro didn’t call him a jam-up guy. Cesaro declares himself just better than Sheamus. More educated, more interesting, “WAY” better looking, and most importantly, better in the ring. Everyone knows it. The man’s rightHe won’t just be the King of Swing; he’ll be the King of Wrestling. I can get on board with that. So can a lot of people.

Main Event 090914 Cesaro 3

CESARO PROMO: ***

We got to see Cesaro be funny, drop in a WCW Easter Egg and state facts. His in-ring work overshadows his wit, but the latter is totally there, and we’re witnessing it now.

•••

Now THIS is a Main Event main event!

Main Event 090914 The Ascension

The NXT Takeover hype machine rolls on, this time with the Tag Team Champions. Considering it’s the main roster, it’ll be nice to actually know who’s getting squashed this time around. Well, have a 50-50 chance, anyway.

NXT Tag Team Champions THE ASCENSION (Konnor & Viktor) vs. LOS MATADORES (Diego & Fernando)

That entrance was AWESOME. Great new video, and the strobe lights actually have that strobe effect in the larger arena. Viktor starts against … who cares which one? Double shoulder dive after the tag, but Konnor actually takes a drop toehold, a slide while on the ropes and a senton from the apron. He kicks out at 1, carries the other Matador into the ring and tags to Viktor, who just destroys the jobber’s upper body. More double-team work, and a weardown hold ensues. It’s weird hearing Michael Cole talking about NXT wrestlers. Matador wants a tag, but he gets a lariat instead. Tag back to Viktor, and we’re basically just waiting for the Fall of Man at this point. Hot tag for the matadors, but he misses a dive from the corner. Tag to Konnor, and we get what we’ve waited for.

Main Event 090914 The Ascension 2

Time: 3:59

These guys might be the best tag team in WWE. They’re a 180 from The Usos, who I wouldn’t mind seeing take on The Ascension in a 2-on-2 setting for the sheer contrast of high-flying flash vs. straight-up ass-kicking. They’ve squared off once before in a 6-man tag, and Konnor and Viktor looked great when they actually had a challenge.

•••

First time seeing this Superstars intro, which includes a LOT of John Cena, Reigns, Orton and Sheamus.

Then we start the night with … Naomi.

Superstars 091114 Naomi

That seems like false advertising.

I’m surprised Summer Rae and Layla didn’t come out with a little person dressed like an animal. Is that still a thing or no?

NAOMI vs. SUMMER RAE (w/Layla)

Naomi’s in control until … Layla’s dancing distracts her while on the apron? Well then. I mean, Layla can be a distraction, but …

Superstars 091114 Layla

Anyway, whole lot of dancing around at 1:30, then a whip and the leg choke in the corner. Weardown hold from Summer, via pulling Naomi’s left arm in front of her mouth, and Summer “lets” her escape with some hair pulling. More conventional headlock this time and some spot calling, and it’s time for the babyface comeback? Nope, the slowest and worst set-up heelkick ever. Summer’s back to the headlock like she’s Randy Orton or something. Naomi gets out and it’s two dropkicks, back suplex, face into the mat and cover. Layla goes for the distraction again, only Naomi slips out and Summer has to hit the brakes. Bridge pin from the “veteran” Naomi, and we’re out.

Superstars 091114 Naomi Summer Rae Layla

Time: 4:33

I’ve started a 5-minute rule … gotta go 5 to be rated. This match should breathe a sigh of relief, because that sucked. Summer doesn’t really work as a heel, because she can’t believably control a wrestling match, especially against someone with actual talent. Had the roles been reversed, it would’ve had a better chance of working.

Superstars 091114 Naomi 2

•••

On Superstars, this is something to be hyped about.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara

Get two small guys in WCW, they actually get some time (and take advantage of the time) to make it worthwhile. My faith is fleeting in this situation.

Also, this passes for a scintillating SmackDown tease.

Superstars 091114 Mark Henry Rusev Lana

Yeah, might skip that show this week. Again.

Anyway, after a bunch of RAW recaps, we get the luchador against the World British Super Duper Championship Motocross Wrestling Champion. That’s what I’m assuming, since he has the whole motocross/wrestling crossover thing going.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara 2

JUSTIN GABRIEL vs. SIN CARA

I forgot about the mood lighting until it came back on. Sin Cara wins the first minute and works Gabriel’s arm until he gets to the rope. Once free, Gabriel is more interested in using his forearms and pulling on Cara’s mask than actually trying to prove the “best high flyer” claim the announcers are discussing. Sin Cara pleads his case with an armdrag from the top, a dropkick, and a springboard moonsault onto a standing Gabriel from the apron. He tries to springboard back in, but Gabriel pushes him down, then hits a corkscrew splash onto the floor.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Back at 3:40, and Gabriel has a hammerlock applied and is trying to tee off on Cara. A release German will help him as well, and he covers for 2. Russian legsweep follows …. then a submission? Maybe he learned something from Tyson Kidd after all!

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara 3

Since it’s not Tyson Kidd applying it, Sin Cara escapes, only to get punched in the face and kicked in the gut some more. Then the spine. Then the spine again. Gabriel goes for the German, but Cara reverses and hits his own release suplex, flipping Gabriel on his face. Cara picks up the pace, hits the headscissors and flips into Gabriel in the corner. He goes up top, but no dice. Gabriel hits the Frankensteiner, then a springboard moonsault for 2. Gabriel? He’s not very pleased. Cara? He’s not very awake.

Superstars 091114 Sin Cara

Now Gabriel sets up for the … spear? Not sure, but Sin Cara goes for the rollup. Nope, a roll-through into a powerbomb. Not bad!

Gabriel hits a DDT at 8:10, then climbs the ropes, but Sin Cara hits the enziguiri. Frankensteiner blocked, and Gabriel gathers himself and hits the 450 for the win.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel

Time: 8:49

Technical Merit: A different side of Gabriel in a rare situation as the bigger guy, and it actually worked. He’s believable as a vicious, striking technician when in the ring with other cruiserweights. Sin Cara was Sin Cara … nothing mesmerizing, nothing terrible. Just some dude who hits a couple high spots.

Artistic Impression: Gabriel showed some negative emotions, which is good. He’s working heel. He’s supposed to be frustrated if he doesn’t get the pin. It came off well, and it put into doubt whether he could actually win the rematch. This match was considerably better than I expected.

TOTAL SCORE: **

NXT review (June 5): Adrian Neville now has two top contenders, Summer Rae makes an unwelcome return to the BFFs and Tyler Breeze drops an epic video premiere

Adrian Neville is, no doubt, a great NXT Champion who is willing to take on anyone.

Now, he has a pair of title defenses to worry about, both involving last week’s awesome NXT Takeover show.

Tyler Breeze earned his on merit, defeating Sami Zayn in a No. 1 Contender’s match, then declaring he’ll take on the champ whenever he chooses. Tyson Kidd lost to Neville at Takeover, then was a sore loser afterward. But since he apologized at the end of tonight’s show and asked for another chance after Neville’s main-event victory over Justin Gabriel, Neville forgave him and decide to give him another title shot.

NXT 060514 Tyson Kidd
All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network

We know both matches will be phenomenal, and I say both because I don’t foresee a scenario where Kidd takes the belt off Neville, especially if it’s not at a special event … maybe Neville-Breeze square off in the next one.

We know Neville and Kidd have great in-ring chemistry and can put on an impressive wrestling match … the question is Kidd getting people to care about him. The NXT crowd cared enough to chant derisively toward him last week and say “FACT!” after nearly everything he said tonight, but Kidd’s job will be to make the same crowd believe he can (1) actually defeat Neville in the ring and (2) say something worthwhile to get us to invest in the match other than the obvious athleticism. Kidd plays a heel in the ring, but is super polite on the mic. He hasn’t done a single thing toward Neville to get heat. There are challenges, handshakes and one man walking out. There was an excellent opportunity for Kidd to sucker Neville in with his apologies and his cordialness, then beat him down to turn everyone against Kidd and provide an exciting finish to the show. But the boat was missed … simply because people are too gosh darn nice!

NXT 060514 Tyler Breeze

On the other hand, Breeze had time to heel on Zayn, physically comparing him unfavorably to Seth Rogen; and Neville, calling him “The Man That Maybelline Forgot”. Maybelline did not forget Breeze, and the man who stole last week’s show provided the most entertaining portion of this week’s program. The self-proclaimed King of Cuteville and Definition of Delish debuted his “#MMMGorgeous” video, and unlike many other WWE “Superstar” performances, this one is absolutely, fabulously fantastic.

The lyrics? Eloquent, poignant and, well, gorgeous.

NXT 060514 Tyler Breeze video intro

Is it my eyes? When you look at me

They are so gorgeous, they’ll set you free.

Could it be my walk, or just my stare?

That makes you freeze when I appear.

 

CHORUS: Super good-looking, every hair in place.

Everyone loves this gorgeous face.

You can’t deny my Beauty Shot.

I’m everything that you are not.

 

Part man, but all model.

Am I what you want? Am I who you follow?

Don’t try and fight it. You can’t deny

This is perfection personified.

 

Piercing eyes and a chiseled jaw

Molded by the gods without a flaw.

Can you feel the presence of greatness near?

This hairless look? Prince Pretty’s here.

*repeat chorus*

THAT can go multi-platinum. That, as the fans chant, was awesome. Though it was immediately followed by a riveting Bo Dallas NXT retrospective — complete with post-match tantrum (and extended footage that involves a threat to call Full Sail University campus security) and super-inspirational music — Tyler Breeze stole the show once more.

Breeze showed how talented of a wrestler he is against Zayn, and as a natural relentless heel, he could put on an amazing match with Neville. They’ve met before on TV, but it was actually kind of a boring first impression on The Champ. But Breeze has greatly developed in the ring since then, and when challenged, he really can earn heat from the fans as an arrogant baddie, but also respect as a wrestler who just won’t go away.

The task at hand for Neville was one of Kidd’s former tag-team partners. It was billed as a no-DQ title match on a teaser graphic earlier in the show, which would understandably make fans excited … and confused. Unfortunately, once the match began, it was clear there were no stipulations in place. How dare you with the bait-and-switch?

NXT Champion ADRIAN NEVILLE vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

Every time we see Gabriel, it seems his hair gets worse.

NXT 060514 Justin Gabriel

This time, his music has followed suit.

Neville’s in control through the first minute, trying to work Gabriel’s arm, but Gabriel uses a fireman’s carry to escape and respond in kind. I think Gabriel just tried to match Sting‘s “WOOOO!” scream. Neville leapfrogs, hits a hurricanrana and kips up, but his dive outside is cut off by Gabriel inside. Gabriel dumps Neville and tries to hit a dive, but Neville pulls the rope as Gabriel falls. Frontflip dive from the apron from the champion. Quick cover, then back to the left arm as we get a Money In The Bank plug.

As we return, Gabriel is chopping Neville in the corner. He eventually gets a cover, then a suplex rolled into a double underhook submission hold. He shifts to the side headlock, but Neville escapes and puts his forearms and feet to use. The champ measures Gabriel for the missile dropkick, but that only yields 2 as well. Gabriel goes to slam Neville, who straddles a standing Gabriel and puts on a front facelock. Gabriel, however, turns that into a bridging suplex for 2. Well done! Springboard moonsault is escaped, so Gabriel lands on his feet. Neville goes for a crossbody, but Gabriel hits a dropkick instead. This could be 450 time? No, he lands on his feet again as Neville escapes. Vicious short dropkick to a grounded Gabriel in the corner, and Neville hits the Red Arrow. I honestly was hoping for the inverted 450 to show up the soon-to-be vanquished foe, but I’ll take it.

NXT 060514 Adrian Neville Justin Gabriel

Time: 8:22

Technical Merit: A solid cruiserweight-style match with fresh spots and good give-and-take.

Artistic Impression: Good physical story, but we’re just so conditioned to not care about a Justin Gabriel match that it seemed a little flat.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

There were plenty of women in the house for this one, though there was only one match.

We started with Natalya covering for her husband’s actions last week, saying she’ll “always, always” have his back. Yawn. On the other hand, she said these things to the lovely Devin Taylor.

NXT 060514 Devin Taylor

Then I suddenly felt the need for a hug.

NXT 060514 Bayley

Let’s face it, when your gimmick is predicated on hugs, like Bayley‘s is, you’ll get my support every time. Unless you’re facing Alexa Bliss. That one can do no wrong in The Champ’s book.

The new NXT Women’s Champion? Not really in the mood for hugs.

NXT Women’s Champion CHARLOTTE (w/Sasha Banks) vs. BAYLEY

An interesting contrast of styles here: The polished Charlotte and not-so-polished Bayley. Side headlock takeover from the champion, then after a “WOOOO!”, Bayley hits some nice armdrags, spins around her and sort-of locks in an armbar. Quick escape from the champion, and a couple strikes and a cover later, Charlotte spins on Bayley’s back. You know, turnabout, fair play, etc. A couple kneedrops from the champ, then the figure-four headscissors. Charlotte flips Bayley out and covers, but then Bayley gets aggressive, punctuated with a spear in the corner and an elbow, but Sasha Banks provides a distraction outside, Bayley escapes that, returns, goes up for an elbow and gets 2. Charlotte regains the advantage, but Summer Rae‘s music plays, temporarily stopping the momentum. Bayley tries to take advantage with a backslide, but Charlotte kicks out and hits Bow Down to the Queen to finish it off.

Summer joins Sasha and Charlotte to reunite the BFFs and beat up Bayley, but Paige and Emma run down to clear the ring. Somewhere, Teddy Long is beating himself up for not being the NXT General Manager to schedule a six-person tag match. … Playas!

NXT 060514 Paige Bayley EmmaNXT 060514 Sasha Banks Summer Rae Charlotte

Time: 4:17

Technical Merit: Bayley’s sloppiness is actually part of her style, so it works. Charlotte wasn’t at the level of last week, but she also wasn’t facing possibly the best female pure wrestler of this generation.

Artistic Impression: OK story and back-and-forth, and it was possible Summer would return as a face and help Bayley steal one. The fact she went straight back to being one of the BFFs actually enhanced it a bit.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

After the following men’s tag-team match, the BFFs discuss Summer’s comeback … but Charlotte and Sasha are none too pleased. These BFFs aren’t best friends forever, after all. The first F is Fierce, which likely is how Summer will be treated by her “friends” in the near future.

•••

As the show begins, we’re reminded one thing: Like America, when Mojo Rawley gets knocked down, he gets back up. Who cares, though, because, “Spotlight, please!”

NXT 060514 Aiden English

MOJO RAWLEY vs. AIDEN ENGLISH

The clothesline is an addition to Mojo’s repertoire, right? Apparently, getting clotheslined is as well. English takes control with a basic pounding offense, then puts in the rest hold about 90 seconds in. Is this Mojo’s longest match yet? Mojo kicks, then pushes his way out of the corner, then busts out a shoulder block?! This is progress! Mojo tosses Aiden into the corner, butt charge, butt splash, done.

Time: 2:49

•••

After the women’s match, it was time for the next appearance of Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger, whose gimmick is they’re trying to figure out tag-team synergy with catchphrases and entrance.

TYE DILLINGER & JASON JORDAN vs. PHILIP GOULJAR & STEWART CUMBERLAND

Luckily, Jordan and Dillinger’s synergy is much better in the ring. Dillinger makes some noise with a HUGE chop, then after mild resistence from Cumberland, he slaps on another. Cumberland elbows out and tags to Gouljar, who hits an elbow of his own, but Dillinger responds with a butterfly suplex before tagging back to Jordan. Headlock, bodyslam, kneedrop, then into the corner. Tag, bodyslam, Dillinger kneedrop, then Gouljar actually gets a couple shots in for the tag. Quick tags from the jobbers, but that just makes Dillinger angry enough for yet another chop. That provides brief breathing room, who actually is getting worked over by the no-namers. Hot tag to Jordan, who picks up Gouljar and drops him shoulder first for an ugly fall. Dillinger superkicks Cumberland, and Jordan hits a corner spear and the Angle Slam … I mean the Jordan Slam.

Time: 5:54

Technical Merit: Cool to see the clearly pushed team to actually get a challenge, but it never felt like anything other than an extended squash.

Artistic Impression: See above. The extended squash element didn’t help the match one bit.

TOTAL SCORE: *

Check back next week for more!

NXT 060514 Adrian Neville

WWE NXT 04/10 review: Bo Dallas tries to Occupy NXT. It doesn’t work. The Adam Rose Experience does.

We know several NXT competitors are getting the call. At least we get to start with one of them, as the Exotic Express makes another stop in Orlando for one more Adam Rose experience.

ADAM ROSE vs. DANNY BURCH

Albert: “What happens at an Adam Rose party stays at an Adam Rose party.” An inquiry about where said parties take place ensues. Methinks they’re down the road from Parts Unknown. Duck between the ropes and throw up the legs bit. Couple quick covers, then an armbar. A couple chops from Burch get Rose going, and he starts chopping. Elbow in the corner, kick to the gut. Bronco Buster, then a spinebuster. Up to the second rope, and the elbow pad comes off. Bret Hart-esque elbow drop, and that’s it.

TIME: 3 minutes

TECHNICAL MERIT: Quick and basic.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Same.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

 

A ref interview?! Shawn Bennett (I hope that’s spelled right) addresses why he stopped last week’s Sami Zayn vs. Corey Graves match. Pretty simple — he thought Zayn couldn’t continue, so he stopped. Excellent insight! Graves declares his victory was legit and namedrops Barry Bonds. Interesting.

 

Albert: “I wanna hug Bayley!” Who doesn’t? OK, the BFFs probably don’t.

BAYLEY vs. SASHA BANKS (w/Charlotte & Summer Rae’s cardboard cutout)

Sasha with the early advantage. Bayley with a sunset flip, but Sasha drops onto her for two, then slaps her around and bashes her head into the canvas. Banks throws Bayley across the ring (the latter flips in the process), then while Bayley’s in the corner with her back turn, Sasha gets on her back and starts running in place. Wear-down hold, then a cover. Bayley finally with a head of steam after some axehandles and a couple elbows, the second one off the second rope. Banks locks in that submission hold again from the top rope, then drops to the mat. Bayley slips out underneath and basically pumphandles Sasha through, then hits a belly-to-belly for the pin.

TIME: 3 minutes

TECHNICAL MERIT: Interesting.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Basic heel in control, then babyface quick strike for the win.

TOTAL SCORE: **

I LOVE watching Sasha Banks. She plays a great heel, and she simply does stuff others don’t. Like stomp a chick in the corner by running in place.

 

I’ve never seen Sylvester LeFort before, but I’m hoping for a good first impression. He’s followed by Mojo Rawley, who makes Albert want to get on an elliptical for 5 minutes.

SYLVESTER LEFORT vs. MOJO RAWLEY

Well, that was quick. Couple Stinger Splashes, butt bump, butt splash, done. yay.

TIME: 1 minute? Maybe?

TECHNICAL MERIT: Squash

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Repetitive squash

LeFort’s night just got worse. Brodus Clay enters for a powerbomb (“Better than Batista!” chant) and a second-rope splash. Promo time with Brodus Clay, the “main event player,” who calls out the NXT Champion. Adrian Neville isn’t dressed to wrestle, but he’s ready to talk. Brodus has had opportunities, but the difference, Neville said, is “I’m not gonna waste mine.” Both men drop the mic and stare off, but Clay dips out and declares they’ll clash on his time. BUT HE CALLED NEVILLE OUT!

 

Devin Taylor is talking to Oliver Grey, who’s making his return to NXT. Camacho, sporting a sharper, cleaner-cut look, interrupts and calls Adam Rose a poser. Oliver decides having someone in front of him means he has an opponent for next week, and Camacho accepts.

 

Nice video of NXT at WrestleMania Axxess. They had quite the presence, judging by the video and from their tweets all weekend. There were plenty of matches, and plenty of facetime with the fans. Some of the clips are matches I would LOVE to see on TV.

 

Taylor talks to … The Great Khali? He speaks English and talks about how good he feels to be there. Bayley, without missing a beat, comes out to hug him. C.J. Parker then spews some verbal waste about human waste and recycling and crap. Wifey: “Why is his face flat?” So there’s that. Khali switches languages, and Bayley translates: The Great Khali says he’ll see Parker in the ring next week.

 

Bo Dallas discusses the #YESMovement and talks about how Daniel Bryan got himself a title shot. “And he’s only a B+ player!” So Bo decides it’s time to Occupy NXT! The fans, in unison, turn their backs and chant “NO! NO! NO! NO!” Bo proceeds to throw a tantrum, talk about giving the fans cookies, says, “This stinks!” and goes to the floor. He re-enters the ring, laments how this doesn’t make sense, and is on the verge of tears at we go to break.

We come back, and Bo’s still acting like a damn toddler. NXT GM JBL finally stops it. “You don’t have enough people to occupy a see-saw in that ring!” But since Bo is dressed to compete, JBL has an opponent for him: Justin Gabriel. Wifey marks the HELL out.

BO DALLAS vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

Back-to-back crossbodies and a cover from Gabriel, and Dallas needs to regroup. Crowd: “WE WANT COOKIES!” Bo punches Gabriel and slaps on a side headlock. Gabriel tries to wiggle his way out, then finally wraps his legs around Bo’s head to get out. Some weird botch-looking counter thing, which turns into a takedown and a cover. Bo rolls out again. Then again. Gabriel comes to get him this time. Gabriel up top and Bo pushes him onto the apron, then Dallas yanks his arm into the rope. Now Bo rolls Gabriel back in and drops the knee for 1. Suplex for 2. Side headlock again, and Gabriel rolls Bo off. Bo knocks Gabriel down for the cover. Whip into the buckle. Bo pulls him out, hits an elbow and hangs on. Another one. Then a lariat for 2. Bo tries to whip Gabriel, but Justin blocks twice. Bo hits him and goes for it again, but Gabriel reverses and Bo goes back first into the buckle. Gabriel comeback, heavy with kicks, ends with corner splash and a top-rope crossbody for 2. Trading blows until a Gabriel kick. Tilt-a-whirl countered, but Bo counters again into a side suplex variation. Gabriel with a fisherman suplex for 2. Springboard moonsault misses, but when Bo attacks, Justin gets a small package for 2. Bo does, however, get a double-arm DDT for the win.

TIME: 10 minutes

TECHNICAL MERIT: Fluid for the most part, but a few botches.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Nice vehicle to keep Bo’s momentum.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

There were some nice moments; Bo again proved he can wrestle. But these guys didn’t have very good chemistry, especially early. Gabriel seemed almost rusty, but he did enough to make both men look strong.

State of Pro Wrestling: What if the cruiserweights came back to WWE?

Every once in a while, the Real World Champ will discuss subjects that don’t exactly fit into a current show or hot topic, but generally are worth discussing in the world of professional wrestling. It’s called the State of Pro Wrestling, and this is the second installment. The first is here.

The best part of the WWE Network is accessing its vault of prior events, especially pay-per-views from WWF/WWE, ECW and my personal favorite, World Championship Wrestling. WCW set the biggest boom period of professional wrestling in motion with the New World Order in 1996, but the company had to find ways to appeal to not only those drawn to star power, but also hardcore fans who wanted to see some of the best technical wrestling in the world.

Enter the cruiserweights.

ECW introduced a bit of the lucha libre and Japanese styles to the U.S., using the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Chris JerichoDean MalenkoRey Misterio Jr. and, yes, Chris Benoit. All were smaller than the WWF template of the mid-1990s, and they put on technical masterpieces. These men didn’t stay long in ECW before Eric Bischoff saw them as a way to lead off WCW Monday Nitro.

When I got back into wrestling in the spring and summer of 1998, I came to WCW for the marquee stars of my childhood and the nWo. I stayed for the little guys — some of whom flew around like superheroes in the lucha libre style, and others who could stretch you every which way until you couldn’t take it anymore.

This topic came up on Twitter (major props to @NewAgeInsiders and new follower @JAMIEGotDatBOMB for the inspiration), and the names flying around brought back some of my fondest memories. There were the aforementioned. There was Billy Kidman, the greasy worker of Raven’s Flock who made the Shooting Star Press one of my favorite finishers. There was Juventud Guerrera, who could knock you out with the Juvi Driver or mesmerize you with the 450. There was Ultimo Dragon, with the cool mask and that vicious Dragon Sleeper. There were other smaller Americans like Lenny Lane and Sean Waltman, who had Cruiserweight and U.S. Championship runs as Syxx. There were some more, shall we say, unorthodox guys like Disco Inferno and Alex Wright. There even were jobbers like Kaz Hayashi, and there were plenty more luchadors like PsicosisEl Dandy and the Chairman of WCW, La Parka.

Toward the end, there were these guys.

3count

Oh, like I was going to get through a WCW post without mentioning 3 Count. Please.

Anyway, I watched these guys for the wrestling, the main-event guys for the promos, and I has a happy viewer for 3 hours every Monday night. All this nostalgia begged one question …

What if WWE revived the cruiserweight division?

SmackDown carried cruiserweights for a decent amount of the 2000s, after it acquired WCW and its younger, somewhat smaller talent, and it thrived until, for some reason, Hornswoggle won the championship in 2007. It’s been retired since.

In that time frame, there weren’t many credible wrestlers on the main roster who were under 225 pounds, since many of those who fit the criteria were phased out. But we’ve moved from a stage where guys like Edge and Randy Orton are on the small end of average at 240 to one where a 218-pound C.M. Punk was WWE Champion for 434 days, and 210 (if that)-pound Daniel Bryan likely will be WWE World Heavyweight Champion at 10:45 p.m. EDT on April 6. Guys like Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston, who don’t seem all that small, easily would be cruiserweights.

In fact, here’s all the eligible talent via WWE.com as of April 5, besides Christian (likely to retire), Punk (likely retired) and Los Matadores (no weights listed), from lightest to heaviest.

  • Evan Bourne, 165 pounds
  • Rey Mysterio, 175
  • Tyson Kidd, 195
  • Hunico/Sin Cara, 205
  • Xavier Woods, 205
  • Daniel Bryan, 210
  • Yoshi Tatsu, 211
  • Kofi Kingston, 212
  • Dolph Ziggler, 213
  • Justin Gabriel, 213
  • Zack Ryder, 214
  • Heath Slater, 216
  • Seth Rollins, 217
  • Cody Rhodes, 220
  • The Miz, 220
  • R-Truth, 220
  • Jinder Mahal, 222
  • Curt Hawkins, 223
  • Dean Ambrose, 225

That’s a 19-man division ranging from main-event-caliber talent to low- to midcard guys, with enough contrasting styles to make it interesting. Some guys, like Slater and Mahal seem to be as part of 3MB, are likely destined in the current WWE construct to be jobbers. But they theoretically could be contenders in this division. Ryder, Miz and Truth could get new life with something to actually compete for. Imagine the high-flying action of Bourne, Kidd and Gabriel. Imagine WWE taking the kid gloves off Bryan (on a brief sabbatical from the main event in this case) and Rollins for 20 minutes. Imagine guys like Ziggler, Rhodes and Ambrose getting fresh in-ring chances to show off their workrate. This could work, and this could be fun.

The Intercontinental and United States championships aren’t being used anyway. Hell, why not just have Ambrose show up with a different belt when The Shield finishes doing its thing and start a seamless transition?

Let me guess, you don’t like the roster. Too many jobbers and stale guys, not enough freshness and excitement. Well you know who else is under 225? ALMOST EVERYBODY RELEVANT ON NXT.

  • Adam Rose, 221
  • NXT Champion Adrian Neville, 194
  • Aiden English, 215
  • C.J. Parker, 220
  • Corey Graves, 208
  • Sami Zayn, 192
  • Tyler Breeze, 195
  • NXT Tag Team Champion Viktor, 219

And those are just the guys who have competed on the show since the Network launched.

At least seven of those eight men have either the talent or persona deserving of a spot at the highest level. (I’m not sold on Parker.) Neville, Zayn and Graves are three of NXT’s best, and even with Bryan on the verge of being the company’s top man, they’re probably “too small to make an impact”. Why not give them a great chance of succeeding in a transition from NXT to the main roster?

Can you seriously say Sami Zayn and Corey Graves’ main event this week couldn’t be on the first hour of SmackDown? Are you telling me Neville and Ambrose, or Neville and Rollins, or Neville and Rhodes, couldn’t tear down the house? Like fans wouldn’t mark the hell out for Neville’s Red Arrow or the inward 450?

GIF from properlypromoted.com
GIF from properlypromoted.com

Like they wouldn’t be thoroughly entertained by a Tyler Breeze-Dashing Cody Rhodes “Not The Face” Match? Come on.

Triple H is developing these fresh faces for something, and they certainly don’t fit the 6-foot-4, 255-pound mold his chiseled physique once made. Why not ease the transition, give them a niche, and let them do something besides “pay their dues” jobbing for Alberto Del Rio or Sheamus in boring 5-minute filler bouts?

I miss the cruiserweights. Here’s a great way to bring them back in full force.

What do you think? Comment below, or drop me a line on Twitter. Enjoy WrestleMania Eve.