by Frank Lucci
WWE Breaking Ground offers a glimpse (through the WWE’s filter) of what it’s like to be a professional wrestler in their developmental system.
One of the better original programs on the WWE Network, the show focuses on many different talents at various stages of their training, from NXT top dogs like Sami Zayn and Tyler Breeze to newbies like Tino Sabbatelli and Nhooph.
Some quick general notes on the series as a whole: the music is decent (especially the opening theme) until Shinedown kicks in. William Shatner does a commendable job of narrating, as he is able to convey emotion well without getting bombastic. The biggest gripe with the show is some segments that are clearly there to put over WWE policies or really contrived segments to get people’s characters over (save that for NXT). Also the WWE plays fast and loose with the timeline of the show. For example, two wrestlers are let go on the same day in real life, but on the show they look like they happened weeks apart.
Episode one opens up with a Triple H monologue (shocker) about how difficult the journey to the WWE is and how special the NXT performance center is. It’s a good way to open the show for people unfamiliar with the WWE, especially with Breaking Ground being the good gateway to NXT and wrestling in general for new fans.
Next up is Bailey, who gets in her car and does nothing else for the whole episode (at least we see that she drives a modest looking vehicle). Then we get Tough Enough winner Josh Bredl showing up to sign his contract and begin his first day. After a montage of Wrestlemania footage, we see NXT trainees doing drills while coaches yell at them.
Do not anger Matt Bloom.
We then meet TIno Sabbatelli, a former NFL safety recovering from a concussion after his second match ever. Here we see the WWE put over their concussion protocal pretty hard. While concussions are no joke, it’s easy to see why the WWE included this due to their ongoing concussions lawsuits. Sabbatelli comes off as a bro but does not really strike people as someone to get invested in.
Baron Corbin is introduced next in a very in-character way. They put over his football and boxing backgrounds as well as his lone wolfness. He also rides a motorcycle, but without a helmet. Seriously, how counter productive is it to ride a motorcycle without any sort of protection when your job depends 100 percent on you staying healthy?
Switching over to the ladies we get a brief introduction to trainer Sara Amato and Nhooph, the youngest NXT Diva at age 19. Nhooph discusses stealthily getting wrestling training at age 16 and wanting to have her first televised NXT match. This is immediately followed by her struggling to take a hip toss. Devin Taylor also struggles to pick up wrestling after being a backstage interviewer for most of her two years at the performance center. During Taylor’s training we get a Nia Jax cameo. Taylor has had a history of injuries and there is plenty of foreshadowing here for what happens later.
Bloom reveals that Corbin gets huffy when other people get opportunities ahead of him (you’ve only been in the business three years, calm down). In a related note, Corbin burned his face trying to do a standing moonsault (???!!!). Apollo Crews (who can actually do that) is briefly seen in footage showing his background that was recycled from NXT. Sabbatelli shows up once again to put over the concussion protocol. Besides being a bro, the dude does not have much of a personality. He does have a nice vertical leap though, so there is that.
William Regal shows up and immediately steals the show. He’s seen coaching interviews and character stuff, showing exactly why he is the best man for the job. Even his talking head segments are amazing. Regal gives several memorable lines about teaching the fine points of being a character before we see pretty much every single embarrassing thing WWE had him do over his career. We then get a quick montage of people working on interviews, with Mojo Rawley giving the best performance. His “knock you out with a pair of flip flops” line is great.
Corbin and coach Norman Smiley are besties and travel to a live event together. This needs to be a spinoff show asap.
The roster sets up the ring for the live show and Bailey is bringing in chairs (good to see even the champs pitch in). Rawley bothers Corbin while he eats a salad, which is exactly as exciting as it sounds. Corbin is also annoyed that the rundown of the card takes awhile to show his lone wolfness again. Nhooph isn’t on the card, which makes her a sad panda. Izzy the Bailey superfan gets a cameo and the show puts over Bailey being a hard worker and still being blown away that she is champ.
We finally see some in-ring action from a live show. However, the next day Nhooph finds out her match at another live show got cut. This is pretty terrible, but considering she recently made her NXT TV debut it looks like she will be just fine. Coach Bloom and Amato talk about Taylor and if they honestly think she can handle being a wrestler.
Cue the evil villain music it’s Canyon Ceman. The WWE executive is in the house to make some roster cuts. Breaking Ground makes it seem like Taylor, Nhooph, and Sabbatelli are on the chopping block and the episode ends on a cliffhanger over who is going to get the axe.
Overall, the first episode is decent, but suffers a bit due to having to introduce all the various personnel involved and the fact that Corbin is the only guy on TV (besides Bailey and Crews who have maybe two minutes of combined airtime on Breaking Ground) that is focused on during the episode. The cliffhanger at the end is obvious to anyone who follows NXT, as (spoiler) Devin Taylor was released less than two weeks before the episode premiered. Regardless, the episode one is a good watch that sets up Breaking Ground well.