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WWE Breaking Ground: Episode 5 – Call it a Comeback

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by Frank Lucci

The halfway point of Breaking Ground sees Cal Bishop attempt to get back in the ring, the return of Tino Sabatelli, and Nia Jax making her debut.

Episode five starts with ZZ struggling with cardio to the point where he quits during a drill. It’s pretty much the same stuff we saw before, only with Coach Bloom finding ZZ with the trainer recovering from the drill (makes me curious how much working out ZZ and other trainees are doing per day and if trainers make exceptions for people like ZZ with a less than athletic background).

To the shock of nobody who saw NXT Takeover: Respect in October, Jordan and Gable beat The Hype Bros to get a match at the live special. While the recap type segments such as this and the ZZ spot are good if you waited several weeks between watching episodes, watching this and the previous episode feels pretty boring. After losing, Zack Ryder expresses frustration with being unable to get cohesiveness with tag team partner Mojo Rawley in the ring.

We are reintroduced to Bishop in yet another rehash of the previous episode. We see the second time his shoulder dislocates (ow) off a simple slam. After several months he again dislocated his shoulder taking a hip toss. Things are not sounding good for Bishop who seems like a hell of a nice guy. He does get cleared to return to the ring even though his scar tissue makes moving his shoulder difficult.

Ten minutes in and we finally get something new with Jax making her official debut on the program. Jax both claims that her character is who she is on the inside (turned up to 11) and also someone completely different than herself (what???). Of course she has to mention the fact that her cousin is The Rock 30 seconds into her first talking head interview. Annoying, but if if Rocky was my cousin I would announce that everywhere I went and make T-shirts with photos of us hanging out on them. After watching The Rock’s match at Wrestlemania 28 she was inspired to start wrestling and after a year at NXT she is gearing up for her NXT TV debut. A casual way to insert a basic intro segment.

Nhooph returns to the program to complain how she has not been booked to wrestle at shows. I would feel bad for her if she wasn’t so young and way down the totem pole compared to vets like Bayley and Alexa Bliss. Tyler Breeze is also in the house to give the newbies tips both for in the ring and getting their characters together. Breeze gives amazing pointers for how to present yourself in the ring and asks the girls to imagine how a child watching the show would imitate their characters.

A weekly coaches meeting reveals that pretty much everyone loves Bishop but worry his shoulder will give out again. Coaches also worry that Sabatelli is a cylon in the ring and is way too robotic despite having a great athletic background. Sabatelli is also trying to help his brother Shaun get his foot in the NXT door. Hilariously, Shaun is the one who initially wanted the wrestling career and Tino only got signed because he was there with his brother (who didn’t make the cut. Way to Sideshow Bob your brother dude!) Tino feels bad that he is so successful while Shaun is still chasing his dream. Humblebragging Tino everybody!

Back to Nhooph, who finds out her ring name will be Aliyah. She decides to call William Regal to figure out a character for herself (smart). Apollo Crews and a few other wrestlers get together to play video games and chill. Unsurprisingly, the game they choose is WWE 2K16 (product placement much?). Solomon Crowe makes a brief appearance, which makes me wish NXT did something with the talented wrestler. Tino finds out his brother sprained his MCL and can’t make his NXT tryout (D’oh!). Nhooph meets with Regal and says she wants to be a Kardashian/Brat Doll character. Regal shoots that shit down because by the time she would be able to show that character on the main roster they will be no longer popular. Regal clearly does not know the cockroach-like powers of the Kardashians. Nhooph is hesitant to play up her Middle Eastern background, claiming she wants to be something different than anyone else, which Regal approves of.

Bishop finally gets back into the ring, but has to limit what he can do because of his shoulder. Coach Bloom is worried about the safety of Bishop’s opponents in case he injures himself in the ring and calls Bishop out on trying to avoid using his injured right arm on basic moves. All the NXT women gather to watch a Nikki Bella interview to help them dial in their character performance. Lots of segments are devoted to showing how much work NXT wrestlers put into their characters, which is a nice change of pace from showing in-ring drills.

Side note: Never noticed this before but lots of wrestlers drink from gallon jugs. Is this a weird athlete thing? A gallon seems like too much fluid during working out. Does the WWE provide them jugs to use, because if not they are missing out on a prime marketing opportunity. BUY YOUR OFFICIAL NXT WORKOUT JUGS NOW!!!

RUN FOR YOUR LIVES COLD-BLOODED CANYON CEMAN IS IN THE PERFORMANCE CENTER! His goons round up a bunch of people including Crews, Jax, and Bishop. Everyone is nervous, but Ceman’s  actually here to give everyone raises (except for Bishop, who is blindsided to find out he is being released). Episode five closes with him getting let go in a super downer ending.

Bishop’s release is really sad, especially considering the WWE spent the last two episodes getting to know how much he wanted this chance and how hard he took his injuries. Even more egregious, he was let go on the same day as Devin Taylor – meaning the WWE manipulated the show’s timeline to make it seem like he was there longer. Combine that with lots of recycling/rehashing footage and this episode is a low point for the series.

 

WWE Breaking Ground – Episode 4: Tag Team Turmoil

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by Frank Lucci

Timed to get hyped because episode four of Breaking Ground is all about the tag teams. Prepare to bathe in their charisma as the episode showcases some of the biggest personalities in NXT.

Narrator William Shatner has a rare misstep in the opening montage by introducing the episode with “This time on Breaking Ground.” “This time” sounds really awkward when Shatner could have just said “today” instead.

The first proper segment introduces us to Jason Jordan. He reveals that he’s gone through a lot of struggles in his life. Jordan is one of four brothers, two are incarcerated (with one in jail for life). After seeing his family members hit rock bottom he works hard to fulfill his dream of making it to the WWE (I already like Jordan 1000% more after watching this show for two and a half minutes). After this heartwarming backstory, Jordan and his coaches talk about how lack of character held him back until he started teaming with Chad Gable.

Switching to Gable, he quickly puts over his wrestling background (including his trip to the 2012 London Olympics) and instant chemistry with Jordan. They continue to talk about how their similar backgrounds helped bring out Jordan’s confidence in the ring while the two shoot hoops in a suspiciously empty park. Despite dedicating several minutes to how well they’ve bonded as a team the two have a very wooden conversation after their game. It’s almost as if they set the whole game up for the show.

ZZ lives in a bus that he hopes to one day bring groupies to. (just throwing that out there). The Tough Enough gator wrangler also apparently had to learn how to wash his clothes and dishes for the first time (I fear for ZZ living alone). He admitted he can’t even tie shoelaces together and only wears leather boots and “flippy flops.”

Someone please help this poor boy.

Mojo Rawley blasts into the episode by showing off his newly bought house. After throwing the “for sale” sign around and yelling a bunch (good way to make an impression on the neighbors) we get a much more low key Rawley talking about loving the WWE as a child and his attempts at a NFL career. He shows off his love of partying by flipping onto a beanbag chair as who we assume to be his mother looks concerned. Matt Bloom and the other coaches sandbag the party by talking about his lack of in-ring ability to the point that Bloom says if he continues to not listen to their advice, he just won’t be booked on shows (ouch).

Zack Ryder gets introduced as a way to set up the formation of the Hype Bros. While both had reservations about teaming up, they both recognized the potential benefits (Ryder getting a career resurgence, Rawley a better shot of getting called up).  The Hype Bros and Jordan and Gable will compete in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, with the two teams facing off for a chance to be in the semifinals match at the NXT Takeover: Respect special. With both members of the Hype Bros acting like their union is a business strategy it’s hard to get attached to the team in the same way as the more organic Jordan and Gable. Gable wants to be bff’s with Jordan, who refuses because he’s apparently too cool for that.

Shame on you Jordan, the man just wants to be loved.

After all the tag team focus we see Cal Bishop for the first time. A rookie with lots of potential despite being born with a clubbed foot. Nonetheless, he’s struggled with injuries during his NXT career. Bishop seems universally beloved by both the coaches and wrestlers and undoubtedly shows charisma and mic skills during his introduction. In comparison to the hard working underdog Bishop, ZZ continues to struggle with cardio work and work ethic in general. Keeping with the downward spiral of depressing news, Gable hurts his ankle at a live event. Lots of fun times during this portion of the episode.

Despite coming off like a giant hyperactive toddler at times, Rawley gets huge points for going all out to try and be a role model for kids like John Cena. He hangs out with fans after every show and goes out of his way to connect with fans knowing that they’re the ones who make it possible for him to follow his dream. He even grabs a young fan and announces to the crowd that he got straight A’s so they cheer the kid. Every women I know who saw this developed crushes on Rawley after thinking he was a doofus before. Hell, now I’ve got a small crush on this magnificent bastard.

After Rawley melts some hearts we get updates on different NXT superstars. Gable’s ankle gets better, but ZZ has coaches worried due to his inability to basically do anything. Insult to injury comes from Ebola Steak Josh who laps ZZ during a drill. While the coaches doubt ZZ’s work ethic, he does get choked up a bit when talking about his desire to make it. Given time and a good workout plan I have a feeling ZZ will be able to become a halfway decent wrestler, and the dude just needs time to adjust (and learn to tie a shoelace).

Bishop is back trying to get back on track career wise. After spending much of his two years at the Performance Center hurt he hangs his hat on being a model student and hard worker. He tears up while talking about his depression after hurting his shoulder for the first time after just making it to TV. All the feels for Bishop.

On the way to a live show Rawley drives with Dana Brooke, who proceed to bounce around like crazy people (FOCUS ON THE ROAD!). Ryder again sandbags the Hype Bros, literally saying he reaction to being paired up with Rawley was “Holy shit” (not really selling me on this team here, guys). Meanwhile, Brooke sees a women with “a nice rack” as she puts it and convinces Rawley to try and get her number while they’re on the highway (between this and helmetless Baron Corbin I am NOT ok with NXT’s traffic safety standards). Brooke also texts while driving, though I’m giving that a pass due to the fact that her super cylon vision probably helps her. Believe it or not, Rawley gets the girl’s number on the back of a Brooke picture and celebrates like he won the Super Bowl. Rawley is super positive about his relationship with Ryder, but realizes that always being apart hurts their chemistry.

This episode is full of bromance problems.

Back to ZZ who quits during a drill. However, nothing much is made of this as we switch to the big tag team match at the live show. Episode four ends before we find out who wins (dramatic tension!).

Lots of new elements are at play during this episode as ZZ is the only person focused on that we’ve seen before. Comparing the Hype Bros and Jordan and Gable ultimately hurts the Hype Bros, and we can plainly see there is some big problems with the Bros relationship. That being said, Rawley wins the episode with his dedication to the fans, and Bishop deserves an honorable mention for his struggles trying to get back into the ring.  

WWE Breaking Ground: Episode 2

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by Frank Lucci

After introducing the audience to the main players at the performance center in Orlando, Fla., we get an episode showing what it’s like to be at the bottom rung of NXT along with Dana Brooke working out and getting her eyelashes done. Oh and someone gets fired (drama!).

First is a quick recap of episode one and the title sequence is followed by the coaches discussing Devin Taylor’s progress. The general consensus is that she’s too fragile and has been overtaken by the other women. Coach Sara Amato makes a great face that screams “ehhhhhhhh” (I wish I could find a screenshot to do it justice). VP of talent development Canyon Ceman meets with Taylor and immediately drops the hammer on her. She seems to handle it well (all things considered) and Canyon does the usual corporate small talk that happens when people are let go (i.e: hold your head up high even though you failed). Ceman comes off as the suit that he is but WWE is a massive corporation after all. Taylor then has a final talking head where she says the WWE and her had different views of where she was in terms of development and says she did whatever they asked her to do well. Although she was an OK backstage personality, it would have been unlikely we’d see her as a wrestler and WWE has too many interviewers/announcers as it is.

After the depressing firing segment we get open tryouts. There are some familiar faces from Tough Enough (like Patrick Clark, even though they showed him for a second on the first episode. Get it together editing crew!). Tryouts start with squats which some people can’t even do right – which probably means you shouldn’t be trying out for the WWE or anything athletic for that matter. There are lots of random drills and such as Bloom admonishes the group for not counting together (to be honest, this is a lot like high school football practice). One random girl is forced to quit due to scoliosis, which WWE should have known about already. Basic bumping is next and Bloom makes fun of a chubby prospect doing the drills (way to call the kettle black there A-Train).

We then get our first real segment focused on an NXT superstar and it’s Dana Brooke. Basically, this is a long workout montage as Brooke refers to herself in the third person in her talking head interview (Really Dana??). She calls herself a “killer Barbie” and a dominatrix in the ring (because that’s not weird at all). All kidding aside, the best thing about this segment that she works out like a fucking machine and it’s easy to see why the NXT brass have faith in her. Her dedication is something to behold.

Bailey alert! Amato puts over Bailey (who she calls Pammy, dawwww) as one of her most dedicated students. Bailey talks about how she was super nervous when she first got to NXT and thought she made a mistake, but now she’s NXT Women’s champ. A short but well done segment.

ZZ from Tough Enough’s first day is shown as he arrives to the performance center with parents in tow. A quick recap of his Tough Enough days lead into Bloom reminding ZZ that he has to start training like an athlete. His dad, Diego Loupe (great name) deserves special mention for being super charismatic and it’s easy to see where ZZ got his charm. Of course, Tough Enough winner Josh sandbags ZZ’s arrival and points out his lack of work ethic (a constant theme of Tough Enough).

Back to the tryouts and Bloom puts the prospects through basic in-ring drills and a montage of his various gimmicks play to show his past “success” in WWE, followed by more yelling at newbies. Meanwhile, ZZ has trouble in the gym (which isn’t surprising), considering he is “outside strong” as he puts it and doesn’t do normal gym training. Good guys Mojo Rawley and Robbie Brookside give ZZ pep talks while reinforcing that he needs to show dedication every day in order to succeed.

Next we see that the performance center has a cheesy orientation video for new signees. Blown away to see cliche’ corporate culture in the WWE, The class is filled with Tough Enough people (along with my girl Asuka!). Bloom and Brookside give pep talks and Tyler Breeze, Bailey and Sami Zayn also give the new people a taste of what’s to come. It’s funny to see how the tryout people are run down and put to the test while this group watch a video and get inspirational speeches.

Day two of tryouts is more of the same. Bloom makes fun of a guy he calls “cream cheese” (again, Tensai has no right to make fun of overweight dudes) before Bloom and William Regal flip out when the prospects continually hop after making other mistakes during rolling drills (while their point is understood, it is a hard instinct to unlearn). Regal is also terrifying when mad, which is why he makes a great coach. He also uses the phrase “intellectually malnourished,”  thus proving he is, in fact, super British.

Back to Dana Brooke, this time going out for a manicure/ treat yo-self session. She brings up the point that Divas are expected to look good and they must put in lots of work to maintain that image (damn you unrealistic standards of beauty!). Brooke also confesses that she worries about what she looks like on camera and is always trying to look good in case management is paying attention. She uses the phrase “on fleck” (which is not a phrase I thought real life humans used outside of the internet). New theory: Dana Brooke is a Cylon.

Day three of the tryouts is camera work, and the hopefuls try to show off their personalities to the coaches along with Ceman. While some prospects show up in ring gear and have characters mapped out, others are pretty clueless. One guys stutters through a promo in a t-shirt and jeans (seriously dude?? Put in some effort!). Another prospect gives a decent promo before Ceman chews him out for lying about always wanting to be in the WWE and not training for wrestling before the tryout (BURNNNNNN! CEMAN’S COLD BLOODED, YO!). Cheesecake blows his interview until he does the worm (hey, it worked for Scotty 2 Hotty). One prospect bares her soul during her promo about her journey here and blows everyone out of the water. She, along with Cheesecake and a few others get the OK from the coaches, but Cold Blooded Ceman reveals that the prospects still need to pass a background check and get approval from Triple H before being signed.

ZZ is shown goofing around during drills, which rubs Brookside and some rookies the wrong way. While it’s immature of him, it’s easy to forget ZZ is only 19 and this is his first experience with this level of professionalism (unless alligator wrestling is a much more formal job then it appears to be).

The last part of the episode is Brooke struggling to take a swinging throw from Nia Jax while other girls take it well. She really wants to sandbag while in the air instead of commiting. Coach Amato says that if she can’t get better in the ring she will be let go like Taylor (DAMN!). She’ll be just fine.

Overall, the second episode flows better than the first due to having to deal with less exposition. Taylor being let go was a downer way to start the episode, but seeing what an NXT tryout is like is pretty cool. Unfortunately, episode two doesn’t sell Dana Brooke very well with some of her segments dragging a bit. ZZ is charming as usual, and if you liked Tough Enough this is a good extension of that type of show. However, more NXT superstars appearing in the future would be appreciated.