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.