In light of Roman Reigns’ shocking suspension, our hosts break down the former WWE Champion’s possible return scenarios, review Money in the Bank 2016 and continue to speculate on the upcoming brand split.
In light of Roman Reigns’ shocking suspension, our hosts break down the former WWE Champion’s possible return scenarios, review Money in the Bank 2016 and continue to speculate on the upcoming brand split.
What did Chris and “Spaceman” Frank think of ‘Mania 32 and the aftermath on Raw? Find out in the second and final part of this leviathan podcast as they are joined by Nicholas Jason Lopez of ProWrestlingOpinion.com.
By Frank Lucci
With WrestleMania upon us, it’s for fans and Superstars alike to gear up for the biggest night of WWE’s calendar year. Before ‘Mania fully takes hold, NTX’s Takeover: Dallas special proceeds WWE’s flagship Pay-Per-View this Friday on the WWE Network.
It’s no secret that NXT is slowly gathering more eyes on the product, generating consistently positive reviews and selling out a large portion of their events. Due to WWE’s lackluster booking of their main roster, even WrestleMania has been overshadowed by the NXT Takeover series. While ‘Mania will always have a special aura around it, the young talent at NXT have Wrestlemania 32 beat. But enough doom and gloom, here is Spaceman Frank’s NXT Takeover: Dallas predictions.
Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin
Aries received a hero’s welcome when he stepped into Full Sail University (and when I saw him at NXT Live in Albany) and Corbin’s vicious attack on the former TNA talent roughly 30 seconds after he stepped through the curtain was perfect. Aries is a great foil for Corbin and his indy wrestler hating ways (although whenever Corbin shows up on Raw I imagine that gimmick will change to hating cruiserweights). Corbin is primed to takeover (pun intended) the number one heel spot of NXT after Samoa Joe inevitably jumps to the main roster, and for that reason I see him defeating the newcomer in a fun match.
The Revival vs. American Alpha (NXT Tag Team Championship match)
Both teams are red hot right now and with the titles on the line, this could steal the show. The Revival have proven they can work with anyone and their smash-mouth old-school style has been sorely missed among the tag team division. Dash and Dawson had the best match against Enzo and Big Cass at WWE Roadblock and they seemingly can do no wrong when it comes to being bad. Meanwhile, American Alpha has been playing lights-out ball both in the ring and on the mike since they burst on the scene. The extremely likable duo of Jason Jordan and Chad Gable is like watching Attitude Era Kurt Angle team with himself. Both teams could easily walk away with gold, but I predict The Revival to win simply because their personas are more wrapped around being champs (plus I don’t want them to fall into the abyss former champs Blake and Murphy are currently wallowing in).
Apollo Crews vs. Elias Sampson
Directionless but lovable babyface versus heel with “go away” heat from the crowd. Crews has yet to find a rival that bumps him up to the upper echelon of NXT through a show stealing performance. In addition, his smiling yet oddly passive aggressive interview personality needs to evolve before he is ready for the big time. Sampson has a gimmick that garners Eva Marie heat from the crowd, but needs to channel that initial momentum into something the crowd can respect. It will be interesting to see how both men do in this match, given that it has the least amount of hype and neither can afford a loss at this junction. Sampson wins via cheating to solidify his stance in the company as Crews continues to drift.
Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura has NXT fans abuzz and his main roster debut seems to be heading in a similar direction as AJ Styles was in January. The big international superstar looks to be WWE’s biggest signee of 2016 and Nakamura could find himself in the title picture before the year is out. Standing in his way is Sami Zayn, one of the most beloved NXT wrestlers of all time in what very well may be his final Takeover appearance. This match should be great, but I would not be surprised if Zayn keeps some energy for his Wrestlemania ladder match later in the weekend. With the former NXT champion having to work double duty, I see Nakamura winning this match in a fun but safe affair.
Bayley vs. Asuka (NXT Women’s Championship match)
The battle between two of NXT’s best and brightest women will most definitely have fans divided as to which competitor they want to see win. Asuka has been on fire since her debut and the Japanese star has been raising the bar when it comes to physicality in women’s matches. At the same time, Bayley continues to be the face of NXT (perhaps even more than NXT champ Finn Balor, who has been notably absent from NXT television as of late). Bayley is afraid of the threat that the aggressive Asuka presents, which is refreshing when compared to her usual John Cena-lite attitude towards rivals. This points to a potential heel turn from Asuka, but I see that happening after Bayley retains her title at Dallas.
Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe (NXT Champion match)
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to be the logic behind the NXT title picture.
The two men put on a clinic at the last Takeover event in London and their second encounter will definitely be another classic. One big problem I have however, is the lack of Balor in NXT compared to Joe. While Balor has been nursing an injury, Joe has had a great rivalry with Sami Zayn that was Pay-Per-View worthy in and of itself (how often do we see a full broadway aka one hour match on Pay-Per-View, let alone TV?). This puts Samoa Joe way ahead of Balor in terms of momentum.
On the other hand, the constant Bullet Club (or Bulletproof as WWE now calls it) still has fans buzzing about the NXT Champion in 2016. Either men could make the jump to the main roster after WrestleMania, but considering Joe’s age and hot streak I see the Samoan brawler getting called up first. Balor retains the title so Joe can head to Raw and the champ can reunite with his friends sooner rather than later.
by Frank Lucci
NXT has become the hottest brand in all of wrestling and it’s easy to see why. The “developmental” promotion has sought out many top wrestlers in the industry with seemingly little regard to the unwritten rules of what the WWE wants in their superstars.
Triple H, the man playing the wizard of this veritable land of pro wrestling Oz, has signed big guys, little guys, guys who have been told before they “would never make it to the WWE” and perhaps the most important of all, women for his brainchild. Throw in key elements that have been missing from the main WWE roster (simplified, cohesive stories, emphasis on in-ring ability, focus on both women’s and tag team wrestling) and the brand that was once a third-rate reality TV show has eclipsed the WWE in the eyes of many fans.
When NXT began touring outside of Florida for the first time in May of 2015, I saw no reason not to drive over 200 miles from Rochester, New York to Albany for a chance to see NXT. With the company once again coming to the Washington Avenue Armory on February 20 of this year, I jumped at the chance to see the superstars in training once again.
Of course, it’s never quite as simple as jumping into a car on a Saturday afternoon and driving down the thruway. I had to get up early (i.e: 10 in the morning, I worked until one A.M the previous night) and scramble to secure five tickets. Shockingly, the tickets cost more per person than the WWE live show that had come to Rochester the previous September. I purchased five tickets, (enough to fit into one car) and then had to figure out a) who to offer tickets to first and b) how to gather people who lived out in Buffalo and Oswego to my place so we could all drive together.
I was confident in my ability to go, as that day happened to be a guaranteed day off from Saturday overtime for the shift I was on. Lo and behold, two weeks before the event my work changed my shift to the morning shift. This meant I went from having the day guaranteed off to being on the shift that was primary for working Saturday.
I began to panic slightly. However, it had been several weeks since anyone had needed to work Saturday, so perhaps I would still be in the clear. God and the weather laughed at me and proceeded to dump a foot of snow on Rochester the Tuesday before the show. While I managed to get to work, the main highways were actually closed later in the day due to the storm, a feat unheard of in Rochester lore. Sure enough, the other shifts were cancelled that day and we got to “leave early” (aka shovel our cars out of the parking lot and brave the storm). This lead to Saturday overtime, leaving me high and dry for NXT unless I could find a volunteer to work for me. Despite my best attempts to convince people that a painted up Irishman and an adorable woman in a side ponytail needed me to cheer for them, people did not want to wake up at six in the morning to work for me.
Things were bleak until I asked the women on night shift (who were also coming in for Saturday, but due to their schedule worked through Friday night) If she was willing to work a 12 hour shift. Finally I had a success, and she agreed to stay, leaving me with only four hours to give away. Thankfully my good buddy and fellow wrestling fan John (who had the privilege of seeing Andre the Giant perform) agreed to come in for the rest of my shift knowing how important seeing NXT was to me. John, a diehard Phish fan (as if there are any other types of Phish fans) compared my love of wrestling to that of his love of Phish. I took that as a huge compliment and with my wrestling plans secured braced myself for the long drive ahead.
Saturday came and my four traveling companions were ready to make the long drive with me. Marques (aka occasional Manopera guest Lord Boximus) was ready to see his girl Asuka kick people’s heads in. As the most veteran wrestling fan of our group (he saw the premiere of the Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002) he got to ride shotgun for part of the trip. Kim, the owner of the car we piled into, intrepidly drove the first half of the trip. Her boyfriend Dan, being the next smallest person in the group, had to ride in the middle seat the entire way. Rob, our fitness freak friend who proudly lost over 100 pounds to become the height and weight of Cesaro, managed to squeeze into the rouge as well. With the weather doing a complete 180 from Tuesday’s storm, deciding to be 50 degrees and sunny, things were on the up and up. With this good fortune we barreled down highway 90 discussing who we thought would be on the card, theorizing about Wrestlemania plans, addressing internet wrestling rumors and in general forgetting that Fastlane was the next day. The 200 plus mile trip was conquered in three hours and change; and after a brief trip of downtown Albany in a quest to find parking we were set.
Feeling good about arriving half an hour before the show was scheduled to start, our spirits were high. Groups of wrestling fans converged on Washington Avenue and everyone was excited to attend the sold out show. On the way to the building we passed a dead crow who had slammed into a window while flying, broke it’s neck and face planted into the ground below. I decided this hardcore sight warranted an “ECW” chant – unaware of the bad omen the crow represented. We got to the doors to see the line snaked around the side of the building, which was expected. Little did we know, the line went around the building and had almost passed the end of the line walking from our car to the building’s front door. With the clock rapidly counting down to the start time of 7:30 the familiar panic began to set in. We joked that Rob, fit as he was, should have stripped down to his underwear and pretend to be a local jobber working the show to get us in. With five minutes until the start time seeing us still snaked around the building, we debated bum rushing the garage entrance of the building when a car pulled up. 7:30 hit and we were still outside.
All seemed quiet so we thought perhaps WWE officials had wisely delayed the start time. We were wrong however, and soon we reached the point where we could heard the crowd inside cheering. It turns out that Triple H had come out to hype up the crowd before the show’s first match started, and a large portion of fans missed it. With the doors nearly in view we heard the first wrestler’s theme hit. It was Asuka, and the mood in the line soured quickly. Many fans were peeved that poor planning was leading them to miss one of NXT’s brightest stars, myself included. Once I recognized Asuka’s theme I let out a F-bomb at the top of my lungs, public decency and the children (which there was a surprisingly large amount of, though nowhere near the amount found at WWE shows) be damned. We were even more pissed when her opponent was announced as Eva Marie, as we knew the match would be a disappointment anyway. Finally, realizing the crowd outside was getting hostile, the event staff opened up the VIP entrance to the crowd, and we filtered in to see Asuka make Eva Marie tap out to the Asuka Lock. With my group finally in the building we settled in to our seats and got ready for the show.
Next we had Apollo Crews come out to a decent crowd reaction. His opponent Alex Riley received a very mixed reaction, as some people were either confused as to whether he was heel or face. Some wondered why he was facing Crews when the official fight card poster for the event had Elias Samson wrestling Crews. Either way, the two had a short but relatively uneventful match that saw Riley kill time by running out of the ring repeatedly and Crews trying to hit his signature moves. Eventually Crews rallied against the former announcer and hit his five moves of doom for the win.
Nothing against Riley, but he is a pretty bland wrestler in a sea of colorful personalities and has become the Curtis Axel of NXT. Crews needs an opponent who can work at a higher work rate so he can really shine. Until then, he is destined to be second banana in NXT.
Carmella came out solo for the third match on the card and did her usual stick on the mic. The princess of Staten Island was bursting with energy, but without her main men she lost a step or two. However, she is miles ahead of her opponent Peyton Royce when it comes to having a character. At this point I decided to check out the merch booth, but the line was long enough that I could still check out the action in the ring. However, roughly 70% of this match was the crowd chanting “smell her flower” – referring to the flower Royce brings to the ring as part of her frankly terrible “Venus Fly Trap of NXT” gimmick. When Carmella got ahold of said flower, she smelled it to the delight of the audience as Royce acted like Carmella had just bit the fingers off her newborn child. Once the actual in-ring action took place it was decent, but as I neared the merch booth the bleachers obstructed my view. With only a few people ahead of me I heard the bell ring and Carmella won the match. I was comfortable with my choice to skip the match to grab the awesome fight card poster they made for the event as well as a Samoa Joe shirt.
Just as I had almost made it to the merch booth my heart sank as Enzo and Big Cass’ music hit and the crowd collectively lost their minds. The tag team easily got the loudest sustained pop of the night and the two New York City natives responded accordingly. I got my gear just as they got to the ring after Enzo’s introduction speech and the crowd chanting “How you Doin?” Enzo and Cass relished the Albany crowd, as they considered wrestling there a hometown crowd. It’s astonishing how over the tag team are, although part of the crowd’s love may have been due to the (false) rumor that the two were to appear at the Fastlane Pay-Per-View the next day. Their opponents were The Vaudevillians, who got a nice pop before the crowd settled into the routine rhythmic clapping audiences use to show their love. The two veteran teams have wrestled countless times in the past, but the four men put on a great show for the crowd. In particular, Aiden English played to the crowd while Simon Gotch was in the ring and Big Cass threw Enzo around almost as much as his opponents. Seeing as Enzo and Cass had the crowd in the palm of their hands, the two walked away with a victory before intermission hit.
After a fairly quick intermission (that the venue botched hard by not having enough food prepared for the audience and ridiculous lines to boot) the crowd was ready for more action. What we got was Elias Samson, who got booed like he just ate the last known bison. When he meandered his way to the ring and began playing his guitar things got even worse. The crowd started chanting “drift away” to the New Day Rocks beat. Channeling my best Zoidberg impression, I yelled “Your music’s bad and you should feel bad” which at least made the guy in front of me laugh. While Samson’s gimmick is really lame, he generated so much heat I couldn’t hear him over the boos, so at least he can say he is the male Eva Marie. In addition, his negative reception perfectly dovetailed into monstrous cheers for his opponent Sami Zayn. The ska-tastic Zayn made Samson look good, although to be fair Samson is perfectly fine in the ring. Zayn gave The Drifter plenty of offense, probably because he is polite and Canadian. However, Zayn stormed back and delivered a Helluva Kick to end the contest.
Bayley stormed into the arena next, and the Women’s champ got a very high pitched pop for the many young ladies in the crowd. Bayley spent several minutes giving high fives and knick knacks to fans at ringside because Bayley is pretty much the perfect woman. Her opponent was Alexa Bliss, who was without Blake and Murphy. Quick side note worth mentioning: Bliss has a fantastic butt. Our entire group and everyone in our section agreed. Meanwhile, back in the ring Bayley opened up the match by doing the worm several times, because once again, she is perfect. After the third time Bliss attacked, showing some good heel instincts. Both women put on a good match, and the Glitter Blizzard by Bliss is a thing of beauty. Like most heels, however, Bliss ended up losing to Bayley. Another worm was in order, and the crowd showered the champ with cheers for a great match.
The main event of the evening was a tag match with Baron Corbin and Samoa Joe facing Austin Aries and NXT Champion Finn Balor. Corbin got a decent amount of boos, but the crowd cheered heel partner Joe. Meanwhile, Aries got a tremendous pop from the crowd as most everyone knew who the indy veteran was despite not yet appearing on TV. Balor also got a great pop, but the leather jacket/flashing the title thing makes him look like he may be a pervert. Just once I want him to open his jacket to reveal Krang.
There was a nice bit of psychology to start the match as the face team sent out Aries to please the chanting crowd, only for Joe to refuse to start the match unless Balor was in the ring. Corbin did a series of hokey strikes in the corner followed by posing and yelling, which was super goofy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ares ended up taking loads of punishment and the small boy behind us tried in vain to start a “let’s go Austin” chant for five minutes before his mom told him to stop. This match inspired many great moments from the crowd, with a guy near us yelling “NXT lifer” at Corbin, who clearly heard it and looked pissed afterwards. The Lone Wolf had one fan who kept cheering for him, despite the “shut the fuck up” chant he drew. Because I have the maturity of a five-year old, I tried to start a “Baron Corbin’s a weenie” chant (which did not take off). The four men gave a great performance, ending with the champ cleaning house and winning with the Bloody Sunday. The good guys swept the event, making sure everyone went home happy. Balor thanked the crowd and as a special treat called out Bayley so he could dress up like her and imitate her entrance to the delight of the crowd. Immediately after we hightailed it out of the arena, as we had a three hour drive home to deal with.
The event was a huge success, despite the staff trying hard to throw a wrench in NXT’s momentum. They were probably the biggest heels of the whole show. As our car drove the long stretch from Albany to Rochester listening to Deltron 3030, Action Bronson, and 18 minute long prog metal songs we went through highlights of the evening and tried to picture a scenario where Fastlane could top even an untelevised NXT show.
While a stadium full of fans screaming for the spectacle of a Pay-Per-View is always a treat, an armory of passionate fans watching passionate performers trying to give back what they have received to the fans cannot be topped. Not by the WWE as it stands now, but perhaps when Balor, Bayley and the others make it to the main roster (hopefully with their personalities and gimmicks intact), the company can find its way out of the rut it’s in and start flying high again.
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.
by Frank Lucci
It’s a road trip episode as our favorite developmental talents tour through Texas in one of their first trips outside of Florida. How will they do outside of their home turf?
Continuing the segment from the end of episode two, everyone’s favorite Cylon human Dana Brooke struggles to take a power move from Nia Jax. She eventually gets it because blah, blah, blah, perseverance and such. She also talks about not giving up after a year and a half in NXT (I wonder how Sami Zayn and Tyler Breeze would feel about that statement).
Tough Enough winner Josh Bredl is getting used to being at the Performance Center and coach Bloom reminds us that as the dude with the quarter of a million dollar contract he (Bredl) has to prove he belongs there every day (Damn right he does!). Bredl also reveals that his motivation to succeed is his daughter and how as a parent he has no choice but to succeed for his girl. A nice humanizing moment for a guy we don’t see much of.
Full Sail finally shows up and we get a montage of NXT favorites performing at the venue as well as fans freaking the hell out. Josh is seen helping set up the ring before having a chat with Apollo Crews. Crews makes a point of comparing how Josh’s contract status and Crew’s indie rep have lead some people to dismiss or dislike them. It’s cool to see Crews helping out a rookie and overall being a nice dude.
With all the newbie stuff out the way it’s finally time for the road trip.
The NXT stars board their plane and Baron Corbin is peeved about not having an aisle seat (as someone who is half a foot shorter than Corbin and still barely has any legroom on a plane, I 100% understand. Also, Breeze has a neck pillow because of course he does). Banjo music plays in the background to remind you they’re down south and the NXT superstars sign autographs for fans in the Houston, Tx. airport. Even though Corbin is down for photos, he will not bend to help a fan clearly struggling to get him in frame. There’s a random blink and you miss it gag with Crews and Breeze on the bus as Crews takes a selfie and Breeze says “how dare you?.” Classic.
Bredl FaceTimes his lady and daughter while grocery shopping. Some standard “missing the family” stuff here as they have yet to move down to Florida from Colorado as Bredl gets settled and finds a place to live. This transitions to Breeze being interviewed about his struggles to be successful in NXT and how he is blown away that he went from being on the chopping block to having people cosplay as him (Fun fact: Breeze is the first wrestler ever to have his Titantron footage be a live-stream from his phone). Breeze wrestles Finn Balor in the main event to a losing effort.
Bredl struggles in promo class as he tries to get over his Yeti character. His promo goes off the rails quick as he refers to himself as a piece of meat that’s been marinating in a special type of infectious sauce. Therefore, Bredl’s new nickname is Ebola Steak. Ebola Steak knows he fucked up but Regal tells him to slow down and drop the Yeti shtick. Regal has a classic Regalism here with “most of the audience have figured out if they will take to you or not about one third of the way down that ramp.” Regal is the man. Bredl however, is hesitant to reinvented himself.
Day two of the NXT road trip and Austin’s stop is even bigger than Houston’s. Jason Jordan acts like he has never seen Breeze’s furry boots before and Breeze (in character) makes fun of him. Referee Drake Wuertz deadpan sings Breeze’s entrance theme (awesome). When Breeze’s opponent Samoa Joe catches the selfie stick when he smacks it into the air, (more awesome) then finishes off the trifecta of goodness by taking a selfie (the real MVP of the show, folks!). Also Corbin, in true lone wolf fashion has a pink spray bottle to constantly wet down his hair. Breeze is ecstatic over his match, but Corbin works the main event with Balor this time.
After the show, the NXT stars get a chance to explore the town. Crews, Jordan, and Brooke decide to hang out on the bus like the cool kids they are. Corbin decides the best way to be a lone wolf is to hit up a punk rock bar, because lord knows if you want to be alone, a bar is the best place to go. He gets annoyed by a clingy fan and leaves (probably to go find a better lone wolf spot like the library). Meanwhile, Breeze and Tye Dillinger go looking for bats under a bridge which is the highlight of the episode.
San Antonio is the final stop of the tour and several of the wrestlers stop by The Alamo. Corbin explains the historical significance of the building, but Breeze does not believe him (you are from Canada mate, just give up). Big Cass and Carmella go cowboy boot shopping because, why not?. As contrived as the segment is, (they are literally the only people in the place) the two are pretty adorable together. Big Cass finds a tiny cowboy hat like Kurt Angle did in his WWE days and does a southern accent, which is funny but probably annoyed the crap out of the owners.
Crews gets a chance to hang out with his sister, who lives in San Antonio. With him touring and her in the Army, they never get to see each other so it’s pretty touching to see them hang out. Corbin also gets a chance to hang out with his cousin and nephew, which is also adorable. We also find out that Carmella has a thing for dudes in cowboy hats (if I were Cass i’d start buying them in bulk). Crews and Corbin have fun performing in front of family and everyone passes out on the plane.
Back to Ebola Steak trying to cut a promo and he does a much better job this time around, which ends the episode. While still a little hesitant on the mic he looks a lot more comfortable as a heel (wrestling term for “bad guy”).
Overall, the road trip highlights were more entertaining than the Performance Center footage. Having Bredl dominate the episode while the established stars gradually divide up the rest of the episode somewhat brings down the show. That being said, there is a lot to like about the episode and each person gets a chance to show off their personality with whatever screen time they get.
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.
In the final edition of Manopera of the year, Chris and “Spaceman” Frank analyze WWE TLC 2015 and NXT TakeOver: London.
By Frank Lucci
NXT TakeOver: London is in a unique position in many different ways.
Unlike most NXT live specials, this event takes place after a main roster Pay-Per-View rather than before. In addition, that PPV, TLC, was a surprisingly good event.
Instead of giving wrestling fans a high standard to judge WWE specials on, now the shoe is on the other foot. There is no reason to believe that NXT TakeOver: London will fall short, but it will be curious to see how NXT responds to the pressure of TLC’s quality.
Secondly, with the NXT roster in flux and the main roster’s injury woes, the results of the London could be a preview of what NXT will be like in the new year.
Finally, several NXT superstars such as the returning Sami Zayn and the teams of Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake and Jason Jordan and Chad Gable are not booked for the special. These wrestlers could appear on the episode of NXT being filmed before the live portion of the special, but their shadows may loom large if the special fails to live up to the hype. With that being said, here are Spaceman’s Frank predictions for NXT TakeOver: London.
Asuka vs. Emma (with Dana Brooke)
Both of these women have been on a roll lately.
Emma has expertly grown into her heel role and has shown that she is still the great performer we all fell in love with. With her catchy yet dark theme song, goofy half gloves (seriously what possible function could they have) and her pet (I mean friend) Dana Brooke by her side she could be in line for a championship run. On the other hand, Asuka has been a force of nature. Her hard hitting matches are full of moments worth capturing in GIF form and she even made the perpetually stupid Flying Butt in the Face attack look viscous.
Asuka has all the makings of a future superstar, and for that reason I see her getting the win in an excellent match over Emma and continuing her spectacular run.
Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady (with Carmella) (NXT Tag Team Championship Match)
When Dash and Dawson first won the NXT Tag Team Titles, many thought that they would become Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake 2.0. Instead, they have quietly shown flashes of brilliance both in the ring and on the mic. However, they still have a lot of work to do if they are to rise to the level of the The Vaudevillains, Jordan and Gable and their challengers Enzo and Big Cass.If they weren’t the champs they would be lost in the shuffle – which may be why they’re champs in the first place.
Enzo and Cass are perpetually in the title hunt, but have never grabbed the brass rings. They deserve a run with the belts, but Dash and Dawson need a good run to prove their worth. Dash and Dawson win in a decent match.
Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin
This match could (and should) be a number one contenders match.
With Crews already having challenged for the NXT title before and Corbin recently spotted working dark matches on SmackDown, both these men look to be moving up sooner rather than later.
While Crews has skyrocketed to the top of NXT with his amazing moves and buckets full of charisma, Corbin has shown incredible attention to the little things that make him a gem. For example, Corbin may have the best punches in the WWE and the former NFL player can throw his body weight around in ways that help sell the force of his moves tremendously. Despite all that, there is no denying Crews’ rise to the top and it looks as though he will pin Corbin for the victory.
Bayley (c) vs. Nia Jax (with Eva Marie) (NXT Women’s Championship Match)
Poor Bayley. She went from headlining the last NXT TakeOver event to being in a hastily put together feud with the new monster heel on the block (perhaps Triple H is preparing her for life on the main roster).
Bayley has had several mini-feuds since her epic rivalry with Sasha Banks came to a close and while Alexa Bliss did well, Eva Marie (to put it kindly) served as bait for this new feud.
Side note: If you think that Eva Marie’s ability to garner jeers somehow makes her a standout performer then shame on you. The woman cannot perform in the ring and her matches are either short exhibitions done at a quarter speed or dangerous (as seen when she gave Carmella a concussion). She showed in her promo challenging Bayley for the Women’s Championship that she also cannot handle live promos as she just attempted to repeat the same lines over and over again and her attempt to combat the crowd was pathetic. Being a manager is a better fit for her, but she does not need to be paired with another newbie. She should be managing a veteran who can show her the ropes. She is not a grand-meta example of brilliant commentary on the modern heel, she is a reality TV star that will be gone the moment Total Divas ends.
Anyway, with little build up besides Nia Jax throwing Bayley through a door, expect the champ to retain in a match that could either be good or expose Jax for the green wrestler she is.
Finn Bálor (c) vs. Samoa Joe (NXT Title Match)
Balor and Joe are sure to put on a great showing here, but the build to this match has been on and off.
The parts of this feud that don’t involve the combatants getting physical have been great, but besides Joe’s initial attack on Finn the physical portion of this feud has been subpar. We already know how much of threat Joe is, so having him choke out Balor repeatedly signals (to me at least) that he will not win the championship.
Both these men will deliver a hard-hitting match that sees Joe and Balor beating the holy hell out of each other, but Finn will walk out champ to set up a rematch. Perhaps before Wrestlemania 32? We shall see.