oh God I've watched some wrestling recently
I don't know why I still do this. I pretty much quit back in 2001/2002, and every time I'd fall back into the habit something horrible would happen. I'd tentatively watch a few Raws in a row, or rent a DVD, and then Eddie Guerrero would have a heart attack and Chris Benoit would murder his family and I would remember why I quit watching in the first place. But since getting a DVR last August I've paid intermittent attention to
WWE, TNA, and Ring of Honor. I don't watch any of them regularly, and don't even regularly record the WWF or ROH shows, but tune in just frequently enough to understand the storylines. Not that that's hard to do, or anything.
Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked. I was going to write about WWE NXT
, a new show that premiered last night in ECW's old Sci-Fi Channel timeslot. It's basically set up like a wrestling reality show, but it's obviously worked and no rules have been announced, so it's nothing like Tough Enough. Eight wrestlers from the WWE's developmental league are mentored by eight established WWE veterans, with the winner getting a guaranteed WWE contract. It can't be taken seriously as a competition, though, as one of the contestants, Bryan Danielson (new WWE name: Daniel Bryan), already has a big-league deal. A lot of wrestling fans are sore over Danielson's involvement, as he's been wrestling for a decade, had a WWF developmental deal early in his career, and made a few appearances as a jobber on long-gone low-level WWF shows like Heat and Velocity. They're also pissed that Danielson's mentor is the Miz, a guy who's only been wrestling for a few years, and who's probably still best known as a former Real World cast member. That's the reaction the WWE was hoping for, and they've wasted no time starting up the "indie legend" vs. "established WWE superstar" feud. NXT's first episode was bookended by Miz/Danielson segments; it started with Miz ordering Danielson to prove he could cut a promo and introduce a good catchphrase, and it ended with the Miz pummeling Danielson after a hard-fought loss to Chris Jericho. Obviously NXT won't be a one-feud show, and McMahon wouldn't create a show solely to get Danielson over, but that was the focus of last night's episode.
It was annoying to see Danielson give a solid promo and then have the announcer, Michael Cole, act like it was completely horrible, but then Cole's natural ineptitude has long since been turned into his gimmick. Last night was the first time I've seen Cole act like a straight-up heel, disparaging Danielson for being a nobody who's only wrestled in high school gyms in front of internet nerds. At least I hope that was supposed to make Cole a heel.
Other highlights from last night: David Otunga, aka Punk from I Love New York, aka the future Mr. Jennifer Hudson, gave an awesome heel interview about how he's better, richer, smarter, and more successful than everybody else. The best wrestling characters are grounded in reality, and all Otunga has to do to make people hate him is list off his real-life achievements. Between Harvard Law, marrying an Oscar winner, and visiting the White House twice, Otunga's a natural heel. His thinly veiled contempt for his mentor, K-Krush, as they walked to the ring; Krush danced around, delivering his horrible rap, while Otunga kept his distance and headed straight for the ring. He didn't look too good in action, though; his match was a super-quick squash, but he bungled the Ron Simmons spinebuster he used as a finisher.
The only other rookies that stood out last night were Wade Barrett, a tall, deep-voiced Briton who's paired up with Chris Jericho, and Darren Young, the "South Beach party boy" who got squashed by Otunga. Barrett was good on the mic when he introduced Jericho, and has a unique, old-fashioned look; both he and Danielson look like they could be right out of the '40's or '50's. Young's electric-shock hair and over-the-top excitement is a good and potentially funny contract with his mentor, the deadly serious straight-edge asshole CM Punk.
Two other rookies wrestled last night, but neither impressed me. The "one-man rock band without instruments" Heath Slater was completely obnoxious, but played an okay Ricky Morton in his tag match. The rookie on the opposing team, Michael Tarver, has a good look and was introduced with a solid interview package, but showed nothing in the ring. He also took the pinfall, laying down for Slater's mentor Christian. Seems like a bad idea to have a guy lose his first televised match against a mid-carder. But then the point of NXT is that these rookies aren't quite ready for the big-time and need help from WWE pros to make that jump. In that context losing a first match isn't as harmful as it can otherwise be.
Anyway, yeah, wrestling still exists, and I'm still a god-damned idiot. Awesome!