While I may have overstated the quality of this weekâ€™s show, here are my thoughts on the show.
If you are going to have a show with only one match . . . they gave us a great one
After seeing his previous matches with Dean Ambrose and Kassius Ohno, the way that they have established the feud that culminated with this weekâ€™s match against Antonio Cesaro, it would appear that my expectations for this match would be too high, even for the two men in this match. However, this match gave me everything I wanted, and much more.
Even before the match started, we got promos from both men. Antonio Cesaro went first and he talked about how he had always modeled his in ring style on many people, including William Regal. Then he mentioned that Regal was the only one that he respected of that group. He then ended the promo by saying that it was time for a younger and better man to take the mantle from Regal. This was very similar to the promos that Dean Ambrose had before his matches with Regal.
William Regal got the second chance to give people a reason to really want to see this match and he gave the typical William Regal promo. He was very soft spoken but very direct in his wording about what he was going to do. He gave the self deprecating promo where he talked about everything that he has done wrong in his career and how he has always been a villain. Then, just like when he faced Ambrose and Ohno, Regal talked about how he sees a portion of himself in these people. Then he mentioned that he will face impossible odds, but he will do make sure that his opponent will have to destroy him in order to win.
After those two promos, I almost did not need to see the match, but they produced a match that I think made the decision earlier in the show for the Match of the Year in jeopardy. This was not going to be a match that would feature fifteen dives to the floor and moves off the turnbuckles. This was grappling and body manipulation taken to a level that many are not allowed to do on Raw or Smackdown.
The start of the match reminded me of Antonioâ€™s match in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla when he worked a side head lock on Daniel Bryan (in their previous incarnations) for a majority of the match with Bryan trying to escape the hold, but without any luck. While it did not last the whole match, Cesaro worked a wrist lock for the first third of the match (and through a commercial break).
Then the match progressed to the working of a body part. Cesaro worked on the leg and knee after clipping Regal. Cesaro did a masterful job of working the leg and knee, including pulling off Regalâ€™s knee brace. Then Regal got a chance to work on the arms. Regal injured the left arm while countering a move and then he worked on the right arm when Cesaro charged into the corner.
Before Cesaroâ€™s arms were made useless during the match, they both threw a flurry of European uppercuts. While not the alternating sequence that we saw from Regal and Bryan at the Royal Rumble a few years ago, we did see Cesaro connect with a series of ten European uppercuts on Regal.
There have been wrestlers who have done a good job of not using a body part due to injury (check out ACH against Adam Cole when he cut back on his aerial offense due to a leg injury), but I think Cesaro took it to a new level. There were a few times when Cesaro tried to take a page out of Lethal Weapon 2 (or Dean Ambrose when he was feuding with William Regal) by trying to get his arm back into the socket.
However, he did not try for a punch the rest of the match after Regal started to work on the arm. Instead of punches, Cesaro used a drop kick and head butts. However, facing a thirty year veteran makes you need to change things up because when Cesaro went for a second head butt to the chest, Regal fired back with a kick to the head.
I also liked the finish of this match because it saw Cesaro in control of the match after a double stomp to the back of the head which left Regal motionless for at least a minute. During this time, Cesaro appeared to show some remorse for what he did to Regal during the match. Then when Regal tried to fight back, Cesaro finished him off.
Then they ended the show with Regal being helped up the ramp and Cesaro following him and stopping him to offer his hand as a sign of respect.
One Other Thing About this Match, but from the Announce Table
The man who is tangentially involved in this match by being victimized by Antonio Cesaro, Byron Saxton, was on commentary during the match and I thought he did a great job. While I am usually not a fan of someone showing bias in a match, Saxton had a justified reason to do so. He is not an authority figure so it does not lead to questions of objectivity when it comes to match-making or other decisions. This is a man who was attacked by Cesaro and Saxton did not hold back his feelings toward Cesaro.
With two other men in the booth, Saxton was not required to provide a majority of the commentary or analysis, but when he did give his thoughts on the match, they were tempered with his desire to see Regal teach Cesaro a lesson. Despite Saxtonâ€™s issues with Cesaro, he did not show any anger (or righteous indignation) over Cesaroâ€™s victory and he did not question the motive behind the handshake on the ramp.
The Promo That Launched A Career
I have said that the only thing that will hold Paige back from a quick call up to the main roster is her promo skills. This week, Devin Taylor interviewed Paige and I think she gave the promo of her career. After a recap of the finals of the Womenâ€™s Title Tournament, Paige talked about a number of subjects.
Before her interview, they had some pre-recorded comments from Paige talking about how proud she was to become the first Womenâ€™s Champion in NXT and how it was the greatest moment of her life.
Paige talked about her match with Emma and she did a good job putting over Emmaâ€™s talents in the ring but also pointing out that she is known as much for her wrestling as her dancing. She talked about how she earned respect for Paige, but she still did not like Emma. Paige then adopted the â€˜Anti-Divaâ€™ persona that she had in FCW when she was paired with Ivelisse and Rick Victor. Then she had a message for the Divas in NXT and WWE that she was gunning for all of them and that she will make history as a â€˜wrestlerâ€™.
I really thought that Paige showed an intensity that you donâ€™t normally see from any of the women wrestlers in the company, other than AJâ€™s â€˜pipe bombâ€™ promo. Since Paigeâ€™s look is different than most of the women, I like that they are doing the Anti-Diva gimmick.
Is There A Feud in the Future
Two groups that got their start in NXT, well one group and one set of wrestlers who came through NXT and then were paired up when they got the call up, were shown in video segments as well as in separate promos.
The Shield and Wyatt Family were prominently featured in segments about wrestlers who came through NXT and made an impact in the WWE over the last year.
In addition to the video package, we saw the Wyatt Family and Bray Wyatt talked about how their message was cultivated in NXT and they were treated like royalty in their quest to fight against the Machine. Was this a comment about â€˜The Authorityâ€™ and anyone affiliated with them or was this a red herring like CM Punk confronting Triple H a few weeks ago on Raw?
Then the Shield interrupted the preview of the match of the year from 2013 and they talked about how they were the most dominant and most destructive unit in the WWE. They had a message for the people who might get called up and told them to be careful when dealing with The Shield.
We have two three man units that have worked together, but never really got along. They had common enemies and were thrown together. With only one title, and with six men, maybe they can borrow the War Games concept and mix it with the Elimination Chamber to have the Wyatt Family face The Shield with two men starting off and alternating entry through the chambers and then once everyone is freed, they continue with â€˜The Match Beyondâ€™. Maybe I am reading too much into this segment, but if WWE hasnâ€™t thought about it, here is a freebie for you.
If you want a good primer about NXT, this was the show for you
Mike had mentioned on last weekâ€™s post game show that he thought last weekâ€™s show was a good way to learn about NXT, but I think the video packages they showed throughout the hour did a great job to familiarize people with many of the faces in NXT.
In addition to the â€˜future starsâ€™ video package, they did a good job showing who has made it from NXT to the main roster.
The one name that I was surprised they did not mention in the â€˜future starsâ€™ video was Adrian Neville, but I guess since he was mentioned in the tag team video, the omission can be excused since he was mentioned on the show. I was also surprised that Leo Kruger was not mentioned, but with the gimmick change, maybe that was the reason he was not mentioned.
They also did a great job with the videos about the Womenâ€™s Title and the Tag Team title. I wish they would have shown some of the teams that held the title after Neville and Gray.
Other thoughts on the show
There was a good Bo Dallas interview with Devin Taylor. They have done a great job transforming the Bo Dallas character and instead of making him the reason why I wish I could skip through his parts of the show to someone who I think is one of the best promos.
Renee Young did a great job as the hostess of the evening and she did a good job with the transitions throughout the show. She comes off as a natural with her delivery and does not feel like she is out of place and only has her job because of her looks.
Big E Langston also had a good promo where he talked about his rise over the last year and how there is more to come from him. I liked that he mentioned the â€˜fiveâ€™ gimmick that he had when he was the NXT Champion. Langston is another person who has become more comfortable on the mic and in promos.
If you are interested in becoming a pro wrestler, or in a way to improve public speaking skills, the William Regal promo is a must see. It was a promo that gave me goose bumps watching it and served its purpose to make a match I really wanted to watch more intriguing.
With Renee Young having a more pronounced role on NXT and other WWE shows, I think they have found a suitable fill in with Devin Taylor. While she might not have the same style as Renee, I think she will show improvement throughout 2014.
On the Smackdown Post Game Show and most of my solo post game shows, I often talk about my favorite and least favorite parts of the show. Other than the FCW show I mentioned above with Ambrose/Rollins III, I think this is a show where there would not be a â€˜least favoriteâ€™ moment.