In 2010, the “stars of tomorrow” were introduced, as WWE launched brand new show NXT. In this first episode, former reality star The Miz clashed his his rookie, the “Internet Darling” and internationally renowned Daniel Bryan…
Michael Tarver & Carlito
Heath Slater & Christian
(Winner via pinfall: Slater & Christian)
Darren Young (with CM Punk, Luke Gallows & Serena Deeb)
David Otunga (with R-Truth)
(Winner via pinfall: David Otunga)
Daniel Bryan (with The Miz)
Chris Jericho (with Wade Barrett)
(Winner via submission: Chris Jericho)
In early 2010, Vince McMahon appeared on WWE ECW to announce that the company was ending that show, and replacing it with a new show that would revolutionise the business. I remember spending some serious time coming up with lots of ideas as to how this new show would be formatted, and how it may differ so much from what WWE were already producing. My disappointment knew no limits when it was soon leaked that WWE themselves had no idea how this new show would be different either.
In truth, this first episode does introduce some new dynamics, but it’s questionable whether or not they actually offer anything to the product. From a somewhat condescending pro/rookie setup for all new eight talents and their eight mentors, to Matt Stryker’s often rude interview style that attempted to be different but just felt like McMahon’s attempt to tell the superstars (and the audience) that they couldn’t cut it with established WWE talents… there was nothing revolutionary here.
It might be argued that the most sincere attempts at making NXT different to the other WWE shows came a few episodes into the show, when talents began taking part in competitions, but whilst those brought varying levels of entertainment, they actually turned NXT into a comedy hour rather than one that felt like it was serious about finding new stars. More on that in weeks to come, however!
Sinking our teeth into this first episode, it’s incredible seeing WWE‘s later problem with Daniel Bryan actually evident in his very first appearance on one of the television shows. Here was a talent that WWE were acknowledging was a household name to a lot of wrestling fans, but one who they would spend the whole 45 minutes of the show telling us wasn’t good enough to be a top WWE superstar. This is a position they have mostly maintained for 7.5 years since, but many of us always seem to remember it beginning around mid-2013. Go back to 2010, grappling fans, and you’ll be shocked to see that we were actually being fed that message from day one.
Of course, despite the somewhat needless attacks on Bryan during this episode, WWE did present him as their first star on the show. Behind every positive moment was a cynical comment from The Miz, or a needlessly dismissive soundbite from Stryker, but by the end of his match with then-World Heavyweight Champion, Chris Jericho, you know that Bryan was one to watch. He’s a far cry from looking like the star package he would just a few years later, but there’s enough here to know that they could put their faith in Bryan to carry this show.
From a wrestling perspective, this was 2010, and TV matches did not carry the same pressure as they do in 2017 (the time of writing this) to wow fans. Main events, perhaps, but not more than one match on the show.
As such, we got a non-offensive tag match in place of what probably would have been a hot match to start the brand off, followed by a squash match from David Otunga that rated far higher with me than it should have, but o enjoyed Young and CM Punk’s relationship with each other far too much to hate the quick contest.
The main event, as discussed above, certified Daniel Bryan as a cut above the rest. What we had seen of the other talent didn’t suggest any fantastic in-ring qualities amongst them, but Bryan assured us that there was some wrestling talent on this show by putting on a respectable main event with Jericho. This match will always be remembered for Bryan’s awkward landing on the announce desk, one that still makes me squirm even now, but the overall match was fun from start to finish. Bryan would go on to have far superior matches in the company, some even involving Jericho too, but this was a good start for him.
As we delve into NXT‘s first season, we fully expect to be underwhelmed and disappointed by a lot of what we see. But with that said, sheer nostalgia should carry us through, and knowing that all of this ultimately led to the Nexus makes it worthwhile!
Match of the Night
Daniel Bryan vs. Chris Jericho