Following the reveal of the first rankings, the NXT Rookies now do battle in the first NXT Challenge of the season. The winner gets a prize they neither expected, nor likely wanted: a main event match versus Kane…
(Winner via pinfall: Darren Young)
(Winner via pinfall: Justin Gabriel)
(Winner via pinfall: Wade Barrett)
(Winner via pinfall: Kane)
I’d been waiting somewhat impatiently for this episode, and that was because I knew that it introduced the one thing that made NXT different to the other weekly shows: the NXT Challenges. With rewards at stake, each week will now see the competitors compete against each other in various different challenges, and the truth is that the quality of these segments either elevates the episode, or makes it crash and burn right out of the gate.
Thankfully, this was one of those occasions where the challenge was great fun and added to the overall show. The beer keg challenge, which saw all eight men seek to achieve the best time at running around the ring whilst holding a full beer keg, had me genuinely shouting things like “No one is beating that,” to “No way!” It’s hardly Game Of Thrones, but as far as popcorn entertainment, it did its trick. And who wouldn’t laugh at Tarver’s dire attempt, which saw him drop the keg almost immediately, summing up his NXT run in about 3 disastrous seconds.
Heath Slater’s reward for winning the challenge? A surprise main event against Kane, which played on an angle from Smackdown the week prior, but hardly felt like a reward for winning what was a difficult task. As usual, it felt like WWE was mocking the rookies, and I can’t get past what feels like a hazing mentality by Vince and the WWE here, raising questions as to how the company treated “rookies” backstage during this time period. Thankfully, we at least got a decent match out of Slater’s “prize.”
Despite half the episode devoting its time to the keg challenge, they still found time for four matches, and to a certain degree these were all enjoyable too. The only one that stuck out as rushed was Daniel Bryan’s defeat to Darren Young, which officially moves Bryan from having suffered a string of defeats against “world class opponents,” to simply losing in quick fashion to all opponents. It was a bit damaging to him, this.
In a worse spot, simply because his poor presentation isn’t even part of a storyline, is Michael Tarver. You can see his frustration starting to bleed through on screen, and I like the little touches he has put to his look, but right now we have no indication whether this guy can go in the ring. At least we know that Daniel Bryan is one of the best in the world, regardless of his booking here.
Gabriel’s finisher makes him a 2010 WWE wet dream, and protects him on the show, whilst David Otunga and Wade Barrett have the look that WWE love (they also had a nice few minutes to battle each other here too). Otunga’s physique, and overall package, is pretty impressive if I’m honest.
The best episode for a while, although that was largely due to the beer keg challenge. These weekly competitions will now start making or breaking these episodes, and whilst I’m slightly fearful of what lays ahead based purely on vague memories, I’m happy to see the show doing something new and at least attempting to entertain me [for better or worse].
Match of the Night
Heath Slater vs. Kane