The show sees its first eliminations, as three NXT Rookies leave the competition. Daniel Bryan teases the return of a wrestler recognised across the world as one of the best in the business…
(Winner via pinfall: Wade Barrett)
Skip Sheffield (with William Regal)
(Winner via pinfall: Skip Sheffield)
(Winner via pinfall: David Otunga)
We’d been building towards NXT‘s first elimination for nearly three months of episodes, but how the elimination episode finally went down was rather unexpected.
To begin the episode, Daniel Bryan and Michael Tarver had their own words used against them, having said in the previous episode that they themselves should be eliminated. Apparently, this lack of self-belief constitutes as a weakness, so WWE eliminated them without any vote taking place. Truthfully, this was a shockingly dire way to eliminate Bryan early, and Tarver got caught up in it as a result. I’ve no idea why no one called WWE on the fact that Tarver never said he deserved to be eliminated, but simply stated that if he wasn’t eliminated then everyone else better watch their backs because he’d be coming for them. Neither man seemed to be aware of the decision beforehand, judging from their expressions and body language, leaving something of a sour taste in this writers mouth… why couldn’t they be informed beforehand?
The plus side to the eliminations was that it meant Bryan got to cut a wonderful promo later in the show, where he tore apart the Daniel Bryan character and the booking he had received. He left the crowd with the teaser of a return to his Bryan Danielson role from the indies, where he wrestled under his real name and was internationally recognised as one of the best talents in work wrestling. It got a big pop, but whilst we never did see Bryan return to using his own name, this did mean the start of a new chapter for his on-air character, which would entertain fans for years to come.
Not content with the two eliminations, we were promised a third by Matt Striker, and the end of the episode saw Skip Sheffield leave the competition too. The Big Guy looked genuinely upset at the decision, and I imagine it was a huge knock to his pride/ego. His comments in his post-elimination promo were rather sweet, as he acknowledged the advice William Regal had been giving him (which I imagine was genuine, given what we know of Regal), and assured the WWE Universe he would be back.
The wrestling on show was decent, and quite consistent by NXT‘s standard. Sheffield and Darren Young had a fun big lads match, which was the best of the show for me, and whilst the other two matches were also steady entertainment, the booking of them left it very clear to the audience who WWE see as the stars of this show.
There was a lot worth watching here, but I’d highly recommend a viewing purely for Bryan’s backstage interview, if nothing else. It feels like we’ve stopped messing around now, and things are starting to get moving.
Match of the Night
Skip Sheffield vs. Darren Young
(+0.5 for promo work and eliminations)