In the penultimate episode of the first season, four contestants become three, whilst Daniel Bryan and Michael Cole come face to face following Bryan’s vicious attack on Cole a week earlier…
Christian & Heath Slater
R-Truth & David Otunga
(Winners via pinfall: R-Truth & Otunga)
Wade Barrett (with Chris Jericho)
Justin Gabriel (with Matt Hardy)
(Winner via pinfall: Justin Gabriel)
At this point in my viewing of NXT‘s first season, my interest has almost become entirely focused on what Daniel Bryan is up to. Despite over a dozen questionable booking decisions, Daniel Bryan is the star of this show, and WWE know it, else he’d pretty much be off television like the other NXT Rookies who have been eliminated from the competition.
In this episode, Michael Cole demands an apology from Daniel Bryan, after the latter physically assaulted him in the previous show (look out for a young Johnny Gargano, who features as one of Cole’s security team). We know that Cole can talk well, and I absolutely loved watching him get into it with Bryan, just as I loved Bryan giving back to him. Whoever decided to put these two together was a genius, and the chemistry between them is off the charts. As later years would pass by, Cole would understandably ditch this negative approach toward Bryan given the latter was on his way to becoming the biggest start the company had had in 5-10 years, but one cannot watch the story of Daniel Bryan in WWE without checking out his promo with Cole here, and his aforementioned attack on him. The attack that ended this segment was of course much more brutal, mind you, and it’s an absolute shame that the storyline would be cut short as a result of the season ending in the next episode. Still, there was more to come between these two on the main roster, and I’m sure I’ll revisit that soon enough.
The wrestling matches we were given here were largely meaningless, but they were actually consistently decent, and probably ended up being the best overall combined ring action we’ve seen on the show so far. Between these two matches, and the Bryan/Cole segment, this episode really was a standout for NXT.
Of course, you can’t have a penultimate episode without an elimination, and this episode saw Heath Slater drop out. Slater had all the momentum in the world, at one point, so it was surprising that he wasn’t carried over into the final, but something tells me that Justin Gabriel had the look and moveset that WWE loved at this time, and so it was more important for them to take him over into the final.
Good episode, this. One more to go, before the reset button is hit, and we get eight new NXT Rookies competing to become the next breakout star…
Match of the Night
Wade Barrett vs. Justin Gabriel