The WWE Undercard Rundown: 3/7 and 3/8
Hello, BR fans. I'm here once more to bring you your Roster Rundown.
As you might have noticed from the title change, my sights are slowly shifting. As most of you probably know, WWE still produces four TV shows every week, not just two.
Superstars and NXT are relegated to the web, though, meaning that their events often go unnoticed and underreported. If you're not watching them, though, you might be missing out on a lot of solid, entertaining content, as well as the next generation of stars.
Every week, I intend to take a look at the performances of these unsung heroes of the undercard. The Trent Barettas, the Titus O'Neils, even the Heath Slaters. What they lack in name recognition, they might just make up for in humor, charisma, interesting storylines and in-ring talent. Or, they might not, and instead, be destined for jobbing their way out the door. There's only one way to find out.
That said, let's see this week's Roster Rundown.
Maxine and Tamina
Once again, I’m just going to gush a little. It wasn’t a bad promo for Maxine to start the show, if short, and she delivered more authentic and innuendo-laden chemistry with William Regal in one minute than Aksana and Teddy Long have in what feels like an entire year at this point.
Her facial work was excellent, too, changing flawlessly from flirtatious joy to a thinly veiled “Oh, you have got to be kidding me” when the match was announced.
While in the ring, she put on a decent performance, too. She hit her moves with confidence and grace and came out looking smart, if a little vicious, too. She furthers her character just by being in the ring, more than some Divas can say, though it helps that on NXT Maxine tends to get more than two minutes to work. All in all, another good showing from one of the better young Divas.
In the backstage segment, too, she excelled playing off Curtis and Bateman. She's probably, flat-out, one of the best actresses in the Diva’s division, able to carry a promo better than just about any of the main roster girls.
There wasn’t much to say about Tamina, who pretty much just came out and did the Dominant Babyface thing—which isn’t bad (unless you’re tired of the overwhelming amount of Dominant Babyfaces floating around), there’s just not a lot to sink your teeth into.
In the ring, she still looks somewhat green, but she clearly has some potential. As a big, power-move hitting Diva, I definitely want to see more of her; she just needs more time to polish her skills.
She also has some nice charisma going, with a brilliant smile as Regal rightly pointed out on commentary, and the crowd rallied behind her pretty well when she was stuck in a chinlock—definitely worth keeping your eye on.
Yoshi Tatsu and Johnny Curtis
The crowd still doesn’t seem to know exactly how to respond to Yoshi Tatsu since his look shifted for the darker. He still acts like the same bubbly character with the same fun, poppy music, but it doesn’t mesh with his admittedly cool attire. Something should really change, one way or the other.
That said, when it comes to the face being in trouble, the crowd was still ready to give him some help. He played a great babyface-in-peril, and it was nice to see that come back, compared to the Big Show/John Cena/Randy Orton/Sheamus kind of face that’s been, well, dominating lately. His offense was as crisp as ever when he was allowed to unleash it, but the brunt of the match was him making Curtis look good, which he did well.
Curtis certainly brings something unique to the table. His bizarre mannerisms were on display, if more toned down than his usual character, and it’s a good way of making himself stand out.
His actual in-ring work is more mediocre, but he did a solid, old-school heel job of working on Tatsu’s arm with some good submissions and a rather unique kind of hooked-arm suplex I can’t put a name to. His finisher, a sort of Falcon Arrow-style move, also looked very impressive.
But, as usual, he excelled far more when he was able to talk and play off some other characters. The lotion is a nice little gimmick-enhancer assuming they don’t go too far with it, and his comedic delivery is actually quite impressive.
I can see why they went with the silly pun backstage skits before putting him, briefly, on SmackDown—it was a terrible idea, but using his comedic talents was a reasonable try. He’s made himself into something much better, though, and I can see this carrying him up the ladder.
The Backstage Brigade
A lot of NXT talent found their way into backstage or interview segments instead of in-ring activity.
Reks and Hawkins
Once again, the Rekking Crew, or the Mid-Card Mafia if you prefer, were a dynamic highlight on NXT. While once again not wrestling, they bring a lot of charisma for the table and seem to have a natural chemistry with one another which I wouldn’t have expected a few months ago. Hawkins in particular is really winning me over, but Reks keeps up nicely with the banter.
A brief showing for McGillicutty, but I do think that he’s steadily improving, too. NXT really does seem to have a lot of good purpose, as it gives young guys a sort of RAW-lite to work in. They can get involved in promos and feuds where they’d never even touch a microphone on RAW or SmackDown and really develop themselves. Playing himself as a boorish jerk really suits McGillicutty, and his Edge-esque crazy eyes continue to make him stand out.
Kidd also had a nice little moment battling off of McGillicutty and furthered their feud well. It’s still kind of hilarious to see wrestlers on TV talking about tweeting like it’s something serious, but I suppose that’s just how the times go. He didn’t do too badly on the mic, and though I never thought I’d say this weeks ago, I wouldn’t actually mind seeing more of him.
One more guy getting his five minutes of backstage time, Bateman had a little encounter with Maxine and Curtis. To be honest, he came out looking the weakest of the trio, to me, he didn’t do badly, either. He carries himself confidently and acts like a star, even if he is stuck on the fourth-rate show, which speaks well of him. My only complaint is that he sometimes tries too hard to be funny, rather than handling it organically.
Darren Young and the Usos
The Usos continue to have one of the most spectacular intros in the WWE today. This time, they were split up, one in the ring and one on the mic, so it’ll be easier to see their differences.
As far as Jimmy’s commentary goes, I can’t see anything technically wrong with it, it just didn’t seem to click especially. He was a little bit flat and doesn’t seem to really know how to emote that well. Of course, given that this is the first time I can remember hearing them speak on TV, there may be a reason for that.
As for Jey, he worked pretty well in the ring against Darren Young. The two of them didn’t put on anything outstanding, but he kept going pretty well and didn’t look lost for being in a singles match. Eventually, he hit some great high-energy offense near the end of the match, and had the audience firmly behind him in U-SO cries, when it was a bit more start and stop at the beginning of the match.
I confess. I really, really don’t care about Darren Young.
He has never done anything but bore me. He has some decent, solid power offense and doesn’t look bad in the ring, I just find it hard to get excited about him. I’m not entirely sure why. Even his in-ring taunts are actually pretty good. I can’t pick out anything bad about him, so it must just be personal preference. He’s just a stable, unremarkable worker.
Percy Watson and Titus O'Neil
Coming at the tail-end of several strong backstage performances, Watson was, it must be said, the poorest performer of the lot.
Not that that’s a great surprise, as I’m pretty sure he’s had the least talk time of all of them, but he doesn’t really seem to be comfortable on the mic yet. His forced laughter at his own jokes really took away from the segment. Hopefully, he can learn to walk that line better.
That said, he more than makes up for it with in-ring energy and excitement. It’s hard to not want to cheer for Showtime, and he acts more like a cartoon character than anything else. His offense is quick-paced and exciting, and he brings to mind guys like Kofi Kingston and Shelton Benjamin with his leaping ability and sheer athleticism. He’s definitely one I’m excited to see in the ring.
As seemingly arbitrary as his heel-turn was, Titus doesn’t seem to be doing too bad with the role. His in-ring boasting and furious, repeated pins were some good work. I just wish he’d cut it out with the barking seal...thing. I seem to remember it being a call back to his college days, but it really just looks completely ridiculous.
As far as his ring work goes, he was hard-hitting and impressive and makes for a solid enough big man. He dominated Percy, and with Percy’s selling helping him along, came out looking quite strong. I don’t know that I see huge things in his future, but he has the makings of a good mid-card staple.
Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater
On both ends of the spectrum, the opening match on Superstars had a surprisingly good crowd reaction. The people were firmly behind Justin Gabriel, and he really does seem to have that spark, that "It Factor," that makes for a really good babyface.
People love him, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s got the combination of movie star good looks and phenomenal offense that’s bolstered everyone from Ricky Steamboat to AJ Styles.
Phenomenal is a good wood for how he handled himself this week. He was pretty much as good as I’ve ever seen him in the ring against Heath Slater, no doubt thanks to the amount of time they’ve spent together.
He really got to show why he’s such a high-flying dynamo but also brought out some good mat-wrestling and more of his great kicks. He’s quite well-rounded and seems to know how to handle himself as a lot more than a spot monkey.
To my personal shock, people actually seemed to care about Heath Slater this week. He was booed harshly coming down to the ring, and it only got worse, or better, from there. I’ll admit to cracking up at the lone, angry voice crying out again and again “I hate you Heath Slater!” But when you’re a heel, that’s exactly what you want. Slater was playing this crowd with ease.
And he was far better in the ring this week than I think I’ve ever seen him, too. He and Justin never really slowed down, and he hit some fantastic moves in there. The swinging side facebuster looked brutal and is easily the kind of move I could see ending a match, as was the top rope neckbreaker he had near the end. Slater is still a bit too much of a goofball for me to really take seriously, but if he can keep up ring work like this, I might have to change my tune.
Ted DiBiase and Jinder Mahal
DiBiase was another one who got a decently sized pop, and really, the crowd just seemed significantly more lively on Superstars than on NXT.
He seems like such a genuinely likable guy, too, and I’m sure the tailgating with the crowd helps. Though, I must admit, I’m not at all fond of him starting up a U-S-A chant. I really hope someday wrestling can move past that kind of lazy jingoism—and there’s your five-dollar-word for the day.
He put on a nice little match with Jinder, as well. Sandwiched between Slater-Gabriel and Ziggler-Kingston, it came out the lame duck on Superstars, but not for lack of trying.
DiBiase really brings some solid athleticism to the table, with great dropkicks, and he seems to have quite the varied moveset so he can keep his matches fresh and interesting. Given that he’s still wrestling with a bad wrist, shoulder and ankle, that’s extra impressive. I’d love to see him wrestle healthy for a change.
The much-more engaged crowd also gave Jinder a good reaction coming in, which was... Good. In a way. I mean it’s good that they care about him for him, but it’s bad because I still hate the gimmick and everything it represents. He seems to be working with it the best he can, at least, and bringing a lot of aggression to the table.
Aggression that he showed, might I add, quite well in the ring. Pitting Jinder against an opponent who can actually work, for a change, allowed him to show off a lot more what he can actually do.
He looked pretty solid against Ted, all things considered. He looked a little sluggish and still has difficulty connecting all the pieces, but he uses his knees like deadly weapons. Plus, his Camel Clutch looked a lot more impressive on someone smaller than Big Zeke.
Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler
While Scott Stanford’s 198-match count for Kingston and Ziggler has to be an exaggeration, what’s obvious is that these two men know their way around the ring together.
For that reason, it’s hard to separate them in this assessment, as this match relied on both. They went out there on Superstars and put just everything on the line that they could. The two of them could have done this match in their sleep—but instead, they gave it everything they had, and I commend them for it.
Kofi always brings great offense, but he showed why he deserves a World Title last night, and if he doesn’t get one by the time he retires, it will be a damn shame. The crowd was with him every step of the way, too. He’s massively over, and if that’s enough to get Santino a US title, I don’t see that Kofi being in the main event is really out of the picture. But I’m fantasy booking, and I digress. He has buckets of charisma, and Dolph is a perfect opponent for him.
Meanwhile, Dolph is rising up at every opportunity. I still find the hot pink butt cape a rather silly bit of ringwear, but I guess he’s trying to get over his new t-shirt while still wearing that vest he found backstage at a Las Vegas hotel showroom.
He is definitely playing the Show Off routine to the hilt, and with Vickie’s always amusing interjections, it makes for one of the more entertaining characters out there. Hopefully, it will finally take him to the top as he, too, deserves. Imagine these two main eventing a PPV for 30 minutes for a world title—wouldn’t that be something?
All in all, it was a solid week indeed for the second-rate shows in WWE land. NXT had some promos that were as entertaining as anything I've seen on the main stage lately.
While they're never going to bring out a storyline the likes of Undertaker-Triple H, obviously, they can at least keep me happy for a solid 45 minutes. The wrestling was a little more mediocre, but Curtis and Tatsu brought plenty of athleticism, as did Percy Watson and Titus O'Neil.
Meanwhile, over on Superstars, they packed in three pretty great matches. DiBiase and Mahal aren't going to set the world on fire any time soon, but even they did a fine job. Dolph and Kofi are two of the most underrated guys on the roster, and hopefully, Dolph will catapult himself to a position he belongs after WrestleMania.
So, what's the rundown on this crop of performers?
Stars to Watch: Dolph and Kofi, without question. The Rekking Crew, Percy Watson and Johnny Curtis
On Their Way Out: No appalling behavior, really, but Darren Young continues to bore.
Match of the Week: Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler
Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week for another Rundown.