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 under-reported. 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.
The crowd seemed to be quite behind the Usos this week and it’s easy to see why. Like Regal said, they’re a dynamic tag team, and more than that, they are a tag team in an era largely bereft of them. They’ve lived together and trained together their whole lives, and it shows in how comfortable they are in-ring together. Contrasted with a lot of teams these days, it stands out.
It’s just fun watching them, too, a fact helped by their solid, high-energy ring work. They were in good form tonight, and with an energetic crowd behind them it was a damn good little match, mostly on their efforts. It was also nice to see that running hip splash connect for once.
The fact that these two haven’t been tag team champions yet, and aren’t even in the running now, is a damn shame. At least they got another commanding win in a nice, competitive contest.
The mocking little faux-Haka as they came to the ring was surprisingly entertaining. I’m surprised, actually, that no one has gone after it before, given it’s such a dynamic and easily-parodied gimmick. Kudos to Young and O’Neil for taking the initiative on that one (assuming they’re the ones who came up with it, of course).
All in all, they tried to show a lot of confidence and passion in the ring this week, with considerable trash talk and theatrics. I’m not entirely sure it worked, but I give them points for effort.
Really, I like them as a tag team, if only because they seem to elevate one another in terms of dynamics. They seem a lot more engaged with a partner to bounce off of, rather than as solo heels, and I find myself caring more about both than in weeks past.
They also work decently well from an in-ring perspective as a team, I’m pleased to see. It could still use work, especially contrasted with the Usos, but the mirrored leg drops was a nice touch, as is the matching color schemes. I wouldn’t class either of them as remarkable wrestlers, exactly, but they both do a good job with a solid heel power game, and I’m not going to knock them for it. All told, I think being a heel tag team is a good role for both of them at this time, so I’d be fine with seeing it in the future.
To be blunt, their opening segment was, well, awkward. The banter seemed to fall flat, the racializing of it was kind of uncomfortable, and the whole segment was just...weird? I guess it was supposed to make them seem like friends who just hang out, but I dunno. It didn’t click for me. Reks and Hawkins couldn’t interrupt fast enough, if you ask me. I will say, though, that Watson was good with the intensity coming to the ring, playing it as serious.
It’s in ring that the two of them shine, anyway, especially Watson. He can hit a beautiful dropkick and he made Reks and Hawkins look good when they were working him over, too. Riley is probably best served as a nice hot-tag face who comes in and hits some big moves, like his truly savage spinebuster, so as a duo they fit together nicely. This whole episode was a good showcase of some potential tag teams to be utilized and maybe rebuild the division, so I like it for that a lot.
Nice these two can bring it on the mic. They seem to have a natural rapport and just know how to act, it seems. They feel quite natural bouncing off of Regal and that’s good, because I think they’re a duo that deserves to be in the spotlight – as much as they can be on NXT, at least.
In the ring, they were an effective tag team. I’m fans, but I won’t talk up their in-ring work as more than it was – Curt Hawkins isn’t the second coming of Chris Jericho (would that be the third coming, then?), but he’s an effective heel with some nice athleticism, not to mention a beautiful top-rope elbow drop, and Reks does well as a big man. They play well together, though, and did well with Watson and Riley, too.
Meanwhile, on Superstars, the two were pretty much just fed to Kofi and R-Truth. Not that that’s really a shock, nor am I complaining. It’s an undercard team going up against upper-mid carders with a high profile match, what do you expect? Still, a bit of a shame not to see more from them. Reks hit his standard power offense, Hawkins got off a nice suplex, but nothing to write home about. They just had to take a bunch of signature moves and make them look good, which they did.
Once again, McGillicutty really surprises me with a solid promo. I can’t get away from the memory of his Genesis debacle, but he’s clearly moved ahead quite a bit since then, and it’s nice to see.
Are his facial expressions over the top? Definitely. He goes too far sometimes, and seems to be trying too hard to be taken seriously, but if nothing else, he’s entertaining. Which is a lot more than I used to be able to say about him.
Tyson Kidd is another one who’s been surprising me on NXT lately. He’s actually got something going as a face right now. He’s a little vicious and a little loose-cannon, but hey, it makes him different than the usual nice guy, and he’s clearly got a big button to push with his Hart legacy.
That’s something nice to be brought up, too, as both of these guys have that kind of legacy behind them and it can make them look like a big deal if they keep playing it up.
Another nice showing of the goofy charm that Bateman and Kaitlyn share backstage. Bateman continues to try a little too hard and overemphasizes his comedy sometimes, but it’s not exactly obnoxious—I just wish he’d dial it back a little.
Kaitlyn seems to have settled nicely into a comfortable groove, and to have switched gears between fun “girl next door” and ready to throw down with Maxine, too.
It’s a shame that we didn’t get much in-ring work from them this week, despite their match being the main event of NXT, but oh well. Kaitlyn was serviceable in her brief role against Maxine and Bateman at least does a good enough job of selling his knee. He did a pretty good enzuigiri, too, though his finisher looked rather sloppy.
All in all, very little to judge, as this week was more about furthering the angle.
These two are stand-out characters and they deserve some face time on the main shows—let’s get real.
Maxine continues to be an utter delight that I won’t stop wanting to gush about, and Curtis is just so, well, creepy. It’s hilarious, and at the same time really makes me want to see him get his face punched in all the more. He’s a great heel and I think he has big things ahead of him with this new character.
Again, Maxine didn’t get to do a whole lot here, which is a shame. Curtis got the most active ring time and he didn’t do too bad a job with it, even if his role was limited.
Some solid work over the leg, some great theatrics that actually recall a bit of old Goldust (with Val Venis), so he definitely lives his gimmick well.
Great, great night for Gabriel. He didn’t get the win this week but he still came out of it looking like an excellent worker, because that’s exactly what he is.
He can keep pace with Hunico on the mat, has some excellent kicks, and one of the most stellar finishers in the WWE today. What’s not to like?
He proved that he’s far more than a spot-monkey or a one-hit wonder in this match, as he chained some great counters and pinfall attempts in. This match is right up there with his affair last week against Heath Slater as one of his best, and I am dying for the day he is on a PPV stage.
Well, say it for Hunico, at least he’s trying with his gimmick. I still think it’s terrible and dated, but what can you do? He cut an alright heel promo, but the talking in two languages thing and ripping on America is just so overdone that I feel like it doesn’t mean anything anymore. It doesn't get much heat no matter how hard they try.
Anyway, it would have been more effective if they’d put him up against an actual American instead of Justin Gabriel, wouldn’t it?
And man, does he not deserve better than this? Hunico is a great worker in the ring, much like Gabriel. He links together some of the lucha-style athleticism with great ground-game and technical wrestling in an extremely polished package.
I can honestly not remember him really putting on a bad match – except the boring debacle of the mirror match against Sin Cara which, given their respective track records, I’m more than inclined to put on booking and his opponent.
Okay, so, the Hip Hop Express—this is WWE acknowledging straight up that the only reason Truth and Kofi are a tag team is because they’re both black, right? We can agree with this?
Okay, that’s not entirely true – they have a sort of similar high energy ring style and they’re both upper-mid card faces with little to do, but really—that’s the best they can come up with?
As for the ring, well, it was pretty much just a show-off match for the duo. Which isn’t bad – I like that they’re trying to establish them as a credible tag team. It was just pretty formulaic, with both guys coming in and hitting a lot of their signature offense on the crash test dummies that were Hawkins and Reks.
Both men looked good, and both are good, reliable workers, so little surprise there. Truth in particular looked better than usual, and it seems like being in WrestleMania has inspired him to pick up his game.
Miss Blank actually looked pretty good out there this week. She showed more variety and fire in her offense than I think I’ve seen in a long time. The top-rope Thesz Press was particularly nice, though she also hit one of the laziest victory rolls I’ve ever seen.
Still, it was a good flurry of offense that ended quickly enough to not make Beth look ridiculous. Quality work, and it makes me a little bit more optimistic about ‘Mania.
What else can be said about Beth Phoenix at this point? She’s the pinnacle of the Divas Division and shows it easily. Her dominant and over-confident heel champion character is fantastic, and she backs it up with consistently good ring work. Her offense this week was vicious and she bent Kelly like a pretzel quite a few times.
She meshes her character so nicely with her ring work, acting overconfident at times, and then utterly ferocious when that confidence is questioned. It’s fantastic.
Another good week for the B Shows.
NXT was once again full of entertaining content, with a card loaded up with some great potential tag teams WWE could use to build up the division once more. I don't think any of the teams highlighted were a bad fit, and I wouldn't mind seeing any one of them going ahead to get more screen time.
Reks and Hawkins continue to be two fantastic heels, while the Usos are some of the most underrated wrestlers in the entire company, at least in their own division.
Over on Superstars, we had a truly phenomenal match between Gabriel and Hunico that was probably the best of the week for the entire WWE, a solid, lengthy Diva's match, and a pretty good build-up match for WWE's newest pet tag team. Top quality action all around.
Stars to Watch: Reks and Hawkins were once again magnificent, as was Hunico in the ring, and the Usos.
On Their Way Out: Riley and Watson both need to dial up the promo work if they want to step forward.
Match of the Week: Gabriel and Hunico, without question.
Thanks once again for reading. I'll see you next week for the Rundown.