With the recent expansion to a three-hour Raw and a new Saturday morning program for children, the current WWE television lineup includes seven and a half hours of programming each week, if you count the newly re-branded NXT.
For some people, that's just too much wrestling to take in every week.
If you don’t have time to watch shows like NXT, Superstars and Saturday Morning Slam, then you probably don’t have time to read lengthy reviews of each show, complete with commentary, predictions and cynical sidetracks. My Notes version of all three shows is below.
If it piques your interest enough to read on, the slideshow breaks down the shows individually, segment by segment, complete with my questions and predictions.
BONUS: There's a quick trivia challenge regarding former Intercontinental Champions on the Saturday Morning Slam slide. If you're a true wrestling fan, it should be cake.
On NXT, Trent Barreta returned from injury to defeat Johnny Curtis, and Paige got a clean win over Alicia Fox in a Divas match that was at least as good as any match I’ve recently seen on Raw or SmackDown.
Conor O’Brien (of the Ascension) defeated Jimmy Uso to further the feud between their respective tag teams, and Kassius Ohno makes Oliver Ray tap out twice in the first ever “NXT Sparring Session.”
The main event saw NXT Champion Seth Rollins get a clean win over Rick Victor in a non-title match.
On Superstars, in one of his first matches since returning from injury, Ted DiBiase got a clean win over JTG and Jinder Mahal fell to Drew McIntyre, who received a favorable reception from the audience and is being booked as a face.
David Otunga got a victory over Tyson Kidd, and in the main event, the Prime Time Players defeated the Usos, who received a better pop from the live audience than I would have predicted.
On Saturday Morning Slam, the only match saw Zack Ryder defeat William Regal, and the theme of the episode was “Championships,” with a special emphasis on the Intercontinental Championship and a few segments with the Miz.
Now, if you care to read more about any of these happenings, please enjoy the slideshow.
Byron Saxton and William Regal are behind the announce booth as the show starts, and they immediately let us know that the new NXT Champion Seth Rollins will face Rick Victor tonight.
The opening contest features a returning Trent Barreta vs. Johnny Curtis. Barreta has been out for almost six months due to injury; his gimmick is that no one noticed he was missing.
The match is pretty solid, with minimal botches. Barreta gets the clean win with a knee lift, a surprisingly mild maneuver compared to some of the high-risk moves he made during the match.
Having been pulled from American television, NXT is the show you send a current or potential WWE superstar when you want them to work on something without it being part of the bigger WWE story. Some superstars are still being groomed for their WWE debut, some are working on aspects of their skill set that are still lacking.
For guys like Barreta and Curtis, who have already debuted on WWE programming, NXT serves as a chance for them to really develop a strong persona. For people like Alicia Fox, who is featured in the next match, it is a chance for them to really polish their in-ring skills.
When we return from commercial, Fox is already in the ring. NXT's British bombshell Paige is introduced as her opponent. Paige looks like a sexy version of a female lead from a Tim Burton movie: hair as dark as a raven (according to Regal's description), skin as pale as Sheamus and an obviously brooding dark side. I think she has great potential as a future Diva and possibly a future valet/manager.
This match was at least as good as most Divas matches (especially compared to any match without Phoenix or Natalya) that you would witness on Raw or SmackDown, and Alicia Fox looked better here than I remember ever seeing her. Paige put on a really solid performance. I hope the WWE makes good use of her soon.
She gets the clean win over Fox with her signature move the RamPaige.
Of course, it wouldn't be true WWE programming without a Raw Rebound. Luckily, when you're streaming online, you can skip stuff like this.
After we return from the Raw Rebound, we get a match featuring Conor O'Brien (of the tag team the Ascension) and Jimmy Uso. The Usos and the Ascension have had a long-running feud on NXT programming and this is the latest installment.
The Ascension have the most elaborate entrance of anyone in NXT, complete with lighting effects and significant camera work. With WWE in the midst of rebuilding their tag team division, I wouldn't be surprised to see these guys on SmackDown soon. Their gimmick is a bit hokey for Raw; it will work better on the younger SmackDown audience.
The match wasn't especially long, and they didn't pull off any especially impressive moves. Conor got the win after some predictable outside interference from his tag team partner.
Backstage, after a commercial break, Bo Dallas (brother of Husky Harris, son of Irwin R. Schyster) was about to be interviewed, when he was interrupted by Michael McGillicutty. Dallas attacked him, and I think we can assume we'll see a match next week, if not a full-on feud.
We go to the ring for an "NXT Sparring Session" with Kassius Ohno, who is currently involved in a feud with Ricky and Richie Steamboat. Ohno's "sparring partner" is Oliver Grey (thanks to Tero Martikainen for correcting me on Oliver's last name), but it's not clear exactly how this differs from a regular match. Saxton brings up this very point on commentary, and Regal also admits he doesn't understand how this is different than any other match.
Grey taps out a few minutes later, and the "Sparring Session" is over. Ohno says that it was too easy and that he's going to give Grey another chance. Regal suggest that perhaps this is what makes it a "Sparring Session." Grey taps out less than a minute later. Ohno refuses to let go, until Richie makes the save and chases Ohno out of the ring.
Jim Ross joins the commentary team for the main event. This match between new NXT Champion Seth Rollins and Rick Victor was set up after Victor slapped Rollins during an interview last week.
As WWE tends to do with anything they think is clever ("the perfect storm," "the end of an era," "once in a lifetime"), they continually remind us that, since Rollins became the first NXT Champion, he has gone "from the hunter to the hunted."
Also, I learned that Rollins was a graduate of the Hart Dungeon and is an Iowa native. (EDIT: As it has been pointed out in the comments, it was Rick Victor that graduated from the Hart Dungeon, not Seth Rollins.) Being from Iowa myself, I know who my favorite WWE superstar will be a year or two from now. JR called Iowa a "great wrestling state." Makes this guy proud.
Rick Victor put on a decent match. Obvious from his in-ring psychology, his attempts to garner heat and even his offensive execution. Victor must have watched a lot of WWF wrestling in the late-80s and early-90s.
Predictably, Rollins gets the clean win to end the show. Saxton leaves us with the quote, "The era of NXT's Seth Rollins, and the era of championship life for Seth Rollins, is alive and well."
Prediction: Within the next year, you'll see Seth Rollins, Kassius Ohno and the Ascension on regular WWE programming.
Question: How is it that WWE feels some wrestlers like Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox are good enough to be on Raw and SmackDown but need work enough that they need to appear on Superstars and NXT regularly?
Scott Stanford and Josh Matthews are at the announce booth and the show kicks off with Ted DiBiase making his way to the ring. The announcers remind us that DiBiase has just returned from injury and that the "DiBiase Posse" parties would be back. JTG makes his way to the ring to face the son of the Million Dollar Man.
JTG is really starting to develop as an in-ring performer, and DiBiase was free of ring rust, so the match was pretty solid, lasting longer than most undercard matches you'd see on Raw or SmackDown. DiBiase gets a clean win over JTG, who they continue to bill as a stereotypical inner-city black man.
After the commercial break, Jinder Mahal makes his way to the ring, puts his headgear in a protectve plastic case outside the ring and waits patiently for his opponent. The lights went out momentarily, Drew McIntyre's video started and the audience popped. I was unaware that McIntyre was now a face. When did that happen?
McIntyre is wrestling with a broken wrist, furthering his face persona. Scotland and India represented here, so it's a truly international event. And yet, the audience chanted "USA, USA" at least once while Mahal was in control.
These guys put on a solid match that any old-school fan would appreciate, with good in-ring psychology to boot. McIntyre gets the clean win and they hint that he may be making a return to prominence.
After another commercial break, Matt Striker has replaced Scott Stanford, as we get an update on Jerry Lawler returning home to Memphis after his heart attack.
The next match featured one superstar that is a phenomenal in-ring performer but very underused, facing a weak in-ring performer who is arguably overused: Tyson Kidd vs. David Otunga. They emphasized Otunga's strength advantage and he wrestled the match as if trained by Sheamus, just pounding on Kidd and tossing him around. Still, Kidd was clearly the better performer. In the end, Otunga gets the clean victory.
It's a shame that arguably the best wrestler on the program was a part of the shortest match, in which he had to put over a wrestler far less talented and already receiving tons of airtime on Raw. Better luck next time, Kidd.
After a CM Punk/John Cena recap, the Prime Time Players make their way to the ring for the main event, as they face the Usos. We are reminded that PTP attacked the former tag champs on Monday Night Raw, which is a good indication that they'll get a win against a team that no one outside of the NXT crowd seems to care about.
After watching the match, I have to take back the last sentence above. The Usos were actually a little over with this crowd, possibly helped by PTP's heat. When Jimmy made the hot tag near the end of the match, the crowd was into it. PTP get a clean win in the end and the show fades to black with Darren and Titus celebrating in the ring.
PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre will be competing for a midcard title by the end of the year.
BONUS PREDICTION: The Prime Time Players will be one of the leaders of the new tag team division, sticking around after super-teams like Bryan/Kane and Mysterio/Sin Cara go back to strictly singles competition.
QUESTION: Will the WWE ever build a division for guys like Tyson Kidd to truly shine? Whether a cruiserweight division, hardcore division, or X-division, the WWE needs something that would give guys like Yoshi Tatsu, Kofi Kingston, Hunico, Evan Bourne, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger and Justin Gabriel a chance to really show us what they can do.
As the show opens, we learn that it will be a championship-themed episode, where the show will take an in-depth look at the history and importance of the Intercontinental Championship.
This is a great example of the WWE instilling WWE-based values on their youngest fans, tapping into the youngsters that will eventually be like you and me: lifelong, adult wrestling fans.
We are also told that Sir William Regal will be facing off against "the first and only Internet Champ" Zack Ryder.
Immediately, we go into the "Saturday Morning Spotlight," featuring the Miz and his ability to believe in himself. They show us a few minutes worth of clips of the Miz talking about how great he is. After reiterating that he is the current Intercontinental Champion, they segue into the next feature, the "Fab Five."
CHALLENGE: This week's Fab Five relates to the five greatest IC Champs of all time. Based on the descriptions they use for their justification, can you pick these five superstars? Answers are in italics at the end of this slide.
Their list included the first-ever IC Champ, the record-holding 9-time IC Champ, the only man to win the WWE Championship while still holding the IC Championship, the man with the longest-ever reign as IC Champ and the man who defended the IC Championship in what was arguably the best WrestleMania match of all time.
Before we head to commercial break, CM Punk joins us to host this week's Pop Quiz. If you're reading this and you don't know the answer, I question your love for this sport.
Q: Who did Randy Savage defeat at WrestleMania 4 to win the WWE Championship?
a) Hulk Hogan
b) Andre the Giant
c) Ted DiBiase
I hope you all got this correct, but the answer to this is at the bottom in italics as well.
When we return from the commercial break, Josh Matthews and Santino Marella are at the announce booth for the match between Regal and Ryder. Since this show is aimed at the youngest of the WWE Universe, they tend to use superstars that are easy for kids to love (Ryder) and easy for kids to hate (Regal). Since this is the only actual match on the show, the duration was a little longer than they'd be allowed on Raw or SmackDown, even though this is only a 30-minute program.
After a verbal exchange between Marella and Regal, the match went back-and-forth pretty evenly. It wasn't anything spectacular, but it was botch-free. Ryder gets the win after hitting the Rough Ryder seemingly out of nowhere.
After the match, Cena talks for a few minutes about the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Love him or hate him, you've got to respect what Cena does for those kids.
Before the show ends, we are told that next week will focus on Family Fitness Day, with a special appearance from John Cena. Then we go to the Miz for five tips on how to be awesome: talk the part, walk the part, listen to naysayers (not a typo), be loud and be awesome.
Prediction: This show will be popular with kids that are already WWE fans and probably help push them into being dedicated, lifelong fans, but won't win over a lot of new youngsters.
Question: Will this be the last new show added to WWE's current television lineup? Is the market already too saturated or will WWE continue to put out additional programming?
Answers: Pat Patterson, Chris Jericho, Ultimate Warrior, Honky Tonk Man, Randy Savage
c) Ted DiBiase
These shows really aren't the same types of shows as SmackDown or Raw.
If you're a fan of Ring of Honor, I think you'll enjoy NXT (if you don't already follow it). The number of NXT competitors that came over from ROH can't be ignored. Plus, you get that same small-venue feel, if you happen to like that.
You should also watch this if you're interested in seeing who the WWE feels will be making an impact in WWE in the not-too-distant future.
If you're an old-school wrestling fan who likes long matches and cares as much about the undercard as you do the main event, then Superstars may be a good show for you.
The wrestling is the focus of this show, with matches generally lasting much longer than anything you'd see on Raw or SmackDown, especially for the mid-card. If you're sick of programming being dominated by Cena, Sheamus and CM Punk, you can check out this show.
If you have any children that you spend time with, Saturday Morning Slam is something you could watch together. I use it an as opportunity to bond with my niece (4) and nephew (5). The program is put together well, the message for the kids is positive, and the content will be something you're actually interested in. Would you rather watch iCarly?
Within WWE programming, there are options for you other than Raw and SmackDown. But if you don't have time for anymore programming, I'll try to keep you updated.