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?