Much of the best in-ring action this week came thanks to the beginnings of the tournament to name the No. 1 contender to Big E's Intercontinental Championship that began on Raw. However, the Rookies of NXT proved once again that they have more than enough talent to hang with the Superstars of Raw and Smackdown.
Whilst I doubt that I'm the only one who loves tournaments in wrestling, it seems that WWE haven't had much of a passion for them of late, with the once-prominent King of the Ring being missing in action since Sheamus' win in 2010.
The first round of the tournament to decide the No. 1 contender to the intercontinental title on Raw was a great example of why tournaments are so enjoyable: Matches that might otherwise have seemed inconsequential are given immediate and palpable consequence.
The fact that tournament matches matter gives weight to what happens in the ring, and all four matches in the first round on Raw benefited from this. I very much enjoyed the opening match between Rob Van Dam and Alberto Del Rio, but the bout has received criticism from fans on Twitter and pundits alike; for one, James Caldwell of PWTorch described the match as "sluggish" in his Raw Report.
For me, all the tournament matches on Raw were good enough to cement the tournament as a big deal and help to further build the reputation of the intercontinental title. The Cesaro vs. Mark Henry bout could have perhaps gone a little longer, but it seems that Cesaro is set to be the star of the tournament going forward. I certainly look forward to seeing his semi-finals match next week.
Match of the Week for April 12: Brodus Clay vs. Adrian Neville on NXT
This bout wasn't the blow-off to the feud. It didn't feature huge stars, and it scarcely went for more than five minutes, but for me, it was so well executed that it's difficult to name any other match as the match of the week.
Brodus Clay gets something of a bad rap for his middling "Funkasaurus" character and failure to do anything of real consequence in his current turn as a Main Event Playa, but his recent appearances on NXT should do a lot to convince the skeptics that he could have a bright future.
The build to a match between Clay and Adrian Neville has been simple but very effective. On paper, there doesn't seem to be much to the rivalry, but over just a couple of weeks a very compelling narrative has been built: Clay as a monster and Neville seeking to be a fighting champion as previous NXT Championship holders have been.
The finish to the match makes it almost certain that the two will meet again sooner rather than later, but what little was given away in the ring certainly sold me that this is an excellent choice for Neville's first feud as the NXT Champion. His high-flying agility clashes perfectly with Clay's much-improved work as big man, and I for one am very excited to see what they'll come up with when they're given more time.
Not every match should be an "epic." In fact, the vast majority of matches should not be. This short-but-sweet bout did everything that it set out to do. Rather than settle the matter between the two outright, it gave just enough physicality to hint at what's to come and piqued the audience's curiosity to see a full-length encounter somewhere down the line.
What was your favourite match on WWE TV this week? Join the conversation in the comments below.
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