The past week of WWE television hasn't featured all that much to get excited about in terms of in-ring competition. The focus has been quite squarely on setting up the Battleground pay-per-view, which is shaping up rather nicely.
There's also the factor of the company's tour of Japan, where in-ring action will be perhaps even more vital to putting on a successful show than back home. Whatever the reasons, it's been a bit of a slow week for great matches. But it's this sort of occasion that allows the minor league of NXT to shine all the brighter.
In 2012, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio engaged in an overly long series of matches as they battled for the World Heavyweight Championship. There wasn't a great deal of heat for the feud, and the matches themselves were rarely anything to write home about.
This week, they squared off for the United States Championship in a Last Man Standing match on Main Event, and I was rather surprised at how much I enjoyed the bout. WWE has been going all out to sell its Network during its free trial this past week, and showing this sort of bout via the service is a far better way of doing so than having commentators reiterate its selling points.
As far as Monday Night Raw goes, the majority of matches lasting less than five minutes meant that there wasn't all too much going on in the ring—the exception being an underwhelming main event between Seth Rollins and John Cena and a better bout between Randy Orton and Dean Ambrose.
It's clear that Rollins and Ambrose are the workhorses of WWE at the moment and are relied upon to put on great matches week in, week out. Rollins did what he could with his match against Cena, but there wasn't quite enough time for it to really hit a high gear, and the non-finish, while understandable, was a bit of a flat ending.
Ambrose and Orton fared better, capably recovering from a misstep mid-match and demonstrating just how flexible the pair are in the ring. Orton has continued to impress in recent weeks; whatever it is that's reinvigorated him as of late is certainly doing the trick and should be shared amongst some other wrestlers on the roster.
Match of the Week for July 12: Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville vs. Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel on NXT
This match aptly demonstrated the two-prong attack that makes NXT such a boon for WWE. On the one hand, you've got Zayn and Neville, two independent stars who are learning week by week how to fit in with the WWE style while still retaining what made them huge stars on the indie circuit.
Then, on the other side of the encounter, there's the facet of NXT that is sometimes forgotten. There's sometimes a sense that going to NXT is a demotion, but that's not really the case. Both Kidd and Gabriel should be congratulated for making the most of their time in the division thus far, and to my mind, they've both been more compelling than they ever have been up until this point.
Kidd is growing into a thoroughly unlikeable heel persona more and more with every passing week, and Gabriel proved on this week's show that he has what it takes in the ring and can be surprisingly proficient on the microphone.
All talent like this really needs is television time to engage their audience, and that seems like something that Monday Night Raw can't offer them, even with its three hours. The taut focus of NXT is capable of making the most of previously underutilised talent as well as prepping the stars of the future.
The match itself was evidence of all of this, with all four men working well together and being able to show the qualities in the ring that make them standout performers. The organic build to this match had been going on for weeks, but as a main event, this was a compelling standalone chapter in a narrative that doesn't seem to be finished just yet.
Explosive action and a very high level of intensity throughout the match culminated in a canny finish that was executed rather perfectly. This is exactly the sort of match that has earned NXT the reputation it holds at present, consistently being among the best weekly programming that WWE has to offer.
Was a different match your Match of the Week for this week? Make you voice heard in the comments section below.
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