To the disdain of many (not me), Season 4 of NXT is upon us.
Back in October, I wrote an article on NXT, seen here:
In short, it discussed the many uses of squash talent, enhancement talent and rookies to not only bolster the star power of established wrestlers, but also to test out new faces to see if they get the right, or enough, reaction from crowds.
At first, I had written it to hail why people should keep NXT strong. Then, it was announced that NXT would likely be coming to an end, with its move to an online-only format.
At the end of the Divas Season, Season 3, they announced this new season and it's new crop of fresh faces.
B/R Featured Columnist, Robert Aitken, wrote a cool breakdown of the six new rookies, seen here:
So far, in NXT history, we've had two seasons dedicated to male singles competitors, which at the time we were in dire need of better quality.
Slowly, we're seeing better quality matches, better use of technical ability, and gradually more emphasis on technical skill, whether that skill is displayed with grounded holds on the mat or high-flying kicks, or in Bryan's case, both.
Granted, WWE isn't becoming USA Network's answer to Ring of Honor or anything, but let's be optimistic—it's a start.
Season 3 featured exclusively Divas, which again, we are still in need of better quality and have gotten some in dribs and drabs.
Right now, our top Diva stars are Natalya, Beth, Melina, Layla, Tamina (she's Superfly's daughter, she has to have something to show us), Gail Kim (management may consider her bottom rung, but I doubt they'll get rid of her), Maryse (likely more a personality than a decent wrestler, but charisma can cover over a lot) and Kaitlyn, who won NXT Season 3, so even if she's not uber-talented currently, she's going to get a shot at the Butterfly sooner or later.
All in all, decent for a start, with lots of fat to trim. They could lift out Alicia and Kelly, for instance, and I doubt a soul would notice.
You add in from NXT Season 3 Naomi, AJ Lee, Maxine and maybe even have Aksana stay at Goldust's side when he heals up—you could have a fairly decent crop of Divas there.
Sure, the whole "I'm just marrying you so I can get citizenship" angle was a really lame and predictable heel twist, but ask most established stars and they'll tell you that they know what it's like to be in at least one of those.
Most of us can agree, Aksana's looks, innocence and mannerisms all complement Goldust's style perfectly. If they ease up on the PG-ness half a smidgen? We could even see some Terri in her—implied, mind you, but still.
Not a far cry to have Aksana brandishing a cigar, is it? Okay, cigar's not that PG, um...she loves America, how about a hot dog instead?
Season 4 is back to the men, however, this crop seems too well-paired to be bad.
When I look back at what WWE has been in need of in recent years, and have received from previous seasons? Do I dare call this one the season of tag teams?
If Miz hadn't won/cashed in MITB and become WWE Champion, I believe he might still have Alex Riley by his side. Hate one or both if you like, Miz and Riley have great chemistry and would probably be a decent tag team.
I hope Miz rises to the challenge and defeats the temptation to be a generic heel who always cheats, but if he's a transitional champion, at least we may see a fun tag team pop up.
But I digress...only slightly.
All six pairings have something about them that seems to make sense:
Brodus Clay and Ted DiBiase Jr: They are a perfect example.
You know what I see when I look at them? The Million Dollar Man and Bam Bam Bigelow.
When I look at the two of them, I could easily see Brodus Clay reprising his role as bodyguard for a rich guy, and suddenly, DiBiase gains some much-needed urgency.
Right now, he's just a kid taking advantage of a trust fund to get hot French-Canadian love. Big whoop! Millionaires everywhere do that. It's not special; it hasn't been special in decades.
He has a mammoth like Brodus protect him and his money? He tells everyone, "Look, my money, my girl and my resources are things worth protecting."
Or if he dumps Maryse, then just his money and resources. Maryse needs him more than the other way around, but she does give him that female stamp-of-approval boost.
Brodus' wall of protection and maybe a flashier entrance could do wonders for DiBiase's image.
Jacob Novak and Dolph Ziggler: Both cocky blonds, both have slightly similar styles and ways of composing themselves. I just get a very similar vibe from them.
Novak's thing is that he has a smart business sense.
Dolph Ziggler, while I believe is secretly extremely talented, is Intercontinental Champion right now because his own business sense said that getting in bed, figuratively speaking (?), with Vickie Guerrero was a good idea.
So, if they were to team up after the season was over, Dolph's pretty boy good looks and Jacob's business head could make a really crafty team. Lots can come out of a team, or group, that brings different things to the table.
Byron Saxton and Chris Masters: Both very full of themselves, both billed and built up as being physically attractive from head to toe.
Maybe Chris' physique is more attuned to being in bodybuilding championships when compared to Byron's, but truth be told, I could really see them seeing eye to eye on their good looks, their destiny for success and their being entitled to fame, fortune and gold.
Conor O'Brien and Alberto Del Rio: These two didn't get along very well on the Season 4 debut, but I get a sort of "opposites attract" vibe there.
Maybe Conor won't end up being a bodyguard or lookout for Alberto, but they both seem smart and cunning and know how to manipulate.
If Conor goes anywhere, it'll be because he was sneaky. He says he's known for looking like a rat.
Well, just like Alex Riley's jacket is better used as a personality trait than a roaring, raging, full-on GIMMICK, Conor's similarity to a rodent would be better put to use as a personality trait as well.
Rats are sneaky, clever and can use their surprisingly quick brains to find any way possible to acquire the things they want, like food and shiny objects—titles are kinda shiny.
Derrick Bateman and Daniel Bryan: They got the alliteration going in their last names (first names, too, I just noticed that), so that's a start.
They have extremely similar attitudes. I'm going to go out on a limb and say those two, if they were to pair up after the season is over, could be the next Motor City Machine Guns.
Maybe a team of the past like Kendrick and London better pull off the sort of young, quick, grappler/striker team that the Guns are currently, but both Bateman and Bryan are really talented wrestlers.
Tthey have great moves and they have that same childish, geeky sense of humor Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley have that makes them so charming.
Only, WWE's backstage promos aren't filmed like reality shows, so Bateman and Bryan might actually be able to create engaging, vibrant on-screen personalities, instead of depending on being serious, straight-shooting badasses in the bodies of two dorks to take them to the top.
You ever see when Shelley tries to be all serious and angry? Looks really fake.
WWE is in need of cohesive, united tag teams, correct? Pairs of guys who approach their roster together as a unit? Bateman and Bryan, although needing some time to get on the same page, show me that they have potential for that cohesion.
Not to mention, it'd be a nice to have a respectable tag team win the Tag Team Championship AND be well-equipped to slay us at the same time.
Johnny Curtis and R-Truth: So far, I really don't know much about the guy, but I remember him having a good match on NXT last week against Jacob Novak.
He's a quick kid, lots of spins, kicks and he had a well-placed leg drop off the top rope, despite a slight bit of imbalance.
Based on his look and his intro video on NXT.WWE.com, he almost has a sense of humor reminiscent of The Rock—more accurately, Dwayne Johnson.
He said his childhood dream was to be in the WNBA and his secret talent was to juggle three tennis balls, after five juggles of which he threw them away and got tired of it. Kinda funny.
His interview really came off like a Dwayne Johnson appearance on Letterman. Not going to get people rolling on the floor, but still charming enough to make an impact.
As we've all seen, R-Truth's music and mic work, although also not hilarious or overly compelling, can at least get the crowd pumped and screaming, even when its been fairly quiet the rest of the night.
The two of them team up after the season is over, we could see some very innovative dual offense and some interesting and creative team-up moves, as well as Johnny perhaps overtaking his partner in popularity.
Conclusion: Maybe I've gone over the line and proposed something crazy here, but you have to agree: WWE created NXT to meet certain needs.
They got involved heavily in a movement where young, fresh talent would be a far greater focus than the established, aging faces we've come to know.
But that's a good thing too: Business-wise, WWE is slowly changing their image, preparing for the future and ensuring that the stars we watch today are the stars we watch 10 and 15 years down the road, just like we've done with the five men in the previous paragraph.
I will admit that it's been hard these past three seasons. We know how reliably witty guys like Jericho and Hunter can be. They come out with a mic and we know they're going to say something important, funny, biting and poignant.
We see these rookies get handed mics, and all they have to say is their name, they make a few puns, then give us a line or two of cheesy insight about who they are and why being pretty or business-savvy, makes them special.
Say what you want about Eli Cottonwood talking about a mustache. That was the topic he was given and he did as well with it as could be expected, if not a little better. He even got a few laughs out of the crowd, which is more than most NXT rookies can say.
The Rock became famous by asking the girl ring announcers if they like "pie" and "strudel," telling people to turn things sideways and shove them up their asses, ripping off an Elvis Presley song and asking if people "smell what he's cookin'."
Honestly, if you had never heard that expression before and saw an NXT rookie say it, you would think he was an absolute dolt who needed to go home.
If The Rock knocked your down your door and said, "Hey jabroni, do you smell what the Rock is cookin'?" You would stand up and say yes.
My point? Just about everyone in wrestling starts out with a silly gimmick, a slightly off-base look, a silly name and absolutely no personality.
The first time we saw The Rock, he had little braids, blue frilly tights, a gigantic smile and a lovable attitude. After turning heel, winning matches, fine-tuning himself and endearing himself with fans? He became the most electrifying man in sports entertainment.
Many of us knew Stone Cold when he as "Stunning" Steve Austin, half of the Hollywood Blonds tag team with "Flyin'" Brian Pillman. He had longer hair, a higher pitched voice, no goatee and a silly jacket with stars on it.
Don't believe me? Check this out:
Now? We know that guy as the beer chugging, middle finger waving or...in our PG world, at the very least, a total hell-raiser.
He could show up on Raw next week and may not drink a Steveweiser or flip anyone off, but he'll more than likely get the crowd going and make somebody look like a Texas polecat.
I beseech you again, IWC: Give these guys a chance, let them shine and see what they have for us.
They display enough potential; they can always be repackaged later on.
But this way, we get all the silliness out of the way before they become stars.
Every major Hollywood icon has silly-looking roles early in their career. These guys and girls will, too.
And that's all I have to say about that.