Gutteridge's Blog: Can this high quality of WWE NXT programming Takeover on TV again?
By Darren Gutteridge
As late to the party as ever, the UK finally got our chance to see NXT Takeover on Sunday night. That is in no way a criticism of Sky Sports – at least we got to see this show, unlike Arrival. And, in a nutshell, it was a great show. The three marquee matches delivered, and the show did more to display the high quality of talent in WWE's developmental system than maybe even the first NXT live special did.
So why the pseudo-negative article title? Well, while I'm full of praise for NXT's second live outing, the months between it and Arrival have not been excellent week in, week out on TV. For some reason, instead of catapulting NXT TV to the next level (no small task considering it was already making a claim to be the best pure wrestling show around), Arrival seemed to herald in something of a stagnation.
Several factors played into this, and some of them were inevitable because of NXT's unique constitution. A talent exodus started to happen – Bo Dallas, Adam Rose and Paige all saw their roles start to dwindle as they geared up for their jump to the main roster. Releases and injuries also added to a thinning of the herd, which in particular left the top of the card quite barren.
A lack of new substantial débuts didn't help this situation, and neither did a new lean towards short match heavy shows, meaning the talent still on NXT every week didn't get a lot of time to shine. But the most damaging factor of them all was the general lack of a sense of direction. With nothing to build to until the 11th hour announcement of Takeover, the show lost it's urgency. Mediocre storylines would play out entirely over one set of tapings, with no one really gaining anything from them to take forward into the next set of tapings.
Then, Takeover lands, and it features counterpoints to almost all of those problems.
The show didn't feature 8+ matches – they gave huge chunks of time to each of the three big match ups. All of them were better for it, especially the NXT Women's Title match, which became an unexpectedly great match, due in part to the fact they actually gave time to the women to tell a story. What a novel idea!
Yeah, there wasn't anything in the way of a début, which was unfortunate, but several performers stepped up in a big way. The aforementioned Charlotte showed that she may just have what it takes to make it, and Tyson Kidd reminded us just how good he is inside the ring. But it was Tyler Breeze who stole the show in my eyes. Long time viewers of NXT will have seen flashes of brilliance before, but to casual viewers this was surely the staggering realisation that there is more to him than his effeminate gimmick. There is no doubt that Breeze now belongs in the conversation about NXT main event stars.
And most of all, there is a renewed sense of direction. Sami Zayn is coming off of another big loss, and the fallout to that will hopefully give him back some of the fire he has missed as of late. There will presumably be time to build to another live special match before he makes the jump to the main roster, so building correctly to something of a redemption for Zayn will make for good TV. There is a new Divas champion in town, which will surely cause ripples in the division. And even Tyson Kidd showed his first real personality quirk since turning babyface in 2010. The next set of tapings indicates that the feud between him and Adrian Neville is not over, and I'm intrigued as to where they go after the handshake refusal.
So, a very strong return to form for NXT overall, but it will all be for naught if they fail to capitalise. The brand had great momentum coming out of Arrival, and managed to squander is pretty quickly. They can't let the same thing happen again. I'm not expecting a weekly show with five star classic matches and revolutionary storylines, but I know NXT can do much better than the 5+ match card with weak feuds set-up we've seen recently. Keep the character work ticking; give the talent time to hone and show off their in-ring skill; and maybe announce the next live special ASAP. I'm OK if it's 3 months away again, just as long as the show has something on the horizon to build towards.
Then, instead of stumbling around for months, the show can get back into the groove it found itself in before Arrival. The show will no longer be a jumbled mess of squash matches and boring stories, but a great wrestling show that gives TNA a run for it's money every Thursday night. All being well, Takeover won't mark the start of more "slow on the uptake" TV, but an NXT that is ready to take off again.
Thanks for reading. If you have any comments or thoughts on the show or this review, add me on Twitter via @Dazatheg
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