By Haydn Gleed
“Part of the magic of NXT is the real of what we do, the real struggles, the real passion, the real pride, the real enthusiasm the excitement the energy.” – Triple H addressing the wrestlers after NXT Takeover:Respect Episode 10 Breaking Ground.
The quote above comes from the final episode of Breaking Ground, the ten week WWE Network exclusive reality show showing the struggles and the achievements of the wrestlers on the WWE development brand NXT. Although this quote was said in the context of NXT as a whole, I feel that it could have easily been said about the show on which the speech was closing.
When this show was announced the immediate thought I had was that apart from the obvious, which is the developmental stars are further along in their development, how was this going to be different to Tough Enough? After one episode of this season of Breaking Ground, I understood exactly how it was going to be different. Although the early seasons of Tough Enough were more about watching the development of the competitors, the shockingly bad later seasons of the show were more about putting the wannabe wrestlers in “funny” situations and entertaining the viewers at home (or the one man in the chairman’s chair but I digress). Breaking Ground throughout its ten episodes was about introducing us to the people behind the characters, and allowing us to watch their journey over a ten week period. It gave us an insight into what it takes to become a professional wrestler, and the dedication, the heart, and the pain that is required to reach the main roster of WWE. I cannot be alone in this in saying that if I had a friend who laughed at me for watching wrestling and telling me anyone can do that, I would have no hesitation to sit them down and make them watch a couple of episodes of Breaking Ground and then find out if their opinions have changed.
The main strength of the show is the stories that we are taken on with the main players we are introduced to, be it the transformation in the career of Jason Jordsn, the continued success of Bayley, and even the heartbreak that we felt for Cal Bishop after being released due to ongoing injuries. In years to come, this show will help the likes of Tino Sabbatelli when or if he debuts on NXT, as the viewers feel they already know him not only as a character but as a person. For Baron Corbin, Breaking Ground will be seen as the time he was elevated from a big man that few cared about to somebody who is close to the character he portrays. For a long time, Corbin was just somebody who was there on the show, that after you see his impressive size you don’t care that much afterwards. With his attitude on Breaking Ground, he comes across as someone who feels entitled and very highly of himself. Yes, those are negative traits, but Baron is a heel, and prior to Breaking Ground we weren’t really given a reason to dislike the big former NFL player. However, now we have seen who he is, it has established him as someone that the majority of people would dislike if they met him in the real world. As a result, we have an emotion regarding him and it will only help him further break out as a top heel on NXT and probably someday on the main roster.
I also particularly enjoyed was the show made me feel that everything was real and I forgot that it was a reality show. On the surface, I’m fully aware of how confusing that statement is, but if we are being honest, we know that the majority of reality shows are contrived or at least edited in a way that you can can tell it’s scripted. Breaking Ground didn’t feel like that to me. Sure, there were some silly moments such as the ghost hunting trip in Texas, and there were some moments that were probably setup such as Tyler Breeze being criticized for wearing amateur wrestling boots when he’s never been an amateur wrestler, or Corbin almost getting into a fight at a concert. On the whole, though, it felt that what we were seeing is what Triple H talked about in the quote from the start of the blog – the real passion, the real struggles that these men and women face to achieve their dreams. It didn’t insult the viewers intelligence for investing in what was happening by doing something that contradicts what we know to be the truth or something that was clearly done for dramatic effect.
My main complaint with the show is the way they dealt with Tyler Breeze. He came across as such a likable, hardworking guy, and they went out of their way to show that who he plays on the main roster is just a character. They even showed him rescuing a stray dog that would have been put to sleep if he hadn’t taken him in. As a big animal lover, I can never see myself hating or disliking this guy ever again after watching that. Yes, I’m fully aware that kayfabe is on life support, and I know that the majority of the people watching this show will be hardcore fans not casual fans and as a result should be able to separate the person and character, but I still feel they pulled back the curtain too far showing his progression from a rather bland wrestler to the Breeze character. I also feel that making his call-up to the main roster the ultimate feed good moment of the series when his patients and hard work payed off at the end of the show will make it even more difficult for the character to get over on the main roster as a heel.
Despite the one big negative on the show, this season of Breaking Ground was great to watch. It doesn’t necessarily break ground (pun intended) in the reality show genre, yet it is highly entertaining and allows wrestling fans into the lives of the people who in five to ten years time could be headlining WrestleMania. If you haven’t checked it out on the network already, I would highly recommend that you do.
As always, feel free to get in touch with your thoughts on Breaking Ground or anything wrestling related on twitter @haydngleed or via email email@example.com