By John Moore
Aleister Black vs. Curt Hawkins: The Aleister Black squashes continue and Black continues to exhibit his cool martial arts moveset. They are taking the slow approach with him in that he started off facing “local talent” in the squashes and now moving to WWE undercard talent (though he did have a competitive match against Andrade Almas, that was in an ecosystem away from the squashes). I prefer this to putting him in a pointless undercard program (a.k.a. Tye’s random friends vs. Sanity or 205 Live Alicia Fox feuds). These squashes will get old soon so NXT better get on to an actual program with him. As for Curt Hawkins, unless he’s going to be a meaningless jobber for life, I wouldn’t mind seeing him be a person who gets demoted to NXT to either see if he can rehab his career (a la Tyson Kidd) or be in NXT to enhance the talent in developmental.
Velveteen Dream vs. Robert Anthony: A minor Hit from a character presentation perspective. This is the third time he debuted as “Velveteen Dream”. First he was the “Velveteen Dream” Patrick Clark, who got squashed by kicks from Shinsuke Nakamura. Second, he won a squash after they put him away and ran more vignettes about him. Now he disappeared, had more vignettes, and came back as “Velveteen Dream” sans Patrick Clark. I like that he is trying to play the character a bit more. The haircut reminds me of Darren Young’s old character of the South Beach Party Boy when he teamed up with Percy Watson. Another minor Hit from his new act is I like his in-ring improvement and the mean streak that he showed in his match. The only problem I see here is that there is only so far being a Prince impersonator can go. There’s a short shelf life to being an impersonator in general because the joke simply doesn’t last long. It’s also a joke in general as opposed to a character someone will invest in. Clark needs to find a way to merge Prince and Patrick Clark together if he wants this to work as opposed to being Patrick Clark wearing a Prince costume.
Drew McIntyre vs. Wesley Blake: This looked like a terrible matchup on paper because Blake is meaningless at this point. This match also went a bit longer than it should have (Why was Andrade Almas the short Drew match rather than this one?). That said, I think it’s McIntyre’s style to get a good well wrestled match against everyone. I go back to his match with Grado last year in how he turned a comedy wrestler into a serious act for one night in a well wrestled match. Drew is good at wrestling wars. I also got a quick chuckle at Blake’s character being random in a comical way. With the beer can opening in his theme and the random Texan attire, it looked like he came out in the act that was meant for The Cowboy James Storm before he returned to TNA. Blake might have to settle as the Curt Hawkins of NXT or get cut. It’s sad to say, but Blake comes off like the JTG of NXT in that you forget he is still employed.
Overall Show: The Roderick Strong Youtube interview was good in that Strong is delivering in his interviews, but the show overall isn’t a great format. This was the folly that NXT suffered in the last year or so where they put a lot of stock into their house show and dark segments. The video packages could be concentrated into a pre-show to new NXT material. Perhaps instead of the Takeover replays, they can do more character vignettes and first run material.