By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
NXT Level-Up Quick Thoughts
Edris Enofe and Malik Blade vs. Bronco Nima and Lucien Price: A pretty good match and given more time than expected because I just expected this to be a showcase for the NXT main show duo of Enofe and Blade. Edris Enofe has future singles star potential and he has a really cool pre-match cape. Malik Blade though. Wrestling in a red sweater vest? He has a good look, so I don’t see why he has to cover that up. He’s running around out there like he belongs at Chase U or something. Their finisher is also called “The Climax”. Somewhere out there Matt Taven is shedding a tear (and saying the word “Melvin” for no reason). According to the commentators, I figure Nima and Price are more of the “developmental” athlete types given their NCAA football background. Both impressed me more than I expected if these two guys have no real indie experience. Bronco Nima in particular showed a good amount of charisma and was good in putting his moves together. He definitely stood out more compared to his tag partner (who wasn’t bad, but might want to practice emoting in terms of his face). Bronco also gets bonus points for getting rid of Blade’s sweater vest.
Nathan Frazer Interview: I do like that Level Up has a designated interview segment to flush out character development as well as making the matches on this show be more than just basic filler. One downside I’ve seen the last two weeks of interviews is they’ve gone too long with a lot of campy material. Last week we had Axiom spew out 4th grade math formulas. This week we got Nathan Frazer acting clownshoes with a basketball. Frazer does seem more comfortable in front of a mic and camera than Axiom though. WWE should probably market him as a “wholesome boy next door” type that appeals to the female demographic. While the material is cheesy, I’m happy to see former ROH host Kelly Kincaid (Quinn McKay) get TV time. She is charismatic herself and seems to really understand what it takes to be on camera. McKenzie Mitchell is great, so I wouldn’t want to see McKenzie off TV, but maybe they can alternate between McKay and McKenzie on the main show (Like when they alternated time between McKenzie and Sarah Schreiber)?
Amari Miller vs. Kiana James: Both Miller and James are in line for bigger pushes once some callups happen on the main NXT show. Amari Miller has a very infectious energy to her and offers a different take on the plucky underdog babyface (a character trope that is a dime a dozen). My guess is someone told her that she has a bubby personality which is why she pops actual bubbles during her entrance now? Maybe they’re just repurposing Tenille Dashwood’s old bubble machine (and bubble entrance gimmick). Kiana James is someone I’m really high on. She is fairly smooth in the ring and does good heel work. I really liked her finisher which was a Tornado Paydirt. She’s the former Kayla Inlay and was trained by Tyler Breeze. I feel like people are sleeping on her talent because of her vocational stats secretary gimmick. By the way? What’s up with all of these “nerdy” gimmicks in NXT. They have a whole Chase U of students and teachers, Sarray running around as a high schooler, a mathematical superhero in Axiom, and a statistical villain in Kiana James. Bron Breakker should form a faction with him, James, and Axiom and call themselves “The Numbers Don’t Lie” (Heck, throw in WWE producer Little Petey Pump in there as well).
Ikemen Jiro vs. Nathan Frazer: Ikemen Jiro’s entrance theme is a guilty pleasure of mine. I never understood his whole jacket thing, but the guy is extremely charismatic and should be in line for a primary comedy gimmick if he gets called up, very akin to Toru Yano, Grado, or Colt Cabana. Maybe NXT bought too many white jackets for Kona Reeves, and now that Reeves isn’t here, they’re just allowing Jiro to color them up a bit. This match was really fun and they allowed two in-ring veterans to do their thing. Good fast paced action. We know Frazer’s good, but it was cool to see Jiro flip the switch to being competitive in the ring. What I like about Frazer’s recent presentation, is that they aren’t laying it on thick by constantly mentioning his trainer, Seth Rollins, every few minutes (in fact they’ve stopped that altogether). It’s a good thing and they’re allowing him to be his own man. What they’re focusing on now is how he was a highly sought after professional soccer prospect who passed on professional offers to reach his goal of joining WWE.
Overall Show: This show is a fun and harmless 25 or so minutes of pro wrestling (The video is timed at 31 minutes, but that’s including WWE ads). I wouldn’t mind seeing them add one more promo or interview segment on the show to allow some of their developmental talent to practice their talking in front of a live cam, while also not exposing their weaknesses in front of the wider USA Network audience. The world doesn’t need to be subjugated to Axiom cutting promos about elementary school math problems (Sorry to pick on Axiom. The guy is amazing in the ring as A-Kid, but cutting promos about math and comics is dull). In the few week’s I’ve been watching, the in ring hasn’t been that bad. Some of the wrestling here is better than some of the clunky wrestlers on NXT 2.0. By the way, I don’t even think WWE needs to keep Quinn McKay here, put her on the main show! Two of WWE’s best interviewers/tv-hosts are on the NXT shows in McKenzie Mitchell and Quinn McKay (I’d also rank Kayla Braxton up there with them). Quinn in particular has Renee Paquette-like potential to become the best in the business as she really understands character and how a character is supposed to react.