There were only three episodes on today’s Superstars, mostly because they have to make room for all of those Raw recaps because you can’t tell me they are short on time before Smackdown to do the tapings. Next week we are supposed to go to Raw, we opted out of Smackdown because of this reason. For the same price and about the same distance, Raw has a four hour show and Smackdown has about a 2 ½ hour show. Guess what’s more worth the money? End of rant.
4. Zack Ryder vs. Michael McGillicutty
This was one of Zack Ryder’s better matches on Superstars of late. I’m not sure if it’s because of McGillicutty or he just found a good stride, but together they put on a match worth watching. Unfortunately it was shorter than it should have been. Probably for those recaps.
3. Sin Cara vs. Drew McIntyre
Last week I thought, “This is the best Sin Cara match I’ve seen to date.” The rematch this week topped that. While it might not be Drew McIntyre’s best match to date it is still pretty incredible to watch. Sometimes a match is so good it is hard to explain and, well, they manage it here.
2. Tyler Reks & Curt Hawkins vs. Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel
As my loving Chris pointed out to me I do have a biased towards a few of the men in this match. It shows when I pay closer attention to every move they make. Now, we’ve seen these guys in the ring before, and there’s nothing really new within the match, but they are all brilliant with what they have to work with and that’s a boatload of talent. No, not between them. Each.
1. Scott Stanford
As Nick pointed out to me last week, Scott Stanford being #1 on the list is as shocking as his putting Kane as #1 on his Fave Five every week, and still, things must be the way they are for a reason. It’s hard to say something I haven’t already said, but Scott once again tells the story that doesn’t have the opportunity to be told, mostly about McGillicutty versus Ryder. Mathews joins in this week and seems to actually be making jokes right alongside him, which makes for a better flow on commentary. They both concentrate on the match and the men before them.
“You know that Reks was the first Superstar to take Ryback off his feet. Know what that tells me? Ryback is human!”
“You know if you look up Aerial Assault in the dictionary you’ll see a picture of Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel.”
“In one way or another I guess this is sort of an unofficial Internet Championship match.”
NXT is finding a stride, and while it’s still not quite there it seems to be hitting closer to the right notes. Not making the list this week is ring announcer Chris Russo (more of him please?), an Antonio Cesaro vs. Alex Riley match, and the Big E Langston promo part 2 (nice!).
Because I want to rant a bit, they need to make up their minds about these tapings. The revolving door of commentators throughout the show is a little jarring. It’s like watching Superstars and switching from Striker to Stanford. Just cut out Josh Mathews.
4. Ascension vs. Garrett Dylan & Dante Dash
Hello Ascension entrance, hello girls drooling, hello men embracing the darkness, hello match that didn’t get enough time. Once again, I love Ascension. The atmosphere when they walk in is electrifying and spine tingling and all of the things it should be. I’m not even there and I am on the edge of my seat when they step out into the ring. So why do they continue to insist on giving them short matches? Hi Garrett! I like Dylan and Dash, they are good workers who might have a ways to go yet but still deserve for the audience to get to know them. This by no means is a squash match and Cameron and O’Brian, your Ascension duo, do a lot of in-ring psychology along with their moves that work perfectly for them. I won’t take that away, which is why I want more.
3. Bo Dallas & Derrick Bateman vs. Johnny Curtis & Michael McGillicutty
At this point my match listing is a bit arbitrary. I liked all four of the matches, and almost equally for 1-3. So why the order that they were in? Derrick lost! How dare Derrick get pinned? Saxton coins McGillicutty and Curtis together as “Aggressively Weird” and it works, almost as well as McGillicutty and Curtis do. Dallas managed not to annoy the Hell out of me during this match, but again, the absence of the spear might have a lot to do with that. Dallas also didn’t need to sell bumps to an extreme level and instead seemed to key back some of it, which was enough. It’s what was needed. Bateman still seems to have a confused look on his face every time he is on NXT, this time when looking at the titantron that was playing Dallas’s entrance. All around, all four men had a chance to show what they are made up, just more so to the Aggressively Weird team.
2. Natalya vs. Sofia Cortez
Yes! More of this for the divas. It was no super long, and ended with Natalya disqualifying herself by refusing to go back into the ring, but it told a story and was a fast-paced match that showed off the skills of the two women. I’m still not sure about Natalya’s, “I hate you,” taunts to her opponents, I’m hoping to get a story of this at some point to understand where her anger is coming from, but it works into her matches and her aggression. Sofia, for such a short woman, has a strong resolve and understanding of her strengths and weaknesses and caters to her strengths. I’m anxious to see where they take this story.
1. Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre
Earlier in the evening Matt Striker interviews Drew McIntyre and Drew says he’s tired of hearing everyone talking and he’s not going to do the same and just talk. He’ll show what he can do in the ring. As the main event in the evening he gets to show it off against Seth Rollins. It’s a great match, but as I said last week, McIntyre can’t be in a bad match when he isn’t being squashed for no reason.
The match that started the show is the one that I’m leaving off this week. Santino vs. Jinder Mahal. Not actually a bad match, but the other three on the card were definitely better matches.
4. The Usos vs. Johnny Curtis & Derrick Bateman
For everyone who asked me, and there were a few of you, I do not know why they were teamed back together when one is supposedly heel and the other supposedly face other than the fact that Johnny Curtis and Derrick Bateman make an incredible tag team. They both know they are out there to give the Usos another win and they have fun with it. And Bateman gets one fun dropkick in. He always makes them look like he’s having fun, even in a losing situation.
3. Cody Rhodes vs. Alex Riley
Before you whine that Rhodes is on Superstars watch the quality of the match, watch the length, and remember he would not get that sort of match time or length on a stacked episode of Smackdown. Rhodes and Riley play well off of each other and Riley manages to look strong against Rhodes, but Rhodes is too quick for him and takes him down.
2. Sin Cara vs. Drew McIntyre
Sin Cara is still laughed at and ridiculed for his botches, and there is a debate over the PPVs “who botched that move” between he and Ziggler (it was really both, but poor communication on someone who can hardly speak English would seem to be the main factor in the end) but there is no denying that he has improved. He is pitted against the underused Drew McIntyre who keeps getting bigger throughout the chest but still moves like a smaller man. He doesn’t seem to notice he has grown larger while other wrestlers seem to have to adjust. I’d like to say the quality of this match, you know, excellent, surprised me but it didn’t. I can’t remember a time Drew McIntyre put on a bad match when it wasn’t him randomly being squashed. If you watch one match, watch this one. But watch it all or else you’ll miss Scott Stanford’s commentary! Speaking of…
1. Scott Stanford
I don’t know what to say that I haven’t said before about the man with the voice that satisfies the ears like chocolate satisfies a female’s pallet. He cares about each match and tells you a story of every Superstar. It is hard not to appreciate what he individually does for the superstars every week when no one else can.
After a first few slow episodes NXT has picked back up and has fully embraced being the new FCW. No, that wasn’t a typo. It’s not NXT: Redemption (which is the NXT I prefer to remember) but it basically has the same idea that FCW had, just with bigger production. And Chris Russo as the ring announcer, which is a good thing. This week the match that didn’t make it on the Top 4 is Raquel Diaz vs. Paige. Not a bad debut for Diaz, really, but not a great showing between both wrestlers.
4. Tamina vs. Kaitlyn
Tamina and Kaitlyn put on a good match, decent length. Regal gets in a few good remarks about his crush on Kaitlyn, which is the highlight of any Kaitlyn match because it’s really adorable listening to him fawn over her and knowing she’s completely oblivious to it. Tamina’s solid but she takes a while to set up the Superfly Splash, which is the weakest part of her move set. These two women know how to keep a match moving.
3. Jinder Mahal vs. Percy Watson
I can hear the TWC (Twitter Wrestling Community) collectively booing me for putting Mahal on the list, but a solid match is a solid match. While talking to a friend about NXT he asked why I was bothering watching a Mahal match and I said I don’t actually know what happens if I fast forward through the matches. I’m glad I didn’t. Mahal has leaned down a bit and the veins are no longer popping out of his shoulders, which made it hard for me to look at him. The leaner arms has led to a quicker speed which works off of Watson’s frenetic movements. Mahal has come a long way since his days fighting Khali when he first was brought on television on Smackdown, but if you continue to fast forward through matches you’ll never see it.
2. Heath Slater vs. Justin Gabriel
This is usually where I complain. “Can we stop seeing this match up? We’ve been there, done that. What can they do that is new?” Well, here, they manage. Sure, you don’t get anything particularly new and shiny, they still have a limited move set, but watching this match you don’t feel like you’ve watched it before. And before. AND before. Slater’s talented, Gabriel’s made leaps and bounds in his own wrestling, and together they show it off against one another.
1. Richie Steamboat vs. Leo Kruger
Kruger plays up being a heel quite nicely while Steamboat places the part of a smiling face. Steamboat is an incredible second man in a wrestling match and Kruger puts on a show that makes me laugh. The prancing, the dancing, the general boasting of his abilities and then the win by all means necessary. He’s sly and quick as he cheats and does it flawlessly and in a way that if you didn’t see it with the camera you might not suspect, which is the point. He comes off as genuine, but hateful, but in boasting of his abilities why would he need to cheat, but he does. Tonight the “FCW” men took it away.
The last aired episode of FCW gives us a goodbye match that is intense and still could leave the rivalry open, or it could have ended a career. Dusty Rhodes and Jim Ross commentate this match and together it’s sort of a mess. I respect both of these men for what they have done for the company over their years and their dedication, but considering the matches that we faced tonight I would have loved an epic commentary team. No, for those who immediately think I’m going to say Scott, I will tell you no. This is FCW, leave Jim Ross or leave Dusty Rhodes, but together they could not pull full duty. Would have been nice to hear Chris Russo or Byron Saxton, a legend with someone who gets passed the torch on commentary, someone who had been there. Alas, it was not to be, but that’s the end of the rant on FCW and onto the Top 4…ish.
4. Audrey Marie vs. Paige
As no disqualification matches go there were many different combos that would have worked. Paige is brutal and lovely to watch in the ring and she would be queen of this type of match. Audrey Marie is not made for brutality, she’s pretty to look at with wrestling skills that have yet to match any of her opponents. Still, for Paige alone, this is worth watching, because Paige is a diva with power. Or anti-diva.
3. Mike Dalton & CJ Parker vs. Corey Graves & Jake Carter
Can I just say wow? All four men show off their skills with Dalton and Parker working as a team on quite a few moves that were almost perfectly synchronized. The commentary team gives us a little info on Jake Carter (for those who do not know, he is Vader’s son) and his football playing years and how much he has slimmed down from that time. Carter and Graves, current tag champs in the episode, show why they have the skills to retain at the end of the match. A lot of excellent back and forth with hardly a dead spot the entire time. And, of course, Dalton is wearing those pants that are just perfect. Perfect.
2. + 1. William Regal vs. Dean Ambrose
And I thought the last match was great. This proved that things could get better. As the match that closes out the show this lived up to what it needed to be. Regal works on Ambrose’s arm and shoulder, Ambrose works on Regal’s ear, and the two are just all out brutal with one another. There is no winner of this match, and there did not need to be. The tension built and continued and it took an entire roster to keep Ambrose from continuing to attack Regal when he was down. There are not words that properly explain why this is an excellent match. This is one you have to see.
This was a much better episode of NXT than the previous ones. Perhaps not because of who was on the episode but because this was a better flow before storyline and matches. Instead of cramming six debut matches down our throat we have three matches, two which were given a considerable amount of time. If there was anything in this episode I would complain about it would be the commentating. Regal seemed more disinterested than usual and JR seems to get lost easily. Saxton was the one trying to keep up. Otherwise, this show was great, but there can only be 4.
4. Aiden English vs. Bray Wyatt
I usually try to give the nod to matches before storylines, but today one of the matches ends up at 4. This was the debut for Bray Wyatt. What are they going to do with these “debuts” when the men forced to lose to them have their chance? “Debut” them again? A couple of mentions of Wyatt’s lineage, which makes no sense to me if they are trying to establish him as a separate character. However, despite that, Wyatt is fun to watch in the ring and while you knew English was going to lose they managed to tell a story of Wyatt’s insanity. It was the better of the “debuts” so far for NXT.
There are two interviews in this match. One Matt Striker conducts with Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater. Gabriel does a good job of sounding like a good guy who is ready for a match while Slater does his best at being comically odd, “What kind of statement are you going to make? That you got hair like a peacock?” The second interview is Briley Pierce interviewing Richie Steamboat with Leo Kruger interrupting. Ah, Leo Kruger, the King of Africa. Both did a good job at establishing storylines, even if some have been repeats, it’s better than just random matches thrown together, and that’s why the interviews made the list. Animosity and reasons for them are excellent tools to use.
2. The Usos vs. The Prime Time Players
The first thing I said when this match started was, “I am not looking forward to this.” Both teams are better paired with opponents that can help carry the match. Usually when you have a setup like this you are setting it up to fail. Who’d have thought that it wouldn’t? Darren at one point had to run to Titus’s arms and get a hug after a move from an Uso, which was hilarious, and after that the match stayed steady. Yes, more of this from these men.
1. Tyson Kidd vs. Camacho
This. Incredible. Camacho’s sure decided to step up his game in the ring, though it’s hard to have a bad match against Tyson Kidd. Hunico does a good job of being there and slowly making Kidd paranoid he’s going to interfere, which seems to be the reason Hunico is thrown out. Hunico puts up a fit but Camacho holds him back, telling him he’s got it, he can do this. He can, but there is interference, and it’s not from Hunico. Great, long match, that tells a story in the ring and with those who interfere.
Yeah, just hopping right into this one!
4. Primo vs. Titus O’Neil
That hurt to type. My fingers begged me not to type. The voices screamed, “But Kofi is better than O’Neil, go with Kofi!” And I could not. Because for some asinine reason instead of using one of the man men they have that does not get used, ever, they put Kofi Kingston up against Rob Cabildo. Who? You got me! That means, on principle, I had to go with Primo and Titus, despite the fact that without the guidance of the NXT writers and, you know, any coaching at all really, Titus is back to being completely awful! And then AW, don’t get me started on his having a microphone so I get to listen him telling Titus about getting wood on him when I would rather be listening to Mathews (yeah, I said it). Number 4 this week is almost arbitrary. Kofi and Rob put on a better match, but how dare they use someone else when others are fighting for a spot on television? ARGH! At least there was Primo. At least.
3. Zack Ryder vs. Jack Swagger
We’ve seen this match up recently, and frankly the other match was better. This wasn’t bad, it was a solid match, but considering I’m comparing it to the last one it falls short. Ryder’s still at his plateau, Swagger is aching to do more, and it makes a good match. Apparently Ryder’s charisma beat out Swagger’s mat technique, though (Striker…) as Ryder won the match with a Rough Ryder.
2. Antonio Cesaro vs. Alex Riley
Yup, this was the better match of all four. Riley wants it. Riley’s come around. Stop putting him in dark matches and give the crowd what they keep screaming for, and oh do they keep screaming when Riley comes out. Cesaro, while I don’t think he can cut a promo, was just about wrestling in this episode and that was perfect. Cesaro and Riley were a great match up and it’s something I haven’t seen before, so good for them!
1. Scott Stanford
Come on, do I have to keep telling you why every week? Besides the fact that he’s not Mathews or Striker, and Striker when he’s not trying is almost as incoherent as JR was on this week’s episode of NXT. So, instead of telling you, again, how incredible the man is, how he calls the match and tells the stories, and that he pays attention to what is going on, enthusiastic, and…
Oh, here are his top lines of the week:
“Oh that Bob Barker, always one of my favorites.”
“Now back here on #Superstars, the action already fast and furious.”
“This guy only knows one speed. Full speed ahead for Alex Riley.”
“And you get the extra bonus of Aksana bouncing around.”
“Both guys just itching for a win.”
“That’s his Lil’ Jimmy, you can’t take that away from him.”
“Swagger lands on the kiester.”
There was very little in character development this week, however the matches raised in quality. The top 4 matches were amazing and sadly it meant someone had to be left off, which meant Mike Dalton and Kassius Ohno didn’t make the list. Dalton is an incredible wrestler, but he once again was only used to make someone else look good this week. If I could add him to the list…
5. Mike Dalton’s Pants
4. Corey Graves and Jake Carter vs. CJ Parker and Nick Rogers
I haven’t seen Rogers in awhile, but it’s good to see him again. He and Parker get a better showing than the clear losers did from the previous two weeks, which I think helped make Graves and Carter look even better in this match. Graves and Carter play the part of men who will steal your girlfriend, and while their looks differ, there are women out there who will at least lust for one of them, and it works. In the ring these men will dominate and prove their techniques in this match. They use a tag team finish we’ve all seen before but they do it well enough that you can’t complain.
3. Seth Rollins vs. Camacho
Despite the fact that the commentators made this sound like a Hunico match when he accompanied Camacho to the ring, this was all Camacho’s. This was one of the better Rollins or Camacho matches I had seen so far. Rollins wins only for Hunico to rush in and start beating him up and then Bo Dallas runs in and scares Hunico and Camacho off. (Really?)
2. Derrick Bateman vs. Jinder Mahal
Despite a lot of hate for Mahal, he and Bateman put on a great show in the short amount of time they have to do so. Bateman takes Mahal down at one point that if it had been a little to Mahal’s left he might have been a bit injured. Instead it looked like Bateman pulled something. Pulled it enough he lost this match up, which made me whine for five minutes, but it doesn’t take away from the entertainment that he gives while in the ring. Why Mahal had to go after him again with a Camel Clutch when the bell had already rung, though, grrr….
1. Tyson Kidd, Seth Rollins, and Bo Dallas vs. Michael McGillicutty, Hunico, and Camacho
I thought Derrick had this one in the bag for being #1 and then this match happened. Kidd and Hunico do something in the ring I can’t remember ever seeing before and it’s worth watching just for that pair off alone, but everyone gets a chance to show off their skills and Dallas doesn’t do a spear which earns him extra points. The star of this match, despite the Kidd/Hunico thing, is McGillicutty. He proves he’s not just all about the “ground and pound” and dominates to pin Kidd. More matches like this on NXT, less squash, get some character development, and the show could take off.
The episode was actually filled with matches and promos, unfortunately not all of them were up to snuff in quality. Someone, and I won’t mention names, gave a promo and looked as confused by what he was saying as I felt hearing it. However, there were also some great points in this episode, like Summer Rae and Paige and a bit of Richie Steamboat. Oh, and the Top 4.
4. Adam Mercer vs. Eric Rowan
This one sort of slides into 4th place but could almost have been easily replaceable. I was looking forward to watching Mercer because after a few hype videos, then a disappearance, and now finally a match I was looking forward to seeing him wrestle. However, Eric Rowan is also on a roll and it lead to a slightly underwhelming match. But I look forward to getting to know these men more.
3. Brad Maddox vs. Conor O’Brian
This is another match-up that is more about a certain aspect than the wrestling, and while I love storytelling there were two matches too good to let even the Ascension get ahead of. Brad Maddox comes out to the ring to be overshadowed by the powerful Conor O’Brian who is accompanied to the ring with Kenneth Cameron. The entrance alone could have given them a spot on this episode but then they continued to be incredible. Maddox for his part does a great job of fearing the dark demons while Cameron sneaks up behind him without even needing to try and O’Brian does his job of being large and menacing. Oh, more please.
2. Big E Langston vs. Jason Jordan
It’s no secret I like both of these men so it should be no secret that as they were grappling I was holding my breath a lot. This was a hard to predict match because both men have been getting a push from the company. Jordan and Langston have grappling down and it’s always a pleasure to be able to see Langston show off his moves. This match had the perfect length, a great ending, great antics. So why didn’t it make number one?
1. Jiro vs. Rick Victor
I know, Jiro’s no longer with the company. I know, this match was shorter. But these are the types of matches I look forward to more than any other match. While Langston and Jordan put on an incredible grapple, Victor and Jiro refused to slow down. It’s a shame Jiro is gone because this was the match that proved the sort of wrestler he could be but instead the spot goes to Victor, who kept up, surpassed, and makes everyone realize that there is more to him than the little we’ve seen on NXT.