Wednesday, August 28, 2013

NXT: Season One - Where Are They Now?

I thought I would start a new series here on Two Spot Monkeys and take a look back at the rookies we were introduced to through NXT in the first four seasons of the show.  Since it started in February of 2010, NXT alum have gone on to win 18 titles in WWE, and for some of the competitors, more titles certainly seem to be in their future.  Yet, for others, NXT was as high as they’d ever reach (at least as of this writing) in the world of pro wrestling.  So, without any further adieu, let’s take a look back at Season One of NXT and where those competitors are now!  

Michael Tarver - Tarver was mentored by Carlito on Season 1 of NXT.  He was the first competitor to be eliminated during the season as well, as he refused to participate in the rookie challenges as he wasn’t there to perform “menial tasks”.  He of course debuted along with the rest of the NXT Season 1 rookies in the Nexus, but was never a featured member of that group really.  He sustained a groin injury and was written out of the group.  In 2011 he started appearing randomly in backstage segments on Raw and Smackdown, just sort of lurking in the shadows, but nothing ever came of it.  Finally in June of 2011, he was released from WWE.  He currently works for Florida Underground Wrestling, where as of now, he is currently the champion.  

Daniel Bryan - Bryan was of course famously mentored by The Miz.  Bryan never won a match on NXT, however he did get the pin in an 8 on 4 handicap match on Raw, with the other NXT rookies, pinning Santino Marella.  Even though Bryan had his struggles on NXT, there is no question at this point, he is the biggest star to come off not only season one of NXT, but any season the show ever had.  Bryan is a former US Champion, Tag Champion, World Heavyweight Champion, and WWE Champion and is currently the protagonist in the biggest storyline going in WWE today as he battles Randy Orton and the McMahon family.  

Skip Sheffield - Sheffield was mentored by William Regal in Season One and showed off his immense power.  He was billed as something of a hick, with a cowboy hat and all.  He was the first wrestler to be eliminated by the poll results.  He of course returned with the Nexus in July, but unfortunately in August of that year, broke his ankle badly and was out until April of 2012 when he returned as Ryback.  He has since become a member of the mid to upper mid card, including a feud with John Cena over the WWE where many people felt (myself included) that they could really “make” Ryback by putting him over for the title.  Alas, they didn’t do that and it appears now he’s trying to be WWE’s version of Bully Ray.  Something tells me that won’t work out as well for him as it has for Ray.

Darren Young - Young was mentored by CM Punk, though they never quite seemed to get on the same page.  Young has of course gone on to become one of the Prime Time Players with Season 2 alum, Titus O’Neil.  They seemed poised for a tag title run a while back, but the trigger never got pulled.  With his recent coming out as a gay man, and the babyface push that seems to have garnered for he and O’Neil, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them eventually dethrone the Shield, though I don’t see that happening anytime soon given the Shield’s involvement in the top angle right now.

Heath Slater - Slater was mentored by Christian in season one.  Though he’s basically part of a comedy act now in 3MB, Slater has won the WWE Tag Team Titles on 3 occasions with fellow Season 1 alum, Justin Gabriel.  Slater was someone I thought would do really well, and I thought had a little Chris Jericho in him, but it seems he is destined for the lower midcard comedy role at this point, as I’m not sure how you’d make 3MB anything more than a joke now.  I see Slater as wasted opportunity.  

Justin Gabriel - The high flying Gabriel was mentored by Matt Hardy in Season 1.  Gabriel made it all the way to the finals, but finished in 3rd place.  Gabriel has carved out a nice niche for himself as a midcard babyface who gets some good reactions due to his high flying and his picture perfect 450 splash.  As I mentioned before, he’s won the WWE Tag Team Titles 3 times with Heath Slater, and seemed poised for a possible run at them again with Tyson Kidd, before Kidd blew out his knee in January of this year.  Gabriel seems in position that if they ever wanted to move him into the IC or US Title picture they could, but they don’t seem like they want to do that either.

David Otunga - Otunga finished 2nd in Season 1 of NXT, being mentored by R-Truth.  He’s gone on to a better career than I’d have imagined he would as I find him very limited in the ring.  He’s a two time former WWE Tag Team Champion, holding it once with John Cena (for one day) and again with Michael McGuillicutty (now Curtis Axel).  He has been featured many times in an advisor role for people, playing off of his law degree that he legitimately holds.  I know they like keeping him around because he’s connected with Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, but seriously, I have no idea why they keep paying him.  It’s time to cut their losses with Otunga in my eyes.

Wade Barrett - The winner of Season 1 of NXT, Barrett was mentored by Chris Jericho.  Barrett has gone on to be a main player for most of his time in WWE, including three reigns as the Intercontinental Champion, and main eventing PPV’s against John Cena for the WWE Title.  He was even rumored to be in line for a Money in the Bank win about a year ago, but sadly injured himself in a match and had to miss significant time, which has cut into his push somewhat.  Barrett is in the mid to upper mid card right now, and could easily get a push up to the Main Event level anytime they wish.  Personally, I hope it’s soon, he deserves it.  

So, there you have it.  A look back at Season One of NXT.  Only one of the eight men from that season no longer works for WWE, so, perhaps in that case, it was a successful season.  It certainly brought Daniel Bryan to the main roster, as well as Wade Barrett and a group of solid midcard acts.  I’ll be back from time to time taking a look at the other seasons of NXT as well to see where those competitors are now.  Join us again as we look at “Where are they now?”

Friday, August 23, 2013

SummerSlam REACT!

SummerSlam is in the books, and Tom and Jim are here to take a look back at the 2nd biggest PPV of the year for WWE!  Before we get to that though, a quick update on the Head 2 Head standings for this year.  Tom and Jim both went 6-3 this time around, so, that brings the totals for the year to Jim leading with a 38-13 record and Tom coming in at 32-19!  Still a 6 match lead for Jim as we head towards Night of Champions in September! 

With that said, lots happened at SummerSlam, so let’s take a look at how it all shook out! 

JIM’S REACT:  I thought SummerSlam was a thumbs up show for sure!  Great stuff from top to bottom, and if you ordered the show and saw it, I would be surprised if you didn’t enjoy the show as a whole.  That doesn’t mean there might not be things you didn’t like about it, but still, as a whole, a thumbs up for me. 

The opener on the Kickoff show was well done, and I suspected (as I mentioned in the podcast) that RVD could get a DQ win, and sure enough he did.  Only wish I’d have made that my official pick so I could have extended the lead on Tom even more!  Makes sense to do the DQ since they were apparently going to be setting up RVD in the World Title picture on Monday.  Good work, and Ambrose continues to show that he will be a major player for WWE for years to come.  Little surprised that the interaction between Show/RVD/Henry and The Shield didn’t lead to a 6 man either right then, or later on during the PPV however. 

I thought the Ring of Fire match between Bray Wyatt and Kane was good for what it was meant to do.  These matches tend to be limited in their in ring possibilities, and sure enough, that was the case here.  But, Wyatt came off super creepy, and the combination of Rowan and Harper proved that they’ll do whatever it takes to protect Wyatt and help further his cause.  Right after the pin there was a GREAT shot of Wyatt with the lighting and fire going and his eyes rolled back that they should be sure to add to any videos for him…gave off a creepy vibe and that’s what they want.  I liked the way they wrote Kane out of the storylines now for a while too since he’s off to film “See No Evil 2”.  Taking out a monster like Kane is a great first step for the Wyatt Family!
Rhodes vs. Sandow was really good and if these two guys aren’t feuding over the World Heavyweight Title in the next 12-16 months, something has gone seriously wrong.  Tom and I both have been big supporters of Cody Rhodes for a long time, and it’s nice to see him FINALLY getting the push he deserves.  Sandow has been awesome in his role as well, and is the perfect man to be holding the briefcase, yet still losing matches.  Normally I hate that booking strategy, and they have to be careful with it, as you want to keep Sandow strong…but because of his character, it works out ok.  Rhodes winning totally cleanly was something that surprised me a bit (I expected the win, but thought it would be more of a roll up kind of thing), but I liked this match a lot, and it elevates Rhodes even more in my eyes!

Del Rio vs. Christian was a great back and forth match, and both play their roles so well.  A bit surprised to not see Ricardo Rodriguez make his return here, but as we saw on Monday, he’s apparently playing Fonzie 2.0 for Rob Van Dam now.  I don’t have a ton to say on this match, except that I hope this isn’t the start of Christian fading into the background again or anything, as I have really enjoyed his latest run and always thought he should be a bigger part of things.  He has more than earned that spot.  While it’s a step down from the World Title picture, how about Christian vs. Ambrose in a feud…that would be good stuff!

Shocked that Natalya got a basically clean win over Brie Bella with the sharp shooter.  Didn’t see that one coming at all.  The match was what it was, but, yeah, shocker there! 

CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar was exactly what I thought it would be, a war.  They beat the hell out of each other and I thought the match told a great story.  Paul Heyman adds so much to these big time matches and he did again here too playing his role perfectly!  My guess is we’ll see this matchup again somewhere down the line (and Punk will get his win back at that point), and while it doesn’t appear it will be anytime soon, I personally can’t wait for it when it does happen.  Would be a great rematch to go inside Hell in a Cell in October if they wanted to do it, but I’m not sure that we’ll get that. 

Ziggler and Kaitlyn winning came as no shock, and really the match was fine for what it was and for where it was on the card.  Ziggler continues to be an absolute stand out and stud in the ring.  The guy reminds me so much of Shawn Michaels and his ascension towards the top of the card that it isn’t funny.  I only hope that when they finally pull the trigger and give Ziggler a good run as champion (and seriously, that has to be coming right?) that he shines the way that it’s clear he can.  He can be a guy you build the company around for a long time, and I hope WWE sees him that way.  Langston is also someone who will be around a long time and does great in his bruiser role.  Good placement of this match to give the fans a bit of a breather between the Punk/Lesnar war and what was to come in the main event. 

John Cena deserves a TON of respect and he’s got it from me.  He didn’t have to do the match, but he did, and he didn’t have to work his ass off, but he did.  He and Bryan had a hell of a match, and I LOVED the new finisher for Daniel Bryan. Not sure what they’ll call it, but it’s Shinsuke Nakamura’s Bome Ye from over in New Japan.  Bryan pinning Cena clean with that knee was just awesome.  Everyone figured it wasn’t the end because it wasn’t the Yes Lock, so it gave a great “shocking” finish to their match, and I like that.  Too many matches always have to end the same way, and this one didn’t…great stuff!  Seriously, if you haven’t seen this match, go out of your way and do it.  It was that good. 

With Triple H hanging around in the ring as long as he did, I saw the turn coming from a mile away.  I was fine with it for what it does, as it keeps Bryan in that under dog role which he plays so well, and eventually he’ll get the belt back from Orton.  However, I hated that one pedigree that was followed up by Orton slowly turning in the briefcase, etc. was enough.  I’d have rather seen Bryan kick out at 2 and 7/8, then have Orton hit an RKO and get the pin.  Maybe even give Bryan a moment or two of fighting back, or hell, let Triple H hit another Pedigree as well.  Just didn’t like that one part, but, in the end, I’m fine with Orton getting the title and Bryan chasing it.  I fully expect this will be one of the Hell in a Cell matches in October, and I can’t wait to see that! 

So, all in all, Summerslam is a total thumbs up as I said!  Go order the replay if you haven’t seen it! 

TOM’S REACT: I really enjoyed SummerSlam as a whole as well.  Of course, the main event and Punk-Lesnar were the show stealers for me (as expected) and I was thoroughly invested and engaged in each match.  Just behind that I’d rate Del Rio-Christian.  If you’ve heard me on the podcast speak about Jay Lethal, I view Christian in the same way.  On paper he doesn’t get me very excited, but in the context of  match I get drawn in and buy in to supporting him big time.  Let me get away from specific match praise here and go bout by bout.
I did not see the pre-show, but I am certainly glad that Jim did not go with his gut instinct and select RVD via DQ.  Even if this was a one-off match, I would like to see more interaction between Van Dam and The Shield.

The Ring of Fire Match was fine.  I think Bray Wyatt takes chokeslams better than virtually anyone of his size I can recall.  That was darn impressive.  The ending was creative and the decimation of Kane to put him out all made great sense in the context of the Wyatt Family.  Now I wonder who is next?

Rhodes-Sandow was really solid.  It was a hair below the World Title Match and given 5 more minutes, it might have passed it.  I love that Cody is getting his due, just as Jim stated.  I also love Sandow.  If there is someone who can afford to lose and not lose the ability to remain over, it is Sandow.  I anticipate much more from these two in the coming months.

I already mentioned some thoughts on this match in my intro, but it was really solid.  Outside of the fact that I wanted Christian to win (and gain ground in the contest with Jim), I was really pleased with the match.  As Jim alluded to, there has to be something more in future for Christian and even though it was billed as a “One More Match” deal, he can be very important in the WWE landscape – especially with Sheamus & now John Cena on the shelf.

The Divas match did have the surprising ending with Nattie getting the win.  Not much more to say, but if you want crossover and people to have EVEN more eyes on Total Divas, then why not have Brie Bella get the win?

Punk-Lesnar was just incredible.  The sheer physicality on display is a credit to both, but MAN does CM Punk just continue to take a beating.  Brock was truly The Beast, tossing Punk around here and there.  Even with the bout becoming No DQ, I could have gone without the Paul Heyman involvement…even though it makes great sense in the storyline.  There was a point in the match where I really thought Punk might pull it out, so kudos to WWE and the booking there.  I do look forward to what is next with this feud, perhaps at Hell in a Cell or maybe Survivor Series.

Maybe my perception is WAY off, but I feel like Dolph Ziggler has cooled considerably in how WWE is pushing him.  Sure, he remains over…but I feel like there is almost a cap or ceiling over him.  He cashed in and won the World Title, but instead of remaining in the chase of Del Rio he has been in the feud with Big E. & AJ.  Not that there is anything wrong with this feud, but I just see it as being a step backwards.  Perhaps it ends soon and we see Dolph back in the upper-card mix by Night of Champions.

I was unaware of John Cena’s elbow issues before the match on Sunday.  He is and has also been the consummate professional.  That can never be disputed, even if people (cough*JIM*cough) hate him for being “Super Cena.”  Kidding aside, this was just a great match.  The way that Daniel Bryan has grown & gotten over this year.  He remained relevant through all of his time with Kane and Team Hell No, dare I say getting Kane more over and they also supported the process of The Shield getting over.  Then moving on from that, his re-emergence into this amazing singles role.  He is someone that I imagine the bulk of the WWE Universe can relate to and his win of the WWE Title was so validating.  And then, with the Apex Predator in Randy Orton and the slimy Triple H doing the deed to rob him, to me it only makes the story better and deeper and with an EVEN better pay-off to come!

I agree, if you’ve not seen this show then buy the replay or pre-order the DVD!

Thanks for reading.  Jim and I will likely be back with more content here on the blog within the next week and our next podcast will come after the Labor Day holiday.  We hope you continue to enjoy the remaining Summer that is left to be enjoyed!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Head 2 Head: SummerSlam 2013!

Check out our latest podcast as Jim & Tom go Head 2 Head about Summerslam this weekend on PPV!  You can find it on iTunes, or click on the player located to the right here on the blog.  Also, it is available through TalkShoe, by checking out our page there by clicking HERE!  Let us know what you think of our picks! 

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