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NXTBT: The Birth of an Architect


Welcome to this week's TBT, and once again we continue our look into the early days of NXT!


The Birth of an Architect

Much like the previous week’s NXT kicked off, this week also started with the debut of a long-haired wrestler.


Seth Rollins’ first match went the way most debuts did—a quick minute or two to showcase his stuff, before hitting his finisher for the quick victory. This week’s victim was a Japanese wrestler named Jiro, who feels like someone familiar but actually isn’t. Rollins’ finisher was still called the Blackout instead of the Curb Stomp, which is actually a much cooler name for it. It’s a shame we don’t see that anymore, though his new finisher does look promising.

What I loved watching was Rollins' promo right after the match. Ladies and gentlemen, take a look at this:
I came here to NXT to do what I do best: rip the roots out of the ground, the clouds out of the sky, turn the place upside down and change the world one heart at a time!
What is this, random lyrics from a hardcore song? It’s just so, so far from how the Seth Rollins of today speaks with more confidence that it feels weird seeing him like this. Of course, it makes you appreciate just how much he’s grown, and out of this crop of guys from early NXT, Rollins has a solid claim to being the most successful so far.

Rollins even found himself a rival right away, because right after he talks, this guy comes out for the next match:


DON’T HINDER THE JINDER


Oh hey, how timely!

As we await the coronation of Jinder Mahal as our next WWE Champion (sorry, Randy), it’s rather appropriate that we take a look back at some of his early days. Before he became swole af, Jinder was just another guy trying to make it through the developmental system. Here, he picked up a rather quick win over Jason Jordan with everyone’s favorite foreign heel finisher, the Camel Clutch.

After the match, Mahal cut a promo in Punjabi, furthering himself as the foreigner these ‘Murican audiences are fond of booing. It’s all basic heel work, but it was effective here. Jinder’s first run in the WWE saw him mostly getting hindered from shining, but it’s nice to see he at least got a couple of moments where he looked good. We’ll be seeing more of this in the weeks to come, as he builds up a rivalry with Seth Rollins.


Main Roster Matchups

As promised in the previous episode, Antonio (anyone else who misses that name?) Cesaro made his NXT debut, accompanied by Aksana.

Hey, it even has some very European-sounding music.

Cesaro won a rather quick match against Dante Dash, whom I was disappointed to find out was not an early jabroni version of #TopGuy Dash Wilder. Dash was actually a good choice for an opponent, as his imposing physique made Cesaro’s deadlifts all the more impressive. We already know he can do this, but it’s always nice to watch him toss guys around with the greatest of ease. This was a decent way to introduce Cesaro to Full Sail University.

Our other main roster guests weren’t as lucky. The Usos were pinned by the rising Ascension in a result that actually surprised me. Jimmy and Jey weren't champions yet at this point (they still did the siva tau and didn’t have face paint at the time), but they were already a rising force on the main roster, having previously competed for tag team gold. Having them lose to a new team like the Ascension helped legitimize the latter, establishing just who was at the top of the NXT totem pole. It was through wins like these that the Ascension built up a reputation as the next big tag team, though things didn’t pan out that way when they got called up. But that’s another story down the line.


The Rest of the Show:

  • Derrick Bateman def. Johnny Curtis. It was weird having the main event be nothing more than an afterthought, but here you go. It just paled in comparison to last week’s main event between Tyson Kidd and Michael McGillicutty. To be fair, they didn’t have a whole lot of time considering they were the seventh (!!!) match in this one-hour show. However, it says a lot when the lone memorable thing about this match is Curtis thrusting his hips as he held Bateman in a submission.
  • Leo Kruger def. Aiden English. Kruger was already billed from Johannesburg, but he wasn’t the mercenary people fondly look back on yet. Instead, his video is interspersed with random shots of wildlife (because Africa) and he comes out with a leopard print sash. Hints of that vicious mercenary phase were already here, though, and he beat English rather quickly. Unfortunately for Aiden English, the spotlight was not on him yet.
  • Richie Steamboat def. Rick Victor. Richie Steamboat remains one of the bigger question marks in the modern era of WWE—how far would he have gone if his career didn’t end so early? He was actually given a considerable amount of shine in his NXT run, getting some nice matches here and there. The only odd thing here was that for as much as Richie he wanted to go beyond his father’s legacy, he used mostly the same moves as Daddy Dragon Steamboat did.
  • The parade of familiar faces continues! Summer Rae was this week’s ring announcer, while Byron Saxton made his first (rather mediocre) appearance at the commentary table beside Jim Ross and William Regal. Also, we get our first look at Luke Harper, who was featured briefly in this week’s Bray Wyatt vignette.

Overall, this episode wasn’t quite as hot as the first one, mainly because everything just went at such a fast pace. Matches came and went, and there wasn’t really enough time for everyone to show what they can do in the ring. We had SEVEN matches in less than an hour of programming! Considering that the present-day NXT only has around three or four matches each show, you can see just how crammed this show was. While there’s something to be said about wanting to introduce everyone as fast as possible, we came out not really knowing much about some of them.

Photos taken from Uproxx.


*****

Anthony Cuello is an HR and training practitioner. When he’s not sleeping or reading the Harvard Business Review, he covers Lucha Underground for Smark Henry. A psychology nut, he tends to watch wrestling looking for these small nuances of in-ring behavior. He dreams of a wrestling business with good people management practices, and hopes to help make that happen one day.

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