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Smark Hen-XT (7/26/18): Check Your Privilege


When Drew McIntyre first debuted, he was pegged as WWE’s future. It made sense at the time. He’s a good worker with a great look, but something didn’t quite click. You can blame the guy’s general bland character work for most of it, but I think a lot of it came from people resenting his rise. It’s telling that he was most over when he was part of a jobber stable who were walking jokes on TV. It’s easy to identify people with privilege, and once you’ve spotted it, it’s hard not to feel resentment and anger; if not for yourself, then for the other guys you think deserve better.

So it’s a bit ironic that, in McIntyre’s second run with the company, he’s now the man of the people. Make no mistake, he’s done this gimmick in the past—his run with TNA and the Rising stable comes to mind—to varying success. It’s hard to buy into McIntyre as one of us and screaming the “We are NXT” catchphrase when I still see the guy who got pushed way too early and reeked of privilege. Call it middle-class resentment, but it’s there.


Drew’s done a lot in the past three years to rehabilitate his image. He’s crafted a new brand for himself as a badass warrior of the squared circle during his time in the independent scene. In his promo, he actually does address the issue, and while he disabused the Chosen One gimmick and embraced the NXT Universe as his people, it didn’t come across as sincere. There’s still the humblebrag of carrying indy feds on his back. There’s still that lowkey putting himself over as “the hardest working man in the world.” He’s still the 6’5’’ giant with a body chiseled like marble and hair luscious as silk. That last part isn’t his fault, but look at him, and he looks like the quintessential “Vince McMahon” guy, and it doesn’t fit the whole image of NXT as the alternative WWE brand. Yeah, he sounds like a charismatic general you’d want to follow to war, but step back and you find the same guy you resented only in jeans rather than suits.

I have to say this, though, but I feel like a lot of my bitterness about this angle comes from the fact that I’m not as invested in McIntyre as I was with Roderick Strong. Bobby Roode’s former opponent feels like a better fit at the “man of the people” angle. His whole gimmick is that he succeeded despite the shitty cards he’s been dealt with. Furthermore, his family man schtick felt so earnest. Compare that to McIntyre who was given everything and still failed. The Scot had to redeem himself to return to a place that was waiting for him when Strong had to fight his way just to get a spot at the table. The fact that Strong's feud with Roode felt unresolved only drives me away from this new story.


Maybe it’s quite fitting that he’s the one calling out Bobby Roode for the champ’s elitist schtick. It does take one to know one, and it fits McIntyre’s history to recognize how the NXT Champion is acting. There are some parallels to both men’s initial runs with the company. Don’t get me wrong: I like McIntyre’s work in the ring. He hits hard and makes people look good, and he’s worked his ass off to get back to the WWE. He’s earned the title shot, both in kayfabe and in real life. With any other gimmick, I would have supported him in full force. It just feels disingenuous for him and the brand to present Drew as the man to fight for the people’s NXT when he’s the very model of the man that people turned to NXT to escape from.

*****

The Rest of the Show:


  • Ember Moon def. Lei’D Tapa: This was a short match meant to put Moon over (like she needs more of that), which is a shame for the former TNA Knockout, who could be a great hoss heel for the women’s division. Size and strength is still treated like a novelty in the women’s division, and it’s high time WWE starts treating women of all shapes and sizes with a more deft hand in terms of storytelling. On the other side, Moon’s promo after the match was serviceable at best. There’s something about her body language that doesn’t quite mesh with the content of her promo. At some parts, she looked like she’s overacting, and in other parts, it felt lacking. That said, it worked well enough to get the Women’s Championship angle for TakeOver: Brooklyn III finally moving.

  • The Authors of Pain vs Timothy Bumpers and David Ramos didn’t start, SAnitY and AoP brawled: Even if I enjoyed this segment, I have a lot of questions about it that stop me from gushing over it. First, where is Eric Young? It’s been some time since we’ve seen the leader of SAnitY with his people, and while it did wonders with letting the other members shine in his stead, it has to be something that they start addressing. Second, why the hell did AoP stand tall after the brawl? It doesn’t quite make sense to make the challengers look weaker by getting the short end of the stick here. Finally, who are we supposed to cheer here? Heel vs. heel match-ups rarely work as well as face/face ones, and for good reason. It’s hard to get invested in two heel teams, and when both teams aren’t as over as they should be (SAnitY because they’ve been booked poorly; AoP since they’ve always paired against more popular opponents), it’s hard to care. It’ll probably be a good match, but it’s hard to care about it with so many questions.

  • The Velveteen Dream def. Cezar Bononi: The more you see the Velveteen Dream, the more you realize there’s a lot to like about him: the little character quirks, the slowly increasing move set, the unique look. His matches aren’t terrible—they’re short, but not egregiously bad. He does well in the little promo segments he’s done. It’s really everything else around him that doesn’t work. His charisma puts him over with the live crowd, but it fails to translate across my computer screen, and it doesn’t help that Nigel McGuiness (the heel commentator) fails to put him over as a threat and even sounds like a homophobe at times. It’ll be a tough road ahead, even if the Dream improves by leaps and bounds.

  • Kassius Ohno def. Hideo Itami via DQ: This was a fine match that doesn’t quite feel like it reached a higher gear. Ohno and Itami are great workers, and this was fun to see, but I feel like this could’ve been better or more exciting. The DQ finish felt abrupt, and while the post-match beatdown was vicious, it just didn’t fit the story they were building. It lacked the drama of two friends facing each other. It didn’t feel important enough for both men to prove their point across. I hope this wasn't end of the angle, because it doesn't feel satisfying.

*****

In a vacuum, this was a solid episode for NXT. Stories were pushed, motivations were clarified, and we had good matches. But life doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and there are problems with the stories NXT are telling. The Ohno/Itami match felt anti-climactic. Moon’s promo, while not terrible, was lacking. Don’t get me started with the questionable story beats in AoP/SAnitY brawl. And I think I’ve made my feelings about the McIntyre promo clear. It had a lot of problems that wasn’t really the fault of the wrestling, and that’s something that can’t be addressed in a week’s time. I just hope we have a better episode next week. This episode gets an B-.

Thoughts on this week's episode? Let us know by dropping a comment below!

Photo from WWE.com
*****


Jocs Boncodin (@caboncodin) is a Managing Editor of Smark Henry. He answers tweets by day and watches wrestling by night. An aspiring writer, Jocs spends most of his idle time fantasy booking angles and overthinking wrestling storylines. A big fan of the WWE, his introduction to the local online wrestling community Smark Gilas-Pilipinas has opened his eyes to the wonders of puroresu and lucha libre. He currently handles Smark Hen-XT, smarkhenry.ph's weekly NXT review.

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