If you’re a wrestling fan, chances are you’ve heard of NXT, even if you don’t realize it.  It’s the WWE’s Tuesday night reality-inspired show in which 8 “rookies” (guys who have never had a run on a mainstream WWE “brand” such as Monday Night’s “RAW” or Friday Night’s “Smackdown” or the former Tuesday Night “ECW”) compete in matches and events in order to try to “impress” the 8 selected WWE “Pros”.  It has been promised for several weeks now that the Pros were going to vote and eliminations were going to begin.  A week ago I believed that this week’s episode was going to contain a single cut, but I was mistaken (or mislead).  There were three cuts.

The first of the cuts was not a surprise at all.  Michael Tarver had only won one match during the course of the show, amassing a record which included upwards of 7 or 8 losses along the way.  He showed some decent skils at working the crowd, taking the microphone whenever he was near it and talking about how he wasn’t going to compete in the silly games WWE was asking the Rookies to do, and he got booed for it.  The boos didn’t even seem like they were the type where they’re just tired of seeing you (which is what my friends call “X-Pac Heat”).  They seemed like legit boos.  The problem that some people noticed is that some of Tarver’s promos seemed forced.  In fact one guy who watched every NXT show aired stated that with his exit interview last night, Tarver “finally cut a good promo”.  And it WAS good.  He started talking about how he was going to have to find a way to help feed his family and keep a roof over their heads.  Striker starts calling him a “Son of a preacher, son of a prize fighter”, and then suddenly Tarver walks off.  In my mind, the story with Tarver isn’t over yet.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up on RAW as the hired thug / assistant for Ted DiBiase Jr.  To make things even more apparent that WWE is going to go with this angle, just look at what happened on Monday Night’s “RAW” – Carlito and Primo Colon attacked someone for Ted DiBiase.  Tarver’s WWE pro?  Carlito.  Looks like a new four-man stable, all of whom are second-generation competitors. Tarver’s got a decent look, a decent skillset and has shown at times that he’s better-than-decent on the mic.  I don’t see any reason why WWE couldn’t give him a few weeks on RAW to see how people respond to it.  I’d be really surprised if Tarver is done, and if you don’t agree, consider this:  he’s the only NXT rookie who has his own signature tshirt.

Michael Tarver

Michael Tarver

The second rookie to be eliminated surprised me for a couple reasons.  I didn’t think “Daniel Bryan” would win NXT, but I didn’t expect he would be the second “rookie” eliminated.  As the NXT “competition” went from week to week, it seemed that the only “Pro” who “Daniel Bryan” didn’t “impress” was his own “Pro” – The Miz.

“Daniel Bryan” had an interesting exit interview, and if there were a way to link it here from WWE.com, I’d do it, but a quote from the interview will have to suffice:

Backstage, Bryan says that it was fair and he makes no excuses. Bryan says that he never wrestled in the Independent Scene. If you check YouTube for Daniel Bryan, you only see his time in the WWE. But if you look around YouTube, you will see some guy that people were calling the best wrestler in the world winning titles and kicking heads in. He says that he doesn’t know what is next for Daniel Bryan, a guy who couldn’t beat rookies despite taking Batista to the limit. But there is plenty for Bryan Danielson!

I was waiting for something like this to happen, having been a fan of “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson for years.  I was frustrated from the first moment I heard that they were referring to him as “Daniel Bryan”, especially since they were selling the fact that he had fought all over the world prior to coming to NXT.

Bryan Danielson - Title Shining, Confetti Flying

Bryan Danielson - Title Shining, Confetti Flying

I’m assuming that since WWE didn’t edit out that part of the interview before they posted it to WWE.com (which is something they’ve done in the past when they didn’t like something as it aired live) and because Matt Striker seemed to be in favor of the comment (even partially warming it up with his questioning), that this comment is the start of things to come.

It was announced on RAW that next week, The Miz will defend his United States Championship against Bret Hart on RAW, likely stemming from the heat that the two have built up bit-by-bit since Bret Hart returned, with Miz mocking him a few times and Bret Hart stopping The Miz from cheating in the match where the Hart Dynasty took the Unified World Tag Team Championships.  Why do I mention this?  Because I fully believe that Bret Hart is, in fact, NOT going to compete against The Miz (as a “bump” would likely be very bad for Bret Hart and likely cause him another stroke) and in turn, he’s going to pull Bryan Danielson into his place in the match – a tactic The Miz used several times to put Bryan Danielson in compromising positions, most notably last week when Danielson ended up getting drilled by three Batista Bombs.

Hopefully when Bryan Danielson makes his next move, the WWE makes the most of it.  Otherwise, comments like these from a friend of mine are going to stick with Danielson:

I won’t miss Danielson at all. His look was bland, and I just found him to be very unimpressive when measured up to all the hype surrounding him.

It’s definitely a bit harsh, but I can understand it, since my friend had never seen a Bryan Danielson match – only the matches that “Daniel Bryan” had.  Regardless, there’s almost no way that Bryan Danielson is done with WWE.

If he does fail in WWE, I’ll be more than happy to watch Bryan Danielson show up in TNA and dominate.

The third man eliminated was Skip Sheffield, and this one surprised me a bit.  I didn’t expect he would win the show, since he wasn’t really connecting on the mic, but it did seem like he was starting to get a decent fan following.  During his exit interview, Skip Sheffield made some interesting comments about how he should’ve been listening to William Regal all along, as Regal was apparently giving him great advice.  Because of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Regal brings him into his “fold”.

The same guy who commented that Michael Tarver’s exit interview was the only good promo he ever gave, let’s call the guy “Dave”, doesn’t agree that a Regal / Sheffield alliance would be a good thing:

Skip Sheffield looked like he had a lot of comedy potential, but then they had him “snap” a little bit and started wearing the “SCSA” (Stone Cold Steve Austin) style black vest with (Road Warrior style) biker spikes and looked like a retard. … Skip may or may not make it up to the main roster, but I think if he goes full heel his character is going to lose a lot.  He can’t do the “Yep yep yep what it do” shit if he’s a heel cracking skulls under Regal’s guidance.

I don’t think that would be a big problem.  The “Yep yep yep what it do” didn’t win him over with the fans, and in the future, once the fans are more emotionally vested in hating Sheffield due to his association with Regal, then the writers can turn Skip back, let him be a fan favorite, and then the goofy “cornfed meathead” gimmick will have more pull with the fans.  Dave feels like Skip is “destined to be another large dude with no personality like Zeke”, which I will agree is a total possibility.

I do suppose there’s a chance that Sheffield won’t be on WWE television again for a while (if ever).  Here we are with the first set of eliminations on NXT, and I’m predicting that none of them are actually going to be removed from WWE television.

When talking to Dave today, he brought up something that I hadn’t thought of.  Initially the elimination this week was only mentioned to be one competitor, but as you know, three left the show.  Dave had an interesting perspective on that:

It seems to me like WWE is rushing to finish up this season of NXT early, perhaps to squeeze in a second season of NXT before SyFy cancels them while they await November and Smackdown’s arrival.

That brought up the question of why WWE would want to start another season of NXT.  They’d have to have enough guys down in Florida in their “minor leagues” who would be ready for television.  Time will tell, but one thing is for sure, WWE will air something on SyFy until Smackdown gets there.

There’s still five guys left in the NXT competition, so let’s take a look at them.  They’re listed below in order of how NXT says they’re ranked based on the Pro’s Poll.

1 – Wade Barrett

Chris Jericho’s rookie got voted into the top spot this week.  To some people, he deserves the top spot.  Dave thinks highly of him:  “Wade is clearly the break out star of this program and has big things coming in the future.”  Me?  I’m not so sure.  He’s got the look of a superstar, better suited in that department to be a top guy than 3/4 of the current WWE roster, but I’m not impressed at all by his in-ring work, and his finishing move is pretty pathetic.

2 – David Otunga

The “A-Lister” might never be a main eventer in WWE, but everyone I talk to seems to agree that David Otunga has a decent future in the WWE, albeit he needs a little more refinement character wise.  He’s still a bit raw (pun not intended) in the ring, but his mic skills are really good.  If he isn’t in WWE two years from now, it’s either due to injury or his decision to take his Harvard degree and put it towards something else.

3 – Justin Gabriel

Justin Gabriel has very decent skills inside the ring with some flashy offensive maneuvers which could use some refinement.  Dave believes that Gabriel will be “another Evan Bourne/Yoshi Tatsu/Kofi Kingston/Primo Colon type wrestler”, which likely means he won’t see more than one or two pay per views in a given year, but if he can get into a decent tag team, that could really help his longevity with WWE.

4 – Heath Slater

People I talk to are split on Heath Slater.  Some say he doesn’t have a good look for a WWE competitor, others say he just seems goofy in how he acts.  I think Heath Slater could be in need of a slight change that helps him get over, but I have been somewhat impressed with Heath Slater, just like I think the WWE likes what they’ve seen.  More than anyone else on NXT aside from Bryan Danielson, WWE has been giving Heath Slater some decent spots on television, matches against decent opponents, and decent air-time following Christian around on RAW and Smackdown. For some of the rookies, it takes me a minute to think about who their pro is, and I rarely ever saw them outside of NXT, let alone in a match with a legit opponent.  Heath Slater hasn’t been protected like Wade Barrett has, and I believe this has helped Slater’s cause, because he’s had the chance to prove to the WWE what he’s capable of doing in the ring, albeit in losing efforts.  Don’t be surprised if Heath Slater stays around for a while.

Would I be surprised if he was cut, despite the evidence to the contrary?  No.  The WWE could’ve decided to give him those chances based on the potential they perceived Heath Slater had, but they could’ve also decided that he didn’t do enough to earn a roster spot.

5 – Darren Young

If someone told me that Darren Young was John Cena’s cousin, I’d totally believe it. Other than his face looking very VERY similar to Cena and his body type being very similar also, he’s got something of an “it” factor.  That said, Darren Young is not great in the ring, he’s only decent on the mic, and so he’ll have to do a lot in the next week to prove he’s worth keeping around.  Dave’s perspective:  “Past the intrigue of an SES storyline, I don’t see much for Young.”   That Darren Young / Straight Edge Society angle could take up a month or two to transpire, but when it’s all said and done, I expect Young to get cut, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in WWE someday.