OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NXT

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“A new era is rising in the WWE.”  Apart from the McMahon’s loving the sound of their own voice every week, and Michael Cole still commentating, this may well be the case.  A fresher line up of talents has climbed from the deep depths of NXT, and has splashed a brighter colour on our screens, making for more interesting match ups that we’ve never witnessed before, and a future that looks more promising than the build up to this year’s Wrestlemania could ever dream of (please don’t make us go through that again, WWE!!…)  It’s this decision to call wrestlers up the ranks such as Enzo Amore & Big Cass, Baron Corbin and Sami Zayn, that has given Raw the extra factor it so deeply needed.

The superstars from the highly acclaimed NXT brand made the recent Payback show one of the most awesome PPV’s the WWE has given us in quite some time.  Credit where credit is due to the NXT veterans, as every match had at least one wrestler coming from the yellow-roped ring.  The push for Enzo Amore & Big Cass has been going at a fiery pace, picking up more and more fans as they swagger from arena to arena.  Unfortunately, their momentum hit a roadblock, when a match between The Vaudevillains deciding the number one contenders for the Tag Team Championships at Payback was a short affair as Enzo suffered a horrendous concussion, causing the dynamic duo to forfeit their place as opponents for the New Day at Extreme Rules.  Even though I think The Vaudevillains would’ve won this match anyway (you need an obvious babyface v heel battle) the injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Enzo & Cass.  Their popularity has grown exponentially since their rise to the big leagues, that there was fear this setback would cause them to be left on the Tag team division shelf.  Thankfully, creative have decided to keep pushing Big Cass in Enzo’s absence, showing the faith is still running strong with the 7 foot tall star, and also showing that he can run as a singles guy when the time is right.  It also doesn’t harm hearing “SAWFT!!!” every week.  It’s unclear how long Enzo will be out.  I had to google how long it takes to recover from a concussion so it could be anything up to 2 weeks or longer (i also googled what the date for Memorial Day was… I miss you, John Cena!!).  Speedy recovery Smacktalker Skywalker, you are missed.

Kevin Owens v Sami Zayn.  Wow.  These two will have a job at being beaten for best rivalry of the year at the next Slammy Awards.  Their historic hatred was some of the best TV to come out of NXT the last 2 years, that it’s a pleasure to see it continue on Raw/Smackdown.  The video packages and promo’s leading up their 5 star match at Payback was a joy to behold. It also harked back to many feuds of old that simply boiled down to one thing: “I hate you.  You hate me.  Let’s fight.”  Pretty much all you need.  Add in a dash of friends once, enemies now, and you’ve got a recipe of a tense, grudge match.  Kevin Owens has been nothing short of outstanding playing the biggest heel in the company since his debut of last year.  Claims of being the victim in his rivalry with Zayn in the video package is great heel play.  The match at Payback showed no signs of friendship ever brewing back up for these two.  It was an outstanding fight that you simply didn’t care who won or lost.  Both would come out of that match stronger, and more over, than ever.  Their rivalry looks set to continue with a Fatal 4 Way for the Intercontinental Championship.  I believe Sami Zayn should win this, being the infamous underdog, it will be great for him to overcome all odds and get the gold he deserves.

Baron Corbin has laid a path of destruction since his arrival from NXT.  His impressive physique and stature make him look a phenomenal foe for any wrestler on the card, maybe even a big push down the line for Roman Reigns’ (ugh) championship title.  For now though, he’s stuck in a rut with Dolph Ziggler.  I hope this feud doesn’t bury Corbin, as these matches with the hollywood blonde have left a lot to be desired.  His first PPV match at Payback was unfairly pushed to the Kick-Off show to make way for the overlong and tedious McMahon segment.  If that’s how much faith they have in this kid, I don’t see how they have any long-term plans for Baron.  However, he did win the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at Wrestlemania, so maybe there’s hope for him yet.

Charlotte has made leaps and bounds since becoming a heel champion.  I feel they are going in the right direction letting her step out of daddy’s shadow and fighting Natalya on her own at Extreme Rules.  The match at Payback, however, was ended in the most stupid fashion:  Recreating the Montreal screwjob just because the recovering Bret Hart was at ringside?! Come on!! Such a lousy ending to a great bout deserves a re-match!! My hope is that the Extreme Rules match will end in Charlotte picking up the win and realising she doesn’t need Ric by her side anymore and claim that she is even better than the Nature Boy himself.  To be honest, she is technically more gifted in the ring than Ric, but it would get more heat on her character for making such a bold statement.  An upcoming dream match with Sasha Banks should be on the cards very soon.  Hopefully at SummerSlam, and maybe can re-create the magic they first produced at NXT.  A call up for Bayley is also beckoning, which would add another twist in the tale of what is likely to be the greatest era in Women’s wrestling (screw you divas division).

Now onto the mouth-watering prospect of Finn Balor’s much-anticipated arrival.  Seeds have been planted for The Club, as it’s now being refered to, for quite some time.  Many are wondering when will the irish lad himself finally show his face and take over from AJ Styles as leader?  I suspect it will be at Extreme Rules.  Time again Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows have come to AJ Styles’s aid.  Time again, AJ Styles has said he doesn’t need them to fight his battles.  This leads me to believe that the tables are about to be turned on The Phenomenal One.  Anderson and Gallow’s interference will be one too many for AJ Styles, causing Roman Reigns (ugh) to retain the championship.  AJ will snap, turning on the big boys, thus causing Balor to come out and save his compadres.  Whenever Balor makes his Raw debut, it’ll be fascinating to see how they use this faction.  Will they be a heel against Roman (ugh) Reigns and his cousins? Will this lead to a much wished for Shield reunion? Will there be a Finn Balor v AJ Styles match on the cards? The possibilities are endless, but one thing is for sure: the fact that WWE are taking their time bringing Finn Balor up to the main roster, means they want to get his story right and not rush.  It’s a good sign indeed.  But damn it, I want Coup De Grace now!!!

In the words of Triple H: The future.. Is now.

Finally, a solemn note for the fallen.  We shall never forget the life and times of the following:

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Mitch the Potted Plant

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Y2J’s $15,000 Xmas tree jacket

 

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Wade Barrett’s wrestling career

by George Millard

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