Posts Tagged ‘NXT’

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There’s really nothing to cover when it comes to Tuesday’s NXT. Nexus beat up more people. That’s about it. When the focus of the show isn’t the focus, how does that help? Hopefully, next week’s show will return things to normal.

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“Talk The Talk” Challenge

Are we going to see the same challenges as last season? What’s next? The Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Challenge? Anyways, the winner of this competition would receive a talk show next week. This challenge, unlike the others, is tailor made for the Rookie with the best promo skills. Last season, there was no doubt that Wade Barrett would win (I know, I was there). This time, Percy Watson won by a landslide. His topic, glasses, was served up to him, while the other Rookies received topics such as “moustache” (Eli Cottonwood), “pigeon” (Alex Riley), and “chicken” (Kaval). The story of the segment was seeing who could do the most with the least. Watson, Michael McGillicutty and Kaval stood out, while Lucky Cannon and Alex Riley were somewhere in the middle. Husky Harris and Eli Cottonwood struggled and need to get better.

My only wish was that during McGillicutty’s promo, he would have used his topic, “breath,” to say something along the lines of “you will say my name and perfection in the same breath.” Whenever he mentions his background, he shines. I still wish he was Joe Henning. I miss that guy.

But hey, at least Watson will get his prize. Last season, Barrett won his own entrance theme. That never happened.

“Showtime” Percy Watson (with MVP) v. Michael McGillicutty (with WWE Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston)

The Pros are sitting on the ring apron as if they were in a tag match, which is a bit weird. This match was short and really put over McGillicutty as the cream of the NXT crop. What was even weirder than the Pros on the apron was how McGillicutty won (a sunset flip). Watson proved already during the evening that he is the best promo guy on NXT, but his in-ring skills are lacking. Watson is a tag team specialist and needs to branch out as a singles competitor. If he can find himself in the ring without help and pair it with his charisma, Watson would be a future Superstar no questions asked.

Titus O’Neil video package

I don’t understand why there is a package on O’Neil after he was eliminated. The Pro’s consensus regarding O’Neil was that he is an imposing figure, but needs to develop more in all areas of the business. He also needs to brush his teeth apparently. I guess this means that O’Neil will be back after getting some seasoning in FCW. If he does come back, he should be booked as a face.

WWE United States Champion The Miz (with Alex Riley) v. Kaval (with WWE Co-Women’s Champions LayCool)

This was the match of the season thus far. Riding some momentum after putting R-Truth out of action on Raw, Miz put together another great showing against Kaval. I’m sure the “internet geeks” wanted Kaval to get some revenge on Miz for Bryan Danielson, but that didn’t happen tonight. Kaval was also impressive; his reversal on Miz into a crossbody and especially his roll-through into a modified Warrior’s Way looked amazing. It did confuse me, however, to see LayCool trying to get the crowd into the match while Kaval was down. Regardless, Miz picked up the victory over Kaval with the Skull-Crushing Finale. Even in defeat, Kaval has looked exceptional every week and the show is his or McGillicutty’s to lose.

Eli Cottonwood video package

Survey says that Cottonwood is awkward in the ring and not intimidating even at 7 feet tall. My thoughts exactly.

Husky Harris video package

The Pros had more positive than negative to say about Harris. His body type and deceptive speed and agility work in his favor. If only he would stop harassing Matt Striker and start putting quality matches together.

Husky Harris & “Dashing” Cody Rhodes v. Mark Henry & Lucky Cannon

Speaking of quality matches, this wasn’t one of them. Since there was only about five minutes left in the show when this match started, it had to be over quick. Cannon and Rhodes have developed a rivalry. Rhodes goes over again, but look for Cannon to get one on Rhodes in the future.

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This season of NXT is only a few weeks old and it is already flowing much more smoothly than its Season One counterpart. Tonight, we had a Pro/Rookie tag team match as well as the first Rookie v. Pro match of the season. Mix in some video packages, awkward exchanges, and some Matt Striker abuse and we have the recipe for yet another episode of NXT! Let’s take a look, shall we?

WWE United States Champion The Mix & Alex Riley v. MVP & Percy Watson

The Miz and Alex Riley are a match made in heaven. If it wasn’t for the noticeable size difference, these two would be indistinguishable. Even with the instant rapport between the two, I liked how the Miz showed disapproval with Riley at points during the match. It makes the Rookie/Pro pairing actually mean something. Percy Watson is so entertaining, but he’s like a juiced up Urkel. He needs more experience in the ring to go along with his noticeable promo skills in order to complete the package. Miz and Riley win in a good opening contest. Riley is this season’s Wade Barrett and David Otunga rolled into one. He is the consumate WWE Superstar. Expect big things from him.

Titus O’Neil video package

O’Neil brings up his rough childhood and the lack of support and respect he had while growing up. His “working man” gimmick works better for faces (see: Dusty Rhodes), so having him as a heel doesn’t make much sense. He gets cheered later on for his “working man” comments. I am not sure that is the reaction the WWE is looking for when it comes to O’Neil. Either way, he needs to get better in the ring if he wants the respect he yearns for.

Michael McGillicutty (with WWE Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston) v. Titus O’Neil (with Zack Ryder)

The discrepancy in talent between McGillicutty and O’Neil is astounding. Nevermind the bloodlines. O’Neil is the most physically imposing Rookie on Season Two, but is probably the most green in the ring. Irish whip clotheslines and reverse chin locks won’t win matches in the WWE. Albeit, McGillicutty uses a swinging neckbreaker as a finishing move, but at least it looks brutal. McGillicutty (by the way, we were told that McGillicutty is his mother’s maiden name, which it isn’t) put on a clinic in less than five minutes. Perhaps O’Neil’s struggles are a reflection of his “Pro,” Zack Ryder, but I would be surprised if he doesn’t find himself in last place when the first Pro’s Poll is released next week.

Kaval (with WWE Co-Women’s Champions LayCool) v. Eli Cottonwood (with John Morrison)

Kaval and Bryan Danielson took a very similar route to the WWE, so it doesn’t surprise me that he is being booked the exact same way. Kaval took on Eli Cottonwood in a one-on-one match, and much like McGillicutty/O’Neil, the talent discrepancy is alarming. Cottonwood is as stiff as a corpse in the ring. He doesn’t sell well and his offense isn’t fluid. Kaval definitely carried Cottonwood through the entire match, but ultimately lost. Kaval did get some impressive spots in, including his reverse Warrior’s Way and the springboard enziguiri. Cottonwood wins with a reverse chokeslam-like faceplant/flapjack manuever. Whatever it was, Kaval was out. Like Danielson, Kaval doesn’t need wins to earn or maintain credbility. Cottonwood, on the other hand, needs all of the help he can get. I just hope Kaval actually wins at some point.

Lucky Cannon video package

We get to hear about Lucky Cannon, who is “lucky” because he survived a brutal assault that left him unable to speak or walk. That is quite the story (if it were true). I know the WWE wants to make Johnny Prime look “lucky.” How about he wins some matches out of nowhere or has a penchant for knocking off Pros? Unfortunately, Cannon’s backstory is a little too farfetched for me to get behind.

In the back, LayCool is trying to cheer Kaval up. They give him a present. It’s a “I ❤ LayCool” warmup. To further the comparions with Danielson, Kaval has been placed with two Pros who are total opposites of him. Kaval, however, is taking things in stride in order to learn and succeed, showing his disicpline and respect for the business. Will he snap or will he continue to silently accept his mentors? Stay tuned.

Cody Rhodes (with Husky Harris) v. Lucky Cannon (with Mark Henry)

Cannon would have his chance to prove how lucky he is when he faced Cody Rhodes in the main event. Last week, Rhodes said that Cannon would be lucky to last five minutes. so Rhodes makes the match a “Five Minute Challenge.” All Cannon would have to do is not lose within five minutes. That didn’t happen. Cannon lost in about 3:30. Cannon got some offense in, but the story told through the match was his lack of experience. Last season, Heath Slater beat Chris Jericho, but it happened halfway through the season. That was more believable considering Slater had several matches (and a win over another Pro in a tag match) under his belt. This was Cannon’s second match; there was no way he was going to win, no matter how “lucky” he is.  Good work. Storytelling is important and it worked out very nicely here.

Rhodes is an absolute stud. I have said it before, but Rhodes has shined while Ted DiBiase has sunk. He is getting better on the mic and his movement in the ring is so crisp. The step-up kick off the turnbuckle looked and sounded brutal. The Cross Rhodes at the end looked a little weird, but I think that was more Cannon than Rhodes.

Rookie Final Thoughts

With the first Pro’s Pool being unveiled next week, Matt Striker gave the Rookies one last chance to speak their minds. Riley went first and said that he didn’t have to beat up nerds on the school bus anymore because he gets to do it on NXT. Kaval (wearing his LayCool shirt) is next and mentions that he has had to work hard to get to the WWE and will prove size doesn’t matter.

O’Neil follows with a “worked hard for everything and everyone doubted me” promo, which went over with the crowd. I wish he would stop with the “make it a win” schtick. McGillicutty must feel the same way because he mocks O’Neil before claiming that he possesses no weaknesses. I wish he would throw the word “perfect” into some of his promos to pay homage to his father. Surprisingly, Cottonwood delivers what I feel was the best promo, promising to wait in the shadows and bide his time until it’s time to strike. Watson is next and he makes me laugh, but in a good way. The gimmick is a little over the top for my taste, but it works for him.

Cannon, fresh off his loss, pretty much said the same thing that he said during his video package. Last, but not least, Harris says he doesn’t need 45 seconds and instead beats up Striker. Harris hits his senton splash and bails out. No one helps Striker. Do I blame them? No. Does it make sense? No. Striker has been taking quite the abuse lately. I would love to see him snap and put on the argyle trunks again. Rhodes looks pleased with Harris and the show goes off the air.

Don’t forget to vote on WWE.com next week for the first Pro’s Poll. Here is my Pro’s Poll based on what I have seen so far.

Michael McGillicutty

Alex Riley

Kaval

Eli Cottonwood

Percy Watson

Husky Harris

Lucky Cannon

Titus O’Neil

Be sure to tune in NXT week to find out what happens NXT on NXT.

 

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Remember when the NXT Season One Rookies absolutely destroyed Raw two weeks ago? If I haven’t told you, that was one of the most compelling angles I’ve seen on Raw since the “PG Era” began. Well, that excitement is gone now because the WWE completely dropped the ball. I will explain more on that later, but last night’s Raw failed to impress. Sure, we had a WWE Championship match, but we also had some completely ludicrous things take place, too. Before I can continue to bitch and moan, let’s take a look at last night’s Monday Night Raw.

Vince McMahon/Sheamus/John Cena promo

Mr. McMahon is out first to open the show to address the Bret Hart situation. According to McMahon, he told Bret that he would have to make tough and unpopular decisions. He failed to do that and he was “relieved of his duties.” Well, it was fun while it lasted. In retrospect, how long did the WWE really believe Hart would stay? I was shocked when he was announced as GM, and other than making Batista quit and being jumped by Nexus (The NXT group), he didn’t make any waves (No, signing the Usos doesn’t count). McMahon says this is “closure” and I am not sure if we will see Hart again. If we do, please don’t make another lame “Bret screwed Bret” angle.

McMahon then announces that a new GM has been appointed, but that said GM wants to remain anonymous. How will he communicate, you might ask? Let me tell you. He will email Michael Cole, who will read the email aloud. WHAT. David Stephens of Wrestleview liked this idea because it allows the WWE to build up a GM without whoever it may be actually having to do anything. That is true, but really? Email? Michael Cole? Not only that, but it makes that annoying Apple/iPhone noise when someone receives a text message (or for those with Macs only, the noise when you finish uploading CDs on iTunes). We are really going to have to hear this for months, huh? On the bright side, it will absolutely confuse the hell out of my roommate, who is attached to his iPhone.

Cole got mail! The first order of business is for Nexus to receive contracts and that they will address the crowd tonight. I like that. Maybe the GM won’t be too bad.

As McMahon is leaving the ring, Sheamus’ music hits and the new WWE Champion makes his way to the ring. Sheamus looks forlorn and stressed. He tells McMahon that he doesn’t feel like he earned the WWE Championship because of the way he won it and wants to relinquish it. As McMahon reaches for the title, Sheamus pulls it back and puts a huge smile on. He had me. He really did. Yet, Sheamus takes the “I don’t care how I won it because I won it” road and even thanks Nexus for their “help,” even though he claims he didn’t need it. When Sheamus became WWE Champion in December, I couldn’t believe it. In June, after six months of gaining credibility, I’m okay with Sheamus as champion. He has grown on me.

John Cena makes his obligatory appearance and enters the ring. His promo was AWFUL. Why would you be smiling and joking when you just got jumped again and lost your title in the process? Like Sheamus, Cena is in a thankful mood. Cena thanks the GM for hiring Nexus so he doesn’t have to know whether or not they will show. He thanks Sheamus for his rematch clause and thanks Bridgeport because he thinks there is no better place for said rematch. I like John Cena. I really do. But sometimes, I want to duct tape his mouth shut. Duct tape? Really? Are you serious? (Sorry, Batista moment). The whole “let’s do a rematch right now” bit usually gets rebuffed by the heel champion, which it does. EMAIL! There WILL be a title match tonight and McMahon will be the guest referee. How anti-climactic. How will the no contest happen this time? Stay tuned.

Evan Bourne v. Chris Jericho

For the third time in a week, we get this match. Fortunately, all three have been gems, so there is no need for complaint. Jericho enters the ring with a brilliant facial expression and asked for yet another rematch with Bourne, putting his career on the line to do so. As soon as he said that, I thought he would lose (Jericho has a game show on ABC that premieres tonight). Yet, he did not, which was a pleasant surprise. This match was no different than any of the previous ones, but watching Bourne and Jericho is like poetry in motion (Sorry, Hardys). Jericho can make anybody look good and giving Bourne ample time to go over and display his skills has worked wonders already. Jericho wins when he rolls out of the way of a Shooting Star Press and hits the Codebreaker. Afterwards, it looks as if Jericho might show Bourne some respect, but slams him down to the mat. This “I am now the hunted” angle is definitely intriguing. I would like to see other up-and-coming Superstars (Yoshi Tatsu comes to mind) get a shot at Jericho. It could make for entertaining television.

Virgil is in the back and he’s a sad panda. Ted DiBiase enters and apologizes for his actions last week. Then DiBiase fires him. DiBiase has found a suitable replacement: Maryse. I ain’t sayin’ she’s a golddigger. We get the best line of the night when Virgil asks DiBiase what he will do for protection. “Go to the drugstore,” says DiBiase. Priceless (pun intended). This DiBiase/Maryse plotline will be something to watch. At least it gets Maryse out of the Divas division. Or does it? Maybe DiBiase buys her the Diva’s Title? Hmmm.

Josh Mathews is with the Hart Dynasty, who believes Bret got screwed again. Tonight is her debut on Raw. Finally, some new blood in the Diva’s division.

Natalya (with WWE Unified Tag Team Champions The Hart Dynasty) v. Tamina (with Jimmy and Jey Uso)

Yeah, so much for that debut. The match lasted a minute before Nexus interrupted to make their public address.

Nexus promo

The NXT 7 are in the ring and ready to make a statement. They apologize. Oh boy. David Otunga says they attacked everyone because they love the WWE and would do anything to get noticed. Weird. Heath Slater says it’s nothing personal. Okay. Justin Gabriel says…something. I think he apologizes to Hart and the Dynasty. Darren Young, who acknowledges the nickname “Black John Cena,” apologizes to his white doppelganger and vows that he will get his title back. Skip Sheffield yup yup yups and asks what it does. Michael Tarver apologizes to his children.

Finally, Wade Barrett gets the microphone and actually says something important and not incredibly stupid.  Barrett answers on the questions that I asked myself two weeks ago:

“After beating everyone else to win NXT, what does Barrett have to offer to the other Rookies? Is there some sort of incentive?”

The answer? Loyalty. Nexus made a pact that no matter what, they would stay true to each other. Makes sense. Barrett also mentions that he has received his title shot back and that whoever is champion is on notice. He says the NXT 7 have formed a “Nexus” (Oh! He said it!) and will stick together.

Last week, they weren’t sorry. This week, they’re incredible sorry? What gives. The WWE (who has reportedly been booking this angle on the fly) is dropping the ball. They need to get it together or what has been lost (DANIELSON) will outweigh what has been gained.

Zack Ryder (with Titus O’Neil) v. John Morrison (with Eli Cottonwood)

This match was supposed to be Morrison v. DiBiase, but DiBiase comes out with Maryse and says he has better things to do, like do his taxes or play Mouse Trap (He didn’t say that).  Ryder comes out instead and we get a match of NXT Pros. Good for selling the show, bad for entertainment. Morrison wins with Starship Pain. Eli Cottonwood is creepy.

John Cena is walking around in the back and Mathews asks him what he thought of Nexus’ apology. He doesn’t accept it. Uh oh…

Eve Torres & The Great Khali v. WWE Diva’s Champion Alicia Fox & Primo

Why bother? The faces win. Fox walks out on Primo. Wouldn’t you?

Randy Orton/The Miz/Edge promo

Randy Orton is alone in the ring and, unlike Cena, accepts the Nexus apology. Orton even hopes that Barrett wins the WWE Title so that it’ll be easier to win it back.

The Miz interrupts and says what a lot of people think: “we are tired of you in the main event.”  Miz says that in time, he will hold both the U.S. and WWE Championships, something Orton, or no one else for that matter, has ever done. The Miz jumps Orton, who gets the upper hand before getting speared by Edge. Edge tells Orton that the “real fun has begun.” A Miz/Orton feud would be (sorry) awesome. Not only would it give Orton something to do while Cena takes his probable spot as #1 Contender, but it would further push the Miz into the upper echelon of the WWE. What better way for the Miz to get even better by going up against the biggest face in the company for the second summer in a row? Orton has never held the U.S. Title. Imagine that title program. So good. Hopefully, Edge’s ominous message won’t screw things up.

John Cena v. Sheamus (with Mr. McMahon as special guest referee) – WWE Championship

McMahon ended up not being the referee, but more of an “enforcer.” Sheamus definitely had the momentum throughout the match, giving Cena a beatdown. It makes Sheamus look good.

Anyways, the match ends in a no contest (Surprise!) when Nexus interferes and attacks Cena yet again. After he has been disposed of, Nexus and McMahon enter the ring and McMahon takes partial credit for everything that they have done. Nexus surrounds him and they look pissed, but then they all crack a smile. McMahon says that Nexus had him for a minute. A minute later, he’s getting his ass kicked.

The good news is is that McMahon must not really be behind Nexus. Thank goodness. That would have been the beginning of the end in terms of interest. The bad news is how many times are we going to see the SAME ATTACK every week? Look, a clothesline, a fireman’s carry slam, and a 450 Splash was cool the first time. BUT NOT EVERY TIME. Clotheslines don’t keep normal wrestlers down. DO SOMETHING ELSE. Sheffield has a cool finisher. Use that! This is getting really old really fast. After what happened two weeks ago, the WWE is sinking with this. Fix it now or prepare to lose what was unfathomable momentum.

Well, Fatal 4 Way just ended and I must say, what an interesting show it was. We had three title changes, including both the World Heavyweight and WWE Championships as well as a run-in by the NXT Rookies of Season One (or “Nexus” as they might soon be called). Below I have listed the results of the PPV as well as my selections from my “Predictions” column from earlier today.

Kofi Kingston v. Drew McIntyre – WWE Intercontinental Championship

Predicted winner: Kofi Kingston

Winner: Kofi Kingston

1-0

Eve Torres v. Maryse v. Gail Kim v. Alicia Fox – WWE Diva’s Champion

Predicted winner: Gail Kim

Winner: Alicia Fox

1-1

Jack Swagger v. The Big Show v. Rey Mysterio v. C.M. Punk – WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Predicted winner: Jack Swagger

Winner: Rey Mysterio (Boy, was I wrong)

1-2

The Miz v. R-Truth – WWE United States Championship

Predicted winner: The Miz

Winner: The Miz

2-2

John Cena v. Edge v. Randy Orton v. Sheamus – WWE Championship

Predicted winner: John Cena

Winner: Sheamus

Total score: 2-3

Matches not included (not announced before the show)

Chris Jericho v. Evan Bourne

Winner: Evan Bourne

WWE Unified Tag Team Champions The Hart Dynasty v. The Usos & Tamina

Winner: The Hart Dynasty

#1 Pretender PPV Standings

Extreme Rules: 6-1

Over The Limit: 4-3-1

Fatal 4 Way: 2-3

Updated total: 12-7-1

Be sure to join me next month on July 18 when yet another new pay-per-view concept, Money In The Bank, comes to us live from the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Until then, continue to come back to #1 Pretender for all your weekly WWE analysis!

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After an interesting season premiere, how would NXT keep the momentum going this week? Well, by having a solid match between possibly the two best wrestlers on the show, more video packages, and a Rookie throwing down a challenge to a Pro, I would say that NXT did an adequate job of keeping the ball rolling. Here are my thoughts on the second episode of the second season of NXT.

WWE Pros/NXT Rookies promo

At the end of last week’s show, the Pros became a united front in order to squash any chances of another NXT reprisal. Matt Striker wanted answers and thought that there was no better way to do that then to have everyone involved come down to the ring. Once everyone was in, M.V.P. spoke on behalf of the other Pros and told the Rookies that last week was an “initiation.” M.V.P. also tells he Rookie that the term “WWE Superstar” is an honor and must not be taken lightly. If one good thing came out of this entire NXT revolt, it is that it has finally given the WWE Superstars a chance to really show how much they appreciate the opportunity that they have been given. The Pros extend their hands to their respective Rookies and all is forgiven. To be honest, I wish that the Rookies would have been hesitant to forgive and forget, which would lead to underlying tension that could keep viewers wondering when the Rookies would finally explode. Such is life.

Alex Riley v. Kaval

Alex Riley and Kaval are probably the best wrestlers on NXT’s second season (with Michael McGillicutty a close third, but more on him later). With LayCool on commentary putting over Kaval, we witnessed a fast-paced, 10-minute match that definitely highlighted the immense talent both of these individuals possess. Kaval’s kicks were stiff, Riley’s slams were crisp, and both men had plenty of opportunities to show their stuff. I especially liked Kaval’s dragon sleeper in the ropes and his Liger Kick. Riley gets the victory when Kaval misses Warrior’s Way from the top rope and Riley counters with what can be described as a fireman’s carry to a spinout RKO for the victory. Kaval dominated the match, which makes him look good overall, and Riley find a way to win after being dominated, which backs up the “Expect Everything” feel that the WWE wants. Figuratively, everybody wins.

Striker enters the ring to get comments from Riley, who explains Miz’s absence (he was partying in L.A., which surprises me because everyone would be at the Lakers game) and that he can win all by himself. We also get comments from LayCool, John Morrison, and Zack Ryder, who likes the ring announcer. I like how the Pros sit on the stage and evalutate at all times, but Striker’s commentary isn’t always necessary. I think that if there can be a fine balance put into place, this could always be an effective tool.

Last week, I mentioned that Riley was going to be this season’s David Otunga because of his superiority complex. Yet, Riley is also this season’s Wade Barrett. He has the WWE look (big, strong, etc.), so he will be a perennial front-runner all season long. The video package about Kaval also allows fans to make a connection to Bryan Danielson, which like Riley’s Barrett, will be Kaval’s calling card this season.

Eli Cottonwood video package

Next, we got a video package featuring Morrison’s Rookie, Eli Cottonwood. Cottonwood wrestled last week and did not really impress me. He is incredibly rigid in the ring and needs to sell better both offensively and defensively. I think I will call him either “Khali Cottonwood” or the “Great Cottonwood.” Let me know.

Zack Ryder/Titus O’Neil backstage video

We then go to a GTV-like locker room video of Ryder and O’Neil patching up after their hostility last week. This candid moments between Pros and Rookies should be more prominent. Last season tried (Christian/Slater working out. Haha. Christian Slater. And Tarver carrying Carlito’s bags. Haha. Carlito). Here’s an idea. Between the second-to-last episode and the finale, have a special documentary episode with footage of the Rookies and Pros traveling, working out, and bonding. Just a thought.

Mark Henry & Lucky Cannon v. Michael McGillicutty & WWE Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston

We learned several things during this match. We learned why McGillicutty goes as such (his mother’s maiden name), that McGillicutty is leaps and bounds better than Cannon, and “King Cutty” is the best wrestling duo on NXT. Cannon is solid, but that’s the best I can say. He could be great if he stands out.

After the match, Cody Rhodes give his thoughts on the match and runs down Cannon for showing sportsmanship after the match. Henry throws down a challenge for Rhodes to face Cannon. Rhodes accepts. Here comes the best part. Striker asks Rhodes what he can expect from him next week. Rhodes then proceeds to punch Striker out or so it seems. HE COMPLETELY MISSES! He swings behind him! Oh boy. At least we have a main event for next week.

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Last night’s Raw might have been one of the most anticipated episodes in quite some time (at least it was for me). After the shocking actions of last week, all questions were seemingly answered last night, even regarding Bryan Danielson. Mixed in was a title change, a quirky, yet effective guest host, and some signs of unity within the WWE locker room. Also, we added two new matches (FINALLY) to the Fatal 4 Way pay-per-view. Let’s look at the Fatal 4 Way “go-home” edition of Monday Night Raw.

NXT Rookies/Bret Hart promo

The show opens with Season One winner Wade Barrett standing alone in the ring. After introducing himself, he calls out the other six Rookies, who make their way from the crowd and into the ring. I liked how Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole tried to move to higher ground due to fear of reprisal; it helped sell the psychological effects of last week’s ambush. Once everyone is settled in the ring, Barrett explains that Bret Hart is forcing them to apologize, which none of them do. Then Barrett says what a lot of us were already thinking. According to Barrett, the NXT Season One Rookies were treated like “animals” and were at the mercy of WWE Management, who made them compete in lame challenges and changed the rules at a moment’s notice. To be honest, Barrett made some sense.

Hart interrupts and runs down (no pun intended, but keep reading) the NXT Rookies for their actions last week. All of a sudden, Barrett mentions that last week, the NXT Rookies had one more member, Daniel Bryan, who like Hart, felt remorse for his actions and was kicked out in the process. I feel like that was a copout by the WWE; if anything, the Rookies should have used him as a “political prisoner” (also no pun intended) and that they were fighting for his honor as well as theirs. Barrett continues, saying that the Rookies don’t have any problems with John Cena; he was just a scapegoat. The problem lies with WWE Management and Barrett wants everyone in the ring to receive guaranteed contracts. Otunga wants first-class travel accommodations and private locker rooms.

Hart declines the offer and tells Barrett that he is no longer the “new superstar next breakout star for WWF,” strips him of his earned title shot and fires him. The firing would make sense in the real world; why would you reward someone for doing something wrong? The segment was a great way to kick off the show. I noticed a few things. First, I am glad that Barrett and Otunga were the only Rookies who had a chance to speak more freely on the mic considering the others are just awful. Second, gauging the reaction of the WWE Universe, I think the NXT Rookies (and the WWE) are going to miss Danielson. A LOT.

WWE United States Champion R-Truth v. The Miz v. Zack Ryder v. John Morrison – Fatal 4 Way Match for the WWE United States Championship

To put over Sunday’s show, Raw’s first match was a Fatal 4 Way for the U.S. Title. Truth got an even bigger reaction than normal considering he was in his hometown of Charlotte. This match had spots aplenty and several near falls, which will definitely sell the pay-per-view concept. The ending of the match went a little something like this: Ryder hits the Rough Ryder on Truth, put Morrison breaks up the pin. Morrison sets Truth for Starship Pain and does a good job of hesitating, considering he and Truth are friends. He hits the move anyways, but Miz throws Morrison out of the ring and picks up the scraps. He’s the Miz and he’s the new United States Champion.

Though I was surprised that Truth lost the belt so quickly (and in his hometown), the Miz regaining the title does more good than bad. Truth is already over with the crowd and doesn’t need a title to do so, while the Miz shines when he is on top. It also sets up a Miz/Truth feud that could draw interest (We find out later the rematch will take place on Sunday).

Josh Mathews asks Randy Orton about his thoughts on the NXT Invasion. While Orton can understand where the Rookies come from, he believes that they should have gotten fired or their brains beaten in. Orton has always been consumed with himself, so I’m surprised he even answered this question. It must be the face turn.

Mark Feuerstein/Big Show/Ted DiBiase/Virgil promo

Mark Feuerstein, the star of USA’s “Royal Pains,” is the guest host and he is in the back with the guest host’s call girls, the Bella Twins. Ted DiBiase enters and tells Feuerstein to let him guest host in exchange for a car. I am afraid that DiBiase has become the “seriously unfunny Santino Marella. Allow me to explain. He only interacts with the guest hosts and instead of being funny, he tries to bully them and buy them off. What a fall from grace this has been. Feuerstein holds his own during the promo and actually comes off very funny. The Big Show’s presence gives him the confidence to call DiBiase a “daddy’s boy,” which sets up a tag match between Show and Feuerstein and DiBiase and Virgil for later.

Evan Bourne v. Chris Jericho

Two weeks ago, Evan Bourne pins Sheamus. Last week, he makes a cameo in a John Cena promo. This week, he had the chance to make another impression by defeating Chris Jericho. He did do that, but by DQ. The most important part of the match was Bourne kicking out of the Codebreaker. After Jericho gets himself disqualified, he attempts to beat down Bourne, but Bourne gets the upper hand and hits the Shooting Star Press. While this wasn’t as poignant as pinning Jericho clean, Bourne still gets the rub. Jericho is in a bit of a funk. Could we see an M.V.P. losing streak-like angle for Jericho in the future? Stay tuned.

John Cena/NXT Rookies/WWE Locker Room promo

Here comes Cena to comment on last week’s assault. I liked his comments about the WWE ring being a sacred ground and the Rookies having the targets on their backs now, but did he really say that five million members of the WWE Universe hate them now, too? Really? Cena goes on to tell the Rookies that he will not press any charges if they come down and answer him and will wait every week for them to do so. We don’t have to wait long because the Rookies come through the crowd once again. This time, the WWE locker room has Cena’s back and all hell breaks loose. At first, we have the unused Superstars (Santino, William Regal, etc.), but eventually, all three challengers for the WWE Title on Sunday come to Cena’s aid. The unintentional comedy of the night comes when the Pros chase the Rookies out of the arena. Mark Henry eventually gets lapped by everyone (even the cameraman beats him) and Santino is the only one who chases them all the way to the gate. Also, wouldn’t you double take if you saw seven men in their underwear running through downtown Charlotte at 10PM? I liked how the WWE locker room came together; it shows how important the business is to everyone, even those who don’t necessarily like each other.

After the commerical, Mathews finds Sheamus in the back and asks why he would help Cena. Sheamus gives the best answer possible; he didn’t want anything or anyone to come between him and the WWE Championship. I am glad that he explained himself because it did cross my mind while watching. A nice touch.

WWE Diva’s Champion Eve Torres & Gail Kim v. Maryse & Alicia Fox

Long story short, the faces win. These four Divas will be involved in a title match this Sunday. I am not looking forward to it. While Eve and Maryse can hold their own, Fox and Kim struggle sometimes. It happened in this match and will happen again Sunday.

The Big Show & Mark Feuerstein v. Ted DiBiase & Virgil

I don’t want to waste too much time on this. Essentially, the Big Show beats the crap out of both DiBiase and Virgil, Feuerstein does the Worm to Virgil and that’s it. There was definitely a “Too Cool” vibe going on with Show giving DiBiase the Stinkface as well. DiBiase does his father’s “bill in the mouth” trick to Virgil afterwards, but then decides to take it back. Gross. DiBiase is sinking.

We are going to skip Santino v. Regal with Vlad Kozlov as guest referee because, quite frankly, no one cares.

WWE Champion John Cena & Randy Orton v. Edge & Sheamus

Originally Orton v. Sheamus, the WWE gave us a tag match instead. There isn’t much to say about the match itself other than A) these four have great chemistry together and B) I am glad that Orton seemed hesitant to partner with Cena considering their past. Love me some continuity,

Near the end of the match, the lights go out and the Rookies are backstage mugging Hart. Essentially, they kick his ass, throw him in a limo, have the limo hit some cars, and then drag him back out to demand answers by Sunday. Though the whole segment screamed WCW Nitro (thanks to PWInsider for that one), it did make an effective sell for the show Sunday.

Speaking of Fatal 4 Way, look for my predictions Sunday morning/afternoon.

I have a quick announcement. My next live report will be coming September 6, 2010, when I attended Monday Night Raw at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Until then, please continue to check out #1 Pretender. I appreciate all of the readers who come to my site and I hope to spread the word. In the mean time, come back tomorrow for my NXT show report.