But NXT wasn't always like that, as we are about to see. For the majority of it's 200+ episode run, NXT was a show that was taped before Smackdown, and featured just 8 wrestlers from the developmental system being put through various challenges each week, which usually had little or nothing to do with wrestling or 'sports entertainment'. Each 'Rookie' also had a main roster superstar act as their 'Pro', who would supposedly show them the ropes. It's a concept that did have some potential, but as you probably know already, it's execution left a lot to be desired. Of course, the guys on the first season of NXT eventually formed the Nexus, making one of the most memorable moments in the last 10 years when they destroyed John Cena. So let's check out the very first episode of that first season, and witness the origins of several current main roster wrestlers. And Michael Tarver.
|The League of Generic Jobbers|
The very first image of the NXT Rookies we are given is not a flattering one. First off, just stick the 'Brazzers' logo in the corner and make this image a meme. Second, do any of these guys really stand out at all? Some of them have hats and clothing items which are just ridiculous, and they're all making 'tough guy' gestures, trying and failing to convey personality. Less is more in this case, and when you're spasm-ing around trying to look cool, you're only making yourself look more like a freak. First impressions are very important, and that guy with the cowboy hat and the one on the end with the troll doll hair have fallen at the first hurdle.
You know it's bad when The Miz of all people walks in and immediately looks better than most of the Rookies. He calls out his Rookie; Daniel Bryan, who he addresses as an 'internet darling' and challenges him to go out to the ring to see if he's got what it takes to be a WWE Superstar. He doesn't look as bad as Troll Doll or Cowboy, but Daniel Bryan does look a little dweeby here. His robe was a signature part of his attire in Ring of Honor, but it does look a little out of place in the WWE. He was right to get rid of it. Despite all the crap that Bryan would suffer (and is still suffering through to a certain extent) in his WWE career, being called out from the generic jobber lineup and being given a character before anyone else proves that they were intent on pushing him from the very start, only in a very unconventional way.
Oh, and Daniel Bryan's first word on WWE TV? "Yes". The Miz also offers Bryan perhaps the best advice in pro wrestling history; "Have a good catchphrase". I think Bryan managed that one.
After introductions on commentary, Daniel Bryan makes his way to the ring and cuts his first promo. Both The Miz and Matt Striker have already claimed that Bryan has no personality, and he definitely isn't as good on the mic as he is in 2014. But for a guy who speaks through his wrestling, he isn't actually that bad at talking in 2010. He makes a joke about The Miz being a terrible Pro for him, and suggests William Regal as a better one. So it's not like he's dying on his feet out there; he's much better than Gangrel. He them ribs Miz's reality TV past when Miz comes out to try to prove Bryan has no charisma, and then tells him Miz would 'tap or snap' if he got in the ring with him. It's safe to say this was a 'trial by fire' for Bryan, and if he screwed up, he would be future endeavored pretty quickly, but Bryan rose to the occasion, traded barbs with Miz, and looked like he belonged, even if he didn't look like a star. Good start.
After this, we get a look at the strange, and now completely irrelevant, combination of Carlito and Michael Tarver. Tarver has a pretty cool MMA-style look, while Carlito is in his 'long pants' phase just before leaving WWE. Tarver claims to be 'Mr. 1.9 Seconds', but that's not related to any 'performance issues', but rather to the claim that he can knock out anyone in 1.9 seconds. His video package is actually very good at presenting him as a proper 'tough guy', but it will be the in-ring skills, or lack thereof, that define Tarver.
Tarver and Carlito's opponents are Christian and his Rookie Heath Slater, which means we get another video package for Slater. He is apparently a "rock star without the instruments", which I suppose means that he has a 'rock star attitude', but it sounds like he is a 'musician who doesn't play music'. And an idiot. Also, he's apparently meant to be a babyface, which with everything we know about Heath Slater now, just seems very, very, very wrong. He's excellent in the goofy pest heel role he's in now, but trying to get a man who looks like that across as a 'rock star babyface' was never going to work.
Anyway, it's time for the first match of NXT, and that's really what it's all about. You can be a 'rock star without instruments' but you can't be a 'wrestler without matches'. They work a pretty basic match, and Slater proves to be alright in the ring, as he sells and executes moves well. However, Tarver is pretty limited to just punches and kicks. Christian and Carlito work the end of the match, before Christian gets the pinfall over Tarver. It's all very average and nothing grabs your attention, which was a big problem for a lot of segments in the original NXT format.
After the break, 'This Fire Burns' plays and the Straight Edge Society enter. Ah, the Straight Edge Society. So awesome yet so wasted by bad booking. With them is the Troll Doll himself; Darren Young, who doesn't get a video package but is instead described by Michael Cole as 'The South Beach Party Boy'. Well, at least Young had a gimmick back then. This is followed by an awesome pre-take promo by CM Punk, where he very calmly explains that he is mentoring Serena and Luke Gallows, not Young, and has no idea why he is on the show. Less is more. And excuse me while I cry about CM Punk leaving.
David Otunga is a bit luckier than Young, in that he doesn't have to wear that ridiculous attire, and actually gets a video package to explain his character. He got a rub (no, not that kind of rub) from being Jennifer Hudson's husband, and so it was easy to tell that WWE were intent on pushing Otunga regardless of whether or not he had any discernible talent. He had a good look, and presumably still does, although he has not been seen on WWE TV for nearly a year now. Maybe he was driving a car with Ezekiel Jackson, Yoshi Tatsu and Curt Hawkins when they got lost in fog at night and hasn't been seen by anyone since.
|Do the Duckface.|
Regardless of his current MIA status, Otunga's video package is actually pretty good at presenting him as a cocky young star, showing him in pictures with President Obama and comparing himself to John Cena and The Rock. I can't imagine who will win the upcoming match between this guy and the Troll Doll.
The predictable happens, and Otunga pins Young after 1 minute with a terrible looking spinebuster. Moving on.
|CM Punk is not impressed.|
At least this show has a very interesting main event in Chris Jericho vs Daniel Bryan. Jericho was the World Heavyweight Champion, and made his entrance with his Rookie, Wade Barrett. Barrett was the second biggest standout from the first season of NXT, and was actually helped by his association with Jericho ("TALK ABOUT WADE BARRETT!"). It helped that Jericho was basically the top heel in the company in early 2010. Barrett gets to cut a brief promo about his character and has a little back-and-forth with Jericho, showing that Barrett looked natural on the same level as Jericho. Again, good stuff.
|Ah've gut sum BAD NEWS Jericho!|
So, into Jericho vs Bryan, and as we know, Jericho is excellent at putting over just about anyone. He even made Yoshi Tatsu look legit. So obviously, Jericho gives Bryan an excellent match that someone with more ego *cough*HHH*cough* would have denied to the 'rookie'. Bryan hits a lot of his now famous moves, including the backflip over his opponent in the corner, the multiple kicks and the suicide dive going into the announcer's table. All the while, Cole explains that all internet fans are idiots, a far cry from 2014 and his shilling of Twitter, the App and all the other stuff WWE uses the internet for to build their brand.
|Air Goat 2010|
Jericho very nearly taps, but just manages to get to the ropes before catching Bryan with the Codebreaker and locking in the 'Liontamer' version of Walls of Jericho. Awesome stuff.
Miz then enters the ring and beats up Bryan for the hell of it. This started a feud between the two that continued for pretty much the whole of 2010, culminating Bryan making Miz tap out to win the US Championship, much to the chagrin of Michael Cole on commentary.
Matt Striker signs off the first NXT episode by calling it a 'groundbreaking event in television history'. Yeah, I know WWE are prone to over-selling things (see claiming Batista 'electrifies the crowd like no-one else'), but that was just a tad too much. We never got to find out the Cowboy's name on this episode, but as you can probably tell, he was Skip Sheffield AKA Ryback AKA The Big Guy.
|It's too easy to make a second 'Brazzers' joke.|
So, there you have it. A show that was a far cry from the excellent NXT shows made today, both in format and quality, but one with its own charm and memorable moments. Most of which were provided by Daniel Bryan. Wade Barrett would go on to win the first season, but all 8 guys would come up to the main roster as The Nexus, destroying John Cena before getting badly booked and ending up either injured, future endeavored, or CM Punk's lackeys in the 'New Nexus'. Barrett is now delivering Bad News and is firmly stuck in the mid-card. Skip Sheffield is now making bizarre tweets. Justin Gabriel is jobbing. Heath Slater is still a rock star without an instrument. David Otunga is missing. Darren Young is no longer a troll doll, but rather a black, jobber version of John Cena. Michael Tarver is long gone. And Daniel Bryan is a goat, a B+ player, Mr. Brie Bella, and the most popular man on the roster. Oh, and he got a good catchphrase.