Thursday, May 14, 2015

NXT Takes Over Philly

The man comes back to Philly
Photo Credit:
The New Japan storm has swept over Philadelphia with great satisfaction and has now moved north to rock Toronto like a hurricane. Now, my home city can begin to gird its collective loins for the coming of NXT. Whether one views the newly-touring arm of WWE as its developmental territory or its premium brand at this point, no one can deny how exciting it has built itself up as over the last year. The fact that Philly is one of its first stops on its touring schedule - in fact, it's the FIRST stop on the tour that wasn't in conjunction with the Arnold Classic or WrestleMania - speaks volumes as to WWE's respect for the town as a wrestling mecca.

Its choice for a venue seems curious. The Tower Theater, in the first suburb one hits when they're traveling out of the city west on Market Street of Upper Darby, isn't traditionally a wrestling venue. In fact, outside of a random TNA house show that happened in the last few years, I don't think it's ever really hosted a wrestling event, and is known mostly for concerts. The last time a wrestling company stepped out of the arena comfort zone and tried a dedicated concert venue, Chikara ended up trying to make fetch happen at the Trocadero. It was better for all parties involved when that experiment was tossed out the window, to be honest. But it's not like the venues are carbon copies of each other.

Still, unless Condor Security floods the arena after the show and shuts down NXT for an indefinite amount of time, I doubt that the end action will be disappointing. Even though Sami Zayn and Hideo Itami, two huge pieces of the machine, will be out with shoulder injuries, the roster isn't exactly worse for wear as assembled, even if it could be in trouble if anyone else goes down. Kevin Owens is on top, and every time I've seen him live for Ring of Honor, he's done nothing short of amazing work in the ring. Whether for a piddling TV taping or for a huge cornerstone show, he has come out and done his thing as excellently as any pro wrestler ever could, and his streak of awesomeness has continued into NXT. No matter what wrestler he ends up working, he will blow it out of the water, because that's what he does.

The cast supporting him, whether they're folks that are known via television or not, is solid in their own way. The women, who could very well headline the show in the absence of a true headlining opponent for Owens, are as a group stronger than the men if one measures relative to the divisional size rather than total performers. Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Bayley, Emma, and Alexa Bliss could all be there, and the addition of KC Cassidy and Jessie McKay to the Florida house show circuit could mean that they may be making the trip up as well. If you are heading to NXT for the first time and don't watch the television show on The Network, then you're in for a treat, because these women do not work the same way that the main roster Divas have worked mostly up until a few months ago and still do to an extent. If you replaced everyone's body on NXT with wireframes or polygons, you would not be able to tell the difference between male or female wrestlers, and that's absolutely the highest compliment I could pay them.

Of course, the men aren't slouches either, and honestly, even if they don't come off as well on television as one may like, the house show is a different environment. Everyone will probably get some time, which could be a blessing for some wrestlers and a curse for some others (Hi, Baron Corbin). I know for a fact that Solomon Crowe will be able to do more in front of the Tower Theater crowd than he has gotten to show at Full Sail, and if you are not familiar with the Sami Callihan who haunted the indies in 2012 and '13, then you may have your eyes opened. And who wouldn't want to hear Enzo Amore and Big Cass spit their game in front of a live crowd? Also, Finn Bálor has been teasing that a certain alter ego of his could be appearing at the Friday show at least, which would be special in that it has never been unleashed outside of Full Sail during his NXT tenure. No matches have been announced yet, but the sheen on NXT is still so glossy that the name on the marquee and the assortment of wrestlers on the card can still draw without having a dance card announced for either show. Whatever happens, it will be memorable at least.

And of course, I will be at tonight's show. If you see a dude in black-frame glasses, a short buzzcut hairdo, and some kind of wrestling shirt (more than likely a Chikara-themed shirt), say hello! I'm pretty sure half of local wrestling Twitter, including some people coming in from long distances (including UPROXX's own Danielle Matheson and Bill DiFilippo!), will all be there too, so no matter who you are, come and say hi to Your Boy TH™.