Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Takeover in Flux

With Zayn potentially out, is NXT facing down a crisis?
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One week from tonight, NXT will hit the Network live for another Takeover special. So far, the series has been four-for-four, five-for-five if you count ArRIVAL, in terms of delivering quality in the two hour space it occupies four Wednesday nights out of the year. However, Unstoppable will have the unenviable task of not only following up what was perhaps the best special of the five in Rival, but having to do so with Sami Zayn and Hideo Itami more than likely on the shelf with shoulder injuries and Adrian Neville tearing up the main roster after having his first name lopped off by Vince McMahon.

For all the deserved praise heaped upon NXT since its arrival on The Network, the folks running the show at the Performance Center/Full Sail have left the cupboards dreadfully bare in case of emergency. Right now, only four male superstars are ready to carry a match, and one of them, Rhino, is tied up with Ol' Dead Eyes himself, Baron Corbin. The women are in better shape, but in true WWE fashion, the female roster is paltrier than the male one by design. Then again, it's big enough that it has two marquee matches that could end up buoying the show, and a third in which Charlotte might be able to guide Dana Brooke through rough waters.

The people on the NXT roster who can deliver usually end up doing so in spades. The first year of Takeover specials are remembered for the outstanding women's matches and for the big deal bouts featuring dudes like Zayn, Neville, Tyler Breeze, Cesaro, and Tyson Kidd, but the quartet of 2014 shows did have a bunch of clunkers too. The tag division was spotty, the reliance on Enzo Amore to work matches was a bit too heavy for my liking, and the women were still being built up to have enough soldiers to get more than one feud out of the fray. Even at Rival this year, yeah, everyone was healthy and were able to produce four bombs-away matches, but that tag match between the Dubstep Cowboys and Lucha Dragons was, in a word, woof.

Maybe criticizing NXT right now is a bit unfair since it still is the best thing about WWE and along with Lucha Underground is perhaps the best currently active arm of any promotion in the States. But the problem is that the main roster, though filled with malaise, is at least full of guys who are meant to be there. What's going to happen when Owens, Zayn, Finn Bálor, and Itami all get the call to the main roster? Sure, the folks at NXT will hopefully have guys built up to replace them, but it feels like they're late on the draw getting those processes started.

For example, does Corbin have any business being in a marquee match, even if he could get squashed by Rhino to end him? He clearly needs more time to season on the house show circuit. Meanwhile, Solomon Crowe is languishing with a dead end gimmick, and he feels more than ready to be able to step in and have a decent match in the opener that won't keep people waiting for what's next. The tag division right now doesn't need to be just the two teams feuding for the title, and if one of them's not the Vaudevillains, then they need to have something going on.

All this kvetching could be for naught, especially since Uhaa Nation is getting fast-tracked, and the Aussie lasses of Jessie McKay and KC Cassidy seem to be tearing up the house show circuit right now. Additionally, NXT still only gets an hour a week when it's not live. Time is certainly at a premium for the roster and producers. Still, I can't help but feel that time could be maximized a little better. The current Takeover card looks a little scary on paper, and that's just with three guys taken out of the mix. Imagine what's going to happen when all the current stars leave and the roster is made over completely.