The WWE Network is a big deal. It is the first channel-based netflix-styled content publisher out there. You can just turn it on, and it has scheduled programming. Or you can skip ahead a few DAYS and go ahead and watch what they have scheduled for you. Not only that, there is an entire library of content available on demand. There is also live show, like every PPV of the year, and a few others it seems, like NXT ArRIVAL.
NXT is the "new" brand name for the developmental division of the WWE, bring up stars to the main roster. But it has evolved slowly beyond that. 4 or 5 years ago, when it was FCW, I was very very into it. It had consistently better characters and matches than Raw and Smackdown. And watching this "PPV" now, I almost feel the exact same way! I say almost because ... well, I'll get there in a minute.
Having the WWE Network is all kinds of fabulous. I have a few qualms about some of the mechanics, but overall it is incredibly user friendly, and just offers so fricking much stuff. If you loved wrestling, think you might like it, or used to love it but only like the old stuff, get this! $10 a month for more content than you could WATCH in that month is ridiculous. The one of the best things is being able to see NXT.
I love seeing these guys trying so hard, trying to make a name for themselves, trying to learn how to be a face or a heel, trying to learn what makes a match great, what spots work, how to do storytelling in the ring, how to adjust to a television style of wrestling. And ArRIVAL showcases all the good and bad of that. Mostly good, but there is some bad. Lemme break things down a little bit to talk about the matches.
1) Sami Zayn v. Cesaro IV
This match is the FINAL showing between these two men. They had a 2 out of 3 falls match not too long ago that could very fairly be considered a Match of the Year quality match. It was phenomenal. This match was a little different. This match was all about the heel dominating the face. Cesaro was in control the entire match, and while Zayn got the fans behind him and worked very hard, the story here was he was back from injury, and just was never able to get back to the level he was at before with Cesaro, despite all his babyface fire. And that's ok, it was an interesting match. Zayn has a lot of skill, and is a natural in-ring babyface. This match wasn't MOTY quality, but it was certainly PPV quality, and as a show opener, it succeeded in showing how important this show was. You can see at the end, after Cesaro hugs Zayn, Cesaro whisper something to him. And I'd like to think it was Cesaro sharing with Zayn that he just made himself a star in front of 8 million WWE Network subscribers, the most people he's EVER competed in front of. Good things for both guys in the future.
2) CJ Parker v. Mojo Rawley
CJ Parker's gimmick is a heel hippie. Mojo Rawley's gimmick is a dude who doesn't just get hyped, he STAYS HYPED! I love Mojo's gimmick. I didn't enjoy his match. CJ controlled the whole match until Mojo made his babyface return and then hit a very lame looking finisher for such a muscular dude ... he ran and then sat on him. Sitting finishers work for dudes like Rikishi and Andre, just big ole dudes. But Mojo ... he does a butt bounce and then sits on them. It was lame. The match was short, and the gimmick I loved won, but the whole thing was not good. But Mojo is cool! Hopefully he'll improve.
3) The Ascension v. Too Cool
Veteran comeback versus the newest tweener hardcore tag team there is, who have been and currently are the tag champs. The Ascension is as hardcore as can be, and when Regal compared them to the Legion of Doom, it makes perfect sense. They do not care who you are, look like warriors, and destroy people. Too Cool stood no chance, but were great to see. But once again, we had a match where our heel dominated the faces. This is a disturbing trend of match booking or running. But it gets better, no worries, and the Ascension look ready to come up to the main ranks and destroy some people.
4) Paige v. Emma
Women's Championship. Normally people roll their eyes. But this match was great. Emma worked the match heel even though she is the bubbly face, and Paige made a star out of herself retaining her title as the face anti-Diva, pale and "gothic" ... well, gothic-esque. They worked hard, hit hard, and did some great matchwork. The finish was fantastic, the counter moves, as this is a third or fourth time they've wrestled, were all fantastic, and this has so far been the best match on the card.
I also want to point out that the commentary team is amazingly great. Always insightful, always on point, always entertaining, always adding to the match and the credibility of the wrestlers, not taking it away. Basically, the exact opposite of the commentary on Raw, Smackdown, and everything else WWE does that isn't NXT.
5) Xavier Woods v. Tyler Breeze
Woods is a nerdy dancing PhD having cool kinda dude. Breeze is vain and takes selfies as he walks to the ring. That's all you need to know, because they are immediately destroyed by Alexander Rusev, who debuted in the Royal Rumble (I talk about that PPV here). Rusev was pissed he wasn't on the card, so he destroys these guys to make a point. Perfectly fine sequence to get us ready for the main event, and we understand all three guys from what little we saw. These kind of things, when done sparingly, very much work. It worked here.
6) Ladder Match for the NXT Championship: Adrian Neville v. Bo Dallas
I don't like Bo. Or at least I didn't. I never really thought he was as good as the guys backstage seemed to think, considering how many times he's held the NXT title and how many chances he's gotten to switch gimmicks and alignment. That said, his current Leonardo DiCaprio/Justin Bieber ignorant to the fans egotistical gimmick, man is that working. He just smiles with his fake smile and it gets him heat. I hate him for the right reasons. Good show.
Adrian Neville is one of the best high-flyers I've ever seen. "The Man that Gravity Forgot" indeed. I like little "vanilla midgets" like Nash called guys like Neville so long ago: Jericho, Benoit, Malenko, Lance Storm, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Neville. These guys know how to do a great match, compensate for their small size by being WAY better at EVERYTHING ELSE, and did I say know how to put on great matches. And this match was absolutely great. Watch this match, and you'll see the new star that is Adrian Neville and you'll love every gravity defying stunt he does. He just flips around in the air and on the ground like it is no big deal. THIS MATCH IS GREAT, WATCH IT!
I plan on watching NXT for reals now. And that is exactly what WWE and HHH wanted for the outcome of NXT ArRIVAL. WWE finally has competition, and it is with its developmental system. Ok, it isn't real competition, but in the end, I'll always watch and cheer these guys on. Root for them when the make it, like the SHIELD and Bray Wyatt. Feel justified when a sucky one can't cut it, like Mason Ryan. And overall, enhance my own enjoyment of the product, even when I'm super upset with how the product looks like it is shaping up for Mania. The first "PPV" on the WWE Network was for their developmental. Great choice.