This is the first entry in a potentially lengthy series of blogs dedicated to the bizarre fifth season of WWE’s oft-mocked NXT reality show, also known as NXT Redemption.
Throughout the run of this column, which could go the distance or crap out in the middle of next week – honestly, it’s a 50/50 shot – I promise to bring you witty analysis, plenty of GIFs, and my uncensored, middle-of-the-night ramblings.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with this ridiculous hidden gem, NXT Redemption was the fifth and final season of WWE’s attempt at a hybrid developmental competition. The first four seasons, more often than not, came across more like Tough Enough for Toddlers, and while this one started with a similar concept, it sort of just… kept going. Forever.
Unlike the previous seasons, which had limited episodes and featured weekly eliminations, in NXT Redemption almost no one was eliminated. In fact, they just kept bringing in more people, and after awhile started fading away all the rest of the game show concepts as well, until WWE was essentially left with the early precursor to the black-and-gold brand that we all know and love today.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the magic, on the off-chance that I really do make it a substantial way through some of this bizarro world episodes, so let’s just jump in!
NXT Redemption – Episode 1
March 8, 2011
Todd Grisham and William Regal welcome us to the debut episode of NXT Redemption, before pitching it to the ring where our host for this season, Matt Striker, is waiting. I guess that’s as much fanfare as we’re going to get for a season premiere, but given that season four literally just ended 7 days before this show, I can understand why nobody in the crowd seems particularly excited to be there.
Striker introduces us to his new co-host Maryse, and literally the first thing out of anyone’s mouth is a comment about how she looks. Make that two. What do you want to bet that’s a running theme this season?
It’s time to meet our contestants!
First up is Darren Young from season one. Conor O’Brian from season four, who had the pleasure of having Alberto del Rio as his Pro. You may know him as one half of the WWE tag team The Ascension, today. Lucky Cannon from season two is back, wearing an incredibly ugly and glittery robe.
Up next is… Byron Saxton. That’s right, future Smackdown Live commentator Byron Saxton is here to take his in-ring career to the next level!
Next we have Jacob Novak, who was the first Rookie eliminated last season, and looks like a bowl of oatmeal brought to life. Rounding out the field is the big man himself, Titus O’Neil, who I’m now realizing somehow hasn’t aged in the last 9 years.
With all the competitors now in the ring, Maryse informs us that the winner of NXT Season 5 will earn a place on the roster for NXT Season 6.
The winner of this competition is given, as a prize for winning the whole thing, a spot on the cast of another competition? That’s like getting to the end of a long, grueling season of Survivor, and the exhausted, smelly winner who hasn’t pooped inside in 90 days finds out his grand prize for going through that hell is… to do it again, for no discernible reason.
Okay. Whatever. I’ve already written out the intro and made it this far, so I guess we’re doing this…
Matt Striker tells us that there will be no immunity points this season. Instead they will be competing for “Redemption Points” which they can cash-in for immunity, if there’s a tie between the fan voting and the voting of their Pros… Wait, what voting? Why is anyone voting?
Did they just completely gloss over the actual rules to this competition because they assume everyone has seen the other seasons? That’s a pretty bold assumption given that NXT had so little viewership by this point that it literally only existed as a web series on WWE.com.
It’s now time for the competitors to meet their Pros for the season.
First up is Darren Young, whose Pro is… Chavo Guerrero. The veteran actually gives him some sound advice, telling him to stop messing around and focus on his in-ring game, because that’s his strength, and to find a way to finally “stand out”, which is something he knows a lot about living in the shadow of the Guerrero name.
Connor O’Brian’s Pro is Vladamir Kozlov, who mutters something in incredibly broken English about people liking you better when you’re true to yourself, and if they don’t, you “punish them”. Good Lord.
Lucky Cannon doesn’t seem to care about his Pro and would rather standing uncomfortably close to Maryse looking super creepy. His Pro is Tyson Kidd, who tells him that he’s been too nice in the past and needs to take whatever he wants going forward.
Byron Saxton gets future New Japan Pro-Wrestling legend Yoshi Tatsu and Jacob Novak gets one half of the Cryme Tyme tag team, JTG.
At this point Todd Grisham and Striker both are openly making fun of not being able to understand any of the Pros. Todd complained that it was like they were at an International House of Pancakes, and said “When does it end!” Geez dude, build a wall…
Finally, Titus O’Neil’s Pro is revealed as Hornswoggle, who apparently doesn’t speak English. He grunts like a caveman for some reason, because I guess that’s his gimmick, and then does Titus’ famous bark which he thinks is hilarious. Good Guy Titus is being a great sport about this.
JACOB NOVAK vs. DARREN YOUNG
JTG and Chavo Guerrero are up on the apron watching their Rookies up close and personal. Novak controls early on with some basic power offense; a big boot here, a clothesline there. Nothing fancy. Young fights back and hits a Northern Lights Suplex with a bridge out of nowhere, which was barely glossed over by commentary and nearly missed by the cameras. Young hits a big back body drop that barely gets enough air, then drops him with a Full Nelson into a Mic Check, or something like that. That’s all folks! Apparently zero people knew that was his finisher, including the commentators.
DY looked okay here. The match was just your basic three-minute exhibition, so about the only thing I can say about it is that they didn’t really mess anything up and nobody got hurt, so… mission accomplished, I guess?
We go backstage where Yoshi Tatsu approaches Maryse and tells her she’s going to make a great host for this season of NXT. She responds by saying, “Thanks, I guess that’s a good thing.” What the hell do you think he said, Maryse?
Byron Saxton shows up and wants to go over strategy, but Yoshi yells at him because his “timing is terrible” and he chased off Maryse.
Back to the stage where all the Rookies are lined up. There is an obstacle course set up around the ring with a wall to jump over at the start, a net to army crawl under, a balance beam, some flags to run through, and finally a heavy bag they have to hoist up the entrance ramp before the clock expires. The whole thing is worth three Redemption Points.
While explaining the rules of this incredibly hard-to-grasp concept, Striker somehow makes yet another reference to Maryse’s looks, and also says the incredibly awkward line, “I salute you in many ways”. Is that a joke about having an erection? Yeah, that’s straight up sexual harassment, bud.
Titus O’Neil starts things off and gets through the course with relative ease, setting the time-to-beat at 29.8 seconds. Jacob Novak scales the wall like a beast and shaves off time in the flags, setting a new time at 24.0 seconds. Byron Saxton is up next and he does well, but can’t beat the record.
Lucky Cannon refuses to compete and says the fans are stupid if they think he’s going to be their “circus monkey” tonight. He claims he won more than half the challenges in his season and it got him nowhere, so this time around it’s all about him, and he’s focussed on stealing Maryse from Ted DiBiase, Jr… This was legitimately the first thing that the crowd reacted to the entire night, and actually got a very brief moment of real heat.
Darren Young ends up blowing everybody else out of the water and winning the whole boot camp competition, picking up his first three Redemption Points. Hooray…?
For whatever reason, when uploading these episodes to the WWE Network, they kept the throwback segments to stuff that happened on Raw that week. I’m skipping past this week’s throwback segment because it’s longer than anything on this entire show, and it’s 2011 heel Michael Cole and I swore to never endure that again if I can help it.
A video package airs featuring about a dozen cliche phrases from Byron Saxton. He talks about “taking nothing for granted” and how “learning is half the battle”. I think at one point he actually yelled “It’s my time!” and “I am in it to win it”, before actually pointing out that it’s a cliche – which in it of itself is another cliche.
TITUS O’NEIL vs. LUCKY CANNON
Lucky slaps his opponent in the face early on and gets the hell kicked out of him in the. He takes a cheap shot and fights the big man to the floor, then starts delivering repeated knees to the back. A straight-jacket submission is applied slowing things down for a beat. There’s a small smattering of “Let’s Go Titus!” chants, which is more than most of the other competitions can say. Eventually Titus rallies back and damn near kills Lucky with a flying shoulder tackle. Hornswoggle ends up chasing Tyson Kidd around the ring and the distraction allows Titus to catch Lucky flying off the top rope, planting him with Clash of the Titus for the victory.
This was actually a lot better than expected. Lucky did all the things he needed to as the heel, and built off the heat he generated earlier in the night with the obstacle course stunt. Titus looked strong in his comeback and hit two really fantastic looking moves – the flying shoulder tackle and the Clash of the Titus, which immediately set him apart as the obvious guy to beat in this competition.
The debut of NXT Redemption is its own special entity. In some ways it’s like a trainwreck so bad that you can’t take your eyes off the carnage, but in others ways it has its own charm in the same way that watching Troll 2 still brings me joy.
It would be cool if Maryse could go literally one segment without someone objectifying her, or downright sexually harassing her in one instance, or just in general pointing out her looks as if that is the only reason she is on the show. Even if that is why they hired her, just let me life in a world where everything isn’t a giant flaming ball of shit, okay? Oh, speaking of which…
— Running counter of the number of times Maryse was sexualized, objectified, hit on, or a male member of the show commented on her looks: 6
If I’m judging the competition like an objective competition, I would say that Darren Young and Chavo Guerrero are potentially a great pairing as they both seemed to take it seriously, and the veteran Pro actually gave his Rookie some genuinely good advice that didn’t come off as super scripted or produced.
In reality, with the benefit of hindsight, I would say… well, nothing because I know the competition aspect of the show doesn’t actually actually go the distance, but at this point it’s still fun to get relatively intoxicated and laugh and how bad some of the segments are.
I think my favorite part was either when Matt Striker just glossed over all of the critical rules and assumed that everyone in the building, and all the fans at home, just innately know what was going on. It’s either that, or Maryse just forgetting how to have a conversation with another human being during that awkward segment with Yoshi-Tatsu.
Until next time!
Mayu Iwatani & Tam Nakano
Justine Colla returns to Work Of Wrestling podcast to discuss meeting PAC, moving to the UK, Riptide Wrestling, the benefits of therapy, feminism, and more!
Follow her on social media @PastaSauca.
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It’s a busy time in the world of professional wrestling, so I thought it would be a good time to do another Q&A. The questions come from my Facebook page as usual. Let’s get to it.
1. Ed Eastin Jr
What are the realistic chances that Vince lets Trips run NXT as he has been, once it goes on USA?
I don’t like answering a question with a question, but in this case, I ask who knows? People are already complaining about Vince having too much influence. We won’t know until it happens. I am sure Vince will have more of his fingerprints on the NXT brand since it is on USA Network, but I hope that what NXT is remains because it works for what it is. I expect more main roster talent to be there. For example, maybe we get a dream match like The Usos vs. Undisputed Era or maybe Kevin Owens goes to wrestle his good friend Adam Cole. I don’t know how it will work.
2. Erin Somers
Should “The Fiend” be a special character of Bray Wyatt like “the demon” is for Finn Balor??
I think for promos, Bray should do the Firefly Fun House videos and then say that “you let him in” or whatever to set up The Fiend for matches. I think WWE doesn’t want The Fiend on every show, though, so we have to see how it plays out. I’m enjoying it so far.
3. Daniel Hill
Hello John hope all is well? You’re going to get a lot of questions about this I’m guessing but Bray Wyatt. Do you continue the slow build as it has been or push him straight away towards the title. He’s so creative, loving his work and looks so over. Or do you see them just using him as he currently is. Take care mate.
I don’t think he needs a title any time soon. The Undertaker, for much of his career, wasn’t in the title picture. Think of years like 1992 to 1996 and then in 1997 they finally gave him a babyface run with the title. I don’t think Bray’s the type of guy that really needs the title and I’d rather see him in meaningful storylines. It’s still such a new character.
I understand curiosity around the character and I am curious about it too, but I think Bray is one of those guys where we have to see how it goes. There’s no way of knowing what they are doing right now.
4. Amanda Noel
Did Vince intentionally bury Ziggler at Summerslam? What was the purpose of Goldberg destroying him?
I think Bill felt terrible about his Super Showdown match, so he wanted to have another showing to prove that he could still do okay in the right situation. Ziggler’s the heel that gets his ass kicked and still keeps talking, so I doubt he cares. The money is real. The wins and losses don’t matter.
5. Jacob Nicodemus
Would you like to see a Wyatt vs. Black feud at WrestleMania?
I think Wyatt vs. Black would be an awesome rivalry. It depends on what kind of character Bray becomes. Is he going to be having 15-20 minute matches where he’s selling moves or is it just going to be five minute squash matches? We don’t know yet.
6. Rik Shaw
Do you think NXT airing Wednesday nights on USA will have an impact (no pun intended) on AEW’s viewing figures? Could this be one of the reasons the show is moving to a network? So that WWE has content to compete with them on a Wednesday?
Absolutely it will impact the AEW audience. That is why WWE is doing. It’s to limit the audience that AEW has. People can whine about it saying that’s WWE being mean, but it’s business and you don’t have to be nice to a competitor. I think it’s great for wrestling fans.
7. Guy Hundscmbe
Am I the only person who thinks Seth Rollins is far better as a heel?
I think he was a lot of fun as a heel, but I always saw him as a long term babyface just because of the moves he does and the way he sells in matches. He’s very good at that stuff, so you want a guy like that in a face role. With that said, most wrestlers are more enjoyable as a heel, so I doubt you are alone in thinking he was far better as a heel.
I think he’s about the same. Long term, he’ll probably be a face more in his career.
8. Lonnie Nawrot
Hey John. I noticed WWE has been cancelling many live events lately. Do you think maybe they should cut out house shows right now and focus on the main shows and pay per views or just run a few and have promos and a scheduled card like they used to back in the late 80s – 90s? People would know what they are paying for at least.
They should probably cut back on house shows, but there are no plans to do so. They could concentrate on more big markets and that way they will sell more tickets. The house show business doesn’t matter like it used to since they are getting about $420+ million per year in US TV money starting in October, so house show business matters less than it ever has.
9. Orlando Juan
Which “character” did you think could had a main event career but wwe didn’t invest in, or just lose interest for whatever reason? I have a few in mind like Mohammed Hassan, MVP, and in not so main even level Paul Burchill as a pirate.
I thought MVP should have been a main event guy. I have said that for years. I even wrote a fantasy booking article about him in like 2009 about how they could get him to be a top guy.
Muhammad Hassan wasn’t that passionate about wrestling. He tried it because friends told him to, but he was never a huge fan. When he got fired, he moved on and he’s a teacher or Principal now.
10. Larry Yadao
Got some Goldberg questions lol. I know some can be just yes or no, but as.always, I’d love to get your point of view.
-Do you think if Goldberg was booked against The Rock the way he was booked against Brock at SS, he would have been more accepted the first time around?
-If WWE found Goldberg first and they booked him similar, would he had been a bigger star? Perhaps the second coming Ultimate Warrior?
Speaking of Warrior. Could that have been a big draw? Warrior and Goldberg?
– I think the match with Goldberg and Rock was fine. If Goldberg won in two minutes or less it would have pissed off fans as a main event. Having a regular match was cool with me.
– Maybe. There’s no way of knowing. I think they would have developed his microphone skills better and taught him more about not having a big ego.
– I think Goldberg vs. Warrior would have been a terrible match, but as a spectacle, it would be big if their minds were right.
11. Roderick Walker What are some of your favorite KOTR matches?
Bret vs. Perfect at KOTR 1993, Bret vs. Bigelow at KOTR 1993, Austin vs. Mero at KOTR 1996. Plenty more.
12. Deryl Parnell Jr.
Do you see Aleister Black getting a World Title shot within the year?
I hope so, but it’s hard to know if they will push him. I would do it.
13. Nate Kuhl
Do you see any main roster talent going back to NXT to give it more star power with the move to USA Network or are they fine with what they have?
Yeah, I think there will be main roster guys on NXT on USA Network. Absolutely. Maybe even Roman Reigns the first week. Maybe Styles or Bryan. They can do a lot of different things.
14. Charlie Pérez
Do you see AEW as a long term wrestling company?
Sure. The owner has billions and I don’t see them losing money since they are selling out arenas. If they don’t do well on TNT that will hurt them, but I think they will do fine.
15. Ryan Atagi
Do you see Sami Zayn eventually making his way into the Kevin Owens/Shane McMahon feud? If so, who does he align with?
Probably not. I think WWE wants to keep them apart and that’s for the best so Owens can grow as a face.
16. Geoff Landtbom
Do you believe that Vince McMahon is a hypocrite for wanting to compete directly with AEW since he didn’t like WCW doing the same thing when they ran Nitro in the same timeslot? It doesn’t bother me, I just find it hilarious that he’s doing the same thing with NXT that he decried himself when he was up against it almost 25 years ago.
It’s business. I don’t see the problem with it. Of course he said that about WCW in 1995 because he was trying to sway advertisers away from WCW and that’s why he had all these commercials mocking Hogan and Savage’s age with Billionaire Ted.
Plus, WWE can say NXT has been on Wednesdays for five years already so AEW is going against them.
17. Joe Sondag
With NXT now it appears to be going on the USA Network do you think there might be a need for call-ups to the main roster? And with its presence on USA will it help casual fans get to know NXT stars?
I don’t see there being call-ups or anything significant. All three shows are on regular TV now (when NXT is on USA Network), so it’s all the same.
I think NXT will absolutely benefit from being on USA Network because there are plenty of wrestling fans that don’t watch NXT right now. When it’s on TV, they might and that’s a boost to the brand for sure.
18. Brian Coats
What storyline did you find the most intriguing that was just dropped with no rhyme or reason?
Kurt Angle/Triple H/Stephanie in 2000. That should have been amazing and just ended too soon. I’m sure there are others we can all think about, but that comes to mind since I will be reviewing those episodes soon.
19. Matt Tome
Since WWE is about to start the King of the Ring tournament for the men, do you think they’ll do a Queen of the Ring tournament for the women?
They should, but I doubt it. They should also do Evolution 2 PPV, but they aren’t doing it as far as I know right now. It was my fave PPV of last year and I think a lot of people would agree that it was great.
20. Robert Lee Thomas
Over/Under 10 matches left in their career WWE Career:
Cena – Over because he’s young enough at 42, but I would say under 30.
Undertaker – I hope it’s under.
Triple H – Over because he’s in great shape and he’s always around the business, so he’ll even do house shows like in Japan.
Michaels – Under. I hope he doesn’t do it again.
Brock Lesnar – He’s 42, so that not old and he’s paid a lot of money to wrestle a few times per year. Over.
21. Jimmy-Lee Ifrene
I meant to put this up on Triple H’s birthday, but favorite theme song, My Time or Time to Play The Game?
I like both of his songs. I hear My Time all the time in my 2000 shows. I think Play The Game is better, though.
22. Kevin Clark
Was Buff Bagwell on his way to becoming a World Champion when he had his neck injury in 1998?
I don’t think he was ever going to. He wasn’t that good in the ring, but had the look and promo ability that people liked. He is also a big egomaniac that pissed people off, so I doubt they would have pushed him all the way to the top.
23. Cody Nathaniel Linder
Do you think they’ll ever pull the trigger on Braun Strowman?
They should have two years ago. He just signed a new deal, so I think so.
24. James Williams
Do you think now that NXT will be a two hour weekly show that they will do more Takeovers as a result? I like the fact that Takeovers only happen every few months as they always have a great long term build but I see that unfortunately having to change now.
I think they can do six Takeovers in a year instead of five. Maybe 8 max. I wouldn’t do them monthly, though.
25. Van Wilhoite
Now that Charlotte has faced Trish what would be your first time women’s dream singles match be that could possibly take place?
Charlotte Flair vs. Mickie James when Mickie is back next April.
26. Anthony Weigel
When all is said and done, where will Becky Lynch rank among female wrestlers? She’s been awesome.
I think she’s awesome and has many more great years ahead of her. She needs to build up rivalries and have success as a face/heel as the years go by. The more great feuds you can have with different wrestlers, that’s a testament to how good somebody is. I think Becky will do will against Banks. I think Charlotte is ahead of her, but Becky can pass her.
27. Zach Buck
Do you see AEW doing pay per views every month like WWE or should they do like 4 or 5 a year? In my opinion they should do 4 a year. It would make them more special.
AEW plans on doing 4 PPVs per year and I think that’s fine. I think if they extended it to 6 per year that would be okay too. They don’t need to do it monthly.
28. Adam Symes
Next person in WWE to be a first time World Champ?
Braun Strowman. I think was my pick in 2017 and 2018 too. Drew McIntyre is a decent pick too.
29. Tim Gaughan
How do you rank the CM Punk vs Chris Jericho feud from 2012?
It was okay, but not great. That one skit where they had Punk act drunk and then reveal that he was just faking it was so silly. They had some pretty good matches. The one at Extreme Rules 2012 (I think that was the PPV) was better than the WrestleMania match.
They both had better feuds in their careers.
30. John C Hoddy
How successful could Walter be on the main roster?
He would be great, but my understanding is he has a deal that will allow him to stay in Europe. He’s only going to be on NXT UK and he’s going to be able to stay in Europe to train guys at his wrestling school.
That’s all for now. Thanks to everybody that participated. Check out our Q&A archives here as well.
The post TJR Q&A #67: Bray Wyatt’s Future as The Fiend in WWE, NXT Moving to USA Network, More appeared first on TJR Wrestling.