Saturday, 29 March 2014

Spotlight: NXT Season 1 rookies

The NXT we currently enjoy used to be a totally different beast. In 2011, WWE debuted a new show, which dipped its toe into the reality television world.

8 rookies competed to be the next breakout star and earn a spot on the main roster. 5 seasons of NXT aired - in this spotlight we look at the stars of the memorable first season - some successful, some.......not so much.

                                           Sorry had to add this in for comedy purposes!

The show's original format saw the 8 rookies in various physical and non physical competition to earn a WWE contract.

When the original season came to an end, one man was left standing as the NXT winner: Wade Barrett. However no-one expected what came next.

                                                            NXT Winner: Wade Barrett

The next night on RAW during a match between John Cena & CM Punk, Wade Barrett sauntered down to the ring. The other 7 rookies - Daniel Bryan, Darren Young, David Otunga, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, Michael Tarver and Skip Sheffield hopped over the guard rail and we knew something big was about to happen. The NXT rookies destroyed everyone and everything, leaving a huge impression on all of us.

The Nexus was born.

                                                                 The Nexus Debut

The stable was relatively short lived, lasting from June 2010 - August 2011. It changed its members over this period (John Cena was forced to be a member at one point) and even it's leader Wade Barrett was exiled from the group in favour of CM Punk - who formed the New Nexus (comprising of rookies from NXT season 2 - Husky Harris (Bray Wyatt) and Michael McGillicutty, season 1 rookie David Otunga and FCW star Mason Ryan).

                                                                   The New Nexus

The Nexus will be remembered as a memorable faction in wrestling history - taking a group of unknown rookies and putting them on centre stage. They all made an immediate impact and although the spotlight doesn't shine quite so brightly on some if its stars now, they were part of something special and deserve to be remembered for that.

Now let’s examine each individual rookie and see what path their career took following the end of the Nexus. I’ll also take a look at what the future could hold for them in WWE.

Heath Slater


After the Nexus split, Slater became part of the forgettable stable known as The Corre, along with Justin Gabriel, Ezekiel Jackson and Wade Barrett. Slater also had a run with the tag team titles (as part of the Nexus and the Corre) along with Justin Gabriel.

Since then he seems to have become the rock and roll version of Barry Horowitz - becoming a jobber to all. He’s not alone though - Drew Mcintyre and Jinder Mahal make up the numbers in 3MB. I actually think all three members of 3MB have talent - like with most underutilised wrestlers it’s just the case of being booked correctly.

So how could Slater be booked? How about splitting 3MB and putting Slater along with Curt Hawkins (he has a similar look should they choose to keep the 3MB gimmick)? Or even keep Mcintyre and Slater as a team? I'm not suggesting that Slater will be headlining PPV's anytime soon, but he could make his presence felt in the tag team division.

Justin Gabriel

                                                                  'International Airstrike'

The South African born star teamed with Heath Slater after the Nexus disbanded, becoming a member of the Corre and holding the tag team championship. He has never really had a big singles push since then which is a shame - Gabriel is exciting to watch. Unless WWE were to reinstate the Cruiserweight division I'm not sure where I see Gabriel.

He formed a short lived tag team "International Airstrike" with the hugely underrated Tyson Kidd. Why not start this team again? They had huge potential and could have had some great matches with The Shield, The Uso's etc. Even keep Kidd's wife Natalya as their manager?

 David Otunga

                                                                   'Harvard Graduate'

After leaving the Nexus, Otunga held the WWE tag team championship with Michael McGillicutty as part of the New Nexus. Since then he hasn't really done a lot! He had quite a big role in the company as John Laurinaitis' legal advisor but following 'Big Johnny's' departure has pretty much disappeared from our screens. 

As far as I am concerned, Otunga didn't have a lot of in ring talent - but I really enjoyed his character. He was a good talker and made his presence felt on the mic. I believe he would make a good manager for an up and coming NXT star?

Michael Tarver 


 Michael Tarver was released from his WWE contract on June 13th, 2011. I am not aware of any wrestling appearances since.

Darren Young 

                                                                       'No days off'

Young was actually kicked out of the Nexus before they actually split (Young chose to face John Cena the night after Summerslam 2010, with his Nexus spot on the line. He failed to win, and was exiled and attacked as a result).

Since then he returned to NXT for it's sixth series, NXT Redemption and was later called up to the main roster along with Titus O Neill, forming the tag team "The Prime Time Players". They had an acceptable run but where recently disbanded when Titus O Neill turned heel and attacked him following a loss to Ryback and Curtis Axel.

I saw Young as the more gifted wrestler out of the two but he seems to lack in personality. I think Young would benefit from some work on his mic skills and should maybe be sent to NXT- he could return with a new look/gimmick and start up a feud with a solid mid carder such as The Miz. This could really help elevate Young in the long run.

Skip Sheffield

                                                            Ryback following his heel turn

 Sheffield left the Nexus before their split after breaking his ankle and returned in April 2012 as Ryback. Since then he squashed jobbers and feuded with The Shield as a face, before turning heel to feud with John Cena and CM Punk (Ryback was briefly aligned with Paul Heyman during the feud with Punk).

His short lived alliance with Heyman came to end in November 2013 and since then he has teamed with former Paul Heyman guy, Curtis Axel.

Ryback seemed destined to be WWE Champion and I saw him as a permanent fixture in the main event scene. I personally don't think his heel turn was as successful as it could have been - apparently other wrestlers had complained about his work being stiff too which explains his demotion to mid card.

I personally don't see "Rybaxel" going far as a tag team. As a face, Ryback seemed to have everything going for him so why not revisit that? I'm unsure whether he could recapture his popularity - but there is zero interest in him at the moment so why not try it? Perhaps a feud with Batista (the matches wouldn't be amazing but from a storyline perspective, it could work).

Wade Barrett

                                                   "I'm afraid I have some bad news...."

Wade Barrett became the leader of The Corre over on Smackdown after being exiled from The Nexus. This new stable only lasted a matter of months and was dissolved after Barrett waked out on Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel following a 6 man tag team match.

Barrett has enjoyed a successful career thus far - winning the Intercontinental Championship on two occasions, being involved in a major feud with Randy Orton and a short feud with Kofi Kingston and The Miz. Barrett disappeared from our screens for about 5 months  but returned in late 2013 with a new persona - "Bad News" Barrett. This basically involves him insulting the fans, fellow wrestlers etc.

Barrett has been repackaged on many occasions but nothing seems to stick. I enjoy "Bad News" but the question is, how does this translate into a feud? I'm not sure how this would be booked but I think a feud with a babyface Cesaro or Big E could yield some pretty awesome matches.

Daniel Bryan


During the Nexus debut, Bryan attacked ring announcer Justin Roberts, strangling him with his own tie and was subsequently fired as this was seen as too violent for the WWE's PG-13 programming.

A couple of months later (August 2010) Bryan returned to WWE where he was revealed as the surprise seventh member of Team WWE for the seven-on-seven elimination tag team match against The Nexus at Summerslam.
Bryan would go on to defeat The Miz for the United States championship and following that feud would enter onto a short program with Sheamus over the title.

Bryan would later be drafted to Smackdown where he would go on to win the Money in the Bank briefcase. He cashed in his contract and became World Heavyweight Champion for the first time.
Bryan also started being involved in a romantic storyline with AJ Lee.

Bryan then began a slow heel turn, gradually showing signs of overconfidence and arrogance - leading on to him feuding with his former friend The Big Show and later Sheamus, to whom he lost the World Heavyweight Championship.

He later split from AJ and following a feud with CM Punk and Kane, started teaming with Kane in Team Hell No. Bryan and Kane became the tag team champions and held the titles for 245 days before dropping the belts to Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. Bryan became obsessed with proving he wasn't the weak link of the team, which alienated him from Kane, causing them to separate.

Bryan is seen as one of the best performers in the wrestling industry and his increased popularity caused the WWE to push him to main event stardom. John Cena handpicked him as his opponent at Summerslam 2013 and after defeating Cena, lost the WWE Championship immediately - special referee Triple H pedigreed him, allowing Randy Orton to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase.

                                              Randy Orton cashing in 'Money in the Bank

He entered into a top feud with The Authority (Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Randy Orton), which lasted for months. He had a brief feud with the Wyatt Family but has since re-entered the feud with the Authority. Daniel Bryan is due to wrestle Triple H at Wrestlemania 30 - whoever wins will be inserted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match with Randy Orton and Batista.

The future for Daniel Bryan? I can't see his popularity dying down. His connection with the crowd is amazing and is on par with the greats in this industry such as The Rock and Steve Austin.

Obviously I want to see him win at Wrestlemania 30 then maybe restart his feud with Bray Wyatt for a while? He could also start a feud with a heel Sheamus or Christian? Put it this way, Bryan certainly doesn't need his career to be kick-started, just some good worthwhile feuds and a long reign.

                                               Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt vs The Uso's quite a long section on Daniel Bryan! Quite simply because he has achieved a lot since his debut and is far and away the most successful "rookie" from NXT (I say rookie, but Bryan had actually been wrestling on the independent circuit/Ring of Honor for years).

NXT season one produced some memorable stars and will be looked back on with fond memories - it propelled all 8 rookies to stardom as part of The Nexus and although this popularity may not have lasted long for all of them, most have gone on to forge their own successful career.

I think this is quite possibly my longest post yet and my fingers are hurting now!! The next blog will be a bit shorter and will look at predictions for Wrestlemania and the feuds that may result going forward.

Hope you enjoyed the blog!

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