Last night, when Mean Gene Okerlund was giving guest host Sharlto Copley his pep talk before going to rescue his A-Team co-star Rampage Jackson from the clutches of the evil Ted DiBiase, he threw a pretty pointed jab at his successor, Josh Matthews. Matthews was in earshot and had a funny interaction with Okerlund. I, like many people, just saw it as a funny throwaway ending to a lame comedy segment. It was just good to see Mean Gene again on TV. Or so we thought.
Within the context of the rest of the show, specifically the ending, that segment served as major foreshadowing. You see, thinking back and reflecting on the first season of WWE NXT, the rookies were humiliated and demeaned for the most part. Even David Otunga, who was given the golden calf treatment because of his standing with pop-star fiancée Jennifer Hudson, ended up getting his pants pulled down on more than a few occasions, most notably the RAW after he got the chance to guest host where he was mercilessly squashed by John Cena. They were made to do stupid challenges like chug soda and sell programs. Daniel Bryan was antagonized by his Pro, The Miz, and by lead announcer Michael Cole. Skip Sheffield and Darren Young were both all but forsaken by their Pros. Of the three announcers, Cole, Matt Striker and Matthews, the only one who seemed remotely sympathetic to the plight of the rookies was Matthews, the low man on the WWE announcer totem pole and as an alumnus of Tough Enough, a WWE reality project reject himself.
Matthews’ treatment at the hands of Okerlund was endemic of the kind of BS the rookies had to put up with, and at the end of the show, they struck back at the WWE machine that had made them carry kegs and cut promos about rainbows and butterflies. When the copyright graphic appeared on screen at 11:05 PM EDT last night and Cena was giving the thumbs up after being stretchered out, the best angle in the last ten years had finally come to a head. In a stroke of genius, the entire first season of NXT had been used as a 15-week prolonged build-up to the eruption of awesome and win that was the formation of what a friend of mine on the Internet is calling and I’m stealing, the n(XT)Wo.
Well, the proof is in the pudding. Either there was a shake-up backstage and guys like Dusty Rhodes (who, by the way, RULED IT last night in his appearance), Triple H (whom I hate but is a way better wrestling mind than, say, Brian Gewirtz) and other old-school wrestling guys are directing the ship, or the TV writers spent the last 6 months of 2009 in Room 23 on the Lost Island with their eyeballs held open and exposed to a brainwashing montage of classic wrestling angles, swerves, promos and matches. This isn’t the first really good thing they’ve booked all year. The Cena/Batista feud was the best main event feud they booked since 2008, when they let Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho have at it. Earlier this year, post-Draft, they did a masterful, one-show angle that saw Jericho and The Miz teaming up. Despite having him fall victim to some nonsensical, parity booking post-winning the title, their handling of Jack Swagger has been pretty good, especially his vignettes and promos talking about his accomplishments outside of the WWE. Just last week, they made Evan Bourne look like a million bucks.
Could it be that they finally get it, and that there has to be a balance between the transparent attempts at whoring themselves out to the mainstream and the actual meat-and-potatoes wrestling angles and storylines that satisfy the fans that they already have? I hope so, because if this is a sign of things to come, it’s going to be a great time to be a wrestling fan. Add this into the masterful job Chikara and PWG are doing at making the indies a vibrant scene, and the landscape of wrestling is looking to be the best it’s been since the Attitude era.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.
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