In the first live wrestling show on the WWE Network, a fantastic show from NXT was marred by technical issues.
The Network has kicked off to mixed results so far. The initial demand (some estimates had between 250,000-350,000 people signing up on the first day) had overwhelmed MLB Advanced Media and caused issues for the first 48 hours of the launch. However, by Wednesday afternoon it seemed like most of the issues had been fixed, and people were immensely enjoying the product.
However, on Thursday night, during the NXT: ArRIVAL show, the technical difficulties cropped up again. Around 9:20 p.m., as Tyler Breeze was making his entrance, the show started to cut out. While people would turn their apps and streams on and off, it would simply take them back to the Breeze entrance (or the Adrian Neville promo that was before the match), show that for a few seconds, before cutting off again. This problem lasted for about 20 minutes, and when it finally resolved for everyone, the main event was half-over.
Viewers were able to catch what they missed on the replay, and it was later put "on demand," but this has to put up a big red flag for the WWE. While the NXT special event was drawing a lot of attention, it will be nothing like the demand for Wrestlemania, or the other pay-per-vews. At least currently, this is the last time a live wrestling program will be on the WWE Network before Wrestlemania. So while there's plenty of time, unless they decide to add another NXT special, or something similar, to the WWE Network, there won't be another time to truly test the demand. Obviously, it would be nothing short of a disaster if Wrestlemania has technical issues like this.
As I was writing this, the WWE put out this release:
"During tonight's live NXT ArRIVAL special, we unfortunately experienced technical difficulties, which are to be expected when launching a new digital network. We will work aggressively to solve these glitches and deliver quality service. The complete event will be available on-demand overnight."
That being said, technical issues aside, ArRIVAL was a phenomenal show that gave the WWE a chance to show off the NXT roster. NXT has long been a favorite of mine, to the point that I've said that it's the best hour of wrestling on TV on a weekly basis. This show showed part of why. Wrestlers like Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn and Bo Dallas (yes, that Bo Dallas) get time to shine and women's wrestlers like Paige and Emma put the current roster divas to shame.
The show featured three big matches: Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn, Paige vs. Emma for the NXT Women's title and a ladder match for the NXT title between Bo Dallas and Adrian Neville. All three of these matches met or exceeded expectations. It was a great way to introduce the NXT product for those watching for the first time, and rewarding the long-time fans by putting on a PPV-like program.
If you didn't see it, here's what you missed:
** The show opened with a match between Cesaro and Sami Zayn (the former El Generico from ROH and other independent organizaitons). This was the fourth time in the past year that these two had met, highlighted by their best two out of three falls match from last summer. These two wrestlers know each other so well from their time spent together in the indies, and always put on a good show. This was no different. The big thing about these two was that it wasn't the same as their previous encounters, and they actually built on it. Some of the set up spots from the previous matches were countered, and turned into bigger moves, including a reversal of a tornado DDT on the outside into an uppercut. They actually told the story that they knew each other well in the ring, and used it to put on a fantastic 20-minute match. Eventually, Cesaro's power simply overmatched Zayn, but it put the two on an even level. It would not surprise me to see Zayn called up the main roster within the next few months.
** Following that match, Mojo Rawley (Dean Muhtadi, who played football for the University of Maryland) beat CJ Parker in a pretty standard match. Mojo is still raw, as he only has been wrestling for about 18 months, but he continues to show improvement.
** The Ascension (Connor and Viktor) defended their NXT tag titles successfully against a mystery team, which turned out to be Too Cool. I understand mixing in some wrestlers that the common fan would know, but I think this was a mistake. Granted, with injuries, the NXT tag division is a little bit bare, but they could have used someone that, quite frankly, posed more of a threat, and could move a little better than Too Cool. The Ascension is another group I could see tabbed for a call-up soon, particularly with some of the teams on the main roster breaking up. They have a good look, work well together, and could quickly get over with the crowd.
** Paige defeated Emma in an NXT women's title match. If there's one thing that NXT has over the main roster right now, it's the women's matches. These two put on a women's match that was better than nearly all of the divas matches on the main roster for the past few years, featuring some strong chain wrestling and sumission moves. At one point, Emma hit a sitdown powerbomb that sparked the crowd to chant “Better than Batista”. Paige ended up winning with a move that William Regal (on commentary) called a Scorpion Crosslock, which looked absolutely brutal.
** Xavier Woods came out for a match with Tyler Breeze (this is where the technical problems start, but watched this again on the replay). Before the match could start however, Alexander Rusev came out and destroyed both of them.
** In the main event, Adrian Neville beat Bo Dallas to become the 4th ever NXT champion. Shawn Michaels came out before this match to put over the NXT talent. Bo Dallas, who had a brief run last year on the main roster, has been thriving in NXT in his new persona, which is basically a heel that acts like an over-the-top face (think Kurt Angle when he debuted). The match itself wasn't overly special for a ladder match, but when you consider that neither of these two are all that experienced in ladder matches, it was pretty good. Some interesting spots with some good storytelling, even if there weren't the typical brutal spots associated with a ladder match. Neville will be an interesting person to watch in the future. Presumably he won't be up any time soon, as he just won the NXT title, but he could fill a void that the WWE has with a true high flyer, something the WWE hasn't really had since Evan Bourne was on the main roster.
** One relatively small thing, but felt big to me, was the broadcast crew. They worked perfectly together in a traditional sports style, which truly added to the broadcast. They had Tom Phillips be in a traditional play-by-play role, William Regal to call color, particularly focusing on naming the moves, and Byron Saxon to add depth to the storylines. They functioned perfectly in those roles, and the WWE should really consider going back to this format for the main shows.
Thoughts? Questions? Leave them below in the comments section or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster