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Looking Back at NXT: Arrival in Anticipation of NXT WarGames

nxt arrival wargames

In the days before NXT WarGames, there’s been a lot of discussion among the audience about what to expect from NXT, formerly known as the black and gold brand in WWE, that’s been rebooted into a colorful presentation now known as NXT 2.0. The emphasis for 2.0 is now raw talent rather than experience, which is a zig over the former NXT which was the dandy of the wrestling industry at one point. After what’s been a consensus of a rough start for this new iteration, there are signs with the performers and creative that 2.0 is finding its footing.

I’ve chosen to call this weekend’s show NXT 2.0 Makeover: WarGames which is a tongue-in-cheek descriptor of what WWE will present this Sunday. It has the potential for a strong card, quite likely surpassing those with low expectations. I then thought about another show that had low expectations from the audience, which was NXT: Arrival, the first NXT special to air on the then newly launched WWE Network. In many ways, WarGames will attempt to recreate the magic of building something for both the present and the future, much like Arrival attempted seven years prior. I decided to revisit this show, because spiritually, this was the first show of NXT 1.0. As a concept and a declaration, the mix of new talent and veterans on the card was a fresh way to present the talent of tomorrow. WarGames is attempting to do the same.

Arrival, the debut show of the WWE Network in February of 2014, was a six match card that was kicked off with a rousing war cry speech by Triple H heralding the arrival of NXT, and the superstars of tomorrow.

Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn was a 20-minute instant classic. It was the story of the underdog Zayn fighting to prove that he was just as good as Cesaro. He never gave up, finally losing as his last ounce of strength was spent. In the end, Zayn was shown respect by the fans and more importantly, Cesaro.

CJ Parker, now known as Juice Robinson, faced Mojo Rawley in a brawling, sprawling mess. Parker led Rawley through a five-minute squash where Mojo won with a butt squash. Mojo was incredibly underdeveloped for a big show, much like some of the guys who are wrestling this weekend.

The Ascension faced off against WWE favorites Too Cool and it was a total mismatch of styles meant to elevate the Ascension as strong champions. It was too long at ten minutes and not very good. Too Cool looked exactly as you’d think, for guys who were fifteen years past their prime.

Paige beat Emma in a good match carried by Paige for the most part. It was really impressive to see Paige’s poise and personality along with her in-ring ability. She was ahead of her time.

Charlotte was introduced to the WWE Universe, while Stephanie McMahon came out to welcome everyone to the first premiere program in the Network history, and more importantly to explain what a Divas division means for NXT and how we’re going to see the importance even more now.

Xavier Woods and Tyler Breeze went to a no-contest when Alexander Rusev and Lana destroyed both men. Rusev declared his presense.

In the main event, the NXT champion Bo Dallas lost to Adrian Neville, who you all know now as PAC, in a strong if somewhat simple ladder match. The title match was introduced by Shawn Michaels, which was meant to sell the importance of ladders in WWE title lineages. Neville looked the part of a main eventer and won convincingly.

What’s old is new again, because we are back to a focus on new talent honing their craft, which was the original intention of NXT. There was not a whole lot of polish to the performers on Arrival, with Zayn, Paige, and Neville showing the most promise of all the performers who weren’t established WWE superstars in some fashion before. It is also entirely fascinating to see that of 15 performers on the card, three remain with the company as active performers today. On rewatch, the Cesaro/Zayn match was far and away the best thing, and everything else while remembered fondly because of time, didn’t age as all that special.

There is a lot of fresh talent that people will see for the first time this weekend at WarGames. There are at least seven performers for whom it will be their first NXT special event. Five of those first timers are going to be in WarGames matches. While it could be criticized as risky, the hope is that the original formula can be recreated and tweaked for the current generation of young talent. NXT once started small and grew organically with fans until a decision was made for a change. It all started with NXT: Arrival and WarGames is the 2.0 opportunity to continue that legacy. The closer we get to the event, the more confident I am that the brand can succeed in that goal.

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