For some reason, I’ve decided to watch NXT Redemption and record the details of my ordeal here. Gameshow NXT thankfully happened before I made my surprise return to wrestling in 2012, so I guess this will provide me with a shock of gratitude anytime a new, sparkly episode of NXT happens to be a bit average.
My knowledge of gameshow NXT stems purely from when With Spandex used to do the vintage best and worsts. From my understanding, it was a load of obstacle courses and talk-the-talk challenges while NXT Redemption went on-and-on until it eventually turned into a weird sitcom as the powers that be seemingly forgot about it. So here we go, let’s start with episode 1 which aired on March 8, 2011. Feel free to watch along with me, as WWE have uploaded all the episodes to Youtube.
Our fellow inmates
We start off with Todd Grisham introducing his new co-commentator, William Regal. Thank God, at least Regal will make me laugh. Meanwhile, I have very little idea who Todd Grisham is. He seems like one of the Michael Cole replacement androids that have never actually succeeded in replacing him. Considering I don’t know who Todd is, I assume he’s now on the same scrapheap as Josh Mathews. Momentarily going back to 2015, I think they’re finally on to something with Rich Brennan.
Let’s meet our hosts…
Oh Christ, it’s Matt Striker. He’s clearly a very odd man. You hear him commentating on a Lucha Underground match involving Mascarita Sagrada and Pimpinela Escarlata and he’ll say something like “this looks like something off my hard drive!” He’s essentially saying he likes to wank off to dwarves and blokes in drag, but to his credit “I’m more of a Craigslist guy” is one of my favourite lines in WWE history.
His co-host is none other than Maryse. She’s another I know little about other than she’s a pretty French-Canadian who is married to The Miz. The French accent combined with her ropey presenting ability reminds me of a Eurovision results reader. Douze points à la Norvège!
Meet the stars
From right to left here are your six contestants for NXT Redemption: Darren Young, Conor O’Brian, Lucky Cannon, Byron Saxton, Jacob Novak and Titus O’Neil. They will be competing for spot on NXT season six. Right away, we see what a total shambles this is. We’re doing a gameshow to win a place on another gameshow. In 2015, we of course know NXT season six did not materialise so what was the plan for original NXT? Did Matt Striker just turn up every week and do a show? Did Vince even know this was going on? It reminds me of Stevie Night Heat. Stevie Richards got away with doing his own thing on Heat for ages because no one important was watching Heat. It only stopped when Steph ran into him and Victoria filming their own thing backstage and she demanded to know what they were doing. Classic WWE, punish someone for not getting over with a shitty gimmick, punish people when they do get over organically.
Steph is an idiot, naturally. Stevie Night Heat was fantastic. Stevie I’m Godzilla!
Striker also informs the rookies there will be no immunity this season. Instead they will be competing for redemption points which can be applied to avoid elimination. I’m sure that will go off without a hitch.
Now, let the rookies see the pros.
First up is Darren Young:
Darren’s pro is Chavo Guerrero. Darren responds to the news by nodding enthusiastically. The poor sod is probably just happy he won’t have straight edge saviour CM Punk lambasting him this time. Chavo tells Darren his strength is his in-ring ability which is a helpful advantage for a wrestling talent show. He also challenges Darren to do whatever he can to get noticed. What, like piggybacking on the legacy of his more talented uncle?
Next up, it’s Conor O’Brian’s turn:
It’s Vladimir Kozlov. Vlad is one of those guys I’m not too familiar with from the late 00s but I’m liking his robotic delivery. He’s like a soulless aide for Vladimir Putin. The guy who has to retrieve the treasure before giving it to Putin for the shirtless photo opp. He tells Conor to try and be himself. Regal says Vlad is available for children’s parties.
Who is Lucky Cannon’s pro?
It’s Total Divas star TJ Wilson, or Tyson Kidd if you prefer. This is back when Tyson had the Ronaldo 2002 World Cup Final-style tuft haircut. What on Earth was he thinking? Regal also questions if Tyson is wearing lipstick.
It’s Byron Saxton’s turn:
He’s got Yoshi Tatsu. According to Yoshi, Byron was over confident last season. Striker chimes in with: “Thanks to you, Vladimir & Maryse, I won’t be able to understand anyone this season.” Vintage Striker.
Who will be Jacob Novak’s pro?
Jacob’s pro is just that good, it’s JTG. Regal says he is lost for words. It’s taken eight minutes of this show to dumbfound William Regal of all people. A man who once dressed as a Vegas Showgirl.
He should look away now, here’s Titus O’Neil’s pro:
Fuck. Me. Sideways.
Hornswoggle. Previously I would point to riverdancing Becky Lynch as my go-to example of WWE hopelessly misjudging Irish culture, but nope, I will now use Hornswoggle’s inaudible mumbling as an attempt to sound Irish. How did people manage to watch WWE in 2011?
Jacob Novak v. Darren Young
The first match of NXT Redemption is this titanic tussle. There was nothing wrong with it, it was just a basic-ass wrestling match. If you simmed a match on WWE 2K it would probably look this. All the acceptable work was thanks to Darren Young. It’s those in-ring skills that Chavo pointed out. He did quite a few of the moves we see him use today, just in no particular order. He won thanks to a full nelson throw.
Yoshi catches up to Maryse backstage and tells her that he has something to say to her but gets accidentally cock-blocked by an eager Byron. As Byron says words at Yoshi, Maryse takes the opportunity to slip away. Yoshi berates Cock Blockula with “Your timing is no good”. I suspect it wouldn’t have worked out any differently had Byron not shown up, Yoshi.
Tears of a clown
Conor O’Brian got an emotional video package where he tears up recalling his childhood with his broke mother. He said his previous character was all a facade. If you didn’t see his previous NXT thing, he did a silly voice and made jokes about looking like a rat. He’s different now though, we’re going to see the real Conor. By the way, he was still wearing his “ratitude” t-shirt at the start of the show.
I guess big Illuminati spaceman was more his thing.
For the record, Byron also got one of these vignettes later on but it was so unremarkable I have nothing to say about it.
The first challenge the rookies will face is an obstacle course. Fuuuuuuuuuuu…
Let’s get this straight. These rookies were eliminated from an embarrassing show where they had to do obstacle courses but have earned a second chance on an embarrassing show where they have to do obstacle courses to win a place on another embarrassing show where they will have to do obstacle courses. Just wanted to make sure.
Meanwhile, Maryse has changed into camo cargo parts and a mesh top. This will probably prove to be the most noteworthy thing to happen during this segment.
The course consists of a wall they will need to hop over, a net to crawl under, a balance beam to negotiate, slalom flags and a heavy bag to carry during a sprint finish. The winner will get three redemption points, whatever good that will do.
Titus goes first and seems to do well, finishing in 29.8 seconds but his time is immediately trumped by Jacob who completes it in 24 seconds. Byron then comes up short with 26.5 seconds. Lucky tries another tactic by refusing to run as he will not be Maryse’s circus monkey. He then insists the only challenge he will be doing is stealing Maryse from Ted Dibiase. She seems distinctly unimpressed and Lucky gets DQ’d. Nice plan, mate. Conor misses out as he stumbles after climbing the wall and gets home in 27.1. It’s down to Darren to beat Jacob and he bosses the course, doing it in 23 seconds. Darren wins and receives the three redemption points.
By the way, there’s no chance any of those times are authentic. The clock seemed to take half a second to stop running after each man completed the course. I’m beginning to think this isn’t a legitimate contest.
Titus O’Neil v. Lucky Cannon
Hey, a match! There’s a danger of a show breaking out in the middle of this Wrestlemania 27 advert. I can’t wait for John Cena v. The Rock! Wait, The Miz was in that match?
Your main event for the evening is this pile of shite. Lucky Cannon is awful. Not content with having the worst ring name ever, he also wrestles like a Tough Enough reject. He puts Titus in a bad chinlock and releases it only to apply another immediately after. Regal generously says Lucky needs to work on the execution of his holds. That’s one way of putting it.
If that wasn’t bad enough, we then get a distraction finish. Hornswoggle grabs Tyson’s leg, so Tyson gives chase. The ref stops him, so Horny pushes Lucky off the top rope as the ref’s back is turned. Titus then delivers the Clash of the Titus to end this battle for the ages.
Tyson tries to put Horny in a sharpshooter before Titus boots him out of the ring. Todd can’t believe Tyson would pick on a “bearded child”.
“Bearded child,” Regal scoffs, “what’s the matter with you?”
I feel like he is asking that to everyone watching.