Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
February 5, 2016
This past week, I read a book that resonated with me more than perhaps any other book ever has: Curse of the High IQ by Aaron Clarey. Another author who I follow on Twitter recommended it, and I bought it on impulse.
The other night I finally carved out some time to read the first few chapters. But once I started, I couldn't put it down, and I didn't stop until I had finished it at 3:45 a.m. In many ways, it felt like Aaron specifically wrote that book for me, even though our paths had never crossed until now.
I plan to devote an entire column to it, if not several. It's like someone climbed into my mind and not only managed to articulate outlooks and thoughts and frustrations from my point of view, but also explained the why behind much of it.
A note of caution: you might not like everything you find in there. But, if you've ever wanted to understand me, and I mean really understand me, or anyone with a high IQ for that matter, read this book. My 135 IQ has been a tremendous blessing in so many ways, though there's a reason the book title refers to it as a curse.
Tonight I went to the NXT pro wrestling show at the War Memorial Auditorium in downtown Nashville. NXT is WWE's developmental program, which has grown in popularity to the point of becoming a viable touring brand. I'll spare you the judgments on why NXT is better in many ways than the current WWE main roster product, but suffice to say that they put on a good show.
I sent the write-up below to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer newsletter and posted it on the members-only WON message board, but perhaps some of you would like to read it as well.
This is a slightly modified version that fixed the ring announcer name which I got wrong and changed a few other things, like my Droid deciding to rib me by auto-correcting Sami to Semi when I typed it in at the show. I didn't catch that error until later, only after I had hastily turned my notes into a proper write-up.
I just got home from the sold-out NXT show at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. It was a great venue with tremendous crowd energy. Probably about 1,000 people there, though crowd estimation is not my strong suit.
Before the show, ring announcer Dasha Fuentes played a trivia game with two kids for tickets to the 2/29 Raw show in Nashville. The answers were all NXT wrestlers. Some jerk in the balcony yelled out "Chris Benoit" as an answer and got summarily booed and shouted down by the audience.
One of the kids hilariously guessed Bull Dempsey on one of the questions, which popped those in the crowd who knew he had been released today. Another guessed Ultimate Warrior on a question, which amusingly led Dasha to remind them that they were talking about NXT wrestlers.
In the end both kids ended up with tickets, which was best for business.
Most of the audience was young and male, with some families and kids there but not many. More attractive women than you typically see at a show that size, which is the usual indication that a promotion (or, in this case, a brand) is truly popular.
They did the pre-match disclaimer in a strange way, playing a recording that wasn't exactly easy to hear, seemingly by design, like an intentionally mumbled radio station legal ID. Then they played a recorded statement about the fire exits that wasn't hard to hear, save for the fans saying "What?" between sentences.
I noted the match time from when the bell rang to when the finish took place, Central Standard Time. No surprise that they ended the last match at 10:00 p.m. CST on the nose.
1. Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss (7:37-7:48)
Asuka won by submission with the Asuka Lock. Asuka received a strong ovation, and Bliss plays the heel role really well. Bliss got most of the offense in what was a slow-paced but fun opener, though at one point Asuka slapped her hard across the face. Asuka has amazing natural charisma, connecting with the crowd without saying a word.
2. Johnny Gargano/Tommaso Ciampa vs. Blake/Murphy (7:54-8:05)
Blake and Murphy won with the combo suplex/top rope frog splash on Gargano. The crowd cheered Gargano and Ciampa wildly and really didn't like Blake and Murphy, including the poodle braids or whatever it was in Blake's hair. Gargano and Ciampa got most of the offense before the finish. Solid match.
3. Nia Jax vs. Billie Kay (8:10-8:15)
Nia Jax won with a leg drop in a nothing match. Kay is gorgeous and athletic, but with the lumbering, plodding Jax in there, you couldn't hope for much from this match. Luckily they at least kept it short.
4. Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn (8:21-8:37)
Zayn pinned Corbin after hitting the Helluva Kick. The fans popped big-time for Zayn, who carried Corbin to an excellent match. And, to his credit, Corbin took a couple of bumps over the top rope that were impressive. After teasing a pair of planchas early, Zayn hit Corbin outside the ring off the stage area (where the entrance was) with a flip dive to the floor. Corbin had several great near falls on Zayn and played the heel role well.
Intermission -- Dasha Fuentes plugged the merchandise, not that she needed to as fans were crowded around the merch table wanting to buy at an almost comical level.
5. Chad Gable/Jason Jordan vs. Dash Wilder/Scott Dawson [NXT Tag Team Title match] (8:59-9:16)
Gable and Jordan won via DQ when one of the D&D team pulled the ref out of the ring as he was about to make a three count. Gable is as great as advertised, but I was really impressed by Jordan, who is showing considerable improvement. This ended up being the longest match of the night, and the crowd loved American Alpha and didn't need much convincing to boo Dash and Dawson.
One of D&D screwed up a move early and landed ass-first on Jordan's head as he laid prone on the mat. Luckily he seemed to be okay after it, not looking groggy or whatever, but it was the lone legit scare of the night. I would have noted which one landed on him if I hadn't immediately been more concerned with Jordan's well-being.
Gable and Jordan doing the Rockers/Rock and Roll Express double dropkick is a great spot, by the way.
6. Emma vs. Bayley [NXT Women's Title Match] (9:24-9:35)
It's Bayley (as they actually called her in the ring introduction, which amused me after seeing Dave write it that way for so long in the Observer) won by pinfall after the Belly to Bayley. As the match began, the smarks in the section next to mine went from tolerably amusing to annoying, cheering for Emma and yelling things like "Bubbles" loud enough to distract the crowd from the match.
One especially really loud guy screamed for Emma to "burst her bubble" and a bemused Bayley looked over toward our direction in the crowd. I shook my head wistfully and pointed at the guy who shouted it, lest she think it was me being disrespectful.
This match is a warning sign of the trouble Bayley is going to have translating to the main roster, I fear. She did everything she could, and Emma is great as a heel, complete with the silver-tinted sunglasses and smug mannerisms. But outside of the NXT home base or Takeover crowds, it's going to be a challenge for Bayley.
On the upside of crowd stuff, the balcony started singing "Just a Friend" by Biz Markie (a song from 1989), replacing baby with Bayley in the chorus.
"Oh Bayley you, you've got what I need, but you say he's just a friend, but you say he's just a friend..."
After the match, Bayley did her best to hug the handful of young kids at ringside.
7. Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor [NXT Title Match] (9:45-10:00)
Balor retained his title, pinning Joe after the Coup de Grāce. Balor was doing the Too Sweet thing like crazy as he approached ringside from the stage, then did the gun hand motion that had seemingly the entire house chanting "Bullet Club" very loudly.
The annoying smarks tried to start a TNA chant that was quickly booed down. Match was fine, solid execution as you would expect.
After the match, Finn got on the house mic and mentioned that he had wrestled around the world, including spending "a few weeks" in Japan, which was a clever thing to say. He said he wasn't kissing ass, but that he's proudest of what he has done in NXT.
He then did the New Age Outlaws gimmick "If you're not down with that..." and even did the DX-style crotch chop. No way is this stuff just happening by chance.
Dasha then plugged Raw on 2/29 one last time and wished the fans a good evening.
OVERALL: Fun show, definitely got my $65 worth for my seventh row seat. That actually was my first time at the War Memorial Auditorium ever, and it's amazing that it isn't used for non-WWE TV tapings of some sort since it has an ideal capacity for a mid-major promotion, a great setup with the balcony area like the Manhattan Center in some ways, and an overall awesome vibe.
As I left, a guy was handing out fliers promoting Ring of Honor's TV Taping at Municipal Auditorium tomorrow night.