by Kevin D’Hooge
When professional wrestling is broken down to its roots, it is a beautiful thing. It can be seen for the craft that it truly is. This has become especially evident recently with the reincarnation of Tough Enough and the resurgence of NXT.
Now that Tough Enough has started to focus on in-ring action, in-ring grappling and storytelling have taken center stage. The action this past week on Tough Enough was especially captivating because we have witnessed the competitors transform from novices into amateurs capable of performing basic matches (for the most part).
As viewers, we got to see first-hand how matches are formed and received the insight of how in-ring psychology works. Watching the coaches instruct the competitors on how to tell their stories was wondrous.
NXT is also an exhibition of terrific in-ring storytelling. This past week Becky Lynch and Bayley squared off in the main event of NXT. From the story they were telling, it was clear that both were essentially babyfaces. Becky was playing the dominant veteran role and Bayley was the underdog.
With this in mind, Becky displayed one of the most impressive performances in recent memory. She was the tactician in the match, targeting Bayley’s left arm. Lynch’s offense was aimed at tenderizing that left arm. Each suplex, leg stomp and toss had purpose when the end result meant damage being done to Bayley’s arm.
When the time finally came for Becky to lock Bayley in the Arm Bar, the finisher looked devastating. After all the damage done to that arm the WWE Universe had to be convinced that Bayley would tap.
In true underdog fashion, Bayley held on, absorbed the pain, escaped the hold and secured a roll up pin for the win.
This match was reminiscent of the classic chess matches involving the likes of Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle and Dean Malenko. These superstars navigated through matches like surgeons. Every move of offense (or defense for that matter) was carefully selected and had meaning in the grand scheme of things.
With these superstars, specific body parts were targeted to take damage. In- ring roles were selected and were executed to a tee. In a popular style of match, the David vs. Goliath, the smaller superstar would “chop away” at the lower body of the larger superstar in order to make the contest more competitive.
No matter the stakes, these superstars always brought their A-games and supplanted the viewer into a dramatic wrestling story.
Although WWE has been showing signs of improving its ring action during weekly shows lately, a fair amount of matches still feel lazily drawn out. Same old stuff: one on one matches pitting evenly matches foes, performing the same 5-10 moves every match in consistent order every week.
It almost feels like once certain superstars make the main roster, all creativity or motivation is taken from them. Either that or creative has more say in how the matches play out.
Regardless, it was refreshing to see Tough Enough and NXT return to the classical roots of wrestling this week.