Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Hidden Gems series. This week, we’re going back to 2010 to the inaugural episode of WWE NXT. Not the current amazing version everyone is familiar with nowadays, no no. The game show version that featured a mix of indie stars (See Daniel Bryan), newcomers (See Michael Tarver) and veterans (see Chris Jericho).
NXT was originally aired in 2010, as a “reality” show, where “rookies” competed through matches and challenges in order to survive week to week and eventually earn a WWE main roster contract. It was here in the first season of NXT where the one and only Daniel Bryan made his official WWE debut, as the rookie to his “pro” The Miz. Right from the outset, Bryan was targeted by Miz, not respected for his time spent on the independent circuit. This storyline was a fun twist, with the more inexperienced Miz serving as the pro and sort of “boss” of the veteran Daniel Bryan. It led to some very entertaining television, and it was the first time Bryan got mass TV exposure.
Personally, I’d never heard of Daniel Bryan before NXT. I was four years old when Ring of Honor launched, and by the time I found out about wrestling beyond WWE, TNA, and AAA, Bryan was already on NXT. In fact, it was because of Bryan that I went out of my way to search for things like Ring of Honor and PWG. It took me from a world where Triple H, The Undertaker, and John Cena were the leading guys, and showed me a place where Bryan Danielson, Low Ki, and AJ Styles tore it up regularly. It was a great experience, and it all happened thanks to this episode of NXT. This single episode where all of the focus was on Daniel Bryan, as he competed against the then-World-Heavyweight-Champion Chris Jericho in the main event. It was make or break for Daniel Bryan, the biggest match of his career up to that point. Could he make believers out of the fans not only in attendance but all around the world? Let’s find out on this week’s edition of the Hidden Gems series.
Alright guys, you know what time it is. I must now comment on things that don’t really need to be commented on it. First off, Daniel Bryan coming out to The Miz’s music is amazing. Especially with this version of Bryan, the nerd version. Second, Michael Cole on commentary mentioned the rookies being “testy” with the pros all night. WWE was foreshadowing The Nexus from the very beginning and nobody realized it. Thirdly, Wade Barrett being out there with Chris Jericho has really made me miss him. At one point he even holds the World Heavyweight Championship, and it looks perfect. He’s very much a case of just bad luck because he had world champion written all over him in my opinion. Fourth and final, I forgot NXT used that odd, looming camera instead of a traditional hard-cam like the early days of SmackDown Live did. It used to bug me so much. I do admire the effort to try and make things different though, so kudos to the WWE camera crew.
This match officially begins with a stare-down, where Chris Jericho talks trash to Daniel Bryan. He continues to get in Bryan’s face, and even mushes his head until finally Bryan has enough and retaliates with a slap to the face of the World Heavyweight Champion. Daniel then hits a dropkick, which sends Jericho into the corner. From there, Bryan hits a running forearm smash and tries to keep at Jericho, however, the ref gets in between them to force a break, which allows Chris Jericho to strike Bryan in the face with a right. Jericho then nails a dropkick of his own, followed by a shin to the back of a seated Daniel Bryan. Y2J continues his assault with a running Kane dropkick (dropkick to seated opponent). It’s onward for Jericho as he hits a big back suplex to Bryan, then eventually locks in sort of a half Nelson on The Flying Goat. Well actually, what’s a baby goat called? I might Google that. Take a two-minute break from reading this, and then come back if you want added effect. Anyways, apparently baby goats are called “kid” and “Billy”, so… Daniel Bryan in this episode is a Flying Kid. I guess.
This awful crowd here at NXT somehow manages to will on Daniel Bryan to break this hold he’s locked in. He then reverses a knee to the midsection with a pinfall for a two count, as Michael Cole nearly goes into a frenzy at ringside. Both men quickly get back to their feet, but that ends up being bad news for Bryan, as he gets hit with a step-up enziguri by Y2J for a two count. I love that move. I love all enziguri’s, to be honest. Jericho bullies Daniel Bryan around for a little bit while Matt Striker interviews Wade Barrett outside the ring. Dear lord, I couldn’t stand Matt Striker. Jericho meets his downfall when Bryan sidesteps an incoming Y2J, sending him shoulder first into the steel ring post. Bryan follows that up with some famous kicks to the chest, and then a dragon screw. Not a good one, mind you, but a dragon screw nonetheless. Bryan nails one more kick to the chest for another two count. The pace begins to quicken here as Bryan does flippy stuff off the buckles and nails a running forearm, straight from the WWE games. Bryan once again covers, and once again gets a two count.
Daniel Bryan hits a clothesline on Y2J who’s propped up against the ropes. Jericho doesn’t get over, but does kind of crumble to the ground and outside of the ring. Brilliant. That could have looked very dumb, but it looked awesome instead. There’s a reason why Chris Jericho is the GOAT. Now, I believe I know what’s coming next, and I am not looking forward to it. Bryan urges Y2J to get back to his feet before running as fast as he humanly can to the opposite side of the ring and back, to attempt a suicide dive through the ring ropes. Jericho though manages to kind of counter…? I’m not too sure. Bryan went back first to the announcers table, and it’s absolutely brutal looking. Jericho is down like he got killed, Bryan’s selling his back but acting as if he hit his move, yet Jericho was almost entirely out of the way. It’s very confusing. All I know is Daniel Bryan absolutely got the worst of that. Back in the ring, Bryan attempts some kind of leaping maneuver from the top rope, but gets caught by Jericho, and almost gets locked in The Walls, until he counters into a submission of his own.
Chris Jericho is selling this move like it’s true pain and torture, which I admire him for, because it doesn’t look very good at all. It’s like, some kind of heel hook or something, but neither leg is tied up in any true way. It’s odd, but hey, I’ll just chalk it up to Daniel Bryan being desperate to get a win after the announcer’s table spot. Jericho manages to get to the ropes to break, and almost immediately after that hits a Codebreaker. Y2J then takes his time to lock in the Liontamer to get the submission victory over Daniel Bryan. What a match.
Rating: 4 gems
Man, I always really enjoyed this match, but watching it back again here for this article, I enjoyed it even more. It’s not a very long match, less than ten minutes, but it’s so fast-paced, it feels like the contents of a thirty-minute match got crammed in here. It had essentially everything you could want in a TV match. They built up a nice story, had a comeback spot, and then a big finish. It was smooth, and it was effective, and I’d expect nothing less from two of the best to ever do it. Game show era NXT was largely garbage, but I do highly recommend this match if you want to view something that’s quick, but quality. Chris Jericho in his prime vs. a new Daniel Bryan who’s looking to make a name for himself? It doesn’t get much better than that.
That’s all for this week, my friends. Until next time, I am JeriKane, and this is the Hidden Gems series. Thanks for reading.