Wednesday, October 20, 2021

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Bobby’s Corner: NXT Redemption – My Final Ode to WWE’s Forever Underrated Gem

Yes I hear your sighs and yes I hear you singing out… “Let it Goooo, Let it Gooooo, Turn Away and Slaaammmm the Door” about my never-ending love of NXT Redemption and, welp, I’m sorry to burst your bubbles but it’s back again!

Let’s be real though, if you thought I was going to get my own column and not do an article based on the pride and joy that completely devoured my entire life each and every week from late 2011 to mid 2012, to put it bluntly… you was wrong. In fact, NXT Redemption would have probably been the first topic I even chose for one of these (forgive me Nidia!), but I felt it was more fitting for save it for now considering May 9th is right around the corner.

May 9th, 2012, of course, marked the abrupt, heartbreaking conclusion to my beloved crown jewel. Okay, not the technical finale which came a few months down the road, but the true finale of what made it everything I fell in love with. I can’t even say this was a dark day for me because I didn’t know any changes were coming until a week later. However, looking back, that’s probably for the best when it came to my mental stability because I went through one long hell of grief’s five stages (Yes, I’m sure it’s archived).

I know it sounds stupid to some that a person could get so invested and worked up over a television show, especially one that didn’t even air on TV in the United States and was basically treated like it didn’t matter. To me though, it mattered. It mattered more than any sort of WrestleMania could possibly dream of doing because NXT Redemption gave me that feeling of excitement every week instead of once a year. And yes, I know that through each of the recaps I did for it, I mentioned reason after reason why I thought so highly of it in a way I had never felt about a show before, so I’m going to try and not bore you guys by repeating myself in case you’ve already been down that road with me. The ongoing fact of the matter is though, that I connected and related to it in ways I had never done before when it came to a “wrestling show”, and I hope others did as well.

Truthfully, I always sort of mentioned how Redemption felt more like an actual (good) television show than a wrestling show to me anyways, mostly because each and every character was fully developed. They weren’t just your usual good guy/bad guy shtick, but we had storylines that progressed week to week, feuds that lasted months without ever feeling stagnant (to me at least), great ring work, video packages(!!!) and a lot of talented people who just cannot seem to ever get so much promotion put in them on a Raw or a SmackDown that they could here. It was legitimately like a community of misfit toys that just needed to be given the right platform and the right time to develop into the performers their fans knew they could be, instead of basically being thrown to the wolves and forced to either swim or sink right back down to developmental.

Not only that, but I think I always sort of had a strange personal connection to this version of NXT because I literally got to recap it on the site from the moment it started (involving Divas at least) to the moment it ended. How often does that get to happen? Before it, I was doing TNA, but that had already been on for years just like any other program and I merely joined in basically through the middle of the stories. Redemption was different in the sense that I was here… heck, we were all here for the very first time when Maxine popped out of nowhere and dropped AJ Lee like a sack of potatoes, all the way to the (what I consider) finale, involving her showing off a new side of herself that eventually got scrapped before we could find out where it was heading.

And no, I’m not trying to make this article about me tooting my horn like “Look at me I wrote recaps!” haha, but it’s honestly just how I feel about what I experienced during its run. It’s kind of like if you start becoming a fan of a Diva or Superstar when they first pop up in developmental, or even when they’re on the independent scene and not as many people know their identity just yet. Then they eventually become a huge force on the main roster and you can take pride in knowing you got to see them grow, and you got to grow with them. You see how they evolve from the very beginning all the way to the end, which is how I felt about this show. And that’s the thing… it made me feel something — anything! I was passionate about it and the people involved. I was passionate about wanting the majority of fans to look beyond how it was treated in some of its earlier seasons and focus on the fact it had become a fantastic place where Superstars and Divas that sadly get next to nothing put into them on other shows were treated like the main eventers of this one. The Divas especially had actual characters, actual storylines and actual time to wrestle. Yes, something Raw has often struggled to do with nearly three hours of programming was successfully accomplished week to week in the span of 42 minutes. Crazy, isn’t it?

Needless to say, Redemption was treated pretty poorly by a lot of people, including the fact it was hardly ever uploaded when it was supposed to be. You see how easily accessible NXT is now that it’s airing on the WWE Network? Or hell, even when it was put up on Hulu Plus? I remember having to either wait for a downloaded copy to hit Youtube, or continuously check WWE.COM to see what unannounced time and/or day they were going to be posting it that week (Oh God that makes me sound so old and out of touch haha). On top of that, the video quality wasn’t always the greatest, but because I loved it so much, none of that bothered me an awful lot even if it was frustrating.

The point though, is that while there was a lot of negativity surrounding the show, every week it managed to rise above that. I don’t speak for everybody, but when it comes to myself, they truly seemed to appreciate the fans they had and it was shown each and every week by the fact they continued to put out a product that felt like a treat to watch from beginning to end. It was almost as if they understood how little focus they were being given, but instead of dwelling on it, they opted to use the platform they had as a reward for all of the people who took time out of their lives to track each episode down as if it were some sort of deranged, cruel easter egg hunt. Sure, it was a frustrating thing to deal with, but by the time an episode was finished, I had completely forgotten I was even mad about anything in the first place.

So because NXT Redemption itself always seemed to rise above the setbacks it constantly faced, I thought it would be a cool little feature for this piece if I spotlighted a few of my favorite moments involving the Divas that were a part of the festivities. I know it’s not really much to try and switch this article up from just being about a crazy superfan who was obsessed with a television show, but it’s something!

Without any further ado…

5. Maxine Promo on Johnny Curtis, Derrick Bateman and Percy Watson

Someone please… I will pay you in store-bought baked goods if you get Maxine to return to my wrestling oriented television screen. And her mother.


4. Alicia Fox & Maxine Pre-Match Promo

Cross that PG line Foxy, Cross it!


3. The Entire Valentine’s Day Episode

A feud evolving via Valentine’s Day Chocolate face whacking? A) This is how you do a holiday themed show. And B) When will your favorites?


2. Johnny Curtis & Maxine Chloroform Matt Striker

I can’t write. There are still no words.


1. Maxine Meets Derrick Bateman’s Mother

My holy grail of backstage segments. The fact Agnes J. Bateman got robbed of that Guest Actress in a Comedy Emmy continues to baffle me even more than that of Amy Poehler never winning for her Parks & Rec lead. Ugh, Academies…

Of course, it was way too hard for me to signal out those top five moments… so I have an additional five honorable mentions as well! Even then, I’m still not able to bring forth everything I loved (RIP JTG & Alicia Fox’s two week partnership), but spotlighting some more of what made NXT everything I wanted can be seen as follows:

The Derrick Bateman Intervention

Thank you for bringing the hashtag #TrustTree into my life Kaitlyn.


Darren Young Books Reservation with Tamina

Not gonna lie, I have used the McDonalds line since this episode aired.


The Wedding of Maxine and Johnny Curtis

Maxine fish hooking Johnny Curtis in the mouth is forever and always a 2012 moment of the year.


Tamina Just Wants to Find Love

Forget about the bodyguarding, silent but deadly, vest throwing Tamina you know of now… THIS is her true incarnation!


A backstage segment involving Derrick, Johnny, Kaitlyn and Maxine for a line about giving birth, amongst other treasures

Come for the match build-up, stay for the birth references!


Being that we’re now a few years removed from the episode I consider to be the end (no matter what you tell me, those few weeks of seeing only matches did NOT happen), I just felt it was time to give this show one last hurrah on the site. My recaps may have ended two years ago, but I always sort of knew I was going to pull out one last piece for it when the time was right. So while I wouldn’t say this is closing the door on Redemption (because I will never let that door shut for good), it is sort of like a send off of sorts because I don’t think I have anything left in me to say* that I didn’t either say two years ago or in this very column right here.

*Note: If WWE does want to make my dreams come true by allowing me to host a network based reunion special ala Renee Young for Total Divas, I would certainly be able to say a heck of a lot more and thus make the above paragraph basically meaningless and up for future removal should this come true.

I like to hope if you were reading our stuff back then, maybe a recap or two got you intrigued to give not only the show, but the people involved a fair chance and you were impressed by what you saw. If not, that’s perfectly fine because I know some current readers may not have known Diva Dirt even existed back then or maybe Redemption just wasn’t your cup of tea like it was mine. Whatever the case may be, I want to send a thank you to everyone who made this version of NXT a reality. It was only on the air in this format for about nine months (yes, a baby could be conceived and born in the same time span that this jewel was part of my life), but I’ll take those nine months any day over 10 years of just about anything else.

Maybe some people laugh it off and don’t think it had supporters, but we were out there. I feel like it’s just a case of a show coming way before its time, and not only that, but coming in after being plagued by the stigma of being a competition program that even the company’s own commentators would trash on a weekly basis. Fans already had their mind made up, or maybe like I said earlier, it could be that NXT’s brand of comedy mixed with stories and romantic entanglements didn’t work for them. I know it’s not for everyone, and I’m fine with admitting that.

However, it did work for me. I still to this day love my NXT now that it’s become the developmental system and is actually being treated as a legitimate program with the backing and support of people high up (I mean I go to like 500 of their events so I’m clearly not against them). Will I always be just a little jealous that Redemption was sacrificed for it though? Yes. But that doesn’t affect my enjoyment of it at all in that I still think it’s WWE’s best programming they have going. It works perfectly for all kinds of fans, no matter if you prefer the performance side of things (Actual characters!!!!) or the athleticism and wrestling side, which is exactly what it should be doing and I applaud them for it.

Deep down inside though, I will always be just a little more into the crazy antics Redemption brought me. From marriages to mothers to… chloroform(!), it had it all. But unfortunately it was taken from us way before it deserved to be and not in the way it should have been. Regardless though, now that I’ve overcome my multiple month long battles of grief caused by those final few non-storyline oriented weeks, I can look back and appreciate the fact that those nine months actually happened rather than just be upset at the way it ended with no closure.

Maybe this article inspired crazy eyed stares and laughs at my ridiculousness, or maybe you saw Redemption and connected with it the same way I did, so you get where I’m coming from. Whatever the case may be, my months covering this show week to week is forever and always what I will consider the greatest, most fun time I had writing, and a bunch of memories I still refuse to forget. I always try to make every redux or column I write my best, but I can freely admit that no piece I have ever done or probably will do has given me the level of excitement as any of those. We Redemption fans may not have been as large a group as Raw or SmackDown, but we are forever as passionate and vocal a bunch as the very talent that worked on the show itself. Cult status bitch!

So yes, as I said earlier, this piece is about letting go of the past because as much as I wish I had gotten to see more from everyone involved, or it had managed to get an actual ending fitting for a group of people who deserved at least that, there’s nothing I can do to change it. But the thing is that that’s perfectly okay. It’s all about being grateful for those months and those memories, realizing that while my proverbial door on it will never fully be shut, the company’s is. I came to accept that a long time ago, but I’m still glad I was able to revisit the past through this and give it one last bunch of the very praise I continuously showered it with back then.

Hopefully anyone who decided to read this took pleasure from it. Sure, I’m over the top sometimes, and sure if you didn’t connect with it in the ways I did (It’s similar to how I feel over a little show that HBO had for a few years called Enlightened which barely anybody but me watched but remains my favorite piece of non wrestling television ever), then this probably all seems silly. However, if you ever find something that truly speaks to you beyond just thinking it’s funny or it’s good… something you have so many thoughts about that it makes you want to write essays on it in your own free time just to get the thoughts on paper… then you’ll know the feeling I have for shows like Enlightened and NXT Redemption. And you’ll understand why I continue to give these “little shows that could” all of my praise and attention despite the fact they’ve been off the air for a while now and aren’t coming back anytime soon. They did something different. They made me think… or care… or react… and they took risks that nobody else around at the time were doing. Maybe that didn’t pay off with the number of viewers they got, but it certainly did when it came to creating lasting impressions that go far beyond just calling them television shows.

Now if you’ll excuse me, rumor has it I’ve got some clips to relive and reminisce upon that involve beautiful, moving interventions, coconut trees, and addictively fun handcuffed intergender pairings.

…Oh, and also reservations at McDonalds.

Until next time,

(P.S. – I STILL like “Wild & Young” even if the whole world hates it).

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