On the February 18 episode of NXT CJ Parker wandered to the ring and announced he hated NXT and was taking the show hostage because he'd been left off the previous week's Network special. As he draped tape across the ring ropes Crowe appeared, hit him a few times, and performed his slingshot splash. After saying "And now we return to your regularly scheduled broadcast!" he left.
It was a rare miss for the show. Crowe delivered his disappointingly clichéd line in a disappointingly clichéd manner. His ring attire, while sufficiently different from the rest of the roster to let him stand out, was less attention-grabbing than the variety of looks he's trialled at house shows, shots of which have been posted online. Most obviously there was nothing to tie what we saw in this (admittedly brief) segment to the hacking that had foreshadowed Crowe's first appearance.
There was nothing wrong with him attacking CJP though. That Parker's role has developed into being the guy newcomers, particularly indy darlings, get over on is enjoyable. It gives Parker's character something to do and a theme that can, at some point in the future, be paid off.
|The look does not match the gimmick.|
But Crowe is the focus here and his debut was not what we have come to expect. Basically it wasn't as impactful as it could have been. The next episode did nothing to rectify this. As Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger walked to the ring for what may have been their last ever match as a team1 the broadcast was hacked (even though it's a taped show) and Crowe was shown sitting in a stairwell gazing at an iPad. Without acknowledging the camera he said his actions the week before had been a statement rather than a introduction and that his plan (because he has one of those) will be complete when he's the NXT champion. Then he tapped his iPad and we were sent back to Jordan and Dillinger versus the Lucha Dragons.
The week after that Crowe defeated Bull Dempsey in an unimpressive match. He won with his slingshot splash move. That won't last as his finisher. It's far too unimpressive for WWE, even on the developmental level.
Right now the character is confusing. Crowe is dressing in a singlet like a regular wrestler but is portraying a hacker-slash-computer genius whose skills are advanced enough to allow him to hijack a broadcast. There's no reason a wrestler with these computer abilities shouldn't dress like Crowe does but it feels off. A gimmick so tied into modern culture should surely warrant similarly modern wrestling attire.
|Get Crowe in this gear. I'd mark.|
It's frustrating because the concept of a wrestler who can hack the TV show they're appearing on has so much potential, and not just because an iPad would be a deliciously absurd signature foreign object. Like The Vaudevillains it has just the right amount of silliness to work in an environment like NXT and would help to set Crowe apart from the crowd.
The good news is that as enjoyable as NXT is it remains WWE's developmental area. It's designed as somewhere to trial ideas and concepts. Not everything has to be perfect and arrive whole. Crowe and the production team have time to figure the character out and make some tweaks. Admittedly here are a lot of tweaks that need to be made (the outfit, the direction of the gimmick, the character's focus, the move set) but there's time. Crowe is going to be one of the guys who inherits NXT once the current batch of top guys leave for the main roster. That's more than enough time for him to get his act together.
1 RIP the Jordan and Dillinger team.