Submitted by Ryan Pike
We open with Devin Taylor getting terminated and the episode closes with questions about Dana Brooke's NXT future if she can't keep improving. In-between, it's another enthralling but unfocused edition of Breaking Ground, with the best part of the episode focusing on a three-day try-out for prospective NXT trainees.
This week's episode had three general focuses: the women's division, a three-day try-out at the Performance Center, and Tough Enough finalist ZZ beginning his training.
The cliffhanger from last week - which NXT talent would be fired - is dealt with immediately, with Devin Taylor getting the heave-ho from Canyon Ceman, who complemented her for how she added to the "culture of the building" before having her escorted out by security. Sara Amato refers to the competitiveness and depth of the NXT women's group as a "shark tank." After singling out Bayley as someone who's excellent and works really hard, the rest of the episode is spent focusing on Dana Brooke. It's obvious she's really focused, as she walks us through her daily routine and it's a lot of working out and training.
She also goes to the salon with her friend to get her eyebrows and eyelashes done, as she notes talent may be contacted by Triple H at any moment for a photo shoot or another opportunity. Sarah Stock teaches the girls a specific kind of front-bump, using Nia Jax as a base - basically Jax spins them around and they do a front-bump. Dana's tentative, and Sara Amato mentions that she's talented but she's worried she's plateaued, and if she stalls out in her development she might not have much of a future.
The arguable center-piece of the episode is a three-day try-out at the Performance Center, which largely gives us a show-long glimpse at how head coach Matt Bloom and William Regal run things. The first day is mostly testing cardio with stuff like Hindu squats, drop-downs and stuff like that, trying to blow people up. The second day is a lot of basic bumps and more cardio testing, and the third day is doing forward rolls and backward rolls in the ring and landing in a fighting ready position. The rolling session led to an amazing William Regal tirade. He began criticizing some individuals for hopping to their feet rather than landing and stepping into a fighting stance. Then, after correcting a handful of individuals, he announces to the entire gym his expectations.
After watching several more individuals screw it up, he stops the entire session and goes on a tirade, singling out the person in the ring for screwing it up. Of course, this person does it again and does it correctly, and both Bloom and Regal praise him for being "coachable." Finally, Regal leads the promo try-outs, noting that "If you have the personality of a cabbage, you won't be here."
Highlights include a heavy-set man doing "the worm" and a female delivering a heart-felt promo about her troubled up-bringing which earns praise from Regal for her vulnerability. After the try-outs are over, Canyon Ceman leads a meeting where he and the coaches decide which applicants will be offered contracts - pending background checks and Triple H's approval.
Former alligator wrestler and Tough Enough male finalist ZZ arrives at the Performance Center, along with his parents - who want to make sure he's training somewhere safe. They meet with Bloom, who's told by ZZ that he's been "training outside" and hasn't been to the gym much. Tough Enough winner Josh doesn't think ZZ has a good enough work ethic to make it, and ZZ himself admits that his cardio's not that great. In drills, ZZ struggles. He also struggles in the gym, getting blown up, and Mojo Rawley gives him a nice pep talk about getting blown up in the gym and in the ring is how he's going to get better.
Robbie Brookside has a chat with ZZ, saying he wants to see some commitment from him and if he sees that, he'll do whatever it takes to help him improve. He emphasizes to ZZ that it's a lifestyle, not a job. Later on, Brookside leads the rookie orientation. Bayley, Tyler Breeze and Sami Zayn give introductions to the Performance Center to the rookies (and Asuka, who's there for some reasons). Zayn admits that he was scared about giving up his independent character, but learned to adapt and encourages everyone to be flexible. ZZ notes that he wants to remain a kid, and then gets scolded by Brookside for screwing around, ending with Brookside saying "Get out of my ring." ZZ skulks out of the ring.
I'm not a big fan of how the program skips around from story to story without following up on much. Granted, many of these stories could be compelling if told in full, but the editing of the show is too scattershot to really have much impact or to establish much of a pace to the narrative. Case in point: unless they were going to really focus on Bayley, I'm not sure what the point was of spending time with her in this episode. Similarly, they spent so little time on Brooke that the "cliffhanger" they left on doesn't have much of an impact. That said, they really spent a lot of time burying poor ZZ and his lack of focus, maturity and fitness.