Tuesday, 12 May 2015

ESPN E: 60 Behind The Curtain Review By Joey Keogh

It comes as no surprise that, given NXT’s ongoing status as the must-watch pro-wrestling programme, ESPN’s weekly investigative journalism show E: 60 chose to peek Behind The Curtain last week, giving us a fleeting glimpse into the inner workings of Triple H’s baby.

Kicking off with a quick, behind-the-scenes look at the difficult family life of Adam Rose, AKA Ray Leppan, the special edition show sought to give us an insight into the man behind the hair as Leppan, along with Xavier Woods, Corey Graves and, in an extra chunk of the show, Tyler Breeze, are given the spotlight to tell their stories. 

If only anyone actually cared about Adam Rose. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t a terrible wrestler, and Leppan, to his credit, seems like a decent and hard-working family man, but he’s a strange fit for this show and it’s unlikely fans will be tuning in, in their droves, to learn more about him (likewise the insufferable Corey Graves).

What we really want to see are shots of a be-suited Triple H giving lectures to college halls full of wannabe wrestlers, telling them in no uncertain terms that not all of them will make it and that, the next time he’s standing in that very spot, half of them won’t even be there. Although it’s kind of strange to see bonafide Superstars like Adrian Neville sitting there quietly, taking notes, this is still a fascinating look at a side of the business we very rarely get to see.

Basic, one-on-one interviews with Triple H and Vince are less inspired (“How many concussions have you had!?”), with the two of them remaining very much ‘on’ throughout and revealing little to nothing new about the inner workings of NXT.

The real revelations come in the footage captured before, after and during the TV tapings, in which Triple H, in particular, can be spotted doing a little bit of everything; from coaching talent to arguing about lighting and brainstorming music cues. Naturally, one could easily assume he’s just playing it up for the cameras but NXT is definitively his baby, and it’s going from strength to strength so reasonably speaking these scenes must be at least partially real.

The other major talking point about Behind The Curtain comes in the form of an office-wide general meeting, where a host of recognisable WWE characters – including Dusty Rhodes, disgraced ex-trainer Bill De Mott, Joey Mercury and Michael Hayes – give their, often quite biased, opinions on the current roster of wannabes as Triple H, seated at the head of the table, listens, nods and interjects with his own thoughts (mostly positive, of course).

Of all of these voices, De Mott’s is one of the loudest and most obnoxious. Tellingly, his in-ring scenes with the soon-to-be star wrestlers are quite uncomfortable, his manner often bordering on aggressive. He happily tells a nervous Rose that his new gimmick isn’t going to work, right before he takes to the ring, only to eat his words when he has a great show. Instead of admitting he was wrong, De Mott revels in the glory. Although we’re still not quite sure what happened with the alleged bully, his appearance in Behind The Curtain doesn’t help his reputation.

Aside from the entertaining staff meeting, we learn that Xavier Woods is studying for his PHD, Tyler Breeze came up with his own, super-over gimmick himself, and Corey Graves thinks he’s James Bond (how his wrestling career is handled shows how WWE take care of their own, however).

No women are featured, in spite of the fact several recognisable faces pop up in the background (Paige seems to be permanently there, looking a bit perturbed). The footage was captured back in 2013, which goes some way towards explaining why Sami Zayn, for example, doesn’t feature. Updates are given towards the end of the show on what everyone is currently up to (everyone has had more babies) but otherwise this is a show mostly focused on up-and-comers.

It’s unclear who exactly Behind The Curtain is aimed at. Fans won’t learn anything new here, and will be confused by the choice of featured Superstars, but newbies will suffer with how quickly the narrative jumps from person to person. The choice of subjects is odd regardless of personal preference, though, as two of them have clearly been chosen for the old sob story angle.

Woods and Breeze are the most interesting of the group, with the latter’s extra, ten-minute chunk offering the funniest and most insightful moments of the entire show. Watch a super-enthusiastic Billy Gunn freak out over his debut, and learn how Triple H changed his accessory from a mirror to an iPhone to facilitate selfies, which were becoming a trend at the time.

What emerges from Behind The Curtain is a fascinating, albeit slight, glimpse into the inner workings of NXT that only borders on controversial when dealing with De Mott’s resignation. It otherwise straddles a line between rose-lensed and downright mawkish, utilising Adam Rose’s sick child and Corey Graves’s job loss for pity when really we want to spend more time in the boardroom, or getting things ready with Triple H.

As insider looks go, Behind The Curtain isn’t exactly breaking any boundaries, but it’s still worth a watch for what it is: a quick peek and nothing more.   

Not seen it yet? Well here you go - https://youtu.be/p6-nukejk7Y

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