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Last week's fatal 4-way on NXT was amazing. Andrade Almas finally abandoned his luchador past and got heat for pulling out some stiff strikes. Indie vet but WWE noob Roddy Strong had the smarky crowd completely behind him. Tye Dillinger wrote another chapter in his hard-working/screwed-over face epic that has built all year. And in the glorious heelishness of Bobby Roode, NXT is covered for when the brand's hottest heel - Samoa Joe - gets called up to the main roster.

I only watched one main roster show this year - Tribute to the Troops, because it's Christmas. What can i say? I have a soft spot for cartoonish jingoism and seeing bad dudes break kayfabe just a little. Watching those top ticket guys work the mic, they do put a lot of NXT performers to shame, but NXT has the X factor. Every single wrestler has a built-in storyline - toiled hard on the indie circuit or overseas, coming in with raw talent and the dream of bigger and better things... All they have to do is polish their skills or work their gimmick to fit the tastes of the WWE Universe, then it's on to the majors!

The beauty of NXT is that fame there is fleeting, but it means something - it's a step on the journey. You get to watch green wrestlers grow into their characters and indie darlings work their hardest. Every performer is legit hungry because there is a win condition that raises the stakes above belts and feuds. But even guys like Tye Dillinger who have been stuck there a while can have compelling mid-card stories, because they maintain the brand's identity and give the fans comfort when rising stars fly through the system.

I often find myself defending wrestling to ignorant folks who tell me if I want to watch fighting then I should watch MMA (aka the most boring "sport" ever invented). When I explain it's not about the fighting so much as about the story, then they tell me to watch HBO. I don't really understand why people refuse to accept professional wrestling as a distinct form of entertainment like musical theater or drag. It's not supposed to be highbrow. It's vaudeville. It's commedia dell'arte. Mostly it's just a joyous, unpretentious escape from the misery of the real world.

And I guess that's why I like it. Lots of bad things happen in wrestling, but they are controlled. Villains will always get their just desserts. Heroes who are beaten down will always find a way back up. When they're timed well, face victories are cathartic. The audience suspends their disbelief because after watching a character endure months or years of hardship, it feels good to watch them finally, triumphantly overcome. The last year was tough for me. Usually I can depend on clubbing to help me through, but clubbing requires you to have enough energy to make it out the door. So this year I had my shows, but they only last a few months. And I had my computer games, but they only last a few days. But for one hour each week, every week, I had my NXT superstars.
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