‘WWE Breaking Ground’ Season 1, Episode 5 recap: Call it a comeback
Everybody loves a comeback story, but in the ultra-competitive world of the WWE Performance Center — where dozens of elite athletes vie for a very limited number of roster spots — not every journey is fated for a feel-good ending. On this week’s episode of the WWE Network docu-series WWE Breaking Ground, one unfortunate Superstar-in-training feels the sting of an in-ring coming to an abrupt and unceremonious end.
Tough Enough runner-up ZZ remains safe for the time being, despite quitting practice in the middle of ring drills. As the center’s athletic trainer evaluates the winded reality TV star, Head Coach Matt Bloom repeats what ZZ has been told since day one: He must improve his conditioning, soon, or his tenure in Orlando won’t last long.
On a brighter note, the team of Jason Jordan & Chad Gable don’t let Gable’s ankle injury hold them back, as they defeat The Hype Bros. in the all-important quarterfinals of WWE NXT’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Jordan thrives under the pressure, while Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley note that the start/stop nature of their partnership continues to hinder their progress.
Speaking of tag teams, Tino Sabbatelli will have to put his dream of teaming with younger brother Sean on the backburner for now. In his effort to secure a WWE contract, Sean planned on attending a WWE tryout. (It was a tryout that he attended alongside Sean that earned Tino his contract years ago.) But after spraining his MCL in a match on the independent circuit, Sean will miss the tryout. Tino tells his brother not to get discouraged.
Apollo Crews, meanwhile, is anything but discouraged. Cameras catch the athletic Superstar at home, where he plays WWE 2K16 with his fellow trainees. The always-smiling Crews lays waste to his digital opposition before flexing his bicep in victory, to the chagrin of NXT’s other good-natured recruits.
In NXT’s packed Divas division, the women strive to not only gain opportunities on the roster, but also to improve their game. Established Superstar Tyler Breeze, who has seen all that life in WWE developmental offers (good and bad), joins them to share pointers on developing their in-ring characters. Breeze himself took traits from WWE Hall of Famer Gorgeous George. His advice resonates, and the coaching staff later extols Prince Pretty’s firm understanding of what it takes to be a WWE Superstar.
Among the division’s shining new additions is Nia Jax, a former plus-size model who — taking after the example of her cousin, The Rock — has transitioned into a natural competitor inside the ropes. The self-described “badass chick” boasts a clear size advantage over most other Divas. Heading into her one-on-one review with Assistant Head Coach Sara Amato, Nia focuses on cleaning up her diet and perfecting the basics. The review is glowing: Amato specifies a few areas for improvement, but all in all, Nia is well on her way to making her NXT TV debut and, she hopes, becoming a role model for others.
Nineteen-year-old Nhooph Al-Areebi might not be ready for TV yet, but the newcomer is getting closer. After being informed she will go by the ring name “Aaliyah,” the youngster eagerly gets to work on other aspects of her character. She meets with Performance Center sage William Regal to discuss her concepts, which pay homage to her Middle Eastern background but also borrow from the Kardashian sisters’ cult of personality. Regal immediately recommends against the Kardashian influence, explaining that the famous family may no longer be relevant by the time Nhooph is ready for the roster. Nonetheless, Regal is impressed by Nhooph’s other ideas, and he reminds her that for her to succeed, above all else, Nhooph will have to fully embrace every element of her on-screen persona.
Unfortunately for Cal Bishop, the story is much different. Admired by all for his good attitude and strong work ethic, Bishop — a former standout in the NCAA heavyweight wrestling ranks — has been mired by one injury after another since being recruited to WWE.
Most recently, he suffered a shoulder tear — not his first, either. Unlike previous injuries, though, this bout of rehabilitation has been different, Bishop says, and for all the right reasons: He is listening more, being more patient and has done a better job of following his doctor’s directions. Finally, after a long wait, he is cleared to train again.
Once back in the ring, Bishop warms up under the watchful eye of Coach Bloom. Bishop says he feels OK but he is also cautious, careful not to rely too much on his weak shoulder. The athletic trainer tells Bloom that it will be least two weeks before Bishop is permitted to lift anybody overhead. The gruff grappler keeps a positive outlook but explains his overriding objective: Reminding the coaches why they shouldn’t replace him. Bloom can’t help but express safety concerns over Bishop’s injury, even though he acknowledges the recruit’s commitment to the ring.
WWE Breaking Ground ends with the return of WWE’s Vice President of Talent Development, Canyon Ceman, who Crews, Jordan, Nia and Bishop to the conference room for impromptu one-on-one meetings. Unsure of the reason for Ceman’s arrival, everyone involved is initially on-edge. The concern turns to relief for Crews, Jordan and Nia, all of whom are awarded bonuses. Ceman then breaks the bad news: Bishop is being let go. “What?” Bishop asks in astonishment, as this week’s episode comes to a dramatic close.