One essential element to the presentation of this blog is what we in the journalism business call “art”. Who wants to just read thousands of words of text without some photos to wash it down?
I watch basically every show I review on my iMac and, while taking notes, snap as many screenshots as humanly possible. It’s a hit-or-miss proposition, but often the hits are pretty good. There were enough hits during NXT Takeover 2 (full review here) that they didn’t all fit into the piece.
As a result, here’s a gallery! As always with NXT, all screencaps are taken directly from the WWE Network.
So now the bar is set impossibly high for Round 3 on Thursday night. The first few matches are definitely solid, but not quite up to par. Granted, every hole on this course is a par-2 instead of 3, 4 or 5. But when I took a quick break before the main event, I thought, “Well, this Takeover is good, but the main event must deliver.”
Holy crap, did it ever.
Not only was the Fatal 4-Way for the NXT Championship WWE’s match of the year, but there’s no group of four men on the active main roster who could come close to topping it. In terms of ability? Maybe. But they’re not hungry enough to put on a contest of that magnitude.
In NXT, we’re seeing a shift away from SuperCena (and SuperReigns, at this point) and supernatural sports entertainment characters, and toward focused, determined, technically gifted PROFESSIONAL WRESTLERS. I have friends in Florida, and I’m jealous they can partake in the atmosphere live, whether it’s a house show or TV. When it shows up on Thursday nights, it’s like an Attitude Era crowd was crammed into a fieldhouse and placed around the WCW cruiserweight roster of the late ’90s.
It’s to the point where I don’t want to see NXT guys get called up unless it’s in bulk. I want these men to compete at Full Sail again in three months, because when you put Adrian Neville, Tyson Kidd, Tyler Breeze and Sami Zayn with Hideo Itami (Who? You’ll see), Kevin Steen, Prince Devitt and maybe/hopefully others … you’re getting unparalleled pro wrestling. If I’m in WWE, and I want to hone my craft to the best of my ability, I either want to be in NXT or be working with NXT talent as soon as it’s called up.
I knew of Kidd for years, but as a basically WWE-only guy for so many years, I didn’t know Zayn, Neville or Breeze before I flipped on NXT earlier this year. I now know them as three of the finest workers under the banner of the premier promotion in the world. There was passion you don’t see on RAW, SmackDown or Impact. There was in-ring work the main-roster guys either aren’t able, willing or allowed to replicate. There was intense drama for the entire second half of a 24-minute event. And there was a champion who, against three opponents who would deserve the belt in a heartbeat, showed why he’s carrying the brand.
Anyway, I’m burying the lead. Here’s why the show was so good.
Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!
Well here’s a good way to start an event. Considering how much matching attire Kalisto and Sin Cara have, methinks they’ll be a pair for a while. I just don’t expect them to become champions tonight … because, well, The Ascension.
THE ASCENSION (Konnor & Viktor, c) vs. THE LUCHA DRAGONS (Kalisto & Sin Cara), NXT Tag Team Championship
Obvious points of emphasis here: The power-speed dichotomy, and the synergy of the new team vs. the team that has held the belts for nearly a year. Cara showcases the speed with about three springboard moves, but Viktor knocks him into the barricade, tags to Konnor, and the big man elaborates on Viktor’s handiwork. Back in the ring, and Sin Cara’s newest tattoo may be Konnor’s bootprint on his chest. Big fan of the ground-and-pound here, and it appears The Ascension is pacing itself for a longer match.
Meanwhile, Kalisto is begging for the hot tag. Viktor nearly powerbombs Cara out of the ring, but he bounces off the ropes and hits a headscissors. No tag, however, and when Konnor gets in, Sin Cara just isn’t prepared for the onslaught.
Two kicks from Sin Cara, but he can’t break free. Maybe an enziguiri? Not so much. Some elbows? Nope. Konnor bull rushes Cara into the corner and tags, but Sin Cara slips over and gets the hot tag to Kalisto at 5:25.
Top-rope crossbody, springboard corkscrew, and a sunset flip catch powerbomb for 2. Oh, and Kalisto hit two slides on Konnor during that. Jesus. Cara dives onto Konnor outside. Kalisto hits another headscissors onto Viktor, who dips out. Kalisto dives onto The Ascension, who catch and toss Kalisto, only he (kind of) lands on his feet on the ramp. Sin Cara follows with a successful suicide dive. Back in the ring, and Viktor hits the lariat. That sets up the Fall of Man? Nope, Sin Cara cuts off Konnor. Kalisto hits his finisher …
… and the upset is complete!
Technical Merit: Quality match with the contrasting styles. Everything looked good, and there were counters when necessary. Great logical move by Sin Cara to cut off The Ascension’s finisher, and it opened up possibly the only way for the champs to lose. It was clean and made sense.
Artistic Impression: Cool story with the smaller underdogs winning. Guess this clears the way for The Ascension to … well … ascend!
TOTAL SCORE: ***
Related to nothing else, Byron Saxton can rock a damn suit. Take notes, gentlemen. That’s style.
After a nice Adrian Neville video package, it’s time for our next match …
… which involves this clown.
His opponent? Not a clown. He falls more under badass. If you ask my Twitter bestie (I see you, Heather!), there probably are some other glowing descriptors.
If you must use Parker, get him out as quickly as possible. I like it.
A super-arrogant video from Tyson Kidd, then … a hair match? I missed far too much many episodes.
Clearly Sylvester LeFort is The Legionnaires‘ candidate, seeing as he has the *much* higher quantity of hair, on his chest and his head.
To be fair, Enzo Amore might look better with a shaved head. On another note, HOW YOU DOIN?!
Amore sounds like a young DDP. Kinda looks like a young DDP if he had about four too many disco biscuits, too. OK, that last part’s a stretch. But Enzo would’ve been a NICE addition to the Jersey Triad.
SYLVESTER LeFORT (w/Marcus Louis) vs. ENZO AMORE (w/Big Cass), Hair vs. Hair Match
Semi-related note: I tried cutting my own hair with a brand-new clipper set when I was 21. I was all good until I tried to clean up the back. Ended up about halfway up the back of my head. Had to shave it all. Was scared as hell, but it looked good, and I’ve more or less kept it since. Methinks whomever loses this match either knows or at least thinks he’s got a good head. I feel like LeFort could pull it up. Keep the beard, the chest hair, all of it. But just take it all off the top.
Anyway, back on topic. Nothing too memorable to note in the first 80-85 percent of the match. Enzo leads with the jab, but gets distracted by Louis, and LeFort hits a lariat for 2. Louis and Big Cass get into their own battle outside while LeFort looks on, and Enzo gets the rollup.
We’ll see about my LeFort theory.
Technical Merit: Good thing there’s a stip, because that match was boring as hell. Nothing really happened.
Artistic Impression: The background story is good. The characters are great. But that match sucked. Then LeFort bails! Guess Louis has the better-shaped head. Poor execution with the bucket, though. Now Louis won’t have eyebrows or arm hair either.
TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*
The most gorgeous vignette of the night follows. Complete with a Beauty Shot montage. Also, thanks for #Uggo, #Hobbit and #NattiesHusband.
Every outfit I wear matches gold.
That’s the fashion sense a true champion needs.
And hello, Mr. General Manager!
And konbanwa, KENTA!
Thank God … they gave him good music. That’s been a worry in WWE lately. (See: Ambrose, Dean; Rollins, Seth; Cesaro, Antonio). And he gave himself a good suit. Well done! The man’s always impeccably dressed when he’s near a ring. I can appreciate that.
And he’s cutting his promo in Japanese. I love it. Transitions to English … and transitions to Hideo Itami as a tribute to one of his heroes.
And, I guess, transitions to an Ascension interruption?! And he transitions to the floor.
“Yeah, we’re in a bad mood.”
Konnor demands a rematch, but there’s one problem … Hideo’s still standing.
And literally kicking The Ascension out of the ring. And grabbing a chair. This is freaking awesome. Even Regal’s enjoying it.
I’ve never given an NXT match a negative rating, but if Mojo Rawley wins this next match, I just might.
Bull Dempsey? He’s a little more legit. By a little, I mean a lot. Mojo at least comes out swinging.
BULL DEMPSEY vs. MOJO RAWLEY
Dempsey fulfilling my wishes early, then Mojo gets an elbow up and hits a double-leg. That’s at least a wrestling move. Also a wrestling move: A 300-pound man hitting a diving headbutt. That’s it.
Just for fun, he gives us another.
… BULL! … BULL! … BULL!Let’s get him against ROH’s Moose Ojinnaka this minute. Or maybe Silas Young in a battle over who’s the manliest? I could go either way here.
We revisit the hair situation. Again, like a true Frenchman, LeFort retreats. That leaves Louis to fend for himself. That leaves Louis’ head to be exposed to the universe.
There’s potential. He just needs to finish the job and he’s got a good look!
We move from hair gimmicks to hugs. I’ll take it! Cool video package hyping Bayley as the sympathetic, happy-go-lucky babyface … and a possible future champion.
This might be the best entrance attire I’ve ever seen. That’s fringe that’ll make The Ultimate Warrior and “Macho Man” Randy Savage jealous from above. I freaking love Bayley.
The champ? She looks more than ready to go. If this were Jim Ross, he’d mention Charlotte noticeably slimming down from her last PPV match to give her more speed and endurance. Plus, well, she’s a Flair. Gotta be able to go 60, right?
CHARLOTTE (c) vs. BAYLEY, NXT Women’s Championship
Charlotte offers a handshake, but the challenger won’t have it. I get the feeling this will be less of a technical battle than last time and more of a traditional sports-entertainment affair. Though Bayley shows some nice pace and keeps the pressure on the champion. A backslide is viciously blocked into a neckbreaker. That looked painful from the champ.
Charlotte drops the knee a few times, and a cover 2 minutes in. Choke in the ropes, and the figure four headlock follows. Always a great sequence because it’s never just the headlock.
Bayley bridges for 2, but the champ keeps it locked in. Bridge again, and the champ finally breaks on the kickout.
Stomps to the gut in the corner, but Bayley responds in kind. Charlotte slaps her, then drops the shin over the neck. Not quite a choke, and it’ll set up the finisher well. It’s not a Flair match without a chop exchange, and we get it. Back to the figure four headlock, and the champ rolls around to add some impact to the hold. Charlotte throws in some strikes to the head, but Bayley isn’t ready to submit just yet. Charlotte hooks the legs for 2, then Bayley with a rollup. Another rollup blocked, and the champ goes for the figure four leglock, but Bayley rolls her up again. Dropkick from the champion, and we’ll take a breather after a quick exchange.
ANOTHER Bayley rollup at 6:45, then Charlotte goes with a knee to the gut. Cover to no avail as the Bayley chants get louder. She’s taunting the challenger, which only means Bayley will respond … with a whole lot of forearms and a shoulder charge in the corner. Charlotte turns the tables, tosses Bayley’s legs through the ropes and yanks her head down. Now she’s up top … ? Not quite. Bayley with some punches and forearms, maybe a slap, and she hits the hurricanrana from the top at 9:00.
Slow cover, and a strong, urgent kickout. Belly-to-belly blocked into a creative rollup for 2, and Charlotte seems to go into another rollup, only she rolls Bayley’s head right into the bottom buckle. Damn. Charlotte goes up and does the moonsault — a little too well, since she landed perfectly without making contact — but Bayley kicks out.
She won’t kick out of Natural Selection, which may be the best finisher name in NXT.
Technical Merit: A much different match than the last NXT special, but this one worked. Bayley did what you’d expect from an underdog, getting some spurts of momentum and going for numerous quick rollups. Charlotte’s just better, and she showed it. Bayley’s time will come.
Artistic Impression: From the video package to the start of the match to the end, you pulled for Bayley. Not just because they set it up that way, but because Bayley made you believe she could pull it off. The drive to win was there throughout, and it made for a fun, emotional match that was possible to get behind.
TOTAL SCORE: ***
Wait a second … Sasha Banks is in the house for a bit of bullying. Needless to say, the champ’s making the save here.
Seems like a decent code of conduct: Keep the beatings between the bells. Plus, Bayley earned a sliver of respect this evening.
The point of Sami Zayn‘s video package: He hasn’t been able to win the big one, but he doesn’t think about that. It’s his time.
Oh, another thing: Hideo’s in the ring next week.
I’m tuning in. You’re tuning in. We’re all tuning in.
It’s main event time, which means they’ll get almost 30 for this. Apparently the gorgeous one picked the blue gear for the occasion.
The arguably best man in the match, and the one with undoubtedly the worst music, is next. If I didn’t think he’d be an asset on the main roster like yesterday, I’d give him the belt.
Tyson Kidd has honed in on an actual character, which we’ve never really seen from him. He looks the guy whose butt you want to kick, and whose butt you possibly could … until he locks you in something and you cry like a bitch.
Random fun fact from Neville’s video to start: He’s undefeated in 2014. Bonus fun fact: He’s very confident, almost cocky. We’ll see whether that means anything as the match progresses.
The men in this match are 205, 197, 200 and 194 pounds. Chew on that for a second. In Vince McMahon‘s company, a “pay-per-view” main event averages 199 pounds per man. This is the future. Also, 1996 Eric Bischoff is VERY aroused right now.
ADRIAN NEVILLE (c) vs. TYLER BREEZE vs. TYSON KIDD vs. SAMI ZAYN, Fatal 4-Way Match, NXT Championship
It doesn’t take long for all four men to move out of the ring. We tease a Zayn-Neville moment, but the heels break that up. All four move back out for another round. At 3:00, Zayn finds Breeze’s phone and uses it in two ways — a weapon, and a selfie.
Kidd finally kills the pair-off routine by attacking Zayn, but Zayn goes reverse STO into a Koji clutch in the ring, and Breeze breaks it up. Neville takes Breeze up the ramp, which doesn’t seem smart … and Kidd chop blocks the knee from behind. All four go to the ramp, and Kidd and Breeze hit a tandem vertical suplex on Neville on the stage. The problem? All three men feel it. Breeze goes for a suplex on that ramp, but Zayn blocks. Kidd and Breeze hit ANOTHER tandem suplex, this time to Zayn on that steel grate ramp. Kidd seizes the opportunity and gets Sami in the ring, and Breeze joins him as we continue the classic “heels team up” portion of the program. Kidd rams Zayn into Neville, who falls from the apron to the floor, and the double-team continues.
“Nattie’s better!” chant at 7:00. Neville again attempts to enter, to no avail. Tyson hauls off in the corner, then Tyler pulls him out for some double-team work. Breeze covers, much to Kidd’s chagrin. One Kidd kick later, the heel alliance ends at 8:00. Neckbreaker and cover for 2. Neville AGAIN tries to get in, but Kidd kicks him off the apron. Headlock time as Zayn gets the crowd behind him and hits a jawbreaker. Lariat from Kidd.
Holy crap, Neville gets in! But not for long. Kidd throws him right back out. This is my favorite part of the match.
Kidd keeps striking Zayn repeatedly, then the guillotine legdrop with Sami hanging between the ropes and a cover. Tree of Woe at 10:30. Neville’s next attempt is thwarted, and Kidd goes to the apron to hit a HUGE kick. Zayn looks punchy, which means he’s about to get a head of steam? Nope, just some more knees to the dome in the corner. Snapmare into a chinlock. Meanwhile, Breeze has been selling that kick for about 4 minutes. He’s my new favorite to win.
NEVILLE MAKES IT IN at 12:30, goes back out, then FINALLY gets some offense. Breeze decides it’s his turn, only for Zayn to knock him back outside. Neville does the outside dive version of a cockblock, cutting Sami off and hitting a springboard moonsault onto the heels.
At 14:00 we’ll finally get Zayn-Neville. The champ gets the early advantage and goes for a handspring move, but Zayn clumsily blocks it. That looked a little botchy. Or a lot. Cover, and Kidd breaks it up. Kidd and Neville up top, and Zayn goes for Kidd, but Kidd launches him into Neville, who is dumped outside. Tyson tosses Breeze, then a hell of a swinging neckbreaker for 2. The snap on that was fantastic. Kidd goes for the Sharpshooter, but Zayn blocks. Rolling sequence and another attempt, but no dice. Enziguiri on the apron connects, but Zayn blocks the springboard elbow with his knees. Breeze comes in with a Beauty Shot on Zayn, a superkick on Kidd and a dropkick on Neville, who came in from the top rope. Damn. Covers on Neville and Kidd for 2 apiece.
We reset at 17:00, and Breeze is first up. He takes Neville up. Kidd joins Breeze. Zayn makes it a quartet, and adds a powerbomb to the double superplex … and Kidd still kicks out.
“This is wrestling” indeed.
Zayn gets revenge on Kidd for the entire first half of the match, then runs right into Neville’s boot. Could be Red Arrow time, but Kidd stalls. Basic moonsault on Zayn … but Breeze pulls him out and covers Zayn!
… for 2.
Rest break at the 20-minute mark. Breeze gets up and goes for the Beauty Shot on Zayn, but Zayn ducks and Kidd blocks … into the Sharpshooter.
Breeze goes for the rope, but Kidd pulls him back to the middle. Neville grabs the arm so Breeze literally can’t tap out, and Zayn finally breaks the hold.
The stage is set for the babyfaces at 22:00, and they trade staggering blows. Back kick from Neville, but on the next charge, Zayn back bodydrops him out, then hits the exploder suplex on Kidd into the buckle. Instead of following up on Kidd, he dives and puts Neville into the front row.
Zayn dives through the ropes in the corner and hits the DDT on Breeze. Helluva kicks Kidd back in the ring. 1 … 2 …
And NEVILLE pulls the ref out.
Hey, it’s within the rules, of which there are none. You protect the belt by all means. Zayn tries to do something about it, but eats a superkick. Neville runs up top, hits the Red Arrow, hooks the legs and retains.
Technical Merit: This is what we expected. Each had chances to show their stuff, and there were all kinds of moves to advance the narrative — finishers, submissions, crazy combinations, a four-man superplex spot, even some unsavory tactics from a babyface champion. Even had some false finishes that have ended 3- and 4-way matches for years. Great match.
Artistic Impression: This had it all. Unsavory tactics. Brief alliances. Several WTF moments. Sami Zayn getting angry. Tyson Kidd dominating the first half. Tyler Breeze damn near winning multiple times. Zayn getting robbed. And Adrian Neville doing absolutely anything to keep the gold around his waist. You legitimately didn’t know how it would go, and had I not kept track of the time, I would’ve thought the match was over maybe a half-dozen times beforehand. All four men came in with distinct, well-built personas, and most importantly, they brought it in the ring.
TOTAL SCORE: *****
Can I change my scale? As emotional and great as Zayn vs. Cesaro was to kick off ArRIVAL, this just had so much more depth from a creative and competitive standpoint.
Better yet, can we just do this again? Like … now? I’ll grab the popcorn. And the rum. Cheers, my friends.
What did you think of the show? What do you think of NXT’s direction? How will these guys translate on the main roster? Something something something NXT related? Comment below, or follow The Champ on Twitter @jpetrie18.
Tyler Breeze earned his on merit, defeating Sami Zayn in a No. 1 Contender’s match, then declaring he’ll take on the champ whenever he chooses. Tyson Kidd lost to Neville at Takeover, then was a sore loser afterward. But since he apologized at the end of tonight’s show and asked for another chance after Neville’s main-event victory over Justin Gabriel, Neville forgave him and decide to give him another title shot.
We know both matches will be phenomenal, and I say both because I don’t foresee a scenario where Kidd takes the belt off Neville, especially if it’s not at a special event … maybe Neville-Breeze square off in the next one.
We know Neville and Kidd have great in-ring chemistry and can put on an impressive wrestling match … the question is Kidd getting people to care about him. The NXT crowd cared enough to chant derisively toward him last week and say “FACT!” after nearly everything he said tonight, but Kidd’s job will be to make the same crowd believe he can (1) actually defeat Neville in the ring and (2) say something worthwhile to get us to invest in the match other than the obvious athleticism. Kidd plays a heel in the ring, but is super polite on the mic. He hasn’t done a single thing toward Neville to get heat. There are challenges, handshakes and one man walking out. There was an excellent opportunity for Kidd to sucker Neville in with his apologies and his cordialness, then beat him down to turn everyone against Kidd and provide an exciting finish to the show. But the boat was missed … simply because people are too gosh darn nice!
On the other hand, Breeze had time to heel on Zayn, physically comparing him unfavorably to Seth Rogen; and Neville, calling him “The Man That Maybelline Forgot”. Maybelline did not forget Breeze, and the man who stole last week’s show provided the most entertaining portion of this week’s program. The self-proclaimed King of Cuteville and Definition of Delish debuted his “#MMMGorgeous” video, and unlike many other WWE “Superstar” performances, this one is absolutely, fabulously fantastic.
The lyrics? Eloquent, poignant and, well, gorgeous.
Is it my eyes? When you look at me
They are so gorgeous, they’ll set you free.
Could it be my walk, or just my stare?
That makes you freeze when I appear.
CHORUS: Super good-looking, every hair in place.
Everyone loves this gorgeous face.
You can’t deny my Beauty Shot.
I’m everything that you are not.
Part man, but all model.
Am I what you want? Am I who you follow?
Don’t try and fight it. You can’t deny
This is perfection personified.
Piercing eyes and a chiseled jaw
Molded by the gods without a flaw.
Can you feel the presence of greatness near?
This hairless look? Prince Pretty’s here.
THAT can go multi-platinum. That, as the fans chant, was awesome. Though it was immediately followed by a riveting Bo Dallas NXT retrospective — complete with post-match tantrum (and extended footage that involves a threat to call Full Sail University campus security) and super-inspirational music — Tyler Breeze stole the show once more.
The task at hand for Neville was one of Kidd’s former tag-team partners. It was billed as a no-DQ title match on a teaser graphic earlier in the show, which would understandably make fans excited … and confused. Unfortunately, once the match began, it was clear there were no stipulations in place. How dare you with the bait-and-switch?
NXT Champion ADRIAN NEVILLE vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL
Every time we see Gabriel, it seems his hair gets worse.
This time, his music has followed suit.
Neville’s in control through the first minute, trying to work Gabriel’s arm, but Gabriel uses a fireman’s carry to escape and respond in kind. I think Gabriel just tried to match Sting‘s “WOOOO!” scream. Neville leapfrogs, hits a hurricanrana and kips up, but his dive outside is cut off by Gabriel inside. Gabriel dumps Neville and tries to hit a dive, but Neville pulls the rope as Gabriel falls. Frontflip dive from the apron from the champion. Quick cover, then back to the left arm as we get a Money In The Bank plug.
As we return, Gabriel is chopping Neville in the corner. He eventually gets a cover, then a suplex rolled into a double underhook submission hold. He shifts to the side headlock, but Neville escapes and puts his forearms and feet to use. The champ measures Gabriel for the missile dropkick, but that only yields 2 as well. Gabriel goes to slam Neville, who straddles a standing Gabriel and puts on a front facelock. Gabriel, however, turns that into a bridging suplex for 2. Well done! Springboard moonsault is escaped, so Gabriel lands on his feet. Neville goes for a crossbody, but Gabriel hits a dropkick instead. This could be 450 time? No, he lands on his feet again as Neville escapes. Vicious short dropkick to a grounded Gabriel in the corner, and Neville hits the Red Arrow. I honestly was hoping for the inverted 450 to show up the soon-to-be vanquished foe, but I’ll take it.
Technical Merit: A solid cruiserweight-style match with fresh spots and good give-and-take.
Artistic Impression: Good physical story, but we’re just so conditioned to not care about a Justin Gabriel match that it seemed a little flat.
TOTAL SCORE: **1/4
There were plenty of women in the house for this one, though there was only one match.
We started with Natalya covering for her husband’s actions last week, saying she’ll “always, always” have his back. Yawn. On the other hand, she said these things to the lovely Devin Taylor.
Then I suddenly felt the need for a hug.
Let’s face it, when your gimmick is predicated on hugs, like Bayley‘s is, you’ll get my support every time. Unless you’re facing Alexa Bliss. That one can do no wrong in The Champ’s book.
The new NXT Women’s Champion? Not really in the mood for hugs.
NXT Women’s Champion CHARLOTTE (w/Sasha Banks) vs. BAYLEY
An interesting contrast of styles here: The polished Charlotte and not-so-polished Bayley. Side headlock takeover from the champion, then after a “WOOOO!”, Bayley hits some nice armdrags, spins around her and sort-of locks in an armbar. Quick escape from the champion, and a couple strikes and a cover later, Charlotte spins on Bayley’s back. You know, turnabout, fair play, etc. A couple kneedrops from the champ, then the figure-four headscissors. Charlotte flips Bayley out and covers, but then Bayley gets aggressive, punctuated with a spear in the corner and an elbow, but Sasha Banks provides a distraction outside, Bayley escapes that, returns, goes up for an elbow and gets 2. Charlotte regains the advantage, but Summer Rae‘s music plays, temporarily stopping the momentum. Bayley tries to take advantage with a backslide, but Charlotte kicks out and hits Bow Down to the Queen to finish it off.
Summer joins Sasha and Charlotte to reunite the BFFs and beat up Bayley, but Paige and Emma run down to clear the ring. Somewhere, Teddy Long is beating himself up for not being the NXT General Manager to schedule a six-person tag match. … Playas!
Technical Merit: Bayley’s sloppiness is actually part of her style, so it works. Charlotte wasn’t at the level of last week, but she also wasn’t facing possibly the best female pure wrestler of this generation.
Artistic Impression: OK story and back-and-forth, and it was possible Summer would return as a face and help Bayley steal one. The fact she went straight back to being one of the BFFs actually enhanced it a bit.
TOTAL SCORE: *1/2
After the following men’s tag-team match, the BFFs discuss Summer’s comeback … but Charlotte and Sasha are none too pleased. These BFFs aren’t best friends forever, after all. The first F is Fierce, which likely is how Summer will be treated by her “friends” in the near future.
As the show begins, we’re reminded one thing: Like America, when Mojo Rawley gets knocked down, he gets back up. Who cares, though, because, “Spotlight, please!”
MOJO RAWLEY vs. AIDEN ENGLISH
The clothesline is an addition to Mojo’s repertoire, right? Apparently, getting clotheslined is as well. English takes control with a basic pounding offense, then puts in the rest hold about 90 seconds in. Is this Mojo’s longest match yet? Mojo kicks, then pushes his way out of the corner, then busts out a shoulder block?! This is progress! Mojo tosses Aiden into the corner, butt charge, butt splash, done.
After the women’s match, it was time for the next appearance of Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger, whose gimmick is they’re trying to figure out tag-team synergy with catchphrases and entrance.
TYE DILLINGER & JASON JORDAN vs. PHILIP GOULJAR & STEWART CUMBERLAND
Luckily, Jordan and Dillinger’s synergy is much better in the ring. Dillinger makes some noise with a HUGE chop, then after mild resistence from Cumberland, he slaps on another. Cumberland elbows out and tags to Gouljar, who hits an elbow of his own, but Dillinger responds with a butterfly suplex before tagging back to Jordan. Headlock, bodyslam, kneedrop, then into the corner. Tag, bodyslam, Dillinger kneedrop, then Gouljar actually gets a couple shots in for the tag. Quick tags from the jobbers, but that just makes Dillinger angry enough for yet another chop. That provides brief breathing room, who actually is getting worked over by the no-namers. Hot tag to Jordan, who picks up Gouljar and drops him shoulder first for an ugly fall. Dillinger superkicks Cumberland, and Jordan hits a corner spear and the Angle Slam … I mean the Jordan Slam.
Technical Merit: Cool to see the clearly pushed team to actually get a challenge, but it never felt like anything other than an extended squash.
Artistic Impression: See above. The extended squash element didn’t help the match one bit.
NXT is quite possibly WWE’s best weekly in-ring show, but even it’s hit or miss at times.
This week was a hit.
There were several important developments, and even a bit of depth with a couple lower-tier feuds that can be revisited. Tyson Kidd continued his NXT push, the NXT Women’s Championship Tournament began with a couple big names, and Adrian Neville had a 375-pound obstacle in his defense of the NXT Championship.
Oh, and the head honcho showed up to hype the next NXT special event.
Triple H‘s NXT persona is completely different from his regular WWE persona. It’s like going from Mr. McMahon back to Vince McMahon, promoter. He does a great job putting over talent on screen, which he did while announcing NXT Takeover for May 29. He’s right — the line between present and future is blurring, because people who were in developmental not long ago are second-tier-at-worst talents one step from breaking into the top echelon of the main roster. WWE has a freakish amount of talent, almost too much for them to know what to do.
It’s how a guy with seemingly unlimited wrestling ability is leading off NXT.
Random sidenote about Kidd: I like his music. Also liked: Bo Dallas‘ entrance video/music combo.
I may become a Boliever yet! OK, probably not.
TYSON KIDD vs. BO DALLAS (5:15 Network time)
Bo’s over-the-top motivational persona is on point right now. Tyson’s high-impact strikes are as well. The man’s always been able to work. And take a bump, which he does on the apron after Bo blocks a kick. “He’s got the whole world … in his hands …”at the 3-minute mark. Now I just want the real-life brothers to square off; it would be perfect philosophically. Bo in control until 5:00, when Tyson blocks a charge with a stiff elbow to the face. Series of kicks for 2 1/2; William Regal approves the precision. A belly-to-belly from Bo, however, stops the foot rampage. Tornado bulldog for 2; nice maneuver. So many kicks from Kidd, and then the Blockbuster!
Unexpected victory there. Bo can’t bolieve it, either!
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Extra points for the surprise victor, and a decent story with the kicks setting up the Blockbuster.
TOTAL SCORE: ***
Just to clarify, Camacho‘s not a party pooper. In fact, he throws the best parties in the NXT Universe. His parties make Adam Rose‘s Exotic Express look like bingo night at the Elks Lodge. The Exotic Express responds by dropping in. Cool beans.
“WACKY INFLATABLE ARM-FLAILING TUBE MEN!!!”Also, plenty of hugs. That’s how you lead off a tournament. In other news, it appears Summer Rae is no longer a BFF. Sad face. 😦
BAYLEY vs. SASHA BANKS (w/Charlotte), NXT Women’s Championship Tournament, first round (19:22)
I finally figured out what BFFs means in this context: Beautifully Fierce Females. SMH LOL. Lots of quick covers. On another note, Bayley WOULD use a hug as an offensive maneuver. And Sasha would use a huge slap. Sasha’s calling the match, and it’s a good one so far. Big back bodydrop around 2:30, and another hug into the belly-to-belly, but Sasha rolls out. Sasha hits her finisher, but Bayley kicks out. The Belly To Bayley and Bankrupt are fantastic finisher names. Backstabber into a chinlock submission, and that’ll do it.
TECHNICAL MERIT: Besides the hugs, decent wrestling.
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Great work. Finishers weren’t enough, so it forced Sasha to go to a Plan B. Sells the importance of the tournament.
TOTAL SCORE: **1/4
The Exotic Express is back. The opponent? Already been future endeavored. Best of luck, etc.
ADAM ROSE vs. DANNY BURCH (29:15)
The NXT Universe loves Mr. Rose. I’d love him if he decided to do as much wrestling as rolling around and preening. It’s not good face work, nor is it good heel work. It’s just … annoying. Burch had more moves in 2 seconds than Rose in the first 90. But after one too many shots into the turnbuckle, Rose gets angry and gets down to business. Full points for the finisher name: The Party Foul.
TECHNICAL MERIT: Nothing to write home about.
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Same
TOTAL SCORE: 5/8*
Camacho commits a party foul of his own by destroying one of the Rosebuds.
That was more eventful than the match!
Everything has been taken from Brodus Clay. Now he’s taking. And Adrian Neville will never smile pretty again because of him. Nice promo, and a slightly different look and persona from Mr. Clay. I like it.
We move on from that to two highly overqualified tournament participants.
NATALYA vs. LAYLA, NXT Women’s Championship Tournament, first round (35:55)
Nobody’s more overqualified to be on NXT than Nattie, but she sure as hell can make people look good. Which she does in this match. Layla keeps going back to a basic shoulder stretch.
Nattie keeps going back to the elbow to get out of it. Nattie gets into the Sharpshooter this week by countering a sunset flip attempt. Pretty creative there.
TECHNICAL MERIT: Natalya’s always sound. But this match was a bit slow.
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Pretty basic. Establishes Nattie as a tournament favorite, as it should.
TOTAL SCORE: *1/2
I like the Sasha-Natalya semifinal match, which presumably will take place in two weeks. Classic face-heel matchup, and both can physically put on a good contest. Emma vs. Charlotte next week should be solid. Alicia Fox has worked well with Paige recently; I couldn’t tell you a thing about Alexa Bliss.
Adrian Neville’s teeth are replaceable. See?
The NXT Championship is irreplaceable. Neville won’t win by countout this week. He’ll pin him in the middle of the ring. I guess we’ll find out! After another future endeavored guy competes.
My guess is he wasn’t hyped enough to stick around.
OLIVER GREY vs. MOJO RAWLEY (42:48)
Grey gets in a few strikes before the Four Moves of Doom. Splash, splash, butt bump, butt splash. Done. Yay.
Aiden English‘s promo on Rawley postmatch was almost as long as the match itself.
Not sure what exactly he was talking about, but he doesn’t like Rawley. Apparently he’s not passionate enough, though, to not get his ass kicked whilst attacking him.
FINALLY it’s main-event time. The clear story here: Neville’s pride is on the line, not only due to the loss of three teeth, but due to winning by countout in their prior meeting. Brodus grabs the belt and Neville attacks, pulls B.C. out AND hits a corkscrew dive outside before the bell.
ADRIAN NEVILLE (c) vs. BRODUS CLAY, NXT Championship, no-DQ match (49:27)
Neville’s extremely aggressive early; they might get 15 minutes of action in 6 here. Even Brodus works quickly for a big man in the early stages. Second-rope buttdrop around 2:30, but a kickout. Clay’s power game is good, and Regal points out he’s working on taking away his breath by working the ribs. Rest hold after the cover, but Neville escapes with the eye rake and chop block … not exactly babyface maneuvers. The dropkick to the head is. HUGE powerbomb at 3:45, and B.C. goes to the second rope and hits the splash … but Neville kicks out! The no-DQ element finally appearing to come into play as Brodus grabs the belt once more … and runs right into a superkick. Red Arrow just misses the belt … it does get the victory.
TECHNICAL MERIT: Good pacing from both men. Clay was impressive.
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: They had to tell the story quickly. They were successful.
TOTAL SCORE: ***1/4
Neville’s now defeated Clay twice, so it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here into Takeover. But this is the Match of the Night due to the ability of both men to hit fast forward and convey the message they needed in about half the time of a normal NXT main event. Even in just 5 minutes, you believed Neville took a beating, and you believed Clay had to go for some implement to attempt to win. Neville’s certainly a fighting champion, and beating a man twice his size sells him as a tough one as well.
COME BACK NEXT WEEK FOR MORE NXT, AND STOP IN SATURDAY MORNING AS OUR RAW FLASHBACK SERIES CONTINUES THE ROAD TO WRESTLEMANIA IX
We know several NXT competitors are getting the call. At least we get to start with one of them, as the Exotic Express makes another stop in Orlando for one more Adam Rose experience.
ADAM ROSE vs. DANNY BURCH
Albert: “What happens at an Adam Rose party stays at an Adam Rose party.” An inquiry about where said parties take place ensues. Methinks they’re down the road from Parts Unknown. Duck between the ropes and throw up the legs bit. Couple quick covers, then an armbar. A couple chops from Burch get Rose going, and he starts chopping. Elbow in the corner, kick to the gut. Bronco Buster, then a spinebuster. Up to the second rope, and the elbow pad comes off. Bret Hart-esque elbow drop, and that’s it.
TIME: 3 minutes
TECHNICAL MERIT: Quick and basic.
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Same.
TOTAL SCORE: *1/4
A ref interview?! Shawn Bennett (I hope that’s spelled right) addresses why he stopped last week’s Sami Zayn vs. Corey Graves match. Pretty simple — he thought Zayn couldn’t continue, so he stopped. Excellent insight! Graves declares his victory was legit and namedrops Barry Bonds. Interesting.
Albert: “I wanna hug Bayley!” Who doesn’t? OK, the BFFs probably don’t.
BAYLEY vs. SASHA BANKS (w/Charlotte & Summer Rae’s cardboard cutout)
Sasha with the early advantage. Bayley with a sunset flip, but Sasha drops onto her for two, then slaps her around and bashes her head into the canvas. Banks throws Bayley across the ring (the latter flips in the process), then while Bayley’s in the corner with her back turn, Sasha gets on her back and starts running in place. Wear-down hold, then a cover. Bayley finally with a head of steam after some axehandles and a couple elbows, the second one off the second rope. Banks locks in that submission hold again from the top rope, then drops to the mat. Bayley slips out underneath and basically pumphandles Sasha through, then hits a belly-to-belly for the pin.
TIME: 3 minutes
TECHNICAL MERIT: Interesting.
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Basic heel in control, then babyface quick strike for the win.
TOTAL SCORE: **
I LOVE watching Sasha Banks. She plays a great heel, and she simply does stuff others don’t. Like stomp a chick in the corner by running in place.
I’ve never seen Sylvester LeFort before, but I’m hoping for a good first impression. He’s followed by Mojo Rawley, who makes Albert want to get on an elliptical for 5 minutes.
SYLVESTER LEFORT vs. MOJO RAWLEY
Well, that was quick. Couple Stinger Splashes, butt bump, butt splash, done. yay.
TIME: 1 minute? Maybe?
TECHNICAL MERIT: Squash
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Repetitive squash
LeFort’s night just got worse. Brodus Clay enters for a powerbomb (“Better than Batista!”chant) and a second-rope splash. Promo time with Brodus Clay, the “main event player,” who calls out the NXT Champion. Adrian Neville isn’t dressed to wrestle, but he’s ready to talk. Brodus has had opportunities, but the difference, Neville said, is “I’m not gonna waste mine.” Both men drop the mic and stare off, but Clay dips out and declares they’ll clash on his time. BUT HE CALLED NEVILLE OUT!
Devin Taylor is talking to Oliver Grey, who’s making his return to NXT. Camacho, sporting a sharper, cleaner-cut look, interrupts and calls Adam Rose a poser. Oliver decides having someone in front of him means he has an opponent for next week, and Camacho accepts.
Nice video of NXT at WrestleMania Axxess. They had quite the presence, judging by the video and from their tweets all weekend. There were plenty of matches, and plenty of facetime with the fans. Some of the clips are matches I would LOVE to see on TV.
Taylor talks to … The Great Khali? He speaks English and talks about how good he feels to be there. Bayley, without missing a beat, comes out to hug him. C.J. Parker then spews some verbal waste about human waste and recycling and crap. Wifey: “Why is his face flat?” So there’s that. Khali switches languages, and Bayley translates: The Great Khali says he’ll see Parker in the ring next week.
Bo Dallas discusses the #YESMovement and talks about how Daniel Bryan got himself a title shot. “And he’s only a B+ player!” So Bo decides it’s time to Occupy NXT! The fans, in unison, turn their backs and chant “NO! NO! NO! NO!” Bo proceeds to throw a tantrum, talk about giving the fans cookies, says, “This stinks!” and goes to the floor. He re-enters the ring, laments how this doesn’t make sense, and is on the verge of tears at we go to break.
We come back, and Bo’s still acting like a damn toddler. NXT GM JBL finally stops it. “You don’t have enough people to occupy a see-saw in that ring!” But since Bo is dressed to compete, JBL has an opponent for him: Justin Gabriel. Wifey marks the HELL out.
BO DALLAS vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL
Back-to-back crossbodies and a cover from Gabriel, and Dallas needs to regroup. Crowd: “WE WANT COOKIES!” Bo punches Gabriel and slaps on a side headlock. Gabriel tries to wiggle his way out, then finally wraps his legs around Bo’s head to get out. Some weird botch-looking counter thing, which turns into a takedown and a cover. Bo rolls out again. Then again. Gabriel comes to get him this time. Gabriel up top and Bo pushes him onto the apron, then Dallas yanks his arm into the rope. Now Bo rolls Gabriel back in and drops the knee for 1. Suplex for 2. Side headlock again, and Gabriel rolls Bo off. Bo knocks Gabriel down for the cover. Whip into the buckle. Bo pulls him out, hits an elbow and hangs on. Another one. Then a lariat for 2. Bo tries to whip Gabriel, but Justin blocks twice. Bo hits him and goes for it again, but Gabriel reverses and Bo goes back first into the buckle. Gabriel comeback, heavy with kicks, ends with corner splash and a top-rope crossbody for 2. Trading blows until a Gabriel kick. Tilt-a-whirl countered, but Bo counters again into a side suplex variation. Gabriel with a fisherman suplex for 2. Springboard moonsault misses, but when Bo attacks, Justin gets a small package for 2. Bo does, however, get a double-arm DDT for the win.
TIME: 10 minutes
TECHNICAL MERIT: Fluid for the most part, but a few botches.
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Nice vehicle to keep Bo’s momentum.
TOTAL SCORE: **1/2
There were some nice moments; Bo again proved he can wrestle. But these guys didn’t have very good chemistry, especially early. Gabriel seemed almost rusty, but he did enough to make both men look strong.
NXT provides things the traditional WWE product simply can’t or doesn’t: New, fresh characters. Compelling matches that aren’t so formulaic. A much more embraced mix of styles and sizes. Guys who are still hungry and put out their best work every week (except for maybe Bo Dallas).
Women who can wrestle.
Females have found a niche within the NXT universe, and it’s not based on some pre-packaged style. It’s based on the substance that comes from finding women who either (1) know their way around a wrestling ring, or (2) are visibly trying to figure it out. The women’s matches aren’t some obligatory filler to plug some bullshit reality show on the E! Network. They’re a fixture in the second or semi-main spot to enhance the product on the WWE Network.
I’ve only been an NXT regular for about four weeks, with some sporadic views before. I’ve seen Paige and Emma put on an absolutely outstanding pro wrestling display at NXT ArRIVAL (full review of that show here). I saw Paige and Sasha Banks put on the Match of the Night last week. And this week I saw Bayley defeat Banks in a 4 1/2-minute match that packed more true action than any main-roster “Divas” match I’ve seen in years — and it’s the second-lowest rated NXT female match since the Network launch.
BAYLEY (w/Natalya) vs. SASHA BANKS (w/Charlotte)
Bayley with a full nelson, snapmare and shoulder block about 45 seconds in. Sasha gets a shot in, then back to the full. Sasha climbs the ropes so she’s parallel to the canvas, and Bayley provides a clean break by just dropping her. Then she steals Sasha’s shades and mocks her. Snakeeyes into the buckle, but misses with the splash. Sasha dropkicks her in the back in the corner, then the Lou Thesz press and repeated head bashes into the mat. Sasha tosses Bayley across the ring, cover. Stays on her, covers again. Rear chinlock. Bayley gets out, and Sasha puts the boots to her. Bayley blocks a punch and gets a few forearms. Bayley goes for a dropkick, but Sasha puts on the brakes, then throws her to the floor. Bayley back to the apron and applies a shoulder to the gut upon re-entry as Charlotte attacks Nattie outside. Bayley turns around and Sasha rolls her up, but Bayley keeps rolling and gets the 3.
TECHNICAL MERIT: Not bad! ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: I’ll take it. TOTAL SCORE: **
This match had comedy, some outside shenanigans, a surprise finish and some good, basic wrestling maneuvers. I absolutely LOVE Bayley’s character. She’s completely socially awkward but athletic, and the kind-of “aw shucks” cuteness certainly doesn’t hurt. Sasha plays the boss-bitch role well while continually falling just short of getting a win.
So we have Paige, the WWE’s best female performer at this moment. We have Emma and Bayley as awkward, comedic faces who are deceptively skilled. And we have Sasha Banks as the top heel with a mean streak. Those four could enhance the in-ring content on RAW or SmackDown immediately, but I’m kind of glad they’re not up on the main roster (or up full-time in Emma’s case). You could take those four, add them to A.J. Lee and Natalya, develop Charlotte (Ric Flair‘s daughter) and throw a Godfather offer at Beth Phoenix to come back, and women’s wrestling would MATTER.
I didn’t use to give two shits about women’s wrestling. Since Trish Stratus and Lita left (and even Phoenix and Michelle McCool, who was a great heel), it’s been eye candy to pass the time between matches people actually want to watch. Now that I’ve seen the talent WWE actually possesses, I want to see more.
And it’s frustrating that their best work probably will be viewed by thousands of educated fans instead of millions.
*gets off soapbox* Now on to the MATCH OF THE NIGHT:
SHEAMUS vs. AIDEN ENGLISH
TECHNICAL MERIT: Elementary, yet effective. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Fun story balanced with serious competition. TOTAL SCORE: ***1/4
Sheamus performed expertly as the face in peril and made Aiden English, who at first glance looks like he belongs nowhere near a wrestling ring, look very strong in this nearly-10-minute main event. English’s ring attire is awesome. VELVET TIGHTS: ****1/2 So many glimpses of momentum were stopped by one hard hit from the heel English until Sheamus finally got things going. English keeps the moveset simple, relying on strikes and a few holds, but when someone will sell for you, that’s all you need to look devastating. There was a nice little comedy to set up the match that included Sheamus questioning whether English’s “stones” had actually dropped, and later had both men singing. SHEAMUS VOCAL PERFORMANCE: ***1/2 But when things got serious, both men delivered. Sheamus looked refreshed, like he was having fun, and he had the best full-length singles match I’ve seen from him in a while.
The rest of the show was OK. Mojo Rawley had a quick match that seemed more about getting New England Patriots tight end/perfect “Get Hyped, Stay Hyped” spokesman Rob Gronkowski over than actually focusing on wrestling.
MOJO RAWLEY vs. BULL DEMPSEY
TECHNICAL MERIT: A butt drop was the finisher. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: At least some back-and-forth. TOTAL SCORE: *1/4.
Mojo’s ass provided the final two moves of the match. On the bright side, he operates out of a four-point stance instead of the three-point seemingly required of any professional wrestler who ever played high-level football. Dempsey looked like some keg-bellied jobber they pulled from some Florida honky tonk, but he set up Rawley’s comeback well.
Afterward, backstage to C.J. Parker, who is “shocked and sickened” by Rawley’s lifestyle choice … apparently he likes GMO-filled fast food. (Who doesn’t?) Parker says he’ll “humanely dispose of Mojo Rawley,” then recycles some crinkled-up paper. Besides the shock of a hippie who can’t work suddenly rocking a suit, it was a decent promo.
After a WrestleMania promo, we are honored to see Prince Pretty himself. Can we bring back the Dashing Cody Rhodes gimmick and either team these men up or make them square off in a “Not The Face/Selfie On A Pole” match? Something? Also, William Regal reports Tyler Breeze‘s boots and waistcoat are made from Peruvian chinchilla. So they’re soft, warm and breathable? BREEZE’S ATTIRE: ***** Form and function, people.
Sami Zayn comes out ready to face Breeze, but Corey Graves ruins the Real World Champ’s NXT Dream Match by ambushing him and ramming his head into the ringpost. I demand MORE Tyler Breeze and Sami Zayn, not less. (At least we get Breeze back in action next week).
ADAM ROSE vs. CAMACHO
TECHNICAL MERIT: A bit slow for most of it, with limited offense from Rose. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Decent story to show what actually brings out the mean streak. TOTAL SCORE: *3/4
Adam Rose the character is SO far ahead of Adam Rose the competitor at this juncture. By the way, ROSE ENTRANCE: ***** If he can find a way to just keep the action moving in the ring, Rose will more than carry his weight. Camacho has looked good the past couple weeks as a heel jobber to Adrian Neville and Rose. He gets in some offense to set up the comeback, then stares at the lights when it’s time.
Advertised for next week: Natalya vs. Charlotte, C.J. Parker vs. Mojo Rawley, Xavier Woods vs. Tyler Breeze, and Adrian Neville vs. Bo Dallas in a rematch for the title. It’s Vengeance Week on NXT, and I must say I appreciate the upcoming card.
Armchair pro wrestling analysis at its finest … or something of the sort.