Tag Archives: Emma

WWE NXT review (Sept. 18): Neville and Zayn vs. Kidd and O’Neil; Hideo Itami debuts

If you have $9.99 and the bravery to watch RAW every week, you know for a fact that WWE’s best show is NOT on Monday nights, and hasn’t been for a while. If you hadn’t quite figured it out, NXT provided a hell of a hint last week. NXT Takeover 2 (review here) was the company’s best show of the year to date in terms of the stuff that matters. You know, the stuff in the 20-by-20 box. (Photo gallery here)

NXT has the benefit of quarterly special events, meaning there are about 12 weeks to build to each event. So how do we follow up such a great event?

With Titus O’Neil, of course!

All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming.
All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming.

Hold up … Superstars isn’t for another hour! Eh, maybe he’s just early. Nope, he has an actual reason to be here and honor us with his presence. The rationale here: NXT showed up on RAW last week? He’s gonna “take some of y’all’s time.” Very well.

Sami Zayn puts this to a merciful end. Or so we believe.

NXT 091814 Sami Zayn

After some gimmick infringement (who doesn’t mock the Omega sign and the bark), he kicks some knowledge.

I’m so glad you’re here, because you really are filling a giant void of what we need here in NXT, which is a giant buffoon who couldn’t win a match to save his life. And hey, news flash, OK? While you’re busy getting beaten up by bunnies, we’re here in NXT STEALING. THE. SHOW!

NXT 091814 Titus O'Neil

That would qualify as shots fired, right?

Titus offers to steal this show by offering the beating of a lifetime in a match.

Did someone suggest wrestling?

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville

The champ can’t wait to join in the debate here. Because if anyone wants to challenge NXT, he’s the one to defend it. Sami makes sure we’re clear Neville’s the only man to defend the show because he’s the champ (well, duh, Sami), and the man who may have actually stolen the show at Takeover 2 makes sure he has a say as well.

Tyson Kidd calls Zayn and Neville losers, with the only difference being one has a belt and the other doesn’t. Kidd then brings up a valid, shall we say, fact: Wouldn’t you do what Neville did at Takeover 2, pull the ref out of the ring to prevent a 3 count and do whatever it takes to keep the belt? Sami gets it, but said it wouldn’t really fit his moral compass. Neville informs Sami that’s why the belt will NEVER really fit on his waist.

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville Sami Zayn

That DOES qualify as shots fired.

Titus doesn’t care about all this — nor should he — so he turns the attention back to himself, just in time for the General Manager to call out a tag team match, playas!

Sorry, wrong GM.

Or is it?

“Gentlemen, please. This is a fighting show, not a whining show. So I suggest we somehow get to fighting.”

NXT 091814 William Regal

William Regal then tells us what’s best for business: All four men competing … O’Neil and Kidd vs. Zayn and Neville. Holla holla holla!

Obligatory Teddy Long joke aside, Regal has a point. NXT has been more about fighting than whining. But it was refreshing and interesting to see how some of the top NXT guys would fit in a RAW or SmackDown setting by leading off the show with promo time, and there really were no weak spots in the nearly-10-minute opening segment.

Three matches and a video package later, it’s main event time.

Good thing Titus brought his trunks and boots, or else that could’ve been awkward. Though if Cody Rhodes can defend the Intercontinental Championship in a suit, and if heel Jeff Hardy can defend a world championship in a tie with a cigarette …

(I swear I was the only mark for heel Hardy in TNA in 2010-11. Just an angsty, vicious human being. I even didn’t mind that purple custom belt until it went elsewhere.)

Anyway, back on topic. We’re still hammering home the “Zayn hasn’t won the big one” angle. After all, he hasn’t. Luckily, his partner has.

TYSON KIDD & TITUS O’NEIL vs. NXT Champion ADRIAN NEVILLE & SAMI ZAYN

Zayn starts … and Neville tags himself in after maybe 15 seconds. He’s already having a much easier time getting into the ring than last week. Armdrag and quick cover from the champ, and after he pulls Kidd into the corner, Zayn makes turnabout fair play in two forms — blind tag AND a standing moonsault as a “Better than Neville!” chant breaks out.

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville 2

Neville tags in and responds with a corkscrew Shooting Star Press. A STANDING corkscrew Shooting Star Press. Damn, son.

NXT 091814 Sami Zayn 2

Cover for 2, because he mostly connected with the lower body. Damn him for not being perfect. Headlock time, and Titus is super impatient. OK, not really. But it looks like he wouldn’t mind getting into the ring.

Neville’s ready to go outside to dive on Kidd, but Zayn cockblocks him and hits the springboard moonsault. This happened in reverse last week. Break time after a stellar 3 minutes.

Sheamus with an entertaining Be A Star spot, then Titus finally gets into the match as we return at 3:40.

One backbreaker. Two backbreakers. One nonchalant toss of his 200-pound foe. One tag to Kidd. You know, if they wanted, they could have Titus in NXT as just a freaking monster. At his size, against a top card that averaged 199 pounds in last week’s main event, he’s downright gargantuan. Anyway, Tyson works a headlock as Neville wants a tag …

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville 3

… then shifts to the front facelock.

Titus gets a tag, and he continues to just manhandle Sami. Abdominal stretch at 6:20; Neville still calling for a tag. Zayn tries to elbow his way out, but Titus hits a forearm and elbow drop to the back. Then he stands on Sami’s face. Some people probably wish that would happen to Tyson’s pretty face.

NXT 091814 Tyson Kidd 2

Tyson gets in, applies the Tree of Woe and works away, including a headlock. Goes for a guillotine legdrop, but Sami escapes. The quintessential face in peril crawls to no avail.

Ever notice how heels ALWAYS work better in a thrown-together situation than faces? It’s like they’re so evil and bad, but they’re so much better at the whole teamwork thing. He slams Sami, drags him to the corner and tags. Tyson all about working the neck, this time with his foot, then back to the headlock. Armdrag escape, but a back kick from Kidd stops him in his tracks. Legdrop to the back of the neck, and Zayn finds a neutral corner. Titus with a slap to the chest, then charges the corner twice and misses. HOT TAG TO NEVILLE at 10:50.

Kidd’s in, and he’ll get the brunt of this fast-paced attack. Standing moonsault, but Titus makes the save. Sami goes after Titus. Neville up top, but Titus pushes him off right into Tyson’s knees. All Kidd needs to do is cover, and the champ is pinned.

NXT 091814 Titus O'Neil Tyson Kidd

Time: 11:39

Technical Merit: All four men brought it, with even O’Neil getting scientific and buying into the team concept of trying to break Zayn’s neck. Kidd is the best all-around mat grappler you’ll see in WWE besides Brock Lesnar, and Zayn and Neville’s one-upmanship not only furthered the story, but was great from a maneuver standpoint. The last guy on the main roster who could’ve probably hit that standing corkscrew Shooting Star was John Morrison, and he’s been gone for years.

Artistic Impression: The friends are fighting, and the heel(s) have the upper hand as we start the three-month build for the next Takeover. Tyson Kidd really has found himself as a cocky heel chameleon who can mesh with anyone, and it’ll be interesting to see where they go with his end of the story going forward. The aftermath of this match HAS to build toward Neville v. Zayn, which is the best fresh singles match NXT could provide right now. It feels like Neville’s in a slow turn at the moment, while Zayn will be the aw-shucks babyface until the day he dies. He played the bumbling face in peril beautifully, which helped one of the better WWE tag matches you’ll see.

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/4

NXT 091814 Tyson Kidd

•••

NXT 091814 Charlotte

Call me a traditionalist, but I have a problem with a champion coming out first in any situation. Even if it’s for a surprise Emma appearance. Also, welcome back, Emma!

NXT Women’s Champion CHARLOTTE vs. EMMA

Emma dances around a bit …

NXT 091814 Emma

… but Charlotte ain’t got no time for that. She does have time to grab the belt and inform us she is, in fact the champ.

NXT 091814 Charlotte Emma

Emma takes one look and swats it away. Within a minute, that earned her a figure-four headlock combination. Emma gets rolled around, then bridges into a cover. Emma continues to use her unorthodox style, then hits an orthodox kick from her back. Charlotte responds with an orthodox shot to the back, then goes up top. Emma puts a stop to that, hits an elbow, ducks a charge and rolls up. Some more dancing, and some pushes to the ground. More dancing and an Emmamite Sandwich until the champ grabs her while she’s between the ropes. The yank of the head ends up sending Emma’s feet into Charlotte’s face, then Emma hits a crossbody for 2. This displeases the champion, who hits a neckbreaker, then Darwin’s favorite finisher: Natural Selection.

NXT 091814 Charlotte 2

Time: 4:07

It’s kind of disappointing how overplayed Emma’s quirkiness is, especially in terms of her moveset. As Emma proved at NXT ArRIVAL, she’s a great wrestler. Let her dance around and be weird before and after the bell, but let her actually compete! When you have two solid athletes and only 4 minutes, they should be athletic, not being all … Emma-like.

•••

NXT 091814 Justin Gabriel

You know how some shows try to make you believe things are happening live? WWE is throwing that out the window this week, because Justin Gabriel is pulling a Thursday night double. To his credit, he’s wearing the same gear on both shows. To his detriment, he’s jobbing on both shows.

NXT 091814 Hideo Itami

OK, confession time: I’ve never seen Hideo Itami wrestle. And not just because that’s been his name for a week. I never saw him as KENTA, mainly because it took me until about May to watch anything outside WWE, WCW or TNA. Hell, I just watched the first like half-hour of my first (non-WWE) ECW show earlier this week. Thanks to a dissenting Roku 3, I’ll have to either start over or do some fast-forwarding later to finish the show.

HIDEO ITAMI vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

Gabriel with an early headlock, then some acrobatics from Hideo. Nice leapfrog and elbow, and when Gabriel goes for a leapfrog, Hideo puts on the brakes, leaps and hits a one-footed kick to the jaw. OK, I’m on board. Hideo tries to pull Gabriel back into the ring by the hair, but Gabriel takes out the legs, re-enters and hits a double underhook suplex for 2. Hooks the arms from behind, and when Hideo tries to escape, Justin hits a knee to the side. A second double underhook attempt blocked this time, and Hideo’s kickboxing skills are on display.

Then he taunts Gabriel by kicking him in the head while imploring him to get up. Some more kicks, one from inside and one from the apron, then a springboard short dropkick. Hideo comes into the corner with a boot, then a running short dropkick. Up top, and Hideo hits the two-foot stomp for the win.

NXT 091814 Hideo Itami 2

Time: 3:39

Soon after, he has company. Some vicious high-impact offense and one Fall of Man later, the former NXT Tag Team champions are angry AND satisfied.

NXT 091814 The Ascension

Would YOU want to mess with The Ascension right now?

Anyway, Hideo’s debut? Decent. Maybe it’s because how much force would actually be applied to the point of impact, but he only got about a third of that stomp. Besides that, if you want some good, martial arts/kickboxing-based offense, he’s your man. He’s apparently quite busy in this set of tapings, so maybe we’ll get to see more.

Also, sign me up for more Justin Gabriel. If this were WCW, TNA or Ruthless Agression-era SmackDown, Gabriel would be a top heel in a cruiserweight/X Division capacity. In WWE? He’s enhancement talent with a vicious side.

•••

NXT 091814 CJ Parker

I hoped we saw the last of CJ Parker at Takeover 2, courtesy of one Baron Corbin. But here the hippie with the X-Pac heat is back.

Oh, thank God. So is Corbin.

NXT 091814 Baron Corbin

BARON CORBIN vs. CJ PARKER

How tall does Corbin have to be to weigh 285? Like, he doesn’t look jacked or anything. Just tall. Alex Riley informs us the answer is 6-foot-8. Parker actually gets about four punches in after a corner charge from Corbin, but the End of Days comes quickly and without remorse. Hey, at least CJ lasted longer this time!

Time: :41

Corbin will be a star, and within 3 months of making the main roster, I’ll probably be dissing all the fangirls gushing about how ridiculously good-looking he is. To be fair, though, he has the look.

NXT 091814 Baron Corbin 2

I may have to get my Twitter bestie/NXT and indy guru (Hi, Heather!) on the horn to discuss the extent of Corbin’s ability, since she’s seen him work more than 40 seconds at a time and she’s high on him. But, even in this tiny sample size, he’s much more vicious and believable in his couple moves so far than, say, Mojo Rawley.

Also, I LOVE the fact that he hasn’t said a word. Not like he’s had time, but you get the point. Arrive, kick ass, depart.

•••

After some shaky Big Cass camera work, we meet Carmella, a skinny Jersey girl type who wants a job. She wants to be “a fighta,” and she proves it by huffing a medicine ball into Enzo Amore‘s gut. How you doin’ indeed.

What did you think of NXT and the direction it appears to be headed? Comment below or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

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WWE Midcard Report (Aug. 5-7): Alberto Del Rio’s final appearance, SlaterGator’s win streak is on the line and A.J. tells us a fairy tale

A four-time world champion was fired Thursday. The fact that this is pertinent to the Midcard Report is a bit depressing, but since he’s a midcard show veteran these days, this seems the best place to discuss Alberto Del Rio.

At this stage, the firing itself is the only news out there, besides the fact that WWE didn’t wish him luck in his future endeavors. In fact, WWE’s entire release:

WWE announced the release of Alberto Del Rio due to unprofessional conduct and an altercation with an employee.

In other words, Alberto Del Rio did some shit.

All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network
All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network

It’s a hard fall from grace for a man who came in with so much promise — I marked out for the Mexican aristocrat vignettes — and showed plenty of ability, but didn’t move the needle much as champion, had one of the weakest face turns pro wrestling has ever seen and was thrown into the same boring matches with the same boring opponents night in and night out. A man of his résumé regularly competing on the C and D shows should’ve elevated them, but at the end of his 4-year run they actually seemed to be the right place for him — a place to go 10 minutes or so and not force the casual fans to watch. The last time most will see him, though, is a well-fought, 15-plus-minute match with the Internet Wrestling Community’s Flavor of the Summer, Dean Ambrose, in a Beat the Clock Challenge on RAW.

With Rey Mysterio gone for long periods of time and now presumably retired, Del Rio had to carry the Latino fan base somehow. With Del Rio presumably on the way out even before his WWE-imposed departure, there’s a huge hole that needs to be filled. There may be no section of the WWE Universe more loyal than la razabut it needs someone to back or else the company’s bottom line may hurt even more than it already is.

•••

As we fire up Main Event on Friday morning … well, this is awkward …

Del Rio, the ultimate tweener at this point, plays up his nationality with the Mexican flag in the border town of Laredo, Texas, and a passionate promo in Spanish. He switches back to English and thanks the fans for their support through the years. He sounds like a man who knows his days are numbered. His opponent, a babyface, gets a mixed reaction playing up the American angle, and his manager heels it up (or faces it up?) with the xenophobic bit.

Main Event 080514 Jack Swagger
All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network.

These men main event Main Event.

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter)

We appear to have the rare tweener vs. tweener match, which is odd considering they’re trying to build Swagger as the ultimate American babyface. Flag waving advantage: Del Rio. Athletic tape advantage: Swagger, who’s selling a rib injury. Early wrestling advantage: Del Rio. Swagger finally seems to gain control via back bodydrop to the outside at the 2:15 mark, and he continues his handiwork on the outside as he clearly works heel for the night. The problem: When you deposit someone back in the ring, more often than not you’ll get hit on your re-entry, which Del Rio does via enziguiri before the break.

The Real American elbows out of a rest hold when we return, and the real Mexican introduces his foe to the ringpost. We’re working both shoulders tonight — left to the post, right to the barricade. If we had William Regal, he would discuss how brilliant this is to not only set up both arms for the cross armbreaker, but completely incapacitate Swagger’s upper body, negating his power advantage. You can’t snap on the Patriot Lock if you can’t use your arms. Or something. Rear chinlock and spot-calling time just before 6 minutes, and ADR briefly locks in the cross armbreaker on the left arm on the ropes. Well done. Also well done: Swagger’s superplex, which punishes both men — Swagger more than usual with the injured core. Babyface(?) comeback from Swagger gets some boos, and the Swaggerbomb gets 2. Pretty sure someone yells “CANADA!” during a slow portion. Del Rio picks up the pace once more with the Tornado DDT. Swagger responds with a slam for 2, but then receives the tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and short superkick for 2. Armbreaker time just past 10 minutes … but it’s countered directly into the Patriot Lock?! Del Rio escapes and goes for the kick in the corner, but Swagger gets the Patriot Lock once more. No escape this time.

Time: 11:11

Technical Merit: Some slow spots, but a solid, well-thought-out wrestling match.

Artistic Impression: A bit of a Kurt Angle throwback, with multiple counters into ankle locks. Great ring psychology from ADR working the upper body exclusively, but Swagger has the customary comeback as the patriotic babyface, and rightly so. He needs to be built up, not just for the flag match against Rusev at SummerSlam, but for his character as a whole. Swagger appears to be out of the doghouse after his legal issues from last year, and he’s a sorely needed solid mechanic in the midcard. You know, when he’s not concussing people.

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

•••

Main Event’s first in-ring action involved the surging SlaterGator! These men dominated last week’s Midcard Report, and Heath Slater pinned Mr. Money in the Bank on the main event of RAW on Monday.

HEATH SLATER & TITUS O’NEIL vs. GOLDUST & STARDUST

Byron Saxton: “Remember, Goldust is the normal one here.” The not-so-normal one gets the not-so-normal result on the crossbody attempt about 2 minutes in, as the Gator catches him, backbreaks him twice and pitches him aside. This happens again, only Stardust lands on his feet and goes for the Goldust trademark drop and slap spot, only he makes it a kick. Goldust hits the original on the hot tag. Titus breaks up the cover after a Goldust powerslam, and Stardust steps off Goldie’s back to hit Titus. The Gator, however, stays on the apron, sneaks a kick on Goldie, and Slater completes a sunset flip for ANOTHER SLATERGATOR WIN, BAY-BAY! No “cosmic key” for the bizarre ones this time.

Time: 4:01

Technical Merit: Basic? Of course. Fun? Yes.

Artistic Impression: Goldust & Stardust nearly make this element 5 stars on their presentation alone. They’re just … bizarre. And I’ll admit it: I’m a SlaterGator mark. I’m a sucker for odd-couple tag teams, and this one just works so well.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

What’s better than SlaterGator? More SlaterGator, of course! This time, the collective winning streak is on the line as the Gator faces the United States Champion on Superstars. No Slater for this one, probably since this match was actually their first of the week. Oh, TV tapings.

United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. TITUS O’NEIL, non-title match

Titus apparently blames Sheamus for not being U.S. Champ … something to do with the battle royal in which Sheamus won. We’re gonna see just how good he is in this big-man match, and we’ll see whether the “Sheamus vs. non-Del Rio opponent” corollary continues. Nice corner spot after a slow start … the champ simply lifts both legs and drops Titus (nice sell!), and Sheamus removes Titus from the premises before the break.

You have three guesses on what we saw coming out of the break:

  1. Rest hold
  2. Rest hold
  3. Rest hold

If you guessed rest hold, you’re correct! Titus works the arm, then lifts Sheamus on his shoulder and hits a backbreaker. He nearly gets the DQ in the corner, then hits his trademark half-Black Hole Slam. That’s what I’m calling the throw. He proceeds to … slap Sheamus repeatedly. That’s just not going to work. The champ is rejuvenated, and the rolling senton isn’t far off. Neither are the 10 Beats of the Bodhran. Renee Young drops an awkward Grand Theft Auto reference about Sheamus “hijacking” the match, and Titus quickly regains control and slams Sheamus’ ribs into the ropes multiple times. Unfortunately for Titus, he follows up by eating a Brogue Kick.

Superstars 080714 Sheamus

Time: 8:22

Technical Merit: Basic, sometimes painfully, at times. A typical WWE big-man match. The usual bag of tricks from Sheamus. Titus likes to find different ways to inflict punishment, but it’s so sporadic that it doesn’t really have the desired effect.

Artistic Impression: Titus looked like a legitimate threat for a decent portion of the match. The problem is it’ll take a lot more than the U.S. Champ’s efforts to make him look good in a singles setting.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

The last time I saw Summer Rae, it was yesterday during my gradual NXT catchup mission. She barely beat Bayley in a match four weeks ago, and it wasn’t a very entertaining contest. Against the Divas Champion? I don’t see this one being realistic.

A.J. is back from a vicious whiplash suffered at the hands of Paige on SmackDown, complete with a camera bump. This sounds like Bret Hart suffering through “a groin pull the likes you’ve never seen in your whole life!” in WCW. Also, who are you to doubt El Dandy?

Sorry, there’s a match in here somewhere.

WWE Divas Champion A.J. vs. SUMMER RAE, non-title match

The champ takes an apparent neck bump and is down for a few seconds … that will set the tone for this one. Summer works the neck a bit. A.J. responds by working the Black Widow. Ballgame.

Time: 1:53

Now we’re gonna get a fairy tale!

Main Event 080514 AJ Lee

A.J.’s the girl who became an adorable queen by winning the championship. Paige was the evil witch who took it from her, but A.J. was her own white knight when she came back to win. Paige, the “frenemy,” says she can be the white knight. A.J. declares Paige won’t like the way this fairy tale will end, because it’s not Paige’s house, but A.J.’s kingdom.

Well, at least they tried. It wasn’t the greatness some fans made it sound like on Twitter, but they’re trying. I just hope SummerSlam is the end of this angle, since Paige apparently is getting botchier by the match and we’re talking about queens and frenemies and fairy tales and stuff.

On the other hand, we have multiple high-profile women’s matches at SummerSlam, a mark of true progress. These angles are well planned, well built and (except in the case of Brie Bella) well portrayed. The Bella-Stephanie McMahon match WILL be good, because McMahon is the best heel in major professional wrestling right now and she is in great physical shape. Besides, you think, as a former champion married to a 13-time world champion, she hasn’t learned a thing or two in the ring? Long as Brie isn’t yelling “BITCH!” every other word or sentence, which literally seems to be all she knows how to do besides weak-sauce prison jokes, we’ll be OK.

On another note, heel Paige? It looks good on her.

Main Event 080514 Paige

•••

Superstars led off with some more Divas action. If not for my last remaining shreds of journalistic integrity, this girl would be enough to skip forward about 20-30 minutes on this show.

Superstars 080714 Cameron

On the bright side, Emma‘s back! But, considering the phone case fiasco, I think we know how this will go. And I think it will make me angry.

EMMA vs. CAMERON

Cam telegraphs a clothesline from about 15 feet away … and misses. Emma trips her up, rolls her up and scoops her up for a slam. Cam yanks Emma to the ground by the arm, then works the arm in the ropes. The latter wasn’t believable at all; the former was a little bit. More arm work with the weardown hold, so we actually have some ring psychology here. Cameron bridges while having a hold of Emma’s arms, which actually looks pretty cool. Not as cool as the Dilemma, or the Emmamite Sandwich at 3 minutes or so. Emma’s dropkick attempt misses, as does Renee Young‘s Britney Spears reference (people didn’t love her in the early ’90s … as a then-13-year-old boy, I KNOW “Baby One More Time” hit at the end of 1998), and Cameron uses her legs to smash Emma’s head into the mat and win the match. Full points for the cover, at least.

Superstars 080714 Cameron Emma

Time: 3:53

Technical Merit: Cameron needs to be on NXT, but she wouldn’t be a good enough wrestler to hang. I get it, Total Divas, yadda yadda yadda. But she sucks! It looks like she’s trying, so I guess I shouldn’t be too harsh … but she’s taking up TV with a complete lack of wrestling ability. Emma, as she usually does, shows her innovative offense in a quick setting.

Artistic Impression: This wasn’t good. But Cameron needs to be booked semi-strong to even seem like she’s in the same league as former Funkadactyl teammate Naomi.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

Come back for more WWE analysis this weekend with a SmackDown review. Also, we’ll check in with Ring of Honor’s latest TV episode. Feel free to discuss any pertinent topics (especially Del Rio) below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE NXT review (May 8): Kalisto and Alexa Bliss make nice first impressions, and Sami Zayn, Tyson Kidd and Tyler Breeze win a battle royal … ?

Sorry I’m late on this one … my mom turned 50 this week, and we figured the best way to celebrate it was to show up on her doorstep with diamonds and champagne as a surprise.

Anyway, we’re back with a bit of a Q-and-A session on the latest episode.

•••

Q: When your champion vanquishes his latest foe and nobody has stepped up in response, how do you determine a new opponent?

A: Throw a battle royal, of course!

NXT 050814 Battle Royal 1

No. 1 Contender’s Battle Royal (34:12)

I see Oliver Grey and Mason Ryan. Needless to say, they’re probably not winning this match. Also, we were robbed of a Tyler Breeze entrance. Grey’s out in 30 seconds, and Curt Hawkins (?!) follows him. They were eliminated by Brodus Clay, who gets eliminated by literally everyone else in the match at about 1:40.

*LONG BREAK FOR IN-HOUSE COMMERCIALS*

Hard to get into this one … so many non-contenders involved. In the meantime, Xavier Woods didn’t learn in his extensive education that it’s bad to eliminate yourself in a battle royal … even if you take someone with you, like he did with CamachoMojo Rawley goes at about 9:15, or about double the combined length of all his prior matches. Ryan clearly didn’t get the memo that he’s done. Yoshi Tatsu didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to win. Bo Dallas takes care of both, along with Baron Corbin and Colin Cassady, in a prolific run in the 11th minute as Jason Albert puts over his battle royal prowess. Tyson Kidd ends all that talk at 11:15 and pares the field down to himself, Breeze and Sami Zayn. Breeze with the Beauty Shot at 11:45 on Kidd while Zayn takes a breather. Breeze dumps Zayn over the top, but he hangs on. Kidd does likewise. Kidd pulls Breeze with them with a headscissors, and all three men hit the deck … ?

NXT 050814 Battle Royal 2

Replay clearly shows Breeze as the winner, but we know where this is going.

Amidst the confusion, Triple H makes another cameo and polls the crowd. The NXT Universe “obviously knows what is best for business”: A triple-threat next week.

Time: 13:28

Technical Merit: Besides a couple early spots, painfully basic until the final trio.

Artistic Impression: A triple-threat with these three will be fun. Final spot was contradicted on replay, but how can you possibly choreograph three men hitting the floor at the same time? Points for the attempt.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Considering what was at stake, this match was pretty boring. The end justified the means, but the means were a couple decent guys progressing the proceedings and a ton of jobbers who probably lasted a lot longer than they should have. Battle royals usually are far more active, and I hoped for as much. Instead, a whole lot of waiting, then hurrying up.

•••

Q: When your title is vacant, what do you do to crown a new champion?

A: Of course you have a tournament!

EMMA vs. CHARLOTTE (w/Sasha Banks), NXT Women’s Championship tournament, first round

People dog Charlotte often for her apparent lack of ability. Are you throwing figure-four headlocks on people? Nobody doubts Emma, and we see why. Well until, the Cobra comes out. Naturally, that makes her lose, though via an awesome cover.

Time: 3:45

Technical Merit: Smooth and innovative.

Artistic Impression: Not much of a story, besides the tournament and Emma’s silliness costing her.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

The figure-four headlock takes a lot of time, but Charlotte stays active in it, sometimes turning over and bashing the opponent’s face into the mat. Also, that’s a move that would take plenty of effort to escape. Would’ve liked to see more of Emma’s submission offense, but instead they give her a freaking sock puppet. There are parts of WWE that are incomprehensible. I get it … she’s with Santino on the main roster. But why strap a stupid prop onto one of the few relevant wrestlers they have in the division.

We know who Alicia Fox is. This girl, however, is new.

NXT 050814 Alexa Bliss

Let’s be honest … we needed a real-life Tinkerbell in the division. Complete with rhinestones, fairy dust and blue streaks. But can she work?

ALICIA FOX vs. ALEXA BLISS, NXT Women’s Championship tournament, first round

The answer is yet. She goes for the 450 and lands on her feet. Handstand backflip into a kneedrop. And even a little blood in her mouth. That’s just the first minute or so! After that, Fox, who gained momentum with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, hits a Northern Lights suplex for a cover. She whips Bliss and goes for the tilt-a-whirl once more, and Bliss looks like she’s going to counter with a tornado DDT variation, but she instead tucks Fox’s head and rolls into a small package for the debut win.

Time: 3:07

Technical Merit: Also smooth. Certainly innovative.

Artistic Impression: Newbie comes in. Newbie shows off some moves. Newbie gets the surprise win. Tale as old as time. But it’s a good one.

TOTAL SCORE: **

The semifinalists:

NXT 050814 Womens Tourney

A good mix of youth and experience, and the potential of the BFFs exploding in the final. Natalya‘s presumably there to make girls look good and ultimately stare at the lights to put someone new over, because giving her the NXT title accomplishes nothing. Bliss is fun to watch, and Banks and Charlotte are able heels who play their roles well. Hopefully the tournament finishes strong.

•••

Q: What happens when your tag team champions have run roughshod over everyone and there’s no actual competition in NXT?

A: You create competition! Two new teams are in the house for this one.

NXT 050814 Legionnaires NXT 050814 El Local Kalisto

THE LEGIONNAIRES (Sylvester LeFort & Marcus Louis) vs. EL LOCAL & KALISTO

Ever wonder how Ricardo Rodriguez would be as a wrestler? You’re seeing it here. Glimpses of skill early, then we see his best asset — knowing how to take a bump. Meanwhile, LeFort and Louis are cohesive as a heel team. Their back story is, well, they know each other from France. Nice move from Local, sliding to put on the brakes and kicking Louis in the head. That, of course, sets up the hot tag to Kalisto. I probably can’t name half the moves he busted out there. The finishing sequence was fantastic: Sunset flip into a rolling kick, then a back handspring in to an enziguiri. You have my attention.

Time: 4:17

Technical Merit: Fresh, new lucha libre maneuvers from the presumed future No. 1 contenders.

Artistic Impression: All the basic tenets of a tag match compressed into 4 minutes. It helps when the hot tag is white hot.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

Kalisto made this the Match of the Night. The main roster needs a Latino hero, unless you count Sin Cara (I don’t), but his style seems to mesh more with the contrast of NXT. It’ll be interesting to see how long he stays.

•••

Q: Why is this Camacho vs. Adam Rose angle still going?

A: Couldn’t tell you. But now this guy is involved.

NXT 050814 Captain Comic

Oh boy.

CAMACHO vs. CAPTAIN COMIC

That’s right! This is the guy who Camacho destroyed after Rose, et al, interrupted an interview. Needless to say, this is a squash. Basic power moves to knock him around, then the running Samoan drop and running powerslam to finish him off. Not sure what the point was … oh, a non-contact Rose run-in. This was a waste of time.

Time: 2:38

What did you think of NXT? What kind of impression did the new competitors make on you? Comment below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

 

WWE NXT semi-preview (April 24): Sami Zayn, Corey Graves, The Usos and The Ascension are in an epic six-man tag, and Paige gets one belt lighter…?

NXT 042414 preview

THIS is a match I can get behind.

The Sami Zayn vs. Corey Graves rivalry is NXT’s best at the moment. Zayn as the super-polite, super-charming, super-athletic babyface is fantastic … it seems a lot less like a character and a lot like a nice guy turned up to 11. It helps that he’s probably the show’s best wrestler. Graves is a great antagonist — careless, brash, and able to stretch you until you can’t take it anymore. Graves basically knocked Zayn out three weeks ago, and this is a shot at revenge. These two can compete against each other as often as they’d like.

But now, both men have reinforcements.

The Ascension are the only true tag team in NXT, unless you count Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger, who debuted last week, and it shows. Two-minute squashes are the norm for this pair, which hammers people just long enough to hit the Fall of Man and get out. They’re fun to watch, but it would be even better to actually see them face worthwhile competition.

What better competition than the WWE Tag Team Champions?

The Usos have been on main-roster shows pretty often lately, but it seems like they only go about 4-5 minutes as well, and the teams they face aren’t all that great either. As the NXT main event, this will go at least 10 minutes — maybe 15. Plenty of time to not only get a fresh matchup, but allow both teams to show off their skills in a surprising and entertaining contest.

I legitimately see guys like Zayn and The Usos being the future of the babyface upper-midcard for the next decade or so, and these guys likely will go over tonight — finally giving Zayn a go-home-happy moment in a big match and making the Uso’s trip to Florida worthwhile. I expect at least 3.5 stars, maybe 4, and I expect a nice balance of pace between the faces’ quick energy and the heels’ deliberate high impact. The faces will be battered, but not beaten in this one.

NXT 041714 Paige

Then, there’s the matter of Paige.

I’m a mark for two-belt champions, especially with someone as talented and, well, good-looking as this one. Apparently, JBL disagrees. Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com is reporting the NXT GM is stripping Paige of the NXT Women’s Championship tonight, under the rationale that someone can’t hold both women’s championships simultaneously. Basically, The Ultimate Warrior rule from 1990 applied to the ladies. It’s the best move, seeing as Paige can’t really be in two places at once, and it doesn’t weaken her by having the WWE Divas Champion job to someone on NXT.

The second women’s champion could be Emma, the next best talent on the card. Or they could go heel and give it to Sasha Banks, who has proven her worth as a foil for the show’s faces. I say give it to Banks and let Emma, Bayley and maybe even BFF partner Charlotte eventually go after her.

Speaking of … the BFFs and Emma apparently have a tag match tonight that was set up last week. Emma has a “mystery partner”. Seeing as Paige is in the building, it only makes sense for the now-former champ to have a proper sendoff.

These theories may all go completely out the window by 9:50 p.m. EDT, but we’ll see what happens.

What do you think will happen on NXT? Comment below or drop a line on Twitter.

WWE NXT 04/03 review: Sami Zayn and Corey Graves have an excellent main event, but blink and you miss the rest.

I don’t foresee a time when I’m not more excited to watch NXT than any other wrestling show each week. This is the only one I even try to see in close proximity to when it airs, and I know every single time I’ll be entertained by what I see.

There’s one problem: The show backed itself into a bit of a corner this week.

The good news? We had five matches in 54 minutes with another fantastic main event, this time between Sami Zayn and Corey Graves. The bad news? The first four were a combined 10:46, and the filler surpassed that. The ladies led off and had an entertaining match, but they had to get it over with in fewer than 4 minutes. The tag-team champions only went 2. Again. Tyler Breeze went even less. At least Brodus Clay‘s match advanced a storyline and provided a new challenger for the NXT Championship … and yielded a fantastic champion promo from Adrian Neville that put over not only himself, but the entire roster.

It’s hard to get so many people on a show with so little time, but I feel like there could be better time management. Tonight’s combatants cutting pre-match promos? Excellent. A video and promo from the women’s champion? Fine by me. Unnecessary commercial/promotional video breaks for Scooby-Doo and a horror movie, with multiple WrestleMania spots? Child please.

Here’s the thing about having your own network: YOU DON’T NEED COMMERCIALS. People who subscribe to the WWE Network don’t need to see promo spots for the rest of the product. They know about the rest of the product. What do they need to see? PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING. They watch NXT to watch young talent perform. Having the maximum amount of time to provide that should be the network’s, and the show’s, greatest emphasis.

As for the wrestling itself …

EMMA vs. SASHA BANKS (w/Charlotte & Summer Rae’s cardboard cutout)

Dance moves from Emma into a drop toehold. Sasha dives after coming off the ropes, and Emma just lies down next to her. Awesome. On another note, Sasha REALLY knows how to use a turnbuckle or two to her advantage. “Sasha’s ratchet!” chant. ***1/2 We get the Dil-Emma around 2:45, then the Emma-Mite Sandwich soon after. Failed distraction with Charlotte on the apron, both hit the deck, Emma Lock, done.

NXT 040314 EmmaLock

TIME: 3:50

TECHNICAL MERIT: Quick, but effective. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Classic comedic face/heel bit.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

Emma’s talented and funny enough that my wife likes her … and she’s the one who hits fast-forward when the Divas come on. When you’re a semi-comedic act, it’s not often you can wrestle as well. It’s fresh and exciting when Emma’s in the ring.

 

NXT Tag Team Champions THE ASCENSION (Konnor & Viktor) vs. JOBBERS (Jack Hurley & John Vandal)

Time for an ass-kicking squash. The jobbers are being used to beat each other up! Konnor tosses Vandal into the ropes twice, probably causing a concussion each time. “One more time!” Konnor obliges. Tag back to Viktor, Fall of Man, done.

TIME: 1:55

TECHNICAL MERIT: Squash. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Same.

TOTAL SCORE: *

I love these guys. But get them some damn competition!

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, Tyler Breeze has entered the arena.” Eden is officially the best, and best-looking, ring announcer in the business. ***** Now we have the Funkadactyl Cup. Or the Loser Has His Mama Called Match. Or Winner Keeps Ernest Miller‘s Old Music Match. Or … something.

XAVIER WOODS vs. BRODUS CLAY

Brodus looks like he’d be John Cena’s bodyguard in 2004. BC would be so much better than B-Squared. Brodus is angry, and he snaps off a T-Bone suplex to express himself. Also, is he wearing Jordan XII knockoff boots? Awesome.

NXT 040314 Brodus

Nerve hold, which means a face comeback. Or at least an attempt at one. Educated feet put to use by Dr. Woods, then a Shining Wizard for 2. Corner punches thwarted, then a huge headbutt and a jackknife. “BETTER THAN DIESEL!” Second-rope splash for the win.

TIME: 3:13

TECHNICAL MERIT: Semi-squash. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Same.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

Afterward, it’s promo time with BC.

“WWE, you took everything from me. You took my music. You took my girls. You took my tag-team partner. Worst of all, you took my pride, my self-respect and my dignity. Well Brodus(?!), from now on, I’m doing the taking. And the first thing I’m gonna take — Adrian Neville, the man that gravity forgets, you about to feel the gravitational pull of Brodus Clay. And I’m gonna take the NXT Championship … and you DO. KNOW. THAT.” A year ago, that would’ve been on SmackDown. Now, BC is getting a full retooling on NXT. Good or bad? The promo, at least, was decent. ***

Neville’s retort:

“Brodus Clay wants a championship match with me. He’s not getting the recognition he feels he deserves on RAW or on SmackDown. So he wants to come to NXT, take the NXT Championship, easy as cake, and then bugger off. *scoffs* Nah. *looks directly at camera* Brodus, are you not aware what NXT has become? Have you been living in a cave? We’re the future of this business, man. We’re young, we’re hungry, and we’re just as good as anybody on RAW or on SmackDown. And besides that, here, WE EARN OPPORTUNITIES. Bo (Dallas) earned his before me, Big E. before him, and Seth (Rollins) before him. Now you may be 400 pounds. You ARE a monster. But I’m Adrian Neville. I’m a fighting champion. And if … IF … you earn an opportunity, well I’ll be right here.” THAT was the promo of a champion. ****1/2

 

Yoshi’s in the building, but who cares?

NXT 040314 Breeze

Boots of Guatemalan alcapa, handmade by a dwarf from some tribe. Excellent work, Regal. ****

YOSHI TATSU vs. TYLER BREEZE

“BREEZE IS GORGEOUS!” Gorgeous and angry. Snapmare, then a heavy kick to the spine for 2. Yoshi gets momentum, but some forearms to the face fix that. Stands him up for the Beauty Shot. Done.

TIME: 1:48

TECHNICAL MERIT: Squash. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Sweet, but short.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

I’m a Breeze mark, which gets him extra points here. But less than 2 minutes? Come on, NXT!

Also, instead of a Paige video spot, which is much appreciated, GET HER IN THE RING! Also, we’re just gonna gloss over the part where she talks about knowing she’ll have competition, “people wanting to come in my face.”

Looks like we get about 15 minutes again for the main event. On a random note, Corey Graves seriously looks like one of the aliens on CW’s “Star Crossed,” which probably will be canceled soon, much to my wife’s chagrin. Pretty sure TNA Impact gets better ratings, and it’s on cable. Anyway, take a look!

NXT 040314 Graves

Zap2It.com photo
Zap2It.com photo

Sami Zayn looks everything but evil. But he looks like a professional wrestler.

COREY GRAVES vs. SAMI ZAYN

Excellent heel psychology from Graves to start. He ducks Zayn three times before the collar-and-elbow, then backs away a fourth time. Sami isn’t so nice on that one, providing a slap to the face. FIVE ESCAPES! AH AH AH! The dip-out-and-bait-the-babyface strategy fails miserably this time. Zayn’s chops are hard enough, they get “OHHHH!”s instead of “WOOOO!”s. Graves knocked outside, then a front flip dive so big, he almost overshoots Graves. Back in, and Graves starts to work Zayn’s obvious weakness: His dome.

*UNNECESSARY COMMERCIAL BREAK FOR A SCARY MOVIE THAT SCARES ME*

We’re back, and Graves snaps off a suplex for 2. Now an expertly applied chinlock, and he prevents the escape. Zayn’s feeling the effects of the head shots, and he’s swinging wildly. Back to the chinlock. Zayn finally escapes with the jawbreaker, then takes a boot to the head, then a knee. The ref is telling the story here, trying to check out Sami every chance he gets. Zayn finally gets a couple shots, but Graves drives his spine into the buckle. Another chinlock, which yields multiple derisive headlock chants. Zayn throws Graves off, then a double-leg into a bridge for 2. Graves with a sit-out facebuster with Zayn facing away for 2. Graves changes it up with a backbreaker this time, also for 2. Zayn looks great selling. If he were a Jobber To The Stars on the main roster, he’d make a LOT of heels look good. Graves charges, and Zayn catches him for an exploder suplex into the buckle and a cover. Blue Thunder Bomb for 2 1/2. A couple counters leads to a spot where the combatants bash heads. Both men down at 13:30. Both up, and Zayn delivers an elbow to the head. Zayn struggles to get to the second rope, and he can’t make it up top. Ref does a welfare check, and Zayn says he can continue. Graves proceeds to earhole him, and this could be it.  Lucky 13 in the middle, and Zayn isn’t responding. That’s it.

TIME: 14:57

TECHNICAL MERIT: Another solid main event. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Expert storytelling.

TOTAL SCORE: ***3/4

Not a fan of the finish tonight, but this is a means to an end and a great story was told. Zayn is one of the best salesmen in the business, and he made Graves look like a million bucks tonight. These are two of the best on the show, and I’ll be happy to see a rematch.

COMING FRIDAY: Flashback Friday assesses the Feb. 21, 1993, episode of RAW … Hulk Hogan’s debut on the show.

NXT 03/20: Watch the women work

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.

NXT 03/06: The reset

Obviously, NXT’s first regular episode on the WWE Network wasn’t going to match NXT ArRIVAL, the 2-hour special from the week before that led off with WWE’s Match of the Year to date and followed with two fantastic title matches. NXT’s normally half as long, so the hope was basically for half as good.

The show as a whole was. The in-ring product might have been.

NXT certainly is worth watching on a weekly basis, and it appears WWE will do anything possible to make it one of the cornerstones of the network. It’s completely different from their regular product, though the universes (no pun intended) intertwine on occasion, and it’s a safe haven for competitors or gimmicks who either won’t work on the main roster, aren’t quite there yet or just don’t fit for now. This week’s episode, though, seemed less about wrestling and more about resetting after ArRIVAL, integrating new wrestlers into the mix and advancing new angles. There were a whole lot of flashbacks to post-match interviews from last week — including two Ric Flair and his daughter, Charlotte, interrupted to basically do the exact same thing — and that stuff’s necessary sometimes. But only one match touched the 4-minute mark, which was a disappointment, especially after ArRIVAL opened so many fans’ eyes to the amazing WRESTLING WWE can offer.

In an era when shows often drag, NXT almost seems well-served to maybe try to go closer to a 90-minute show than 60 to get the right balance of story development, character introduction and, of-course, in-ring competition.

On the stick

Neville champ

“I’m not your prototypical champion. I’m not the biggest guy. Let’s be honest, I look like some crazy elf man. I’m from a small town in the northeast of England that nobody’s ever heard. of. And the accent, the accent! Be honest with me, can you even understand what I’m saying? It’s a struggle. Sometimes, I struggle to even understand myself. However, while you can question how I look or question how I talk, one thing you can never question is what I do in here.”

NXT champion Adrian Neville started slowly during his first major in-ring promo as champion, which makes one kind of wonder why they gave him a microphone in the first place. Then he got funny, serious, confident and entertaining all into one with the above quote. Then he followed up with a “No more Bo!” chant that, of course, brought out Bo Dallas, who cut probably the worst promo in WWE since his last one.

NEVILLE PROMO: ***. DALLAS PROMO: 0

As mentioned, NXT cut back to post-match interviews from ArRIVAL, basically making the show a Renee Young showcase more than anything. Paige and Emma each threw in their 2 cents in separate scenes after the Women’s Match of the Year to date, then Flair interrupted both and declared his daughter, who comes off like a tall, hollow version of her dad, the top contender and next NXT women’s champion. It’s always good to see The Nature Boy, but this seemed forced. Charlotte has nothing even approaching the polish or charisma of her father, and his involvement may provide the opposite of the desired effect.

CHARLOTTE/RIC FLAIR PROMOS: 1/2*

Corey Graves preferred to do most of his talking before locking up with Yoshi Tatsu, who would’ve gotten a nostalgia pop had people remembered who he was (guess you had to be there for WWECW). Graves looks like one of the Trags from Star-Crossed (new CW show…my wife loves it), only he would need more ink to pull off that role, and he sounds like a heel should: Angry, logical and kind of a D-bag. He really doesn’t like Sami Zayn, inquires about the last time he’s won (which clearly will be whenever he faces Graves), then asks whether heart is more important to enter the spotlight than actually winning matches. Then he dresses down Yoshi with the usual stuff — he’s never been relevant, he still believes he can be a WWE Superstar, etc. Solid work that took longer than his first match.

GRAVES PROMO: ***1/4

Also of note, Xavier Woods referred to Alexander Rusev as Ivan Drago in his post-match promo last week. Then said he’s Creed, who dies when he fights Drago, but I digress. I’m just wondering, will there be … consequences?

Creed

Apparently there will. He’s facing Rusev next week.

Now for the wrestling. Or, you know, the reason you watch a professional wrestling show.

ADRIAN NEVILLE (NXT champion) vs. Camacho, non-title match

Glad they found something for Camacho to do after Hunico stole his bike and Sin Cara‘s ring gear. Obviously Camacho’s the power guy here, but nice flip out of the corner, then a springboard crossbody from the champ. Neville works the left arm, which is odd since he has a top-rope finisher. Camacho chops the holy hell out of Neville, then hits a spinebuster, but a quick kickout. Neville with the educated feet and a bit of pace, then a missile dropkick to set up the Red Arrow for the pin.

WINNER: Neville, 3:00. TECHNICAL MERIT: Solid. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: About average. TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

Quick match, but a good one. Camacho looked like a formidable foe until the fast finishing sequence. Also, my wife on the Red Arrow: “That’s really freaking awesome.” Yes, yes it is.

Neville Red Arrow

EMMA vs. CHARLOTTE

Charlotte going for some sort of power game. Also, she just looks gargantuan. (Looked her up and she’s “billed” at 5-foot-10. Yeah. And I’m 5-4.) Front facelock reversed into a wristlock. Emma rolls up, throws in a dance move, 2 count. Nice kick in the corner, then another rollup for 2. Charlotte sells a left ankle injury after an awkward landing, Sasha Banks distracts from ringside, Charlotte kips up and plants Emma’s face into the mat for the win. Alrighty then!

WINNER: Charlotte, 3:00. TECHNICAL MERIT: Below average. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: A little below. TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

The finish helped. Emma showed last week she can work, but she can’t carry a match, as shown with Summer Rae and now Charlotte. Charlotte doesn’t have it yet. Maybe she will in time, but she’s certainly not the natural her father was. Never again, neither was David.

COREY GRAVES vs. YOSHI TATSU

Bell rings, Graves rolls out, decides he doesn’t want to stoop to the level of wrestling Yoshi. Nearly gets counted out, but Yoshi comes to retrieve him. Graves knocks him down, throws him into the steps, then enters the ring to get a countout win of his own.

WINNER: Graves, 2:00. No score.

This was all a setup to get Zayn-Graves as the main event.

We were treated to the debuting Adam Rose, who looks a little like a cleaned-up Leo Kruger. Hmmm … anyway, he’s apparently a party animal type, whose ring entrance literally is a party. If he’s not facing Tyler Breeze, I’m gonna be pissed. “That was awesome!” chant for the entrance, then he prepares for his debut against some cowboy-type dude who already was in the ring. At this point, his name isn’t relevant.

ADAM ROSE vs. NOT TYLER BREEZE

His first move is rolling around the opponent. Then he chops, backs into the ropes, and plays a cat-and-mouse game that ends with a kick. Double-leg takedown, then some elbows to the dome. Huge spinebuster, big clothesline, good night.

WINNER: Rose, 2:00. TECHNICAL MERIT: Meh. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: *poses* WOO! TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Good, quick debut for Rose, who’s more about the character at this point anyway. I don’t think this gimmick would work on the main roster, but it was entertaining as hell. Good to see them take a guy like Kruger and make him interesting. He’s like Aldous Snow as a professional wrestler.

SAMI ZAYN vs. COREY GRAVES

We see Graves with some actual in-ring offense in his second match of the night. Huge chop from Graves, a couple from Zayn. Headlock from Graves, whom Regal says is a leg submission specialist. Should we tell Graves he’s on the wrong end. Headlock eventually moves into a cover, then two, Graves still applying the offense until Zayn leaps over and throws a trio of arm drags. Maybe not Steamboat level, but those looked great. Graves rolls out, Zayn sets up for a dive, but springboard backflips back into the ring. Graves baits Zayn to the rope, then takes over once again. The psychology is there with Graves, but it doesn’t translate into a great match just yet. It’s supposed to be slow, deliberate and deceptive, but there isn’t a whole lot of wrestling to back it up. He’s playing cat-and-mouse, then going into a rest hold.  Quarter-nelson went we get out (Professor Regal called it a “gator”) when we return from the break. Shortly after, he stomps Zayn in the corner. NOW he has the leg, which he’s neglected all match. Now he’s working Zayn’s left knee. Actually not … back to the quarter-nelson. Zayn breaks out, but he gets dropped on his back. Zayn playing the babyface in peril once again, but he’s not even really showing signs of life. Graves won’t let him breathe. Another escape, two clotheslines and a backdrop. Here we go. Graves with a great backbreaker out of a fireman’s carry. Zayn elbows out of the corner. Kick. Crossbody for 2. Charges Graves in the corner and gets earholed. Blue Thunder Bomb for 2 1/2. That’s a hell of a non-finisher. Graves dives into the knee. Zayn manages to roll up. Slap to the chest. Zayn hangs on, but Graves counters a dive. Graves tries for that backbreaker again, but Zayn rolls him up for 3.

WINNER: Zayn, 11:00. TECHNICAL MERIT: Decent. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Good. TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

Good, solid match, but a little slow for my taste. The story was well told, as it always is with Zayn when he’s allowed to bump around and mount some offense later. Graves has talent, but he needs time to develop. He’s clearly a gifted mat/submission wrestler, but it makes no sense to do rest holds around the head and arms when your finisher works the legs. Zayn is a fantastic, vintage-style babyface with all the ability in the world. It’s a bummer he’s not on the main roster, but it would be a bigger one if he were because they would just drop him alongside Kofi Kingston in the midcard face portion of the program with no real character development.

COMING SATURDAY: SmackDown review.