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.
It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you without a dope blog to … step to? We’ll work on that one.
Anyway, The Champ’s back from a self-imposed hiatus due to a few things — my mother’s visit for my birthday last week, excessive time spent on a couple presents (namely Grand Theft Auto V and Gran Turismo 6), and just a brief disenchantment with professional wrestling.
No matter what happens in or out of the ring, watching wrestling is supposed to be fun. We’re supposed to enjoy the experience and all that comes with it. But people can take the fun out of it. Whether it’s an erstwhile champion milking every minute of glory possible by refusing to surrender titles even though them’s the rules (and a full legion of dumb marks agreeing with him), a flood of The Shield breakup stuff that reminds us kayfabe is alive and well AND you apparently can never have too many supposed eye-candy photos of guys who aren’t really all that good-looking on your Twitter timeline, or the usual “Cena wins, LOL,” it happens sometimes.
So what do you do? You don’t watch ANYTHING for a week. You watch RAW with your wife and deem it unworthy of even discussing. Then you return to the old tried and true, good ol’ NXT. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and my favorite WWE show for months now didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it didn’t disappoint.
Oh, I see how it is. Go away for a week, miss an NXT Championship match. Might have to go back and see that one. That sets up what could be an awesome tag team with Tyson Kidd and Sami Zayn. Or a terrible one. Guess we’ll see!
Anyway, it doesn’t look like the BFFs are getting along. I’m actively trying to care, but it’s all for naught. Mainly because my diva crush is in the building!
ALEXA BLISS vs. SASHA BANKS (w/Charlotte & Summer Rae)
Alexa’s still a little green … OK, maybe a lot green … as shown by a botch about 1:15 in, and the sense of choreography with each move. But the potential is there. Sasha’s there … nice tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and a surfboard, which turns into an opportunity to pull the hair while stretching the opponent. That’s quality heel wrestling. Meanwhile, Summer and Charlotte are setting up a little catfight outside the ring. That distracts Sasha long enough for Alexa to get a rollup … which she kind of has to reset … to get the win.
After the match, the BFFs catfight becomes a three-way. Nothing like a little Total Divas-esque beef to mess up a women’s division that’s actually good.
Technical Merit: That was Miss Bliss’ worst match on the Network, by far. Sasha’s locked in.
Artistic Impression: I swear Summer Rae’s mere presence ruins any television segment. That was brutal.
TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*
We follow the infighting with some wrestling-based marital strife. Tyson has a point … it looks weak having Natalya get him a a tag title shot. Then again, you kind of shut up and take it when you get it. He later meets up with Zayn, yadda yadda, get to the point and have the match already!
After a Batista DVD plug and some old-style vignette featuring Aiden English that will take a bit of time to process, it’s time to get hyped. Yay.
MOJO RAWLEY vs. GARRETT DYLAN
I could predict how this goes, but it would take longer to type it than actually watch it. Dylan has a “country strong” gimmick, which means he’s probably a better wrestler than Rawley. He won’t get a chance to show it this time, though. Well, except for the drop toehold into the buckle and a side slam for 2. This is just delaying the inevitable butt-based finishing offense, but I digress. William Regal poses a valid point: If you wear brown trunks, you don’t really care what others think of you. I think his style works. Basic, but fluid “amateur” skills, plus he can brawl … and his expressions and emotions are just the right amount of over the top.
Sells well, too. With that being said, Stinger Splash, Stinger Splash, butt bump, butt splash, we’re done.
Technical Merit: Well one of these was far better than the other. Because one can’t pick a man up and deposit him in the corner without problems.
Artistic Impression: Got to see good stuff from the loser, which is good. Mojo just doesn’t get me hyped one bit.
TOTAL SCORE: *
I’m all for anything C.J. Parker does that doesn’t involve speaking or wrestling. So keep doing your thing to save the world, brother.
OK, so that vignette? We’re getting time to decipher it now with … The Vaudevillains.
Great look, great entrance, great gimmick. The Champ approves of this new tag team.
THE VAUDEVILLAINS (Aiden English & Simon Gotch) vs. ANGELO DAWKINS & TRAVIS TYLER
Dawkins doesn’t look like a stupid hipster this time, so that’s good. Also good: Gotch applying a hammerlock … then doing a ONE-ARMED PUSHUP on Dawkins. English tags in and provides the proper balance of showmanship and impactful offense. Gotch returns and works Tyler’s arm, then English returns. Quick tags proving quite effective. A rolling senton, followed by a tag and a flying senton, end this delightful debut.
Technical Merit: More entertainment than sport, but that’s the point with this pair.
Artistic Impression: For a debut, it was strong. Get back to me in a few weeks.
TOTAL SCORE: *3/4
I like Devin Taylor. I also like Colin Cassady. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to get them both in the same shot.
Some Dean Martin and a nose boop later, Big Cass is gone. In his place is the Roman Reigns father-daughter spot that makes women lose their damn minds.
Then more Devin and some Rob Van Dam … ? He wants to wrestle the NXT Champion. Simple enough. I don’t think Adrian Neville can even save an RVD match, though.
So if we have Gorgeous and Lucha Lucha Lucha, that’s wrestling’s version of joga bonito, right? This will be fantastic.
TYLER BREEZE vs. KALISTO
“Breeze is gorgeous! Lucha lucha!” That’s an alternating chant I can get behind. Breeze sets a deliberate pace with a side headlock and takeover, and hooks the arm to add to the effect. He’s able to cover twice by pushing down the other shoulder, and Kalisto tries to escape to no avail. Kalisto rolls Breeze over for 2, but Breeze rolls back into the headlock. Randy Orton must be LOVING this. I’m starting to come around, too. Kalisto finally breaks free after nearly 3 minutes, then it’s lucha time. Nice twisting crossbody, then a headscissors forces the No. 1 contender outside. Kalisto kips up and effective executes a fakeout dive before the break.
We’re back to Breeze hitting a jawbreaker and just stomping the crap out of his foe. He takes just enough time to fix the fur on his boots, covers, and slaps on a front facelock. This one is less fun than the headlock, and Breeze breaks it on his own with a knee to the gut. But he walks right into a hurricanrana for 2. Breeze back to the fists, and three covers to no avail. Tyler Breeze does not like this. So back to the front facelock, and the NXT fans respond with a brief “HEAD-LOCK!” chant. This one is broken with a bulldog into the buckle, but Kalisto rolls onto the apron and plays possum long enough to get a kick to the head and a springboard crossbody. Both men down for a 9 count, then Kalisto starts pounding away as much as he can. Rollup, Breeze rolls out, Kalisto kicks him in the head. The brief offense Kalisto has been able to show has been fun to watch. His repeated escapes are great, but he needed one more than he had as he leaps right into the Beauty Shot. Solid finish.
Technical Merit: This was the good kind of slow. Only a top heel could elicit emotion from the fans and make a 3-minute headlock work. Credit to Kalisto as well for finding innovative ways to try to escape. Everything executed was crisp, and the varied pace was a nice touch.
Artistic Impression: See above.
TOTAL SCORE: **1/2
Now for the episode-long story arc to reach its climax, featuring the second-best entrance music on NXT. And since Zayn is Kidd’s tag partner, we know this will be a hard-fought loss. Also, judging by the time, this will be a quick one. Right up the champions’ alley.
THE ASCENSION (c) vs. TYSON KIDD & SAMI ZAYN, NXT Tag Team Championship
Viktor and Zayn to start, and the former works the latter’s back. Nice backward leapfrog and a kick from Zayn, but he can’t get the tag to Kidd. Konnor does get a tag from Viktor and works Zayn’s front, mainly around the Equator and North Pole. Back to Viktor, who knows how to chop someone’s chest. Good Lord! Quick tags continue, and Tyson is not impressed.
Viktor back suplexes Zayn as he reaches for Kidd, and the frustration has built to the point where Kidd is done. If Zayn wants to take the whole match, Kidd said, he’s welcome to do so. Top-rope crossbody, and Zayn’s finally in position to tag, but Kidd isn’t.
Konnor splash, Fall of Man, Viktor cover, champs retain.
Technical Merit: Not great, but clean. Your typical Ascension ass-kicking.
Artistic Impression: The story here was to further establish Kidd as a petulant heel. I love the story, but can’t stand the character. This is effective heel booking.
TOTAL SCORE: **
Now that we’re back, the Midcard Report will have a slightly different look — Main Event and Superstars get full reviews Friday. Follow up with Ring of Honor on Saturday, and we’re back in full swing.
What did you think of NXT? Did anyone have a chance to time Breeze’s headlock and facelocks? Comment below and/or follow me on Twitter @jpetrie18.
Sami Zayn was obsessed with getting Cesaro‘s respect. He was obsessed with gaining the NXT Championship, though he was unsuccessful before. This is another chance at redemption.
Tyler Breeze? Well, he entered the building. And he’s championship material because he’s determined and gorgeous. And he’s not Canadian, which means not only will he not contribute to the “country full of Michael Ceras,” but he won’t stop at just earning respect. He’ll actually, you know, try to win. Now I just want to see Breeze cut that promo in Calgary. ****
Oh, also he’s changed seasonal residences to Santorini, Greece, and he won’t tell William Regal who he’s wearing. This man means business.
Tyson Kidd believes in hard work and second chances paying off. The ones making noise on the main roster came from NXT. He’s the leader of the pack, and he will be NXT Champion.
Bo Dallas has a ton of Bolievers, and they send fan mail demanding he be involved in the triple-threat match. JBL suggests C.J. Parker recycle them. He does, however, provide an alternative: Beat Big E. and get a title shot; lose and leave NXT. That should set up the callup to the main roster.
Anyway, this match remains a triple threat with stratospheric expectations, and for the most part it delivers. Adrian Neville will have an amazing match at NXT Takeover, and probably the title match after that and the one after that, because we saw a prime example of what three of NXT’s top competitors can do.
TYSON KIDD vs. TYLER BREEZE vs. SAMI ZAYN, NXT Championship No. 1 contender match
Tyson strikes first with a double dropkick, but Breeze tosses him out and works on Zayn. Kidd reenters, and it’s time for he and Zayn to go … until a Beauty Shot out of nowhere at 2 minutes. The clear message here: Breeze can be the top heel in NXT in and out of the ring. The best way anyone from Calgary can stunt someone’s momentum? Grab the legs and instill fear in the Sharpshooter. Breeze dips out and eats a dropkick and Kidd goes for a suicide dive, but Breeze is waiting with a forearm. Zayn is waiting as well, and he frontflips onto Breeze outside, quickly reenters and hits the crossbody on Tyson. Once all three men are back in, Blue Thunder Bomb (Regal calls it a double-leg nelson) for 2. Sami not going for another cover allows the others to recover, and it leads to a hell of a spot: Tyson hits a German on Zayn, but Zayn hits an exploder on Breeze.
Kidd is successful in getting the Sharpshooter on Zayn …
… which means … where’s Tyler? Waiting to hit a superkick, of course! All three take a breather, and Breeze deposits Kidd outside. Sami hits an exploder into the buckle for 2, and he takes FOREVER to follow up. That gives Breeze enough time to counter a tornado DDT by crotching Zayn on the top rope. Kidd sets up for the Blockbuster, but Breeze crotches him as well. Zayn hits a big boot on Breeze in the corner and goes for Kidd, but Tyson fights him off and hits an elbow drop on Breeze. Sami is just out of reach to break up the cover. Nice guys finish last, buddy.
Technical Merit: Great pacing, great execution, great spots. You won’t see many triple threats in WWE involve that much pure wrestling and a legit finish.
Artistic Impression: Kidd winning became secondary to Zayn losing at the end, but you believed all three men could win the match at any juncture.
TOTAL SCORE: ***1/2
The finish almost seemed anticlimactic, but that’s because Kidd dared to mix things up and use a different move to end it. Great match all around, and Breeze is absolutely credible at the top of the NXT card. It was weird to see him in this match at first, considering we’ve been getting boring 2-minute squashes for some time now. However, he knew when to strike and carried his weight in a match with two of the top technicians in WWE today.
We started the show with a squash. Because The Ascension.
THE ASCENSION vs. BUDDY MURPHY & ELIAS SAMPSON
Murphy and Sampson are making their NXT debut. I think we all know how this will go. Murphy knows how to take a kick, though. Mr. Sampson’s only contribution was getting knocked off the apron by Viktor to clear the way for the Fall of Man.
Regal:“I want to see The Ascension face some credible opponents. That’s what they need.” This sums up EVERYBODY’s thoughts on the subject.
HOLY CRAP THEY HAVE A MIC.
Konnor: “We have laid waste to every tag team in the NXT Universe.”
Viktor: “Now, bring us something new to destroy!”
El Local and Kalisto answer the call. The best part? We know El Local knows how to cut a promo already! Kalisto only has to say one word: Lucha. “Lucha! Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!” This will go down at Takeover for the straps.
This will be exciting, because the only time we’ve seen The Ascension actually face a real opponent in the Network era was when The Usos came down for a great main event … which also serves as Zayn’s only win in my recent memory. Either call these guys up, or actually build a tag division. It appears they’re trying for the latter for now.
I like short girls. My wife? 5-foot-nothing. When I met her, she had a few blue hair-extension streaks. It was super cute. Also super cute and short: Mid-2000s Kristen Bell, who I’m finally discovering by watching Veronica Mars with said wife. (Hey, don’t sleep on that show.) So with that being said, you put this girl in front of me?
Yeah, I’ll root for her every week.
ALEXA BLISS vs. CHARLOTTE, NXT Women’s Championship Tournament, semifinal
Charlotte: “Get this little fairy off of me!” OK, that’s funny. Bliss with a 450 over Charlotte and onto her feet, and she tries the tilt-a-whirl small package thing to no avail. Charlotte escapes before a count can even start, then goes on the offensive with an abdominal/neck stretch hybrid. The neck part comes from violently pushing her head. Another rollup, but that only make Charlotte angrier. Also, give credit to her for knowing how to hook the leg. Back to the abdominal/neck bit. Into the rollup, but Charlotte’s not about to sell that. She will, however, sell some forearms and kicks. Charlotte with a weak backbreaker for 2. The back stretch over her knee? Much more believable. On another note, can we kinda-sorta blame Bliss for Alicia Fox going crazy? Fox lost to Bliss AND Paige last Thursday, resulting in her worst night ever before this week’s meltdown series. Anyway, backbreaker repeat, then the frontflip snapmare finally ends this one.
Technical Merit: Pretty sure we saw the same match twice.
Artistic Impression: It sells Charlotte as the top heel, at least.
TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*
Charlotte desperately needs to expand the repertoire, because she just killed what could’ve been a decent match. Also, would it have been so bad to give Bliss more than an array of rollup variations to try and get the win? Seriously, the girl’s athletic. Let her be an athlete.
Speaking of needing to expand the repertoire …
MOJO RAWLEY vs. AIDEN ENGLISH
Rawley has already expanded his moveset, depositing English into the corner, shoulder charging him and hitting a crossbody. The Drama King responds with a neckbreaker and some striking. If I groomed my beard, stopped cutting my hair or going outside, ate almost nothing, did some curls and found some velvet tights, I’d look like Aiden English. Anyway, while I was typing that, Rawley mixes in a lariat with the splash, splash, butt, butt splash finish.
Technical Merit: Mojo’s trying. That’s good.
Artistic Impression: You kind of knew English would lose, but it at least looked competitive for a moment.
TOTAL SCORE: *
Angelo Dawkins looks less like Lupe Fiasco‘s lackey. With those dance moves, though, he still looks S… A… W… F… T…
ANGELO DAWKINS vs. COLIN CASSADY
I love Big Cass. He has a different look as a leaner big man (about 6-foot-10, 250 pounds) and he has charisma. You know who doesn’t have charisma? This guy.
On the bright side, his sign is recyclable. This is called liking the message, but hating the messenger. In the meantime, Cass is almost too deliberate, and almost too powerful. Also powerful, Dawkins’ elbow, and a great dropkick. That only led, though, to a huge kneelift and a big boot. Sitout Black Hole Slam variation, the East River Crossing, and that’s it.
Technical Merit: Slow, but effective. A dominant Cass is a good Cass.
Artistic Impression: Get Parker’s ass out of there and we have something.
TOTAL SCORE: *1/4
All the talk is about how great of an athlete Dawkins is, but we don’t get to see it. I understand pay your dues, etc., but why not build him up as a bigger, maybe better Shelton Benjamin from the start? Yeah, I went for the obvious comparison there … they’re both multi-sport studs!
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!
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 Camacho. Mojo 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 … ?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: **
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.
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.
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.
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.