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.
Tyler Breeze earned his on merit, defeating Sami Zayn in a No. 1 Contender’s match, then declaring he’ll take on the champ whenever he chooses. Tyson Kidd lost to Neville at Takeover, then was a sore loser afterward. But since he apologized at the end of tonight’s show and asked for another chance after Neville’s main-event victory over Justin Gabriel, Neville forgave him and decide to give him another title shot.
We know both matches will be phenomenal, and I say both because I don’t foresee a scenario where Kidd takes the belt off Neville, especially if it’s not at a special event … maybe Neville-Breeze square off in the next one.
We know Neville and Kidd have great in-ring chemistry and can put on an impressive wrestling match … the question is Kidd getting people to care about him. The NXT crowd cared enough to chant derisively toward him last week and say “FACT!” after nearly everything he said tonight, but Kidd’s job will be to make the same crowd believe he can (1) actually defeat Neville in the ring and (2) say something worthwhile to get us to invest in the match other than the obvious athleticism. Kidd plays a heel in the ring, but is super polite on the mic. He hasn’t done a single thing toward Neville to get heat. There are challenges, handshakes and one man walking out. There was an excellent opportunity for Kidd to sucker Neville in with his apologies and his cordialness, then beat him down to turn everyone against Kidd and provide an exciting finish to the show. But the boat was missed … simply because people are too gosh darn nice!
On the other hand, Breeze had time to heel on Zayn, physically comparing him unfavorably to Seth Rogen; and Neville, calling him “The Man That Maybelline Forgot”. Maybelline did not forget Breeze, and the man who stole last week’s show provided the most entertaining portion of this week’s program. The self-proclaimed King of Cuteville and Definition of Delish debuted his “#MMMGorgeous” video, and unlike many other WWE “Superstar” performances, this one is absolutely, fabulously fantastic.
The lyrics? Eloquent, poignant and, well, gorgeous.
Is it my eyes? When you look at me
They are so gorgeous, they’ll set you free.
Could it be my walk, or just my stare?
That makes you freeze when I appear.
CHORUS: Super good-looking, every hair in place.
Everyone loves this gorgeous face.
You can’t deny my Beauty Shot.
I’m everything that you are not.
Part man, but all model.
Am I what you want? Am I who you follow?
Don’t try and fight it. You can’t deny
This is perfection personified.
Piercing eyes and a chiseled jaw
Molded by the gods without a flaw.
Can you feel the presence of greatness near?
This hairless look? Prince Pretty’s here.
THAT can go multi-platinum. That, as the fans chant, was awesome. Though it was immediately followed by a riveting Bo Dallas NXT retrospective — complete with post-match tantrum (and extended footage that involves a threat to call Full Sail University campus security) and super-inspirational music — Tyler Breeze stole the show once more.
The task at hand for Neville was one of Kidd’s former tag-team partners. It was billed as a no-DQ title match on a teaser graphic earlier in the show, which would understandably make fans excited … and confused. Unfortunately, once the match began, it was clear there were no stipulations in place. How dare you with the bait-and-switch?
NXT Champion ADRIAN NEVILLE vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL
Every time we see Gabriel, it seems his hair gets worse.
This time, his music has followed suit.
Neville’s in control through the first minute, trying to work Gabriel’s arm, but Gabriel uses a fireman’s carry to escape and respond in kind. I think Gabriel just tried to match Sting‘s “WOOOO!” scream. Neville leapfrogs, hits a hurricanrana and kips up, but his dive outside is cut off by Gabriel inside. Gabriel dumps Neville and tries to hit a dive, but Neville pulls the rope as Gabriel falls. Frontflip dive from the apron from the champion. Quick cover, then back to the left arm as we get a Money In The Bank plug.
As we return, Gabriel is chopping Neville in the corner. He eventually gets a cover, then a suplex rolled into a double underhook submission hold. He shifts to the side headlock, but Neville escapes and puts his forearms and feet to use. The champ measures Gabriel for the missile dropkick, but that only yields 2 as well. Gabriel goes to slam Neville, who straddles a standing Gabriel and puts on a front facelock. Gabriel, however, turns that into a bridging suplex for 2. Well done! Springboard moonsault is escaped, so Gabriel lands on his feet. Neville goes for a crossbody, but Gabriel hits a dropkick instead. This could be 450 time? No, he lands on his feet again as Neville escapes. Vicious short dropkick to a grounded Gabriel in the corner, and Neville hits the Red Arrow. I honestly was hoping for the inverted 450 to show up the soon-to-be vanquished foe, but I’ll take it.
Technical Merit: A solid cruiserweight-style match with fresh spots and good give-and-take.
Artistic Impression: Good physical story, but we’re just so conditioned to not care about a Justin Gabriel match that it seemed a little flat.
TOTAL SCORE: **1/4
There were plenty of women in the house for this one, though there was only one match.
We started with Natalya covering for her husband’s actions last week, saying she’ll “always, always” have his back. Yawn. On the other hand, she said these things to the lovely Devin Taylor.
Then I suddenly felt the need for a hug.
Let’s face it, when your gimmick is predicated on hugs, like Bayley‘s is, you’ll get my support every time. Unless you’re facing Alexa Bliss. That one can do no wrong in The Champ’s book.
The new NXT Women’s Champion? Not really in the mood for hugs.
NXT Women’s Champion CHARLOTTE (w/Sasha Banks) vs. BAYLEY
An interesting contrast of styles here: The polished Charlotte and not-so-polished Bayley. Side headlock takeover from the champion, then after a “WOOOO!”, Bayley hits some nice armdrags, spins around her and sort-of locks in an armbar. Quick escape from the champion, and a couple strikes and a cover later, Charlotte spins on Bayley’s back. You know, turnabout, fair play, etc. A couple kneedrops from the champ, then the figure-four headscissors. Charlotte flips Bayley out and covers, but then Bayley gets aggressive, punctuated with a spear in the corner and an elbow, but Sasha Banks provides a distraction outside, Bayley escapes that, returns, goes up for an elbow and gets 2. Charlotte regains the advantage, but Summer Rae‘s music plays, temporarily stopping the momentum. Bayley tries to take advantage with a backslide, but Charlotte kicks out and hits Bow Down to the Queen to finish it off.
Summer joins Sasha and Charlotte to reunite the BFFs and beat up Bayley, but Paige and Emma run down to clear the ring. Somewhere, Teddy Long is beating himself up for not being the NXT General Manager to schedule a six-person tag match. … Playas!
Technical Merit: Bayley’s sloppiness is actually part of her style, so it works. Charlotte wasn’t at the level of last week, but she also wasn’t facing possibly the best female pure wrestler of this generation.
Artistic Impression: OK story and back-and-forth, and it was possible Summer would return as a face and help Bayley steal one. The fact she went straight back to being one of the BFFs actually enhanced it a bit.
TOTAL SCORE: *1/2
After the following men’s tag-team match, the BFFs discuss Summer’s comeback … but Charlotte and Sasha are none too pleased. These BFFs aren’t best friends forever, after all. The first F is Fierce, which likely is how Summer will be treated by her “friends” in the near future.
As the show begins, we’re reminded one thing: Like America, when Mojo Rawley gets knocked down, he gets back up. Who cares, though, because, “Spotlight, please!”
MOJO RAWLEY vs. AIDEN ENGLISH
The clothesline is an addition to Mojo’s repertoire, right? Apparently, getting clotheslined is as well. English takes control with a basic pounding offense, then puts in the rest hold about 90 seconds in. Is this Mojo’s longest match yet? Mojo kicks, then pushes his way out of the corner, then busts out a shoulder block?! This is progress! Mojo tosses Aiden into the corner, butt charge, butt splash, done.
After the women’s match, it was time for the next appearance of Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger, whose gimmick is they’re trying to figure out tag-team synergy with catchphrases and entrance.
TYE DILLINGER & JASON JORDAN vs. PHILIP GOULJAR & STEWART CUMBERLAND
Luckily, Jordan and Dillinger’s synergy is much better in the ring. Dillinger makes some noise with a HUGE chop, then after mild resistence from Cumberland, he slaps on another. Cumberland elbows out and tags to Gouljar, who hits an elbow of his own, but Dillinger responds with a butterfly suplex before tagging back to Jordan. Headlock, bodyslam, kneedrop, then into the corner. Tag, bodyslam, Dillinger kneedrop, then Gouljar actually gets a couple shots in for the tag. Quick tags from the jobbers, but that just makes Dillinger angry enough for yet another chop. That provides brief breathing room, who actually is getting worked over by the no-namers. Hot tag to Jordan, who picks up Gouljar and drops him shoulder first for an ugly fall. Dillinger superkicks Cumberland, and Jordan hits a corner spear and the Angle Slam … I mean the Jordan Slam.
Technical Merit: Cool to see the clearly pushed team to actually get a challenge, but it never felt like anything other than an extended squash.
Artistic Impression: See above. The extended squash element didn’t help the match one bit.
Was there another five-star match? No. That’s about all Takeover lacked, because the overall body of work raised the bar. I saw on someone declare on Twitter that NXT really is the “B” show in WWE, surpassing SmackDown. On nights like this, NXT is the pinnacle of professional wrestling in WWE.
Sami Zayn once again was in the best show on the card … though in defeat. Thanks to Charlotte and Natalya, we saw the best WWE women’s match at least since Trish Stratus and Lita were worthy of main-eventing RAW, and even those two couldn’t pull off the old-school mat-wrestling match the princesses of the Flair and Hart dynasties accomplished tonight. The NXT Championship match had to follow those, and Adrian Neville and Tyson Kidd put on a title match that would’ve fit right in with the WCW cruiserweights of the late 1990s.
This was a professional wrestling show for professional wrestling fans. On a quarterly basis, NXT’s live specials will be the best wrestling a WWE fan can see.
One cool element of the Adam Rose Experience: It can start outside, then work its way into the arena. Unfortunately, that’s the highlight of the opener.
The entrance has never been a question with Rose; it’s the ability. That question wasn’t entirely answered against a heel jobber who has shown glimpses of potential.
ADAM ROSE vs. CAMACHO
Full Nelson from Camacho, and Rose … um … grinds his way out. Don’t think that was a full twerk, but a valiant attempt. “Party pooper this!” from Camacho, then an impressive double underhook suplex. He has a decent power game for someone in the 230-pound range. Then he locks on what William Regal calls the single-arm necktie, but Rose works his way out and starts to get a little angry, but his burst of energy doesn’t last long, thanks to Camacho’s Chuck Taylors. Back to the necktie, and Rose starts to escape before Camacho heels on ’em and beats him down. Legdrop for 2, and Rose finally hits some offense with a kick. Leads with the jab, knockdown with the right. HUGE spinebuster, and Adam Rose looks a little more like Leo Kruger for a sec.
Crotch charge in the corner, then the Party Foul ends it. I’m still not sold on Rose, but that could’ve been much worse.
Technical Merit: Too much relying on the rest hold from Camacho, and we still only saw two actual wrestling moves from Rose.
Artistic Impression: But the crowd got behind Rose, which, I guess, is mostly what matters.
TOTAL SCORE: *1/4
Cool video on Zayn’s journey to Takeover, starting with the best match I’ve seen in years. Zayn then explains just how different he and Tyler Breeze are. His resiliency and adaptability will be Breeze’s undoing.
Breeze, meanwhile, has entered the building, according to the lovely Eden Stiles.
Well done, Cody Rhodes. Well done.
“Lucha! Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!”
This won’t be a squash for The Ascension, which automatically makes it feel like a big match.
THE ASCENSION (c) vs. EL LOCAL & KALISTO, NXT Tag Team Championship
After being jumped, the challengers dump the champs outside. They go for stereo suicide dives, but receive stereo uppercuts instead. Once we get settled in, The Ascension are in control with quick tags and powerful offense. I wouldn’t mind seeing Viktor as a singles competitor somewhere down the line, maybe in a revamped cruiserweight/light-heavyweight division. He reminds me of Dean Malenko, not in the Man of 1,000 Holds way, but the light heavyweight who can straight-up kick your ass way. Kalisto is resilient as the babyface in peril, kicking out of a Viktor elbow drop as he’s stuck in the ropes. Konnor tosses Kalisto in the ropes from the outside twice, but counters on the second. That only seems to further anger The Ascension, as evidenced by a VICIOUS chop from Viktor. But an elbow and a hurricanrana from behind later, the hot tag comes to El Local, who isn’t quite at Kalisto’s level. Average-at-best moonsault for 2, and some 4-man chaos ensues. Kalisto does a nice roll-through and kick to Konnor, but it doesn’t matter since neither is legal. Once they exit, Viktor hits an STO that leads to the Fall of Man. Champs retain.
Technical Merit: The Ascension can go. So can Kalisto. Lo siento, El Local.
Artistic Impression: Good story that felt like the faces would persevere.
TOTAL SCORE: **1/4
Video on the most gorgeous man in wrestling. A WHOLE lot of selfies involved. He also touches on how he’s much more than a pretty face.
And with that, it’s time for the No. 1 Contender’s match … and the greatest entrance music in wrestling. No, not Zayn’s Mighty Mighty Bosstones inspired theme. I’m talking about a Tyler Breeze original.
But first, let him take a selfie.
SAMI ZAYN vs. TYLER BREEZE, NXT Championship No. 1 Contender’s match
Slow buildup to start until an armdrag medley from Zayn at about 1:30. Breeze backs him down, but a kick puts the face (as opposed to The Face) back in control. Breeze charges Zayn while the latter’s on top. Zayn sticks out the leg, but Breeze blocks and pushes the leg (and Zayn) out for an apron bump outside. Another momentum swing results in a kneedrop and cover, then a bulldog variation, only he goes through the ropes and drive Zayn’s face into the second turnbuckle. Faceplant and cover, then a front facelock for a breather. Zayn finally, on the third lift, tosses Breeze forward to escape, then dumps him outside for a springboard moonsault variation that leads with the arm clubbing Breeze headfirst onto the floor. Back inside and a flying crossbody for 2. Blue Thunder Bomb at about 8:00 for 2 more. Zayn goes up top, but has to leap over Breeze, then turns around into a kick to the gut and an impaler DDT for 2. Zayn grabs the ropes, but Breeze yanks him out of the corner into a sitout powerbomb?!?! for 2. This is Breeze’s breakout match right here. He is the wrestler people will talk about after this one. Well, at least until Zayn puts Breeze into the buckles with an exploder suplex. After a well-deserved breather, we enter the punch exchange portion of the program. Breeze ends it by trying to whip Zayn into the corner. Zayn puts on the brakes to avoid the ref, which turns into a rollup. Counter-reversal chain, and Breeze breaks free at the ropes and hits Sweet Chin Music on Zayn. Another count as both men are down. Breeze is up first for some strikes, and he tries to whip Zayn to no avail. Zayn sets up for a powerbomb, but Breeze rolls through. Zayn hangs on to the front facelock while Breeze straddles him and flips Breeze for a SICK powerbomb variation. Breeze dips out, and Zayn flip dives onto him. Zayn goes for a big boot in the corner, but Breeze ducks and Zayn injures his groin. That opens up the Beauty Shot and TYLER FREAKING BREEZE IS THE NO. 1 CONTENDER.
Technical Merit: That was not a WWE match. That’s a good thing in every way. So much innovation, great pacing and excellent work from both men.
Artistic Impression: We saw a different side of Tyler Breeze tonight — the tenacious, resilient heel who can beat the best wrestlers the company has. Zayn was excellent as always, but it’s hard to take him as a serious threat when he loses all his big matches.
TOTAL SCORE: ****1/2
This could be a huge night for this family.
Or they could come up empty. Either way, you know you’ll see two good matches.
I’ve never seen someone wave a flag so violently in my life. But nobody really cares because she’s here.
She promos on how awesome Russia is or whatever. Rusev talks briefly, but it’s time to get hyped in the U…S…A… I mean, stay hyped. Mojo Rawley threatens to shove Rusev’s flag up his “Putin”, but Rusev beats the “Putin” out of Mojo. Regal: “Well, I’m on his side.” It’s not a bad place to be.
I just remembered, though I’m a Ric Flair mark till the day I die, I automatically hate Charlottebecause she beat Alexa Bliss in the NXT Women’s Championship Tournament. Bliss is Kristen Bell cute … that will win my heart every time.
Back on topic, Natalyafeels the pressure of being the trailblazer of the Hart family, being the first female grappler in the group. Charlotte, meanwhile, wanted to blaze her own trail separate from the Flair name, but has embraced it and become a completely different woman and wrestler since she began her wrestling career.
In addition to Flair and Bret Hart, Paige is here for this one, yet again debunking JBL‘s logic for stripping her of the NXT Women’s Championship. This will be two NXT matches and one live event appearance since losing that belt.
Yeah, my thoughts exactly.
Quick promo time for the former champion, who says the next champion must be strong and have character, and the NXT title can lead to the WWE Divas Championship. Or, if Natalya wins, the reverse.
CHARLOTTE (w/Ric Flair) vs. NATALYA (w/Bret Hart), NXT Women’s Championship
New music for Charlotte as well … bit of a “2001” remix. I like it! It’s clear Nattie’s here to put Charlotte over, so we’ll see how competitive they can keep this match, as well as how much doubt they can preserve. Also, funny visual that shows Charles Robinson as the champion.
It’s only right “Little Naitch” is here for this one.
Charlotte slaps on a hammerlock, but Nattie reverses into an armbar. That’s reversed into a figure-four headlock before a break. This will be a WRESTLING match. Nattie headlock is escaped, and Charlotte puts on an armlock of her own. Nattie kips out and works on the left leg, which would neutralize the figure four. Charlotte uses the right to escape. Nattie goes for a kick, which is blocked, but Nattie rolls through and puts on a leg submission. Escape into the side headlock. This is SO old school. Reverse into a front facelock as Nattie “WOOO!”s at Ric. That leads to another reversal, and we get a whip sequence where Charlotte leapfrogs then goes for a faceplant, but Nattie gets the victory roll, only not for a victory. Nattie wraps her legs around the abdomen, then Charlotte resorts to a very non-wrestling maneuver: Pounding Nattie’s head into the mat. Then another, as each woman slaps on, well, a slap! Flair gets a knee to the gut and a knife-edge chop to the chest because she’s a Flair, and that’s what Flairs do. Ric “WOOO!”s back at Nattie, who rides Charlotte and eventually puts on the sleeper, but Charlotte escapes via backpack stunner for 2. A series of faceplants ensue, followed by some footwork in the corner. Back to the figure four headlock, and she turns for multiple faceplants. She rolls again, then flips Nattie over and covers. Abdominal stretch time, but Nattie reverses it and grabs the right leg. Backslide from Nattie, but Charlotte rolls out and short dropkicks Nattie for 2. Butterfly suplex from Nattie, clothesline, snapmare, then the stomp/short dropkick combo for 2. Different Flair, different method to get over the turnbuckle, same result: Flair on the floor. She gets the last laugh, though, as she legwhips Nattie out of the ring onto the floor. Nattie sells the knee as Charlotte covers the injured leg for 2, then goes up top for a moonsault. Different Flair, different move up top, same result: Flair in pain on the floor. Nattie gets back to her feet for a discus clothesline, then puts on the Sharpshooter. After an unsuccessful crawl to the ropes, Charlotte reverses directly into the figure four. Both women roll through twice, and somehow Charlotte is feeling the pressure. Another slap exchange, and Charlotte rolls out of the ring, still locked in, and replicates Bret’s leglock, only instead of wrapped around the pole, it’s a straight pull with Nattie on the apron. Charlotte introduces Nattie’s right knee to the steel steps, and it’s back to the figure four? Nope. One look at Bret, and it’s the Sharpshooter!
Natalya rolls out and tries to apply her own Sharpshooter, but Charlotte powers out and hits the flipping snapmare to become champion. All four parties embrace in the ring afterward, as well they should.
And Ric Flair cries because, well, Ric Flair cries.
Technical Merit: That was the best mat-based women’s wrestling match I’ve ever seen, and probably ever will. RAW and SmackDown would never allow a women’s match like this … at least until Total Divas dies a slow, painful cancellation.
Artistic Impression: The next generation of Flair vs. Hart carried that story, as well as that of just a great old-school wrestling story.
TOTAL SCORE: ****
Adrian Neville video time. He fits the champion role well. He can outwrestle anyone who faces him, and each man is a different scenario. Tyson Kidd is a different scenario still, but he’s Neville’s biggest challenge because they’re similar. Neville’s stronger, faster and hungrier. The NXT Championship is his armor, and no one will get through his armor.
On another note, Neville can rock a shirt and tie.
These men can also rock a formal look.
That one’s for the wife, even though she no-sold the pic when I showed her. She generally has a thing for thinning-haired physical specimens (which is why she likes me) and middle-aged Canadians. Happy wife, happy life, right?
ADRIAN NEVILLE (c) vs. TYSON KIDD, NXT Championship
Kidd comes out looking like he’s already had a match.
Neville comes out looking younger, stronger and in much better shape. Then again, TJ has about six years on him.
We’ll get about 20 minutes for this one.
A minute in, a handshake and a challenge from Kidd for Neville to bring his absolute best. This is a ground-based contest to start as Kidd controls Neville’s head. Neville reverses, Kidd escapes and glares down at him, then pats Neville on the back. Subtle heel work, but damn, it’s effective. Kidd works the left arm, and Neville can’t kip his way out. In fact, it turns from an arm twist into an arm lock. Neville finally escapes via three kip-ups and a cartwheel. Armdrag from Neville into an armbar. Neville looks so much bigger than 194 … the man’s upper body is BUILT. Keeps the armbar on, underhook suplex, keeps the armbar on still until Tyson reaches the ropes. Tyson tries to monkey flip Adrian, but Neville lands on his feet and hits an armdrag. Kidd responds in kind, they both kip up and simultaneously go for dropkicks. The mirror-image game stops when Kidd goes for high-impact abuse. Neville ends up in the Tree of Woe for a knee to the abdomen and a couple kicks to the back. Make it three and a short dropkick to the head. Kidd remains in control with a side chinlock as he implores the referee to ask Neville if he gives up. Neville gets out, but Kidd hits the Stun Gun, a dropkick and a flip dive outside. Kidd back in control as they return with the headlock … this has the typical longform face-heel feel. Neville gets free and, to seal the similarity bit, we have dueling crossbodies and both men down. Neville hits a couple axe handles and some kicks to finally gain some momentum, and he catches Kidd in the Tree of Woe for a receipt … only his dropkick looked more vicious because he hit the chest hard instead of the head. Springboard forearm for 2. Neville dropkicks Kidd out and goes for a dive through the ropes, but Kidd goes to the apron and kicks Neville in the head and covers. He goes up top, maybe for the Blockbuster, but Neville hits him with a forearm and tries for a superplex. Instead, Kidd tries for a sunset flip powerbomb … but Neville flips and LANDS ON HIS FEET, then hits an alley-oop sitout powerbomb for 2. Neville puts his feet to use, then appears to go for another springboard move, but Kidd runs behind him and hits a Russian legsweep from the second rope?! Damn. Kidd goes up top and Neville appears to block, but Kidd catches the feel and goes for a Sharpshooter. Neville rolls him into a small package, then Kidd gets up for an enziguiri, a short dropkick to the head and a suplex attempt. Neville blocks and reverses, and both men tumble outside. The count begins and nearly ends, but both men dive in at 9. After a breather inside, both men are up and Kidd briefly puts on the Sharpshooter. Neville tries to escape, but Kidd has the arm and the leg wrapped in what Regal calls the Dungeon Lock. It takes all of Neville’s energy to break. Kidd needs plenty of energy to get Neville back up, but kicks Neville and leaves him hanging between the ropes when he does. That leads to a 360 legdrop from the top and a cover. Frustrated, he goes back up, but Neville grabs a leg. Kidd kicks off, but Neville stops him again, only briefly. A third trip to the top turns into a top-rope Frankensteiner, then the Red Arrow. Neville … somehow … retains.
Technical Merit: That was as crisp, clean and fluid as it gets, complete with plenty of things we don’t normally see.
Artistic Impression: Kidd played his part well as a foil for Neville. The champ overcoming everything the challenger could possibly throw at him made for a tried-and-true story.
TOTAL SCORE: ****
The only things holding this match back were a relative lack of Neville offense and Kidd just not having “it” while he’s in the ring. The No. 1 contender’s match was better because both men applied plenty of offense, and people bought into both personalities. Kidd, though obviously a fantastic worker, just isn’t as successful conveying emotion and showing charisma while competing.
Bo Dallas gave the best goody-two-shoes heel performance I’ve seen in years Thursday night.
In a stipulation match everyone knew he would lose (his main-roster return is on SmackDown tonight), the match hinged on how he would lose and how he would react. He hung with someone 60 pounds heavier in a power-style matchup, and he surpassed the expected response upon defeat. He yelled. He threw a tantrum. He kicked the steel steps and hurt himself. He even went negative in his final promo!
The NXT fans responded as expected, giving the customary “Na na na na …” goodbye chant and demanding he leave the premises … and thanking him on the way out.
It’s hard to remember Bo is only 23 (at least until Sunday) and has the Rotunda AND Windham bloodlines, and his brother is only the hottest new heel in wrestling at 27. You know, this guy:
Also, happy birthday, Bray Wyatt! Sorry I didn’t get you a gift … I figured since you have the whole world in your hands you’re set on presents.
BO DALLAS vs. BIG E., “Win or Go Home” match
On another note, Big E. — considered a bland Intercontinental Champion during his recent reign — is OVER in NXT. Leave, come back, instantly get “FIVE!” chants!
In addition, Bo ducks out after four strikes … twice … and gets booed because Big E. couldn’t get to five. Dallas gets pummeled early, then gains the upper hand outside by diving for the knee at 2:15. Rest hold at 4 minutes heading into the break … and maybe get some heat. We return with Langston in control in the corner, but Bo hits a high-impact flying forearm and goes back on the attack while being taunted with his brother’s sing-along chant. Sometimes it’s hard to believe Bo is 230 pounds. When going against cruiserweight types like Adrian Neville, he doesn’t look that big. On the other hand, the man packs some POWER. He clotheslined the hell out of
Big E. gets back on track with a couple clotheslines, the belly-to-belly and a knockdown, then goes for the Big Ending but counters with an inverted DDT for 2. Nice belly-to-belly throw for 2 more. Splash blocked with Bo’s knees, then the double underhook DDT … for 2? Well, if that doesn’t work, time for some classic heel tactics! The problem is, when you take off the turnbuckle pad, you WILL be the one to feel it. Big Ending follows, and a 3 count (not a 5?) sends Bo home.
“I CAN’T GO! I CAN’T GO! THIS IS MY HOME! NO! I CAN’T! DON’T LEAVE ME!”
Technical Merit: A little slow at times, but solid.
Artistic Impression: Great story with Bo having to resort to being bad to try to stay.
TOTAL SCORE: **1/2
I want each and every one of you to know, that spent their money to come see me here tonight, I want you all to know that I strongly dislike every one of you. I don’t usually use language like this, but you all should know that you people stink. You should’ve just bolieved! Now leave. (Leave!) YOU leave! (YOU leave!) Leave! (YOU leave!) Why are you still here? I’m gonna be the bigger man. I’m gonna leave (cheers) because I’m a bigger and better man than all of you! *leaves* (Thank you Bo! Thank you Bo! Thank you Bo!)
THAT is an exit.
Tyson Kidd is back in NXT to obtain his destiny: Become a champion. Meanwhile, Sami Zayn has another promo with Devin Taylor … which is interrupted by The Gorgeous One. If you think this is just an excuse to put up a Tyler Breeze pic, well … you know how we operate here.
Though I didn’t really get his good side … sorry!
These two will square off at Takeover, because Breeze was busy this week. New phone case, go to a ball, maybe hop a plane to Guatemala to select only the finest alpaca fur for his boots? I don’t know. But it will be a No. 1 Contender match for the NXT Championship, and we know Zayn is due for a big win. I’m not sure Breeze is ready to be a champion or the top foil yet (give it a few months), but we’ll know a lot more once he’s given the spotlight.
NXT logic is morphing into something … TNA-ish.
This woman can’t be NXT Champion anymore because, as WWE Divas Champion and, hence, a world-traveling member of the main roster, she wouldn’t be able to show up and defend said title in Orlando when necessary.
Then they have her show up … on NXT … IN ORLANDO … for a rematch of her Divas title match at Extreme Rules that wasn’t all that great to begin with.
WWE Divas Champion PAIGE vs. TAMINA SNUKA
This match is predicated on high impact from both women. Tamina emphasizes that impact part by kicking Paige on the apron and hitting a few scoop slams. Rest hold at 2 minutes, the bear hug, then clotheslines the champion when she breaks free. Tamina slaps on the Torture Rack — far more effectively than Lex Luger ever could — until Paige strikes her way out. Matt Morgan back elbow combo in the corner, chain of clotheslines and a kneelift, but Tamina sets her on the top rope and simply pushes her over, with the apron bumping her on the way down. Terrible Superfly Splash attempt (Paige was way too close) is blocked, then Paige wins with … a rollup? Alrighty then.
Technical Merit: Power-based match with the rollup win works … when the winner isn’t a champion.
Artistic Impression: The story didn’t engage anyone. The weak finish didn’t help.
TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*
During that match, NXT mentions Charlotte facing this womanat Takeover for the NXT Women’s Championship.
Natalya is a former WWE Divas Champion and longtime world-traveling member of the main roster, which means she wouldn’t be able to show up and defend said title in Orlando when necessary. Unless … actually, I have a theory on that, which I’ll get to at the end. But that’s not even the most egregious part of this.
The NXT announcer mentions Charlotte vs. Natalya in the championship tournament final about halfway through the show. Ten minutes later, this is on my screen:
Put 2 and 2 together, and he TELLS YOU WHO WINS BEFORE THE MATCH EVEN HAPPENS. That takes a WCW or TNA level of incompetence. As Grandma Petrie, a longtime NWA/WCW fan before logic went out the window, would say, “Oh, whoops!”
NATALYA vs. SASHA BANKS, NXT Women’s Championship Tournament semifinal
Charlotte’s torn — she wants her BFF to beat Nattie, but doesn’t want to have to expose her weaknesses and beat her next week. That’s quality heel work right there … her father taught her well.
Anyway, this is a Wrestling 101 lesson with Professor Neidhart, including a step on Sasha’s back that plants her head into the mat, then a short dropkick on the way back around. Sasha gets control with a rapid-fire strike combo in the corner while Natalya’s tied up, then a double kneedrop transports her from the second rope to the ground. Sasha locks in a submission hold of her own, wrapping Nattie’s arms around her own neck, then hops on Nattie’s back, which opens up the escape via turnbuckle. Nattie hits a crisp double underhook suplex that rivals Camacho‘s earlier in the show (and later in the blog), but Sasha responds with the bulldog … and rolls out of the ring with an apparent hamstring injury. Charlotte implores her to get back in the ring, then rolls her back in and demands a cover.
Bad hammy, rolled in before she’s ready … you know what’s next.
Technical Merit: Sasha Banks was able to keep up. That’s a good sign.
Artistic Impression: This planted the seeds for a possible BFFs split and provided plenty of aggressive wrestling. I’m in.
I’ll be happy when Adam Rose leaves NXT for good. Or WWE, for that matter. It’s a gimmick with style, but absolutely no substance. He says the same two or three things on repeat, and the matches he’s had on NXT aren’t even close to good. He’s done a great job of embracing the character (you almost can’t tell he was Leo Kruger), but the character flat-out sucks. Yeah, I’m a lemon. Deal with it.
ADAM ROSE vs. CAMACHO
Camacho beats down Rose to start, then that stupid spot where Rose ducks between the ropes and flails his legs about. Apparently it’s called the Rose Petal. I call it crap. Running Samoan drop from Camacho, a NICE double underhook suplex and a standing legdrop for 2. Camacho just takes it to Rose, which is realistic, under Rose starts no-selling turnbuckle shots. Lame comeback offense, solid spinebuster, then a corner charge, mule kick and Bronco Buster-esque charge. Camacho blocks the Party Foul, then dips out. After some deliberation, he decides he’s finished. Can’t decide whether I hate it or love the countout here.
Technical Merit: Camacho can work. Rose can’t.
Artistic Impression: The story made sense. I just can’t buy Rose as a wrestler.
TOTAL SCORE: *
This man was a tag team champion a few years ago. Now, I couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve seen him wrestle.
He’s here to get squashed by this guy.
NXT Champion ADRIAN NEVILLE vs. CURT HAWKINS
Hawkins is wearing tights with a blue-and-orange theme and a 31 on the side. So he’s a huge Mike Piazza fan? Anyway, he’s handling business at the 1-minute mark, starting with a clothesline to the back of the dome and a suplex. Rear chinlock as Hawkins gets the “he looks better than he ever has!” treatment. The champion gains momentum by blocking a corner charge with his boot, then a serious of kicks and forearms set up the Red Arrow. That was quick … too quick to score.
We have company …
from someone who has been on RAW. Fact! SmackDown. Fact! WrestleMania. Fact! He’s a former WWE Tag Team Champion, and he’ll have his next championship moment at NXT Takeover. Neville would say this is fiction. In fact, “At Takeover, the only member of your family going home with the gold, as per usual, will be your wife!”
That was a strong, older-style back-and-forth that focused on wrestling more than getting the best one-liner on the other guy until the very end. This WILL be a great match at Takeover …
… that Tyson Kidd will win.
The Champ’s non-insider, oddball theory: Tyson Kidd and Natalya will win their championship matches at NXT Takeover, then be used for a while to develop newer talent on and off camera. They don’t really have that opportunity on the main roster — Kidd was Superstars fodder before his calldown to Florida, and even Nattie can’t help many of the “Divas” who are lost causes. If you’re learning how to wrestle, wouldn’t you want to learn from these two? It may not help their own careers, but it could be invaluable to dozens of others.
Or maybe they’re just here to put Neville and Charlotte over and cement their formidability as champions. But you totally want to watch Takeover to find out, right?
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!
Armchair pro wrestling analysis at its finest … or something of the sort.