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

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

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

With Titus O’Neil, of course!

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

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

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

NXT 091814 Sami Zayn

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

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

NXT 091814 Titus O'Neil

That would qualify as shots fired, right?

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

Did someone suggest wrestling?

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville

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

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

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville Sami Zayn

That DOES qualify as shots fired.

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

Sorry, wrong GM.

Or is it?

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

NXT 091814 William Regal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville 2

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

NXT 091814 Sami Zayn 2

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

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

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

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

NXT 091814 Adrian Neville 3

… then shifts to the front facelock.

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

NXT 091814 Tyson Kidd 2

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

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

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

NXT 091814 Titus O'Neil Tyson Kidd

Time: 11:39

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/4

NXT 091814 Tyson Kidd

•••

NXT 091814 Charlotte

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

NXT Women’s Champion CHARLOTTE vs. EMMA

Emma dances around a bit …

NXT 091814 Emma

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

NXT 091814 Charlotte Emma

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

NXT 091814 Charlotte 2

Time: 4:07

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

•••

NXT 091814 Justin Gabriel

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

NXT 091814 Hideo Itami

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

HIDEO ITAMI vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

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

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

NXT 091814 Hideo Itami 2

Time: 3:39

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

NXT 091814 The Ascension

Would YOU want to mess with The Ascension right now?

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

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

•••

NXT 091814 CJ Parker

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

Oh, thank God. So is Corbin.

NXT 091814 Baron Corbin

BARON CORBIN vs. CJ PARKER

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

Time: :41

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

NXT 091814 Baron Corbin 2

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

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

•••

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

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

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A belated NXT Takeover 2 (Fatal 4-Way) photo gallery

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.

The Lucha Dragons, Sin Cara and Kalisto, led off the night as challengers for The Ascension's NXT Tag Team Championship.
The Lucha Dragons, Sin Cara and Kalisto, led off the night as challengers for The Ascension’s NXT Tag Team Championship.
Viktor brought the intensity and high-impact offense expected of The Ascension. But two days after a solid win on Main Event, he was pinned to drop the NXT Tag Team Championship belts he and Konnor held for nearly a year.
Viktor brought the intensity and high-impact offense expected of The Ascension. But two days after a solid win on Main Event, he was pinned to drop the NXT Tag Team Championship belts he and Konnor held for nearly a year.

NXT Takeover 2 Viktor 3 NXT Takeover 2 Viktor 2

The Lucha Dragons earned the upset win and celebrate with the NXT Tag Team straps.
The Lucha Dragons earned the upset win and celebrate with the NXT Tag Team straps.

•••

CJ Parker faced a mystery opponent ...
CJ Parker faced a mystery opponent …
... whom ended up being Baron Corbin. Corbin made some noise with just a couple moves in his 30-second win.
… whom ended up being Baron Corbin. Corbin made some noise with just a couple moves in his 30-second win.

•••

Big Cass signals the start of the comic relief portion of the program, featuring Enzo Amore and The Legionnaires.
Big Cass signals the start of the comic relief portion of the program, featuring Enzo Amore and The Legionnaires.
Sylvester LeFort lost his hair vs. hair match with Enzo Amore, and thought he would lose his hair. But he did what any heel Frenchman would do — bail and make his partner, Marcus Louis, take the stipulation-fulfilling punishment.
Sylvester LeFort lost his hair vs. hair match with Enzo Amore, and thought he would lose his hair. But he did what any heel Frenchman would do — bail and make his partner, Marcus Louis, take the stipulation-fulfilling punishment.

•••

This man entered Takeover as Kenta ...
This man entered Takeover as Kenta …
... and left as Hideo Itami, with an upper hand on The Ascension to boot.
… and left as Hideo Itami, with an upper hand on The Ascension to boot.

•••

Bayley challenged Charlotte for the NXT Women's Championship.
Bayley challenged Charlotte for the NXT Women’s Championship.
Charlotte retained her NXT Women's Championship in another solid Takeover match.
Charlotte retained her NXT Women’s Championship in another solid Takeover match.

NXT Takeover 2 Charlotte 5•••

The most gorgeous man in wrestling ...
The most gorgeous man in wrestling …

NXT Takeover 2 Tyler Breeze 4

... with the most gorgeous entrance.
… with the most gorgeous entrance.
Sami Zayn put on another valiant effort to no avail. He's 0-3 in NXT special events, but averaging about 4.83 stars per match.
Sami Zayn put on another valiant effort to no avail. He’s 0-3 in NXT special events, but averaging about 4.83 stars per match.
On Sept. 11, 2014, Tyson Kidd was the top heel on WWE's best in-ring show. Fact.
On Sept. 11, 2014, Tyson Kidd was the top heel on WWE’s best in-ring show. Fact.
Pre-midlife crisis for Tyson Kidd? Or just a way to drown out the "Nattie's husband" chants?
Pre-midlife crisis for Tyson Kidd? Or just a way to drown out the “Nattie’s husband” chants?
A very confident (almost cocky) Adrian Neville poses with the NXT Championship as Sami Zayn waits.
A very confident (almost cocky) Adrian Neville poses with the NXT Championship as Sami Zayn waits.
Adrian Neville celebrates after retaining the NXT Championship.
Adrian Neville celebrates after retaining the NXT Championship.
Adrian Neville holds his NXT Championship belt after pinning Tyson Kidd in a 24-minute, 5-star fatal 4-way match. Sami Zayn couldn't get back into the ring quickly enough to make the save.
Adrian Neville holds his NXT Championship belt after pinning Tyson Kidd in a 24-minute, 5-star fatal 4-way match. Sami Zayn couldn’t get back into the ring quickly enough to make the save.

WWE Superstars review (Sept. 18): Wyatt Family vs. Matadores, Sin Cara-Gabriel III

This is cool.

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

So is this.

Superstars 091814 Erick Rowan

And this.

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper

What’s not cool is the ear-bleeding vocal intro. Just terrible oversinging. On the bright side, we at least know this week’s Superstars will be off to a good start. So who will everyone’s favorite heel tag team face?

Superstars 091814 Matadores intro Superstars 091814 Los Matadores El Torito

Oh my God. This will be a bloodbath. Though I appreciate Justin Roberts‘ proper pronunciation on the jobbers’ intro.

THE WYATT FAMILY (Luke Harper & Erick Rowan) vs. LOS MATADORES (Diego & Fernando, w/El Torito)

I think we’ve determined Fernando is starting this match. Rowan beats him down, then tags to the worker of the pair. Tag attempt at 1:15, but Fernando eats Harper’s boot instead. Gator roll time, and it feels like we’re just buying time. Headlock time as El Torito gets on the apron …

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper El Torito

… and provides a distraction as Fernando hits an enziguiri. Hot tag to Diego, who’s actually gaining momentum? Drop toehold into the ropes, and a … 619? No, just a slide onto Harper and out. Cover at 3:00, and Rowan makes the save.

Fernando and Rowan are forced outside in that order, then a Clothesline From Hell … OK, it was just from Harper … results in victory.

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper 2

Time: 3:19

That was an interesting quickie match, in that the jobber team actually handled some business. An abrupt ending, but how long did you think Los Matadores would actually hang?

•••

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara

I can’t remember who asked it, but the question was posed on Twitter: What exactly is the point of Superstars? Right now, it appears to be a Sin Cara vs. Justin Gabriel series.

The Lucha Dragon took the first matchup. The World British Super Duper Championship Wrestling champion took the second last week. This, my friends, is the rubber match. Also, kinda hope Cara comes out with NXT gold. Damn. No dice, but a NICE T-shirt of the new squad.

Superstars 091814 Sin Cara

Both wrestlers, especially Gabriel, would probably be better off working with the NXT roster. Hell, Sin Cara will be as one-half of the tag champs. The problem is Gabriel’s a tweener — a perfect fit for NXT without enough of a character, but too experienced in a WWE sense to not be on the main roster. If NXT gained that ECW/WCW popularity Triple H desires, it would be fine to just move him over. But, as a developmental show and no real character for Gabriel, it doesn’t work. At least Tyson Kidd has a pretty good heel persona to show for his efforts.

Gabriel with some new gear tonight. Not as … motocrossy.

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel

Can we get this man some late ’90s Shift gear? Maybe something from the iconic Jeff Emig collection? Make him wear the jersey, too.

motorcyclemuseum.org
motorcyclemuseum.org

NXT Tag Team Champion SIN CARA vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

The battle of the high flyers is quite physical early. Cara’s just chopping the hell out of Gabriel, but a kick and an intriguing rollup turn the tide. Some punches, a corner crossbody and an apron rollup, but Cara rolls out. Gabriel ducks the kick, rollup, rollout, connect on the kick, and Cara gets 2.

This is fun. The little guys should stereotypically be running and flying and all that, but they’re unleashing strikes and kicks, and even some mat-based stuff. It’s unexpected, but it works.

Cara goes for maybe a double underhook powerbomb, but Gabriel blocks and reverses into a back bodydrop. Back to throwing hands in the corner, but Sin Cara hits a sitout slam for 2.

First real high risk comes from the masked one off the top at 3:00, but Gabriel dropkicks him in the gut. Both men down, and it’s break time.

We return around 3:45, and it’s rest hold time. Gabriel releases, but only to destroy Cara’s back with an impactful kick combo and a stomp his foot on the throat. Kinda looked like Sin Cara tapped there. Mask removal gimmick time to no avail. Vertical suplex follows, and Gabriel rolls through into an arm hold. Sin Cara reverses and goes for a German, but Gabriel lands on his feet, then a kick to the gut and a lariat. Interesting cover — knee to the chest and a leg hook — for 2. Russian legsweep? No, abdominal stretch, with an elbow into the side for good measures. The luchador back bodydrops out, rejects Gabriel’s corner advances twice, then rolls him through into what looked like a single-arm powerbomb.

Pair of springboard crossbodies after some rest, then a somewhat clumsy headscissors. Kick from the apron, then a senton for 2 as Gabriel grabs the rope. Smart move, and Sin Cara is perplexed.

Gabriel hits a punch, a kick and an elbow, then a not-so-hot moonsault for 2. One thing he can hit, though, is the 450 … only he won’t get the chance, because Cara crotches him.

Cara goes for the top-rope Frankensteiner, meaning this is almost over. Gabriel rolls Cara through for 2, but Cara flips Gabriel and gets 3. Not bad, gentlemen.

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel 2

Time: 9:15

Technical Merit: I loved what they did with this match, but the execution got a little spotty at times. *insert Sin Cara joke here* Credit, though, for the attempt.

Artistic Impression: It’s cool to see a miniseries like this, even though you either have to be a hardcore fan or maybe have no life to find it. The past two matches have been solid, and you feel the story build with different elements of the second match coming into the third, especially with the finish. The question is whether a story with these two men is something people want to see.

TOTAL SCORE: **

WWE Main Event review (Sept. 16): Ziggler vs. Miz (w/stunt doubles), Big E. vs. Rollins

There’s no RAW review this week, and there probably won’t be for a while. You put together a crappy show, the fans will refuse to watch. The ratings, apparently, already prove this. I might even skip Night of Champions in protest. Hell, I skipped Battleground and survived.

There also won’t be a Midcard Report, The Champ’s most “over” offering, this week. Why? To cleanse the palate.

I didn’t watch RAW for the reasons above, but plenty of people did. As a result, WWE needs something to help these unfortunate fans try to forget. With Main Event almost always being at least halfway decent, we’re running an ME review early, with Superstars later in the week.

•••

Of course, with Main Event, we start with wrestling. And we start with the Intercontinental Champion! We also start with … multiple jobber identity crises.

Main Event 091614 Dolph Ziggler R-Truth R-Ziggler
All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming unless otherwise noted.

Yes, a choreographed, staged athletic simulation has not one, but now two, stunt doubles. On the bright side, we have Damien Sandow Mizdow in a rivalry involving the Intercontinental title. However, not sure I can handle guys like Sandow and R-Truth, who can both do some decent work in the ring, being gimmicky copycats because they apparently can’t get over on their own.

Main Event 091614 The Miz Damien Mizdow Sandow 2 Main Event 091614 The Miz Damien Mizdow Sandow 3

If this match works, it’ll be in spite of, not because of, this whole “stunt double” bit.

Intercontinental Champion DOLPH ZIGGLER & “R-ZIGGLER” vs. THE MIZ & “DAMIEN MIZDOW”

At 3:15, I’m finally able to get the “stunt double” rant out of the system and try to “CALL THE DAMN MATCH!” Sandow hits a lariat on Dolph and tags to Miz. Miz commits gimmick infringement on Ziggler (you know, more than there already is in this match), but Dolph regroups, goes for the superkick, knowing Miz will duck, and rolls him up. Miz kicks out and tags, and the stunt double eats the dropkick. Sandow much better at this wrestling thing than his boss, and he gets the advantage heading into the break.

COMMERCIAL BREAK, tries to take this match seriously

We’re back at 5:35, and Miz locks in the vicioius Cleveland Nose Hook while riding Ziggler. Unfortunately, the CNH is illegal, so he resorts to a headlock. Dolph side suplexes out, and the stunt doubles tag in. Truth with the Stinger Splash, then a series of punches in the corner. Miz creates a distraction on the apron, and Sandow gets aggressive. Miz wails on Ziggler from the floor, and eventually tags in. Knee to the dome and a cover.  Front facelock at 8 minutes as Michael Cole reels off some of the IC lineage. I’m sure this is a high point right now. Miz releases the hold to have a go at Ziggler, which simply allows Truth to hit a back bodydrop. Tag to Sandow, and he’s back on the offensive. Chinlock time, and Truth strikes his way out. Reaches for the tag, but a drop toehold, a drag and a tag to Miz.

Meanwhile, Ziggler can’t wait to get a shot at Miz, and apparently Truth decides he’ll get some shots in. Running corner lariat, though, from Miz, then a weak axe-handle sort of thing from the top. Front facelock again, then the tag to Sandow. Vertical suplex and cover at the 11-minute mark. Series of knees to the head and chest, powerful whip into the corner, and he looks like he’s going for a slowed-down version of that running lariat, but Truth cuts him off in the middle. Hot tag to Ziggler at 12:15.

Splash/neckbreaker combo caps the initial surge. Fame Asser blocked, and Miz hits half the Reality Check. Backslide , cover and reset, and Ziggler’s second attempt is successful for a 2 count. After some angry deliberation, a front facelock from Ziggler. Skull-Crushing Finale is blocked. Figure Four blocked into a cradle, and Ziggler goes for the DDT. Miz blocks, but Truth gets the blind tag. Miz tosses Ziggler out, and Truth hits the DDT, but Sandow breaks up the cover. Damien knees Dolph off the apron. Truth appears to botch the Zig Zag on Sandow, and Miz, the legal man, hits the Finale to triumph.

Main Event 091614 The Miz

Time: 14:03

Technical Merit: Ziggler and Sandow are great wrestlers, so that part was good. Miz does enough to get by. Truth didn’t really appear to know what he was doing at the end, and he was the recipient of a lot of rest holds. He also looked pretty blown out well before the end. It won’t sound that way in the next paragraph, but this was a good match.

Artistic Impression: I like that the Intercontinental Championship has a story line. I don’t like the “double stunt double” bit. It kind of made sense for Sandow, who was imitating people anyway, and it’s funny because he’s better than Miz. But why the hell does Dolph Ziggler, the best salesman/stuntman in the company, need a stunt double? Just let R-Truth come out as himself and an insurance policy.

TOTAL SCORE: **

•••

Renee Young asks Seth Rollins whether losing to Roman Reigns on RAW is a “setback”. Rollins raises the briefcase and, namedropping Dean Ambrose‘s disappearance, etc., scoffs at this idea.

Main Event 091614 Seth Rollins

He’ll use brain over brawn to beat Big E., then his brain will tell his foot to curbstomp Reigns’s dome into any surface that suits his purpose Sunday.

Main Event 091614 Seth Rollins 2

His purpose appears to either involve not enough hygiene or too much. He’s on the Bo Dallas Hair Hydration System, and he’s a few weeks away from the Edge Is Back Beard. Seriously, that man had facial hair blessed by the Canadian gods themselves when he had time to grow it.

Unfortunately, we have to wait for that match, because it’s Brie Mode now. Yay. Consider the clear stolen gimmick from Marshawn Lynch‘s Beast Mode to Brie Mode, this is yet another reason to hate the Seattle Seahawks. You know, besides the ones their fans give you already. 

Main Event 091614 Brie Bella

This makes me unhappy. This also means promo time with Nikki Bella. And the term “voluptuous derriere.”

Main Event 091614 Nikki Bella Renee Young

Besides that actually awesome line, can this get worse?

Oh yes. Yes. It. Can.

Main Event 091614 Cameron

BRIE BELLA vs. CAMERON

Brie works the arm at :45, showing some semblance of wrestling. A clumsy-ass drop turns into a half-crab, which is escaped pretty easily. Cameron uses the rope as an impact weapon … Brie sells it … and Cameron covers. Properly, this time.

Weak headlock, cover, painful-looking suplex, then the legdrop cover. Again, properly this time as Cameron informs us, “Yeah, I know!”

Main Event 091614 Brie Bella Cameron

Girl, you didn’t know a day before, and it’s your damn job!

cagesideseats.com
cagesideseats.com

Yeah, I’ll count that. I’ll count it as another reason to mock your stupid ass until you mericfully get future endeavored.

Brie with a semi-decent lariat and some short dropkicks at about 3:00. Then that stupid “BRIE MODE!!!” leads into a missile dropkick. Cameron appears to set up “Girl, Bye,” but Brie hits the X-Factor for the win. Considering Brie gets X-Pac heat in this house, that’s SO fitting.

Time: 3:53

Like one of the Divas matches last week, luckily the 5-minute rule applies here, because this was bad. They appear to try — well, Brie does, anyway — but it’s just not there. Cameron’s gotta go; her only benefit is pulling off the “racy schoolgirl” look … which basically EVERY WOMAN WITH A PLAID SKIRT can pull off.

Main Event 091614 Cameron 2

Brie does absolutely nothing for me from an in- or out-of-ring standpoint. At least she didn’t talk this time.

•••

JBL declared the main event would be a good one. We’ll see whether Big E. delivers; he certainly has the ability.

Main Event 091614 Big E

Rollins simply doesn’t have bad matches if he can actually do anything about it.

Main Event 091614 Seth Rollins 3

On another note, THERE’S A FREAKING STING DVD SET COMING OUT NEXT WEEK. Finally.

BIG E. vs. SETH ROLLINS

Canned “You Sold Out!” chants about a half-second after the bell. Nobody actually cares about that anymore … you know, except the marks still hung up on The Shield. Big E. doesn’t care about that; he cares about winning the match, and Rollins isn’t pleased with the early proceedings.

Main Event 091614 Seth Rollins 4

Rollins goes to the classic heel tactic of ducking through the ropes to get a break, then cheap-shotting his way to an advantage. That worked until Big E.’s shoulder and his right fist turn the tide. Shoulder charge to the midsection in the corner. Make that two. Vicious right into the corner, then Rollins hits three right elbows and goes for the suplex. Blocked twice, then Seth goes for the crossbody. Not so much. Big E. catches and hits a chain of three backbreakers before the cover. Rollins audibly calling spots … that one must’ve involved being knocked outside. Big E. bounces Seth’s head off the table, tosses him into a barricade, then presses him back in.

Seth’s springboard attempt blocked, but he does hit a face-first dive outside just before the break.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Back at 7:00, and Rollins continues his control, this time in the ring. Chop block to the back of the knee, then he slaps on the headlock. Big E. powers out, but misses the lariat and eats a kick. After a cover, Seth locks in the vicious Double Ear Lock, then pulls Langston into the ropes. Kick, kneedrop, back to the headlock. Big E. powers out and knocks Rollins back-first into the corner twice, but Rollins reverses on the third attempt and charges in. After a reminder that brains beat brawn, brawn hits a uranage. Then a lariat of sorts. Then another. Then the belly-to-belly. Rollins hits a couple more kicks. But another belly-to-belly, and the Warrior splash for 2.

Both men down around 11:30. Rollins elbows Big E., dances around a bit, kicks Big E. from the apron, then TAKES THE SPEAR ONTO THE FLOOR. Big E. rolls Rollins back in, knocks him down, and ditches the straps. Big Ending? Nope, Rollins slips onto the apron. Kick, re-entry, duck the shoulder charge, then post Langston in the other corner. That sets up the Curbstomp. Done.

Main Event 091614 Seth Rollins 5

Time: 14:08

Technical Merit: This one was raved about on Twitter, and it was … OK. The style contrast helped, but it seemed a bit slow and repetitive at times. Then again, when did we last see Big E. go 14 minutes on TV? I know it’s been a while for me. Cool spot with the spear to the floor, but otherwise pretty average.

Artistic Impression: Even as Big E. built steam, there was never the feeling he would win the match, mainly because WWE is having Rollins go over on basically the entire midcard at this point. Cool to see, though, that Rollins can go in and work well with almost anyone, which will bode well when he carries a belt, instead of a briefcase, in the future.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

OK, so that wasn’t all that great either. But fear not, wrestling fans: This week’s episode of Ring of Honor (which will be reviewed Thursday) is apparently everything we’ve ever dreamed of, and there’s always WWE’s top show on Thursday. I’ll give you a hint: This guy is the top heel on the top show.

NXT Takeover2 Tyson Kidd 2You know, unless they’re slow-turning their champion. But hey, don’t you actually want to know what happens on NXT?

NXT Takeover 2 review (Sept. 11): Adrian Neville takes the Fatal 4-Way, and the Match of the Year

With the first NXT special event, we didn’t know what to expect. We hoped for great, but thought we’d see pretty good.

I wrote a headline that night that said, “THIS is wrestling”.

There was no way to follow that up, right? I mean, Cesaro came down to help out, and so much of the talent in the title matches got the call to the big leagues. Three 4-star matches later, including the best women’s wrestling match WWE has probably ever had, NXT Takeover put the “developmental” brand above the flagship in terms of in-ring quality.

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 SteenPrince 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.

•••

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

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.

NXT Takeover2 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.

NXT Takeover2 Viktor Sin Cara

 

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.

NXT Takeover2 Konnor Sin Cara

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 …

NXT Takeover2 Kalisto Viktor

… and the upset is complete!

NXT Takeover2 Kalisto Sin Cara 3

Time: 7:36

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.

NXT Takeover2 Byron Saxton Tom Phillips

After a nice Adrian Neville video package, it’s time for our next match …

… which involves this clown.

NXT Takeover2 CJ Parker

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.

NXT Takeover2 Baron Corbin

C.J. PARKER vs. BARON CORBIN

Collar-and-elbow. Advantage Corbin. Lariat. Powerful, POWERFUL finishing maneuver. Done.

Baron F-ing Corbin, ladies and gentlemen.

NXT Takeover2 Baron Corbin 2

NXT Takeover2 CJ Parker 3

Time: :30

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?!

NXT Takeover2 Big Cass Enzo Amore

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.

NXT Takeover2 Enzo Amore Sylvester LeFort

We’ll see about my LeFort theory.

NXT Takeover2 Sylvester LeFort 2

Time: 5:37

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.

Hi, Jojo!

NXT Takeover2 Jojo

And hello, Mr. General Manager!

NXT Takeover2 William Regal

And konbanwa, KENTA!

NXT Takeover2 Hideo Itami KENTA 2

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.

NXT Takeover2 Hideo Itami KENTA 3

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.

NXT Takeover2 Hideo Itami KENTA 4

And literally kicking The Ascension out of the ring. And grabbing a chair. This is freaking awesome. Even Regal’s enjoying it.

NXT Takeover2 Hideo Itami KENTA 5

•••

I’ve never given an NXT match a negative rating, but if Mojo Rawley wins this next match, I just might.

NXT Takeover2 Bull Dempsey

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.

Time: 1:11

Just for fun, he gives us another.

NXT Takeover2 Bull Dempsey 2

… 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.

NXT Takeover2 Marcus Louis

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.

NXT Takeover2 Bayley

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?

NXT Takeover2 Charlotte

CHARLOTTE (c) vs. BAYLEY, NXT Women’s Championship

“Bayley’s gonna hug you. Bayley’s gonna hug you. Bayley’s gonna hug you.”

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.

NXT Takeover2 Bayley Charlotte

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.

NXT Takeover2 Bayley 3

She won’t kick out of Natural Selection, which may be the best finisher name in NXT.

NXT Takeover2 Charlotte 2

Time: 10:40

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.

NXT Takeover2 Charlotte 4 NXT Takeover2 Sasha Banks

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.

NXT Takeover2 Hideo Itami KENTA 7

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.

NXT Takeover2 Tyler Breeze 2

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.

NXT Takeover2 Sami Zayn

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.

NXT Takeover2 Tyson Kidd 2

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.

NXT Takeover2 Adrian Neville

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.

NXT Takeover2 Sami Zayn 3

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.

NXT Takeover2 Tyler Breeze 5

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.

NXT Takeover2 Tyler Breeze Tyson Kidd

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.

NXT Takeover2 Adrian Neville 3

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.

NXT Takeover2 Adrian Neville 4

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.

NXT Takeover2 Adrian Neville Sami Zayn Tyson Kidd

Time: 24:10

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.

WWE Midcard Report (Sept. 9-11): Rollins vs. Swagger, plus Cesaro and The Ascension

If you’re as disenchanted with the WWE product every week as I am — and judging by Twitter, you are — it gets better than RAW. No, I’m not just talking about NXT Takeover, which will get a thorough (and likely glowing) review from the champ later this evening.

Main Event is consistently better than RAW. You get three or four matches, only one of which is usually a dud, and you don’t have to deal with the Bella Twins or John Cena or anything that seems to drag on and give the “same old stuff” feel. Cena showed up that one time, but it doesn’t happen often.

Not only was Main Event better, but if you skipped through the RAW recaps … Superstars was better. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but there was a good match hidden in there this week that made it worthwhile for at least a few minutes.

These shows are why the Midcard Report exists: To shine a light on the competitors and matches that don’t get seen too often, as well as to remind people it gets better than what you’re seeing. If you don’t like it, then just go watch Nitro. Hell, I’d rather watch that than RAW anyway. #nWo4Life

•••

We kick off the midweek with “breaking news” in the form of two Night of Champions matches:

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins Roman Reigns Main Event 090914 Randy Orton Chris Jericho

Gotta say I like both of those, especially the second one. Randy Orton has been somewhat handcuffed by facing Roman Reigns in the recent past; now he gets someone who has chemistry with him AND ability. Chris Jericho may not be the best in the world at what he does anymore, but he’s still damn near.

Anyway, it’s promo time with the other new NOC combatant, Seth Rollins. Apparently it’s a new episode of “Where Are They Now?” with The Shield.

Main Event 090914 The Shield
All images are screenshots from WWE programming.

They were dominant, and they put WWE on notice. But where’s Dean Ambrose, the unstable, unrelenting one? Well, he made a fatal error by going head-to-head with Rollins and getting curbstomped twice. Excellent use of college dormitory furniture!

Main Event 090914 Dean Ambrose

Rollins brings up a valid point: Ambrose himself probably doesn’t know where he is. Another one, to me anyway: Who cares?

Moving right along to Reigns, and a jealous moment from Rollins. All he heard is Roman this, Roman that, Roman is the future of PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING. That’s all caps because you don’t hear it in WWE anymore. Frankly, Roman is all we hear about now. I guess it’s Seth’s fault, because he’s taking credit for creating him and leading him to success. But his future is obsolete, and Seth will destroy what he created.

RAW 090814 Roman Reigns 2

You know, if he can avoid being impaled by steel cage spikes.

Oh yeah, there’s one more segment to this promo, which is just verbal masturbation. He says he’s the future, and he’s the future World Heavyweight Champion.

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins 2

Apparently Jack Swagger (?!?!) has had enough. Zeb Colter rationalizes this bit by saying Rollins isn’t a great strategist, but rather someone who wants to talk about his enemies from far away and is too scared to do anything about it.

Main Event 090914 Zeb Colter Jack Swagger

Zeb’s more than willing to see, through Swagger, whether Rollins is a coward, or a Real American. I guess it works for the latest round of “Seth Rollins needs someone to wrestle.”

Main Event 090914 Jack Swagger

SETH ROLLINS vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter)

Rollins is hot out of the gate, with his right hand, educated feet and quick moves giving him an advantage for about 15 seconds. Swagger’s shoulder deals a pair of crushing blows as Rollins regroups.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

We’re back at about 2:10, and Rollins is back outside. This time, Swagger joins him and uses his power edge to introduce Seth to numerous hard objects. Rollins speeds up and outsmarts Swagger, and he gets a chance to stomp and choke away in the corner. Nice lariat from a man with about a 50-pound disadvantage, then he uses Swagger’s own arm as a weardown weapon. He tosses Swagger into the corner, charges into him with the elbow and waits for Swagger to rise. Maybe he shouldn’t have, though, because Jack catches Seth from the second rope and hits the belly-to-belly. Pair of shoulders from the Big Show/Erick Rowan collection, then the big boot and the Swaggerbomb. Takedown and cover for 2. Jack tries to gain some ride time, but Seth escapes and scores with a kick. Now the elementary, yet effective, fists to the back of the head. Enough of those will neutralize someone, right? Nope. Swagger is unfazed, and with some persistence, slaps on the Patriot Lock. Rollins squirms around and finally finds the ropes. He tries to leap over, but Jack just catches him, deposits him in the corner and goes for Kurt Angle‘s traditional toss from the second rope, but no dice. Seth hits the knee to the head, then the curbstomp. He’ll sell the ankle a bit, but he will do so victoriously.

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins 3

Time: 8:59

Technical Merit: Both men can work, and they work pretty well together for this being a one-off.

Artistic Impression: Seth is an interesting case. He’s a great wrestler, and he has the Money In The Bank briefcase, but he looks vulnerable in every single match, no matter the opponent. It seems like it would help everyone look good, but it’s at a risk of making himself look bad when he needs to be built up really strong.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

Be very, very quiet. Slatergator are hunting wabbits! No, seriously.

Main Event 090914 Titus O'Neil Heath Slater

Apparently Titus O’Neil wants to catch Adam Rose‘s bunny in an attempt to enhance his chances of winning matches. Sound strategy, I think! After all, Bugs Bunny ruined a LOT of Elmer Fudd‘s plans.

After the next match, Slatergator tries to catch the bunny, to no avail. Titus catches Heath instead.

Main Event 090914 Heath Slater

So without the rabbit neutralized, Titus must march on against Rose. Yay.

TITUS O’NEIL (w/Heath Slater) vs. ADAM ROSE (w/The Rosebuds)

Titus is squashing Rose for the first 1:15, but then the bunny runs in … or hops in. Slater opts for a sneak tactic, climbing under the ring and trying to catch the rabbit, who hits an enziguiri?! His workrate is better than Rose’s! Anyway, Rose pushes Titus into Slater and gets the rollup to help this mercifully end. I’m so FREAKING sick of Adam Rose.

Main Event 090914 Titus O'Neil 2

Time: 2:01

•••

Main Event 090914 Cesaro

Who wouldn’t buy one of those Cesaro towels? Are they for sale? I need to look this up. I’d use a set.

Oh my … we’re about to feel REALLY sorry for Zack Ryder. Nice brotee, though.

Main Event 090914 Zack Ryder

CESARO vs. ZACK RYDER

Cesaro shoulder block, but Ryder gets back up, and gets the early advantage with a flapjack AND a dropkick. But that’s shortlived. Cesaro trips Ryder up on the apron, and the left knee pays for it. Stomp on the chest, then a spinning toehold when we’re back inside, but he misses a short dropkick in the corner intended for the knee. Ryder hits the Broski Boot and a splash to the outside, but the left knee is still hurting. He goes for something off the top rope, but Cesaro hits the swing and turns it into a SICK submission hold, a modified clover leaf.

Main Event 090914 Cesaro Zack Ryder

It’s academic.

Time: 2:22

Main Event 090914 Cesaro Renee Young

Now it’s promo time, and Cesaro calls out Renee Young for sounding surprised he beat Ryder. Young then says she’s not, and Cesaro makes The Champ lose it for about a solid minute.

“Zack Ryder is a former United States Champion. Who are you to doubt Zack Ryder?

That’s right. Cesaro gave him the El Dandy treatment. Considering Bret Hart‘s classic promo had to do with the U.S. Title, which Ryder held and Cesaro is pursuing, that’s absolute gold.

I’m just bummed Cesaro didn’t call him a jam-up guy. Cesaro declares himself just better than Sheamus. More educated, more interesting, “WAY” better looking, and most importantly, better in the ring. Everyone knows it. The man’s rightHe won’t just be the King of Swing; he’ll be the King of Wrestling. I can get on board with that. So can a lot of people.

Main Event 090914 Cesaro 3

CESARO PROMO: ***

We got to see Cesaro be funny, drop in a WCW Easter Egg and state facts. His in-ring work overshadows his wit, but the latter is totally there, and we’re witnessing it now.

•••

Now THIS is a Main Event main event!

Main Event 090914 The Ascension

The NXT Takeover hype machine rolls on, this time with the Tag Team Champions. Considering it’s the main roster, it’ll be nice to actually know who’s getting squashed this time around. Well, have a 50-50 chance, anyway.

NXT Tag Team Champions THE ASCENSION (Konnor & Viktor) vs. LOS MATADORES (Diego & Fernando)

That entrance was AWESOME. Great new video, and the strobe lights actually have that strobe effect in the larger arena. Viktor starts against … who cares which one? Double shoulder dive after the tag, but Konnor actually takes a drop toehold, a slide while on the ropes and a senton from the apron. He kicks out at 1, carries the other Matador into the ring and tags to Viktor, who just destroys the jobber’s upper body. More double-team work, and a weardown hold ensues. It’s weird hearing Michael Cole talking about NXT wrestlers. Matador wants a tag, but he gets a lariat instead. Tag back to Viktor, and we’re basically just waiting for the Fall of Man at this point. Hot tag for the matadors, but he misses a dive from the corner. Tag to Konnor, and we get what we’ve waited for.

Main Event 090914 The Ascension 2

Time: 3:59

These guys might be the best tag team in WWE. They’re a 180 from The Usos, who I wouldn’t mind seeing take on The Ascension in a 2-on-2 setting for the sheer contrast of high-flying flash vs. straight-up ass-kicking. They’ve squared off once before in a 6-man tag, and Konnor and Viktor looked great when they actually had a challenge.

•••

First time seeing this Superstars intro, which includes a LOT of John Cena, Reigns, Orton and Sheamus.

Then we start the night with … Naomi.

Superstars 091114 Naomi

That seems like false advertising.

I’m surprised Summer Rae and Layla didn’t come out with a little person dressed like an animal. Is that still a thing or no?

NAOMI vs. SUMMER RAE (w/Layla)

Naomi’s in control until … Layla’s dancing distracts her while on the apron? Well then. I mean, Layla can be a distraction, but …

Superstars 091114 Layla

Anyway, whole lot of dancing around at 1:30, then a whip and the leg choke in the corner. Weardown hold from Summer, via pulling Naomi’s left arm in front of her mouth, and Summer “lets” her escape with some hair pulling. More conventional headlock this time and some spot calling, and it’s time for the babyface comeback? Nope, the slowest and worst set-up heelkick ever. Summer’s back to the headlock like she’s Randy Orton or something. Naomi gets out and it’s two dropkicks, back suplex, face into the mat and cover. Layla goes for the distraction again, only Naomi slips out and Summer has to hit the brakes. Bridge pin from the “veteran” Naomi, and we’re out.

Superstars 091114 Naomi Summer Rae Layla

Time: 4:33

I’ve started a 5-minute rule … gotta go 5 to be rated. This match should breathe a sigh of relief, because that sucked. Summer doesn’t really work as a heel, because she can’t believably control a wrestling match, especially against someone with actual talent. Had the roles been reversed, it would’ve had a better chance of working.

Superstars 091114 Naomi 2

•••

On Superstars, this is something to be hyped about.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara

Get two small guys in WCW, they actually get some time (and take advantage of the time) to make it worthwhile. My faith is fleeting in this situation.

Also, this passes for a scintillating SmackDown tease.

Superstars 091114 Mark Henry Rusev Lana

Yeah, might skip that show this week. Again.

Anyway, after a bunch of RAW recaps, we get the luchador against the World British Super Duper Championship Motocross Wrestling Champion. That’s what I’m assuming, since he has the whole motocross/wrestling crossover thing going.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara 2

JUSTIN GABRIEL vs. SIN CARA

I forgot about the mood lighting until it came back on. Sin Cara wins the first minute and works Gabriel’s arm until he gets to the rope. Once free, Gabriel is more interested in using his forearms and pulling on Cara’s mask than actually trying to prove the “best high flyer” claim the announcers are discussing. Sin Cara pleads his case with an armdrag from the top, a dropkick, and a springboard moonsault onto a standing Gabriel from the apron. He tries to springboard back in, but Gabriel pushes him down, then hits a corkscrew splash onto the floor.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Back at 3:40, and Gabriel has a hammerlock applied and is trying to tee off on Cara. A release German will help him as well, and he covers for 2. Russian legsweep follows …. then a submission? Maybe he learned something from Tyson Kidd after all!

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara 3

Since it’s not Tyson Kidd applying it, Sin Cara escapes, only to get punched in the face and kicked in the gut some more. Then the spine. Then the spine again. Gabriel goes for the German, but Cara reverses and hits his own release suplex, flipping Gabriel on his face. Cara picks up the pace, hits the headscissors and flips into Gabriel in the corner. He goes up top, but no dice. Gabriel hits the Frankensteiner, then a springboard moonsault for 2. Gabriel? He’s not very pleased. Cara? He’s not very awake.

Superstars 091114 Sin Cara

Now Gabriel sets up for the … spear? Not sure, but Sin Cara goes for the rollup. Nope, a roll-through into a powerbomb. Not bad!

Gabriel hits a DDT at 8:10, then climbs the ropes, but Sin Cara hits the enziguiri. Frankensteiner blocked, and Gabriel gathers himself and hits the 450 for the win.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel

Time: 8:49

Technical Merit: A different side of Gabriel in a rare situation as the bigger guy, and it actually worked. He’s believable as a vicious, striking technician when in the ring with other cruiserweights. Sin Cara was Sin Cara … nothing mesmerizing, nothing terrible. Just some dude who hits a couple high spots.

Artistic Impression: Gabriel showed some negative emotions, which is good. He’s working heel. He’s supposed to be frustrated if he doesn’t get the pin. It came off well, and it put into doubt whether he could actually win the rematch. This match was considerably better than I expected.

TOTAL SCORE: **

World Championship Wednesday: Road Wild 1997 review

Welcome to World Championship Wednesday, our review series on randomly selected WCW pay-per-views from the WWE Network. The selection process usually involves my wife picking a month and a year, and me watching the corresponding event. But she’s in Italy for the month, so randomppv.info it is!

THIS WEEK: WCW Road Wild 1997 (Aug. 9).

THE BILLING: “Lex Luger defends the WCW Title against Hollywood Hulk Hogan. The Steiner Brothers battle The Outsiders for the WCW Tag Team Title.”

So we’re in the thick of nWo dominance, only this is during the 10 minutes or so when Lex Luger was allowed to hold the world championship. Like, seriously … they gave the title to maybe the one main-event guy who is a worse wrestler than a 43-year-old Hollywood Hogan. (Note: This will not be the last, shot at the descipable Lex Luger this evening.)

We’re also in the thick of the “outdoor PPV in front of a bunch of bikers in South Dakota” era. This led to an … ummm … interesting atmosphere. Plenty of late ’90s eye candy, though, which will be pointed out by Dusty Rhodes basically all night.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Dusty Rhodes Tony Schiavone Bobby Heenan
All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming unless otherwise noted.

Rhodes, Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan are on the call. And if a bunch of guys can win … WCW will FINALLY defeat the nWo. Dusty: “Opportunity is knocking on the DOOOOOR, if you will.”

We start with a typical WCW-nWo JV tag matchup. Cool matchup screens!

WCW Road Wild 1997 match screen

BUFF BAGWELL & SCOTT NORTON (w/Vincent) vs. HARLEM HEAT (Booker T. & Stevie Ray)

I’m a mark for Buff, so I’m all about this match, even if it’s the nWo B-squad. Also, this allows us to witness Booker in a Yankee hat.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Booker T

Not a fitted, though. You ain’t legit, sucka!

On another note, Norton just doesn’t seem like he wants to be there. Probably because Bagwell is a camera whore. Bagwell’s probably a camera whore because, well, look at him.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Buff Bagwell

Buff gets the upper hand on Booker with a pair of hip tosses and dropkicks to both faces, then a lariat that’s slightly better than Luger’s usual offering. Tag to Norton, but that fails. Well, he gets a side slam in at least, which is sold as a potential finisher. I miss the ’90s. Booker obviously was good enough to be a world champion in WCW and WWE, but it may have been after his athletic peak. His work in Harlem Heat, especially in those quick spurts, is absolutely fantastic. Stevie pulls the rope so Bagwell gets dumped over at 4:00, reminding us the Heat have been, in fact, heels at some point in their existence. Book with the scissor kick at 5:45, and a cover for 2. He locks in the second rest hold on Buff; Stevie had the first about a minute prior. Bagwell’s almost playing the face in peril here, and he gets a much better lariat to knock down Booker … right into a tag to Stevie. On the mic, there’s an interesting balance — Schiavone & Co. are calling the match athletically while still discussing the prevailing WCW-nWo tiff.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Jacqueline

Hold up … is that Jacqueline? I’m surprised, but for a different reason than the 1997 fans should be apparently. Then again, how often does a team get a manager mid-match? I only remember her from the WWF, hence my shock.

Meanwhile, Booker’s powerbomb attempt gets blocked, and Buff responds with a successful one. Hot tag to Norton (?) and he has lariats and shoulder tackles for everyone! Vincent (you know him as Virgil) distracts Stevie, and Norton hits the shoulderbreaker on Booker in the ring, but Jackie jumps on Flash long enough for Booker to hit a pair of kicks and get the cover, and Jackie pulls on Norton’s leg to get the assist.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Booker T Jacqueline

Time: 10:20

Technical Merit: Nothing great, but when a couple bad lariats are the only complaint, that’s not a bad thing.

Artistic Impression: Gotta love someone outheeling the nWo … and a surprise manager appearance. It works for me.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

Road Wild score: WCW 1, nWo 0

•••

WCW Road Wild 1997 KonnanK-Dogg. Mother F-ing yes.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Rey Misterio Jr

Skinny Rey. Also yes.

There’s some hatred here, and it’ll be settled (for now) in Sturgis!

KONNAN vs. REY MYSTERIO JR., Mexican Grudge Death Match

Rey sold the left knee on the way to the ring, but he hits a springboard dropkick and a headscissors in the opening moments. Lariat from K-Dogg and the “¡Arriba La Raza!” shoutout. It doesn’t even take 90 seconds for Konnan to throw on a leglock. I don’t think Nick Patrick counted when Konnan was pulling the ropes, so maybe “Mexican Grudge Death Match” means No DQ? Rey sells the knee again after a headscissors, and K-Dogg goes right back after it. Heenan declares Konnan will win because, well, he’s meaner than Rey. I declare he’ll win because the other guy has a bum knee. Rey’s crawling around 5 minutes in, and a legdrop into a legscissors. Great storytelling here. If you’re like me and only saw Wolfpac K-Dogg dropping gangsta promos, it’s interesting to see him work so well. At 5:45, we get the obligatory mask removal attempt. He’s successful, only Rey keeps it over his face. He gets it back on and hits a dropkick and a legdrop, and the leg gives again. Naturally, he hits another legdrop with the good leg, gets up and goes for a double springboard moonsault, but he misses and hurts the leg further. One short dropkick later, Mickey Jay FINALLY asks whether Rey wants to submit. Rey’s not about to give up, so he gets a belly-to-belly instead. K-Dogg grabs the leg, but Rey gets the rollup for 2. Then HE hits a short dropkick and limps around some more. Lather, rinse, repeat. Rey’s calling for the top rope? But he can’t get up there … OK, finally he gets there, only to jump into a cradle DDT. That was glorious. Tequila Sunrise time, still one of my favorite submissions ever, and Rey maybe took 3 seconds before tapping. Konnan still waits about 30 seconds before releasing the hold.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Konnan Tequila Sunrise

Time: 10:55

Technical Merit: This was Pro Wrestling 101 executed perfectly. The entire match was about Rey’s left leg, and it worked. Misterio still mounted some offense, but it was a matter of time before he just couldn’t go anymore.

Artistic Impression: Great storytelling, and a fun, simple old-school match to watch.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

Road Wild score: WCW 1, nWo 1

•••

Two things I learned after the match: Misterio was only 22 at the time, and gas in Sturgis was $1.30/gallon over that weekend.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Sturgis

I filled up my 1982 Subaru hatchback for about $9 at one point in the early 2000s; that gets you less than a quarter-tank in my 2011 Prius. And I’m the economically sound one, since it’s a hybrid! I miss my late teens.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Gene Okerlund

After Gene Okerlund plugs the hotline and shows off a tattoo — no, really — I hear some Horsemen music. Out comes someone widely considered one of the worst Horsemen ever, and a man who no longer exists in the wrestling world.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Steve McMichael Chris Benoit

The other team has questionable chemistry — you have a wannabe Ric Flair and a man who doesn’t give a damn unless it’s between the bells.

THE FOUR HORSEMEN (Chris Benoit & Steve McMichael) vs. WCW United States Champion JEFF JARRETT & DEAN MALENKO (w/Debra), elimination match

So Debra is Mongo’s wife at this time, but she’s in the other corner. Interesting. Also, Benoit has better hair and a better, more natural physique at this time. The Iceman and The Crippler put on a counterwrestling clinic to start; this is why people remember WCW so fondly. Then Mongo gets the tag and completely takes over.

If you’re WCW, why do you push this man? Why do you make him a Horseman? And why do you give him such great music in 1998? It’s mind-boggling. He doesn’t have the physique; he looks like a former defensive lineman who hit the treadmill, but not the weights. He doesn’t have the charisma. He doesn’t really have the ability. It just doesn’t make sense. He’s so … average.

Thankfully, it’s back to Benoit and we can get back to wrestling. OK, nevermind. At least Mongo hits a side salto before tagging Benoit back in. Meanwhile, Jarrett hasn’t been in the match. Mongo carries Dean toward that corner, only to get scoop slammed. Malenko finally escapes Mongo’s grasp … and he tags to Jarrett.

Wait a second … Jarrett pulls Mongo on top of himself, gets pinned, and bails. He still has the gold and the girl, so he’s Honey Badgering it.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Jeff Jarrett Debra

That’s … amazing.

Now it’s 2-on-1, but now Malenko is getting a second wind. That includes a Texas Cloverleaf, but Benoit is in the ropes. He goes for the piledriver, but Benoit reverses, then hits the ominous diving headbutt. Mongo hits a piledriver of his own, and this one mercifully ends.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Chris Benoit

Time: 9:36

Technical Merit: You have Benoit and Malenko, so that’s good. Nothing looked bad, but it wasn’t exactly great when McMichael was in the ring.

Artistic Impression: Jarrett’s bit was fantastic. Besides that, just a classic story of one man being worn down until he couldn’t go anymore. Thanks for nothing in that regard, Double J.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

The next match will just be one giant mark-out moment. Not just for this man …

WCW Road Wild 1997 Chris Jericho

… but especially for this man.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Alex Wright

And it’s for my favorite WCW belt. I’m in love with this pay-per-view.

ALEX WRIGHT (c) vs. “Lion Heart” CHRIS JERICHO, WCW Cruiserweight Championship

Sounds like Jericho is the face here; Wright’s tactics are unsavory, but enough to get him the gold. Both men are second-generation athletes — Wright’s father, Steve, was a wrestler, and we learn of Ted Irvine‘s lengthy NHL career. Schiavone points out the fans can relate to the Canadian better than “the guy in key lime tights who dances”. I’m still rooting for Das Wunderkind here. Mike Tenay drops in and points out both men are over 220 pounds, which gives them advantages over the rest of the 225-and-under division. Subtle fact, yes, but completely missing from today’s programming.

Wright’s using the hair to maintain a side headlock at 3:30, but Lionheart breaks out and hits that trademark spinning kick to get an advantage. Jericho crotches Wright with the atomic drop variation, then hits a springboard dropkick to put the German on the outside. Another springboard, this time a crossbody, and pre-Y2J has set the pace. Vicious chop, break the count, slam onto the platform outside. Great ring psychology. He breaks the count again, but Wright puts him into the steps, then hits a vertical suplex, breaks the count once more and starts chopping away before depositing the challenger back in the ring. Simple, yet effective.

Wright goes up top, then goes down the hard way. Jericho follows by locking in 502 of his 1,004 holds all at once. That’s right, Junior. ARMBAR!!!

WCW Road Wild 1997 Chris Jericho ARMBAR

Jericho can’t decide what to do afterward, and Wright takes advantage with a spinning leg lariat. I love it when Tenay is around. Then Wright just sort of jumps off the top and lands a foot on Jericho. I guess it worked, because he had time to dance around and still whip ass. Back up, and after a slight delay, a missed moonsault. Jericho with a jawbreaker and three whips/running lariats, and he hits the Lionsault. Running senton, but only for 2. Jericho with a chain of two powerbombs, but the delayed cover results in 2 again. Jericho cimbs the rope, and Wright hits the great equalizer. Superplex from the champion, but another kickout. The German goes for the German, but a rollup results in a cover.  Jericho goes for another rollup out of the corner, but Wright rolls through, grabs the tights and wins the match.

Time: 13:03

Technical Merit: This was a good one. There’s the element of both men being so young and a little green, but each man executed his moveset well. Only weird parts were some delays in applying pressure, which resulted in the other man getting the upper hand.

Artistic Impression: This was more athleticism than story. In fact, as a one-off, the story seemed to lack a bit. What matters is it was a wrestling match, and a fun one to watch, and the heel did a heel thing to get the heel win and keep the title.

TOTAL SCORE: ***

•••

Round 3 of the WCW-nWo battle comes down to the most decorated world champion in American wrestling history …

WCW Road Wild 1997 Ric Flair

… and the man synomymous with go-away heat.

I liked Sean Waltman during the Attitude Era, but only because he was the little guy in D-Generation X, and I was a smaller guy, too. But it had nothing to do with wrestling ability. I’ve enjoyed one match of his in my life, and that’s when Bret Hart was doing Bret Hart things and made The 1-2-3 Kid look like a million bucks in a title match on RAW. But remember … Bret made Rikishi look amazing in a similar situation. So I’m with Hogan so far; the man can’t cut the mustard.

Also, why the hell does a skinny-fat white dude billed from Minneapolis have “thug” on his singlet?

WCW Road Wild 1997 Syxx

I digress. His opponent has class … and he probably had himself a whole lot of biker-chick strange that week. WOOOO!

SYXX vs. RIC FLAIR

1997 was during the time when Flair still looked like a million bucks above the shoulders, but clearly was focusing on maintaining cardio shape over being toned. Proof of this: Heenan said Flair was “probably in the best shape of his life!” The veteran is mentally defeating the kid early, and he physically asserts himself with a knife-edge chop. We reset at 3:00, only for Flair to chop Syxx down again. Kid finally gets an advantage with the foot to the back of Flair’s dome and those “educated feet” in the corner. Then the Bronco Buster. Yay. Hell, Schiavone even sells it in an athletic sense. Give this man more credit as an announcer! Rest hold headlock time around 5:30, and Flair gets upright, only to be stomped to a pulp in the corner. Scoop slam from Syxx, then the guillotine legdrop from the top, but not enough to pin the 13-time world champ. Both men trade blows, but a spinning kick from Syxx results in a cover … and another headlock. Flair’s so bored, he’s alternating half-hearted slaps to Syxx’s arm. A babyface comeback ensues with some chops and the drop on the knee, but Syxx kicks Flair down once more. Kinda-sorta 450 attempt fails miserably, and it’s Figure Four time until Syxx grabs the rope. Since Flair is Flair, he gets the 5 count and then some further leniency. Syxx locks in the Buzzkiller, also known as the chickenwing, but only briefly. He goes for a second Bronco Buster, but Naitch gets the leg up into the “midsection” before the patented dirty pin in the corner. Vintage Flair!

Time: 11:06

Technical Merit: The contrast of styles worked here. Still never actually been impressed with Waltman, but he was an OK foil for the Dirtiest Player in the Game here.

Artistic Impression: I honestly thought Flair would stare at the South Dakota sky, so the win was a surprise. The only real story was Syxx trying to wear Flair’s upper body down, but failing to do so. Not a memorable match, but it could’ve been far worse.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

Road Wild score: WCW 2, nWo 1

•••

Schiavone says they’ll “step away from the WCW-nWo issue” for a bit. I’d be cool with them not talking about how WCW is finally “winning” the war, etc. This is just a bitter WCW 1-on-1 battle … which is absolutely perfect. BANG!

WCW Road Wild 1997 DDP

CURT HENNIG vs. DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE (w/Kimberly)

Hennig knocked Page off the apron twice, so DDP pulls Hennig out of the ring. Finally both men enter and we get started. Meanwhile, at some point, it started getting dark and the lights are on. Now this feels like Saturday night wrasslin’! DDP pulled Curt around by the hair, and later slips under the ropes and introduces Hennig’s 5-hole to the post. All the while, Curt’s singlet is almost all the way off. Purple briefs for Hennig, if you’re wondering. Page goes up top … ? Yeah, that didn’t work. What did work was Curt’s towel, which he uses to hang Page over the ropes for most of a 5 count.  The singlet slowly moves back up Hennig’s body, and at 3:15 he’s modeling “The Andre”.

I know Hennig would be considered bigger now than then, but he seems a bit … less svelte at this stage of his career.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Curt Hennig

One thing that didn’t change is his technical ability, which is applied to DDP’s legs. The logic of the multiple spinning toeholds: Can’t hit the Diamond Cutter if you can’t stand up. Now the sleeper, but Page, with the backing of half the bikes in Sturgis, hits a jawbreaker. DDP appears to go for a crucifix, but slips into a backslide and cover.

This is the stage of Page’s career where there appears to be something there, but I don’t think anyone was sure what all he had. In less than a year, he goes from a midcard guy who maybe would work in the US Title hunt someday to being DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE and working with the top stars and celebrities.

Ref bump just after the 6-minute mark when Page kicks out and rolls on him, then Curt exposes a turnbuckle, hits DDP with the steel bolt and goes to the other side. Great heel work. Page is lifeless, but it’s Perfectplex time … and HE KICKED OUT!!! Guess that’s why they called it just the fisherman suplex … you know, besides character rights and stuff. Babyface comeback incorporates the turnbuckle and some punches, and another ref bump on a piledriver attempt. DDP hits his move the second time, falling forward this time.

Flair runs in to no avail, and he takes the Diamond Cutter. Hennig with another fisherman, but no ref? Oh, he’s awake! And he’s counting. We’re done.

Time: 9:44

Technical Merit: Everything had a purpose, and it was smooth.

Artistic Impression: Hennig always was one of the best heels in the business. Throw him against a man who has no problem breaking some rules himself, and you have 10 minutes of quality work.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

Okerlund gives us another hotline update, this time on Raven and Stevie Richards … the “King of Swing”. Somewhere, Cesaro‘s like, “… really?” Then The Miz is like, “… really?” Anyway, quick break time, more or less before the big matches.

Fall Brawl plug, then nWo vignette with Eric Bischoff promoing on Luger. And riding a bike.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Eric Bischoff

So that had a clip of “Voodoo Chile” by Jimi Hendrix, but we can’t get it as Hogan’s theme on the Network? I’m sad.

A few seconds later, I feel better.

OHHHHHH YEAHHHHHH! It’s Macho Madness nWo time again. DIG IT!

WCW Road Wild 1997 Macho Man Randy Savage Elizabeth

“Macho Man” RANDY SAVAGE (w/Elizabeth) vs. THE GIANT

How many times did Giant join and leave the nWo? Also, how wooden can someone be en route to the ring?

WCW Road Wild 1997 The Giant

OK, there’s some personality! On the real, he did yell and make the chokeslam sign right before this. Still a cardboard box outside the ropes, though.

On another note, I LOVED Savage’s nWo look. Lot of fringe, etc., but all black and white, and a bandana in place of the cowboy hat. Macho goes for the slam, but Giant is just too big. Could’ve pinned him there, but he’ll dole out some punishment first.

Paul Wight can still get it done for someone his size, but it was almost revolutionary what he could do while in WCW and early in his WWF run. He had great agility AND strength … don’t think we’ll see him hit a dropkick here due to Macho’s ring psychology, but still just an awesome sight.

Savage has a habit of using Liz as a human shield on the floor, and in true babyface fashion, Giant gently lifts her, sets her down on the other side, picks up Savage and tosses him over the top rope back into the ring. Macho with the great equalizer … not The Great Equalizer, but several shots to the left knee to keep the 7-footer down. Savage hits a crossbody from the top, but when he goes up a second time, it’s catch, chokeslam, done.

WCW Road Wild 1997 The Giant 2

Time: 6:06

Technical Merit: Basic moves, and it just seemed like the match was getting going when it ended.

Artistic Impression: Great psychology from Savage working the knee, and great selling from Giant. As sudden as the finish seemed, it continues to sell the chokeslam as an effective finisher.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

Road Wild score: WCW 3, nWo 1

•••

Hey yo.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Scott Hall

Methinks it’s time for the nWo to take this one home. Also, The Steiner Brothers were still together? Methinks a turn is coming soon, if not tonight. WCW breaks out the fireworks and motorcycle entrance for the company’s longtime flagship tag team, and Ted DiBiase is in the house to manage. High hopes here.

THE OUTSIDERS (Scott Hall & Kevin Nash, c) vs. THE STEINER BROTHERS (Scott & Rick), WCW Tag Team Championship

Scott has an interesting look … he’s started the transition to Big Poppa Pump, but the hair’s still dark and pulled back into a tight ponytail. He looks like the type of guy who would run things in Sturgis.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Steiner Brothers

Suplexes for Hall, including a double underhook powerbomb, but Nash breaks things up. All four in the ring, and the good guys clean house.

Tag to Rick, who I just could never get into, but the WCW fans love the barking, etc. The Outsiders respond by sending Big Sexy in.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Kevin Nash

Kneelift, corner lariat, the usual stuff here. Goes for snake eyes in the corner, but Rick dodges and hits the belly-to-back. Scott’s back in, and he’s in control until Hall clips him outside, then Nash nearly decapitates him with the big boot. The Bad Guy’s in, and he hits a chokeslam. Nash returns and keeps choking Scott with the rope, but Patrick won’t DQ the champs, since this is a title match and all. Outsiders tagging well, and Hall hits the fallaway slam.

Hall looks great, and he did for most of the ’90s. He’s focused, in shape for a 280-or-so pounder, and crisp in the ring. Really, until the boozy angle, he was on point. Another quick tag to Nash, who’s daring Patrick to call for the bell. While he discusses with the ref, Hall hits the lariat, and the no-tag switch here. Hall and Nash, despite being singles competitors before coming to WCW, were an absolutely fantastic tag team. Quick tags, plenty of shortcuts, imposing individuals … this is how heels should work. Abdominal stretch, which Nash providing extra leverage, and a tag and elbow drop to the back. Nash drops Scott in the corner, then Rick on the apron, and it’s 2-on-1 on Scott. Hall officially tags in and keeps hammering away. The pace is more deliberate, and this match is aching for a hot tag. Steiner gets about a third wind, but Hall with the drop toehold and tag so Rick must stay outside. Now Rick gets in the ring, but to yell at Hall, who’s on the apron. What an idiot. Phantom tag once more, and Hall’s working the neck … until Scott powers out and hits the electric chair just before the 12-minute mark. STILL NO TAG.

Nash is in, and even dares Scott to tag Rick, but no dice. Patrick’s threatening the DQ, but unless there’s something I don’t know, why would Hall and Nash care about the DQ? They can keep the belts! Nash misses the boot in the corner, but Scott can’t get his bearings. Tag to Hall, elbow to the back, crotch chop to Rick. Bulldog from the ropes, and Rick is steaming. Hall goes for the Razor’s Edge, but Rick finally comes in for a lariat, and Scott hits a belly-to-belly … and doesn’t get the tag again.

… yet.

FINALLY at 14:45, Rick’s in to clean house. They set up Hall for the electric chair bulldog thing. 1 … 2 … Nash pulls him out. THAT will get the DQ.

Of course, DiBiase grabs the belts, but Patrick rightfully takes them away since titles, disqualifications, etc. Apparently, bikers are marks, because they’re booing and chanting about male bovine fecal matter.

Time: 15:28

Technical Merit: Solid matchup. That is how a tag title match should be where the heels go over. By hook, or by crook, keep the straps. I loved it.

Artistic Impression: EXCELLENT work keeping Scott in the ring for almost the entire match. The faces were a little doofy at times to advance the narrative, but when one of them is Rick Steiner, what do you expect?

TOTAL SCORE: ***

Road Wild score: WCW 4 (no belts), nWo 1 (1 belt)

•••

WCW Road Wild 1997 Michael Buffer

Michael Buffer alert … and he’s trying to fit in. He also welcomes us to the “Hog Wild” main event. Maybe there’s just too much pressure on the poor guy!

Random sidenote: Loved his work in “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan,” which may be my favorite post-“Happy Gilmore” Adam Sandler movie. Skip it at your own peril. Disco disco. Good good! Disco disco. Good good!

Let’s move on to the Biggest Icon in Wrestling.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Hollywood Hulk Hogan

No black beard this time, but a fit and trim 275. He’s starting to get a little soft in the pecs at this point, but the pythons are on point … in 1997 or 2014. Also, you can’t look perfect when your 44th birthday is two days away, can you?

More fireworks for the champion. You know, to make up for his lack of charisma.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Lex Luger

They call him “The Total Package” and he always had a great physique. But what a piece of crap in and out of the ring. One of the worst workers to hold the strap; MY lariats are more believable. The man couldn’t string a sentence together. He comes off as a total dick. He can basically thank Sting for having a career, and Vince McMahon for one of the least-deserved pushes in modern wrestling history. The Lex Express? The next Hogan?

imgur.com
imgur.com

The only things Luger knew how to do were hit somebody with a forearm and put guys in the Torture Rack, to which I’ll actually give credit. That’s a cool finisher.

But then there’s the whole part where he beat the hell out of Elizabeth, and she overdosed and died in his secret affair house while he had his real family somewhere else in the metropolitan area. Terrible, terrible human being.

When he shows up in WWE Network interviews, I want to throw something and curse repeatedly. Maybe he’s changed later in life, but I’ll still boo his career and his life. Basically, I’m this guy from RAW in 1993, only better looking:

RAW 022893 Luger

Anyway, let’s get back to the main event. Hopefully, this joke of a title reign will end in less than a week.

LEX LUGER (c) vs. HOLLYWOOD HOGAN, WCW/nWo World Heavyweight Championship

The main development: No spray paint on the Big Gold Belt.

For as long and as well as Hogan played a good guy, it’s kind of shocking just how effective he was as a chicken heel. The mind games, the backing away, the sneaky illegal tactics — it’s a man who was the best in the world at two different times with two polar opposite characters.

Hogan’s working the arm at about 2 minutes, presumably to neutralize the Rack, but Luger reversed that pretty easily.  A pair of armdrags ensue, while Hogan calls for The Messiah to heal his injuries and the crowd tells him he sucks.

We’re reset at 4:15 or so, and Hogan uses Luger’s back as a nail file. Now he’s working the neck and upper back, then the scientific front throat choke. Luger responds with the super-technical 10 headshots to the turnbuckle. Hogan gets technological outside the ring with a cable around Luger’s neck after bouncing his cranium off the steel steps. Think Luger has a metal plate in his dome, too? He has a thick skull for a reason …

Anyway, Hogan tells Luger to watch out, calls him a piece of meat and Lex Loser. Schiavone: “He’s Lex Champion. Address him properly, if you please.” The WCW fanboyism on the mic definitely got annoying from time to time, but they redeem themselves by discussing how Hogan can win and actually selling the big boot and legdrop as an effective combination. Bearhug time at 9:00, then some kicks to the gut in the corner. There’s a lot to read, but not really a lot going on. The benefit of this match is you can tweet, get something to eat or BS with friends, and you can drop in, hit a few major points and you’re good. Major point here: This nearly-minute-long test of strength. Luger fails, then rallies, then takes a low blow.

Hogan follows with a stomp to the lower abdomen … “A legal maneuver,” as McMahon or Gorilla Monsoon would say if Bret Hart were applying it … and the trash talk continues. Big boot at 12:20, but straight into the cover. The crowd reminds him he sucks again, and he implores them to kiss his posterior. Suplex from Hollywood, but Luger no-sells it. Of course, Hollywood doesn’t notice until it’s too late.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Hollywood Hulk Hogan Lex Luger

WCW Road Wild 1997 Hollywood Hulk Hogan Lex Luger 2

Yes! We get the Worst Lariat Ever at 13:30! That will never be confused with the Best Moonsault Ever, though it would be fun to see Christopher Daniels break out both. Hogan goes to the eyes again, rollup/cover, scoop slam, snot shot to the fans, missed legdrop.

Random sidenote, since there’s time: How would young Terry Bollea go over in the mid-2010s in NXT? What would his finisher be? Would he just basically be Bo Dallas with the beliefs, prayers, vitamins, etc.? Would he still come off as charismatic? It would be interesting to see.

Anyway, multiple bad lariats, including one where he looks like he taps Hogan’s head, and the nWo runs in. No DQ, though, since Luger was the aggressor and didn’t allow the bad guys to get a shot in. The ref is simply telling Nash to get out of the ring.  A fake Sting is out, though the announcers think it’s the real McCoy. Fake Sting hits Luger with the bat, then it’s legdrop, new champ and bail as the announcers’ tone suddenly becomes ominous and sad.

Time: 16:15

Technical Merit: It’s Hogan. It’s Luger. It’s gonna be as elementary as possible.

Artistic Impression: Hogan played his heel part perfectly. Besides that, classic nWo-centric main event with the run-ins leading to the bad-guy victory.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

Final Road Wild score: WCW 4 (no belts), nWo 2 (2 belts)

Dusty’s selling fake Sting as actual Sting in almost comical fashion. All three on the mic act like WCW is dying once again. It’s hilarious, sad and exasperating all at once!

Meanwhile, in the back, Dennis Rodman has a cigar and some spray paint for the belt. Poor execution (at least half the O is on a side panel, I think), but as a nWo fan and ’90s Chicago Bulls fan, this is the best finish to a pay-per-view ever.

WCW Road Wild 1997 Dennis Rodman nWo