From the NXT Arena at Full Sail University. A new year brings a shakeup to the announce team as Tom Phillips has replaced Rich Brennan with Corey Graves and Byron Saxton has been jettisoned into the sun. I’m perfectly fine with the latter, but I actually liked Brennan enough.
GM Regal welcomes us to a new year of NXT and announces the main event tonight will be a battle royal to determine the #1 contender to the Women’s Championship before introducing Sami Zayn back to Full Sail. The crowd is ecstatic to see him as he reintroduces himself as one of the men responsible for building NXT. He is back to become the first 2-time NXT Champion. Samoa Joe interrupts and reminds Sami the last time he was in that ring Joe had to come out to shitty music and save him. Balor barely survived Joe in London and he instructs Sami to hit the bricks if he wants his shoulder still intact. Baron Corbin comes out to the ramp and agrees with Joe in that Sami needs to go to the back of the line; but unlike Joe, Baron actually won in London. He declares himself the uncrowned NXT Champion. Joe reminds Baron of the choking out he got in Brooklyn before telling Sami he should know his place. Sami stands up to him but Joe doesn’t want to waste his time, so Corbin jumps Sami instead but Sami Heluva Kicks him out of the ring. Joe motions to come at Sami, but decides to walk off instead. Good promo to set up a new main event program for the title.
Rich Brennan, busted down to interview duty, asks Bayley about the battle royal tonight and Bayley is excited because she loves battle royals. Depending on who wins a hug may be in order. She does give Rich a hug and his 2016 is made.
The results of the 2015 NXT Year-End Awards (apparently they should be called the Golden Bell Awards given the plaque each winner gets):
Tag Team of the Year: Enzo Amore and BIG CASS
Female Competitor of the Year: Bayley
Male Competitor & Overall Competitor of the Year: Finn Balor
Takeover of the Year: NXT Takeover Brooklyn
Match of the Year: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley from Brooklyn (duh)
Well…..1 out of 5 on my picks isn’t bad, even if the one was the most obvious.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Danny Burch
Burch survives an early flurry and cuts off a charge to take control for a bit, but he puts the badmouth on a little too much so Ciampa slaps him around and hits a sort of slingshot Downward Spiral for 2. Burch avoids a running knee and crumples Ciampa with a KO punch for 2. They fight over a German and a slugfest erupts which Ciampa wins with a hard slap and a running knee before countering a backslide into a bridging armbar to get the submission. Guess they are giving Ciampa a bit of a run here and he looked pretty decent.
Enzo and Cass remind the tag champs that they haven’t forgotten about them and that “Real G’s” don’t lose, they learn. They learned what Dash and Dawson are when they hid behind a woman: “Boneless!” “Chicken tenders!”
Billie Kay, Deonna Purrazzo and Emma cut promos of varying quality about the battle royal.
GM Regal decides that in two weeks a triple threat match will take place between Zayn, Joe and Corbin to determine the #1 contender to the NXT Championship.
Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder vs. The Ascension (non-title)
I still love that the Ascension gets a giant pop whenever they come into Full Sail. It’s adorable. Viktor controls to start but Dash levels him with a clothesline and tags Dawson. They work him over for a bit until Viktor hits an STO and makes the hot tag to Konnor. He runs wild on Dawson but Dash distracts the ref on a pin attempt. Dawson backflips out of a suplex attempt and elbows his partner in the face which apparently counts as a tag and the Shatter Machine gets the pin. It was a match.
The trainer won’t clear Nia Jax for the battle royal since she is still reeling from being choked out by Bayley. Eva Marie provides encouraging words while smiling and pumping her fists behind Nia’s back. Damn, Bayley should choke people out more often if it’s going to put them out for a month; she could take out the entire division by Takeover.
Carmella, Peyton Royce and Alexa Bliss talk about the battle royal.
“The Drifter” Elias Samson vs. Corey Hollis
Straight up, The Drifter is just not working for me at all. The commentators desperately try to get over his mysteriousness but there is just nothing to grab onto here. He slowly, boringly takes out Hollis before sitting on the top rope and doing nothing before going for a pin. He finishes him with a snap spinning neckbreaker for the pin. Whatever coolness and mystery that came from his teaser promos does not translate at all to his in-ring character.
We recap the NXT Title match in London which segues into Finn Balor talking about the triple threat match. He gives all three challengers credit, but it doesn’t matter because he’s still going to remain champion.
Cameron, Aliyah and Liv Morgan cut the three worst promos of the night about the battle royal before Asuka simply states her case and blows them all out of the water.
Battle Royal for the #1 Contendership for the NXT Women’s Championship
Participants: Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Alexa Bliss, Cameron, Aliyah, Liv Morgan, Deonna Purrazzo, Emma, Carmella, Eva Marie and Asuka
Graves is awesome here as he changes his pick after each of the introductions from Carmella to Eva to Asuka. Eva takes too long on the ramp and is bumped aside by Asuka as she walks down. Eva takes offense in the ring so Asuka just kicks her in the face sending Eva to the outside (but not out since this thankfully is over-the-top rules). Emma jumps Asuka to kick things off and everyone pairs off as we take a break.
Cameron tosses Aliyah for the first elimination and yanks the rope down to send Purrazzo out as well. Morgan almost kills Cameron on a powerbomb attempt, so they repeat the spot and Morgan tries to powerbomb her out but Cameron holds onto the ropes, so Bliss comes over and tosses them both. Emma locks in the DilEmma and the Emma Sandwich which sends Carmella under the bottom rope to the floor. Emma tries to toss Bliss but she locks in a sleeper and chokes her in the corner, but Emma picks her up and tosses her. Kay and Royce team up on Emma as the Aussies explode. They put her on top but Emma fights them off so Asuka comes in with a kick that hangs Emma over the ropes before another kick sends her out. Kay and Royce team up on Asuka and try to toss her but end up turning on each other. They both end up on the apron and Asuka hip attacks both of them to the floor. Eva sneaks in and eliminates Asuka, celebrating like she won until Carmella slips back in as well and tosses her to win. Carmella gets a big pop which is nice as Bayley watches in the back. She comes out to hug her best friend as Asuka gives them the EVIL SMILE~! (RIP Baymella) as we fade. Not much to this battle royal and having TWO “get KOed and basically hide for the whole match” spots in a row is kind of ridiculous, but at least they didn’t do the stupid “you hit the floor, that’s good enough for us” rule past women’s battle royals have had. Bayley vs. Carmella should be an OK match but I would have loved Emma in that spot.
It is good that they seem to be building to the Bayley/Asuka match we’ve all been expecting since Asuka set foot in NXT at least. I guess the Nia Jax tease in London was a red herring?
OVERALL: A skippable show, to be honest. They definitely set up some good future stuff, but none of the matches were anything to go out of your way for. In fact, I’ve kind of run out of things to say for this episode.
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