Dedicated to my dozen readers. Even the uggos.
LIVE from NXT Arena at Full Sail University. Your commentators are Rich Brennan, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton. I was REALLY digging Brennan and Graves together and the addition of Saxton was unnecessary. I barely recognized he was there.
Finn Balor vs. Tyler Breeze (#1 Contender’s Match)
This was originally a triple threat match with Hideo Itami, but Itami is out for the rest of the year with a shoulder injury. This is explained in storyline by Itami being attacked in the parking lot earlier in the day. Kevin Owens walks by, showing his empathy with a “that’s a shame”. This was after last week Itami specifically said he would like to face Owens for the title because he’s a bad man. Obviously these things have NOTHING to do with each other. Owens isn’t so insecure that he’d badly injure someone that spoke ill of him, is he?
The set is a bit different as they have lowered the stage and it is basically a flat aisle now with a video board on the floor. It looks awesome and it is immediately put to use with a WrestleMania style special entrance for Breeze, complete with Selfiemodels. Balor shows off his evolved version of the Demon as he has sprouted wings and has a giant eyeball growing out of his back. It’s not glowing so it can’t be his weakness. I don’t even want to guess how long that paint job took.
I REALLY don’t want to sound spoiled, but this match was good. Maybe Itami’s injury messed with the plans for the match, but something just seemed a little off and they didn’t go nearly as balls out as they could have. Of course, this is the opener so you shouldn’t go TOO crazy, but the result didn’t really seem to much in doubt. The match would have been awesome as a TV episode main event. As it is, it was a pretty good opener. As hard to believe as it seems, Breeze may be better off on the main roster than in NXT right now; he’s kind of done all he can in NXT and you really can’t see him competing for the NXT title considering who is in front of him right now. So the solution is to either bring him up and put him in the IC title picture (and PRAY they don’t screw up his gimmick in the process), or create a secondary title (like the NXT TV title or something) and give Breeze a long run with it. Trouble is, the NXT roster really isn’t big enough to support another title unless you want Breeze defending against Bull Dempsey and a returning Mojo Rawley every week. I guess having enough good talent that you don’t know what to do with it all isn’t the worst problem to have, but in the case of Tyler Breeze they are going to have to make a decision on him sooner than later.
We get highlights of NXT’s Northeast tour last weekend.
Dana Brooke and EVIL EMMA vs. Charlotte and Bayley
Charlotte and Bayley being the bestest friends in the whole world made me slightly worried that we were going for a “Ric turns on Sting because he’s a big babyface idiot” situation, but it just turns out that Charlotte has fully embraced the #HugLife philosophy of Bayley. If there is one word to describe this match, it’s just “fun”. Brooke isn’t tasked to do too much except flex and she has cut down her self-rubbing significantly. But seriously, Brooke has improved quite a bit since her debut in March and, with the incredible talent around her and the Death Rey being her sensei, there is little doubt that she should be able to pull off some decent matches given six months under that learning tree. Bayley plays Hugger in Peril for most of the match but Emma spends too much time mocking catchphrases and high five motions which allows Bayley to suplex her and get the hot tag. She hooks in the Figure-Eight and Brooke mistimes her attempt to save, looking like an idiot as she waits for Bayley to dispatch her with the Bayley to Belly and Natural Selection on Emma gets the win. Charlotte is almost in the exact same boat as Tyler Breeze right now in that there really isn’t anything significant for her to do anymore in NXT and going to the main roster as Lady Lesnar laying waste to the Divas division until Sasha Banks comes up and they tear the goddamn house down in front of 100,000 fans in Dallas…..OK, I’ll take off the fantasy booking hat.
The faces celebrate.
Pardon me, my heart just melted.
We see highlights of Sami Zayn’s RAW appearance and where his shoulder injury occurred.
Rhyno vs. Baron Corbin
Truthfully, there’s not all that much to say about this match. It goes about as you’d expect: they beat on each other for a while and Corbin gets the win with the End of Days. Making Corbin heel and giving him longer matches is obviously the way to go both for his character and his experience are concerned. I don’t think he’s as imposing as they would like you to believe he is, but bringing him in as a Diesel-type bodyguard character (perhaps for Breeze) would be a good idea as he can still learn and improve while not being tasked with much aside from looking mean and helping Breeze cheat.
Owens is accosted by Greg Whatshisface in the locker room and Owens decides to humor him by boasting about his title defenses in Philly and Albany and punking out John Cena on RAW in a legendary segment. If he falls to the AA like all the rest I will CRY. He once again promises justifiable homicide (in his mind) tonight before telling Greg to beat it.
Enzo and BIG CASS (w/Carmella) vs. The Dubstep Cowboys (C) (NXT Tag Team Title match)
Damn, Carmella. How YOU doin’? Enzo earns those lucrative paper towel endorsement deals by not only dropping a Cottonelle reference, but throwing in a Bounty reference for good measure. The Cowboys have new, more EVIL sounding dubstep music. They’ve also watched a LOT of late-90s Chris Jericho in WCW and decided his hair was cool to emulate. Enzo starts the match and gets his ass ki…..barrels into Blake with a crossbody and hits a sweet dropkick? ‘ZO GOT HIS WORKIN’ BOOTS ON TONIGHT, SON! Cass and Enzo work over the champs but Enzo gets isolated and takes his usual role as the best face in peril since Robert Gibson (may be hyperbole). Murphy puts him on top but Enzo fights him off and hits a GREAT tornado DDT off the middle rope. No, seriously, who reminded Enzo that he can actually do offense instead of being the punching bag? Cass makes the hot tag and runs wild. He tags Enzo and they set up to finish…..but EVIL FAIRY ALEXA BLISS lays out Carmella and shoves Enzo off the top rope allowing the champs to retain. They found a girl that will talk to them! Maybe she really likes dubstep too? Maybe she did their hair? I actually really dig EVIL ALEXA as Bayley already had the “sweet and lovable” angle covered, so now she can be “she who breathes glitter and EVIL wherever she goes”.
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks (C) (NXT Women’s Title match)
This match. Oh man, THIS match.
Becky enters with a new steampunk look, which of course pisses off Graves. His hatred of Becky is the best running gag in NXT. Becky’s look is cool and it makes her different. Nobody else is dressing like they leaped out of a BioShock game, so go for it. The story of the match can be described as thus:
Becky: “I’m gonna break yer fookin’ arm!”
Sasha: “Not if I break yours first!”
Just about everything focuses on the arm; Becky moves into Suplex City but they all involve dropping Sasha on her arm as well as her head and Sasha alters her double knees in the corner by dropping them on Becky’s arm. They also don’t just do standard armbars; they break out some SICK looking holds, including one where Sasha literally bends Becky’s arm completely backwards. Sasha mocks Becky’s entrance in the ropes (Graves: “She does it better anyway.”) and shows that Boss swagger that has made her one of the best characters in current WWE. I also never realized just how petite she is until this match where Becky looks HUGE compared to her. It’s a credit to Sasha that she is able to carry herself like a giant when she’s 5’5″ and maybe little more than 100 pounds. She makes up for her lack of size by being extra vicious in her work and being perhaps the most in tune with her character of anyone not named Kevin Owens. I could go on about the match but, like I said about Zayn/Neville at REvolution, this is a match you just need to watch for yourself. The end comes when Becky catches Sasha on her dive and sends her into the steps before going up top, but Sasha pops up with an armbreaker off the top and slaps on the Bossface while trapping the bad arm and Becky is forced to tap. The crowd understandably gives them a standing ovation and in a great little touch Sasha waves off the ref when he goes to raise her hurt arm and has him raise her good one. Becky is devastated at losing and bursts into tears as she watches Sasha happily walk to the back to get her arm duct taped back together. The fans then give Becky her own standing ovation and serenade her with her theme in a moment that I’m sure Becky will never forget. THAT is pro wrestling. Once again, NXT’s women’s division pulls off not just a great women’s match, but a match you could put against ANY men’s match in this company and others this year. This will easily go over the women’s four way earlier this year (an awesome match itself) and is maybe behind only the Rumble triple threat as my match of the year in WWE. Triple H has said he wants the women to one day main event one of these things. Personally, watching Bayley fight Sasha in the main event where Bayley finally wins it as the crowd melts down in joy which paves the way for Sasha to go to RAW and challenge Charlotte for a WrestleMania ma……dammit there I go again.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens (C) (NXT Championship match)
Now I’m sure that if Sami wasn’t legitimately injured this match would probably have been a little different. However, the match they pulled off showed more intensity than a lot of main WWE matches. Owens, master of all trolls, comes out wearing a John Cena shirt (PLEASE let that match not ruin him). Owens of course goes immediately to the floor to try and psyche Sami out but Sami just goes right out after him and the brawl is on. They brawl out into the crowd (which is a first to me) and Owens goes to powerbomb Sami on the floor, but Sami holds onto the railing and slugs away. The match does a great job protecting Sami’s health while still being entertaining and fun. Back in the ring, Sami gets the Blue Thunder Bomb and a half and half suplex for 2 counts but Owens counters a tornado DDT with a backbreaker. Zayn avoids the cannonball and hits the Exploder in the corner but Owens rolls out to avoid the Heluva Kick so Sami follows out and hits another suplex, but charges right into the popup powerbomb into the apron, which Sami sells like death. Refs and doctors come out to check on Sami but Owens, seeing that he’s in control, pounces on him and no amount of referees will stop him. Owens drags him in the ring as the ref has oddly not called for the bell and stopped the match, but I’m sure Owens couldn’t give less of a shit that the match would be over as long as Sami is still moving. He drags Sami into the ring and GM Regal comes out to berate Owens and back him off, but Owens just pushes him away. Regal fishooks his mouth so Owens headbutts him down. Goddamnit, stop teasing me with this match that I know will never happen! Owens goes out and terrorizes someone out of their chair so he can steal it and finish the job…..but SAMOA FUCKING JOE (called as such…well, without the FUCKING part) decides to wander out and the crowd loses its shit. And then their shit loses its shit. Joe immediately gets in Owens’ face but Owens, having lost control of the situation, decides to bail. Owens reconsiders for a moment but a big pissed off Samoan guy is still waiting for him and Owens just had a match, so he decides to call it a day as we fade.
OVERALL: Triple H continues to play the greatest real life game of EWR ever. Shockingly, this was a great show and NXT is so great at blowing things off while still giving you teases of things awesome to come.