Last week saw the return of the ‘proper’ weekly NXT shows after a two-part best-of 2015 aired in the weeks either side of the new year. In the hunt for a crack at Finn Bálor’s NXT Championship are Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe, and Baron Corbin, who last week were all booked in a triple-threat number one contender’s match to take place next week. Well, this is this week, and they are all scheduled to compete in singles action tonight. Tom Phillips and Corey Graves provide the commentary.
Sami Zayn vs. Adam Rose
This is Zayn’s first television match at Full Sail since his return from a shoulder injury. His opponent is NXT alumni, Adam Rose, whose radical switch from South African game poacher to party guy gimmick got massively over until he got buried on the main roster, thus forcing him to ditch life aboard the Exotic Express. However, the NXT Galaxy of the WWE Universe still sings along to his theme tune. NXT remembers! In other news, Zayn is wearing his Sparky Plugg tribute tights. The crowd, meanwhile, chants Olè. NXT knows! Rose, I suppose, is a credible opponent in NXT land for Zayn to overcome ahead of his big match next week; I guess he might still be getting back in ring shape, too – he definitely looks podgier than I remember. As for the match itself, well, it can be summed up as quickly as this: a little bit of chain wrestling; a boring, boring heat section on Zayn, capped off with a diving head butt that looked like a) Rose slipped, and b) he hurt himself; and finished with a Koji Clutch out of nowhere. A bit of an underwhelming start to the show, and I would actually have much preferred to see Sami Zayn vs. Leo Kruger.
Final Rating: *1/2
Backstage, Rich Brennan gets a word with Johnny Gargano ahead of his bout with Samoa Joe. Johnny Wrestling calls Joe a bully and threatens to punch him on the mouth. Average stuff.
Next, we cut to pre-recorded video from Chad Gable and Jason Jordan, who from this promo on are to be known as The American Alphas. They are sore about not even being nominated for NXT Tag Team of the Year category at the Slammys. Too right! They challenge former Tag Team Champions, Blake & Murphy, to a match next week. I’m gutted not to be covering that one. Chad Gable is insanely talented and over; he also amuses me in his promo’s – he’s like a wrestling Paul Rudd.
Apollo Crews vs. Tye Dillinger
He’s a perfect ten, but he wears a twelve . . . Actually, I’ve come to see Tye Dillinger and the likes of Elias Sampson, Danny Burch, and Angelo Dawkins as 2015/6’s answer to the 1995 enhancement talent with gimmicks mob. His shoulder tattoo, however, suggests that he might be one of the Last Panthers, so I won’t rag on him too much. Crews, meanwhile, arrived in NXT last year amid a mass of hype, and with good reason: he’s talented, strong, agile, and has the look of a superstar. I’m going to say it, though: I’m still waiting on that one big breakout match to propel him towards the stardom that seems destined for. Dillinger celebrates a snap mare by prancing around the ring and throwing up tens; Apollo politely applauses before hitting him with a dropkick. He then shows off his tremendous strength with a standing/squatting suplex. I might’ve been a tad harsh on Dillinger earlier, as he shows some potential in this match, executing a suicide senton that I can’t recall the likes of Rad Radford or Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese ever doing. Crews finishes the match with a toss powerbomb, then cuts a promo to challenge Finn Bálor to a non-title match after their last encounter ended by disqualification. I think Crews definitely needs to improve his mic skills and probably sharpen up his ability to put together a match around his big spots before he’s really ready for the big time, but that’s just my opinion.
Final Rating: **
Backstage, Rich Brennan attempts to interview Blake & Murphy, who are discussing the challenge made by the American Alphas earlier, but gets cut off by Alexa Bliss, who emasculates both him and her charges Stephanie McMahon-style. It’s not abundantly clear whether Blake & Murphy accept the challenge because Bliss is busy threatening to slap Bayley around later.
Baron Corbin vs. Rich Swann
WWE/NXT seem intent on pushing Corbin, most probably because of his size, but I’m not buying it. Regular chants of “Baron’s going to bore you,” and the very English “you’re shit and you know you are,” have greeted most of his matches since they stopped being ten-second squashes. I don’t necessarily want to just agree with whatever the Florida crowd chant for, but with Corbin I’m not seeing any evidence to the contrary. Swann is another indy favourite, and he’s well over! He also appears to be wearing P-Wings straight out of Super Mario Bros. 3 on his trunks. To be fair, he does seem to be able to fly; well, flip at least, as exemplified by deliberately 360-ing a back drop so as to land on his face. Swann gets a lot more offence, and indeed a lot more time, than Corbin’s opponents are used to, but he still can’t make Baron look exciting. As expected, the End of Days finishes. The poor rating is purely on Corbin.
Final Rating: *
Blimey, Rich Brennan’s been busy today. He gets a word with Bayley and Carmella ahead of their tag team match against Alexa Bliss and Emma tonight. Bayley and Carmella are, of course, set to face off for Bayley’s NXT Women’s Championship after Carmella (perhaps surprisingly) won last week’s battle royal. At least it’s not Eva Marie. NXT Tag Team Champions, Dash & Dawson, interrupt to get in Carmella’s face.
Emma & Alexa Bliss vs. Carmella & Bayley
I’m digging the sunglasses and short black gloves look that Emma has going on these days, though she’s sans black lipstick this week. As usual, she’s accompanied to the ring by the muscle-gnome, Dana Brooke. There’s tension on the heel team stemming from Emma eliminating Alexa from the battle royal last week. They are on the same page, however, when they attack Bayley before the bell, injuring her ribs. The show is obviously pushing it by trying to squeeze five matches into a total run time of just over fifty-six minutes, so they go straight into the heat, capitalizing on Bayley’s injury, while Dana screeches insults. Corey Graves picks up on her use of a double negative – “I’ve not done nothing” – and admonishes her on air for it. I usually find Graves to be a dubious announcer and somewhat of a bully, but I’m all for him being a grammar Nazi. Carmella eventually gets the hot tag and makes Alexa Bliss tap out almost instantaneously with a variation on a head scissors. Abrupt, but I guess it furthers the storyline concerning the face team: the champion is weakened, while the challenger is on a hot streak.
Final Rating: **
Alex Reyes gives Brennan a break and takes the interview with Finn Bálor. The champ is all for a match with Apollo Crews and has even sought its approval through the correct channels, NXT’s General Manager, William Regal. When Bálor gets to the main roster, he’ll be able to just book himself in matches on the fly. That’s pretty much what they all do.
Samoa Joe vs. Johnny Gargano
Joe’s entrance theme is simply awesome. I also prefer his introduction now that the Samoa isn’t overdone – in TNA it was, “from the isle of Samoa, The Samoan Submission Machine, Samoa Joe.” Where’s he from again, Tonga? Both men have clashing black and yellow tights. Sometimes, small details like that can irk me. I mean, OK, it’s not as though we won’t be able to distinguish the competitors from one another, but still. They seem to have good chemistry with each other, and they play it off as the plucky underdog up against the big dog in the yard. Joe looks vicious tonight (he looks vicious most nights!) with his strikes and chops. Unfortunately, the match doesn’t get too much time to develop, and like most of the other matches tonight ends abruptly when Joe locks in the Coquina Clutch. Shame really, as this match might’ve been much better if given an extra five or six minutes.
Final Rating: **
THE NXT RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Nobody stood out, but I’ll plump for Rich Swann.
Least Entertaining: Baron Corbin.
Match of the Night: Three of them hit two snowflakes, but out of those three I will say that Samoa Joe vs. Johnny Gargano edges it, purely because it was smoother than the others.
Summary: This show was not as bad as the rating might suggest. The (almost an) hour flew by fairly quickly, but I venture to guess that it will be forgotten just as quickly, too. There were five matches crammed in to the show, and as a result none really had time to develop into anything better than average. On the other hand, the show did achieve what it set to do, which was showcase the top three contenders for the NXT Championship, find a short programme for the champion while he awaits his challenger, and further the storyline in the women’s division. I’m not sure they needed to have all three challengers go over enhanced jobbers in the same short show, though. Looking on the bright side, at least each match didn’t feature a run in from the other two guys, as would inevitably happen on RAW. So, far from the best that NXT has had to offer since its inception, but I’ve no doubt that things will pick up again soon.