When we at History of Wrestling decided to tackle all manner of wrestling business during 2016, the weekly NXT show popped up for review and I didn’t jump at the chance of doing it despite being a big fan. Why? I think it’s mainly because NXT is my Thursday relaxing hour of just watching wrestling and not having to write about it. If I’m not reviewing RAW I’m not watching all of RAW. NXT on the other hand, I watch every week. Would it get weird if I had to review it? I’ll take solace in the knowledge that we’re unlikely to recap Breaking Ground or Table for 3 anytime soon. They are pure wrestling relaxation TV.
We’re in Full Sail University, as always, for a show that was taped weeks ago during the hubbub surrounding potential major signings for NXT. Instead we focus here on the forthcoming number one contenders match for who gets the next shot at Finn Balor. Hosts are Tom Philips and Corey Graves. The latter is rapidly becoming my favourite WWE commentator.
American Alpha (Chad Gable & Jason Jordan) vs. Blake & Murphy
American Alpha, complete with new name, are my favourite team in NXT and have been since their first time teaming up. Chad Gable is so great and he’s drawn out the persona of Jordan to the point where everyone loves them. Full Sail gives the “American Alpha” chant a go and it doesn’t sound as terrible as I thought it would. I dig the name, I just didn’t think it’d work as a chant. Jordan is the powerhouse and Gable the technician and they click beautifully as they share a love of suplexes. Which is why their finish is a double team suplex. The amazing thing about Gable is he’s barely got a year under his belt and he’s getting better by the match. He was the 2015 Rookie of the Year and at this rate, less than a month into 2016 he’ll be the year’s most improved worker too. Blake & Murphy are ok but I’ve only ever been into them as a unit because of their valet Alexa Bliss. She’s gotten particularly good at talking and working through sheer effort, considering she’s basically a model WWE trained to be a wrestler. It helps that she has an athletic background. Blake & Murphy show some good timing in this one, cutting off the ring and bouncing around when American Alpha are on offence. After Jordan gets the hot tag it’s over as a contest. American Alpha wins again. Sooner or later they’ll be tag champs in NXT. Should be a good match against the current tag champs Dash & Dawson as they believe in old school heel work and American Alpha are old school faces.
Final Rating: **1/2
Video Control takes us to Alex Reyes who interviews Emma and Dana Brooke about Bayley and Carmella. Dana seems to think Carmella can’t beat Emma or Bayley. Hell, she even lost to Blue Pants. Carmella’s record on NXT TV in 2015 was 2-7 but one of those two wins was over Emma, her opponent next week. From there we talk about Sami Zayn being in the Royal Rumble match repping NXT. His presence was slightly overwhelmed by the debut of AJ Styles but it was cool to see Sami in there.
Nia Jax vs. Liv Morgan
Nia needs work on both her mannerisms and her moves. Liv, who wrestled her first match ever six months ago, is coming on surprisingly quickly. She’s telegraphing her moves but she’s getting smoother by the match. Nia hits her legdrop for the pin. This isn’t 1984, get a better finish. Literally any power move would be better.
Final Rating: ¼*
Video Control checks in with Carmella who’s not impressed in the Emmalution. Enzo Amore & Big Cass decide to make fun of Dash & Dawson and how pudgy they are. Intense Enzo is very enjoyable. The Vaudevillains are shown next, as they were last week, looking all serious. Heel turn please.
Bull Dempsey vs. Alex Riley
I rock the BullFit gimmick. Moderately fit with a terrible body. Alex Riley has a terrible everything. He is the worst human being in the entire company, which is saying something. For your displeasure here’s an example of one of his tweets:
“I make no apologies from this point forward, ur either with me or u can kiss my ass, u wanted a cage animal… U got one”.
Punctuation, spelling and general nonsense aside I’m pretty sure no one asked for a “caged animal”. In fact people protest zoos and the cruelty that animals kept in captivity suffer. Also the option of being with someone or kissing their ass isn’t much of an option. Is ignoring you a third unwritten option? Riley’s problem is that he was a bad wrestler who perceived himself to be special, he got injured and nobody cared so now he’s back and nobody cares. He wins here and tries to behave like a heel. Riley is so boring and phoney I find him near impossible to watch.
Final Rating: ¼*
Video Control takes us to Alex Riley who cuts a bland promo about how upset he is at getting ignored by the executives at Stamford and getting no updates on NXT TV like Sami Zayn got. Yeah, but Sami Zayn is really good and you’re Alex Riley. Do you not see why nobody cares?
Elias Sampson vs. John Skyler
Sampson has a great character, where he’s hard to get a read on and is nicknamed “The Drifter”. It’s quite vague and I like that. Unfortunately Sampson is poor worker who doesn’t seem to understand the mechanics of what makes a move look good. The crowd are absolutely silent for the majority of the match, which in a place like Full Sail is terrible news. Sampson’s finishing neckbreaker is pretty cool. I’ll give him that. Corey Graves pretty much buries Sampson on commentary citing his lack of connection to the audience.
Final Rating: ¼*
Video Control takes us backstage where Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley argue about how hype Mojo is. Zack doesn’t seem to be into Rawley at all and this whole tag team experience looks to be grinding him down. I feel for him. Mojo is exhausting to listen to.
#1 Contenders Match
Baron Corbin vs. Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn
Zayn is the firm favourite as he’s the only face out there and a huge fan favourite before his injury lay off. The usual three-way shortfalls apply here. Corbin has to spend ages selling one spot while the other two work. Triple threat matches are extremely hard and require a lot of planning. Joe should know this, having worked in several excellent triple threat matches in TNA. This falls short on several counts until Joe starts to incorporate both opponents into his abuse. This mixes well into Sami’s plucky comeback spots and Baron’s…acceptance to let the other two lead. Corbin looks somewhat clumsy, apart from when he executes End of Days, impressively, on Joe. Helluva Kick should finish for Sami but Joe saves. Baron gets hooked in a Sharpshooter and a Crossface and taps out, leaving Sami and Joe both thinking they’ve won. They’ve actually done this in WWE before and the referee refused to acknowledge the submission (Benoit and Jericho on Austin if memory serves correctly). Because two men can’t win the same match. It’s why two men can’t pin a third and both win. Basically the referee’s decision is wrong. William Regal pops down and tells both men he’ll “review this tape”. The screwy finish aside this was a decent match. Corbin is steadily improving but he’s not ready for a big title match. Joe hasn’t been at his best in NXT while Sami has been injured for a year. It’s probably not the three best men to be put in this situation and I’m not sure they had adequate time to plan it out.
Final Rating: **3/4
THE NXT RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Chad Gable & Jason Jordan
Least Entertaining: Alex Riley
Match of the Night: Corbin vs. Joe vs. Zayn
Summary: Having seen a lot of NXT over the past 12 months I can confirm the show is usually a lot better than this. A lot of these matches came across as flat and disinteresting. While NXT has a strong locker room they didn’t get the best use out of it in this TV taping block. You can tell it’s towards the end of the taping too as the crowd is a bit burned out. Despite the main event being something they’d built towards the only match that fired throughout the hour was the American Alpha vs. Blake & Murphy match. Elsewhere it felt like a collection of talent I usually don’t care for like Sampson, Riley and Jax. An entirely skippable episode of NXT, which in itself is a rarity. If you actually like Alex Riley, you might enjoy seeing a new side to him but I’d rather just see his backside as the door hits it on his way out.