When the chance to review the weekly NXT show came about, I must say I was excited. Seen as one of the best wrestling shows around today, NXT gives wrestling fans exactly what they are looking for; great wrestling action, sensible storyline builds and most importantly, an hour show that does not drag on with meaningless time fillers and endless promos. Even with the occasional boring show or flop of a match, it still means something to the point where you don’t want to miss it. WWE may still call it developmental, but don’t let the name fool you. NXT is the best thing WWE has going and the first project in a long time where they are doing everything right. Giving the fans exactly what they want to see...what a novel concept. On that note, let's get into the action of this week's edition where we are sure to see fallout from last week's triple threat number one contenders match for Finn Bálor’s NXT Championship. We are at Full Sail University with Tom Phillips and Corey Graves calling the action.
I want to make note that the intro for the show is hyping up tonight’s match between NXT Champion Finn Bálor and Apollo Crews. During the intro, they call this a “title free” match...what? In my twenty-five years of watching wrestling, never once have I heard this. Non-title match, yes, but title free I am not sure about.
The Vaudevillians vs. The Hype Bros
I like the Vaudevillains so much more as heels lending much better to their namesake. The Hype Bros get the early offense in the match, but the Vaudevillains quickly turn things around cutting off the ring using classic heel tag team attack on Zach Ryder. Ryder eventually escapes and gets the hot tag to Mojo Rawley, who runs wild on the Vaudevillians in a very “Titus O'Neil just got the hot tag” kind of way. As Rawley tears through the Vaudevillians, Corey Graves referring to the Bros lime green tights says “Slimmers on the loose at Full Sail again.” The comeback is short lived as Rawley gets thrown into the turnbuckle, falls over towards his corner and Ryder tags himself in. Ryder goes nowhere as he is double teamed followed by Simon Gotch hitting him with an uppercut to the back of the head sending him into Aiden English’s Whirling Dervish for the win. Takeaways from this match are the Vaudevillains make great heels, and I would be okay with never seeing the Hype Bros on this show again.
Final Rating: *1/4
After a look back at the Women’s battle royal from three weeks ago, we get a backstage interview with Carmella. This seems to be the attempt to show her as a contender for the NXT Women's Championship and not just the eye candy that accompanies Enzo and Cass. Point taken but nothing too special here. We also get a quick interview with NXT Tag Team Champions Dash and Dawson hyping a return match with Enzo and Cass. Mic skills are not their strong suit.
Carmella vs. Emma
The first thing I notice as Emma gets in the ring is how awkwardly small her gloves are. Maybe I just missed it and the new “in style” is the O.J. Simpson in court look. It may be because she is in the ring with the skilled Emma, but Carmella seems to be more smooth and more confident in the ring than in the past. Not saying she is good by any means, but the improvement shows. This match is a quick one with Emma going for a double arm suplex and Carmella reversing it into a backslide for the win. Yes, you read that right, a backslide for the win.
Final Rating: *1/2
A quick interview with Sami Zayn is shown with him discussing last week’s number one contenders match. They do the same with Samoa Joe, but instead of speaking he just scares the interviewer away. We also have a hype video for American Alpha. These guys are the best tag team going in WWE period.
Enzo and Cass vs. An Unnamed Team
Enzo and Cass make their usual entrance and give a promo about how when they get knocked down they always get back up. After the promo is over, I see the ref give the signal to ring the bell, and all the sudden there are two random jobbers on the ring apron ready to go. The guys names are not mentioned on commentary or are they mentioned at all throughout the match. This is a complete squash finishing with Cass throwing one guy out of the ring by his neck and hitting the other with their rocket launcher finisher off the top for the win. It’s excellent to see the occasional true squash match to hype up competitors.
Final Rating: *1/4
We are now taken to the office of NXT General Manager William Regal to give his decision on the finish to last week’s number one contender's triple threat match. Regal barely gets anything out before Baron Corbin interrupts. Regal tells him that he one hundred percent lost last week so he will not be included in the rematch. Corbin quickly leaves with no argument and Regal is still a badass. Regal announces that Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn will compete in a rematch for the number one contender spot. He doesn’t mention when or where leaving this segment entirely pointless.
Asuka vs. Santana Garrett
The announcer begins the match saying “The following contest is in the Women’s Division.” Thanks for clearing that up for us. With Garrett's background and recent success on the independent circuit, I wouldn’t mind seeing her signed to NXT full time. She would definitely be an asset. From the first lockup, you can tell these two have a lot more talent than a lot of women on the roster. Garrett gets the majority of the offense pounding away at Asuka with punches and kicks, but Asuka nails her with the “flying butt tackle” as the crowd begins the chant of “Asuka's gonna kill you”. Garrett goes back on offense quickly with an amazing looking side russian leg sweep and quickly locks on an armbar. Asuka makes a swift comeback and gets Garrett in the Asuka lock for the win. For what I’m sure was suppose to be considered a squash match for Asuka, Garrett was on offense easily ninety percent of this match.
Final Rating: *1/2
Finn Bálor has a fairly standard backstage interview here discussing the number one contender for his NXT Championship. They have focused much of the show around this which is not only showing how important it is for these competitors to be the number one contender, but also is giving incredible value to the NXT Championship. Well done.
Finn Bálor vs. Apollo Crews
I have complete faith going into this that we will get a great match out of these two. We get a handshake to start off showing the two babyfaces have respect for one another. The match gets going with Bálor having Crews in a headlock, and this goes on for a while. The Corey Graves calls it “a good job of grounding Apollo Crews.” I call it a very long headlock. We get a quick network commercial break, and when we get back, Crews has Bálor in a headlock! Battle of the headlocks tonight on NXT. This then moves to Bálor getting Crews in an armbar...at least it’s not a headlock. Finally, the two men increase the pace of the match with Graves saying that Bálor “is thinking maybe he should change the pace of the match.” You think? At this point, these guys look like they have been through a war and, for the most part, it has been nothing but a ground game of headlocks and armbars. The match picks up now with Crews attempting a backflip off the apron to the floor but misses landing on his feet with Bálor quickly sliding in the ring and launching himself back out onto Crews. Now that the action has picked up, I realize that the slow first half of the match really added to the later match intensity and the storytelling of the match as a whole. That is why these two are considered great a what they do taking us on a ride from start to finish. Crews tries to pick up Finn for a back body drop, but Bálor reverses and hits him with an Enzi Gauri kick to the head followed by a sling blade, a dropkick, and the Coup De Gra. Instead of going for the pin here, Bálor picks up Crews and hits a suplex into a DDT followed by a pinfall for the win. The finisher looked very similar to the Bloody Sunday he used in Japan. Good match by both men with the limited time they had.
Final Rating: ***
THE NXT RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Finn Bálor and Apollo Crews. These two showed off the skill of putting together a good match with limited time.
Least Entertaining: The Hype Bros. This partnership needs to end soon.
Match of the Night: Finn Bálor vs. Apollo Crews. May have had a slow start, but the match as a whole was well put together.
Summary: Even with the ratings I gave to most of the matches, this was a good show. We got a couple of squash matches to put over talent, a main event showcasing some of NXT’s best talent and the thing that NXT does best; storytelling that is continuously and slowly building to a bigger event. Maybe it is because of the pre-taping, but the writers at NXT get it. They have a goal of getting to the next Takeover event and make sure to tell a full story the whole way with great in ring action and promos that are short and to the point. I also want to make note that the two-man commentary team seems so much more efficient than the ramblings of a three-man booth. I know saying this is like a broken record, but WWE should recognize these things that are working so well for NXT and slowly work them into the main roster product. RAW and SmackDown! ratings are in the toilet, what would be the harm in just giving it a try? Until then I will continue to enjoy the success of NXT.