This week's NXT signals a new batch of episodes taped at the CFE Arena on the University of Central Florida Campus. A bigger arena, more fans...but honestly not much of a different look. Weird. Your hosts, as usual, are Tom Phillips and Corey Graves. Graves has become a way better commentator than I think he even thought he would be.
Baron Corbin vs. Johnny Gargano
Corbin is still mad about two weeks ago where he was tapped out by both Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe at the same time, thereby losing his chance at the #1 contendership to Finn Balor and his NXT Title. To soak his tears he instead gets to face another 'indie darling' in the form of Johnny Gargano. Gargano happens to be one of my favorites at the moment so I'm pumped about this development. Match starts with Gargano trying to use his speed to get some quick jabs in but Corbin stops that onslaught with a swift right hand to the mush. Corbin hammer whips Gargano in the corner then sarcastically gives him an ovation, a nice touch for a guy that's just so easy to hate. LOOK AT HIS FACE. Gargano mounts a comeback and staggers Corbin with a superkick, prompting the latter to bail to the floor. Gargano chases him back into the ring but eats the End of Days quickly and it's over. Good match for what it was. (5:56)
Final Rating: **
Rich Brennan is backstage with Sami Zayn, who takes on Samoa Joe next week for a shot at the NXT Championship. Zayn goes the generic wrestling promo route of guaranteeing a fight instead of a match next week then vows to be NXT Champion for the second time. Underwhelming.
A Vaudevillains vignette plays where their playful demeanor quickly turns dark, with the ragtime music following. They Heel Doinked.
The Hype Bros vs. John Skyler & Corey Hollis
Skyler's man-bun game is on point. The Hype Bros do their tag team thing for the first minute or so, with Ryder taking out their foes with a double baseball slide. Skyler and Hollis get a short burst of offense by working over Ryder in the corner but Ryder manages to fight out, tag Rawley, and it's all academic from there as the Hype Bros finish them off with the Hype Ryder. It was alright. The Hype Bros. aren't the worst tag team I've seen come out of NXT (this is where you envision me staring blankly at The Ascension). (3:29)
Final Rating: **
Rich Brennan is backstage with NXT Women's Champion Bayley and her best friend/opponent tonight Carmella. Bayley is proud of Carmella for winning the #1 contender's battle royal but isn't ready to give up her championship just yet, while Carmella puts this match over as the biggest of her career. They vow to remain friends after. Oh man I hope this isn't another heel turn situation.
Alexa Bliss vs. Cameron
Bliss is accompanied by her dubstep-loving tag team of Blake & Murphy. She and Blake are wearing matching Freddie Krueger sweaters but Blake's is cut off at the midriff because screw your conventions, America. Cameron is also playing a heel here so the NXT crowd choose to cheer for Bliss as she's technically one of their own. Cameron works Bliss over with double knees to the back and stops Bliss' comeback with a neckbreaker but soon Bliss is in control to hit what was supposed to be a backflip kneedrop. She misses completely. But hey that's all well and good because right after she finishes with a nice-looking Sparkle Splash and all is forgotten. Botch aside this was fine. NXT has a lot of matches that are fine. (4:13)
Final Rating: *3/4
Enzo Amore and Big Cass try to deliver a serious promo directed at NXT Tag Team Champions Dawson & Dash but they're interrupted by American Alpha. Chad Gable tries to throw an insult at Amore and Cass but can't quite get it out so Amore finishes it for him, and make fun of him for it. Gable counters by saying he's “layered like that”. Jason Jordan brings up the big 8-man tag team match for next week where the two teams will meet the Tag Team Champs and Blake & Murphy and they appear to be a united front. Gable tries to end things with a “Ready, Willing, and Gable” rally cry but no one does it and they all walk off. Chad Gable really is the new Kurt Angle, goddamn. Not complaining though, this was entertaining. [***]
Elias Sampson vs. Jesse Sorensen
Sampson and his dead in the water 'Drifter' gimmick continues. Ugh. His opponent this week is Jesse Sorensen, whom you may remember as the guy who almost died in a TNA ring then got fired from TNA after being offered a job for life due to the severity of the injury (a broken freakin' neck). Cool that he's bounced back and he's apparently able to wrestle just fine but part of me feels nervous just seeing him out here, even if he's been at it again for awhile. Anyway blah blah blah Sampson hits the neckbreaker for the win. This stupid Drifter thing, guys. Come on. (2:37)
Final Rating: N/R
Rich Brennan is standing by with Apollo Crews after we see a clip of Crews coming up short against Finn Balor last week. Crews says he now knows what he needs to do to become the best and the next time he wrestles everyone will see a new Apollo Crews. Okay.
NXT Women's Championship
Bayley (c) Vs. Carmella
The in-ring introductions get a little sprucing up, with both competitors bathed in spotlight as the rest of the arena is darkened. Nice touch. Bayley and Carmella hug to show how close they are and then it's off to the races as they do a little chain wrestling to jockey for position. The exchange ends in a double dropkick and both ladies stare one another down in a Mexican stand-off. This really is WWE's indie company. Bayley gets in a string of offense that ends with a kneedrop and a two-count and WWE Network cuts to commercial. That Edge & Christian show looks kinda funny.
Back live Carmella takes over with a monkey flip and a Thesz Press. Bayley counters with a clothesline and climbs the middle buckle but Carmella shoves her off. Carmella takes a second to think it over then gets a good head of steam and flattens Bayley with a tope suicida. It's so nice that she does it twice (sorry, channeling my inner-Ed Whalen) but she can't get the pinfall which understandably upsets her. The two then both try various roll-ups to pin one another, with Bayley kicking out off and countering a sunset flip with a roll-up to get the win. A damn fine match, especially since I wasn't really into the idea of Carmella getting a title shot. She's gotten way better than I remembered. Very good main event that gave Bayley another solid win and helped make Carmella look like a million bucks. (8:06 shown)
Final Rating: ***
Bayley and Carmella embrace and instead of a heel turn Carmella bails to the floor to give her best friend (okay seriously, when did they become best friends, because I really don't remember) her moment. No heel turns, yay! Eva Marie and Nia Jax spoil the party by attacking Carmella on the floor and laying waste to Bayley when she tries to help out. Marie and Jax bring Carmella into the ring and Jax flattens her with multiple legdrops until Asuka shows up to the roar of the crowd (stomp your feet to the ground). Asuka stares the two ladies down and they back away instead of attack, which is smart because Asuka will just straight to rip their eyes out Haku-style. Bayley rolls in to check on Carmella and Asuka turns her attention to the champion. Asuka stares her down, smiles, then gently bats at the Women's Championship to show that she's interested in getting a shot at the belt. Hell yes, sign me right the hell up for that one. A great segment to cap off a good match that set up a match I very much want to see. Can't argue with that.
Instead of ending on that note we instead go backstage for comments from Samoa Joe, who's still mad that Sami Zayn is ungrateful for the fact he saved Zayn's career. Joe says that next week Zayn will see the inevitable, that he will become the next NXT Champion. You couldn't have put this somewhere before the main event/post-match angle? Boo.
THE NXT RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Asuka. Her aura alone scared off Eva Marie and Nia Jax, and her simple way of asking for a shot at the NXT Women's Championship was stellar. Asuka is the real deal.
Least Entertaining: Elias Sampson. Someone shoot this Drifter gimmick in the head so this guy has a shot at life in NXT.
Best Match: Bayley vs. Carmella
Summary: A fine NXT episode this week, with a great main event and even better post-match angle. The rating gets bogged down a bit because while none of the matches rated were necessarily bad they were merely just fine. Not good, not bad, just there. Also seriously I loathe The Drifter almost as much as I love Asuka and that's a lot.