April 1 2016
We’re in Dallas, Texas for the first of a multitude of WrestleMania weekend goodness. Not only are WWE running WrestleMania, the Hall of Fame, Axxess and this NXT show but EVOLVE are running two shows, ROH are running two shows, there are two supershows, CZW, SHIMMER, Queens of Combat and several other shows on top of that. If you’re in Dallas you have a metric tonne of wrestling to watch this weekend. Hosts are Tom Philips and Corey Graves.
NXT Tag Team Championship
The Revival (c) vs. American Alpha
American Alpha have been on a tear, beating just about everyone in NXT. Revival just got t-shirts. “No Flips, Just Fists”. These two teams are potentially the future of tag teaming, in the same way that Charlotte, Sasha and Becky were the future of the women’s division last year. Look where they are now. The crowd erupt for American Alpha and both of them look like huge stars. People are definitely getting Revival too but they’re working heels and mostly getting heat, which is good for them. It’s not easy to draw heat. American Alpha work around the normal straightforward formula instead opting to find counters to everything and pop off suplexes. Until Gable takes heat because Gable always takes heat. Formula is there for a reason and both teams are good at it. Gable’s hope spots are both retro and innovative. Unfortunately the match is a wee bit sloppy, with the champs botching a double team. Sloppiness aside the match is the definition of a hot opener. Jordan’s ‘cleaning house’ spots are on fire. The timing of the challengers is near perfect. The near falls in this match all get me jumping. Every single one feels like the finish because everything is a struggle. Nothing is nonchalant. American Alpha hit the blind tag for the double team finish and win the straps. They deserve them. Wonderful match. Sensational heat, amazing timing and only one major botch stopped it being top level tag teaming.
Final Rating: ****
Ringside: Jim Ross. Kota Ibushi. Kota was in Dallas for WWN Live’s supershow on Sunday but showing him on camera means he’s in the Global Cruiserweight Series people. Massive news. They showed Kana and she was signed right afterwards. Ibushi is there with WWE’s go-to Japanese guy Sho Funaki so you know it’s legit.
Baron Corbin vs. Austin Aries
This is Aries’ first match in NXT so Tom Philips has to reference ROH, although not by name, talking about Aries beating Samoa Joe. Corbin spends this match channelling his Indie heel nature by arguing with the fans. You’re in the big leagues now Baron, keep it professional! The match plods along until a suicide dive from Aries and Deep Six on the floor as a counter jolts it back into life. Aries flips out of End of Days though and pins a shocked Corbin out of nowhere. Ok showing from Aries on his debut, good counter at the finish. This was in trouble because it had to follow that insane opener.
Final Rating: **1/4
Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura gets new music, which is a bit underwhelming, but Nakamura himself is greeted with loud chants. Nakamura is the biggest acquisition from Japan in WWE’s history. He’s already massively over and he’s not done anything yet. I’m thrilled WWE realise the name means something and have let him keep it. Seeing his mannerisms and weird ticks in an NXT ring is just bizarre. Sami copes with the atmosphere, which could overwhelm many, and mimics Nakamura’s taunts, matching him for speed and technical skill. Nakamura’s structuring is that of an experienced grappler and everything that worked in Japan works for the big ‘Mania weekend crowd. I almost feel bad for Sami because the crowd go cold for his offence because they’re too excited for Nakamura that they can’t temper that for anyone else. Meanwhile Nakamura just drops into NXT like he’s wrestled there his entire life, which is how he’s adapted to everywhere he’s been. He’s just a natural. The match exists as an event with the crowd rolling on the Nakamura Hype Train. Every Nakamura knee gets a reaction, which is perhaps what he needed for his career. The knees had lost their effect somewhat in New Japan. He hit so many. Nakamura gets his nose busted on a series of elbow strikes as they throw lumber and the crowd chants “YES”. Strongstyle has arrived in WWE! Nakamura gets a receipt with kicks to the face and head. “King of Strongstyle” chant from the Dallas crowd! Nakamura busts out the amazing flying armbar that he used on Kazuchika Okada. He’s showing off all his tricks right off the bat. Sami will not lie down and keeps coming back. It’s so brutally stiff at times. Maybe the stiffest match you’ll ever see in a WWE ring. “Fight Forever” chants the crowd. The spots they work toward are incredible. Sami goes for the through the ropes corner DDT and Nakamura flat out kicks him in the head. Nakamura hits Boma Ye twice, renamed Kinshasa (after the location of the Ali-Foreman Rumble in the Jungle where the Boma Ye chants originated), for the pin. Good grief this match was incredible. Nakamura doesn’t do little offbeat matches. He does big event matches. The hot crowd helped matters but the work was tight. Match of the Year, so far. Nakamura’s arrival was as stunning as hoped for.
Final Rating: *****
NXT Women’s Championship
Bayley (c) vs. Asuka
Asuka debuts a ridiculously creepy new mask with green tears. This should have been a death spot, following that last match, but the crowd are hyped for it because these two have been tearing it up in NXT. It is a legitimate dream match. The trouble they have is that Asuka’s offence is brutal and I don’t want Bayley to get beaten up because I love her. She’s too good as a babyface to the point where I don’t want her to get hurt at all. The last person I felt that way about was Eddie Guerrero. They establish Bayley as the aggressor, which is an interesting tactic, and have her chase moves that beat other people like the choke she put Nia Jax away with. But Asuka is too good to get caught by that and counters out. Asuka has been able to blow by everyone else in the women’s division but Bayley is her first real challenge. They sell how close the two are in terms of ability extremely well. Asuka looks to step it up with jabs only for Bayley to have a sick leglock lined up as a counter. It’s Bayley’s plan; take out the legs, take out the kicks. The competition of Bayley’s planning and fast countering against Asuka’s striking and submissions is the core of the match. While Bayley seems to have the better plan, Asuka is the stronger competitor and Bayley is fighting from the bottom. Which is perfect for her because she’s a great underdog. Bayley gets trapped in the Asukalock, cannot escape and Asuka wins via referee stoppage. I’m glad Bayley didn’t tap because her personality as a role model is all about positivity. She can walk away from this with head held high. Both these wrestlers did great work. It never quite had the feeling of Bayley vs. Sasha but it was still awesome. This had it tough following Nakamura. They probably should have switched those two around.
Final Rating: ****
Ringside: Bobby Roode! Jesus. So he’s left TNA then!
Finn Balor (c) vs. Samoa Joe
Balor comes out with a chainsaw, for some reason. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” suggests @JoseLothario on Twitter. Bit of a tenuous link (although certainly what they were going for), especially with the Dean Ambrose/Terry Funk chainsaw angle from RAW a few weeks ago. Balor knows he needs to start fast and hard and busts Joe hardway under the eye in the opening sequence. This leads to Samoan Violence, including Balor getting thrown over the rail in careless fashion. It’s the brutal monster Joe that hasn’t really been evident in NXT so far. But here he ramps that up to eleven, blood everywhere, flying elbow first dives. Unfortunately doctors come out to check Joe’s eye because there’s so much blood. It’s wrestling! Shit happens. Joe’s intensity on seeing his own blood and letting that aggression out on Balor is seriously great. The referee continually stopping Joe to get the cut checked kills the momentum of the match unfortunately. A cut is not a big issue, compared to other head injuries. It looks worse than it is. The doctors get unreal heat from the bloodthirsty hardcore crowd. “Let Joe bleed” is an actual chant. Obviously the blood becomes somewhat overwhelming and if they let it go it could create a great storyline but instead they almost force Joe to work around it. This is a company that is obsessed with micromanaging. Just let those happy accidents make magic happen. They still have a strong match and Balor kicking out of the Musclebuster feels like an actual shocking occurrence. Coup de Grace sets up Bloody Sunday but Joe counters into the Coquina Clutch. Balor pulls out the old Bret Hart-Roddy Piper WrestleMania VIII finish by kicking off the buckles for the pin. Joe stubbornly refusing to let go. This could have stolen the show if they’d not kept stopping to check Joe. Joe’s offence in the early going was supremely fiery. Still a legitimately great match, the fourth of five matches on the card.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Summary: One of the best wrestling shows of the year, easily. One of the best wrestling shows of all time, perhaps. NXT never disappoints but this was an incredible show. Four of the five matches were blow-away good. Mania weekend has started with an absolute bang.