Welcome back to another NXT special. These are the WWE shows I look forward to most outside of the big four pay-per-views at this point. The NXT product is consistently the strongest WWE produces. Let’s see how they did:
#1 Contender Match: Tyler Breeze vs. Finn Balor
Awesome entrance for Breeze with the selfie girls. Only thing missing was his selfie stick. Unfortunate injury for Itami. Would have been nice to have him in there. And speaking of awesome entrances…it’s Finn Balor. The man with the best entrance this side of the Undertaker. This might be the coolest to date, and it helps convince me that Balor can hit it big on the main roster. An entrance is a huge part of getting over. And he’s got it all: the theme song, the gear, the mannerisms, the smoke. It’s an epic presentation befitting a world champion.
This match is fine, nothing too special. Tyler Breeze never really blows me away. Nothing wrong with him technically, I just find his matches to be very basic. His wrestling style doesn’t really fit his character. It seems like his moveset should be flashier than it is to play up how narcissistic he is.
Balor, on the other hand, is tremendous. One of the biggest qualities a babyface needs is fire, and Balor has plenty. When he gets going you believe he’s putting the hurt on his opponent, no matter how much bigger they are.
The near falls at the end were excellently done. They had me sold on a few of them, especially Breeze hitting the Beauty Shot coming out of the corner. Balor getting the win was definitely the right call.
Rating: **½. Decent match, nothing special. Balor has a lot to offer. Breeze would be a useful midcard heel in the vein of The Miz. Annoying, gets lots of heat, isn’t going to go too far up the card.
Dana Brooke and Emma vs. Charlotte and Bayley
This is an interesting group of wrestlers. Charlotte, clearly the next big thing in the main roster’s diva division. Emma, who got up to the big show and flopped. Dana Brooke, who’s just learning how to wrestle. And Bayley, who I can guarantee is going to be insanely over. If you don’t love Bayley, you’re a terrible person.
Emma turning heel is one of those things I love about wrestling. She was a nice girl, and it failed. So she turns bad. 100% reasonable and logical. And her having a problem with Bayley, who reminds her of her old persona, makes sense too. Simple, smart wrestling booking. Something that’s in short supply today.
This is a basic match, but that’s not a bad thing. The tag formula is well-worn, but that’s because it works. Bayley should be the one to take the heat, because she engenders so much sympathy from the crowd. And Charlotte should be the one to take the hot tag because she can dish out so much damage. Brooke’s role is kept to minimum, because she’s still learning. I wished they had more time, because it felt like the hot tag came too soon. I thought it would have made a little more sense for Dana and Emma to win, but it’s not a big deal.
Rating: *½. It was okay. Could have used more time. Hard to have a good tag match in seven minutes.
Baron Corbin vs. Rhyno
I’ve never been a huge Rhyno fan, but he’s had a nice run in NXT. It makes sense to have a few veterans on the roster. Only way for the young guys to get better is to work with experienced people. I’m waiting to see more from Corbin. He has everything a wrestling promoter could want: Size, athleticism, look, presence.
This was probably Corbin’s best match to date, although that isn’t saying much. Rhyno looked good, Corbin didn’t do a whole lot. The two highlights were Rhyno taking that big bump off the top rope down to the floor and Corbin hitting End of Days. That move is always impressive, but especially on a guy as heavy as Rhyno.
Rating: *¾. Progress for Corbin. More than just a squash, took a few bumps, made a comeback. Babysteps.
NXT Tag Team Championship: Blake and Murphy (c) vs. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady
I love Enzo. Cass makes a good partner for him, but Enzo is the show. I have no doubt that Enzo and Cass should be on the main roster right now. They’re ready for it. No doubt they’d get over. It’s impossible to watch their entrance schtick and not get hyped. Blake and Murphy? Just two dudes.
Blake and Murphy are probably better than they get credit for. They’re an adequate heel tag team. They could use a gimmick upgrade and a team name, but they play their roles. Cass is a physical specimen who is well-served as part of a team because he’d probably get exposed in singles. But he’s perfect to just come in and clean house off the hot tag. This was a decent tag match, but I thought the finish was kind of weak. That Powerbomb/Back Stabber combination would have been a much better finish than Enzo getting pinned after falling off the top.
Rating: **. Decent tag match, not much beyond the standard formula.
NXT Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks (c) vs. Becky Lynch
Things I love about NXT: the women’s championship being the sub main event.
Praise heaped on the NXT women’s division at this point seems superfluous. It’s basically a given that any of their matches will be better than anything that happens on the main roster in the diva’s division. This match is hampered a bit by Becky’s face turn having come a bit soon and her not really getting over as a face. That said, Sasha worked so nasty that it generated some decent sympathy for Becky. Becky’s escape from the armbar by lifting Sasha off the group into a slam was amazing. Deserved the obnoxious “this is wrestling” chant that it received. They brought physicality, intensity, and drama that hadn’t been seen in any of the previous matches on the night.
They worked their asses off. Excellent match.
Rating: ****. Outstanding work from both women. Loved the working of the arm. Incredible intensity, super physical. That felt like a world championship match. Set a high standard for Owens and Zayn to try to live up to.
Also, the “Suplex City” chant was baller.
NXT Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Sami Zayn
And here we have the best story in WWE, and probably all of wrestling. Kevin Owens is a monster. An evil, petty man with no moral center. Sami Zayn is as good a guy as there is in wrestling. Does he have the edge to beat a son of a bitch like Owens? It remains to be seen. As a side note, I love Zayn getting the shot against Cena two weeks before Owens did. It’s the exact reason Owens hates Zayn. Always cutting to the front of the line. It’s a personal issue between two real people with understandable stakes. They’ll fight until there is a winner. They’ll fight until one man can take no more.
And they bring the intensity. Zayn isn’t going to let Owens get away with stalling this time. They fight. All over the floor, into the crowd. Zayn hangs in there, but Owens is just too powerful. We get an extended beat down, and then an absolutely vicious Powerbomb onto the ring apron. Owens is relentless, and keeps going after Zayn. He won’t be stopped. Not by referees. Not by William Regal. But by one man…
SAMOA JOE IS IN NXT. NOT A DRILL.
And he’s called “Samoa Joe.” And he’s treated as a monstrous bad ass. A man who even Kevin Owens would back down from. Joe vs. Owens. I’m down with that.
Rating: **. More of an angle than match, and I don’t have a problem with that. The final chapter here has yet to be written. I hope this Owens/Zayn/Joe issue bleeds over onto Raw. I’d love to see NXT matches on the pay-per-views.
Overall: Another strong offering from NXT. The women’s match was the best of the night, Joe’s debut the big highlight. This show is a bit of a step down in overall quality from Rival, but it’s still strong, much better than the typical offering from the main roster.