A bit of body paint, some great wrestlers, lot of respect for women and a big twist deep down from glorious heights is enough to put the upcoming TLC already on its spot.
First for the most important message of this review: I seriously hope that NXT very soon will become its own brand. You’re right: it already is. But it’s also still seen as just the lower league of WWE, the developmental area to train and form future WWE stars. But: these guys and gals “down there” are already stars. And they deserve every bit of acknowledgement, every bit of praise. The female wrestlers – and I don’t call them “divas” on purpose! – are treated with respect. They can actually show what they are capable of and no-one in NXT will use their segments as a bathroom break like it’s still the case in WWE. That all of these guys finally want to make it in WWE, is such a shame because most of them won’t make it there but will only used as jobbers to Super Cena and Super Reigns. But I’m quite confident that NXT will grow further, so somewhere in the near future promising talents and stars will be happy enough and proud to stay in NXT.
We kick off with a broken nose
I really like special events that not only have several matches but also this sub-plot within the whole show, so you are kept interested from start to finish. And only at the very last second the circle closes that was opened at the very first second. NXT did that for all their recent special events a.k.a. NXT TakeOver and that’s why I’ll certainly watch this whole show again, not just one match or a special segment. Well, I actually have one tiny segment I will skip over like I did when I watched it for the first time and that I won’t talk about here. But every great show has got one tiny bit of rubbish. Like the one exception from the rule. But that’s okay. As long as I can skip over it, I’ll be fine.
The great thing about the whole sub-plot was that we got this little teaser right before the start of the actual show that ended with Kevin Owens saying “Tonight Kevin Owens takes over”. He started off the show with a short but intense match against the poor willing-desperately-to-save-the-Earth boy CJ Parker. Kevin Owens needed just over three minutes to win this match but still had to take a hard palm strike by CJ Parker that broke Kevin Owens’ nose. That was clearly visible by his heavily in blood covered face. Some people on the internet even wondered if that was done on purpose. People, seriously? I mean, alright, I get it, Kevin Owens was a hard hitting Indie guy but it’s with no means that he would like to get his nose broken on his first match in NXT. So, no, it certainly was an accident but it surely added some edge to it. So, what people should have asked after this, should have been: Did Kevin Owens already took over? Or did he mean something else?
People certainly got to know later in this show. Very much later. At the latest possible.
The Vaudevillains aren’t heels
The Vaudevillains are without a doubt my favourite tag team at the moment. I should say that I indeed watch NXT every week even if I only cover their special shows. But I enjoy these two and especially these little vignettes they did for the last two weeks with the mini Luchadors. Simon Gotch and Aiden English are great at what they’re doing. I just can’t see them as heels. It’s almost impossible to feel only the slightest amount of hate towards them. I just find them highly entertaining and enjoyable. Brilliant acting, they really feel their gimmick and their wrestling is great to watch.
However, they still had to lose against The Lucha Dragons, i.e. Sin Cara & Kalisto, and I just couldn’t see any sense behind this. I was disappointed once when both of them lost another title match. And now again. Maybe it’s a similar built-up to another title change that happened today: make them really fight for it. Make them really deserve this title. Make people disappointed, so they can enjoy their win even more when they finally get it. So, in contrast to WWE where almost nothing makes sense, I really trust the NXT creatives and officials that they know what they are doing and that we finally get what we (the majority) wants. Just a bit more waiting and cheering and there will certainly be an end to the wait.
What stood out in this match of almost seven minutes was the so-called chivalry by Aiden English, who pushed his partner away, so he had to take both opponents but Simon Gotch stayed save. There were even people complaining that this wasn’t heel behaviour, i.e. sacrificing himself to save his partner. But I see more of a winning mentality innit, a cunning winning mentality. Because in taking both opponents, Aiden English had to suffer more but also his opponents were out for a moment. So, the only guy still in the game could grab the legitimate opponent for an easy pin inside the ring. Less chivalry but more strategy. Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t work out because in the end Simon Gotch was pinned and the Lucha Dragons retained their title.
After this match, the fans needed some kind of a little break and they got one with a 41 seconds “long” match between Tye Dillinger and… (you may have already guessed it)… Baron Corbin. The audience counted like it’s almost good old tradition already and booed when they reached twenty. Because Baron Corbin needed a few moves more than just the impressive End Of Days to kill Tye Dillinger. After this “match” Bull Dempsey was seen in the audience applauding to Baron Corbin for yet another impressive match. Yeah, I really finally want to see Baron Corbin in a match longer than one minute but I’m not a fan of Bull Dempsey. He’s just ordinary, not at all impressive and boring – at least for me. But we will soon get this match between these two.
Finn Bálor put on his own show
Yes, I know, basically everyone was freaking out because of Finn Bálor’s body paint. And, yes, it looked good. I also smirk about these complaints from some WWE kiddies claiming that Finn Bálor was a “Jeff Hardy wannabe” when he already did that on the Indies. I get that all. But it’s still just not for me. It is with reason that I like Dean Ambrose so much. Because he doesn’t need pyros or body paint to entertain me. It’s these moment that most people will miss, one little word spoken in a specific way, one pause that has just the right amount of length or some special antics, gestures, even a simple look inside the ring.
When someone puts on a big show, I usually think that he wants to turn the audience’s attention from something that he just can’t do properly. In case of wrestling: the wrestling. Yes, it might be stupid and one dimensional thinking because Finn Bálor certainly can wrestle. It’s just not my style, the big show before the match and then all this posing after good and impressive moves. Storytelling isn’t really possible if you pose for like ten seconds after every second or third move. And for me, storytelling through matches is almost everything. I don’t need any show if there is a great story inside of the squared circle. But there was basically no story in this match. At least, it tells you something about myself and the match that my favourite moment was Konnor’s reaction to the entrance and the body paint of Finn Bálor.
In the end it was quite clear that Hideo Itami & Finn Bálor would win this match against The Ascension, since they had been attacked by them for several weeks now. The match lasted for over eleven minutes but I have to admit that it really didn’t take much for me.
Indeed, women can wrestle
I have already asked this on Twitter; and I’m asking it here again: Why in the name of Loki and Triton would any female wrestler want desperately join the main WWE roster if she can have epic matches and is treated with respect unlike in WWE? I was so excited when Paige first appeared in WWE. And there was a short period of longer Divas matches and slightly deeper storylines. But it’s gone already. Divas in WWE even bitching against each other now and then while the female wrestlers in NXT get good, non-stereotypical storylines and long matches of just over twelve minutes like this one between Sasha Banks and Charlotte for the woman’s title. We even got several “This Is Wrestling” chants by the audience which was a clear shot at WWE. I was a bit surprised that Charlotte retained her title since she appeared already at RAW last week. Could mean that she will stay a few more weeks in NXT. Saying that I don’t doubt that Charlotte could be doing well in WWE. But I do doubt that she’ll get similar matches there.
Sami Zayn should really start taking lessons from Fox Mulder
And then we had the main event: just over 23 minutes of Sami Zayn vs Adrian Neville that was storytelling, wrestling and referee interfering at its best. I don’t need to say much about this match because it is an instant classic.
The referee was taken out for two times and at the second time Sami Zayn really had a visible struggle fighting with himself if he should win by cheating, i.e. hitting Adrian Neville with the belt while the referee couldn’t see it or if he should win after his own moral standards, clean and fair. The audience was very much into this match like they were for the entire show, and the “This Ref Sucks” chants were real fun.
In the end and after Sami Zayn talked intensively with the belt, he chose the right path and beat Adrian Neville clean with a pin after his Helluva Kick. After the match most of the NXT locker room joined the new NXT Champion Sami Zayn inside the ring to celebrate with him. And Adrian Neville showed his respect with a reminiscence that Sami Zayn did in 2013 to Adrian Neville vice versa. Also Kevin Owens was back in the ring again and he gave a big hug to his long Indie friend.
The celebrations went on for quite a while and everything seemed to calm down. Everybody loves everybody and the fans can go home happy. So, finally back alone in the ring with most of the roster back backstage, it seemed Sami Zayn would close the show with walking backstage as well. Kevin Owens was still left there, hugging his friend again and seemed to lead him towards the ramp when he attacked Sami Zayn out of nowhere. First Sami Zayn was just pushed to the ground but the second blow was much harder: back first onto the ring apron, so Sami Zayn lying there, barely moving. Just a few seconds later, GM William Regal was seen at the scene, shooting Kevin Owens an evil look but Owens just didn’t care but simply moved on while William Regal continued rushing to Sami Zayn to call for help very soon after.
William Regal takes the attack on Sami Zayn personally
Every story, when it’s a really good story, should end like this: with a horrible cliffhanger, with an emotional outburst, so there is lot of talking about it and you just can’t wait for next week to see how this might continue. So, in the post-show we met William Regal again: outside of the arena, near the street, in the dark, only illuminated by the camera lights. What he had to say are these words I have put into the caption to the collage at the top of this review. And you can watch it here in this video from the WWE page on YouTube. It’s just the right amount of emotion and something I have hoped for from William Regal as General Manager. I still doubt that we will see him back into the ring given his recent health issues. But we will certainly have a feud between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Both men already had this as El Generico vs Kevin Steen at Ring Of Honor. But I don’t know this feud, so I’m interested enough to see what they will do. And a few antics, blows and verbal attacks thrown out by William Regal would be just the topping of the cake to that.