Here we go…
-Before we hit the match, I like the announcers running down the card for the show. It’s little things like that that make you interested in the things to come. It makes NXT look like it has its shit together in regards to storylines rather than having a room full of writers writing random fatal-four-ways on a napkin to see what sticks. NXT is delightfully old-school in so many ways.
Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger
-I hope they do something with Dillinger soon, because the guy has been in developmental for like, ten years pretty much and finally has a gimmick that’s sticking. Maybe after the London Takeover we’ll see something start to materialize for him. And I know it’s not happening here, because Apollo Crews immediately jumps Baron and starts punching the bejesus out of him.
-I like that they’re finally giving Apollo a storyline that provokes some sort of fire. Not saying that the man himself lacks it, but he hasn’t quite had a rivalry that sells me on any sort of uber-serious side. This angle is booked really well in that it makes Apollo look desperate to gain some modicum of revenge for having the opportunity of his lifetime stripped away by a nonchalant Corbin. If this was WWE, John Cena would just cut a promo shrugging it off and spouting catchphrases, so props to all involved for letting the babyface sell his anger at a lost opportunity.
-This was also a good way to make sure the crowd sees Apollo as more than a smiley, glad-to-be-here good guy. And one more thing I love about this: they explained Corbin’s rationale for attacking Apollo in the first place. It’s almost like it makes sense! This was a good angle to start the show off hot, and I’m excited to see Apollo (who looked like a man possessed in his attack and facial expressions) in a different environment and/or state of mind.
Bayley & The Hype Bros vs. Alexa Bliss & Blurphy
-Ya know, I like Mojo Rawley. He’s gotten rid of the ass offense mostly and isn’t too obnoxious to bear. He’s nowhere near my favorite in NXT, but I don’t mind him at all.
-And I normally don’t like to be this guy about female wrestlers, but I have to say it; Alexa Bliss has the best ass in the WWE and I don’t find the race particularly close. That woman is incredible.
-Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can start analyzing her like the armchair booker I am. Bayley has a cute little spot here where she has Alexa in a headlock, and gives her a sly little high-five with a shit-eating grin on her face. Meanwhile, the Survivor Series ad with the 25 years of Undertaker deal has an antacid ad at the top corner and it makes it hard for me to take the commercial seriously.
-Zack Ryder’s selling in this match was really good, I thought. I don’t see why they hadn’t thrown him in a tag team sooner, to be honest. He has that likability that can translate into heat segments and the fire to propel the comebacks. He and Mojo are a really good team and I hope this little mini-program with Blurphy turns into something more, because there’s a chemistry on all levels here.
-This was a really good match in general. Everybody clicked on a pretty substantial level and Bayley hitting the Bayley-To-Belly on Murphy is probably Spot of the Night so far. Plus, it strikes a good balance of a satisfying babyface win and feud progression with Alexa taking the Women’s belt, so you’ll get no complaints from me. ***
-The Ascension’s promo here was terrible, but Konnor’s teeth are extraordinarily white. I don’t know if it’s editing magic, or if Konnor is better at taking care of his teeth than wrestling. But to be fair, the man could have meth mouth and that would probably still be better than the sacks of shit Jordan and Gable are going to have to carry next week.
-Is anyone else extremely excited to watch Eva Marie ruin Nia Jax? …No?
-Man, I’m glad they gave Apollo a small promo after the opener, but LOOK AT THE FUCKING CAMERA. You’re talking to Baron in the second person, so logic dictates that you stare into the camera as you talk, since you want the guy you’re yelling at to look you in the eye as you speak to him. Of all the abritary, useless WWE ‘strategies’, this might be the most aggravating. It establishes an immediate disconnect between the audience and the wrestler, and it ruins the intensity of the promo when it looks like you’re staring at cue cards in the background instead of using passion to dictate the promo’s direction. As a wrestling fan invested in your plight, I want you to look into the camera and sell me on why you’re pissed off at Baron Corbin. Why should I care if you’re just telling some random dude this, that and the third, ignoring the fact that you have an audience wanting to be catered to in some form?
–Nia Jax vs. Deonna
-Nia Jax’s glare at Deonna after she flipped out of a back suplex was great. I like small monster heel mannerisms like that. It’s a subtle “you fucked up” stare that enhances the psychology of Nia’s character.
-Her overall mannerisms here were much improved from the last time I saw her (not that they were shit or anything to begin with) and while the snap on some of her moves could improve, she’s already making some pretty clear strides. No reason to rate this though.
-Alexa Bliss casually taking pictures with Bayley’s belt was hilarious for reasons I’m not sure of. Nia Jax interjecting herself in that whole deal is a bit messy because that means she’s planted seeds for two storylines in the same show already, with Eva Marie earlier on and this mini-staredown with Alexa over the belt. I don’t know if she’s a face or a heel yet, but it’s not in a “WHO’S SIDE IS HE ON” confusing way. I’m interested, but I’m hoping they don’t over-complicate Nia’s stories so soon into her run.
The Vaudevillains (c) vs. The Mechanics
-It’s odd how NXT has done so well in finally establishing a good tag team division, all while completely shoving their champions to the side. The peak of their run was far and away Takeover: Brooklyn, and they haven’t done ANYTHING since then that remotely qualifies as memorable. Which makes the transition to Dash and Dawson a good booking decision, as The Vaudevillains’ lack of exposure in favor of Jordan and Gable, Enzo and Cass, and The Mechanics pretty much establishes them as lower-tier talents that just happen to have gold around their waists.
-Dash & Dawson as a team are fantastic, if we’re being honest. I can definitely understand the “boring” arguments, but for me I don’t see it. They’re a cohesive team who have gotten a simple thing like working the leg over to a good degree. They dismantled Finn Balor at Takeover, and they put out Big Cass a few weeks ago. It’s simple psychology with continuity we usually aren’t privy to. Things like that stand out to me.
-Corey Graves does an AWESOME job on commentary here, it must be said. His grilling of Simon Gotch for tagging English back in so soon was on the ball. It was a heel being a heel, but saying something completely logical all the while. That tag was pretty illogical on the champ’s part, but it made sense in the context of the match as their jumping of the gun led to their downfall.
-This entire match was really a masterclass in tag team psychology. It wasn’t as outwardly fun to watch as a Jordan and Gable match, but it was engrossing for the simple fact that Dash and Dawson utilize the basics of wrestling so well that you get invested in something more fundamental than you thought you could in 2015. The way the leg work tied into the finish, and especially the fact that Dash and Dawson won clean as a sheet make it that much better. Great match and good booking to put the straps on Dash and Dawson here. ***1/4
*SIDENOTE: The commentary since Takeover: Respect has been tremendous, including Byron Saxton. They’ve cut down on the bickering to a degree that I’m not even sure Byron and Corey Graves argue at all aside from a few one-liners. They were great in the tag match especially, as Byron explained the babyface side of the psychology while Corey explained why The Mechanics were doing what they were doing. This allowed Rich Brennan to just play the straight man, there to call the action. Goes to show what not micro-managing your announcers can do to enhance the quality of your product. Kudos to all involved.
It was great hearing Samoa Joe get heat upon entry. He feels so… fresh as a heel. He was such a bland babyface in TNA for years and years, so my heart just grew fonder of the early TNA-type Joe that just ran around murdering people for the hell of it. This promo is a bit underwhelming after such a big turn, but I like the intent. The tag title match should have been the main event.
-Overall: A third great episode of NXT in a row, and we’re finally starting to have some clarity on the NXT London card. Every feud so far is build extremely well, with clear motivations for everyone involved and compelling builds to what is going to be yet another fantastic show. Yet to be seen is what the Takeover matches will be for the Mechanics and Bayley, but I’m pretty sure it’ll at least be Enzo and Cass vs. Dash and Dawson… but the last time I said that, Enzo and Cass were left off the card despite being the most over act of the night. So who knows. Either way, another great wrestling show with a few noteworthy occurrences and minimal crap.
-Jake St. Pierre