Up until now, the NXT Championship was the only prize that the roster down at Full Sail University fought over. But that changed as of the latest episode of WWE NXT on HuluPlus; as a Hall of Famer, who began his road to superstardom as one half of a tag team, showed off the new NXT Tag Team belts. Two matches in a tournament to crown the first titleholders were held on the show.
This week's edition also featured a Divas contest, and the champ. Plus, quite a bit of character and storyline development via interviews and promo videos.
We start with the Showstopper, as the first thing we see is Shawn Michaels, mid-ring and microphone in hand. It's Outdoor Channel-model HBK with the plaid shirt and straw hat. I got a real "going through the motions" vibe from him that kind of bummed me out.
Regardless, he says that NXT Commissioner Dusty Rhodes asked him to come out and announce the new tag team titles. The design is similar to that of the main belt, but looks a little more traditional - it's pretty sweet. There will be a tournament to determine the first champs, but we don't get any details here (or many throughout the show) about how long or how many participants there will be.
Mr. WrestleMania puts over the importance of the first titleholders and how bright their future will be, alludes to his time as a Rocker and informs us that he has two words for those that don't like what he has just said. Tony Dawson and William Regal are our hosts for the first match of the tournament, which starts NOW.
The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper and Erick Rowan) defeat Yoshi Tatsu and Percy Watson in approximately six minutes when Harper pins Watson
- Bray Wyatt and his acolytes are out first, but we are not treated to one of the former Husky Harris' lyrical lamentations. Rowan has re-acquired his first name after only being announced by his surname in the group's last few appearances. Regal masterfully plays up the pair's size by mentioning how they dwarf Wyatt, who is no small man himself.
- Yoshi and Percy with a big babyface entrance. They're the kind of odd couple that could be fun in the mid-card with a decent push, or at least a catchy name and a few comedy bits. Instead, their only trait is exuberance. There's no mention of the fact we just saw this match-up two weeks ago.
- Showtime shows off his athleticism by dodging all of Rowan's power moves at the start. His offense doesn't quite connect, despite the efforts of the redbeard and the production team. Tatsu comes in and quickly starts to receive the beatdown, which begins with a no-release backbreaker before Erick carries him to the Family's corner.
- As good as Sir William is, Dawson is that bad. He's Michael Cole cubed; just a near constant stream of Twitter references and plugs for YouTube shows. He spends the bulk of this face-off talking about how many followers Tatsu has and The JBL & Cole Show. Regal is doing his best to talk up the teams and discuss the match psychology over the clatter.
- Rowan brings Yoshi back in with a standing suplex over the top rope. The latter manages to land on his feet and make the tag to Percy. After more of his dropkick-centered attack, he gets a two count that is broken up by Tatsu. Watson checks on his partner briefly, providing Harper with an opening for his spinning clothesline finisher.
- The boys stare at their leader, who has watched the match from his rocking chair on the ramp. They kept both the instances of this and mentions of it to a minimum this week, which I think is a good thing. We get that they're a creepy cult. The constant references to it highlight the absurdity, rather than the menace.
Backstage, the American Dream is having a conversation with Alex Riley and Derrick Bateman (there's nothing red, white or blue in sight, either). More hype for the tag belts here, and Dusty tells the fellas they have a tournament match against Kassius Ohno and Leo Kruger next week.
Corey Graves interrupts, upset that he was never given a rematch for the NXT Championship after The Shield ran in on his match with then-champ Seth Rollins. Boy do have a point. Riley cuts him off by trying to be intimidating talking about circuses and frogs, while Bateman sings what I think is supposed to be a carousel tune. This awkwardness seems to be trying to establish an issue between Graves and A-Ry.
Dusty informs the tattooed one that he's not in the tag tournament because no one would partner with him, not even Jake Carter. If your response to this is "who's Jake Carter?", then you and I have something in common. If Corey wants another shot at the belt, his run starts against Carter TONIGHT.
Sasha Banks defeats Alicia Fox in approximately four minutes via pinfall
- The foxy one is out first, as the announce team talks up her history as Divas champion. She's wearing a faux-naval uniform get-up under her usual animal headgear. Banks is next, and she's got some peppy music that doesn't go along with Regal talking about her background fighting on the mean streets of Boston.
- This is my first exposure to Sasha, who internet research tells me used to go by Mercedes KV in the indies. She's AJ-esque in stature and general ethnicity, it seems.
- An above average women's match by WWE standards starts with power moves by Fox and dropkicks and a hurricanrana from Banks, who Dawson refers to as "the small package"...get it? A nice fisherperson's suplex from Alicia leads to a side headlock as the ladies catch their breath.
- I hope they were teasing, but Tony straight-up asks "what is this move?" while they use the headlock as a rest hold. Our hero answers that, "if you have to ask that, you shouldn't be sitting next to me."
- After a brief bout of acrobatics from Sasha, which gives them the excuse to mention Eddie Guerrero is her hero - doesn't seem to bode well for the return of Racquel Diaz, does it? - she counters a slam attempt into a small package (GET IT!?!?) for the victory. William plays up what an upset it is for the young Diva.
Hey kids! Divas! The typical well-produced WWE video package for Paige airs. The brunette Brit talks about how she has been trained to fight since she was 13, and that the less the NXT Universe knows about her, the better.
New NXT correspondent Renee Young is backstage with Aksana, who will be re-igniting her feud with the Anti-Diva next week. Aksana does a great job of portraying the hyper-Diva in order to contrast with Paige. She even brings in a little Heidi Klum flavor by saying that last year her opponent was "in", but in 2013 she will be "out". Yeah, I watch Project Runway occasionally... what of it? Anyway, the women came off really well in this portion of the show. More of this, please.
A quick bumper airs for Conor O'Brian: he is the true ascension and he will rise. I liked the gimmick better for a team, but I'm glad he's not getting punished because his ex-partner listened to too much NWA.
Corey Graves defeats Jake Carter in approximately five minutes via submission
- So, there's a bunch I didn't know about Carter. He's Leon White (Vader)'s kid. He used to be Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) tag champs with Graves, and they even tagged at the start of this current iteration of NXT. And he's just coming back from an injury. Corey's talk with Dusty makes so much more sense now.
- Jake seems to be playing a deluded-pop idol character. The face-heel dynamic is really unclear here, as I think they want Graves to be received as an anti-hero protagonist. If I'm reading the crowd reaction right, they're confused too.
- For the most part, this is an one-sided affair. After some grappling and punches to start, the leader of the Filth Parade takes control with a back suplex (that Dawson correctly identifies!). What looks like a missed spear is explained by Regal as having targeted the knee, and that makes sense when Corey locks on his 13th Step finisher and Carter is forced to tap.
- The Savior of Misbehavior gets a mic after his win, and says that since he can't be in the tag tournament, he's declaring anarchy on NXT. I'm not sure you can put those words together that way, but I don't want to disrupt his flow. He closes by confirming his feud with Riley, adding to his declaration that if Alex gets in his way, he'll do like Graves' knuckle tats say and "Stay Down".
Brief locker room scene where Bo Dallas approaches Michael McGillicutty to ask him why he helped him when Epico and Primo were beating him down. This is another example of a weird non-linearity to the storytelling on this week's show. These guys have already partnered up since the episode they're talking about. Whatevs, MM explains his recent face turn by saying, "what he was doing wasn't working". The two seemingly make their own match for the tournament, deciding to rematch the Colóns next week.
Oliver Grey and Adrian Neville defeat 3MB (Drew McIntyre and Heath Slater) in approximately ten minutes when Neville pins McIntyre
- Not much in the way of background for this match, either, but it is a tournament so not too much is needed. No sign of Jinder Mahal as 3MB come in with their usual antics; Grey and Neville enter to what I presume is The Man that Gravity Forgot's theme (and Dawson does use that title for him several times during this match).
- Oliver is another cat who I have no experience with prior to this episode. He looks like the kind of talent Vince likes to sign, kind of how Randy Orton looked upon his debut. Regal talks up his judo and amateur wrestling resumé. He is British, so of course they have to refer to the team as a "British Invasion" a few times. Clever and original, that. Moving on...
- The former Pac presents quite a few defensive and counter maneuvers that highlight his agility against both members of the opposing team. This seems like a good example of how his style will be adapted to the WWE, and it works just fine for me.
- Grey misses a slide to the outside, and then ducks a kick that causes the bandmates to take each other out. Adrian clears the top rope on a leaping 360°. It really looked to me like he landed flat on his back and head, but he hopped right back up as we head to commercial. McIntyre must have managed to catch him and hold his lower body enough to cushion the fall. Stuff like that is what amazes me about what these folks do.
- Oliver is the proverbial face-in-peril upon our return. He manages to land a back suplex and, after a little drama spurred by Slater reaching Drew for a tag, gets to Neville. Following some no-impact acrobatics, we get to the spot everyone wants to see (and I'm sure some Cagesiders will provide gifs of in the comments as soon as they're available) - the corkscrew shooting star press onto McIntyre for the victory.
Big E Langston defeats Axl Keegan in approximately one minute via pinfall
- This was anti-climactic, as it felt like Neville's finisher had closed the show. Keegan got the jobber entrance and looks the part, as Dawson (no Jim Ross this week, apparently) tells us this is non-title and removes the last drops of suspense from the whole affair. The Florida crowd still loves Big E, but the announcers are referring to him as a controversial figure and discussing his alliance with Dolph Ziggler now.
- Axl tries a couple of strikes that Langston no-sells like Cena. Then he gets his ass kicked. Big Finish for the pin, and the crowd chants for a five count.
- As the master of said five count lifts his opponent for another dose of his finishing move, Conor O'Brian appears on the Trinatron and informs the champ that in two weeks, he will show him what he thinks of the five count. Conor is really not getting punished, as, just like that, our next championship feud is established.
- Big looks a little perplexed, but not scared. He completes the move and makes the ref count past four but not all the way to six. And then does it again, to the delight of the patrons of the games.
Weird show this week. I'm going to grade it a 'B'.
I loved the Divas segment and the focus on advancing storylines, instead of just presenting matches. But the continuity was off, the main story lacked detail -- if you're going to throw a tournament, I want to see a bracket -- and the matches were just okay. I can't knock it too much, because I'm always making noise about wanting WWE to focus on women and tag teams. But it just never came together. Some of that may be that it featured a lot of Corey Graves, who, despite being billed from Pittsburgh, just kind of annoys me.
What did y'all think? Excited about teams and divas? Disagree with me on Graves? Just want to post videos of Neville? Your time for any or all of that is NOW.