There's something about your humble NXT recapper that I think you should know. WWE tapes mulitple episodes of NXT at a time at Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. As a result, information about the content of shows is available months in advance. In the business, we call these "spoilers".
In preparing to watch the show each Wednesday night/Thursday morning on HuluPlus, I try to avoid reports about what has occurred at the tapings (also known as "remaining spoiler-free"; sorry for all the insider lingo). For the most part, what you get here are my honest impressions based on what the show contained - not rumor or innuendo from the wrestling media and the internet wrestling community (IWC).
Certain things are unavoidable (such as the news that El Generico will be joining the roster soon), and I don't mean this to say not to discuss spoilers you've heard or read in the comments. The comments are yours to do with as you see fit, within the boundaries of civility and good taste, of course.
I just thought you should know.
The episode of NXT at hand opened with a recap of last week's show, where the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels, announced the creation of the NXT Tag Team Championship and the tournament to determine the first titleholders. Tony Dawson's voiceover informs us that the two tournament matches on tonight's show will take us to the final four.
So that answers one of my big questions from last week - there were eight total teams in the tournament. The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper and Erick Rowan) and Oliver Grey & Adrian Neville's wins last week have them awaiting their opponents in the semi-finals. Their challengers will be determined right now!
Kassius Ohno and Leo Kruger defeat Derek Bateman and Alex Riley in approximately twelve minutes via submission when Ohno forces Riley to tap out
- The random-ass-tag-team™ for tonight will be played by Bateman and Riley. They're out first and race to the barricade to start high-fiving fans in case they're unsure who to cheer for. Bateman kind of looks like a young Billy Kidman. If Riley were in a Saturday Night Live skit, it would be called "inappropriately excited guy".
- Let me get something out of the way about Kassius Ohno. I have loved his work for a long time, and am loving what he's doing on NXT. He's including a call back to his older work with the guy now rocking our American worlds as Antonio Cesaro in his entrance with Kruger by doing his half of the Kings of Wrestling locked forearms gesture (Kruger peaks out from underneath KO's arm; a detail that totally fits his unhinged hunter character). But if Ohno wants to be on WWE television every week and get over with most fans, he's got to either work on his physique or change up his outfit. He doesn't need to be Mason Ryan (SPOILER ALERT - there's too much of him on this show already) or even Cesaro, but gut hanging over bright yellow bikini briefs is not a good look for anybody. And certainly not for someone trying to make it in Vince McMahon's world.
- Psychology is the name of the game for most of this tilt. DB and A-Ry work their opponent's arms to counter-act their superior striking. William Regal sets the bar high for commentary by responding to Dawson's question about what makes Ohno a great striker with, "I imagine he's trained as a striker." If only he could have added "you git" to the end of his retort. We're informed that Bateman is returning from a four month rehab due to knee surgery, and the heels work over that area when they're in control against him.
- A fair amount of time is spent on furthering the issues between Regal and Kassius. The Brit picks Ohno and Kruger as his favorites to win the tournament based on their "spitefulness", and the former Chris Hero is distracted a couple of times in match when he stops to taunt or mean-mug toward the announce table. I think they're keeping the genesis of this feud mysterious on purpose, as I haven't seen an inciting incident in my NXT watching. Is anyone who's been watching longer able to educate me?
- For a lengthy match, not much of note happens. Kruger and Ohno look crisp, Bateman looks okay and Riley...what he does doesn't do much for me. Despite getting the call as the house a'fire, he's not very impressive and falls victim to a swift kick to the face from Kassius after Leo distracts him. KO locks in a neck crank for a quick submission finish. I liked that they played up that young knockout kid's viciousness in going for a tap out rather than covering the guy he'd just layed out flat, but this match never got in to much of a groove.
The aftermath sees Corey Graves run in to slap his 13th Step finisher on the still recovering Riley. I guess Bateman was really selling the knees or he just doesn't like his partner any more than I do, since he's not around to make the save. Two refs pull Graves off of A-Ry, and the trouble that started when Miz's former lackey made circus jokes about the anarchist last week moves along.
Big E Langston and his NXT Championship are backstage with Dawson discussing the challenge issued by Conor O'Brian to close last week's show. This was a short, bland promo about putting The Ascending One to sleep permanently. It almost put me to sleep, I know that.
Mason Ryan defeats Sakamoto in approximately a minute and a half by pinfall
- Look who's back. He's got a top knot ponytail, but otherwise Ryan is still the overly oiled, muscle-on-muscle man of Vince's dreams. His entrance consists of a lot of flexing, some walking and then more flexing.
- Sakamoto looked like he belonged despite not getting much time against Adrian Neville in his debut a few weeks back. Unfortunately, he doesn't get a chance to do much of anything here, as this one is over in just longer than in takes Tony D to mangle Taka Michinoku's name. Maybe some day he'll get a chance to be more than jobber to the new guy.
- Ryan does a couple of imposing-enough strong man spots, most notably a fall away slam where he threw Tensai's former minion almost to the rafters and out of the ring. But he looks a little dangerous in there - he bloodied Sakamoto's mouth early on - and the crowd was unsure whether to cheer or boo him.
A head-scratching backstage vignette airs with Xavier Woods and Tony Dawson. The good news is El Local will be facing Woods next week! The bad news is we had to sit through this to find that out. Woods has just rescued a bunch of stuff from his parent's garage, so he and Tony sing along with his Discman and dance to Bell Biv Devoe. For reals. "Do Me" was my jam back in the day, but this was horrible. Xavier's beeper reminds him to say "when El Local hears the beep, he'll know he's in too deep" before he bums a quarter and goes to find a pay phone. I sincerely hope this was a one-off and not his character.
Paige defeats Aksana in approximately three and half minutes via submission
- The Lithuanian is stunning as ever in her velvet and lace bodysuit. The raven-haired lass from the United Kingdom is in her usual black pleather. She screams and the crowd goes wild. I think I'm the last person on earth not all in on Paige.
- Aksana dominates, and she does okay as long as the match is one-sided. She is freakishly strong and it really shows. They do a cool bit where she slingshots Paige into the ropes and holds on for a backbreaker across her knees. It came off a little too slow and staged, but shows promise for the work Sara Del Rey and Joey Mercury are doing with the women in developmental.
- Another out-of-nowhere finish starts as Paige screams herself back in to contention. A few shrieks, some strikes and a stretch hold later and Aksana taps out.
- I want to like the Anti-Diva more than I do. She clearly connects with the live and tv audiences on presence alone. I just want to see her do more in the ring or in an interview than what we've been given thus far.
No sooner have I thought, "hey, that ring announcer looks like the Lingerie Football League player they signed who was in the pic AJ tweeted" (she's the one on the far right):
photo via https://twitter.com/WWEAJLee
then Paige bumps into her while she is proclaiming her as the winner. A second later, Summer Rae attacks her from behind while the announce team acts shocked. See how easy it is to tell stories in the diva division?
Renee Young is backstage with Sasha Banks. Correction from last week, Banks is African-American, not Latina. I was thrown by her lighter complexion and some of the references Dawson was making; regardless, my bad on the assumption. Banks gives a good, exuberant promo about how big her win over Alicia Fox was last week. She's interupted by a stagehand who gives her a flowery poem from a secret admirer. Uh-oh, I think Sasha is about to be Manti Teo'd in Alicia Fox's catfish revenge scheme.
Two angles among the ladies? At the same time? Well, I'll be.
There's a well-produced highlight package from the Royal Rumble Fan-Fest that barely mentions the NXT battle royale, so I guess it will be airing on other shows as well. Quite a bit of hype for the "Shooting Straight" panels they held last Saturday...I wonder if those will ever make it to DVD? I'd be interested to see how honest they boys get. I don't think I'll ever get used to buzz cut HHH, though.
Bo Dallas and Michael McGillicutty defeat Epico and Primo in approximately eleven minutes when Dallas pins Primo
- Dallas and McGillicutty are out first to Bo's entrance theme and video. Dawson also talks about how Triple H personally motivated Mike Rotunda's baby boy. I get the feeling his push wasn't as spontaneous as last weekend made it look.
- BD and MM have remarkable similar styles despite the difference in their sizes. Dallas doesn't do nearly as much high-flyin' as his look would suggest, and Mr. Intensity moves really well for a big dude. They work a couple of great sequences when they're both in the ring and a strike by one will lead their opponent directly into an attack from the other.
- Most of the match is balanced, with both squads looking good but neither really taking control. Eventually, McGillicutty falls prey to some heelishness in the form of an Epico eye-rake and some Rosa-ference. They amp up the drama with some faster paced sequences where Mr. Perfect's son doesn't quite reach his corner. He does eventually make the hot tag.
- Dallas immediately takes over, including a rope climbing bulldog that gets a two count. Primo responds with a leg sweep DDT for the same result before a routine-looking run of the ropes includes a belly-to-belly suplex that gets three. Another sudden finish in an episode full of them. It didn't help that Bo didn't really get his arms around Primo, causing the impact to look weak.
Another episode chock full of stuff wraps up with our first glimpse at the tag tournament bracket. Not sure of the schedule, but the match-ups are exciting: McGillicutty and Dallas will face the Wyatt Family in a bit of a hoss fight, as Kruger and Ohno collide with Grey and Neville in the other semi.
I come into NXT with high expectations, but I still have to call 'em like I see 'em. This week's show gets a B-. The theme of contests ending abruptly was a little bothersome, and the babyface team did nothing for me in the first tournament match of the night. And the Woods-Dawson segment was a real turd in the punch bowl.
How was it for you? I know there have to be some folks who want to defend Paige's good name. Let's talk it out in the comments, and keep Cageside Seats bookmarked for all of your NXT and WWE developmental news.