Antonio Cesaro graces us with another great match, the women's storyline advances around a not great match and RVD and Aiden English ham it up, among other things, on this week's edition of WWE's streaming developmental show.
A re-cut version of the video for Rob Van Dam's return at Money in the Bank starts us off to remind us that the Human Highlight Reel will be on Hulu this week. Then it's straight to the action!
Antonio Cesaro defeats Leo Kruger
in approximately twelve and a half minutes via pinfall
Oooo, I love NXT continuity! The beef here stems from both men trying to accept Bo Dallas' invitation to challenge him for the right to become the #1 contender for his NXT championship last week. Cesaro feigned sportsmanship before shoving Kruger out of the ring, and the hunter was apparently not okay with it.
I also love both of these performers. While this match isn't quite up to either of their best work on this show, it's still pretty great. Ostensibly heel vs. heel, both men spend portions of the bout leaning face as far as in-ring psychology, but the focus is mostly on two vicious guys who don't like each other trying to brutalize their opponent, so alignment doesn't really matter.
The first half of the match evidences this. Antonio storms across the ring at the bell and connects with a drop kick, ripping the South African's shirt off his body. After some in and out of ring action, Leo fights off some suplex attempts to hit one of his own. The Swiss regains momentum by reversing an Irish Whip and launching a European uppercut at Kruger in the corner - the main roster star visibly calls this spot, but it's still awesome. Cesaro gets caught going up top and superplexed as we go to a commercial.
Alex Riley spends a great deal of time on commentary putting over Cesaro...like, really putting him over. He talks about how he's not sure there are any better workers in the world than him right now, how Dolph Ziggler said that Antonio is a better wrestler than him...stuff like that.
I'm gonna need Kruger to not wear the Baltimore Ravens' camouflage pants anymore. Where are those supposed to hide you, in Marie Shrader's kitchen? (BOOM - AFC North and Breaking Bad reference in the same bullet. I just alienated 2/3 of my readers!)
We come back to LK working over the former United States champ on the floor. They spend a lot of time out of the ring in this one. He flies out for an okay looking suicide dive - I think Daniel Bryan's has spoiled that spot for the rest of pro grappling - before action moves back inside so Leo can hit that sweet, sweet Spinebuster. Cesaro rolls out under a Slice attempt, and when Kruger follows he gets thrown into the ring steps.
The Real American focuses his attacks on Kruger's back, but when a back drop onto the edge of the ring and a gutwrench suplex on the ramp don't net him the countout victory, he unleashes a sick flurry of Europeans. Leo manages to reverse out of Neutralizer AND kick out of Swiss Death, forcing Cesaro to wrench in the chin lock, even dropping down to work it while scissoring the body with his legs from behing. The Afrikaner deserves an Emmy for his sale of the hold, frothing spittle from his mouth before he thrashes to his feet. Once there, he's pulled into a huge lariat and the Neutralizer finishes him.
Post-match Antonio nudges Kruger with the tip of his boot, like he's making sure the monster from the horrow movie is dead. Then he goes up top and brings down a drop knee to the throat - maybe this feud continues?
Charlotte defeats Santana Garrett
in approximately three minutes via pinfall
Funny story - back when I was still working "under the mask" as the commenter known as s1rude, I wrote something on another site about, among other things, how impressed I was with Garrett's match against Sara Del Rey on a Gabe Sapolsky show (I think it was the Evolve with Sami Zayn's orphan-loving cousin). One of the regular columnists on that site highlighted it in his feature piece and said "get this guy his own column". So, in a way, Santana is why you have me as your NXT recapper today. (And...I have just driven off the remaining 1/3 of my readers by putting myself over with an anecdote they don't care about. My work here is done.)
I was not impressed with much of anything in this match. But, hey, Bayley accompanied Charlotte to the ring and Renee Young was on commentary!
Ric's little girl is still distractingly odd shaped, but she does look better as a brunette, I think.
This thing just never gets going, and really just looks like a series of disconnected spots. And several of them are so sloppy it's hard to tell who was on offense in the move. After some armbar and drag acrobatics, Garrett gets in some strikes before Charlotte slaps her with a rough looking chop and uses her kind of cool looking but still way too contrived Charlotte's Web roll-up for a near fall.
Business picks up a little as Summer Rae and Sasha Banks stroll down to ringside. Renee Young tells us that she doesn't like mean girls, and I spend a few minutes trying to decide if I want her to get put into an angle or not.
Banks comes up the stairs to distract Charlotte and the non-roster worker almost gets a pinfall out of it. Despite our being told by Tom Phillips that she doesn't want to be compared to her father, the "Nature Girl" WOOs her way into a comeback, hitting her somersault cutter to end it.
The First Lady of NXT grabs a microphone and puts over herself and her new running buddy, The Boss of NXT, as BFFs - beautiful, fierce females. Just as she says that Paige is "officially out" thanks to Banks, the Anti-Diva runs in and clips Sasha from behind. The numbers game pulls the Brit under, and no sooner has the crowd started chanting her name than Emma runs in to make the save.
Another promo for Mojo Rawley runs, preparing us for his debut match next. It almost makes him seem like a motivational speaker - kind of a more over-the-top version of Titus O'Neil's character from the old reality competition-ish NXT.
Tony Dawson catches up with the BFFs backstage, and they take issue with his saying that Paige "embarrassed" them. Summer dispatches him to tell the Women's champ and the Australian dancer that they challenge them to a tag match...and to fix his tie. Love you, First Lady.
Mojo Rawley defeats Danny Burch
in approximately two and a half minutes via pinfall
Burch kind of looks like Frankie Kazarian. Rawley kind of looks like a lost Bushwacker.
Mojo is Dean Muhtadi, a former University of Maryland football player who was signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent before finishing his cup of coffee in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals. He runs full steam around and through the ring before the bell. Because, you know, he stays hyped. The crowd does seem to get caught up in his energy, and to enjoy chanting "stay hyped".
The UK native is in the driver's seat for most of the match, with strikes and rest holds before a shoulder block on a charge creates some space for Rawley. He splashes Burch out a three-point stance, and then does two ass-based moves, one straight from Naomi's arsenal - the Rear View and a running seated senton.
Not much to go on. He certainly seems committed to the gimmick - whatever it is, exactly.
Paige and Emma are sort of talking, when Dawson comes in with Summer's challenge. They accept, as Emma dances in the Diva of Tomorrow's face and says that she is only the champ "for now". The Aussie threatens to steal the whole scene at the end, but then Paige slips in an "Emma, I will hurt you". These two are great together - can't wait to see the Wo-Mega Powers explode!
Slyvester Lefort's Legionnaires defeat Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady
in approximately three minutes via submission when Amore taps to Alexander Rusev
Lefort introduces Scott Dawson and the big Bulgarian as they enter to what I presume is Dawson's honky-tonk sounding theme. Both of the New Yorkers have mics and cut a standard entrance promo for them (guess what they believe the consistency of the Legionnaires to be?), but Enzo does have a nice ad lib about Cheers when the audience chants for him.
The big men brawl to a draw before Big Cas tags in his partner. Amore dodges Rusev for a minute before launching an ill-planned crossbody. Alexander delivers several knees to his gut while carrying him to his corner for the tag. Dawson gets a couple of nearfalls off of basic manuevers like elbows, knees and suplexes. When the last attempt looks like it might be successful Cassady breaks it up.
Rusev dumps Colin from the ring and then is tagged in as the legal man. He avalanches Enzo in the gut, then slaps him in his Camel Clutch - now called The Accolade - for the win.
He tosses the little guy to the floor as his partner rolls the big man in for the same treatment. The heels celebrate over him.
Zayn-Young 'shipper alert! Sami is set for an interview with RY, and he's wearing a nice Rancid tee/blazer combo for the segment. He's being his usual likeable self when the champ interrupts to say that Zayn hurt his feelings last week when he snuck into the Bo Dallas Invitational. Rather than fight, Dallas thinks they should tag up and go after The Ascension. Sami thinks that's a great idea...right after he wins the belt next week. BD finds his behavior "Un-Bo-lievable".
Rob Van Dam defeats Aiden English
in approximately five and a half minutes via pinfall
The Artiste, as we're now calling him, sings his way to the ring with a new song that still ends with his trademark "Double-U, Double-U, Eeee" notes. It's still great, especially the line about kicking guys in the teeth until money comes out their rear. He's also definitely being presented as a heel, and the crowd reacts as such.
Doesn't hurt that the production does a good job making Van Dam's appearance feel like a really big deal. He's announced by Ricardo Rodriguez and gets a victory lap, high-fiving the crowd before the bell.
After pulling Rob down by his hair at the opening lock-up, it's all RVD early. English is theatrically upset by the audience's support of the main roster guy, and that gives the ECW original an opening for a bunch of his spots - including a big leap onto the floor followed by a painful looking leg drop on Aiden's face as it was draped off the apron.
The Artiste leads a comedic chase after asking for time and eventually gets the upper hand by kicking the second rope to crotch Van Dam as he's climbing back into the ring. He screams "this is my show!" before connecting with a nice suplex for a two count.
Not unlike a Damien Sandow or Fandango match, much of the enjoyment comes from English playing his character as opposed to his work rate. If he's going to climb any higher than those men, he'll have to show a little more in the ring, but for now he's getting over with what they've shown. And it is really fun stuff.
The Whole F'n Show blocks another suplex after a rest hold and then gets his leg up to stop his head from being smashed into the turnbuckle. That starts his finishing sequence, as Rolling Thunder sets up the Five-Star Frog Splash and we wrap with RVD and Ricardo soaking in the love.
I don't read spoilers, so nobody tell me how this goes:
Another good not great show. It's weird how they've structured them lately to have the best match open each episode.
If you haven't already, give it a watch yourself. Then let us know what you thought!