A pair of visitors from the main shows round out a mixed tag match for the ages, the tag belts are on the line and Bo Dallas holds his "Invitational" to determine who, if anyone, will challenge for his belt in two weeks. How was the first show of the JBL-era of NXT? Read on to find out.
Video package for Fandango narrated by the departed Tony Dawson leads into the theme song. This must be prior to his departure, as Dawson is our play-by-play man with Alex Riley on color commentary.
Renee Young is on stage to find out who Emma's partner will be for her mixed tag match with the First Lady of NXT and her main roster dance partner. Pretty sure there are few things in pro wrestling right now that could make me smile more than RY, the Aussie and Santino Marella on the same stage.
Emma & Santino Marella defeat Summer Rae & Fandango
in approximately ten minutes via pinfall when Santino pins Fandango
The match time is only about two-thirds of the segment, and I won't go to war over ten minutes as an accurate bell-to-bell measurement, as very little of what makes this match great is work rate-related. Before the faces' entrances even start, I was giggling to myself over Emma and Santino's awkward exchange of greetings, as they couldn't decide whether to hug or high-five. The hijinks continued when they are similarly befuddled about whether to dance or power walk to the ring. They end up compromising on a hybrid power stride with the Emma dance's hand motions.
Santino tries to follow Fandango's corner pose with one of his own, but falls off the second rope. At the urging of the crowd (we can kiss and make-up NXTzone, we both love the Milan Miracle), he does it again, climbing each rope until the audience warns him off of trying from the top rope.
A tease of a sleeveless Cobra sends the dancer scurrying out of the ring, and E & S work to turn her Cobra attempt into the Emma Dance. Everyone but the heels is happy as we head to commercial with nary a lick of wrestling having occurred.
Renee Young joins commentary early in the match, and is immediately better than pretty much everyone else currently doing pro wrestling commentary anywhere. My only knock on her work or the match is that I wasn't able to pay as much attention to either as I wanted to since they were going on simultaneously. I'd have rather seen the match with no announcers and had Renee work the tag title match.
This is just a clinic in "the little things" and should be shown to anyone who thinks that comedy wrestling won't work in the mainstream or that wrestling should be serious all the time. The Abbott and Costello bit where Santino high-fives his partner, which the referee construes as a tag, causing Fandango to have to exit the ring due to mixed-tag rules...just go watch it.
Okay, last bit that I'll just explain because it was awesome. When Fandango does get the upper hand, he climbs up top for his leg drop, but Marella rolls to the other side of the ring. 'Dango chases him across to the other side, climbs up...and Santino does it again. Twice.
90% of this is the men, but after failing once, the former Intercontinental champ kips up to tag Emma. Lance Storm's student locks in the Dil-emma and hits her low crossbody, before making RY jealous by getting the Cobra sock from her partner. Due to her taking too long to set it up, she turns right into an angry Summer Rae, and we get the rolling catfight portion of the show.
The Australian knocks Summer into her corner while Fandango was reaching for a tag, causing him to flop into the ring. That sets up the do-gooders to do a tandem version of Marella's patented split dodge, hip toss, falling head butt combo. Emma gives the Italian-Canadian his sock back and a nerve strike earns them a W.
MATCH OF THE YEAR! (Only kind of joking)
The Ascension hype their title shot later in the show. My only takeaway from this was Conor O'Brian saying they want to take the tag belts to "their home". Playing up some interstellar origins for the duo would go a long way to getting me interested in them again.
Luke Harper defeat Kassius Ohno
in approximately three minutes via pinfall
Both men come out to a big pop; maybe there are a lot of folks from Snakebite, Florida in the audience? Not sure if they have been announcing Harper or any of the Wyatts as being from there on Raw or Smackdown, but that's where he hails from for this contest.
KO does look a little trimmer. He's still got some love handles, but a man of his height and style can get away with that. As has been said often, if the stories about his de-push are true, he doesn't need to be buff. He just needs to do what his bosses tell him to do.
There's enough back and forth at the start to make you want to see more of this pairing, but not enough to dispell any rumors of Ohno being in the doghouse. He gets some momentum going with his impressive array of strikes a couple of times, but both are turned back and he gets ended clean with a sick lariat.
Enzo and Big Cas with an interview spot. Amore says they were "as close as Siamese twins" to being the #1 contenders for the tag team titles. This is an interesting promo, as Colin Cassady does most of the talking and acquits himself well. I'm not sure I buy him as the brains of the operation, but it may just be the shift from how they've been presented to date. Much of the time is spent with Enzo muttering to himself trying to figure out why Cas referenced The Legionnaires (this is directed at setting up a program between the two teams) not being able to handle hard tacos (hint: they like the S-A-double U-F-T kind).
A hype video airs for Mojo Rawley, who I think we have only seen in the occasional battle royal and lumberjack match. His gimmick is that he "STAYS HYPE". Good luck with that, man.
The Ascension defeat Corey Graves & Adrian Neville
in approximately eleven and a half minutes via pinfall when Conor O'Brian pins Graves
to become the new NXT Tag Team Champions
Despite having held the title for almost three months (broadcast time), Graves and Neville still enter separately, and to their own music. I have no real sense of how or why they work together, and their matches reflect this - often feeling like two singles matches mushed together rather than a tag match. I have to believe that creative had the same sense and that played into the decision here. But I also have no idea where either man goes next.
Like most of the champs matches, Neville starts and does acrobatic things. He then tags in his partner, who lands a couple of punches before he gets flapjacked by O'Brian and proceeds to get worked over for the next ten minutes.
This match is a long dud for me, and don't let the first couple of bullets fool you, there's plenty of blame to go around. Conor does a couple of impressive big man things - my personal favorite this time is rocking himself back multiple times with Corey in a leg scissors hold to slam him down into the mat - but The Ascension is in the driver's seat for a long time and almost nothing noteworthy happens. Rick Victor is one of the more vanilla guys I've seen. He looks like he should be fast or a high-flier, but he's mostly just a technician and striker. And an average one at that.
O'Brian's tights are weird. They've got a Lite Brite, starfield thing going on. They don't look great, but maybe someday he'll cut a promo about his space pants. That would be cool.
Eventually, the Savior of Misbehavior (who we never see or hear about misbehaving) dodges a charge and makes a tag that A-Ry is strangely very excited about. Neville does his educated feet thing, sending both Ascensioners to the floor so he can dive onto them. He connects with a springboard crossbody to Rick after shoving him back in, but Conor manages to pull his partner away from the Red Arrow.
Victor gets a near fall on the wounded Brit, but Graves breaks that up. He drags his partner back to their corner in full view of the ref and tags himself in - that was kind of misbehaving. Not one to stay down, Corey sets up for his chop block, but runs into a drop kick from Victor. After a tag, the evil duo hit their high/low finisher. There's a mini-botch where RV goes for the cover, but O'Brian realizes he's the legal man and pulls him off before pinning the champ himself.
I'm really not excited about the tag division in developmental. Hopefully the new champs, E & C (the next generation) and The Fighting Legionnaires can grow in their gimmicks and in the ring.
The Bo Dallas Invitational
The champ's opening promo isn't as smooth as his recent ones, but it reminds us that he's a douchebag before this segment starts. A nameless, skinny jobber guy heads down to the ring to "Let's go this guy" chants from the crowd.
This guy almost rolls Bo up, which prompts him to get serious and beat the newcomer down - hitting a spear (has he dropped the belly-to-belly thing?) to win in about a minute.
Surprisingly, Leo Kruger responds when Dallas says that he didn't even break a sweat and asks for real competition. The Bo-lievers can sense the champ's trepidation, but the sounds of Patriot fill the arena as Antonio Cesaro heads down to answer the call, too.
The heels duke it out for the right to take on Bo, with Cesaro eventually cheap shotting the South African from the ring. Dallas knocks him out from behind, and starts gloating...when a strangely thin El Local heads down the ramp...
A flustered Dallas charges at the luchador, but misses. While he regroups, Local lands a move that looks a lot like Sami Zayn's Yakuza kick. As the crowd chants "Sí", the masked man pins the champ to earn a title shot in two weeks.
At the crowd's behest, El Local takes off his mask. Bai Gawd! That's Sami Zayn! The arena goes nuts for El Z-ocal, and we're out.
Check it out for your own self.
The opener earns a lot of goodwill, and the end took a fun path to a predictable outcome. But the tag team match was really unimpressive and prevents a top score.
Your turn, CSS, you know what to do.