Nice, long recap of last week's Beat the Clock challenge for the #1 contendership kicks off the show. Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn tied for the fastest time, and will main event tonight's broadcast for a shot at Bo Dallas' title on next week's episode.
After some rock 'n' roll, Renee Young, Tom Phillips and William Regal introduce us to our first competitors.
Yoshi Tatsu vs. Antonio Cesaro
- The Swiss Superman is massively over with the Full Sail smarks, who chant "We The People" louder than Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger (who are not with their stablemate) combined. Cesaro throws the Gadsen flag into the ring, where ring announcer Byron Saxton either steps on it or picks it up without Antonio's permission, leading to some Austin Aries - Christy Hemme action between the two.
- Sir William gets up from the announce table to rescue his sometime play-by-play guy. As AC glares at Regal, Tatsu tries for a roll-up. After a little offense from Yoshi, he is caught in mid-air on a spinning heel kick attempt and slammed to the mat.
- Cesaro gets in his usual offense, including a Swing, while glaring at the commentary booth the whole time. The former Raw Commissioner is running down the same reasons for his feud with Kassius Ohno (and Dean Ambrose before that): he's an old villain and he doesn't want to see a talented youngster haunted by visions of past evil deeds like he is.
- European to the back of the head sets up a sleeper hold. The former United States champion picks Yoshi up for the Neutralizer, pausing to wave at Regal, before finishing off his opponent.
Cesaro defeats Tatsu in approximately three and a half minutes via pinfall
Don't get me wrong - Cesaro vs. Regal will be dope. But I'd rather see Antonio moving up the card on the main shows, and maybe they could come up with a different storyline for why Billy boy gets in the ring with these young upstarts?
Devin Taylor (who, in the spirit of giving her a chance, I won't pick on this week) introduces us to her guest, NXT champion Bo Dallas. Bo is excited to see those "youngsters" Neville and Zayn go at it, but before he can say much more, CJ Parker stumbles into frame sniffing an incense stick. The two banter back and forth (Devin is really good at making sure the microphone is pointed at the person speaking), with Dallas doing a great job of slowly getting pissed off beneath his smarmy, people-pleasing persona. He delivers the line of the segment when his response to Parker saying "I didn't realize I was harshing your mellow" is "I didn't realize you were still employed".
This leads to a non-title match. And that match happens NOW!
CJ Parker vs. Bo Dallas
- This is the first time we've seen the longest reigning champ in NXT history (yep, it's true) hit the ring in a while. And I don't know if it's that my affection for his character work is coloring my perception of his ring work, but I thought he looked really good in there. There's a series where he holds onto The Moonchild's wrist and pulls him into elbow strikes a few times before yanking him into a lariat that was particularly well-done.
- CJP gets a brief turn the wheel with a running double high knee in the corner and a nice facebuster. But when he heads up top, Dallas manages to rack him by hitting the ropes, then hits the corner-climb springboard bulldog for a quick win.
- Bo still needs a finisher. The bulldog is a nice move, but it's too situation-specific to work as a closer. At least I didn't have to watch that God-awful belly-to-belly spear thing.
Dallas defeats Parker in approximately three minutes via pinfall
Emma reveals that she is nursing a head injury allegedly suffered following a recent backstage attack by the Beautiful Firece Females (BFFs). Paige comes in to say that she want the Aussie to heal up so she won't have any excuses when they finally face off for the Women's championship. They re-do their bickering about whether or not hitting each other during post-match run-ins was an accident or not. This is fine, but I'm anxious for their second match. And honestly, I was distracted by their mirrored labret piercings through the whole segment.
After a commercial, we get our second straight segment with the Women's champ. Paige is texting when Total Divas star Natalya rolls up and wants to know what her problem is. The young Brit alleges that Natty isn't taking wrestling seriously anymore, so the Canadian legacy will prove it to her when the have a match for the belt "tonight". That doesn't happen on this show, so I assume they meant it will show up somewhere in this set of tapings.
The segment was fine, and it sets up the obvious Anti-Diva versus reality show cast members angle. I know I'm in the minority, but I'm just not a fan of Paige's character. She comes across as super-bratty. Maybe they're going for "obnoxious teenager who thinks everyone around her is stupid", but that's more of a heel persona to me.
Tyler Breeze vs. Kassius Ohno
- Breeze's fake fur iPhone case is the shiz-nit.
- Ohno is avalanched from behind by Alexander Rusev during his walk to the ring. This is a callback to the segment last week where Lana warned KO that he had angered the big Bulgarian by beating his time in the challenge. Mostly, it makes me wonder why the didn't release Chris Hero during the tapings he missed so we could have skipped these drama-less and kind of depressing "dead man walking" bits.
- The announcers put over Kassius' fighting spirit gimmick, as he waves off the referee and a trainer to get in the ring after the assault. Tyler immediately hits the Beauty
ShopShot and covers to get his win back from last week.
Breeze defeats Ohno in approximately ten seconds via pinfall
All three BFFs are playing hot or not on a smart phone when they hear Bayley coming. Summer Rae and Sasha Banks shoo newest member Charlotte off-screen, as B comes into view and demands to know where she is. The heels play dumb and mock the steamed-yet-still-totally-adorable Bayley (Summer tells her to "go eat donuts in her cat shirt" - I don't even know what that means, but I liked it). They reference the Paige-Emma issues by telling B that what few friends she has can't get along. Bayley then tells them she has another friend, who she'll be bringing to their tag match next week. The First Lady and The Boss are all "wha-huh?" while I'm just hoping it's AJ, for no other reason than my own sick fantasies.
The combatants in our main event are with Ms. Taylor on the interview set. Pretty standard sportsman-like hype segment, mostly notable for how much they let Neville do the talking (he continues to grow into the intensely generic babyface style). Sami plays arrogant and treats Adrian like a bump on his road to the title, and I think we get our first glimpse at what a heel version of the Zayn character might look like.
Hunico & Camacho vs. The Ascension
- I thought they would take some more time to build to this match, but here we are. They're still calling The Ascension by their full names, so I guess the Konnor and Viktor will be revealed/explained later.
- Camacho starts against Rick Victor, and takes charge with a headbutt that leads to his sick standing leg drop. Seriously, dude's vertical leap is sick. A slam and tag sets Rick up to take Hunico's senton, which he follows up with a springboard crossbody for a two-count.
- Victor brings a little more energy and enthusiasm to his in-ring character during this one, which is a nice step up from the catatonically focused way he's worked in the past. He puts the heels in control when he catches Hunico with a clothesline off the ropes.
- Connor O'Brian gets a tag and comes in to maul their opponent for a while. On another tag, they do their team spot where they swing the guy over for a tandem slam, but Camacho distracts the big guy and ends up pulling him down to the floor when they tussle. A distracted Victor gets rolled up by Hunico.
- And now the announcers decide to tell us this was non-title.
Hunico & Camacho defeat The Ascension in approximately four minutes via pinfall when Hunico pins Rick Victor
Remember that nice recap of last week I told you about at the top? Well, they show the exact same two-three minute clip as a lead into the main event. Raw Rebounds may be gone, but their specter looms.
Sami Zayn vs. Adrian Neville
- Neville is out first to his new music. We're informed that Regal has headed back stage to deal with a situation involving Antonio Cesaro. Bo Dallas joins Phillips and Young at announce.
- Bo is pretty awesome here. Repeatedly calling the interim NXT General Manager "Mr. JBL" and telling Renee she's "pretty smart for a
ladyCanadian" were real highlights. But I remain steadfast in my belief that commentary is a bad fit for the lovely Ms. Young. She basically runs an interview with the champ through this whole match, and is detracts from a pretty fantastic contest.
- Sami and Adrian adhere to the Code of Honor, and then start out with some arm-based chain wrestling. Each man gets the better of the other at one point, until Zayn gets a quick takedown and immediately starts working on the high-flier's ankle.
- Neville breaks free of the ankle lock and an insanely fast sequence starts that winds up with Zayn taking a hurricanrana to the floor. When the Brit runs the ropes to dive after him, Sami slips back in and catches him with a back elbow. That sends Adrian to the floor, and the Likeable One does a somersault onto him to take us to commercial.
- You can tell these guys have a long history together, both because this occasionally resembles an indy match with one big spot following another, but also because they look so damn smooth doing it.
AlgerianSyrian-Canadian's moment to shine comes when he catches his opponent in the air when he tries for a cartwheel back elbow, and gets a nearfall with a Blue Thunder Driver. He hits the belly-to-back powerbomb again a few seconds later, but still can't get the pin.
- My favorite Jumpin' Geordie spot comes from another cartwheel set-up, when Neville turns getting caught again into a Dragonrana. That leads to a series where Adrian heads up top for his finisher, but Zayn catches him to tease a superplex. Eventually, the Man that Gravity Forgot punches him down and connects with Red Arrow for a surprising (to me, anyway) victory.
Neville defeats Zayn in approximately eleven and a half minutes via pinfall
Pretty heavy on the backstage talking stuff, but that's necessary to build angles after a month or so of building characters via squashes. That said, the in-ring action was still a little light this week despite a solid main event. And the sooner they can stop trying to pretend that Kassius Ohno will come out on top of any beef he's involved in, the better.
Take some time out of your holiday revelry (or, if you're not American and/or Jewish, your Thursday) to let us know what you thought in the comments below.