Okay NXT, I guess we can be BFFs again.
WWE's developmental show, produced in Florida at Full Sail University and beamed to the world every Wednesday night on the HuluPlus service, finally gave me the El Local appearance they've been promising on Feb. 20th. And, after several weeks focused on the tournament to crown the first tag team champs, spent a great deal of time setting up and advancing storylines outside of that division.
Our open is one of the beautifully done video packages we expect from WWE across all their shows. This one hypes Oliver Gray and Adrian Neville's victory in the tag tournament finals last week and puts over the importance of championships in NXT as a stepping stone to the big leagues.
Yoshi Tatsu, the most exuberant enhancement talent since Barry Horowitz skipped out to a disco version of Hava Nagila, makes his way to the ring as the announce team of William Regal and Tom Phillips introduce themselves and prime us for a non-title clash between Conor O'Brian and the NXT champ, Big E Langston, in tonight's main event.
Out next are the losers of last week's final match, the Wyatt Family.
Bray Wyatt defeats Yoshi Tatsu
in approximately one and a half minutes via pinfall
- Bray is accompanied by Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. He's wearing an apron, and that's made even creepier by the fact that nobody mentions it. He slowly unties and removes it before the bell.
- This is the former Husky Harris' first singles match since August of 2012. He did get involved in some physicality with Bo Dallas post-match a couple of weeks ago, but it's reassuring to see he won't be transitioning to managing full-time. He is a tank with a Ferrari engine, after all.
- This is as squashy as squashes get. Yoshi's slaps and kick have zero effect and then he eats the bigger man's swinging reverse STO (which needs a name) and the pin. Adding insult to injury, Wyatt tosses him through the ropes before grabbing a microphone.
The pater familias calls his charges to the ring and berates them for their loss after he was ejected from ringside last week. He tells Rowan that Harper let him down and asks him to hit him. After restraining Luke, he asks if he is tired of carrying Erick and instructs both men to wail on each other. After a few seconds of this, all three smile maniacally and promise to move on from their defeat. No hints yet as to who or what they're moving on to, however.
Renee Young is backstage with Sasha Banks. They continue to make a big deal of Banks' win over former Diva's champ Alicia Fox - and her secret admirer. I'm wrong about the identity of said paramour (and I couldn't be happier about it) as Audrey Marie attacks the petite diva from behind. AM tells her to get out of NXT. With love, of course, since she is her secret admirer.
Xavier Woods defeats El Local
in approximately five minutes via pinfall
- The way Regal describes the red-clad luchadore, it occurs to me that he's kind of working El Generico's gimmick already. Just the cocky tweener jobber version of it. The skin-tight suit doesn't do him any favors, but does work with the character.
- Woods (who some of you may know as TNA's Consequences Creed) dances his way out. Part of his entrance is that his hair, worn in an afro, is dripping wet and when he gets to ring he whips his head back and creates a mini-shower. It fits with the other things I don't get, stemming from the bizarre Bell Biv Devoe discman segment from a few episodes ago. Phillips calls him a "walking 90s TV show", whatever that means. He's like Urkel meets Humpty Hump.
- The two put on a fast-paced, fun match. Local takes control with a couple of unique moves like dodging a charge by jumping up in order to stomp his opponent's back and turning an Irish whip into a baseball slide that he uses to kick Woods in the head. He works over the midsection while in control, and Regal explains the psychology as making it hard for Xavier to get his breath.
- Quick turnaround as the funky babyface is motivated by the crowd to comeback, and finishes the masked wrestler off with a spinning DDT from the second rope.
Backstage interviewer Young is earning her paycheck this week, as we get a quick segment with Paige's doctor explaining the extent of the Anti-Diva's arm and shoulder injuries.
Audrey Marie defeats Sasha Banks
in approximately three minutes via pinfall
- I call dibs on Audrey Marie in the cSs crush fantasy league. She's got a more athletic, young Mickie James thing going on that is just...mmm-mmm-mmm.
- Snopp Dogg's little cousin is fuming about the sneak attack and charges into the ring and right into a nice knee and slam from the Arizona gal. Most of the match is Audrey holding Banks in a half-nelson. She heels it up by yelling at the smaller woman and the crowd throughout.
- The plucky newcomer gets in a nice headscissors takedown counter, but is polished off by a face-first slam that is identified as the "Photo Finish". It's a convincing enough finisher, but the set-up needs work. It looked here like Banks jumped backwards at Audrey Marie in the middle of the ring for no discernible reason.
Hey, look - Renee Young! She's got a mic on Summer Rae this time. The blonde diva delivers a disappointing interview (considering how much I enjoyed her first few promos) where she comes off as the lost member of Lay-Cool or The Beautiful People. She dismisses Paige after taking credit for injuring her, and tells Renee that she is to be referred to only as "the First Lady of NXT".
Tony Dawson is in-ring as interview-a-palooza continues. Tyson Kidd makes his way down on crutches with a serious brace on his right leg. Kidd talks about hurting the knee and competing on it the next night. In a nice bit of continuity, Dawson asks him about being mentioned as a workhorse by CM Punk during his promo on Raw at the start of his feud with The Rock. "Workhorse" may be his nickname when he comes back the way they're playing it up here.
The Canadian speaks about respecting Punk and his own time in Stu Hart's Dungeon when he's interrupted by Leo Kruger. The South African cuts a quick, chilling promo about how Tyson should have "stayed away" before getting in the ring and kicking his good leg out from under him. Kidd is rescued by another South African and his International Airstrike partner, Justin Gabriel, presumable to set-up a beef between the countrymen.
Conor O'Brain versus Big E Langston
ends in a "No Contest" due to a double disqualification in approximately six minutes
- Tomfoolery was telegraphed for this when they announced it as non-title to start the show. The back story is that NXT commissioner Dusty Rhodes made the "special challenge" match to address O'Brian's claims that Langston had never been tested. I guess fending off all three members of The Shield to win the belt doesn't count.
- Big E, the owner of the catchiest entrance theme since Booker T, gets the crowd going with a "Five" chant as he and The Ascension stare one another down. A couple of lock-ups are indecisive, and the two bulls glare and scream from their corners before charging to get things going for real.
- Many punches are traded, and the taller O'Brian's are a lot more realistic looking. Conor takes control by sidestepping a charge that causes the champ to hit the ring post with his shoulder. A couple of minutes of rest holds are broken up by an impressive looking full nelson slam on the 300+ pound Langston.
- Big E sells the shoulder injury through his comeback, which consists of knees and clotheslines. A full-on brawl ensues. The referee tries to break it up by getting in between the two men. This comes off more humorously than I assume was planned. The crowd's laughter quickly turns to jeers when he calls for the bell and announces the double DQ.
Surprisingly for two men who wanted to club each other senseless a moment before, the champ and O'Brian seem to accept this and stare each other down as Conor heads up the ramp.
Langston is handed his belt when Corey Graves races in from the crowd and hits AJ's buddy in the back of his head. Graves then runs off with the strap.
Belt theft! Who ever heard of such a thing?
Big E is too winded to make chase, so he just sticks with glaring as Corey exits the same way O'Brian did seconds before.
We knew it wasn't going to be clean when they said the belt wasn't on the line, but even given that, the ending of this was the weak sauce. But it does set-up several different ways they can go with the singles championship, and that's a good thing.
Lackluster performances in service of the greater narrative was kind of the theme this week. For NXT, that earns a B- minus grade. But it's still an episode that you're going to want to catch, as taking the time to move things along for a bunch of different characters is refreshing in the current pro wrestling landscaping (at least among those with programs airing nationwide).
Makes you wonder why, if they can do it in 45 minutes a week, they can't do the same thing with two or three hours?
How about it, Cagesiders? Agree or disagree with my grade? Impressed with their juggling of so many balls at once, or do I give them too much praise for simply delivering the basics? Let's hear from you!