Last week's double disqualification in the match between NXT champ Big E Langston and Conor O'Brian, and subsequent belt theft by Corey Graves, left more questions than answers about the NXT main event scene.
We set out to get some resolution on Feb. 27th via HuluPlus (here in the States, anyway) with commissioner Dusty Rhodes talking in his office with Royal Rumble tournament winner Bo Dallas. Dream is putting over Dallas' recent success on Raw, when in walks Corey Graves and his bleach-splattered denim vest.
Rhodes called him in to return the strap, which he reluctantly does. Graves still believes he was robbed of the title by The Shield way back when Seth Rollins was still the champ. Dusty says that Bo is an example of NXT stars earning things, unlike Corey, who steals them. He makes a triple threat match between the two and Conor O'Brian as tonight's main event.
This excites Tony Dawson, one half of our announce team, and he and William Regal settle in to call the action.
Justin Gabriel defeats Leo Kruger
in approximately twelve minutes via pinfall
- Gabriel out first, accompanied by and to the introduction package of his tag team partner, Tyson Kidd. This is a carry over from last week when Justin saved the hobbled Canadian from an attack by his fellow South African.
- To paraphrase Cagesider knastymike, "Leo Effin' Kruger". Get this guy a call-up ASAP. He's ready, and at 33, isn't getting any younger. He glares at Kidd as he enters, keeping with the hunter stalking the wounded animal angle from last week. I still get creeped out thinking about how he delivered the line, "you should have stayed away, Mister Kidd".
- Surprisingly methodical, ground-based pace to the first half of the match. Tyson is audibly coaching Justin throughout, and Regal plays this up as their respecting Kruger and his ability to capitalize on mistakes.
- William Regal's commentary is a reason to seek this show out, folks. I enjoy JBL as much as the next fan, but the former Lord Steven is on a whole 'nother level. And he's bringing Dawson up with him. They've established an entertaining banter and Tony is noticeably better than he was a few months ago. They've got a running bit about lariats versus clotheslines that cracks me up. #AnnouncerMark
- Leo takes control off of a nice spinebuster and, after throwing the Capetown werewolf into the ring post, sets to working over his left arm. Gabriel gets off a few kick-based comeback attempts, but the hunter stays in control until he sets up for a superplex that Justin counters into a sunset flip. That sets up the 450° splash and the win. The former Nexus and Corre member hooks the leg with his right arm and still sells the injury to his left throughout the pin. Great stuff.
Post-match, Kruger knocks the wind out of the victor with one of the Workhorse's crutches. They are definitely pushing CM Punk's description of Kidd as a nickname. I'd rather be called a winner, but hopefully it works out for the Dungeon graduate.
Aksana defeats Emma
in approximately five minutes via pinfall
- The Lithuanian is out first, and is wearing a black bodysuit this week. I'm sorry, what were we talking about?
- I've only seen the 23 year old Australian, Emma, once before. It was without much fanfare and I mocked her music and dancing gimmick. Well, when they give the shiela a minute, it becomes clear that she's playing a kind of Jillian Hall's character who believes herself to be an excellent dancer when she is not. And it's pretty dang funny. She's a promising comedy heel - she botches pulling herself over the ropes on her entrance, stumbles off the apron during the match....all to a great reaction from the crowd. It would be fantastic if the women's division expanded and was given enough time to allow for this kind of character.
- The match itself is no great shakes. Aksana does her power moves, including a nice spinebuster. Emma is obviously still learning, but is a natural at connecting with the audience. That and her commitment to the character makes for a fun contest, one that ends when she starts dancing to gloat while setting up a maneuver, allowing the former fitness model to hit a slam and get the win.
- The main issue with this one was that Aksana was just a heel, but here she's called on to work face. Emma was recently a babyface jobber, but here she's a rudo. The vet seems to get confused, delivering a kick to her downed opponent before heading out to slap hands with fans on her way out. No wonder the ladies seem to get stuck. Between the lack of time they're given and the inconsistency in how they're presented, it's got to be hard to get in any kind of a rhythm.
Dawson throws it to Renee Young backstage for some breaking news. Referees and medical staff are attending to a knocked out Bo Dallas. Who could have done such a thing? And what ramifications does it hold for our main event?
Conor O'Brian versus Corey Graves
end in a "No Contest" after approximately ten minutes due to interference
- At this point, I'm assuming my fellow Pittsburgher has taken out Dallas to make this a one-on-one affair. Regal confirms my other thought, that this will now be a heel vs heel affair when he alludes to neither man being a fan favorite at Full Sail Live.
- The smaller man tries to attack the legs of "The Ascension" (and that's a weird nickname for O'Brian to have with no partner or backstory, but I guess they were already invested in it), but Conor gets and keeps control for the first act of the match. He manages to turn rest holds into attacks, like a series of rolling slams while maintaining a side headlock, keeping it interesting.
- In between commercial breaks, the savior of misbehavior takes over, going for submission attempts in between stomping on body parts to establish those attempts. I'm on record as not being sold on Graves, but he works a fundamentally solid, psychology-based ring style that fits his overall character. The big man is pretty great here, too, as he never seems tempted to tap out, either grimacing through the hold or applying his own painful move to force Corey to break.
- They brawl to the outside and O'Brian regains his feet and seems poised to make a comeback when...the lights go out! What's going on here? BAI GAWD, IT'S THE SHIELD!
Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins destroy both men. Graves is the first to eat a three-man power bomb, but O'Brian gets to go right after. They kick the number one pretenders from the ring before Ambrose calls for a mic.
This was a friendly reminder that you can't run from justice, he says. Rollins, who still gets a big pop from this crowd, promises the crowd that they will make things better, but they're going to get worse first. If we don't believe him, we should ask Sheamus, or John Cena, or Ryback (Ambrose's choral response of "ask him" after Seth says each name is pretty much perfect). Reigns yells something about believing in them while I weep silently in fear.
Regal theorizes the first NXT champ doesn't want anyone to hold the belt if he can't while the paramilitary-garbed trio head out and the show ends.
WOOO - I didn't see that coming, but I did enjoy marking out by myself in front of a computer in the wee hours of the morning. I should probably be more upset about a second straight schmoz in a main event dealing with the championship, but...BELIEVE IN THE SHIELD
Like I said, there are undoubtedly nits I'm neglecting to pick, but the opener was really good, the women delivered the fun and some justice done got served: A- is the grade.
Is the possibility of more Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins enough to get you Americans to shell out $7.99/month to Comcast/Disney/NewsCorp for a HuluPlus subscription? Is Bo Dallas' run with the big dogs over? Will we ever see the tag champs again?
Let's talk it out in the comments!