I will endeavor to not allow the lack of a promised El Local appearance to effect my analysis and grade of WWE NXT this week, dear readers.
Luckily, the program that streamed to us via HuluPlus on Feb. 6th had a lot going for it. Both semi-finals of the tag team tournament, a useful squash in service of the burgeoning feud for the NXT championship and more diva drama than you get in a month's worth of Raw.
The show opened with Tony Dawson and some slickly produced graphics hyping the tournament to crown the first NXT tag team champions. We'll start right off with the match-up I'm most excited about:
"British Ambition" of Oliver Grey and Adrian Neville defeats Leo Kruger and Kassius Ohno in approximately fifteen minutes via pinfall when Neville pins Ohno
- We're not informed about the name of Grey and Neville's team until later in the show, but I couldn't wait to share it with you all. I find it so lazy and uninspired that it's been stuck in my craw since I heard it. There is no reason these guys shouldn't be singles stars, though, so hopefully it's a short-lived moniker. They come out to generic pop music and a trinatron graphic that doesn't feature either of their names.
- Maybe it's all the talk about physiques, but I'm still stuck on the debate. Kassius looks better this week. I don't know if it's the color (blue versus last week's yellow) or the size of the trunks, but they're a much better look. He's still an everyman, Clint Eastwood in Any Which Way But Loose-looking brawler, but he looks a lot less sloppy. The young Brit and Kruger and well-defined but naturally so. And Adrian is a freak - I don't know if I've ever seen someone his size that cut, but if gravity forgot him, maybe the laws of biology did, too.
- William Regal does his usual superlative job putting over everyone involved, especially Neville and Ohno. Of the Newcastle native, he says that he's not like other high fliers, "he hurts people".
- Solid grappling by all four men, with an early showcase for the former Pac as Grey locks Ohno's arm while standing and Neville lands a two-legged stomp on the elbow from the top rope. Kassius shows off his strength by fighting a roll-up attempt and dragging Oliver to the corner. When Grey does attempt the pin, Kruger is already the legal man. From there, OG is isolated for a long while as the hipster and the South African work his mid-section with strikes and stretches.
- I like that Kassius Ohno's team also has the initials 'KO'. I realized that on my own. The announce team hasn't thought to inform us of it yet. I also like their dynamic. Ohno spends time from the apron directing Kruger and calling the offense, as it were.
- When Neville gets in, things start to move fast. He turns a handspring escape into an elbow that knocks Kruger from the apron. Kassius takes the opportunity to level him with a big boot, but squanders that momentum when he taunts Regal and hurls the mouthguard he knocked from Adrian's mouth at the commentary booth.
- The Jumpin' Geordie splashes that young knockout kid on the outside, and throws him back in to the ring as he sets up for his finisher. Grey prevents Kruger from interfering, and the typically impressive corkscrew shooting star press earns the babyfaces a spot in the finals.
A flashback to last week reminds us of what happened between Paige and the ring announcer after last week's Diva's contest. Renee Young interviews Summer Rae, the ring announcer, backstage.
The blonde cuts a pretty great promo - she's confident, clear and can switch between her announcing voice and her natural one (don't worry, she's not doing a Kennedy...KENNEDY gimmick). My only complaint is that it seems her issues with the Anti-Diva have to do with her being "prettier" than the "ghastly" Paige. Every once in a while that's a fine issue for either gender, but most WWE women's feuds and every one I've seen Paige have seem to be about it.
Rae even manages to make a closing catch phrase, "Summer school is always in session" sound fairly bad ass instead of ridiculous.
Conor O'Brian defeats Mike Dalton in approximatley a minute via pinfall
- Dalton with the jobber entrance. We're told that he's fast and was trained by Lance Storm. If I can be serious for a minute...this guy is gonna get killed.
- "The Ascension" is now O'Brian's nickname. The entrance is toned down; there's some blacklighting and music and scary faces, but it's not the same.
- Dalton lands some kicks that are not sold. Conor does a few power moves before hitting a leg drop(!?!?) finisher called 'The Fall of Man'. He demands a five count from the referee and does a pretty hilarious imitation of NXT champ Big E Langston's histrionics post-match.
Which brings out the champ himself and his boss music. The two snarl and make faces at each other, then Langston hits the Big Ending on Dalton. He doesn't cover him though, so I guess The Ascension wins the battle of the five count?
Paige is backstage yelling at NXT Commissioner Dusty Rhodes. She's upset about what happened with Summer Rae. Her shreiking delivery kind of makes it sound like she's gonna cry. She will "rip the lips straight off of her face" in or out of the ring, and if Rhodes doesn't make sure it happens in the ring next week, the alabaster-skinned lass will make sure there is no NXT.
Dream switches from ineffective to full Lawler-leering mode as Sasha Banks arrives when Paige storms off. He congratulates her on her debut victory two weeks back, and then gives her another note from her secret admirer. He asks that she read it out loud, coming off more creepy uncle than schoolgirl conspirator. The note rhymes and stuff and promises some PDA to celebrate next week's Valentine's Day show.
An NFL Films style video of the Royal Rumble Fan Fest event that determined the NXT entrant into the Rumble match is next. I thought it was a mini-Rumble elimination match; turns out it was an elimination tournament. Guess I wasn't paying attention.
- In the first round, Adrian Neville defeated Corey Graves; Leo Kruger beat Xavier Woods; Conor O'Brian went over Oliver Grey; and Bo Dallas pinned Luke Harper.
- Kruger submits Neville in one semi after he avoids a corkscrew shooting star press; Dallas rolls up O'Brian in the other to pin the bigger man.
- Dallas completes his underdog road to the Rumble by kicking out of everything Kruger throws at him before hitting his weird arm drag/spear/belly-to-belly suplex finisher.
Back at Full Sail Live, IRS' baby boy is prepping for his match backstage when he's interupted by his big brother, Bray Wyatt. This is a nice if unspectacular continuation of the Rumble event. Bray congratuates Bo on his 15 minutes of fame. The latter responds that he's looking forward to continuing to prove that time is up for the Wyatt Family.
The Wyatt Family of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan defeat Bo Dallas and Michael McGillicutty in approximately six minutes via pinfall when Harper pins McGillicutty
- The good guy team is out first. Much to the chagrin of Michael's McGillibuddies like myself everywhere, they're out to Bo's entrance.
- Harper and Rowan lumber out; this big E drags his patriarch's rocker down the ramp so he can watch the match. Regal mentions that he has tried to find out more about Bray Wyatt and he can't. IT'S AS IF HE DOESN'T EXIST. Eh, maybe not, but they're getting over the creepy factor of the Family.
- After a minute of back-and-forth, Dallas is isolated. He plays the longshot role well, and his attempts to get to his corner are met with slams and other power maneuvers from the big men. He falls out of a lift from Rowan and into the tag.
- Mr. Intensity cleans house with his usual mix of speed and power highlighted by an impressive throw of the redbeard out of a suplex. As he gears up for a charge, Wyatt grabs his leg. The ref confronts him and throws him out, but the distracting tactic works. The official missed McGillicutty's pin on Rowan and Harper's version of the clothesline from hell knocks Michael loopy. The dolt in the striped shirt returns to record Erick's pin.
Bray is back to offer his hand to Bo post-match. When Dallas rejects him by slapping it away, Wyatt sends the boys down to the ring for some after the bell action. With his back turned to protect his partner from Harper and Rowan, the Family's leader splashes onto Dallas in the corner before dancing with his limp body and kissing him on the head while setting up his swinging reverse STO finisher. He screams "this is only the beginning" as the group exits up the ramp.
So, despite the lack of Ricardo Rodriguez's alter-ego, NXT earns an A- for their latest effort. A great match to open the show, advancement of all the main stories and an intriguing finish make for a really solid 50 minutes of entertainment.
Is there a kayfabe connection between Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt? What do you make of the push Dallas is getting across all WWE media? Let us know about those topics and all things NXT in the comments below!