The first thing we learn is that NXT Commissioner Dusty Rhodes works out of a NXT lair that is some sort of cross between the Bat-Cave and Santa's house at the North Pole:
Jolly old Saint Dream, aka the Hard-times Detective (if you will), is proud to present to us this HuluPlus streamed, Clash of Champions episode of NXT that features two and a half people who are full-timers on the NXT roster and a bunch of folks from the big leagues. One of whom is defending a belt that he doesn't currently hold.
Antonio Cesaro defeats Adrian Neville
in approximately nine and a half minutes via pinfall to retain the United States Championship
- Even as the announce team of William Regal and Tom Phillips put over the length of Cesaro's reign as United States champion, and the man himself grabs a microphone to call himself the greatest ever to hold that belt and promise to keep the title for a long time, we're given a scroll across the bottom of the screen explaining that this was taped "several weeks ago with the United States Championship on the line."
- Gonna try to not let that loom over my enjoyment of this episode like a storm cloud though. Byron Saxton is giving the introductions the full Buffer treatment. Antonio starts out clowning the challenger a little bit, ending a series of lock-ups and pinning maneuvers by slapping the back of his head, Stooges style ("Three", not "Iggy and the").
- Business picks up quickly with a hurricanrana off the ropes by Neville, where he impressively handsprings back to his feet. Cesaro pouts and stalls for time before turning an attempted monkey flip into a face drop onto the turnbuckle. We head to a commercial with the champ in control.
- Sweet spot where Adrian tries to mount a comeback that includes a crossbody from the ropes, only for Antonio to catch him and hit a backbreaker. The Brit does eventually get the lead when he executes a perfect springboard moonsault to the floor, even landing on his feet.
- A number of near falls follow: a missle drop kick, standing shooting star press and a SICK series where the champ throws Neville up for a what looked to be Swiss Death only for the man that gravity forgot to turn it into a Frankensteiner. Cesaro lands on his head, and is or at least selling being woozy for the remainder of the bout.
- The end comes when Neville dodges a corner charge after taking punches to the mid-section. He connects with a spinning DDT from the second rope, but the Swiss manages to hit the ropes while he gets ready for the corkscrew shooting star press. While the challenger is hurting atop the ropes, he hits a leaping European uppercut and then grabs his opponent for a Neutralizer for the win.
- Great match, and a real showcase for the jumpin' Geordie. Cesaro's current standing with the company still makes me sad and angry, but at least he gets a chance to work like this in a forum where we can appreciate him.
Kaitlyn defeats AJ
in approximately five minutes via pinfall to retain the Divas Championship
- Skipping, head-tilting entrance from the challenger. The crowd loves her, but the champ gets some cheers, too. The Full Sail Live audiences seem to be a good mix of a "smart" crowd and the kind of families and tourists that used to populate the Impact Zone.
- Kaitlyn adheres to the Code of Honor, and AJ accepts. She follows the handshake with a stiff slap to her former co-Chickbuster's mug, though. This only serves to anger the champ, who whips and throws Lee around the ring like a rag-doll.
- AJ works a lot better than I remembered from her limited time as a WWE in-ring performer. The obvious answer that it's her kayfabe boyfriend's influence has some merit, because she's appropriated a good deal of his offense, too. She also shares his tendency to sell everything, some times a little too much. If she's going to wrestle more, though, it will help the matches since she looks much smaller than most of the women she'll be competing against. It would help more if she was a babyface, but, the same has been said for Ziggler and no one outside of the internet wrestling community (IWC) seems to care.
- The Houstonian misses a charge to the corner and AJ's sets to working her shoulder for much of the middle portion of this one's run time. She locks in a Fujiwara armbar and a nifty Dolph-esque backhammer with a bridge (I resisted the temptation to snap any screen shots in this sequence, but if you're so inclined, there are some provocative ones).
- Kaitlyn hits a side slam for two. AJ dumps her to the floor and locks on a sleeper when she slides back in. The champ breaks that and takes a sloppy looking shining wizard for a near fall. Lee loses it a little and goes for some shrieking ground and pound. When the referee tries to force a break, Kaitlyn pushes AJ off the ropes. The rebound moves her right into a stiff-looking spear that brings this one to a close.
- Not bad at all, and does a lot to allay my concerns about a program between the two on television and pay-per-view (PPV).
WARNING - marks with pacemakers or high-blood pressure should skip this next segment.
Tony Dawson greets Chris Jericho in the NXT locker room. Y2J puts over the facilities, saying that if you can't make it in the cushy digs that WWE has set-up for the developmental roster, you won't be able to make it anywhere. As part of the generation that had no choice but to live four to a room in Mexico or Kentucky, there's probably more than a little shoot in that comment from the ayatollah. Jericho says he is still deciding who to face on next week's show.
And then, somebody walks in. For my boy, TMB:
Bray Wyatt introduces himself, still calling himself the Eater of Worlds. He's noticed that Chris has lost a little of his luster lately, and Bray can help him reclaim his former glory - if he "carries the chains of the Wyatt Family".
Jericho says that he's been following the big man's career, and that he's good - but not great. But he'll give him an opportunity to make a name for himself. And if Wyatt can beat him, he'll not only be famous, but the Fozzy frontman will wear Hawaiian shirts, white pant and a fedora as he happily joins the family.
I kind of wish they hadn't telegraphed the outcome with that stipulation, but they've been pretty good about giving the developmental guys impressive performances in losing efforts when facing the big dogs, so the outcome probably wasn't in much doubt anyway.
And you can tell that Jericho loves working with the young guns, as this was one of his best interviews from the last couple of years.
Big E Langston defeats Brad Maddox
in approximately one and a half minutes via pinfall to retain the NXT Championship
- The assistant to the managing supervisor announced himself, Kennedy/Anderson-style. I'll admit to chuckling when he says that he's "Two hundred and ninety-five pounds. Chiseled."
- He offers his hand to the champ and gets turned inside out for it. With false bravado, he pokes and punches Langston for a few seconds before trying to whip Big E into the ropes. He can't move him, and quickly gets thrown, bulldozed and Big Ending-ed for three.
- AJ's buddy isn't satisfied, though. At the insistence of the fans, Maddox gets the finisher again for Langston to count five. After grinning and taking his belt from the ref, E goes to floor to roll in Maddox again. The smaller man begs and seems relieved when the champ accepts his hand this time. But it's a set-up Brad! A third round of finisher/five count as the crowd goes wild.
- There was a little back and forth in the Raw Reactions thread about the state of Langston's character as he transitions to the main roster. I'm not a fan of the five count; I don't think he needs it. But, credit where credit is due - they do a nice job of synthesizing that gimmick into his more sarcastic character here as he goofs off a bit and smirks through the rounds of additional finishers on Maddox.
A brief history of Bo Dallas' history with Wade Barrett at Royal Rumble and the Raw after it. Dawson gets a minute with the challenger backstage where Bo is all smiles and talks about how former Intercontinental champs were underestimated, just like he's been by the current champ. Unfortunately, he ruins otherwise solid work by calling himself the "Bo Barrage".
Wade Barrett defeats Bo Dallas
in approximately twelve and a half minutes via pinfall to retain the Intercontinental Championship
- There are A LOT of strikes throughout this match-up. Even at the start, Dallas lands one to Wade's jaw that he sells so much that I wonder if it wasn't too real. He uses it as an opportunity to do some heel-ish stalling before landing some elbows of his own out of a break and then going for the ground-and-pound before nailing a suplex for two.
- Bo with deep arm drag takedowns, then a clothesline that dumps Wade to floor. He works over the champs arm; the psychology being that it would limit Barrett's elbow strike finisher. The champ shoulders out of a stretch and knocks Dallas into the ropes. Some kind of anime-looking head strike spins the younger Rotunda all around while he's still tied up. A follow-up kick to the head also gets two.
- There are five or six near falls in rapid succession, mostly by Barrett. One nice one for the American comes out of his countering a pumphandle slam into a DDT. He tries to build on that with his rope-running DDT, but Wade dodges and hits Winds of Change, but can only get two himself.
- Regal's commentary adds so much to this. He never repeats himself, seems genuinely honored to be working with the younger and non-main event talent and his explanations for moves and strategy are always logical enough to add to the action instead of distracting from it. As I spent some of this match wondering why someone with an intimidating look and deep voice who is as sound in the ring as Barrett can't get over, it occurs to me that I would have no issue with Sir William as his manager. Possibly even leading a stable of Englishmen (and women?) or Europeans. Discuss.
- In frustration, Wade goes for the bull hammer elbow but misses. Bo does manage to hit his running bulldog, but that's not enough to keep the champ down either. Barrett sets up for Wasteland, but IRS' baby boy grabs the ropes and positions himself for a dive from the top. The Brit catches him with a sweet looking mid-air bull hammer and covers for a successful title defense.
Holy Schnikes, that was some good rasslin'. I'll withhold a plus due to the b***-s*** surrounding Antonio's belt. But do yourself a favor and seek out this A grade episode.
Next week promises to be special, too, but I'm not sure it will be able to sustain the level of quality throughout.
What say you, Cageside Seats? Let's talk about the best pro wrestling show that the WWE has produced in a while in the comments below.