I need to preface this edition by saying that last week's roster cuts, and the rumors of more on the horizon, definitely cast a pall over this week's show for me. See whether or not you agree with me as we run this puppy down, but what came streaming to me via HuluPlus last night had kind of a blue tinge to it that influenced my reactions to the show. And Sin Cara didn't appear, so it wasn't his lighting.
Rotating announce teams seem to be in play, as we're back to Tom Philips and Brad Maddox this week. It's funny that Brad Mad still runs down his title, as I can't remember the last time I saw him on Raw. He's in a good groove this week of doing his schtick but not overdoing it, and providing solid technical commentary.
The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper & Erick Rowan) defeat Travis Tyler & Sawyer Fulton
in approximately two and half minutes via pinfall when Harper pins Fulton
- Hey, look! It's...some dudes. Tyler and Fulton await the Family as we start the show. The tag team champions are without their leader, but somehow I don't think that's going to be a problem.
- They are certainly building Luke as the second in command/"first son". He's clearly in charge here, and takes on the responsibility of calming his "brother" so the match can start. I love the way Harper does things without using his hands - during matches he rolls opponents into position with his head as a dog would; here he nudges Rowan out of the ring with his chest.
- Harper "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah"s his way through a stomping of Tyler. The Family work a few tags. Erick is showing more in-ring character, smiling and licking his lips as he slams Travis three or four times in a row. His partner also prods the jobber with his foot and stares at him like a sadistic child would a bug. Sorry, if you can't tell - I'm all in on The Wyatts.
- Fulton gets a tag, but runs immediately into a boot from Luke. That leads into a big splash and the discus clothesline for the win. I wonder what Rowan's finisher might be; Harper has ended every tag match that I've seen of theirs. It'd be groovy if they developed a team maneuver or two.
The billion dollar princess joins us via pre-tape. After putting over WWE as a "cultural trailblazer", she pays lip service to the Diva's role in the company before announcing the tournament to crown the first NXT women's champion. That's right...Women's - not "Divas". That might be the most encouraging thing I've heard in a long while concerning females in WWE. The belt design is slick as all get out, too.
Feminine without being girly, and with class that befits a champ. And the title ain't bad, either (huzzah!). But seriously, folks, Stephanie McMahon-Levesque also informs us the tournament starts next week and will feature and NXT and WWE divas. She doesn't give us any details like number of entrants, length of tournaments or the precious bracket.
Emma defeats Audrey Marie
in approximately three minutes via submission
- C'mon. Really? Why do I picture Vince doing his best Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborne impression when asked if this match should still be included on the show? "A word to the not-so-wise about your little girlfriend: do what you need to with her, then broom her fast!"
- Emma is approaching Paige levels of over with the crowd at Full Sail Live. As a matter of fact, she may already be there. The audience is shooting bubbles (with no doubt WWE-provided equipment, but still) and everyone is dancing along to the Emma-lution. They freak out when she manages to successfully pull herself into the ring on her entrance.
- Audrey gets in some offense when E opts to call for her music after the bell so she can dance some more. Other than the initial beatdown, he biggest showcase is a sloppy looking gutwrench suplex for a near fall.
- The Lance Storm-trained diva has a much more polished arsenal, and along with Bayley is probably the best female worker in NXT. After the usual backslide and roll-up pin attempts, she finishes with a sequence that includes her version of Tajiri's tarantula (rope hung Boston crab). With AM down in the corner, Emma charges her with a low crossbody, slingshot faceplants her off the ropes and puts her in the Emma Lock, a bridging inverted Indian deathlock on the legs while she has Audrey in a reverse chinlock. It's pretty sick, and it ends this one...and the auburn-tressed woman's current WWE career.
Phillips kicks it backstage to Renee Young, who is standing with...some dudes. Before I even catch the names of the two good old boys she was set to interview, a Eurotrash character interrupts, saying he is their manager and that they have a match. Alrightee then...
Oh yeah. These guys are gonna be huge. I wanted to include the screen shot, because I wasn't sure how to describe it, and I didn't think you'd believe me anyway.
D² (Scott Dawson & Garrett Dylan) defeat Jake Carter & Brandon Traven
in approximately four minutes via pinfall when Dylan pins Traven
- Sylvester Lefort is their manager. The backstory is that he is from "East France" and he's a millionaire due to his willingness to take on "strange investments". Thus, managing two rednecks. And, yep, Dawson carries a bottle of JR's BBQ sauce that he drinks from and Dylan is a former bouncer, so he carries a Mag-Lite.
- Carter, who you may recall is Big Van Vader's biological son (not as cool as his fictional son), starts off against Dawson with your basic back & forth. D² takes control when Scott distracts the referee while Dylan pulls Jake down from the floor for a bump off the ring apron.
- After a couple of minutes of non-noteworthy offense, Carter gets a tag and Traven comes in like a disheveled house on fire. He's quickly clotheslined and set-up for Lefort's boys big finish - Dawson hits him with a spinebuster that positions him for a double axe-handle off the second rope.
Big E Langston defeats Derrick Bateman
in approximately one minute via pinfall
Oh for Heaven's sake.
No bullets (I'd have to use two to discuss Bateman's new haircut just to pad this out). Not USA Guy attacks first, but is quickly military pressed, thrown across the ring, body blocked and Big Ending-ed. Then Big Ending-ed again while the champ counts five.
Next week - Kassius Ohno & Corey Graves versus The Wyatt Family! Bray is pictured with the tag champs, but the announcers don't clarify whether it's a handicap match or if he will just accompany them as manager.
On the subject of announcing, Big E joins the booth for the battle royal. It's pretty disappointing. He doesn't flash much personality, but is a good straight man for some of Maddox's over-the-top braggadocio.
Bo Dallas wins the 18-man Battle Royal
in approximately nine minutes to become the #1 contender for the NXT Championship
- I'll just be honest from the jump - I don't recognize several of these men, there are a few names I don't catch even after multiple rewinds and a few of them aren't even on the NXT roster page.
- Six of the eighteen men get entrances while twelve were in the ring when we joined. Entering with music, in order: Corey Graves, Bray Wyatt, Kassius Ohno, Adrian Neville, Bo Dallas and Mason Ryan.
- The story of the first half of the match is the big Welshman. While skirmishes go on around him with the other main eventers (Wyatt and Ohno notably focus almost exclusively on each other), Ryan quickly eliminates Sakamoto, Briley Pierce, Curt Hawkins and Alexander Rusev. Six or seven other workers than converge on him and try to beat him down in a corner, but he explodes out of the pile and dumps six more guys: Jason Jordan (I think?), Knuckles Madsen, Mojo Rawley (maybe?), Yoshi Tatsu, Dante Dash and Aiden English.
- Yes, this is the first time I have seen or heard the names of many of these guys.
- The Ryan express bench presses Sami Zayn onto some of the guys he's already sent to the floor to bring his total to eleven. But when he tries to make Neville an even dozen by powerbombing him out, Adrian turns it into a Frankensteiner and eliminates the muscleman!
- We've got a six pack as we head to commerical, and it's the guys who got entrances, but with Conor O'Brian replacing Mason.
- Bray and the Ascension are staring each other down while the other four are slumped in corners. In the spot of the show, O'Brian lets out a death scream right in Wyatt's face. Bray takes a step back, laughs and slaps him in his freaky mug. Cause you can't scare Bray Wyatt, son!
- Conor does boot Wyatt out, but he goes under the top rope so he's still in it. He taunts Langston before splashing each of the other remaining men in the corner in which they'd been resting. When he goes for a second helping of each, he's met with a boot from Graves before turning into a spinning knee by Ohno. Those two team up to toss O'Brian out, but here comes Bray Wyatt sliding back in to dump Corey and Kassius from behind!
- Wyatt with strikes to Neville and Dallas, before waltzing Bo out for Sister Abigail. The finisher doesn't mean too much in this match, though, and when he leaves his real-life brother in the center of the ring to grab Adrian for the same maneuver he instead gets a stiff enziguri. This knocks him into a resting position against the ropes, and the jumpin' Geordie pushes him over the top.
- The two remaining men perform a series of spots where one or both of them is dangled over the top rope and almost eliminated. Following a headlock takedown, Neville has one foot on the floor a couple of times, but never both.
- Back in the ring, they trade punches and Dallas throws the Brit around a couple of times before getting caught with a head kick. Adrian heads up top for the corkscrew shooting star press (now called British Airways, per Phillips) but his recent tag team partner has him scouted and gets his knees up! Bo eliminates the obviously hurting AN to claim a shot a Big E Langson's belt!
The main event was fun, as battle royals tend to be. But so much of this episode felt like treading water, and as if an edict was sent out to use a bunch of folks before they are fired in the not-too-distant future (not counting the ones they've already fired, like Audrey, Bateman, Sakamoto and Pierce).
It felt like a show deserving of a C grade to me. The only story that was advanced was Ohno and Graves against the Family. Having Neville and Dallas as the final two in the main should have been made a bigger deal given their history, and it would have been nice to get some interaction between Langston and the next challenger for his strap.
What do you say, Cagesiders? Am I being too harsh, or letting my sensitive side ruin a good show?
Let's hug it out in the comments!