Good old JR boomer sooners his way down the ramp as we open on HuluPlus this week. We've still got Tom Philips and Brad Maddox this week, and that proves to be an okay deal. Of course I miss William Regal, but Phillips focuses more on in-ring action that twitter news, and Maddox is much better now that he doesn't hype himself all the time. Has he officially lost his position on Raw? They certainly never mention it here any more.
Jim Ross is with us to emcee a contract signing for next week's championship match between Big E Langston and the winner of last week's battle royal, Bo Dallas. The hall of famer puts over the NXT championship as a stepping stone to big things before introducing the combatants.
Big E looks like a PIMP in his slacks and H&M silk shirt. I still miss his old music. The new theme is growing on me but it's so generic, the old one could have been iconic - one of those where as soon as you hear the intro you know who's coming out.
The champ signs the contract immediately, but the challenger hesitates and asks for the microphone. He cuts a solid but bland promo about feeling disrespected and "needing" the belt. It's disappointing that none of the oblivious heel stuff he had been showing in his interactions with Adrian Neville was present. He closes by saying that he only needs "3 seconds" to win and change his life. And if that's not a segue...
Langston gets in a few digs about Dallas' time on the main shows, especially when Big Show knocked him out with a WMD, and does a riff where he calls him a geek and says think like "you wear footie pajamas" that falls flat for me. He ends by saying that he will crush Bo's dreams in "5 seconds".
We're backstage with Renee Young, as this episode is starting off with more talking than your average episode of TNA Impact. She's with Corey Graves to talk about his tag team championship match tonight. Graves delivers an appropriately intense speech that never mentions his father or his ink. The catchphrase-y bits still feel forced, but he gets his lone wolf character across and teases possible conflict with his makeshift partner, Kassius Ohno.
A video package for Paige where she denounces her "anti-diva" moniker (she is a diva, just the "diva...of tomorrow"), and we're more than ten minutes into the show before a bell rings.
Paige defeats Tamina Snuka
in approximately four and a half minutes via pinfall
- This is a first round match in the NXT Women's Championship tournament, although, as with the previous tag team tournament, they don't show us a bracket until later. Tamina is out first, heeling it up by faking out audience members who try to high five her.
- Paige stands up to Tamina despite her size and power advantages. They grapple to a standstill for a short while before Snuka muscles the Brit down, and begins to dominate with a leaping headbutt and kicks in the corner.
- The WWE diva is in the driver's seat for most of the contest. She works a number of slams and power moves in between rest holds. It's out of one of those that Paige eventually "hulks up" and elbows her way free.
- When the alabaster-skinned one charges her opponent in the corner, Tamina lands a superkick. Jimmy's daughter takes too long gloating and setting up his splash, though, and Paige gets her knees up and then rolls up Snuka to advance to round two.
- This was fine, and botch-free, but did nothing to indicate that Paige is capable of carrying a match. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong.
Tournament marks (like me!) everywhere are treated to a bracket after the match.
Not sure why we're bothering with the first round, as if any of the WWE b-team wins I'll be shocked. The only one with any suspense to it is the Sasha Banks v Summer Rae one, but given how green Summer is and the fact that she has a regular gig in prime time leads me to believe Sasha will survive that one. Although, Summer is also the only NXT heel in the group, so what do I know?
A busy day for Renee Young continues as she speaks with Kassius Ohno about the tag title match. Good stuff from KO, who is less of a heel now because he doesn't wear hipster spectacles. He's bringing terror, destruction and mayhem for the Wyatts, and responds to Graves' claims that he can go it on his own by reminding him about how that worked out against Seth Rollins and The Shield a month or so back. I think I may like Ohno more as this "Fighting Spirit" babyface. The badass puroresu elbow strike t-shirt doesn't hurt.
Promo video for the recently absent Leo Kruger. I thought it was weird he wasn't in the battle royal last week; maybe he doesn't wrestle anyone but Justin Gabriel? Anyway, I still think this guy could be pretty big. The gimmick is old school yet not over-the-top, and the "ta-ta" sign-off is as creepy as almost anything Bray Wyatt says. Almost.
Mason Ryan defeats Colin Cassady
in approximately two minutes via pinfall
- Cassady gets the jobber entrance. And he's really tall - the NXT website says 6'10", announcers say 7 feet. That's all I can tell you.
- They trade blows for a while before Ryan eventually starts no-selling them and takes over. It pretty quickly leads to the torture rack-into-neckbreaker finisher.
- That finisher is sweet (and it needs a name), but otherwise this was treading water for the Welshman's push. He is smaller and looks more mobile, but all we've seen him do is squash people (including his impressive streak of eliminations in last week's #1 contender's scrum).
Not for nothing - and since she's getting more air time than any in-ring talent this episode - Renee Young is totes adorbs. She's kind of got a young Kirsten Dunst thing going on, she's all in on her job without any winking asides or acting like she's better than pro wrestling and she does amused, scared, bewildered, excited - whatever reaction the spot calls for.
Ms. Young is with our friend Sami Zayn. He's humble bragging about his debut two weeks ago. Much respect to Zayn and whoever approved this character. It's very subtle, but the confident nice guy is uncharted territiory and it's a logical next step for Generico without a mask. I don't just like Sami Zayn. I love him!
Sami is interrupted by the man he upset on NXT, Antonio Cesaro. The two bicker in French for a second before AC, in full Eurotrash regalia, switches to English to tell Zayn that his win was cheap. The newcomer says the only thing cheap was Cesaro's post-match attack. Antonio demands a rematch, and SZ says he can have one on the condition that he tells him where he got his "sweet man-purse". When the former United States champ steps to him and asks him to repeat himself, Zayn calmly ushers Young safely out of the way before going chin-to-chin, and eventually blow-for-blow, with Cesaro. Great segment.
Conor O'Brian defeats Alex Riley
in approximately two and a half minutes via submission
- I still love the Ascension entrance. Conor does a thing where he holds his anime attack pose after the lights come up. It should come off as goofy, but seems cool to me.
- Riley actually gets quite a bit of offense in after an initial series of shoulder blocks and rolling headlock takeovers. A-Ry's speed-based offense looks pretty sloppy, as usual - mostly unimpactful-looking crossbodies and the like.
- O'Brian catches him when he tries to pop over the ropes and drops him on the top turnbuckle for snake eyes. A splash in the corner and flapjack later, he slaps on his new submission finisher, "The Stockade", and Riley immediately taps.
As the victor backs up the ramp, the camera pans back to reveal the mystery man from several shows back crouched to the side. I'm almost positive it's Rick Victor. Whoever it is, it looks like we've got Ascension 2: Steampunk Boogaloo.
Quick recap package of last week's #1 contender battle royal leads into some hype for next week's championship match.
The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper & Erick Rowan) defeats Corey Graves & Kassius Ohno
to retain their NXT Tag Team Championship
in approximately ten minutes via pinfall when Harper pins Ohno
- Ohno is out first, as both challengers receive their own full entrance. They act appropriately leery of one another, but do huddle to talk strategy for a second. They have also coordinated their army green and camouflage wardrobe choices.
- Bray is out with his boys and he's on the stick. It's an epic one, too. "Disease doesn't scare me - I scare me. The fact that (Graves & Ohno) showed up means they don't favor their ability to breathe."
- Kassius and Rowan start off, but both teams manage tags as things start off on an even keel. Harper catches a crossbody from Corey and goes to drape him across the top rope in the corner for his usual club-fest, but Graves slips out, somersaulting over the top and initiating a sequence of very acrobatic maneuvers. Luke hangs with him every step of the way, which is just as impressive given his size.
- Coming off a commercial, Erick has control of Ohno. Rowan is showing a lot more personality in the ring these days. He's got a seizure-like thing he does where he snaps his neck, and he grins and licks his lips when doing violence to an opponent. KO eventually hits a jawbreaker and sneaks underneath the big man to get a tag.
- Graves hits a chop block and sets up for Lucky 13, but Rowan fights it off. The savior of misbehavior dodges a counter by jumping to the apron, but is greeted by a big boot from Harper. The redbeard pulls him back into the legal area, but is only able to get two.
- Face-in-peril time for CG, and he is selling like a champ. Erick nails a pumphandle backbreaker (could that be his elusive finisher?) that nets a nearfall.
- Luke Harper does more with his largely non-verbal character than most guys do with a mic. Graves is forced to the Family's corner and Harper throws his hands up in the air immediately to show that he's not doing anything illegal. He harps on this, even gesturing that he is in his own corner until the ref acknowledges his good deed.
- With the first son in, Graves reverses a suplex into a roll-up. When Luke tries a powerbomb, Corey flips out from that for the hot tag to Ohno. Kassius cleans house. A big senton gets a two count, and more importantly spurs Bray to get up from his rocker and come to ringside. The long-haired striker backs him off, and catches a just recovering Harper with a spinning headbutt! The pin attempt is broken up by Rowan at Wyatt's direction.
- Corey dumps Erick from the ring, but in the confusion, Bray clocks Kassius in the back of the head. Graves dives to the floor and takes out Wyatt with a corkscrew plancha. But in the ring, the legal men are Ohno and Harper, and the champ nails a still woozy KO with the discus clothesline to keep the straps.
This was a little bit of a better effort from the gang at Full Sail, as at least the interviews were spent developing characters that are important parts of future stories. But we still only got one match amidst the talking and squashes. It was a hella fun match, but I can't go higher than B- for an overall show grade.
Who's excited for Dallas vs Langston? Any predictions for the women's tournament? Who'd going to the Ascension reunion show? Let's get the comment train rolling!