A big six-man tag features The Shield versus a trio of NXT good guys, Paige makes her first Women's title defense and Paul Heyman looks for his next "guy" on this week's edition. What'd we think? Read on to find out.
Paul Heyman ambles down the ramp as we kick it off on HuluPlus this week. He's here to start scouting his next "Guy". He quickly acknowledges that he's going to step out of character for a moment, and proceeds to put over all things NXT - the Performance Center, the talent, the fans - before introducing the Intercontinental champion, Curtis Axel.
They're just here to say hello because their trip to Florida has proven to them that there's no man in the state who could take Axel's belt. Oh no, you didn't! Tampa's own Big E Langston has a problem with that. Curtis takes the microphone from Heyman to deliver a surprisingly okay response about giving the former NXT champ a shot at him on the big Thanksgiving show (where he can thank him for giving him the chance)...but a little back and forth ends with Langston goading Mr. Perfect's son into a match right now by questioning his manhood.
Big E Langston defeats Curtis Axel
in approximately four and a half minutes via disqualification
The title is on the line (see my rant last week about how pointless that is on this show). After an opening sequence that lets each big man show off their athleticism, Langston grabs the IC champ for a belly-to-belly throw and then a clothesline that takes him out of the ring and us to a commercial.
Curtis Axel connects much better as an in-ring personality on NXT than he does on the main shows. I think it's because a lot of his character tics are vocal - he does a great maniacal laugh - and they don't come across in bigger arenas with larger audiences. Whatever the reason, you get a better sense of his heel character in a few minutes here than I have in the last two months of Raw and Smackdown.
Anyone who was there live - I'd love to know more about Paul's interaction with the guy in the front row that got such a roar out of the crowd. It was a weird spot because it also clearly took the announcers by surprise too, as they got quiet for a few seconds to regroup and figure out how to address something that had obviously happened. Tony Dawson (back with William Regal this week) ended up going with the rather lame "they're chanting thank you Paul for bringing Axel here so we could have this great match".
Big E plays the crowd really well, and I can't wait to see if he can get the same face reaction on the big stage that he gets at Full Sail Live. While doing his multiple uppercuts to the mid-section, the crowd counts them down, but he makes them wait for the fifth one. A nifty "five more times" chant breaks out.
Axel takes over with a kick to the knee and a lariat from behind. His standing drop kick is my favorite in the game right now (sorry Randy Orton and Dolph Ziggler), and it precedes dad's rolling neck snap and another drop kick to the head. Those all only get one on a pin attempt.
The powerlifter lifts and throws Axel out of rest hold and gets in the usual high knees and corner splash before taking the straps down to go for his finisher. Heyman attacks him from behind for the DQ, but when Langston lays hands on the advocate, he gets jumped again by the Intercontinental champ. Some non-Heyman advised taunting gets Curtis Big Ended and the segment ends with Big administering his own five count to the delight of the fans.
Not a great match, but a really fun opener.
Renee Young welcomes Sami Zayn, who KILLS an interview that plants the seeds for a Bo Dallas feud and challenges Antonio Cesaro to a two out of three falls match for next week to end their increasingly personal issues. This match has been receiving praise across the internet since these tapings - I can't wait to finally see it.
Interestingly, Sami blows off Zeb Colter's accusations from a couple of weeks back. He says that yes, he is an Arabian-Canadian and that he doesn't try to "mask" it; that's why he spoke Arabic to Cesaro when he debuted.
Mason Ryan defeats Scott Dawson
in approximately one and a half minutes via pinfall
My goodness do I have zero interest in Slyvester Lefort. He's out for his usual stupid intro about how Dawson (now being called Cap'n Roughneck by Tony Dawson - presumably no relation) is going to make him moh-neigh.
Scooter pokes the Welshman in the chest, and gets his finger grabbed to start the beatdown. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady run down the ramp, and Enzo fakes sliding in to distract Ryan. That allows Dawson to chop the knee, but he still catches a big boot off a whip and then gets cobra clutch slammed for the finish.
The New Yorkers do storm the ring. And get thrown right back out. Mason presses the little redneck and throws him out; he doesn't quite reach Cassady and Amore so it looks like he was tossed at their feet and they have to stoop to slow his fall. This was horrible.
Paige defeats Summer Rae
in approximately four minutes via pinfall to retain the NXT Womens championship
Tony D calls this a "long and storied rivalry". Well, it has been going on for some time, I'll give them that. The champ enters first, for folks who still get riled up about that.
Summer just takes the vain heel chick character to a whole 'nother level. This match is a big step up from their previous encounters, too, so I have hope that she can be more than just a kick-ass bad girl valet. But even if that ends up being her niche, she's going to own it. In addition to her usual antics, there's a bit in this one where she positions her opponent for a kneeling facebuster and grabs her arms to puppet her around and mock the crowd saying "we all love you, Paige" before driving her into the mat.
Mostly, this is very similar to their last match, but crisper and it at least looks stiffer. Lots of slams by the hair and rope-assisted choke holds. There's even a nice in-ring story where each woman catches a front kick from the other and uses it to slingshot them down to the canvas; Summer does it early in the match and tries to beg out when the tables are turned right before the finish.
An ending that is set-up by the champ delivering a series of knees to the head through the ropes and then nailing a Paige Turner.
A double-dose of Renee Young, as she is speaking with Divas champ AJ Lee about her match next week. I love AJ like this: she blends smarmy heel with geeky girl as she says that she hasn't selected an opponent next week because she loves surprises. It might be the camera guy, or her mom, who's in town, or Renee, or it could be...
Speaking of characters I love, after she unclenches from the hug bomb she lays on the champ (Young's "exit, stage right" here is awesome, too) B talks about how she stalked AJ from her car into the arena and asks for the title match next week. When AJ agrees, they seem to be getting along like two cosplayers at Otakon when Bayley says that she doesn't know why people say AJ is crazy...the "C" word of course being Lee's pet peeve.
She doesn't snap or attack, but noticeably changes her demeanor. I don't mind the crazy gimmick when it's not tied to being a slut, or dependent on men. It's just a good pro wrestling character if you take out the sexist parts of it.
Anyway, this match should be good, too, since AJ's strength is selling and the former Davina Rose is well-rounded enough to be able to help anybody to a strong match.
We learn that AJ's ex, Dolph Ziggler, will also be here next week for what is looking that a stacked show. And without the WWE app we are powerless to see things like Emma's attack on Summer Rae, but that occurred after her match and during the break.
The Shield defeats Corey Graves, Adrian Neville & Xavier Woods
in approximately fourteen minutes via pinfall when Roman Reigns pins Woods
The Hounds come in first, before the faces each get individual entrances. Last in is Woods, and his funky dance party theme really kills the supposed intensity we're supposed to be getting from the face-off in the ring. The man himself does a good job of adapting his usual R-Truthian walkout.
Graves starts out with Seth Rollins, and even with how good all six men are or could be, that's the one-on-one feud I'd be most excited for, I think. One reason is for spots like the one they do where Rollins hip tosses Corey, but he does a full flip to land on his feet and then jump up for a drop kick.
Each of the good guys come in for some offense on Seth, ending up back with the Savior of Misbehavior, who whips him by his leg off the ropes and goes for Lucky 13 early. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns manage to pull their partner to the ropes, and Neville and Woods execute tandem suicide sentons onto them for their efforts.
After a break, Xavier is getting worked over by Reigns. Ambrose comes in to stomp his fingers and call him "Graves" a few times. Not sure if he was confused, or was meant to be taunting Corey on the apron, but it worked for me as it made it look like the United States champ couldn't be bothered to know who Woods is. The PhD of Funk gets to Graves for a tag, so he can work his weekly quota of face-in-peril time. CG does get Ambrose in Lucky 13 for a sec, which is worth it just to see Dean sell it. But Reigns breaks it up and we head to act two.
The heels do their thing here for the bulk of the match. They're good at it - not sure what else to say at this point. The end starts when Reigns tells Corey to hit him, then when he's a little too successful with the strikes, Roman shoves him into the corner. The leader of the Filth Parade elbows Rollins and Ambrose off the apron and dives over the big Samoan for a tag to Neville.
They don't let the Brit do much in these tag matches. Here he runs the ropes to avoid people, connects with an enziguri and immediately goes for Red Arrow. Ambrose gets his knees up, and tags in Rollins, who flips Adrian right to his corner for the hot tag to Woods.
I really hate the Morphin' Time yell and find the rolling thunder clothesline pretty pointless. But there it is, and Rollins sells the heck out of it. Woods' version of Eat Defeat almost ends it, but Reigns breaks up the pinfall. Neville attacks him and turns a powerbomb into a Frankensteiner that sends both to the concrete, and Ambrose and Graves take each other out with a suplex/neckbreaker spot.
Seth misses a splash, so Xavier sets him up for a superplex. Rollins punches out and slides down the back to grab him in a powerbomb position. Reigns jumps up to break Woods' hold on the ropes and get the blind tag (the team work is really phenomenal), allowing his partner to throw XW into the turnbuckles and make him the legal man so he can pin him after he nails him with the Spear when he richochets out of the corner.
MOAR Renee Young as she's backstage to get Cesaro's reaction to Zayn's challenge from earlier. Proclaiming himself the "boss of the world" he accepts, but before his diatribe can really get rolling, Sami dives in and cold-cocks him. Officials pull them apart, and we end on Antonio doing his best James T. Kirk as he screams, "ZAAAYYYYNNNN!!!!!"
That, ladies and germs, is how you fade to black.
Another good not great episode, with matches that were more enjoyable than spectacular. The main was great, so I don't know if it's my malaise concerning The Shield or that I feel like we've seen the NXT faces against an evil trio a bunch of times this year. But I'm thinking this is still B grade material.
Don't know if I've been as excited for a show as I am for next week, at least since Ohno vs. Regal.
What did you think, Cagesiders? Let us know in the comments below.