Dolph Ziggler helped a hoss make his debut, AJ defended her Divas title against the adorable and talented Bayley...but we all know what we're really here for, right? Cesaro. Zayn. Two out of three falls. Let's get it on.
That's the best Michael Buffer impersonation I can do, in writing. The stream kicks off with a video package recapping the feud between our main eventers. Like I needed to get any more hyped for...
AJ Lee defeats Bayley
in approximately four and a half minutes via pinfall to retain her WWE Divas Championship
Bayley is out first, before the champ arrives to much cheering. Byron Saxton gives us the full, main event announce treatment. Before AJ will hand the referee her belt, she kisses it and tells it "I love you".
The rookie tries for a hug and, failing that, a handshake. This, of course, leads to a kick from Lee and a couple of neckbreakers. After a takeover, she locks on a neck crank and screams, "Do you want to hug? I'm hugging your neck now, Bayley!"
A couple of reasons why I think B is the best female performer in NXT. For one thing, when she breaks out of the hold and hits the ropes to kick off a sequence, she really hits the ropes. She's like the anti-Kelly Kelly; she connects and rebounds off with bad intentions, a la Daniel Bryan. Second, like Emma, she seamlessly integrates her character into her offense. Acting like she feels bad for dodging a splash from AJ, she hugs her and uses the hug hold to avalanche her opponent into the corner several times.
Bayley's in control for the majority of the match time. After a slam and knee drop only gets two, the challenger gets frustrated and does a sweet spinning back elbow from the second rope for another nearfall. AJ acts as is she's got a mouth injury, and when the ref and B check on her, she kicks the newcomer in the gut and then finishes her with the Shining Wizard.
Why do we bother with WWE title defenses on this show? And has Bayley won a televised match yet?
That aside, I loved that match and it was a great way to start a big show.
Tyler Breeze is backstage and stops a random blonde girl to take a picture. When she cozies up next to him, he says "of me". CJ Parker sidles up and gets in the back of the picture of course, and the model freaks out when he goes to admire it on his phone.
The Ascension defeats Ron Hicks & Michael Zaki
in approximately one and a half minutes via pinfall when Rick Victor pins Zaki
Jobber entrance for the, well, for the jobbers. Hicks is a generic looking big guy with long hair; Zaki a fire hydrant of indeterminate ethnicity.
Conor O'Brian has some new entrance gear in the form of a long tunic and arm guards that kind of look like The Right Hand of Doom.
This seems designed to show us a little more of Rick's offense, which is more acrobatic than O'Brian's but still painful looking - a nice fit with his partner - and their tag team moves. The best one sees each hold one of their opponent's arms, flip him backward so they hold him horizontally above the mat and then slam him down on his back. Unfortunately, they end with a less cool chop block/clothesline combination.
Hicks never got tagged in, by the way.
CJ Parker defeats Baron Corbin
in approximately one and a half minutes via pinfall
I don't know how this repackaging of Parker is going to go. His Trinatron is psychedelic tie-dyed pinwheels, his theme is like Jimi Hendrix remixed for Bed, Bath and Beyond and they're billing him from the Moonchild Commune. But I do love that NXT is a place where they try these capital 'G' gimmicks.
I hope Corbin gets a character some day, as he has a good look and does seem to have some workrate chops, too. He manages to get a few punches in, too, at least while Parker is loping around like he's tripping.
A boot, clothesline and swinging facebuster get CJ the win. Apparently, he's all about peace and love until you piss him off.
Renee Young is here, for an in-ring interview with the victor (not to be confused with Rick). It's about what you expect, although Parker does have a good line about how he hasn't been photobombing people - that's too harsh - he's been "video lovin'".
That brings out Breeze. I really do like it, but I hope Ben Stiller is getting royalties on the character. He pulls off indignant and over-dramatic extremely well, and gets in a good if dated shot of his own calling CJP a "Lenny Kravitz wanna-be". Parker rears back to punch him, but Tyler rolls out and heads up the ramp screaming that CJ is ruining his life. This could be a fun feud, and I'm excited to see the former Mike Dalton work a real match.
Dolph Ziggler defeats Alexander Rusev
in approximately six minutes via pinfall
AJ and her Zigglypuff on the same card? I hope there weren't any awkward moments backstage...
I had thought that Rusev was a recent roster cut, but I can't find anything to back that up online. He's like a cross between Samoa Joe and Mason Ryan and is wearing a leather apron/tunic (tunics being all the rage in Florida these days, I guess) get-up. Our announce team, Tom Phillips and Alex Riley, play up his Muy Thai and Sumo training. Oh, and he's also brought a board with "ZIGGLER" written on it with him, which he snaps over his knee following a short ceremony.
Dolph tries for a quick roll-up, and then there's a lot of posturing and taunting from the Show-Off. When they finally lock-up, Rusev's power takes over. He catches a crossbody and drills Ziggler with knees to the back before dropping him over the top rope.
The Bulgarian's offense is broken up with a couple of drop kicks, but he mostly works over the midsection with shoulders and a bear hug.
A fameasser gets two, but Alexander gets in a nice spinning heel kick for a nearfall of his own. The big man is frustrated and heads to the top rope, but Ziggler rolls out from under his splash attempt and connects with the Zig-Zag for the win.
Not sure why Dolph needed to come down to Orlando to work that match, but it was pretty good for what it was and I'd rather see Rusev than, say, Ryan. The look needs some work, though.
Sami Zayn defeats Antonio Cesaro
in approximately fifteen second via pinfall to lead 1 - 0
Zayn is all business as he heads down the ramp, save for a couple of high-fives, and with none of the lucha-esque ring entrance.
He doesn't let the ref call for the bell before launching himself onto Cesaro before he can get in the ring. He connects with a Yakuza Kick (or whatever we're calling it in WWE) after rolling the Swiss in and takes the first fall before we can even catch our breath.
Antonio Cesaro defeats Sami Zayn
in approximately eight and a half minutes via submission: 1 - 1
Sami keeps up the pressure, throwing Antonio into the steel steps and laying into him with punches on the floor. This is a fast-paced back and forth with the former United States champ playing defense. Zayn gets a two-count off a crossbody before getting dropped face first on the top turnbuckle and eating some punches of his own.
Quick aside - Riley has really surprised me with the quality of his color commentary, but he's going to have to come up with some non-Miz related anecdotes. Everything is "when I was with Miz on his WWE championship run" or "when I finally snapped and feuded with Miz". I get that he's trying to establish his WWE cred, but it kind of has the opposite effect.
The first of many crazy strength spots from the Swiss Superman sees him catch a kick from Zayn, then lift him up for a powerbomb using only the leg. Things get pretty hectic from there, highlighted by a couple of cool counters by the Syrian-Canadian. Sami holds on through a gutwrench suplex to roll up his opponent for a near fall, and then almost ends it when he hits Cesaro with a drop kick from the pop-up for a European uppercut.
Antonio sidesteps another kick and cinches in his chin lock/sleeper, forcing Zayn to tap. This was awesome psychology for a two out of three falls match, and my only complaint was that the announce team didn't play it up. It was brilliant of Cesaro and left SZ no choice but to submit, as passing out and losing the second fall by ref stoppage would have ensured a pinfall loss in the deciding fall.
Antonio Cesaro defeats Sami Zayn
in approximately six minutes via pinfall, and takes the match, two falls to one
The ref is still checking on a woozy Zayn when Cesaro nails him with a running European. Sami slips outside of the ropes to get his senses, and when he's unable to pull him back in by his ear, it's time for the return of this:
SZ somehow kicks out of that, and manages to almost end it with a roll-up while the bigger man is taunting him. A series of nearfalls by the babyface follows, highlighted by reversing into a sitout exploder suplex powerbomb (help me, Rev! This match has pushed me to the limit!). AC rolls out to avoid the loss.
Out on the floor, the red-head dives across the corner of the ring, though the ropes to hit Cesaro. It looks like Antonio has him caught, but Zayn spins it into a DDT on the concrete. (I tried to get some shots of this but there's never a still moment; we need a gif - iRod?) Zeb Colter's boy barely manages to get back in by the time the ref hits nine, and kicks out of a cover at two.
What happens next...I...they...seewhathappenedwas:
Zayn climbed the ropes for a tornado DDT, but Cesaro used his leg strength to freaking NOT GO DOWN. Then he lifted Sami up above his head, carried him around the ring while he got a good hold on his hips, launched him into the air and NEARLY MURDERED HIM WITH SWISS DEATH!
But that's not all! He still gets a Gotch-style Neutralizer, just for being an insolent punk.
I really didn't think Antonio was winning, simply because he's the heel. But Sami looked great and should be getting ready to feud with Bo Dallas soon. Cesaro needs to be central on the main shows, and I hope we see a big league version of the feud blown off at WrestleMania someday.
I can't even really analyze this right now. It's easily an A, but discussion of it earning a perfect score or where the main event falls in the Match of the Year rankings will have to wait until it's had some time to set in.
I'm wiped Cagesiders. What do you got?