Some solid character work from the women and the usual insanely good Sami Zayn match make this a rebound week for the still in transition developmental show. Read our thoughts and watch the whole show for free - right here!
Things are already looking up after last week's reboot-y episode of the now FREE (full video below) HuluPlus show. It's Bayley!
Bayley & Charlotte defeat Aksana & Alicia Fox
in approximately four and a half minutes via pinfall when Bayley pinned Alicia Fox
Charlotte has dyed her hair black but left the ends blonde. It's kind of an inverted version of Kaitlyn's coloring. It helps her look, I think - making her something other than another tall blonde in the Summer Rae mode. Something about her still doesn't work for me, though. Maybe the boy shorts/tankini combo isn't the right wardrobe choice for her body type.
Pretty much everything about B works. If I could be totally shallow for a moment, the woman has a great ass. Moving on...the crowd seems to be buying in to her, too. She gets a nice reaction, and the smark-y Florida crowd seems to get the character. There's laughter when she leans around the referee to wave at her opponents.
Opponents, who, yeesh...are these who we want women who are still learning to be working with? This match is really rough, and having never seen a truly bad Davina Rose/Bayley match before, I'm gonna hang that on the former fitness model and Divas champ. The real problem is that the future stars come out of this looking green - especially Charlotte - and while I may be projecting based on being a Bayley mark, I'm blaming the 'veterans' who should be able to call and work a better four minute tag match.
So, yeah. Aksana offers B a hug to start and despite her partner's warning, she accepts. The Lithuanian wasn't being sincere, though, and that starts off the first half of the match with Bayley as face-in-peril. We do get one of Fox's nifty Northern Lights suplexes out of it. After getting her elbows up on a charge, the rookie finally gets her hug on Aksana and turns it into a belly-to-belly, allowing everyone to get a tag.
The Nature Girl goes right for her Charlotte's Web cover, but seems to slide over Fox on the schoolgirl. She follows that up by struggling to somersault over the top rope off a whip on an evasion that almost results in a cheek slip. I did like that her attempt to go up top ended the same way most of her father's tries at an aerial assault did.
B tags herself in while Charlotte has Alicia in a fireman's carry position and that seems to cause some dissension, but it never goes anywhere. Fox whips Bayley into her corner, but the latter dodges a kick that hits Aksana. A strange roll-up that looked under the ropes ends it out of nowhere. At least B finally got a televised win. I guess.
Sylvester Lefort is backstage talking to Scott Dawson, and the camera pans out to reveal that Alexander Rusev is standing there with them. He has a board that says "Mason" on it...so this oddball stable is taking over that program since Enzo Amore and Big Cas are babyfaces now. I remain bored by the whole schtick, but I do like that Dawson carries and uses one of those plastic dental floss picks.
Corey Graves defeats Rick Victor
in approximately nine and a half minutes via pinfall
We get the full Ascension entrance, which remains the best part of the gimmick. But, is it even a gimmick? Before it felt like Conor O'Brian and company could have been alien bounty hunters or some similar "out there" concept. Now they're just dudes with colored contacts and the eye of Osiris on their ring gear. Give us some backstory, or change their names (are they Irish Egyptian aliens?), or something.
Graves is still taped up from the show-opening assault last week. He's accompanied by his fellow tag team champion, Adrian Neville. Rick is still carrying Corey's half of the belts, and what's really odd is that nobody mentions it until Tom Phillips finally says something after the bell. Everything about this feud feels a little lazy and paint-by-numbers.
The champ is pissed off and comes right at Victor, even throwing his denim jacket in his opponent's face. They trade strikes for a long while, the story of course being Graves' damaged ribs. He can never quite execute a cover properly because of them, moves like suplexes and crossbodies hurt him as much as they hurt his opponent, etc. They integrate the psychology well and one of the Savior of Misbehavior's real strengths is his ability to sell something like an injury, but this match never really came together for me. The long run time didn't help either.
The back and forth ends when Victor drops Graves ribs first on the top rope to send us to commercial. He's completely in control when we return and focuses on gutbuster and camel clutch variants. I like that as one of his taunts, The Ascension-er rolls around on the mat in front of his victim.
After hulking up and striking his way out of a rest hold, the leader of the Filth Parade signals for a chop block to set up Lucky 13, but O'Brian distracts him by jumping up on the apron. The Brit takes care of him with a drop kick and dive to the floor. The tactic looks like it will work for Victor, as he takes advantage to get Graves up for another gutbuster, but Corey slips out the back and rolls him up for the victory.
We're treated to a couple of great vignettes with the women. The first sees Summer Rae come up behind Sasha Banks while she's at a make-up table to continue tempting her to the dark side before her match against the Women's champ next week. It's a classic visual as the reflection tells Banks that 'Anti-Diva' means that the Brit thinks she's better than the rest of the them, and encourages her to unleash her inner rage.
Then Paige cuts one of the better promos I've seen from her during an interview with Renee Young. She puts over Sasha as a worthy challenger, but promises that she will be the most dominant woman in WWE history. That match is next week.
Alexander Rusev defeats Mason Ryan
in approximately four minutes via submission
Lefort introduces Rusev as The Bulgarian Brute. There's a lot of stuff about the guy and the character that looks promising, I just don't know why they've paired him up with the "French"man. I like the ceremonial entrance with the folding of the robe, but the plank with his opponent's name on it (he has a second one with "Mason" on it for the actual in-ring encounter) feels a little weird.
I also like his hands up approach. It immediately gives him a different look and feel. He uses it to come to several stalemates with Ryan, until the Welshman gets him down with a shoulder block. His advantage only lasts until Rusev connects with an impressive diving spinning heel kick. When that only earns a nearfall, the Brute hits three drop head butts and then sets Ryan in the corner to deliver four more head butts to the chest.
After a splash gets another two count, the former New Nexus member dodges a sumo charge to get an advantage. He hits a big boot and looks for the finish, but Dawson makes to get involved. Mason tosses him into and out of the ring, then the manager tries the same approach. That distraction works, as Alexander is able to grab Ryan and work his midsection to set him up for a Camel Clutch.
They show a cut away of Leo Kruger laughing maniacally behind the arena, as he stands over a wounded Xavier Woods.
Jack Swagger defeats Sami Zayn
in approximately fourteen minutes via submission
After a quick video package catching us up on last week's set up, we're straight to the action! And what action it is, as after a shoulder from Swagger we're treated to a flurry of indy libre: arm drag takeover, pop-up drop kick, even faking the suicide dive into a springboard 'TA-DA!' back flip into the ring. All responded to with Olé chants from an appreciative crowd.
When Sami does chase Swagger to the outside, he takes it to him on the floor as well. But a distraction from Zeb Colter provides an opening for a big clothesline and Jack beats down our hero as we head to our final break.
Zayn, like Daniel Bryan, offers a master class in connecting with the audience as a babyface. Rule #1, I think, is to look like you're enjoying yourself. We're all watching to have fun, and when you see a guy who likes doing exciting things, you not only want to cheer him, but you feel invested when he's losing if for no other reason than you want to see him do more exciting shit!
It helps considerably that he's always working. Case in point - after being turned inside out by a lariat, he stumbles to his feet, but in a way that you can see he's reaching for the ropes so he can pull them down and dump Jack over so he can get a breather.
There's, like, five minutes of these boys hitting each other with stiff-looking powerbombs. Say what you will about Swaggie, but he does not show any light between his moves.
The straps come down, and a Patriot Lock seems to have Zayn in big trouble. He struggles to the ropes and there's another example of Sami being all-in where he slaps Jack's hands away in a daze when he tries to grab him to follow-up. The Arab-Canadian gets his knees up on an attempted Swagger Bomb. A Yakuza Kick almost ends it, and then when the two men battle at the top of the turnbuckles that ends with Zayn on top of a driver that earns him a count of 2.99999.
NXT champ Troll Dallas comes out to cheer on his roster mate against The Real American. When Zayn tries to shoo him off, Swagger cinches in the Patriot Lock and this time, Sami is forced to tap. Bo looks confused and disappointed as SZ seethes in the ring.
Not quite up to the Cesaro series, but DAMN, what a match! Probably Swagger's best of the year. Zayn is ready for the big leagues...but is there anyone who's ready to fill his shoes on NXT?
Dallas gets his character now, but I still don't really like him as a wrestler. Graves and Neville are mid-card faces, and the best heels on the show now are loaners from the main roster like The Real Americans and The Shield.
This remains a show in transition, but a long Sami Zayn match makes me forgive a lot of growing pains. This week earns a B grade, and make sure you at least watch the main event.
Don't take my word for it though...check it out.
What do you say, dear readers?