The last few episodes of my favorite wrestling show have been on a downward spiral, and I ain't talking about Edge's old finishing move. Can this week's episode turn that trend around? Why are they dimming the lights?
Sin Cara vs. Alexander Rusev
- If the tattoo wasn't enough for you, the recent news that the original is working dates in his home country confirms that this is Hunico. But we've got the mood-lighting back...can the botches be far behind?
- The Bulgarian Brute has all the trappings of his Royal Rumble debut - music, ring attire pared down to black trunks and ankle wraps. Lana is here, and while the Bridgette Nielson in Rocky IV introduction doesn't do a lot for me, her mannerisms ring side seem to be improving at a rapid rate.
- After some quick work on Rusev's leg, we get our first signs that sloppy ring work seems to come with the mask. A senton bomb misses so badly that the announcers have to mention it, and then what could have been a cool spot where Alexander counters a springboard crossbody with a drop kick requires some low angle camera work to make it look like it had much of an impact. Is it the mask?
- The taunt where Rusev slaps the body part he's going to use in an attack (thigh for high knee, head for drop head butt, etc) is apparently here to stay. It's okay, but it doesn't add much. I miss the leather entrance attire and folding ceremony. Historic ritual arrogance > generic MMA arrogance.
- After an aerial comeback that doesn't look all that painful for the heel, but does net a two count from a springboard back elbow, Sin Cara decides to jump on the big man's shoulders. He predictably gets slammed onto his face, and then taps to The Accolade. Lana instructs her man to put it on again, which he does. That would have seemed like a good place to have Xavier Woods come down and return the favor that set-up this match, but we have to settle for Rusev's manager breaking her steely foreign demeanor to smile and nod approvingly after she tells him to release the hold again.
Alexander Rusev defeats Sin Cara in approximately five minutes via submission
Tom Phillips, Tensai and Byron Saxton are joined by Renee Young at the announce table, which means that wrestlers with lady parts are next. Emma's appearances on Raw are mentioned; the fact that they don't mention this past Monday's tragedy probably means this was taped before then rather than that WWE has decided to pretend it didn't happen.
I'm sticking with pretending it didn't happen.
Emma vs. Alicia Fox
- Emma dances out with her bubbles, barely skins the cat to get into the ring but acts triumphant when she barely makes it...you know, all the stuff they left out on Raw. She spends some time trying to get the former Divas champ to dance before the match - has she always done that? That seems new, and in going with WWE over-emphasizing the dancing, and kind of stealing Bayley's pre-match hug routine, and...I'm not doing a good job of pretending her in-ring Raw debut didn't happen.
- Foxy taunts with E's dance after a shoulder block takedown and, after a Dil-Emma attempt fails, does one of the two things that justify her roster spot - that gorgeous Northern Lights Suplex into a bridge pin attempt (the other being that she is a damn attractive woman, not that she was in Cameron's favorite match of all time).
- Emma punches out of rear choke, and after a sloppy roll-up, hits the low crossbody in the corner (I still dislike calling it "The Emma Sandwich", but Phillips is sticking with it). A slingshot facebuster leaves Alicia prone for a submission move, and an Emma Lock takes us home.
- This was one of my least favorite matches every from the Australian, and it still would have been a much better way to debut her on the main stage than a dance-off with Summer Rae.
Emma defeats Alicia Fox in approximately three and a half minutes via submission
Quick promo where the Lance Storm-trainee wishes the Women's champ a speedy recovery and declares her intention to use her #1 contender status to demand a rematch as soon as Paige is back. Fox attacks from behind while she's wrapping up, and all three of the Beautiful Fierce Females run-in to join in the beatdown.
Have the BFFs even had an issue with Emma before this? Who knows, but it does mean that Bayley and Natty "I'm on this show more than I'm on Raw or Smackdown" Neidhart-Wilson can come down, make the save and dance with the latest call-up.
It should come as no surprise that Bayley's high-speed version of the Emma dance is freaking adorable.
Sylvester Lefort vs. Mason Ryan
- The Frenchman actually has ring attire, and it's long tights and decorative arm bands. He actually gets in a few high knees out of the initial lock-up, too.
- That doesn't last too long before the Colossus of Cardiff scoops him up, drops him on the top rope, hits a big boot, and...
- I can't do this. THEY'RE GONNA PUT THIS MOPE IN THE SHIELD!?!? At least when he was all 'roided up you were worried he might kill someone. Now he doesn't even look impressive. Full nelson slam finisher...that's how you replace Roman Reigns - the dude with more freak athletic spots than he knows what to do with - I give up.
Mason Ryan defeats Sylvester Lefort in less than a minute via pinfall
The Artiste asks for a spotlight backstage. From his director's chair, he explains that he attacked Enzo Amore last week because he ran over his foot with electric scooter, which is the kind of reasoning for a feud I can get behind. He says that he has moved past Enzo and his partner Big Cas, and tonight is ready for Tyson Kidd. He then sings Canada's national anthem, but changes the second line to "I hope I make you cry".
The gimmick has been a little hit or miss lately, but I still enjoy Aiden English for the most part. Who he's been working with definitely helps. It seems that Full Sail's love of Amore and Cassady has managed to get English a mostly negative reaction from the crowd.
There's a "previously backstage" where Lefort swears he will get revenge on Mason Ryan. The only thing I think I want to see less than Ryan in The Shield is any more of his program with the Mo-nay man.
Tyson Kidd vs. Aiden English
- Aiden's sings himself in to a version of "Mr. Sandman", which I have always associated with the original Halloween II. Do with that information what you will.
- I love the intensity that English brings to his offense - he always seems prety deranged when delivering his drop elbows, for instance - but they sure haven't let us see very much offense. Combine that with some shaky singing and a little concerned about his ceiling.
- The last trainee from the Hart Dungeon makes a comeback with some kicks, and attempts a cover after a drop toe hold sends English head first into a turnbuckle. But when he tries to duck through the ropes, he gets caught with a knee to the head that gives The Artiste an opening for a big suplex and a near fall.
- Big Cas! Thank goodness. He doesn't say anything, but he taunts The Actor by putting on his beret and scarf. While Kidd composes himself and climbs in the far corner, Colin tosses the headwear over English's outstretched arm, forcing him to turn into a somersault neckbreaker.
Tyson Kidd defeats Aiden English in approximately two and a half minutes via pinfall
There are a lot of commercials included in this episodes already short running time.
Corey Graves vs. Adrian Neville
- This seems like a weird main event. They blew this feud off with a two out of three falls match, and I can't imagine Graves is going over when Neville was just announced as getting a title shot on the big Network debut later this month. I'm expecting someone to Bo-struct a clean outcome. That was trying to hard, wasn't it? Bo well.
- I get why skinny jeans seem to be seen as alternative ring wear, as Graves is doing here with some black acid washed ones. They're basically tights. I still think they look weird, and not at all imposing. Maybe it's because the dudes who wear them also have belly button tattoos.
- The #1 contender gets in an opening flurry, but he gets caught trying to chase his former tag partner to the floor and back into the ring. That sets us up for a LOT of Graves working over his knee and leg. What doesn't make any sense is that in all that time - and it takes up like seven of this match's ten or so minutes - he never even tries for his finisher.
- He delivers a ton of punches to his grounded opponent, and tries to cover. He lands some big backbreakers, and tries to cover. But nowhere in the litany of leg whips and screws does he go for Lucky 13.
- Here's why these guys don't work as opponents. They're both all about setting up for their finishers. Especially when called on to fill a bunch of time like this, they don't have a whole lot of other stuff to fill it with. Graves plays face in peril well and was good at covering this weakness when they were a tag team. Here...this match feels like it just goes on and on.
- The finish comes when Neville reverses a power bomb attempt into a back drop on the floor. He does his best to sell leg trouble, but his comeback consists of a missile drop kick, a head kick and then Red Arrow, so...what was the point of this again?
Adrian Neville defeats Corey Graves in approximately ten and a half minutes via pinfall
The Savior of Misbehavior disappears after eating the pin, followed by the champ making a slow walk to the ring. This is the intense Bo Dallas I enjoyed so much last week, but we don't get a chance to talk before Triple H hits the stage. He's glad they're both here so he can be sure to
steal the spotlight from talk to both of them.
Their showdown on the February 27th live episode will be the first ever ladder match in NXT history. That should be fun. The participants for that one stare each other down as we fade out.
Man, that was a turd sandwich.
These past few weeks would have benefited greatly from a few debuts from guys like Kalisto or Solomon Crowe. I hope they're saving everything for The Network, because with the increased presence of main show mid-carders and in-house commercials, I'm kind of scared.
Cas was great, but this is the first episode in a long time I feel safe in telling people to skip.
Your turn, cSs.