Can a show where the only match announced ahead of time was The Great Khali vs. CJ Parker reverse a string of mediocre-to-bad shows? There's only one way to find out...
- Aiden English sang his way into the ring, and then beat Colin Cassady with a roll-up and handful of tights.
- Tyler Breeze took thirty seconds to remind us that he's the bee's knees.
- An amalgm of recent Paige hype videos was shown for the new WWE Divas champion, and then she was interviewed by Tom Phillips to lay out her course as champ on both this and the main shows.
- Camacho ruined Oliver Grey's return from injury with a quick win designed to make him look better when he jobs to Adam Rose.
- English's song sounded particularly wretched this week, but that actually works quite well in terms of getting heat on him. One good thing about this on again, off again program with Big Cas is that it has cast him squarely as a heel.
- He gets that across in his ring work, too - I especially liked his cheap shot through the ropes from behind the referee, but his offense is still mostly strikes that don't look painful. Cassady's offense looks impactful, but too deliberate. It is getting more fluid, and he's adding bulk as well so that he doesn't look like a complete string bean anymore. I like him, but he needs his little buddy (The Observer reported this week that Enzo is back training for matches in The Performance Center).
- I like what they tried to do with the countering of finishers at the end, but it felt way too choreographed. I also don't know what the point of the match was, since English has won every official meeting between the two.
- A quick backstage spot with the Mayor of Cuteville trolling Devin Taylor and the NXT Universe by making her read all of his nicknames off of his phone and then announcing that he had nothing to say but wanted to add some gorgeous to the show was better than almost every match on this episode.
- The video pieces for The Anti-Diva weren't new, but the "babyface fire" (as the boss calls it) from the interview was. I've long worried that Paige came across a bit too heelishly negative in her promos, but this was the arrogance of a fighting champ. Her early Raw appearances have shown her as a little too deferential to the more experienced women, but this was respectful without being demure. A really good showing from the Norwich lass, and more evidence that her rapid ascent is well deserved.
- I don't know why Camacho is toiling down here, or still pretending to be Mexican. But he hit all of his power spots in a quick win designed to earn him some credibility for his upcoming match with Adam Rose. Grey's grown his hair out, but what we saw here, from entrance music to basic moves, was pretty generic. I'd have to think he'll get some kind of push or gimmick soon, since they were pretty high on him before his ACL went out and he had to drop the tag belt he had just won with Adrian Neville.
- Devin Taylor interviewed Bo Dallas, who rationalized that his Bo-lievers failed to Occupy NXT because they're law-abiding citizens and promised to keep Bo-lieving in his dream of regaining the NXT title.
- The Ascension squashed Those Guys.
- Taylor interviewed the BFFs, demonstrating that Charlotte is taking over for Summer Rae and bullying Sasha Banks over her recent losses. This also set-up a tag match for next week against Emma and a partner of her choosing.
- CJ Parker shamed the crowd for not supporting him, then got beat by a surprisingly over Great Khali.
- Backstage spots featured Emma being adorbs and Sami Zayn assuring us he's healthy while hyping his team-up with The Usos against rival Corey Graves and The Ascension for next week.
- More greatness from Bo, and this felt even more like a goodbye to me than last week. Seth Rollins reappeared with The Shield early in 2013 to say he'd always have his eye on the NXT title before they were gone for good, too.
- This was a busy week for Devin, and while she still has a long way to go, she's showing some signs of growth. She still mostly just nods, but she has different facial expressions for reacting to heels vs. faces now.
- The Ascension seem to be getting over with the live crowd. It's long past time for some competition, though. The trios match should be a good test for them. They look to be getting into a good rhythm with Viktor as the precision speed guy and Konnor as the powerhouse. But it's so hard to tell in minute long matches where the opposing team never makes a tag.
- Sorry Charlotte fans. I'm still not on board. Her delivery is awkward - calling Emma a "double bubble head" was already going to be a lame line, but when you pause after the first word like you forgot your line, it's dead before it even has a chance - and she's missing the smooth-talking venom necessary to try to use the Flair name as a calling card. I think she knows it, too, because she always seems a little hesitant to really nail those lines when they come up.
- There was a little girl in the crowd dancing to Parker's entrance music. He could be a useful 3MB-esque heel (he got a bunch of smarks to cheer for Khali, for crying out loud), but they have to tweak his secondary characteristics to match the new gimmick. Full Sail's finest moment tonight was the "Global Warming" chant.
- I love Emma. I love how Sami Zayn always ends his interviews by saying "Thank you" to the interviewer. Such a nice boy.
Segment Three / Main Event
- Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger got matching tights and became a tag team. They beat Sawyer Fulton and Baron Corbin in the match of the night.
- Adrian Neville managed to get a watchable match out of Brodus Clay. Unfortunately, he'll probably have to try and do it again since he won by countout.
- It's a big relief to see them trying to establish a new tag team (or maybe two). Jordan and Dillinger certainly need character development beyond "good looking athletic guys who clap a lot", but they already have a good rhythm going and some team maneuvers, so the rest can be built. Tye does good face-in-peril, and that elevated tandem DDT finisher is dope.
- Seriously, enough with the clapping, though.
- Baron Corbin has looked good jobbing to the stars over the last six months, and he continued to make good with an expanded role here. Between his look and the viciousness he brings to his power moves, I could see him going places. I'm a sucker for a delayed vertical suplex. A character would be nice.
- Sawyer Fulton might be alright, but I couldn't get past the bleach blonde buzz cut and tuxedo pants.
- William Regal is a very good pro wrestling announcer - example 912: he put over the intelligence of Corbin for keeping Dillinger faced away from his corner when he had him in a neck crank rest hold, because it prohibited him from seeing how far away he was from a tag or communicating with his partner.
- The final match was a standard speed versus power bout. Brodus may call himself a main event player, but he's still a pretty lousy wrestler, and watching him splash and elbow his way through this isn't going to make anyone re-evaluate their position on that.
- I like Neville's top rope Superman forearm strike a lot.
- Renee Young is a very entertaining human being, even if she isn't the greatest ringside announcer - example 387: when Phillips describes a punch from Clay as "a shot to the heart", Young asks if he just quoted Bon Jovi.
- If Dallas is leaving, they haven't set anyone else up to challenge The Jumpin' Geordie. The finish, which saw the champ roll in at nine after just dodging a splash on the concrete while the Funkasaurus was counted out, was probably booked to protect Brodus and lead to more of this. Yay?
I actually think I enjoyed this a little more than last week's show, but that isn't saying much. That's probably attributable to the presence of a few new faces and a return to the formula of building characters and angles with backstage interviews more than match quality.
To folks waving the flag of "this show is always going to go through lulls when guys are called up" - I appreciate the optimism, but don't expect me to follow. The Wyatts left almost a year ago, and with the exception of ArRIVAL, it's been four or five months of lackluster shows. They both should of planned to have more folks positioned for higher profile spots before the call-ups and have spent the last twelve to sixteen shows telling better stories with the established players.
It's a shame, too, because fans were excited to check out this product when WWE Network launched. And if hits and comments on our articles about NXT are any indication, people have checked out the show and are deciding to give it a pass. If it does attain its previous heights again, some of that audience won't come back to give it another chance.