Been a long time since I've been this underwhelmed by a main event. Just last week I'd talked myself into this being a good step for Sami Zayn's career, working with a less-than-stellar big man from the main roster. But now that it's here, I find I don't want 10 - 15 minutes of my favorite show wasted on it.
Ah well, let's see what happens.
- Tyler Breeze enters the building and toys with Mojo Rawley for a while. The referee stops the match while Prince Pretty has the Hype Man in an armbar, working over the shoulder he injured in their encounter a couple of weeks back.
- Scorcese is back, and NXT rolls the clip from Facebook of Enzo talking William Regal into watching Carmella train, resulting in a tryout next Thursday for the Princess of Staten Island.
- After a lengthy video package chronicling the five week history of Hideo Itami vs. The Ascension, we finally get an official Viktor vs. Hideo match.
- A match won by Itami when Konnor's distraction backfires, and followed by an assault on Hideo and then, while he's helplessly wrapped up in the ropes, his friend Funaki.
- Very much enjoyed the continuity that established the opener and the psychology of the match (I had completely forgot about their post-match run-in after Rawley's rematch with Bull Dempsey) and Breeze's duck, counter, grab the ropes for protection strategy...the latest example of how he can utilize his character as an in-ring performer.
- Not so much the finish. Jason Albert tries to save it by saying the referee must have "heard something snap", but I don't see the point in protecting Mojo at this point. Can we have this injury angle be what writes him off television for a while? Please? Not that anyone would mind if he just disappeared, but at least this way the Duke of Delish can say him put him out.
- Had already watched this week's Cass masterpiece several times before it appeared here. A brief list of things I liked about it: tight like tube socks on cankles, Carmella's submission hold and, of course, "Postin' It!".
- It's way too early to start worrying about Itami. But we're talking wrestling on the internet, so I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as too early. I'm a little worried about Itami.
- There are a lot of factors at play. Strong style doesn't instantly mesh with WWE style, but I have faith that the former KENTA and the talented team at the Performance Center can figure out how to make it work. Longer matches where he could make a big comeback would help, or being in a tag team where he can be the hot tag. Different dance partners would be good. I have come to appreciate what Konnor & Viktor can bring to the table, but I still don't see a ton of five-star matches in their future. Time and different opponents/circumstances will make a big difference.
- Still, it's weird to see Full Sail so dead for his matches. And I don't blame them one bit. Something isn't clicking yet, and if he is supposed to be on a fast track to the main roster, they'll need to figure it out stat.
- The post-match stuff highlighted Itami's strength so far, and that's his acting. Just as I was convinced that he was a bad ass by his mannerisms at Takeover II, I was convinced tonight that he was truly anguished by not being able to save his friend from needing to be stretchered out of the arena. I believe that he wants vengeance. Now they just have to make watching him get it a more exciting experience.
- NOTE: I read in the live blog and then some other places (I avoid spoilers like the plague for this show, so I had no knowledge of it on first viewing or when I wrote the above) that Itami may have suffered a concussion in the match. That could explain some of what is bothering me, but I still think there are issues with how they're producing his matches that need to be figured out. If he was concussed, it makes his performance after the match even more impressive, too.
- Enzo & Cass win a battle of the entrances against the Vaudevillains (made easier by Simon Gotch & Aiden English's still awful new theme), and the Big Guy steals the whole scene with a slam that ties Pumping Iron to a NickToon.
- The Artiste and the Strongman pick up another win as they continue to be positioned as the top contenders for the tag titles.
- Sami Zayn cuts a promo that again taunts Titus O'Neil for feuding with a rabbit on Raw, and affirms his friendship with NXT champ Adrian Neville.
- Trying to establish herself as a presence in the Women's division, Becky Lynch shows a lot of intensity in her match with Sasha Banks, but after tapping to the Bank Statement, it's clear that The Boss is a class above the Irishwoman.
- Why do they keep acting like they're going to give the blow-off (or at least the next step of) the Legionairres vs. Enzo & Cass storyline, and then not delivering? Last week the Frenchmen were challenging them, this week, no mention of it from anyone.
- Why does winning the tag titles mean you disappear from the show? I don't need Lucha Dragons on the show every week, but it would be nice to see them in a non-title match or some singles action or something. The Ascension were squashing jobbers every other week. Now that we have tag champs we want to see they're withholding them?
- Well put together match, especially for something so short. Everyone got a chance to do something, although Enzo & Cass look fairly stupid, which I guess is part of the gimmick. Hopefully they'll be booked as a bit more of a threat in the future and not just "the team whose one tandem maneuver incapacitates half the team".
- Already miss the airplane spin being part of the set-up for That's a Wrap, but I guess it's too crowd pleasing a move to have in the arsenal of the heels who are about to challenge for the belts. At least, I think Vaudevillains are still heels. This was the first time in a while they've won without a handful of tights.
- Surprise! The women have the match of the night. This was the best that Lynch has looked since her debut, and serves as a reminder to not freak out too much about Itami, since her first few outings were pretty rough and now she looks really comfortable out there, doing her thing in WWE.
- Renee Young is not, in my estimation, a very good ringside announcer. It's during women's matches that she is bad enough to be a distraction, however. It's so nice to not have Lawler drooling or Cole and JBL bickering about an earlier segment during every women's match. Is it too much to ask that I not have to listen to Renee spouting cliches about how all women are catty and jealous?
- My favorite thing about this match might have been Sasha kicking Lynch in the back of the head while stretching her arms. But it's hard to top the Bank Statement. It might be the best finisher on the show.
Segment Three / Main Event
- Zayn and O'Neil enter with more than fifteen minutes left in the show, which means a lot of bear hugging.
- Sami does his best to sell the match, first by acting leery of locking up with the big man, and then with his usual face-in-peril antics. Whether or not it's a success should probably be viewed separately from the outcome, but I'm going to have a hard time doing that when said outcome was a clean win for Titus.
- Neville saves his friend from further damage after the bell, in a move that firmly re-established his not-heel status, and maybe gets back some of the love that Full Sail Live lost for him when he broke up Zayn's cover of Kidd at Takeover II.
- Nice that Sami busted out the main event tights for Titus, especially considering the repeated cracks about his current main roster feud (gotta love an art form that asks performers to deliver lines like "currently embroiled with a bunny") and the general "that O'Neil is strong, but he sure is a dummy" tack that the announce team took throughout the contest.
- So, this match happened. I know I said it before, but the former Florida Gator would have drawn all kinds of money in the 80s or early 90s. The best part about this segment was the visual of the underdog good guy standing up to his massive bully of an opponent. But ten minutes of bear hugs punctuated by the occasional body slam that looks like it's delivered by a celebrity guest on Tough Enough aren't going to cut it in the post-HBK world of today's WWE.
- The sitout spinebuster finisher isn't the worst thing in the world, though.
- There was a lot of time to think about things while the Zayn was selling rest holds, so, here's Renee Young is a horrible announcer, example #2. She spent a considerable amount of time telling us that "Sami walked into this and if he can get out of it, he will". Whatever that means. I know that Renee really meant it, though, because she tried rearranging the words in the statement a bunch of different ways. None were successfully in getting across...anything of any significance, to the match or the world at large. It also struck me a few times that Albert sounds like Jesse Ventura with a Boston accent, so there's that.
- Pretty much balanced out by Rich Brennan calling the Topé con Hilo, though.
- There might be a fair amount of "mark" in my feelings about the outcome, but I don't think too much, because I'm more flabbergasted than angry. It's not as if they were positioning Titus as someone with any cred on the main shows. He's pretty much been presented to us as a joke - he feuds with dudes in animal costumes, he's not smart, he's never held a title in WWE, etc. At least when Brodus Clay was on NXT, they built him up...and he still never beat Neville one-on-one.
- It's clear that O'Neil is headed to a program with the champ, but what is Zayn going to do? They're probably right that he's bullet proof with the NXT fan base - like Bayley, I have a hard time critically analyzing the way they book him because they've so successfully made them characters for whom I'm rooting. But are they playing with fire by having him lose to a comedy act slumming in Developmental? What do more casual fans who catch an episode in passing or watch a YouTube clip of this match think the next time they see Sami on Raw?
- They're definitely taking measures to ensure everyone that Neville isn't a full-blown heel, and that he and the Likeable One are still friendly rivals. It's more interesting that way, and it's a reminder to not freak out too much about things like a few lackluster Itami matches or Zayn doing the job for Titus. NXT has proven that it will make adjustments, allow characters to display nuance and payoff long-form stories in satisfying ways.
Hopefully this was just the case of an episode where several things that didn't work that well all landed in the same episode. Definitely get eyes on the women, as Enzo would say, and maybe the tag match if you're a fan of either or both teams. Otherwise, this was pretty skippable.
Did you find this as big of a letdown after last week as I did, Cagesiders? Let us know, and sound off on hot topics like "should we be worried about Itami?" and "Titus O'Neil: waste of space or unappreciated talent?", in the comments below.