The last of a set of four episodes taped in one go, this one actually had two previously announced matches - and neither of them involve The Great Khali!
- The somewhat controversial segment that leaked out earlier kicked us off, as JBL met with Paige in a hallway to inform her that she was being stripped of her NXT Womens championship. He also confirmed that the second ever Womens titleholder will be decided by a tournament.
- Lana introduced us to Alexander Rusev, who quickly defeated Travis Tyler.
- Devin Taylor waited with The Exotic Express for Adam Rose, who challenged Camacho to a fight.
- The scene with Paige that was filmed just this week was fine, and the sooner we all move on from it, the better. I thought it was a little weird that The Anti-Diva was convinced by an argument that it wasn't fair to the NXT women for her to be champ, but the script and her performance established that she was willing to fight for it. I'm also not reading spoilers from this week's tapings, so if you're going to talk about who is in the tournament, put a spoiler bar over that stuff.
- Honestly, the biggest thing that bugged me about this was General Manager Layfield. The only time he had a significant role in the story of NXT, he was a pawn of The Authority messing with Sami Zayn. Now he's only here when his schedule allows, and he's a sympathetic father figure? Really, this show doesn't need a GM, because we all know Triple H will fill that roll for any major story beats. But if we're going to have one, they should be a consistent presence. Can we start #FreeDusty?
- Rusev not only crushes, he speaks! The rules of how he and Lana interact seem to be a little up in the air. I'd probably prefer that they wait to show too much personality from him - let that build up when you eventually decide to split them up, especially if he's only going to speak in "Bulgarese" (as Jason Albert calls Bulgarian and Russian). I'm also not sure what the point of having him squash dudes here and on the main shows is, and the crowd at Full Sail doesn't either based on their reactions.
- That gutwrench side slam move they have him doing now is pretty sick, though.
- Adam Rose's entourage is more interesting than Adam Rose. I don't think that's a good thing.
- Charlotte got a big win when she pinned Paige in her and Sasha Banks match-up against main roster talent consisting of the Divas champ and Emma.
- Tyson Kidd defeated Mason Ryan, and then cut a promo putting over NXT and establishing his intention to reinvent himself on the show.
- Angelo Dawkins showed up with some new character traits, but still jobbed out to Tyler Breeze in short order.
- Charlotte is on the Summer Rae trajectory of rapidly improving NXT females. There was really nothing I didn't like about her presentation and performance here. Not sure if that entrance theme is new, but it was the first time it caught my ear, and I dug it. The black and red ring gear is a big step up from the cheerleader boy shorts that highlighted her slightly odd figure. She's ditched most of the clunky gymastics-inspired moves in favor of shout outs to Papa Ric that she still manages to make her own, most notably the figure four leg choke rest hold out of which she can hit a bunch of other offense. Her work as a heel in-ring is way ahead of her mic work. This was a real coming out party for her.
- Poor Emma. They never pulled the trigger on her in NXT, debuted her wrong on Raw and don't know how to fix it. Let her wrestle. That's how you fix it.
- So, about that finish. It's a product of the taping schedule, and the more I see them scramble to set things up around Paige as dual champ, the more I think her Divas title win was a shotgun decision when AJ asked for time off. Regardless, I don't hate vacating the title, or her loss here. Deciding to include them both on the same show is puzzling, but she'll be fine regardless. And that was always my point. She's talented and charismatic enought to overcome any one loss as long as the story around her is well-structured. They can explain away this loss very easily, and they could have explained away a title loss just as easily.
- Hopefully being used to set Kidd up as the new gatekeeper in developmental means that we don't have to watch Ryan for much longer, or hear rumors about his having a prominent role on the main stage.
- Tyson's always going to be more Lance Storm than Chris Jericho on the mic, but he got his point across. This is a good role for him, too. Hopefully he's like a William Regal who wrestles more often, in that he's down there teaching when he's not involved in a storyline.
- Do we think that a cross between Percy Watson and Xavier Woods' gimmicks is going to be the thing to get Dawkins over? Why has "dancing nerdy guy" replaced "dancing thug/pimp" as WWE's go to racial stereotype for African-American males? He's clearly a great athlete and he sold like a champ for Breeze here - surely we can find something better, character-wise?
- Why isn't Tyler Breeze the #1 contender for the NXT championship? And don't give me any of that Brodus Clay nonsense, because I won't listen.
Segment Three / Main Event
- The play some clips from last week's main event, and reveal that Adrian Neville was attacked by Brodus Clay backstage following his countout loss.
- Sami Zayn and The Usos defeated The Ascension and Corey Graves in six-man action to close the show.
- So they're using Neville's real-life dental issues to try and get his feud with NAHNAHNAHIMNOTLISTENING over? That seems desperate. What really sucks is that this means we have more NAHNAHNAHIMNOTLISTENING to put up with on NXT, probably even through Takeover.
- The main event was weird for me. I really liked parts of it, but felt that others dragged quite a bit. The parts that drug the most for me all featured Corey Graves. I'm beginning to think that I'll never like him as much as I did when he was tagging with Neville. Even there, it was just a good fit of styles. I still never felt terribly attached to him as a character or a worker.
- I take that back a little bit, I did like his fake out like he was going to square up with Sami in the early going only to chicken$#!+ heel it up by tagging himself out to The Ascension repeatedly.
- One of the best things about the "new" Ascension is how the announce team describes their roles. Konnor as the bludgeon and Viktor as the scalpel is a great shorthand for their entire act. The smaller man's ring work is still a little repetitive - he was my second least favorite part of this match - but they repsonded well to working a longer match with more talented competition.
- The Usos are on fire right now, and seem to have entered that zone that The Rhode Brothers were in as champs where all their matches are exciting, fun affairs. They had great chemistry with Zayn, who kind of got lost in the match a bit, but did get to hit all of his signature spots in the last act.
- Seeing Konnor and Viktor hang with the WWE tag champs does make me wonder if they're not about to have the same problem with the NXT tag belts that they just had with the Women's title. Not that The Ascension are going to show up on Raw and beat The Usos, but they've established that there's no one in developmental who can touch them and keep hinting they're about to be called up. We're two or three tapings away from them having legit challengers in developmental (ideally, one to establish a team, another to set up a feud and a third for the transition).
- Having Jimmy and Jey down here felt like the right kind of roster crossover; like Cesaro was last year. More bringing in younger guys or just folks operating at a high level, less Khali and NAHNAHNAHIMNOTLISTENING.
This was a much better show, and probably one of the best ones we're had since ArRIVAL. That still kind of makes me sad - an episode like this used to feel like a down note as opposed to something to pin our hopes on - so let's keep things looking up as we head to the live show next month, okay?