Our once beloved show has been surprisingly just okay since taking it's Thursday night at 9PM Eastern spot on WWE Network. Whether or not it ticks upward tonight, hopefully it can avoid the clip show stink bomb that was last year's WrestleMania special...
- The ladies started off, as Emma took on the working half of The Beautiful Fierce Females (BFFs) and defeated Sasha Banks after some miscommunication with Charlotte lead to an Emma Lock.
- A video promoted The Hype Man, and
threatenedpromised that Mojo Rawley will be in action next week.
- Tag champs The Ascension quickly dispatched a couple of jobbers.
- This almost certainly isn't new, but I just noticed it...during the 'not nearly as good as the old theme' open, half the folks listed have already been featured on the main shows. And freaking Cesaro, who has almost always been a visiting dignitary on this version of NXT, is one of them. There are so many signs that have me worried about the autonomy the little developmental show that could used to have. This is another one.
- Maybe I'm just feeling extra anxious this week, but Emma's performance seemed heavy on the comedy. I have no problem with humor in pro grappling, and it's always been a core element of the Aussie's appeal (and she's quite good at it). But it seemed to be more of a focus of her schtick tonight. It also comes across a little like she's toying with The Boss, a performer who's improving and a character they should be building up with an eye toward introducing new women to serve as enhancement talent.
- I actually don't hate the Santino Marella angle, but, my word, Renee Young distracts from women's matches with her TMZ coverage/dime store psychology (and tonight, with her cleavage, but I digress). It's pretty bad when Byron Saxton has to ask the other three (!) people in the booth to pay attention to the match because it's good and more important to this show's storylines than what they're gossiping about.
- The heavy metal asskicker entrance helps me deal with The Ascension so much. They're freaks that like to hurt people. That fits in with my pro wrestling world view. Unexplained Egyptian aliens, not so much.
- Another way the character shift is helping the gimmick is Viktor's newfound intensity when in the ring. He used to do a slow build where he seemed to be analyzing his prey before ramping up the speed and violence. I like it much better when he just starts at that level.
- The spot where he whipped the one bigger jobber (Jack Hurley) into the smaller jobber (John Vandal) to force the tag was cool. Fall of Man still sucks. These guys need competition pronto.
- Xavier Woods and Brodus Clay paid off their feud from Raw of, like, three months ago with a match where Clay went over clean and then announced his intentions to come for the NXT title.
- NXT champ Adrian Neville immediately responded with an interview that put over NXT and established him as a fighting champ.
- Tyler Breeze entered the building and squashed Yoshi Tatsu. No word on if he left the building.
- Never been the biggest fan of the former Consequences Creed, but, damn. I didn't know getting called up to the big leagues could lower your standing.
- I understand the logic behind giving Clay a chance to establish himself as a heel character in developmental. I'm not really looking forward to him working with Neville, though, and this is another one of those "you're getting your Superstars in my NXT" things I was talking about above.
- William Regal is so good on commentary he almost had me buying into the former Funkasaurus being a main event player. Stating that his recent turn stems from "an angry depression" and accentuating the few things he does okay with in the ring (suplexes and throws)...that's how an announcer should try to get talent over.
- Full Sail was on point this episode, and my favorite was the "better than Batista" chant after BC's powerbomb of Woods.
- Brodus' post-match promo was going fine until he called Neville "the man that gravity forgets". I guess it's technically right, but it sounded weird. The champ continues to improve on the mic, and I actually like that he delivered a fiery promo and then apologized to microphone holder Devin Taylor. Such a nice boy, that Adrian.
- Excited about the evolution of Prince Pretty into a "former model" who doesn't spend the first few minutes of the match worrying about getting hit in the face. He can still check his phone a lot and protect his favorite asset when he's more established and working filler matches. But if he's going to be the title contender I very much hope they give him a shot to be on NXT, this is a needed progression.
Segment Three / Main Event
- Taylor caught up with Sami Zayn, who reiterated that he is medically cleared following the concussion Corey Graves sneak attack resulted in a few weeks back. Graves cut a promo about how he is a wolf who will devour the likeable underdog who stumbled into a bear trap in his woods. What? That's what the man said!
- Nice video package for Paige followed by a typically tweener Anti-Diva promo on Charlotte with some sexually explicit phrasing.
- Zayn and Graves tell a great story with a match that promises their feud will continue, as the referee stopped the bout due to Sami displaying concussion symptoms while he was locked in Lucky 13 but before he tapped.
- Who scripts Graves' promos? They always come off much more weird or whiney than bad ass.
- Paige really doesn't wrestle a lot. I guess the relatively shallow pool of women they use on television means none of the female stars do, but it seems like The Diva of Tomorrow works less than everyone else.
- All I'll say about the Womens champ's promo is that when she described what she wanted Charlotte to do, I wanted Sterling Archer to pop in and ask if we were not doing phrasing anymore. Looking forward to a new feud for Saraya's little girl, though, and The Nature Girl looks ready to keep up her end of the bargain.
- Nice to see the return of the fifteen minute-plus main event, even one that didn't give us a decisive finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this match, yet don't have a lot to say about it. Your mileage will vary depending on how you feel about kayfabe concussions, and Corey Graves.
- I like the Savior of Misbehavior's ring work, but he needs to either be in tag team or limited to shorter matches. The rest holds and methodical working of a body part really stand out when the story of the match isn't softening up his opponent's leg for his finisher. This would have been a great time for the "submission specialist" to show us that he has more than one sub in his arsenal - maybe something focusing on the head or neck?
- Nobody does the cartoony sell or convinces you that he is battling on will/moxy alone like The Likeable One. It's probably why I'll give the head injury angle a pass here when I wouldn't with other guys. And because I'm confident they'll play it out and pay it off, unlike Triple H's version of the same story with Curtis Axel last summer.
Very much in the mold of the last several weeks - one strong match earns the show a passing grade, but there's too much filler mixed in with some genuinely concerning developments to get really excited. The lack of Enzo or any debuts outside of Adam Rose since moving to the Network are problematic as well.
I also had some feed issues during the show. Nothing major, but some freezing that fixed itself without missing any action. It was annoying, and caused me to be a few minutes behind other folks in the open thread. We're all hyper-sensitive heading into 'Mania, but...make of it what you will.