Big show with lots of implications for Takeover, coming up two weeks from tonight (May 29) on WWE Network. Let's get right to it...
- NXT Tag Team Champions The Ascension squash their latest set of jobbers (Buddy Murphy & Elias Sampson), and then cut a promo bemoaning the lack of competition for them in NXT.
- El Local and Kalisto answer the call, and try to get their "Lu-Cha" chant over with the crowd at Full Sail Live.
- New backstage interviewer Veronica Lane catches up with Sami Zayn, who admits to getting obssessed with things. Right now he is obssessed with the NXT title, and tonight's triple threat main event will get him one step closer to it.
- Charlotte takes care of Alexa Bliss to advance to the finals of the NXT Women's Championship tournament, where she'll face next week's winner of fellow BFF Sasha Banks and Natalya.
- Exhibit 1A in the case for how important the right entrance is for a wrestler should be The Ascension. The change from the faux-ominous choral chanting to this straight-ahead piece of metal has changed my whole outlook on Viktor and Konnor. That they now stride purposefully to the ring, get their pose out of the way, scream and then pace around waiting for someone to maim is so much better than the lurking and draping themselves around the ropes. It makes me want to see them tear some dudes apart - hell, it makes me want to help them tear some dudes apart.
- In the ring, not too much has changed - except for the crowd reaction. And it's not just the "YAH!" chants that accompany Konnor's strikes, either. The audience here is treating them as conquering heroes (which, the entrance and the fact that we've seen them do nothing but conquer guys for six months will do for you).
- The match itself was their usual "opponents never even get to make a tag" affair, with Buddy Murphy taking the pin after Fall of Man. Afterwards, Konnor channeled his inner Warrior when he again asked for some real competition.
- It will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts to the champs facing off against true-blue babyfaces in El Local and Kalisto. The luchadors moves will earn cheers, but their techno theme and the forced chanting are the kind of things the NXT crowd typically revolts against. They're not doing much for me either.
- Ricardo Rodriguez stuttery delivery in Spanish and English didn't really help either. We know Kalisto is bilingual as well; hopefully he'll get a chance to do something other than say "fight" in Spanish soon.
- Ms. Lane actually moves her face when the person she's interviewing is speaking, so she's starting ahead of Devin Taylor in that regard (in all fairness, Taylor has gotten better with time, but will always suffer from having to follow Renee Young in the job). Sami's promos about respect and admitting to falling short of his goals are fine, but I'm interested to see if they go anywhere in terms of character development.
- Add "making Alexa Bliss look good in her television debut" to Alicia Fox's list of recent accomplishments. There was nothing wrong with the Pixie's bout with Charlotte, but it told the exact same story as her match with Fox, and wasn't as good. Compare one of The Nature Girl's backbreakers to Alicia's, for instance. This was also VERY heavy on rest holds and roll-ups. Both women have bright futures, but they'll benefit from working with more experienced hands while they get there.
- Y'all helped sell me on Charlotte's entrance, although I still think she could ditch the cartwheel on the floor and just do the split into the Randy Orton-like pose. They're calling her front somersault neckbreaker "Bow Down to the Queen", which for me is both too cumbersome and too evocative of Triple H instead of the Flair legacy. So we'll see if it sticks.
- Tyler Breeze continues to cut the best in-character promos, of which the pre-tape hyping tonight's main event was the latest example.
- Mojo Rawley beat Aiden English with his ass.
- The announcers confirm The Ascension vs. Local & Kalisto for the titles at Takeover.
- Tyson Kidd got his chance to talk about the triple threat tonight, and show why he doesn't get a lot of chances to talk.
- Big Cas took out Angelo Dawkins while CJ Parker walked around the arena with protest signs.
- If Breeze bombs on the main stage, I might quit the game. I'm confident that he won't though, because, unlike Adam Rose, he is completely confident in his character and how to perform as that character. I had to pause the show to stop laughing and tell the missus about the "Canadians lack the DNA to be super good-looking, it's a country full of Michael Ceras" line. But he also continues to craft a believable pro wrestler from the role. Really liked the bit about how Kidd and Zayn are so focused on respect that he'll have an advantage by being willing to do whatever it takes to win.
- The rumblings are starting within the NXT-zone. Mojo is starting to get the treatment that face Bo Dallas got. I really don't know how they're going to ever gauge reactions to the good guys they need to have on the main roster to sell to kids from this crowd.
- Rawley seemed to keep his wind a bit better tonight, but both of these characters are kind of dead in the water for me. I wanted to like English, but he's turned into a singing, less talented Damien Sandow...and we see where that gets you. The Hype Man is just not for me, and I don't think he's going to be much more than a Brodus Clay/Sin Cara level player unless he broadens his moveset and ups his workrate.
- Tyson isn't just a member of the pack, you guys, he's the leader. I now want a feud between him and Kofi Kingston that's billed as The Wolf vs. The Wildcat. Or against Justin Gabriel for the right to have 'wolf' in your nickname.
- Dawkins dropped his Urkel get-up and just danced by himself after getting the jobber entrance this week.
- What is up with Cas' chest? I couldn't tell if he had a rash or a faded tattoo or both.
- All snark aside, these guys worked a pretty good match. Cassady is looking more powerful and his transitions between his big man spots are getting smoother. That running high knee he does as a set-up to his finisher ("the East River Crossing"...another clunky name, IMO) is visually impressive from a guy as tall as him.
- I like Parker's eco-douche character. I really do. And I think having him interupt matches by protesting is a good heel tactic (and I loved the "No eXtra Toxins/This sign is recyclable" placard). But why have him do it when it's not going to effect the match or lead to any post match interaction with one of the wrestlers...or anyone, for that matter?
Segment Three / Main Event
- Bo Dallas petitions JBL for another title shot, using letter from Bo-lievers around the world as evidence that it's the right thing to do. The General Manager gives him a match against Big E for next week - win and he gets a title shot; lose and he's done on NXT.
- Tyson Kidd covered Tyler Breeze for three just before Sami Zayn could break up the pin, and is headed to Takeover to face Adrian Neville for the NXT Championship.
- Many of you have already pointed it out, but "lose and you have to go be on Raw" - while not the way they're presenting it - is a dumb stipulation. More proof that NXT exists in a weird parallel continuity bubble. JBL put over E with a reference to the five count gimmick, which I guess reappears when he comes to Florida but disappears again when he goes back to the main roster.
- If they would set up an actual Bo Dallas hotline, I would pay to call it. Just putting that out there, WWE.
- Speaking of the importance of entrances, Breeze's is one of the best all-time. He has moved his seasonal residence to Santorini, Greece, which I hear is very nice.
- The Sire of Selfies was made to look like a real threat in this match, despite being booked to take the pin. After some initial offense from Kidd, the entire first act prior to the break was all Breeze, including a cool spot where he caught Zayn with a surprise Beauty Shot when Sami was charging toward Tyson in the corner . He worked one-on-one with Natty's man for a good stretch after that while the Syrian-Canadian sold his finisher, too.
- Spot of the night was Kidd giving Zayn a German while Sami gave Tyler an Exploder suplex. I was frankly expecting a bit more in the way of inventive stuff like that given that TK and SZ were two of the combatants.
- I've noticed that William Regal is often very critical of The Likeable One's psychology within matches. Regal rotates heel/face depending on who's in a match, but the frequency of those criticisms (getting on Sami for not doing anything after a Blue Thunder Bomb fails to finish off Tyler, or going for the springboard Tornado DDT as a follow-up to an Exploder into the turnbuckles, for instance) makes me think it is either part of his character development, a real concern of WWE officials and therefore a reason why he hasn't been called up, or both.
- The outcome was a little disappointing. I get that they want to make this the champ's version of Cesaro/Zayn, and Kidd vs Neville should be a fun match. But I'm not looking forward to seeing either man try and talk up the bout, and they should really turn Tyson, because I REALLY don't want to see these guys try to hype this as a face vs. face affair.
- Booking Sami to come up just shy of breaking up the pin, and the lingering shots of his disappointment have to confirm an upcoming character tweak. I'm really not sure what they're going to do - and that's kind of exciting.
Once again, everything on this show was part of a story, and most were steps toward a next phase or a larger payoff. The match quality was nothing to write home about though, with Cas and Dawkins probably as my second favorite contest, much closer to the main event in terms of enjoyment than it should have been.
All in all, another worthy entrant in NXT's comeback story, though.