We open with a lengthy video package recapping Takeover (which, if you haven't watched it yet...do so now, this week's episode will wait). It sets the right tone for tonight's show, which largely serves as a primer of what's come before that also sets the table for at least the next few episodes on this taping.
- The #1 contender to the NXT Championship, Tyler Breeze, has entered the building.
- Mojo Rawley's failure to defend America against Rusev is addressed, but he gets back to his winning ways with an ass-first win against Aiden English.
- Natalya has Tyson Kidd's back.
- Charlotte defeated Bayley, despite a friendly distraction from returning BFF Summer Rae.
- Bayley is rescued from a full-scale BFF beatdown by the WWE Divas champ and Santino Marella's girlfriend.
- I like that The Bulgarian Brute's decimation of Rawley is addressed, even though it's unclear whether it will be developed beyond English ribbing him about it this episode.
- I do not like Mojo's neon green ring gear. Nor do I need to see The Artiste face the Hype Man again any time soon. English gets in a little more offense than we usually see Rawley take, but there was nothing here we haven't seen from either man before.
- I find the Kidd/Natty stuff boring and kind of embarrassing. Is it because I don't watch Total Divas?
- They promote their partnership with Special Olympics, and there are a delegation of Olympians in attendance that Bayley high-fives and to whom she hands out headbands. There are so many reasons to love B...add female John Cena to the list. And every other little thing about her character. And how crisp her series of different arm drag takedowns are at the beginning. Like I said, so many things.
- The Women's champ's entrance theme is still mixed with her father's, but anyone hoping for/fearing a face turn should hope/fear no more. She's back to being a Mean Girl with Sasha Banks as her cheerleader and lackey. Her focus on mat-based ringwork is still here, though, and it's awesome. She adds a rolling slam out of the Figure Four Headlock that is really cool - that's going to be my favorite move/set-up in wrestling at this rate.
- It's a little disappointing that Bayley took the clean loss despite a distraction, but the problem is that they booked this match in the first place, since Charlotte wasn't going to lose her debut as champ. Why they don't debut some of the newer developmental women as plucky jobbers is beyond me.
- Seeing Paige and Emma make the run-in was a nice moment, sold mostly by B's sheer joy at seeing her friends/heroines. But it also served to remind me that I think I'm done hoping for call-ups for NXT females. They get opportunities to shine on this show that I don't think they'll ever get on Raw or Smackdown given the current backstage power strucure. We joke about Bayley being Khali's girlfriend on the main stage, but would it surprise you at all?
- Tye Dillinger and Jason Jordan get a backstage interview spot and do...something...with it.
- They then work a long, okay match against a couple of jobbers, one of whom has an infectiously awful name, while CJ Parker protests stuff in the crowd.
- Summer is super excited that she's back on NXT with the BFFs, but Charlotte and Sasha don't seem as thrilled.
- Tyler Breeze has a video that goes along with new theme song, and we are not worthy of the Definition of Delish.
- I think the new tag players are going for a "what if Frankie Kazarian tagged with Cody Rhodes?" schtick, where Dillinger is Kaz and Jordan is the Dashing One. Maybe it will work somewhere down the line, but here it was funny in an awkward way. Like the "help us name our team" video that came out after their debut - there's some chemistry there, but they haven't figured out what to do with it yet.
- Likewise, their ringwork shows promise, but just didn't do much to WOW me tonight. The early read is that Jason has the "it factor", and he seems a lot more fluid in the ring. Tye misses a beat here or there, but he does possess an impressive sounding chop. Their only attempt at a team maneuver was when Dillinger was supposed to takedown one of Those Guys with a snapmare while Jordan held him aloft, but TD seemed to miss the timing.
- Gonna need more than an Angle Slam that you call the Jordan Slam for a finisher, though, double J.
- I was as enamored with saying the name of the orange-trunked jobber that got the pin as William Regal was. Philip Gouljar needs to remain a thing.
- Speaking of Gouljar (see, say it a lot, it's great) and Cumberland, they got in quite a bit of offense. The point was to see Dillinger play face-in-peril and Jordan get a hot tag, I guess, but it doesn't make them look like a threat to The Ascension when they have to work up a sweat against These Guys. Or win with the Jordan Slam.
- Intrigued by the tension added to the women's storyline by the return of Summer Rae. As with all Total Divas players, she seems to be kind of a tweener, which adds a nice wrinkle considering how much thought NXT faithful have given to Sasha and Char's alignments after the inevitable break-up. I mostly hope Bayley is used as a foil for all three while they bicker. It should give her wins while protecting them and make her an even bigger babyface feuding against their numbers.
- Will always miss Breeze's old theme, but this segment sold me on the new one. Allowing him to lip synch on his way in, especially "this Gorgeous face" as he rounds the first corner is money.
- Sami Zayn is the one name that snaps Full Sail back to true markdom. It doesn't matter how much they want to cheer a heel, if he dogs Sami, he gets heat. Or at least a long Olé chant. The NXT champ doesn't trigger the same response, such as when Tyler mentioned that he was holding onto his title shot to keep the champ on his toes. Almost made it sound like a Money in the Bank briefcase, which is interesting.
- After badass Breeze last week, we got Zoolander comedy this week. Just go watch the three-time MTV Euro award-winning segment; written, produced, directed, most gorgeous and special thanks to Tyler Breeze. They will always have to walk a fine line with this gimmick, but so far they are so up to the challenge.
- I'll just leave this here:
Segment Three / Main Event
- Remix of the "Bo leaves town" segment from a couple of weeks ago that we should have gotten in the first place.
- Adrian Neville defeats Justin Gabriel in exactly the kind of match you'd expect Neville and Gabriel to have.
- Tyson Kidd comes out and apologizes for his poor sportsmanship, then asks for and is granted another shot at the NXT title.
- There were many reports that Bo Dallas' exit following his loss to Big E was a lot longer than what we got, and we get to see a little more of it tonight. I'd still love to see the raw footage, but this version - complete with cheesy song about destiny and capturing dreams - was superb. Can't decide if his telling the crowd to "stop being there" or the threats to call campus security were my favorite.
- Has Justin Gabriel always worn baggy, parachute-type pants to the ring? I haven't covered Superstars in a while, so I haven't seen him.
- The main event was fun, and had some cool spots - I especially like the Darewolf's bridging pin attempt out of front chancery, and his drop kick to the midsection of the champ on a moonsault attempt - but felt pretty anti-climactic. The Jumpin' Geordie's matches still lack flow between big moments, and wrestling a guy with the exact same problem in the South African didn't help.
- If anything, the clear non-title nature of the affair gave you hope for a run-in and heel turn from Kidd. Not only did that not happen, but, apparently due to Total Divas rules, we're sticking to face vs. face for the rematch.
- Of course, maybe this is set-up to a more shocking turn, so I don't know that for a FACT.
This was an enjoyable show, but its strengths were in non-wrestling segments (one of which was an extended version of a scene we'd already seen). I guess the idea is to make Neville look charismatic and highlight his aerial abilities with two guys who are less charismatic but who can keep up in the ring, but it ends up being the same old, same old pretty quickly.
But, this was the first episode of the taping coming immediately out of a live special, and the brief history we have on those is that they won't rock the boat too much. I wouldn't have any qualms about telling a fan strapped for time to watch the women's match and the Breeze segment and not worry about the rest, though.