Last episode of a taping and we've got the 'B' announce team. Can this episode recover from the inauspicious conditions?
- The Ascension have been tag champs for 295 days, which is coincidentally the same number of no-name jobbers they have defeated in that time.
- Mojo Rawley is enhancement talent now, and he was squashed by #1 contender Tyler Breeze before we could tell if he was winded by his entrance.
- The local talent don't even get their names announced or shown on screen, so we're scraping the bottom of the "These Guys" barrel. The crowd doesn't even get behind the jobbers any more during the champs' matches.
- Full Sail Live - which, fair warning, are going to be discussed a lot in this edition of the reactions, both because they made themselves part of the show and because there's not a whole lot else to talk about, quite frankly - makes it hard to gauge character alignment. They're squarely behind Konnor and Viktor these days, but who can tell if that's ironic? The Ascension are playing to it, though. They time their offense to the crowd, especially the big guy's "YAH" kicks.
- Konnor has even added a little Eddie Guerrero shoulder shimmy to his ritual surrounding that spot. I don't know that NXT Creative is treating them like babyfaces, but they're hedging their bets so they can if they decide to later.
- Prince Pretty is back! The new theme has grown on me - possibly because we've heard it every week despite the man it introduces having been on the shelf for two months.
- I was going to go with I don't get jobbed out, I stay jobbed out, but props to Plan R in the show thread for "Mojo Rawley don't get squashed, Mojo Rawley stays squashed".
- Because, dang, the bloom is off that rose. Credit to the powers-that-be for recognizing that it wasn't working and pulling it back. If he can get some stamina and develop a wider range of offense, Rawley did have charisma. Until they determine that, though, técnico enhancement talent is a good use of the character.
Segment Two / Main Event
- Charlotte defeated Summer Rae in a match-up that never really found a rhythym and that the crowd noticably hated.
- My belief that women's wrestling should be treated as wrestling that just happens to be performed by people with different sexual characteristics requires me to state that this match wasn't very good.
- It was far from terrible, however, and wasn't done any favors by being given as much time as it was, left as heel vs. heel and having none of the other elements that drove the narrative leading up to it be present for the match. Sasha Banks at ringside would have done wonders for this, if for no other reason than The Boss would have given the camera and audience something else on which to focus. Giving any indication as to who we should cheer for would have helped, too.
- Summer has regressed noticably during her time off. Charlotte's standout singles' match was against Natalya, and other than that she's been in multi-person contests and okay solo bouts. The folks involved in staging this either realized that and plotted out some cat fighting, eight minutes of rest holds and trading finishers, or the wrestlers got stuck and had no idea how to audible once the match started to die with the crowd.
- It wasn't all bad, though. The champ continues to innovate within the Figure Four headlock, and it's becoming an even more awesome move as a result. Loved her stretching Summer's fingers when she tried to slap Charlotte's face, and the front roll slam release. The First Lady's character work remains unparalleled - "I made you" and "They don't love you" being the standouts tonight.
- Which is all a lead in to say - go fly a kite, NXTzone. This wasn't some abomination of pro wrestling. It was a clunky match between a couple of green workers who don't have much chemistry, not Sting vs Jeff Hardy at Victory Road. Both women were trying, and have busted their asses to successfully entertain us in the past, so giving it the Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg treatment is ridiculous. We've been through CJ Parker vs. Mojo Rawley matches that never got the freaking wave. I understand this probably came at the end of a long night, but sit on your hands or go to the bathroom. You're great fans capable of some really clever interactions, but this was obnoxious.
- And, go ahead and call me a white knight or whatever, but I don't think they'd treat a bad men's match like this. As a matter of fact, Bo Dallas had some raggedy-ass title fights where the jeering always stuck to kayfabe. That the crowd didn't take the time to chant "go back to Hollywood" at Summer or something else that kept to the storyline makes it impossible to rule out an at least subconcious sexist basis for the reaction tonight. I shudder to think what the controversy surrounding the next taping is.
- Renee Young is getting better at commentary, but she's probably not going to learn much more with her current partners. When she tried to focus on the action during this match, Alex Riley kept drawing her back to the gossip stuff. Is that just A-Ry being A-Ry, or is that a directive from the back? He even asked if the issues between Summer and Charlotte were about the title at one point. To Young's credit, she said "of course". But after a pause she returned to talking about how women are catty. Tom Brennan isn't a strong enough presence yet to even put the brakes on things when they start to go off the rails, either.
- Sin Cara & Kalisto worked well together in defeating the Vaudevillains in match that probably has no tag title implications - because, what does any more?
- Rusev lost via disqualification to NXT Champion Adrian Neville due to interference from Breeze, but crushed the champ with an Accolade to end the show.
- This structure where they put the longest match on the card in the middle of the show (last seen when Tyler Breeze and Kalisto did ten minutes at the bottom of the hour, if I recall correctly) makes for a weird flowing episode. That tonight had zero backstage interviews or even in-ring talking segments other than Lana's introduction from the stage only added to the odd pacing.
- Simon Gotch and Aiden English are booked as heels, at least when they're in the ring. Gotch finally seemed to realize that tonight, as he wasn't the hammy, smiling strongman we've seen him play since the team debuted. Still doubt that they can be counted on to get heat, at Full Sail or on the main roster; the gimmick is too silly and the performance too much fun (The Artiste on his own, however, almost has to play rudo) - so it will be interesting to see how that develops.
- Folks looking for an upside to Hunico under the Faceless One hood need look no further than the one-legged power bomb he planted English with on this episode.
- Is Kalisto being protected or do they just love him in the hot tag role? His above mentioned solo outing against Breeze was solid, so I don't think it's necessary, but he doesn't spend a lot of time in the ring during his tag matches.
- So, the team they're building to face The Ascension is...still Kalisto and Company? That's fine, I guess. The decision to retire Ricardo Rodriguez as a wrestler probably forced a restart on their build, but, wow, it's been a long time between proper feuds for the division.
- Lana got like five minutes to introduce Rusev. And dang that Lady J for making me realize that ogling her thighes has caused me to not notice that she's kind of a wooden promo. Really liked the content about Americans loving their stars while Russians honor their heroes, so I can't blame the scriptwriters.
- The last match was a solid yet ultimately pointless affair. The Bulgarian has been doing so much hoss fighting on the main stage that you forget he cut his teeth down here working with the smaller, high flier-types. I continue to be impressed with how he takes his opponents' offense, and the commitment to selling it throughout (and after) a match.
- You've seen either of these guys work before, though, and you can guess what you got here. The Breeze interference was both unsurprising and awkwardly executed, and the announcers didn't know how to position it either. A bizarre end to a bizarre show.
- Random thought - shouldn't the Mayor of Cutesville use something like hairspray to the eyes for his foreign object/run-in attack? What happened here would have been a lot more evident with a little aerosol splash. Probably someone thinks that's too feminine a tactic, even for their selfie taking, chinchilla-wearing male model.
This is a tough one to grade. On the one hand, there was nothing I strongly disliked about the show. On the other, it was all filler without a standout match. And the ancillary factors just annoyed the hell out of me.
This show can do a lot better, and has, relatively recently.
How are you feeling about NXT, Cagesiders?