We've got the 'A' announce team of Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton and William Regal, plus four talented women scheduled for tag action. Whatever else this show might be, it won't be S-A-W-F-T...SAWFT!
- Enzo accompanies Big Cass to the ring with his usual verbal panache, and the Queens native makes quick work of Sylvester Lefort.
- The NXT champ is interviewed by Devin Taylor about his victory over RVD last week, and we learn of the #1 contender's devastating hand modeling injury. Tyler Breeze reminds Adrian Neville that he can exercise his title shot at a time and place of his choosing.
- Both teams showed off a lot of nice teamwork and tandem maneuvers, but the BFFs were too much for the new pairing of Bayley & Becky Lynch. Women's champ Charlotte pinned newcomer Lynch to end a really good match after hitting the Dubliner with her finisher.
- Great to have Enzo back - his energy is irreplaceable and Colin Cassady's laid back wise guy is a more nuanced performance with Amore as a foil. I love that the little man's entrance speech doesn't vary, but Big Cass changes his comments up a little bit match-to-match. It's the best of both worlds.
- Cass' finishing combo is great. Calling his drop the Empire Elbow is dope, and as I said last week, it looks great when a man his size gets that much air under it. He needs to be tagging at this point, though. Hopefully Enzo's cleared for physical contact soon. Their contrasting styles and just not having to work a full match will cover weaknesses in both of their games. The Queens' native is still working on transitions that wouldn't always be necessary if he were the hot tag closer.
- Not that he needed transitions here. I don't understand NXT booking in cases like this; they did it a lot when Aiden English was going over Cass, too. They spend time setting up a program, and then the program ends up being a series of squashes. It definitely made Les Legionnaires seem like more of a threat than they ended up being, and damages their future usefulness as enhancement talent.
- Thank goodness Breeze interrupted Devin Taylor's interview with Neville. Both have improved on the stick, but it felt like the kind of paint-by-numbers segment you get from most of the Ring of Honor roster. Prince Pretty immediately woke me up. Not sure if his talking up his #1 contendership almost like a Money in the Bank contract is just a ploy to cover while his hand heals, but Adrian is lucky he's being allowed to live another day.
- Bull Dempsey got a video package, the week after his debut. Too early to call on the performer or the gimmick, but I'm cautiously optimistic that he'll taking some of Mojo Rawley's time while the Hype man goes back to the lab to figure some stuff out/work on his cardio.
- The women were awesome, as usual. It's fairly safe to write off most of my critiques of Lynch from last week as first time on television nerves and/or the wrong opponent (not that Summer Rae isn't great, but she's not someone who should be called on to carry an anxious newcomer at this point). There was nary a jig, her moves were a lot smoother and her bridging pin escape is rapidly becoming an instant pop for me.
- Bayley got a pre-match inset promo and showed some fire in saving Lynch from Sasha Banks' post-match taunting. It's taken a while, but they are adding the serious/bad ass elements to her character similarly to how they added them to Breeze's. With word of her getting a #1 contender match of her own against Summer next week, we just might be on track to her getting a title shot and maybe even a victory for the next live special.
- Much love to the Beautiful Fierce Females, too. My favorite moment of the night might have been Charlotte covering Sasha's ears during the "Ratchet" chant. The match was a standard WWE tag team affair - faces in control until the break, Bayley as face-in-peril after some underhanded tactics by the BFFs, Becks coming up just short in her comeback. But everything was crisp, the teams were actual teams who executed simple and more complex moves as a unit and everyone knew the story they were telling and how their character played into it. Really enjoyed it.
- Taylor interviews Justin Gabriel, who will face Sami Zayn in the main event. Tyson Kidd steps in to "shoot" about Gabriel's career falling into the same purgatory his did.
- Charlotte breaks up (her tag team) with Sasha Banks in the locker room, telling her that Summer's return taught her she can't trust anyone. The Boss says that she and The First Lady always got along fine before the champ came along, and wishes her luck against the winner of the #1 contender match.
- CJ Parker defeated a jobber and cut a promo setting up a feud with Xavier Woods. Neither thing sucked.
- Renee Young did a sitdown interview with Kidd to address his recent actions, most of which he chalked up to loving his wife too much before storming off when asked about rumors of marital woes.
- Wow, did Tyson Kidd ever get A LOT of time on this week's show. The "fact" catchphrase is getting over in a "so bad, it's good" way, and guy who can work good-to-great matches with the rookies is a great role for him right now. But can we please officially turn him heel and be done with it? The character development would be fine if (1) he had the chops to pull it off or (2) we were investing time in a future star. He doesn't and he's not. I don't need ten minutes to hear about how long he's been with Natalya.
- Feels like we're shotgunning the breakup of the BFFs. The locker room segment kind of came out of nowhere following how smoothly Banks and Charlotte worked together in their victory over B & B. This was also a real step back for the champ in the speaking department - she seemed to be reading off of cue cards. She may have just been outshined by Sasha though. The Boss is a verbal beast.
- I'm getting closer to being a fan of CJ Parker. His eco-douche heel character is becoming fully formed; he got a new 'tron and entrance theme tonight, looks scruffier, worked slower and broke out a new finisher (which is still kind of lame, but not as bad as the palm strike). The promo he cut on Xavier Woods wasn't long on logic (the doctoral candidate may be smart, but he's squandered his main roster opportunity and Parker wants it to win titles and spread his message), but it was solid. I'll try some more of this CJP.
- Byron Saxton made a nice effort at explaining CJ's transition from protesting to getting in the ring. But aside from that - and several moments of Regal being an actual wrestling announcer, especially during the main event - commentary was grating me a little this week. When did the NXT house style become "announcers argue with each other"? It's okay in small doses, but I felt like this week was one long debate with Byron on one side and William and/or Tom on the other.
Segment Three / Main Event
- Kidd accompanied Gabriel out for the main event, even though they seemed to not be on the same page backstage.
- Sami Zayn won a good match that was really good for its final third.
- Kidd convinces the South African to join him in taking his frustrations out on Sami after the bell, and the NXT champ races in to make the save.
- Maybe I missed it, but it was kind of weird that Kidd and Gabriel's tag team, International Airstrike, wasn't mentioned. Especially since it was an actual plot point on this show during Justin's feud with Leo Kruger last year. Maybe that disappeared from continuity along with Kruger.
- The main started slow for me and I found my attention drifting. I know they were trying to attach a story to it, but it just wasn't working. Letting Sami talk about it for one of the minutes they assigned to Kidd probably would have helped.
- Anyway...business picked up in a big way from about the midway point on through to the finish. Zayn was his usual exemplary self, fighting off rubber legs to hit a drop kick to regain control and get nearfalls with the Blue Thunder Bomb and an Exploder suplex into the turnbuckles. Gabriel dodgeg a Helluva Kick and countered with a thrust kick and it was GAME. ON.
- The Darewolf followed the thrust kick with what we decided in the open thread was a Brainbuster onto his knee. I both didn't know Gabriel could do that and am shocked that he was allowed to on a WWE show. The springboard moonsault he followed it with was almost as impressive. Why he's not doing this on the main shows, at least as part of a tag unit, is a mystery.
- Zayn needed a clean win, and the post-match angle was perfect for the story they're telling. The obvious tag match set-up is easily forgiven, because that should be a hell of a (Helluva?) match.
- Now that many folks have explained Gabriel's extreme sports pants to me, can anyone tell me why Tyson was cosplaying an Arrow villain?
The run of strong shows continues. The main and women's matches are the standouts. The only thing I would say needs to be fast forwarded is Young's interview with Kidd.
Yes, even CJ Parker is worth your time.
Lay it on me, Cagesiders. How'd you like this week's NXT?