NXT made like Raw and opened with a talking segment. Unlike it's main roster big brother, this wasn't a talking segment we've seen a million times before. In fact, it was the first time we've see Sami Zayn as NXT champ (not counting a minute or two before everything went horribly wrong at R Evolution).
The champ cut a cheesy promo that worked if you're willing to call yourself a Zayn-iac, and shared a moment with the man he finally beat in the big one, Adrian Neville. The old friends rekindled their admiration for one another, and chose not to bond over the physical therapy they're probably undergoing as a result of the apron powerbombs each received from Kevin Owens, but their love of competition. General Manager William Regal shared their respect for each other and wrestling, and honored them with a rematch of their classic at the last Takeover event.
Christmas came either a little late or a lot early for myself and other Axe-man aficionados, as Curtis Axel returned to NXT for a battle against Hideo Itami. Perfect, Jr. gave us one of his best performances in months, and his opponent's kicks looked as sharp as we've seen them since he took his new name. In the end, a little too much talking by the main roster veteran let Itami land one kick too many and claim a pinfall victory.
A Women's tag match that many (or I least I) thought was booked for last week was not on the show, possibly because Natalya had to go check on her husband's cats. Instead, Alexa Bliss returned to try to avenge her nose, busted by The Boss when last we saw her. The Pixie Powerhouse continues to impress with her ring work, but Sasha Banks can beat anyone not named Flair right now, and Bliss had to tap to a Bank Statement.
Olympian Chad Gable made his debut, and looked capable of carrying the torch for a new generation of amateurs-turned-pro wrestlers. He had the audience and Tyler Breeze right where he wanted them, really working over Prince Pretty's arm, but all it took was one second for the Beauty Shot to land and for Cuteville's Mayor to get a W. He might want to watch out for that mysterious figure stalking him from the concourse, though!
In the main event, Aiden English & Simon Gotch threw everything they had at Lucha Dragons in the third match between the teams - and the second with Kalisto & Sin Cara's tag team belts on the line. It looks like it's time for a new challenger while The Vaudevillains fine tune their act, because the high flying yet powerful luchadores wowed the crowd and stumped the challengers, and still hold the titles.
It's Wednesday! NXT day comes early from now on!
It does not, however, come in the afternoon. Word is that with the move to a new night, the initial airing of the show will be in prime time, at 8PM Eastern with a replay at 11PM. Presumably, you will be able to stream it on demand any time after it's loaded for the first showing.
As Regal explained it one of those videos above, he's going all out to impress the NXT Universe on the occasion of their move to mid-week. Starting with the NXT Championship rematch of 2014 Match of the Year candidate Zayn vs. Neville. Whatever time we get with these two will certainly be well spent, but I'm banking on a distraction by a certain burly French-Canadian fighter to prevent us from getting a finish.
We're also slated to get a smark dream match that would headline just about any other week, when Finn Bálor faces off with Tyson Kidd. The Irishman is saying all the right things about respecting the last graduate of the Hart Dungeon, is the Fact Man overlooking the former New Japan star in his quest to become SPCA spokesperson? Is there anyway Kidd can ever top the promo he gave last week?
Baron Corbin and Bull Dempsey have been building to this brawl for quite some time. Business has picked up nicely of late in their duel of squashes and war of glares, with Corbin forcing the issue a couple of weeks back when he pulled Bull out of the stands and into his fists. There's a lot riding on a real match for both men...can either or both deliver a performance that indicates they're ready for a move toward the crowded NXT main event scene?
With a card this full, it seems doubtful that they'd burn off a big match like the promised women's tag of Charlotte & Natty vs Team BAE, but we can hope. Would love to see Becky Lynch in solo action against anyone. And Enzo Amore, Colin Cassady, Carmella and internet sensation Ole Blue Pants had the week off last week. NXT likes to run them out for some kind of segment to keep the crowd energy up for big shows like tonight's, so I'll look for some advancement in what I believe to be a heel turn for the Princess of Staten Island.
(Note: I know some folks have come looking for a more definitive match listing - we strictly avoid NXT spoilers here at Cageside central. If WWE.com releases or the performers tweet more information on anything that's officially going to take place on tonight's show, that'll be updated here. If anyone wants to put a match listing in the comments, please use spoiler tags.)
Tonight just might be legendary, as NXT starts a new era on a new night!
Let us know what you're looking forward to, tonight and on Wednesdays to come. And be sure to join your fellow Cagesiders in our 8PM Eastern results thread!