This freaking show, man. Here we go...
- General Manager William Regal officially announces the next live event for February 11th, and briefs us on current events to set-up the #1 contender's tournament and Sasha Banks' next shot at Charlotte's title.
- Tye Dillinger is in the wrong damn place at the wrong damn time, and gets beaten like a rented mule by a pissed off NXT Champ. Regal chastises Sami Zayn, but ultimately grants his request for a non-title match against Kevin Owens.
- The tournament starts with Curtis Axel vs. Finn Bálor. That match ends when Axel misses an elbow from the second rope and the Irishman hits his diving double foot stomp, now christened the Coup de Grâce.
- If they keep loading shows like this, I'm going to jump over to the "give NXT two hours per week" camp. This show had three matches that could have main evented an episode.
- Before we get to that, though, if you thought Sami was angry last week...wooo. The best bit here was his babyface nature shining through enough to ask the GM for a shot at his former best friend. That's staying on message. Zayn won the title without cutting corners. It's important that he not turn into a Cena 'face as soon as he realizes he has the belt and can leverage it to get something he wants.
- Of the three top-tier bouts booked for this show, there's only one that I feel really got shorted. It's probably no surprise that, for an Axel mark like me, it was the first tournament match. Give these men at least five more minutes and you've got a great match. What we got was okay.
- Bálor entrance variation watch reports a smoke machine and some dope gesturing within the fog it creates. Anyone else spend the rest of the night and most of the next day humming Finn's theme to yourself?
- Commentary (the much preferred team of Corey Graves and Jason Albert along with the voice of NXT, Rich Brennan) harps on the single elimination format of the tournament, and I think the first thing they should do with an expanded show is hold a round robin, G1 Climax-style one.
- Darn the Irishman for having a better looking drop kick than mai boi C-Ax. Curtis is suitably menancing and heelish, hitting crisp looking offense and selling Bálor's stuff like a champ. An example of why I mark for the dude is how he applies even a rest hold such that it looks like a strike that transitions into a chin lock, and drops down to the mat so there's an audible cue at the point of contact.
- They should have booked him to win a match at Full Sail before jobbing him out to the Nippon fighters in a pair of five minute matches, though. It's not like he was racking up wins on the main roster before he showed up here.
- Not much new to say about Finn. He looks great, oozes charisma and should probably pick-up a character trait or two beyond bad-ass. Either way you read the tournament bracket, his next round match-up could be a nice place for a heel turn.
- Replay of last week's women's tag match leads into Sasha Banks living up to her nickname, hyping her latest title shot and just generally putting Devin Taylor in her place...like A BO$$.
- Bull Dempsey with his latest confident (sounding and delivered) promo promises he'll regain his momentum when he faces Baron Corbin in the tourney next week.
- Charlotte and Banks trade maneuvers and look evenly matched for a couple of minutes when Becky Lynch gets involved one too many times and triggers the DQ. Bayley has the champ's back, but doesn't take kindly to being snapped at, and snaps off a Hugplex on Ms. Flair. The already busy GM finds the time to put a Fatal 4Way for the Women's title on the books for 11 February.
- KO has less time for the interviewer dude than Sasha had for Taylor, and will speak with Zayn directly next week during their contract signing.
- Figured I wouldn't like anything more than The Boss saying this, but then she asked if Devin had any more questions, whipped her hair in the interviewers face and said "don't care".
- Would like to buy a Team B.A.E. shirt. If it only comes in form-fitting midriff-baring versions, though, would rather just watch Becky Lynch wear it.
- Pretty bummed about the women's match, but for mostly kayfabe reasons. Love where we're going, but can't help but be bummed that we only got a couple of minutes for what looked like a nice next chapter in the former BFF's story. From the beginning, it was clear that last week's win had delivered Banks to a place where she is no longer intimidated by the champ. Their aggro lock-up was very cool and the takedowns & covers they attempted out of it were innovative.
- Another issue is that they need to do a title change on a taped show, or stop having title matches on taped shows. This is compounded by the fact that Charlotte should either be trying to freshen up her face character by chasing, or she should be a heel. Even if you dislike Sasha's character as intended, who's pulling for The Nature Girl? What reason have we been given to do so? And all you have to do is watch her throw an arrogant "out of my way" at the challenger when she cartwheeling through her entrance to see that, at least as this point in her career, she should be following in her daddy's 1980s footsteps.
- Watching those Triple H DVDs did Bayley some good! That's totally not a heel turn, by the way, since the Queen has always been at least a little condescending to the Hugster, even in friendship. It's simply the long overdue next phase in the education of B. Hope they really focus on her over the next couple of weeks to drive that point home, just in case there's a cathartic, redemptive win on the 11th.
- "Do you work here?" Owens is really good at being a dick.
- Buddy Murphy & Wesley Blake overcome the jobber entrance and score a victory over the former #1 contenders to the tag titles, The Vaudevillains. They then reveal their gimmick as ecstatic yet intense dumb guys while booking themselves against the champs.
- Hideo Itami is standing in the way of Tyler Breeze's plans for global aesthetic segregation.
- Plans that will have to go back to the drawing board along with his NXT Championship aspirations, since his latest show-stealing performance was seen and raised by Itami, who delivered his best match as a WWE-contracted wrestler to advance to round two.
- Lucha Dragons remain a mystery, and one that gets the least amount of screen time despite holding the gold. Graves mentions that they've beaten everyone who's come at them - which, by my count, consists of The Ascension and 'Villains. The NXT tag division feels so shallow that I'm a little worried we might see Too Cool make good on their post-ArRIVAL promise of sticking around.
- Simon Gotch was slightly hesitant to take Aiden English's hand during their entrance, and Albert speculated about issues between them during the match. Not sure I would be too upset if they split and feuded. Between this loss and their multiple failures to best Sin Cara & Kalisto, I'm not sure how serious I can take them as a team again any time soon. The Actor is getting better at working as a heel within matches, and the Strongman is a natural hero, too.
- Like most NXT tag matches, this one left me largely unmoved. Murphy & Blake bring a nice power game, but are still a little shaky and seem close to a major slip once or twice a match. I don't have high hopes that I'll love next week's title bout, either.
- OH THANK GOODNESS IT'S NOT MOJO RAWLEY STALKING PRINCE PRETTY FROM THE SHADOWS. I half expected Marcus Louis to attack during the match, protecting Breeze and setting up their program. But then I remembered it's Wednesday, not Monday, night.
- Tyler's such a great performer, it's a bummer that he seems to have been barred from the title picture since Fatal 4Way. C'est la vie, I suppose. But do take a moment to appreciate how far he's come, and to marvel at how a guy who could wow us with moves and workrate has slowed things down and strategically uses stuff like the Superkick and the Crucifix Driver he busted out tonight while still clearly being a heel.
- An observation from the last couple of month's worth of shows - kudos to NXT Creative and Full Sail Live for figuring out how to position and respond to heels. It seems to have been a compromise. The bookers and wrestlers are more clearly presenting who's bad and why, and the crowd is responding accordingly. It really helps us at home, and probably the workers, too.
- Would have liked to see a little more of a build to Itami's comeback and finishing sequence, but that's a really small quibble. He and the production team are showing us why his offense works - Hideo by being a little bit more demonstrative and making sure the striking limb has some separation from the rest of his body, the camera people and directors by showing it from better angles.
- Combine that with his facial expressions and mannerisms (particularly loved his look of disbelief when the ref only got to two following the DDT off the top rope and the flying clothesline) and we're closer to seeing the man who feuded with Bryan Danielson than we've ever been.
- I like the Sick Kick finisher, but we need a name. Get on it.
Not even sure what the point of this next bit is...tradition, I guess. Just go watch the show. Again, if necessary. It's a lot of set-up, and it didn't have a truly epic match on it, but it's still better than 95% of televised wrestling.
How was it for you?