Any storytelling quibbles I had with Rival's main event are completely removed by the video package recapping it that opens tonight's episode.
- Our General Manager finishes the explanation the opening compilation started, clarifying that the title can change hands via referee stoppage due to knockout. He also makes it clear that he runs this show, and books our new champ in a non-title match with the other guy he's sent to the hospital via apron powerbomb...Adrian Neville.
- Kevin Owens makes his way out to a mix of cheers, boos, chants of his name and Sami Zayn's. Those jeering him have no right, because he never lied to us. He did everything he said he was going to do, and what he's going to do next is give Finn Bálor the same treatment he gave Sami Zayn.
- Elias Sampson gets suplexed and GORE, GORE, GORED by the man-beast.
- The new #1 contender is trying to keep up with KO in the promo department, but it isn't easy when you're talking to Devin Taylor - especially with Rhyno walking up behind you.
- My main takeaway from the two opening monologues is that I'm really bummed Regal's in-ring days are done (while I never read anything official, his last back surgery seems to have made it unofficially so). At least we're getting promo wars between he and Owens, since the GM acts as Sami's mouthpiece during his frequent main roster trips.
- NXT continues to be proof that the 'Reality' Era can work. Ironically, it has to have a tightly controlled creative vision to make that happen. Can you imagine how the faces with heel motivations, and vice versa, that populate this show's main event would come across if written by a committee and then rewritten on the fly by Vince McMahon?
- Rhyno, and others with similar résumés who'll apparently be coming our way on Wednesday nights soon, are okay for these kind of two shot deals (I'm assuming he puts Finn over, otherwise...I'll complain about it on the internet, and nobody wants that). They come with a built in crowd reaction that trying to rehab a Titus O'Neil or Curtis Axel is never going to get - at least not right out of the gate. But if they're going to be around, either one or two guys as regulars or a steady stream of veteran guest stars...that'd be the thing to swing me over to the "NXT needs to be two hours" camp.
- Seriously, I need Hideo Itami and Tyler Breeze to have storylines. They haven't been able to deliver that without giving twenty minutes or so a month to stars of the 90s and the aughts.
- Leaning toward lobbying for Bálor to become a Heyman Guy. I get the gimmick: Irish gentleman who becomes a demon warrior in the ring. But the monotone babyface promos are not doing anything for me, and come across as a real deficiency against personalities like Owens, Zayn, Breeze and even the greatly improved Neville.
- All that whining aside, it's going to be freaking sweet when he leap-frogs over a Gore to hit a Pele Kick.
- Former top challengers to the tag titles The Vaudevillains do the job for new apparent top challengers The Realest Guys in the Room. Afterwards, champs Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy show up on the 'tron to mack awkwardly on Carmella.
- Adrian Neville is interviewed in the locker room to spin his recent losses as liberating him to pick his battles after all those months of being hunted for his title.
- Bayley and Becky Lynch speak about last week's Fatal 4Way, and Becks sets up a feud with the Hugster.
- CJ Parker says "bullcrap" a lot and tries to pull a Bo Dallas, but the long awaited debut of Solomon Crowe ends his takeover attempt.
- As soon as I lose all of my jobs (but this one), and my wife leaves me, I'm going to dye my beard just like 'Zo.
- Speaking of dye jobs, color me mystified by the presentation of just about everything in the tag scene. Aiden English & Simon Gotch return to job to The Port Authority? NXT masterfully builds singles competitors to climactic wins, but the pairs just suck until they don't and then they become champs. Once you lose the title, you suck again. The Ascension held the straps for almost a year, but once they lost them, they could barely beat one man. Blake & Murphy went from enhancement talent to cocky champs in a week.
- They seem to be backtracking on Carmella, too. The crowd still hated her, but she was acting very babyface valet tonight. Hopefully they're setting her up to betray Enzo & Big Cass, because that would both let her work to her natural alignment and set up an actual story for the not-sawft duo's rise to the top.
- Maybe let the Aussie do the talking there, Wes? And remind me when you guys got all creepy again?
- Think this was the best we've seen The Realest Guys look in the ring, but it still wasn't great and was probably kept short knowing that it wouldn't be. They have obviously been hitting the weights - 'Zo is one big muscle, and Cassady has to have put on 50+ pounds since debuting as a beanpole back in 2013.
- Who is this backstage interviewer man, and why does he look like Patton Oswalt spent a day with Ryan Seacrest's stylist?
- Come at me, bros - I'm a CJ Parker fan! How can you not love a guy who embraces his roll as douchey heel who gets crushed by debuting indy favorites? The caution tape was a brilliant little touch that fit his gimmick and added to this cliché bit.
- This is probably a minority opinion, but I was underwhelmed by Crowe's debut. Too much build, I suppose, and not enough to pass judgement on yet, for sure. But I was hoping for a more modified look, and more of a tie in to the hacker character. This makes me think it will just be a tangential element of his schtick. That's probably better for his long-term chances, but in the here-and-now I think he needs something to stand out from the pack and get time & angles on the show.
- Creative ensures a heel reaction for new Women's champ Sasha Banks by putting her against a Full Sail darling. Blue Pants gets in a surprising amount of offense before being forced to tap out by a Bank Statement, then The Boss puts the rest of the division on notice.
- Medical doctor and Sami Zayn impersonator Chris Amman lets us know that The Likeable One is okay.
- The champ and The Man That Gravity Forgot save the show - workrate wise, anyway - with a spectacular main event where each man survives the other's best shots before a Powerbomb OUT OF NOWHERE extends Owens' win streak.
- Look out Bálor, you've got competition for the best entrance in WWE. The video being just the outline of pants drawn in blue is even better than using Cass' rendition of The Price if Right theme as the music.
- What else there to say about The Boss? I wish we lived in an alternate universe where women were booked differently on the main shows so she could share her gift with a larger audience. All of her reactions to Blue Pants entrance, and especially offering her the chance to leave before she got embarrassed by the champ, were wonderful.
- Would have preferred we pretend Sami was in the hospital. I mean, sure we all know he was in the Emirates by Thursday, but saying "he wanted to fly halfway around the globe and we said sure" takes a little away from the whole "Owens won via homicide" angle they spent tonight pushing.
- They spent a considerable amount of time on this episode covering for the announce team's failure to portray the title tilt at Rival the way it was written. In addition to how the recaps were produced and Regal's opening comments, Graves & Albert spent stretches of tonight's main event trying to convey the carnage they were talking over last week. It worked, but it makes the scene with Dr. Amman that much weirder.
- It is glorious to see Owens in a WWE ring with a belt over his shoulder. I also still can't really believe it.
- His talent is too much to overlook, so once he gets going it's not at all surprising. They may be straddling the line with his promos, but once the bell rings he's clearly a monster heel. No one else in wrestling mixed impressive maneuvers with a slowed down style that actually seems to make even an experienced crowd like FSL nervous.
- Speaking of "on another level"...Adrian Neville, y'all. Turning the aforementioned spin-out fireman's carry facebuster into DDT. The 450 onto the floor. The deadlift suplex!? The reverse Frankensteiner thingee!?!?! I think I liked this match more than either Owens or Neville's matches from last week. Something about it just clicked for me in a way that neither of those bouts did.
- If Brock Lesnar does go back to MMA, can KO have the F-Cinq? Imagine a world where Owens' is hitting F5s and Itami is nailing fools with the Go To Sleep...
- Big Kev's weary yet disdainful look a Neville after the pin - who will stop this man?
A strong yet largely unremarkable effort coming off of a TakeOver, with a lot of short matches and talking segments establishing future angles, capped off by a great main event.
Thoughts? Observations? Screams? Cries?