The crowd is amped up, which isn't too surprising considering this was filmed as the next to last show at the taping. Let's see how that piece of trivia, and what we can already see is a return to shorter run times, does for us, shall we?
- New CZW star CJP loses to former CZW star Solomon Crowe, who proves that his submission finisher is a lot cooler than the pinfall finisher he showed us previously.
- We're right back on the squash train as Baron Corbin ends Steve Cutler's days before Corey Graves & Rich Brennan can even tell us his backstory.
- The Likeable One will be damned if he'll let Rhyno use him to get the top like Kevin Owens did.
- Been a while since we've had the tape delayed match of sadness...at least the break-up was mutual in this case.
- Is CJ Parker capable of getting through a non-squash match without bleeding and/or busting open his opponent? That's a rhetorical question, as the stiffness of Parker's final matches in WWE (for now) was what made them special. It was certainly the case here again, as both he and Crowe worked a close, violent-looking bout.
- Feeling a little bit better about Solomon after this, but there's still cause for concern. On the plus side, the uniqueness of his intensity came across as more than a clone of Dean Ambrose tonight, we were treated to some of the innovative counter offense he's capable of - specifically the boot to the ass on CJ's second senton try, and the Stretch Muffler is a million times better than the Boing Splash as a closer. Even the flying headbutt is cooler when it targets the leg to set-up the Boston Crab variant.
- Things that still have me wary include a look that will not get a chance to be taken seriously in the big leagues (the tanning situation - too orange last outing, too red this time, the singlet, the hair) and the fact that nothing about his gimmick says hacker except for the fact that they tell us he's a hacker. Everything about his character feels like Creative is telling him to just go out there and wing it. And folks they have big hopes for aren't sent out there to wing it.
- No clue why we're back to "how fast can The Lone Wolf beat this guy". The decisive win over Bull Dempsey and dipping his toe into the main event waters should have meant something. Turn him heel or feud him with Jason Jordan or something. The show is too short to just go back to doing the same thing with the same guy if you haven't even hinted at it having some significance.
- We don't give him as much credit for it...maybe because he's a face so it's not as sexy, or maybe because we've gotten used to it because he's been doing on NXT for a couple of years now. But just like KO, Sami Zayn uses every interview, promo and match to build his larger overall story.
- The Realest Guys run their mouths, then run through Angelo Dawkins & Sawyer Fulton to send a message to the tag champs.
- Blake & Murphy also had a message - for Carmella. They say "We're Sorry" for her apron bump in Columbus with roses.
- A-Ry continues the champ's face turn by telling KO to meet him in the ring next week.
- Dana Brooke proves she's a bodybuilder while winning her debut over Ole Blue Pants.
- Starting to think that the reason Enzo & Cass haven't been called up is because they would instantly be the most over act in the company. The Jordan of Jargon's fresh quips are so good, we don't even get a chance to appreciate how note perfect the mainstays of his entrance spiel are.
- Their ringwork still doesn't do much for me, but they're smoothing out the kinks and settling into the formula quite nicely. And when your presence and verbal skills are through the freaking roof, all you have to do in the ring is not screw up. Being seven foot tall doesn't hurt, either. You can't teach that, after all.
- One thing they could use the couple of minutes spent on another Corbin quickie for would be to establish something for Haas & Benjamin 2.0. Feels like a good gimmick and they work their parts well, but all we have to go on is feel since we've never heard them talk. Fulton looks a little too much like a Bushwacker and not enough like a shooter, but context could probably help meld the tattoos and mohawk into the character.
- Tag champs are looking a lot more confident in everything they're doing now. I like it. The romancing of Carmella is a nifty, old school WWF bit. I like it, too.
- Graves made me do a spit take when he corrected Rich in saying that the angle is "a love pentagram" because there are five people involved.
- For anyone who proclaimed that Riley's recent Twitter actions were a brilliant heel turn...here's why they weren't. Next week's match (or segment, since I don't know that Owens is cleared yet) will be filmed tomorrow night. The smarks in attendance will have full knowledge of his social media douchebaggery. What could have been a nice continuation of the face pop A-Ry got during his Full Sail qualifying match is now squandered, and the nuanced-but-still-heel champ will be adoringly cheered. And I don't blame the NXT Universe one bit. Screw you, Alex.
- The Total Diva was a hot topic in the threads and on social media last night. As usual, I'm somewhere in the middle of the arguments...this was pretty bad, but I'm willing to give her - and Sarah Amato - a chance.
- However...here's my issue with the "this is Developmental - they're supposed to be green" arguments. And this goes for guys like Mojo Rawley and Baron Corbin, too. NXT television should be the last phase of their development. Something like 30 or 40 wrestlers based out of the Performance Center don't get to wrestle on WWE Network. If you're really green, you need to be working it out in dark matches and live shows around the Sunshine State, not on my screen on Wednesday night. Specific to Ms. Brooke...when you were signed almost two years ago, I'd hope you could at least throw convincing fake punches before you made the show.
- But, there are probably a lot of nerves involved in your first taped bout, and she definitely has something in both her finisher and her heel mannerisms, so I wish her the best. That entrance music has to go, though.
- Next week brings us a big triple threat #1 contenders match for the Women's title featuring Charlotte, Becky Lynch & Bayley and the aforementioned Riley/Owens rematch.
- Sami Zayn takes a lickin' - again.
- The main event shifts gears for the third act, as our Syrian-Canadian hero gets some impressive offense of his own in on route to a Helluva victory over Rhyno.
- If I were a betting man (and I am, but I can't find anyone to take wagers on pre-taped contests with scripted outcomes), I'd lay money that Dark Emma takes the Hugster out of next week's women's match, and we're headed toward a Team B.A.E. blood feud. That leaves the former champ in need of a call-up, or...I'm not sure what the next move is for The Nature Girl.
- First half of the main was about the narrative building I was giving Sami and Kev props for above - it was designed to be reminiscent of the Rival title tilt, forcing us to ask if Zayn had come back too soon, or bitten off more than he could chew in his first outing since that beating.
- Despite that, and that watching Sami overact his way to a "fighting spirit" comeback should have been comfort food for a Zayniac like me after a couple months without one, I still found myself getting bored, or at least not enthralled by it. I don't think it was either man's fault, but the fact that it never crossed my mind that the Man-Beast might win probably didn't help.
- While I still don't think it was worth the "This is Awesome" chant Full Sail rewarded it with, business most definitely picked up for the finish. As a proud Spinebuster mark, I can say that Rhyno's made me jump off the couch a little bit and from there, I was fully engaged.
- Sami's Blue Thunder Bomb on 300 pounds of muscle was pretty damn impressive, and you've got to love the fact that Rhyno basically hit Alex Riley's old finisher better than A-Ry could. Zayn's kickout of the fireman's carry cutter and subsequent slap of his opponent worked for me the way most of tonight's episode didn't.
- Good but not great stuff that most leaves me wondering what's next for either man. Sami because I don't expect him to get another shot at the champ for a while, regardless of Owens' rehab status. Rhyno because when you come in talking title after a squash or two, it's hard to imagine where you go from a clean loss - even one where you were booked as dominantly as he was for most of this match.
Perfectly serviceable episode that probably doesn't contain anything I'd rewatch. All my gripes were minor, but there were enough of them that I can't help but grade it in relation to previous highs we all know the show is capable of.
Here's where you let me have it, Cagesiders. Give it to me straight, I can take it.