This was indisputably NXT's grandest extravaganza yet. It was not only its first pay-per-view on the road, but it also was a sold-out show in front over 13,000 people. Despite NXT being a "developmental program", its popularity is spreading throughout the wrestling world. The product is perfervidly honing its craft and evincing that wrestling can be thought-provoking, compelling, and interesting, no matter what rating it is.
Tyler Breeze vs. Jushin Liger
Build: For a few months, Tyler Breeze has had an impressive run and has no problem telling everyone how great he is. He is a haughty antagonist and believes he is perfect in every way. He sick of the lack of completion in NXT, so William Regal brought in one of the greatest high-flyers ever, Jushin Liger to give him to test he desired.
Match: This was a solid opener, albeit rather short. Liger looked impressive for his age. He was capable to keep up with Tyler Breeze and pulled off some difficult bumps in a sound manner. It is unfortunate the wrong wrestler went over, though. Breeze could have gained heavy momentum, since he would have been able to brag about knocking off a legend, and did not even look good in spite of losing to boot. Nevertheless, it was a satisfying ending for the NXT audience, as they saw Liger perform, deliver a Liger Bomb and win his first match in WWE.
Rating: ** 3/4
NXT Tag Team Championship: Blake and Murphy © (w/ Alexa Bliss) vs. The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch w/ Blue Pants).
Build: Blake and Murphy kept finding shortcuts and ignoble ways to win. Alexa Bliss, in particular, is a main reason they kept retaining their titles. While the Vaudevillians are the superior team, their righteousness is forestalling them from winning the NXT championships. Accordingly, they promised they would find an equalizer to prevent Bliss from costing them another match.
Match: This was a well-paced and timed match with a well-told story and a frantic culmination. There was a copious amount of to and fro and chaotic action - especially down the stretch. It also had clever near-falls, too, which played off particular spots that Blake and Murphy won their previous title matches with. But, due to the Vaudevillians perseverance and Blue Pants preventing Bliss from interfering, they knocked off the perfidious tag-team champions in what was an organic feel-good moment.
Apollo Crews vs. Tye Dillinger
Story: By virtue of intuitive booking, NXT made Apollo Crews as a phenomenal athlete and specimen that people must see wrestle.
Match: Fine squash. Crews has tremendous talent, and this got him over as a force to be reckoned with. But since it was just a brief sample, it also made you want to see more from him.
Baron Corbin vs. Samoa Joe
Build: Both wrestler's styles are very analogous. They are both monstrous bruisers who made a career by way of dominating wrestlers. However, Corbin is the natural athlete who can do any job or task he wants to. He does not them for the passion, either; he mostly does them for the money. Moreover, he does not respect wrestlers, care about the history of wrestling, nor how hard wrestler had to work to earn their spot. He is there to make money, and since he is such a natural athlete, he dominates everyone. Conversely, Samoa Joe loves wrestling but had to pay his dues to get where he is. And because of Corbin's sophomoric behavior, Joe wants to teach him some manners.
Match: Joe still needs work on his cardio. He sometimes loses too much gas and it detriments his in-ring work. His moves lose their once viciousness and snap and instead come across as soft looking and foreseeable. This was one of his better matches, though, in NXT. It was hard-hitting, physical and conveyed a solid story of two behemoths slugging it out to see whom the superior alpha male was. Hopefully, he keeps improving because there are potentially some great opponents for him in WWE.
Rating: ** 3/4
NXT's Women Championship: Sasha Banks © vs. Bayley
Build: The once reluctant and insecure Bayley has become more aggressive, intense and committed in her ultimate quest to become NXT champion. In spite of her defeating both Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, the ever-so-confident, Sasha Banks still does not believe she is a threat to her title. Needless to say, but both of these women play their characters to perfection: Sasha Banks nails her glamour-girl, all-that persona to a tee and Bailey nails her enchanting and compassionate persona as well.
Match: Awesome high-stakes, big fight atmosphere match. By dint of super booking, there was more on the line than the title. Sasha was trying to prove she was the best women's champion while Bayley was trying to prove she was more than capable and credible enough to become a legitimate NXT Women champion.
This was two very distinct characters - one who is oh-so loveable and the other oh-so hatable - pulling out all measures and stops. Banks wanted to dissemble and embarrass Bailey, who she is rather spiteful of due to Bayley popularity and new-and-improved confidence. Banks belittles Bayley via trash-talk and at times does not respect her. But over time, she becomes more desperate due to Bayley's never-say-die attitude and fighting spirit, and it becomes evident Banks is now insecure and afraid she might have underestimated Bayley. Then, Bayley's passion, hankering and compulsion to become champion allowed her to overcome Banks' aptitudes and underhanded shenanigans.
The vehemence, urgency, tension and dramatic near-falls were off-the-charts. The match kept amplifying and took unanticipated veers, insofar as no one knew where it was headed nor what will to happen net, although everyone eyes' was glued to what was being consummated. While it was transparent Bayley would win, both the Bayley did a tremendous job of acting if she was in serious perilousness, which led to some uncertainty and doubt.
Ultimately, this was an exquisitely structured match with a meticulously and multifaceted story, well-performed moves, spots, and bumps, and realistic selling. Both wrestlers also played their dramatis personaes to perfection and the chemistry was so spectacular that they were about five spots ahead of the audience. Bayley is one of the most unadulterated babyfaces of this generation, so this was an emotionally heartwarming climax to her voyage to prove all her prophets of doom wrong and become the NXT women's champion.
Rating: **** 3/4 . And, seriously, thank you to both.
NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) vs. Kevin Owens
Build: Kevin Owens' downfall commenced when he lost the NXT Championship to Balor in Japan. Thus, he is attempting to turn his misfortunes around, as regaining the NXT Championship would give him the self-assurance to become the ass-kicking machine who conquered WWE's figurehead once upon a time. He also believes Balor's win in Japan was nothing more than a fluke; and if William Regal keeps his word he will not screw over Owens, then there is no way, shape or form he will lose to him again.
Match: Owens comprehends the little things of being a true villain. Everything he does has a subtle intention and purpose behind it, and he also comprehends how to cause the crowd to become involved in a match. The only asset he lacks is something he cannot control, which is creative on his side. While Balor lacks in the charisma department, his smooth and crispy-clean ring work makes up for it. His moves, bumping and selling are flawless, as he makes it look so effortless.
The work-rate, violence and high spots were of course magnificent, although the storytelling kept this from being an instant classic. The storytelling was a marginally hollow, as the match did not establish a main-arch plot other than just two wrestlers beating the hell out of each. However, because they did it so efficaciously, they still achieved greatness.
Kevin Owens, though, is now in desperate need of a character-arc. He keeps promising to win matches and keeps coming up short . He just is not a threat anymore, and while losing streaks have the ability lead to some creative storytelling, the keyword is "creative" and Vince McMahon and Co. are extremely lacking in that department.
Final Verdict: NXT's storytelling is logical, consistent and relatable. Their stories are also not one-dimensional. Instead, they are multilayered stories with plenitudes of content and profundity. The company additionally gives a match additional meaning by dint of putting something concrete or abstract at stake in matches, and it also attempts to give its wrestler's distinguishable and well-defined gimmicks to make them more special and unique.
More importantly, though, NXT just allows their wrestlers to have fun. The show is excessively less scripted than WWE is; thus, their wrestlers are allowed to have freelance and improvise based on unexpected things that may happen and react off the crowd instead of trying to follow the script. After all, wrestling is not acting. It is reacting and that gives a product a more naturalistic and realistic vibe.
Furthermore, NXT allows their wrestlers to just go out and give it their all. The company does not "hold back" anyone or tell them to "take it easy" because they do not want to spoil the fans by giving them too many great matches. They make sure the fans get what they paid for and that is what wrestling should be about.
Despite NXT being in a transitional period, it still managed to deliver a great show. There were some questionable booking decisions of putting older talent over new, but it was understandable because it was a feel-good "babyfaces triumph while giving heels get their comeuppance they deserve" show. The company keeps proving they are truly the real flagship show in terms of quality and satisfying their fan base.
Thumbs way up.
PS: Your move, SummerSlam.