Our first look at NXT's January Full Sail taping was a quick one designed to get you results as soon as possible. Now, we turned to one of our shrewdist staffers for a more detailed report and analysis!
And, if it's not clear, this is spoilers for shows that will be airing on WWE Network throughout the month of January. Proceed at your own risk...
Big announcement at the start of the taping as WWE anounced "WWE Kids", a show taped from Full Sail, which seemingly is going to use members of the main roster. At least for the moment. I can't imagine with it being taped in Full Sail that Bayley will not be an important participant on this show in the future, even with the main roster branding given how natural a fit she is to the youth audience. Additionally, it gives them the opportunity to test her as that "next Cena" that the office thinks she potentially could be.
Additionally, like the "NXT Kids" pilot that leaked months back, children are being used as announcers and interviewers, and everyone's favorite Bayley superfan, Izzy is one of the kids involved, working as an interview.
The show started off with Becky Lynch making a triumphant return to Full Sail to take on Natalya. The two had a short match that was won by Lynch with a flash pin. Given that it's slated for 30 minutes, I imagine the matches will be pretty short generally.
Next up was Big Show vs. Heath Slater! I know some folks might be concerned about Big Show on the 'sacred ground' of Full Sail, but this is an absolutely perfect match for a kids show. Giant against lovable comedic character? Makes total sense. And both guys are very smart performers capable of adapting to the different format. Show won and gave Heath CPR in the post match.
After Big Show emerged victorious, he was interviewed by "Renee Younger" as one of the Izzy Section fans on Twitter nicknamed her and I shall now call Izzy that for the rest of time.
Set gets reset for NXT proper, and we start off with the return of William Regal. He announces a Women's Battle Royal for the first main event of the taping to determine a new Number One Contender to the Face that Runs the Place's championship. He then introduces Sami Zayn. It looked like it got some time before he was interrupted by the Samoan Submission Machine, Samoa Joe. And that sound you heard was the collective loss of everyone's pants.
Motivated Joe v. Sami Zayn sounds absolutely incredible as a return feud for The Underdog from the Underground, and it looks like we will be getting that, but that comes later because Baron Corbin is out next, interrupting this debate over who the next champion will be, and without hearing the content, I can only assume he was telling these two to go back to all measures of indy promotions that they didn't work for.
The first match of NXT proper sees Tommaso Ciampa make his NXT return and take on Martin Stone (the former Danny Burch). Tommaso wins the match with some form of a bridging armbar submission hold. I imagine if he comes to NXT full time he'll have to change up his finisher as Project Ciampa is a really indieriffic finish that he's not going to be able to hit on many people in WWE.
Dash & Dawson are out next to face the Ascension. Looks like Konnor is not in fact injured as was rumored. Since Konnor and Viktor have legs, we know what the result was, and the tag champions emerge victorious.
Elias Sampson makes his first TV appearance since his debut in London and the gimmick seems basically DOA with the Full Sail audience. It really feels like a remnant of an old era of NXT that it has long since moved past. He faces Corey Hollis, making his third NXT appearance, and gets the victory, this time with a Neckbreaker variant. Kind of surprising as the Elbow Drop was one of the few things that worked his first time out.
The women's battle royale is up next and the full list of participants are: Eva Marie (wearing green, fittingly), Deonna Purrazzo, Aliyah (making her TV debut after being heavily featured on Breaking Ground), Liv Morgan, Emma, Carmella, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Alexa Bliss, Cameron... and Asuka.
The final four ends up as Asuka, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, and Eva Marie, or so everyone thought. Peyton and Billie get eliminated shortly afterward and to absolutely nuclear heat except in the Mrosko household, Eva Marie sneaks up from behind and eliminates Asuka. Yep. Eva Marie is so, so dead.
...but wait! Carmella was also hiding, and manages to eliminate Eva Marie to an equal and opposite thunderous babyface reaction from the Full Sail faithful.
Baymella Explodes! But not yet, as Bayley comes out and congratulates her best friend on her big win.
Sami makes his return to active duty for Full Sail with a match against Adam Rose. He wins the match via the Koji Clutch.
Apollo Crews takes on the "Perfect 10" Tye Dillinger in a rematch from his debut. According to reports, the reactions for Apollo are starting to get mixed. They need to figure out how to develop a more full character for him or Full Sail might turn on him (I say this shockingly with no irony given the largely one dimensional champion is somehow beloved. But he's got paint!). Apollo wins with his spinning Atomic Powerbomb and after the match gets on the mic to challenge Finn Balor in a No DQ contest. He says it doesn't need to be the title, but they need to settle the score that they couldn't last time.
Baron Corbin faced Rich Swann, making his NXT TV debut. The indy killing tour continues for Big Banter who surely has no idea what promotion Swann is from. Sadly no All Night Long singalong for Rich Swann who falls to the End of Days.
Next up, we have an interesting development as the still injured Dana Brooke is forced to accompany her pal Emma for her tag match against Carmella & Bayley. Emma teams with Alexa Bliss, so it's possible the new Blondetourage is multiplying. From reports, Dana continues to find her calling as a ringside smacktalking manager. BayMella win the match clean, so it seems as though they remain best friends for now. We will see what happens when they come face to face at UCF in 2 weeks.
The main event of show 2 sees a returning Johnny Gargano take on Samoa Joe. Joe yet again received very high praise for his performance. He's absolutely on fire right now, and it's so good to see for a longtime fan of the Samoan Submission Machine. There were days when he had an argument to be the best wrestler on the planet and it seems like he's getting back to that.
Chad Gable & Jason Jordan, now known as "American Alpha", facing BAMF. That's a really goofy name for the duo, but if there's anyone that can overcome it, it's them. Alpha win the match continuing their rumored push toward the top of the division.
Nia Jax had her first action of the taping set, destroying Liv Morgan. Cleverly, Liv went for the Guillotine that the Hugster managed to use to take down the monster, but this time... it did not work, and Nia Jax slammed her down and won the match.
Up next... RAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGEEEEE!! That's right, Alex Riley returns to Full Sail. And he faces Bull Dempsey. Riley wins the match, but is confirmed by multiple sources at the show to still be terrible and managed to botch his finishing move.
Elias Samson returned to face John Skyler, also making his third appearance and Samson is even more dead. I don't know if it was ever gonna work, but they could have probably handled his rollout better than they did.
The bulk of the taping (approximately 17 minutes looking at Twitter timestamps) went to the main event which saw a triple threat match set-up at the first show of the taping with Samoa Joe v. Sami Zayn v. Baron Corbin.
The match saw a disputed finish as both Joe and Zayn had Corbin in a submission hold and he tapped out. Regal came out and attempted to figure things out, and it was decided that at the UCF show, Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe will face off in what will surely be a fantastic Number One Contender's Match.
The fourth taping starts of with The Hype Bros facing The Vaudevillains. The Vaudevillains win the match. Not much to see here except Aiden apparently shouting "We're Not Hype! We're Men!"
In the next match, the new number one contender Carmella took on Evil Emma accompanied by Dana Brooke. Dana continued her fantastic managerial performance and Carmella managed to win the match with a Backslide getting her second straight win en route to her faceoff with Bayley.
Enzo & Cass faced off against two unnamed jobbers. Couldn't get any intel on who they were this time around. I continue to have no idea what the heck they're doing with Enzo & Cass. Either call them up or put the belts on them but their booking remains the strangest of any act in NXT history.
Asuka was once again in action, but Eva gets to avoid paying for her crimes with a pound of flesh for this night as she takes on the debuting Santana Garrett. Garrett, in addition to her time in TNA, has been a major fixture on the indy scene in the last year winning the NWA Women's Championsip, the SHINE championship, and the Wonder of Stardom Championship, the latter two of which she still holds. She obviously has a pretty natural WWE look and was said to have looked good tonight (but of course, who doesn't when they get to face someone as gifted as Asuka), so I could see her being someone they have their eye on. Asuka won the match via submission.
In the final match of the taping, Apollo Crews got his match against Finn Balor and Finn won clean with the Bloody Sunday (yet another Bullet Club tease from Balor, but that's not all.). After the match the two shook hands, but it seems like they're slowing Apollo's push down with yet another big loss. One major note from the match is that Finn was doing his trademark Bullet Club finger gun taunt for the first time in NXT.
It's fascinating how much they hide Finn on this show. He wrestled the closing match against Crews, but unless he has some backstage content, he's barely here. Hopefully they're pulling him back in anticipation of his friends making their arrival and not actually trying to hide him. With the multiple BC teases, I'm hopeful it's the latter.
But even Bayley was pretty quiet with only one match and a brief appearance to congrate the other half of Baymella. On the other hand, it was very good to see the heart and soul of NXT making his return in a big way being all over the tapings with a promo and multiple matches.
Overall, this feels like something of a quiet taping, presumably because they're saving the bigger stuff for the UCF show. That taping seems like it could be great with Joe/Zayn in a Number One Contender's Match and Bayley/Carmella for the NXT Women's Championship.
The responsibility they're putting on this woman is really fascinating, and an impressive show of faith, giving her yet another very green opponent. They're definitely putting her through her paces for that reported potential massive upside they see for her as the female Face That Runs the Place.
Presumably we will also get Asuka's glorious and brutal vengeance over Eva Marie after what happened with the Battle Royale. If so, Asuka is going to physically drag her by that All Red hair to a solid 3.5 star match I imagine, if it happens.
Apparently the crowd was really tired in the back half, which makes sense given how much content they taped here, four episodes and WWE Kids.
NXT's next taped event will be their show at the UCF arena on Jan. 22 two days before Royal Rumble, which just so happens to be in Orlando, Florida.
Hopefully there are some surprises on tap for the Rumble, WWE could use the shot in the arm right now.