An introductory graphic serves as tribute to those impacted by this past weekend’s horrific events in Orlando - especially fitting here because of the city being home to NXT and the Performance Center.
Luckily, Alberto Del Rio wasn’t shown, so...
After a video package for TakeOver set to that knockoff Doors tune they used to use for pay-per-view (PPV) in the early Aughts, Paul Ellering’s Authors of Pain enter. They make short work of a couple local talent-types who are never identified, finishing with a couple combinations - big boot into a side slam and Russian leg sweep/clothesline - in about a minute and a half.
Backstage, Cathy Kelley wants to talk to Andrade “Cien” Almas about his debut, but Tye Dillinger cuts in to tell Almas he got lucky at The End... and say that he won’t make his name in NXT off of the Perfect Ten. Andrea D’Marco tries to get a comment from Authors of Pain, but they blow right past her. Ellering stops to tell her she’ll get answers “in due time”.
Full Sail warmly welcomes Carmella, who delivers her intro promo before her match against Tessa Blanchard. Tully’s girl talks smack and works a rest hold, but this is about putting over Carm. The Princess of Staten Island wins in under three minutes with her leg triangle submission, now known as the Code of Silence.
NXT champion Samoa Joe’s post-show promo from last week is shown. He puts over his path to the belt, says his steel cage win over Finn Bálor makes him the undisputed king and questions whether anyone else is willing to do what it takes to win the title.
- Now that the “Legion of Doom” scare is behind us, my only beef with AoP (may I call you AoP?) is the Shield cosplay. I don’t want them emulating Konnor & Viktor or anything, but stenciling the team name on the back of the black paramilitary vests isn’t much of a change from what the WWE champ is wearing every Monday night.
- Fast, vicious squashes and non-answers from Ellering are definitely the way to go for at least this set of tapings, though. Well played.
- My gradual transition from “guy who avoids spoilers like the plague” to “guy who writes up the spoiler report” over the past year has changed the way I process this show, and there were a couple of examples of that in this episode - and therefore this recap. All things Almas/Dillinger is one of those examples. At least for tonight, it didn’t come across as a total trainwreck, but I do think they’ve miscalculated on Andrade’s rollout.
- For one thing, it shows where they miss a guy like CJ Parker. Tye is a better wrestler than CJP was, but Parker was a heat magnet before Eva Marie made that a cool thing to be. I guess they were thinking Dillinger is Prince Pretty adjace, and this program would be received like Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze. But we’d been given months of evidence that Breeze was more than just a pretty face by that point. The Perfect Ten is over for many reasons, but his track record of being an in-story threat isn’t one of them.
- Plus, Tyler could always come across as a douche even when he was being cheered. Dillinger is kind of adorable even when he’s trying to be a dick.
- With what we’ve seen on our screens so far, Almas is reading more like El Dandy than La Sombra. With WWE’s track record of failing to create/market Latin stars not named Rey Mysterio, it’s enough to make you wonder if they don’t know what they’re doing. Why do I want to cheer the dude in the pimp hat again?
- Remember when everyone hated Carmella? We thought they should break her off from Enzo & Cass and turn her heel? We’re all dumb.
- Been wanting a kayfabe name for Carm’s finisher for a while, but “Code of Silence”? Not that I don’t love flicks like Serpico and A Few Good Men, but what does the Hottest Chick in the Ring have to with the establishment version of “Stop Snitchin’”? Move names don’t have to 100% tie-in to the performer’s gimmick, but it helps if they’re not total non sequitors.
- Don’t know if it was a work or shoot, but man did I want somebody to shut Tessa up when she kept screaming “How are you guys doing?” Her ring work looked better this time out, though.
- Shameless Twitter plug, but you’ve heard me mark out about Joe promos before, and this pretty much sums it up...
Reminder... he is @SamoaJoe and you don't have enough to sacrifice pic.twitter.com/3yaXsw3ihh— Sean (@s1rude) June 16, 2016
Former tag champs Blake & Murphy are interviewed by Kelley. Buddy is still holding a grudge over Wesley walking out on their last match, but Blake blames their issues on Alexa. They agree to give their partnership one more chance, starting tonight against TM-61.
That match is next, and Shane Thorne & Nick Miller control the action early on with quick tags and tandem moves like their moonsault/drop fist combo. But a big clothesline from Murphy makes Thorne the face-in-peril, and the ex-champs keep him isolated for a while. The eventual hot tag leads to chaos as TM-61 duck & dodge like Murphy inadvertently kicking Blake and then getting clotheslined by his partner. The newer squad hit their double inverted press slam, Thunder Valley, for the win after five and a half minutes. Afterwards, Blake & Murphy argue while Miller & Thorne celebrate.
Dash & Dawson’s promo from last week’s Fallout videos is played, and Bobby Roode’s debut in the United Kingdom is mentioned. They recap Bayley’s “injury” against Nia Jax last month. D’Marco speaks to the Hugster, who says she’s seeing the doctors next week and hoping to be cleared to return.
In our TakeOver rematch, Dillinger is more focused than usual and foregoes his usual “ten” schtick for a straight-forward attack. Tye’s strikes and slams are answered by drop kicks and ranas from Almas, however, and despite being an almost nine minute match with a commercial break, Cien’s win following his running double knees felt pretty one-sided.
- Wish we weren’t busting up the former BAMF - tonight’s match reminded me I really think they have a lot to offer as at least a mid-card gatekeeper tandem - but if we’re splitting them up, let’s put them out of their misery.
- In all seriousness, one of the great things about this episode and NXT in general is the way they set-up a match like this one, or the Almas/Dillinger rematch. As opposed to your standard PPV fallout episode of Raw where we get rematches without explanation, knowing Tye and Blake & Murphy’s motivations heading into their bouts really helps.
- In the complete lack of seriousness department, Corey Graves running joke throughout the match where he thought Australia really was a George Miller flick was classic. Thunderdome, where Murphy’s great-great grandfather defeated Thorne’s great-great grandfather, is “right by the Bullet Farm”. This was so good, it overshadowed his other bit about Murphy’s country music-esque losing streak that culminated in a dropped croissanwich.
- How he does that without managing to overshadow the match is freaking magic.
- It’s not a huge deal, but it’s not “Del Rio was on stage for the moment of silence”-level whining, either. Actually, doesn’t matter if you think it’s the latter, cause it bugs the crap out of me so I’m gonna gripe about it. Don’t promote Roode showing up at Download and then go right into your injury angle with Bayley when she wrestled on the same card on which Bobby appeared!
- Just won’t ever understand this decision to sideline Bayles from television for what amounts to a couple months. Call the Jax loss a #1 contender’s match and it accomplishes all the same things. Then let the Hugster work a side program that helps establish Nikki Glencross or Peyton Royce, or bring in Mickie James for an Eric Young-type run, or Santana Garrett on a Johnny Gargano-style contract.
- Scott Dawson is a sneaky good promo. “We live on 40 miles of bad road and there ain’t one person here, one team here, that could make it down the block” is a GREAT line.
- Andrade vs. Dillinger II was okay, but all my criticisms about the interview apply to the match. Even without the “ten” schtick, no one wants to boo Tye. And when Almas is doing things like resting in the ropes after the dive-fake without any context, fans are either going to be confused or dislike him.
- There was also some really choppy editing in the first half of the match, presumably where the live reports indicated they had to re-shoot something. But that could be spoilers influencing the viewing experience again. Or, since there were no live reports of obvious botches, it could be they made this less 50/50 to account for the issues we’ve already talked about.
His music played, but Finn Bálor’s entrance was free of any of the usual theatrics. Before he can speak, the crowd chants “Thank you Finn” and “Please don’t go”.
Bálor discusses watching NXT from Japan, and seeing Enzo & Cass and thinking “that’s where I want to be”. Being champion for nearly 300 days made him feel like he was NXT. Finn puts over his title feuds and name drops Neville, Tyler Breeze, Kevin Owens and, of course, Joe, but poses the question, “What’s next for Finn Bálor?”
The crowd wants “Bálor Club” - and the Irishman responds with “Too Sweet” - but when Finn asks again, the lights go down and “Rising Sun” hits the speakers to an even more enthusiastic response than usual.
After they fire the other’s trademark gestures at one another, Shinsuke Nakamura says that when he watched from Japan, he saw Bálor become the icon of NXT. Even though he’s not champ anymore, he’s still that icon - and if Nakamura wants to become champ, he must first beat the icon... he has to beat Finn.
Getting serious, Bálor accepts. He says he now knows what’s next for him, and the two men shake on it before Shinsuke slides out of the ring with a big smile on his face.
- The other place where the difference between reading another person’s impression of something they saw vs. seeing it for myself was evident for me was in this closing segment. Last week, I wasn’t terribly interested in this face-off. Some of that is outside baggage, like wanting Nakamura vs. Joe more, or being concerned about “dream matches” in lieu of character and build. Some of it is learning about their encounter in the midst of a wall of text covering three shows worth of action.
- Even with those biases, however, once I actually saw it with my own eyes - this was electric. Finn is much more convincingly earnest with the “We are NXT” stuff than his boss is. Shinsuke is so delightfully weird. Both men sold the right emotions - Nak giddy at the prospect of the bout, Bálor a little bit put off he even suggested it then determined to show his friend he’d made a mistake - just great stuff all around.
- And, yes, that includes the internet’s new favorite whipping boys and girls at Full Sail. I’ve criticized them in the past, but the notion they’re “ruining” anything is ridiculous. I hate the “This is Awesome” chant, but that’s hardly unique to 500 folks in Florida. And their enthusiasm for what played out between these two guys (to set up a match they probably will watch on WWE Network like the rest of us) helped make this a special scene.
- So, I’m much more excited for Bálor vs. Nakamura this Summer - where and whenever it ends up happening. This was so good, it even made me forget that I wasn’t a big fan of their New Japan Cup match from a few years back...
Came into this show not impressed by the spoilers and ready to pan another listless taping coming out of a TakeOver where they stalled for several weeks before starting to build to the next live event.
Instead, we got an episode that felt fresh. Even the camera angles for the backstage segments were different, sending a strong cue this was “the beginning” of something else. They also managed to check in on most of the established players and feuds while focusing on new faces, and achieved a nice wrestling-to-story balance.
Tell us what you got, Cagesiders.