They’re all in on Finn Bálor vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, as the power ballad recap of last week’s main event segment which opens tonight’s episode proves. Will tonight live up to the hype? Which reminds me... whatever happened to Mojo Rawley?
Oney Lorcan (aka Biff Busick on the independents and Chris Girard on house shows) makes his debut oppposite Tye Dillinger. As Corey Graves & Tom Phillips talk up how Dillinger seems shaken by his recent losses to Andrade “Cien” Almas, Lorcan gets in most of the offense - including a teeth-rattling European uppercut. The Perfect Ten gets back in the game with more of the aggression we saw last week, and gets a nearfall with a Superkick counter. He’s thrown by that not ending the match and the crowd chanting when he goes for his “ten” punches in the corner, providing an opening for Oney to hit a somersault neckbreaker for an upset win in around six minutes.
Backstage, Cathy Kelley interviews Austin Aries. A-Double says his goal remains the same... to win the NXT title. He compares himself to Muhammed Ali, saying even the Greatest lost matches. Even though he had bruised ribs, and the crowd was with Nakamura, he was the better man for three seconds at TakeOver. No Way Jose barges in to encourage Aries to stay positive despite the setback, and dances away.
After a quick recap of Bayley’s loss to Nia Jax a while back, we cut to the Hugster standing outside the arena in her gear. She tells us the doctors have cleared her and General Manager William Regal has booked her in a match... tonight!
Jose is out to face Josh Woods, and dispatches the MMA-attired newcomer with his usual offense in a two-minute squash. Aries arrives to thank the Dominican sensation for reminding that what they do is supposed to be fun. The two shake hands, and Jose convinces Austin to dance with him.
They work the crowd as they dance around the ring, and at the top of the ramp, Aries suggests they head to the announce table. There he delivers a forearm to the back of Jose’s head, and then dives on him to hit an elbow. The beating continues back to the ramp, and in response to cheers from the crowd, A-Double goes back to slap on his submission finisher.
- Hey Biff! Missed ya, ya crazy bastard. It’s gonna to take a long time to get used to the name, but keep stiffing folks with uppercuts and making those faces and I think we’ll all be fine.
- Super-intrigued by what’s going on with Tye, and not just because I’m a sucker for the “NXT wrestler has his/her confidence shaken and regroups for a comeback” story this brand does so well. It’s also because I’ve worked myself into a shoot on his presentation since TakeOver - I think it’s possible they course-corrected during this taping to the current storyline.
- If that’s the case, it leaves them with a need for a heel mid-carder. But as Oney showed by getting the crowd against him here with one “ten” hand signal and some stiff strikes, he could fill that role nicely. Now to see what they do with Almas...
- Graves’ downgrading Dillinger to a five (“approaching Tom Phillips territory”) was great, but the biggest pop the announce team got out of me this week was Tom loudly gasping in shock when Corey announced that markdown.
- For folks new to the Greatest Man That Ever Lived experience, or ones (like me) just waiting for the real Austin Aries to show up - tonight was a pretty good showing for old A-Double. From the way he told us he wouldn’t make excuses while he was making excuses, to the sadistic look on his face after he attacked Jose while he was getting ready to attack him some more... you may not like the guy, but this is the character some of us loved in Ring of Honor and TNA.
- This was Mr. Woods on-screen debut, too, I believe, yes? Not enough to go on, but welcome, Josh.
- Pretty sure most of the stuff No Way did tonight was heel work. Cutting into a veteran’s interview to offer unsolicited advice? Forcing people to dance whether they want to or not? I get that most people think he’s “fun”, but no thanks.
- Anyway... they timed Aries turn pretty perfectly, but maybe should have had him attack sooner. Whatever they gained by convincing the live crowd an attack might not come was lost when they emboldened misanthropes like me into cheering A-Double for putting an end to it.
- Hopefully, Bayley wearing her ring gear whenever she’s on Full Sail’s campus becomes canon.
Regal chats with Shinsuke, saying he loved their showdown last week and that Finn personally asked him to make the match happen. The GM says it will happen in three weeks. Buddy Murphy barges in, saying he’s the only one in the room who’s held NXT gold and demanding a main event match. Nakamura gets up and says the “King of Strong Style grants your request... mate” while Regal smirks.
Full Sail is overjoyed to see Bayley, as commentary plays up her match with Deonna Purrazzo being a big test for her knee. Both women attempt roll-ups early, and the Hugster looks good until she misses one of her corner back elbows gets taken down by kicks and knee strikes. There’s even a good nearfall of a Russian Leg Sweep, but Bayles “hugs up” and connects with the back elbow and Bayley-to-Belly to take the match in under three minutes.
Andrea D’Marco chats with Carmella, who talks about wanting to be Women’s champ so she can be the face of the division. Alexa Bliss interrupts, saying Carm is nothing without Enzo & Cass. The Princess of Staten Island claims Bliss is just jealous because her boys are doing well on Raw while hers are pathetic. This continues, and Alexa reminds Carmella it was her who took the pin in the Triple Threat to determine the #1 contender. Carm dares Bliss to get in her way, and Alexa backs off.
- Will probably write more about the announcement of the Finn/Nak superfight for a regular (although possibly live?) episode on July 13 elsewhere, but it leaves a ton of possibilities open for call-ups and Back to Brooklyn plans, so I like it at first glance.
- Our streak of excellent “heel interrupts Mr. Regal’s meeting with a babyface, finds out s/he’ll die for it later” scenes continued tonight.
- Nice little refresher on the Hugster experience. I missed her as much as the crowd did, Deonna acquitted herself well - not much else to say.
- Both of the ladies who should be on top of the women’s division once Bayley (and I guess possibly Nia and Asuka) get the call-up also made the most of their interview scene. Bliss was more fun, but she’s also got the more fun character. Carmella has a super-stereotypical good girl gimmick going; that she’s finding a way to make it work is a major mark in her favor.
- When their promos were done, I was looking forward to their match, excited to see more of Alexa but also kind of hoping she’ll get her comeuppance - mission accomplished.
A pair of great video packages are shown, one focused on NXT champ Samoa Joe, and the other recapping Nia Jax’s battle with Asuka at TakeOver: The End... Then there’s a quick promo vid for Paul Ellering’s Authors of Pain, and a teaser for the return of American Alpha next week.
Nia Jax makes quick work of Liv Morgan, who actually manages to fire off a few drop kicks but can never take the bigger woman down. Nia finishes her with a Powerbomb in two minutes time. We’re informed Alexa & Carmella have a match next week.
For the main event, Nakamura takes his time dealing with Murphy, but is never in any real danger. After working through all his usual spots in roughly four and a half minutes, he finishes the Aussie with Kinshasa.
- Hot diggity dang, WWE sure does make cool videos, huh? They managed to make the champ, a performer I love, look like even more of a badass and caused me to re-evaluate the Women’s title match, which I thought was pretty great already, from The End...
- Also made me not really notice in the moment that they’re basically doing the disappearing titleholders thing again.
- Tonight’s women’s match - like so much of this episode - got in, did what it needed to do, and got out. I initially was worried that Morgan got any offense in, but then decided I liked that they took the time to show how Nia couldn’t be brought down.
- Hallelujah on changing Jax’s finisher, or at least giving her another option. Leg drop (as long as she goes for the pin with nothing more than said leg over her opponent’s shoulders) is okay, but her slams are improving and a “monster” type should end with something like a Powerbomb.
- Swagsuke squashes are for the live crowds more than us, but Murphy is an able enhancement guy, so this was better than your average beating. His sell of Kinshasa was wonderful, too.
Similar to last week, but minus the fireworks (Aries turn was great, but beating up the loveable rookie isn’t on par with the “holy $#!+” of last week’s stand-off). With the exception of the main, the action served a clear purpose, and I quite liked the opener.
Good stuff, but not must see.
What did you think?