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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (July 13, 2016): Saikeirei

There was little doubt what tonight was about from the jump. Tom Phillips & Corey Graves selling our main event over images of Finn Bálor arriving to the arena and Shinsuke Nakamura working on his striking established the proverbial "big fight feel".


NXT champ Samoa Joe’s music hit to start things off, as he declared from the ring that he was here for the same thing everyone else was - to see Bálor vs. Nakamura.

He wasn’t however, down with what many were inferring about their match. Joe thought it disrespectful fans believed a victory by Finn would lead to his reclaiming the belt Joe took from him, or a Nakamura win could carry him to his first title. The champ wanted to separate that fantasy from reality - he conquered the Irishman already, and he will do the same to Shinsuke. Samoa Joe is the new face of NXT and the road to the top goes through him.

Last week’s surprise return, Rhyno, came in on that cue. He got in the champ’s face and wanted to take Joe up on his challenge, but Joe opted to head up the ramp while he yelled that he’ll face the Man-Beast on his time.

After a break, we learn that next week’s show will feature Joe vs. Rhyno, the Bayley/Nia Jax trilogy fight which was set-up last week and American Alpha vs. Authors of Pain.


  • Anyone’s who’s reads these regularly knows I’m in the bag for Joe, and believe he’s doing the best work of his illustrious career right now in NXT - especially on the microphone. So it should come as no surprise that I LOVED this.

  • Others are capable of delivering intense promos, but I can’t think of anyone else who does so so... casually, like seething rage is his baseline. And as Lanny from Twitter pointed out, he’s one of the few people who doesn’t try to work cute or funny into every speech. Joe is a badass, and he knows it.

  • Telling the King of Strong Style to "stand before the Emperor"? That’s fricking cool.

  • Don’t really have much to say regarding next week’s Rhyno match. Should be fun, and seems like a good way to tide us over for a few weeks until the disrespectful implication the champ discussed in his promo.

  • Next week’s other two matches sound great. Loving the return of big matches to Wednesday nights, even if they’re not quite as well-built as in the 2014 glory days.


After a re-airing of last week’s hype video, it’s introduction time for the main. Finn enters first, with a nice pause before the lights go out and "Rising Sun" hits the speakers. They spotlight the ring and let the announcer start things off in the manner they usually reserve for title bouts.

Things start respectfully, with tests of strength and an exchange of wristlocks. Tensions rise when Bálor doesn’t give Shinsuke a clean break on the ropes and "Too Sweet"s him on the forehead when he eventually backs away. Nakamura misses on a kick and eats a number of strikes, eventually being covered following a dropkick. He comes back from that, however, putting Finn down and delivering Good Vibrations in the corner. A running knee on the apron and a drop version to the Irishman’s back then sends us to our first commercial of the match.

Returning, Bálor connects with a drop kick to the knee, which becomes a central theme for the match. Finn goes on the offensive and gets another nearfall off another drop kick, this one as a response to a sunset flip. Nakamura tries to stop a barrage of chops by getting his leg up on a charge, but the former champ drapes it over the ropes and splashes down on it. That leads to heel hook which further damages the knee before Shinsuke makes it to the ropes.

Breaking free, Nakamura lands a number of kicks and a running knee which leads to a two-count. Bálor chops his way back and sends his opponent to the outside with a step-up enziguri. He follows that with his soccer kick on the apron to send us to another break.

Diving double stomp to the Japanese Superstar’s back greets us and leads to another nearfall. Nakamura tries to comeback with kicks, but Finn catches him in a legscissor submission. Rope break leads to a couple more leg strikes before Shinsuke flips into an armbar, which he converts into a triangle. Bálor looks like he’s about to go out, but gets a leg on the bottom rope just in time.

Knees to the head follows, but a running knee strike after a suplex misses and creates an opening for Finn to hit a reverse 1916 to almost end it. He hits a Sling Blade and goes for the corner drop kick, but Shinsuke answers with one of his own, and follows that with Kinshasa. He can’t cover immediately, however, and Bálor kicks out at two.

Another attempt at his finisher is met by a standing double-stomp in one of the night’s coolest spots, but that’s not enough to get three either. Nakamura blocks another 1916 and they trade blows in the middle of the ring. A blow to the knee gives Finn an opening for another Sling Blade, and this time he connects on the follow-up maneuver. Shinsuke rolls away from the Coup de Grâce, and immediately hits a knee from the second rope, then another Kinshasa to end it after more than twenty minutes.

The two friends shake hands and bow. A "thank you Finn" chant for a visibly emotional Bálor transitions into Swagsuke’s theme again. He stands tall to close the show in what feels like a passing of the torch moment.


  • Presentation-wise, I understand and even appreciate how they set this up, even if I believe it to be a double-edged sword. It does succeed in inducing goosebumps, but I think it also creates a little subconcious backlash - or at least really high expectations. Having Graves & Phillips put this in a class with Sami Zayn & Cesaro before it even starts is kind of the equivalent of chanting "This is Awesome" during introductions.

  • Caught a not inconsiderable amount of flak on social media for saying I didn’t love this match. For one thing, I’ll cop to the reacting to the hype in the way I described a moment ago - which isn’t 100% fair, but all I can do is be honest about it. For another - sorry, not sorry - I didn’t love it. It was a really good match which I enjoyed a lot, but not as much as American Alpha vs. The Revival from just last week.

  • My issues with the build have been explained. I wish I could forego them and am envious of those who can, but they’re there... the announcers tried to drive home the stakes of the match while it was happening again, but I both am not sold on their version and can’t turn off the part of my brain that knows what their plans are for both characters.

  • Never have been the biggest Bálor fan, and this provided a number of example why. He began by showing a bit of an edge, but as the match went along he lost it. By the end, he was apologizing for winning. That cost him the match and was part of the story, but - call me a jaded smark or a wrestling hipster or whatever - that’s not a character which resonates with me.

  • Inconsistent selling isn’t usually a huge deal for me, but the on-again/off-again nature of how Nak played the damage to his knee bugged me throughout. He was so good at conveying the pain he was in when Finn was attacking it, I was jarred when a moment later he was standing on it or striking with it... even as Graves & Phillips tried to explain it away as adrenaline or instinct.

  • Props to both commentators, and especially Corey. It shouldn’t surprise me at this point, but I’m always a little amazed at how seamlessly he slides into serious mode and ditches the wisecracks. Graves also adds little touches that make a match like this one feel more "real", such as when he told us he couldn’t see what Finn’s second submission was and then excitedly explained it once he got a good look at it.

  • Have no real issue with the Kinshasa being kicked out of - it was bound to happen, explained within the context of the match and done by one of the biggest names in the history of the brand.

  • The finish felt a little abrupt, but I’m not sure they had five or ten more minutes of story to tell. Overall, this was a match I enjoyed and a really strong television main event. Sorry if I’m defensive about not loving it, and if you do, remember I’m just an a**hole with an opinion.

  • What I absolutely loved was the post-match show of respect, especially the deep bow Finn and Nak shared. As someone who does like what I know of both performers behind-the-scenes, it was cool to see what this meant to them - especially considering what it likely means to their WWE futures.

Odds are I will rewatch Joe’s promo more often than the match, but that’s just me. Differences in opinion aside, still another in a string of solid outings from NXT - and we haven’t even gotten to Brooklyn build yet.

Grade: A-

Let us know where this ranked on your match of the year rankings, and any other thoughts you’d like to share about the show.

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