Before the credits, we’re reminded Joe isn’t cleared for action. And the prospect of a show without the Samoan who’s anchored it for much of the last year is a fitting preface for an episode that was very much focused on turning a page in NXT history.
Tye Dillinger is very popular. Buddy Murphy used to be a tag team champion. After trading holds early on, Murphy takes down Tye and mocks his “Ten” gesture. The originator of said gesture then returns the favor. Dillinger seems to be in control, but gets slammed to the mat after sending Buddy to the apron. A big forearm by the Aussie gets a two-count, and leads to double knees from the top rope for another nearfall. After a commercial, Wesley Blake’s old partner is still in control, but another dive from the top is countered with a punch to the mid-section. The Perfect Ten fires up and stomps his opponent in the corner. He pulls down his knee pad, clotheslines Murphy to the mat and then lifts him up for his finisher and a pinfall victory in just over six minutes.
After Tom Phillips introduces a recap of DIY’s tag title loss in Brooklyn and Johnny Gargano being eliminated by TJ Perkins in the Cruiserweight Classic, Charly Caruso asks Tommaso Ciampa for an update on Johnny’s knee injury. He starts to put over his tag partner’s heart, when The Revival walks up behind him. Sensing an ambush, the Sicilian Psychopath strikes first, but Dash & Dawson force him into the arena and kick his butt through the announce area & into the ring.
After punching and kicking Ciampa back to the floor, Dawson grabs a microphone and says The Revival are the reality every tag team in NXT has to deal with, and they just introduced Tommaso to that reality. Gargano’s partner crawls back into the ring and tries to pull himself up, which leads to Dash saying “Top Guys out” and calling for a Shatter Machine, which they then hit on Ciampa.
During his entrance, Steve Cutler gets an inset promo. The Marine Corps veteran says he doesn’t care if we like him or hate him. He’s working tonight against Kenneth Crawford, making his television debut. Crawford shows off some acrobatic moves like a spinning Superman punch and a running Shooting Star Press, while Cutler works a meaner, brawling style, utilizing strikes and choking his opponent on the ropes. After the SSP doesn’t finish Cutler, a missed charge results in Crawford getting stomped and hit with a Michinoku driver, giving the Marine a win in about three and a half minutes.
- Poor BAMF. Well, not the ‘A’ part, she seems okay on SmackDown so far. At least Blake & Murphy are putting over a guy who’s so popular he pretty much has to be going somewhere, and looking pretty good doing it. Although, I think Buddy came out of this series with Tye looking a little better than his old partner. His offense just looks more painful - those knees from the top looked deadly.
- Here’s hoping Tye slides into the old Tyler Breeze role of filling out the main event with solid wrestling and fun character work. There’s enough guys of both alignments for him to play off of, with Aries, Roode, Itami and Almas... to name a few. Now that he’s got some wins, let’s get Dillinger some mic time.
- Got nothing but heart eyes for the Ciampa/Revival segment. From a fiery statement of unity from the healthy half of DIY to Dash & Dawson at their d*ckhead best, this raised the stock of everyone involved - whether the tag feud continues or not.
- Tommaso gets overlooked as Johnny Gargano’s partner a lot of the time, so it was awesome to see him make the most of this solo segment. As I said, I thought his promo was on point and as we’ve seen with the #GLORIOUSBOMBs, he’s got a really expressive face, which he used to full advantage in showing us his thought process before striking first at the tag champs. And the crawl back into the ring? Forget about it...
- So, uh, Crawford and Cutler had a match. The former impressed, but needs some refinement. Not sure where the latter fits in as a guy who’s been in Developmental for a while and still doesn’t stand out.
- It would have been nice - and this goes for this episode’s women’s bout, as well - if the match had been set up with a backstage interaction or something beyond Cutler’s talking head bit. We don’t need Graves & Phillips telling us they’re trying to make an impression. We know that. But we do need a reason to want them to succeed in making an impression. This was missing that element.
Backstage, Dasha Fuentes asks Hideo Itami about his appearance at TakeOver: Brooklyn II. The recently returned Superstar brags about kicking Austin Aries in the head with his “sockless loafers” and makes fun of A-Double’s busted eardrum. If Aries doesn’t want to feel more pain like that, he needs to stay out of Itami’s ring or Hideo will make him go to sleep.
The first of several videos recapping new NXT champion Shinsuke Nakamura’s major victories in the brand is show, followed by another Sanity vignette and a hype video for TM61.
No Way Jose dances his way to the ring while Phillips and Corey Graves talks about having seen a different side of him in New York. He faces Angelo Dawkins, whose entrance includes every annoying NFL and NBA player celebration you can think of. After leapfrogging over one another for a while, Dawkins grabs Jose in a headlock and beats him down. No Way fires back up and connects with the baseball punch. A full-nelson slam end it in under three minutes, and Jose dances into the stands.
Charly is set to interview Andrade “Cien” Almas about his first televised loss in NXT when the Greatest Man Who Ever Lived strolls up. Aries says since everyone else always steals his spotlight, he’s gonna take Cien’s. A-Double gripes about “sockless loafer boy” and the ruptured eardrum Itami gave him. Almas blasts him in Spanish, prompting Aries to ask for it in English. When the Mexican Superstar says he wants a match next week, Austin says he couldn’t hear him with his bad ear and walks off.
Highlights of Nakamura defeating Finn Bálor take us into our women’s bout, Aliyah vs. Liv Morgan. The former has new music and less generic look which goes with the heel persona she works in the match. A couple of takedowns by the Jersey Girl help Liv stay in it, but Aliyah dominates the early going with strikes and a jawbreaker off the second rope. She goes for a cover, but the referee signals they’re under the ropes. After positioning Morgan in the middle of the ring, the Canadian puts her in a submission which is part-armbar, part-body scissors and within it she kicks Liv in the head. Unfortunately for her, her opponent powers out and connects with a spin kick, earning Liv a win in three and a half minutes.
- Sign me up for trash-talking Hideo, with or without socks. I think he should wear different shoes every week, and then cut promos afterwards describing the footwear he had on when he kicked his victims into the hospital.
- They’re probably slightly better in the ring, sure, but otherwise, why would I be more excited about TM61 than I was about BAMF? Sorry, but I even find their hype pieces generic.
- Speaking of guys I don’t get, if you’re a Jose fan, I imagine you enjoyed five minutes of dancing and squashing. So, yeah, that happened. I guess using a little P.o.P. to get over tapping out in the biggest match of your life fits his character, and most of the live audience seems to like to salsa... nope, I got nothing. Glad folks like it. It’s not for me.
- Audiences also appear to like jeering Angelo, but he’s got to be on his last chance by now, right?
- Almas’ interview struck me as treading water, but maybe he’s stacking losses as motivation for the heel turn they’ve already done on the house show circuit. Aries is a riddle. I feel like he’s been killing his interviews - this one included - but it’s not translating to overall success. Telling that his The End... match with Nakamura was the one left out of the new champ’s narrative tonight.
- Our introduction to Morgan and Aliyah was a lot like the Cutler/Crawford match: it was hurt by my having no real connection to either performer, and I came away more impressed with the loser than the winner.
- Dug Aliyah’s new music and outfit, but I’d ditch the cat ears. They either don’t fit, or they give her a Selina Kyle vibe when we already have one Batman villainess gimmick in NXT (wherever Peyton “Poison Ivy” Royce is these days).
After his match, Dasha catches up with No Way Jose. He says life tried to tell him “no” in Brooklyn, to which he replied “No Way Jose”. He’s telling her the fiesta will take him to the top when Bobby Roode walks by. Roode stops and looks him over, tells him “nice head”, then walks away.
The new champ’s win at the latest TakeOver is highlighted, and we’re informed Women’s champ Asuka will be on next week’s show.
Nakamura enters Full Sail to a rapturous response, including a “You Deserve It” chant. Once the crowd settles a bit, he reiterates that he came to NXT for the competition, so he could prove himself against the best. He mentions Zayn and Bálor, and says he’s still hurting from his battle with Samoa Joe. Shinsuke says he’s held many titles in the past, but the NXT championship means the most to him. He respects Joe, but his era is over. It is now the era of Strong Style. YEA-OH!
- Don’t know exactly what to make of Bobby’s compliment to Jose, but I laughed.
- Regarding the main... first, let’s talk about the chant du jour. I’ve defended it in the past, but telling Shinsuke freaking Nakamura he “deserves it” seems borderline offensive. Maybe it’s this one wrestler’s résumé, maybe it’s that I don’t buy what he’s selling about the importance of the particular belt he now holds, or maybe “You Deserve It” is just entering “This is Awesome” territory in that it’s becoming so ubiquitous as to be meaningless.
- Whatever it is, maybe let’s hold that one in reserve for a while, fellow marks & smarks?
- Otherwise, I thought Nak acquitted himself well. He’s said he thinks he needs to work on his English, and I’m sure it could always get better, but he got his point across. He probably needs to get a little bit of a wider emotional range, and more practice handling crowds who want to interact or interrupt, but his weird charisma makes up for a lot, and he’s on the right track.
NXT embarked on a ‘new era’ of its own with this one and... there’s a ways to go. Introducing new players via matches is a start, but we need to know more about them before those can take on import and meaning.
While they’re building, they’re wise to lean on The Revival and DIY, who kept this episode from a lower grade from this reviewer.
Your thoughts, Cagesiders?