This may have been the shortest episode since The End... of the Beginning, but at least they got right down to business.
Long-time rivals Alexa Bliss and Carmella lock up and spend a few minutes grappling before the Princess of Staten Island gets acrobatic with a flying head scissor and a drop kick which sends Bliss to the floor while she moonwalks away. Back in the ring, Carm frustrates her opponent with a headlock, but Alexa is able to break free by snapping her arm over the rope as we head to a break.
Working over the arm, the heel hits drop knees and then her standing moonsault double knees, now called Insult to Injury, but can only get a two count. She throws a fit, which lets Carmella back in starting with a big left hand strike. The comeback leads to a Bronco Buster, but Alexa counters that with a Sunset Flip for another nearfall. They battle in the corner, but eventually Bliss is able to grab her for the chokeslam/sweep and the Sparkle Splash, which has been re-named Twisted Bliss, for a big victory after almost ten minutes.
A recap of the face-off which main evented two weeks ago leads to a sitdown interview with Shinsuke Nakamura about his upcoming match with Finn Bálor. He explains what good friends the two men are, but now that he is also in NXT, he realizes he has to face him to achieve his goal of winning the title. Nakamura promises a sensational match in two weeks.
Cathy Kelley gets a moment with Bayley to discuss her comeback from "injury" last week, and the former champ says she felt great and is now ready for her rematch with Asuka. Bliss interrupts, taunting the Hugster about beating her best friend, Carmella. She claims Bayley lost her chance at another title shot, and now has to go through her.
- Was it a technical masterpiece? Nah. Carmella in particular had a couple of sloppy looking moves in the early going, and she probably doesn’t need to try Trish Stratus’ handstand hurricanrana again any time soon. But I really dug the opener, and big ups to both women and the powers-that-be for making it happen.
- Changing the "bathroom break" perception of women’s wrestling, and addressing the fears a lot of NXT fans - myself included - have about the post-Four Horsewomen era, requires matches like this one. I’m not gonna sweat a few spots when we got five minutes of grappling, fairly consistent selling of injury to a body part (I wish it would have factored into the finish a bit more so I could give them points for psychology, too), some exciting nearfalls and a great story.
- Compare this to their match from a year ago, and the team at the Performance Center comes out looking great, too.
- Bliss is putting it all together, and I’m excited about her future, whether that be here or on Raw or SmackDown. The brass knows it, too, as evidenced by their finally giving her character-appropriate names for her finisher and signature move. Now if we could put a name on her choke STO - which was obviously a push with a leg sweep instead of a lifting slam for the first time on screen - she’ll be all set.
- Her Bayley connection doesn’t hurt, but Carmella’s connection to the audience is impressive. Given how obviously similar her act is to her "boys" and how over Enzo & Cass immediately were on the main roster, I’m not even sure they need to put her with them in order to have the same effect on bigger crowds. But if they want to be sure, they could just have the Realest Guys introduce her once, and it would be mission accomplished (howudoin).
- Impressed by Nakamura’s English, and what I assume is his decision to use his eccentric mannerisms to cover for when he’s searching for the right word or phrase.
- Not so impressed with the build to this match. I don’t know what else they could do given that they clearly are racing to get it in before Finn Watch ends, but as someone who’s disappointed by NXT turning into a "dream match" promotion... Shinsuke’s third straight "dream match" isn’t helping.
- As grumpy as I was about them writing Bayles out of The End..., I’m digging what looks to be an inversion of her run to winning the belt the first time. On the road to Brooklyn last year, she had to defeat all the women she’d looked up to along the way. Now, she has to fend off all the women who’ve been gunning for her since she reached the top.
- Doesn’t help build the next wave of female Superstars... but it’s more Bayley matches, so I’m down. Plus, Alexa being extra Bliss-y in interview segments like this one!
Andrade "Cien" Almas returns to a mixed/muted reaction to face Noah Potjes. The Hawaiian grabs a wristlock, but the luchador escapes via flips and cartwheels. A series of dropkicks leads to his pose on the second rope spot, and Noah comes back with some strikes. This is a squash, however, and around the three minute mark, Almas gets to his wheelbarrow bulldog and running knees to wrap it up.
Backstage, Andrea D’Marco wants to know why Austin Aries attacked No Way Jose last week. He tells her it’s because the fans didn’t appreciate him - a guy who’s done everything in the sports entertainment business, while they cheered a guy in Jose who’s done nothing. From here on out, any fan who wants to know why Aries does what he does only has to look in the mirror and ask the fat, pasty reflection looking back at them.
Finn’s turn selling his upcoming showdown with Nakamura, and he explains that while you make a lot of work friends in the business, he and Shinsuke are true friends. When he first went to Japan, Nakamura helped him learn his way around, so Bálor returned the favor when he came to Florida. He understands why Shinsuke wants the match, and thinks it will be great. He also explains that they’ve faced before, but they’re in a different place literally and figuratively now, so this time will be special.
- On height alone, I have to think someone in WWE has their eyes on Noah. Hopefully they’ll develop his character soon and stop having Tom Phillips & Corey Graves just pretend we know what his house show gimmick is. And maybe stop with the Noah’s ark humor, too.
- Almas remains a hot topic, especially as Dave Meltzer has joined the "WWE is screwing him up" chorus. They can’t be thrilled with the launch, but it’s also only a month old. We’ve seen them turn things that seemed more screwed than this around - but it’s got to start, again, with character. "Attractive, flippy guy" doesn’t help anyone connect to him, and making it clear the company thinks we should love him is a recipe for disaster in the post-Roman Reigns era.
- Oh, thank goodness this version of A-Double is finally here! I expect there will be some backlash to his calling people fat - especially with his track record - but in this instance, it’s pretty clearly "heels gonna heel".
- Jose vs. Aries in not what I had in mind when either man showed up, but it’s exactly the kind of thing for which they should be using guys like the former Ring of Honor & TNA champ (and Bobby Roode & Eric Young, whenever they get here).
- Oh, hey, a Finn interview... zzzzzzzz... sorry, what was I saying? Jokes aside, after an electric set-up, this is tracking more towards Nak vs. Aries than Nak vs. Zayn on the excitement scale.
After learning that Bayley will face Alexa Bliss next week, we get to the final match of the show - Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano vs. Hype Bros. Both teams start hot but whiff on tandem manuevers. A frantic opening sequence ends when Gargano connects with a suicide dive onto Zack Ryder and is rewarded by being dropped with a stiff clothesline from Mojo Rawley as the episode takes a break.
Johnny Wrestling is getting worked over when we return. He makes it for the tag and Ciampa cleans house, but Ryder counters with knees when charged in the corner. Rawley comes in with splashes and football takedowns, but Gargano pulls him out when he goes for the pin. Mojo sends him outside and goes for the Hype Ryder with his partner, but Johnny grabs a leg to stop that as well. The cruiserweights isolate Zack and go for a double Superplex, but the Hype Man grabs them for a double Powerbomb instead. An Elbro Drop from Iced Z looks like it could be the finish, but Gargano kicks out. Ciampa counters a Broski Boot with a clothesline, which allows he and his partner to hit their Superkick/Running Knee combo and finally get a three count in just under nine minutes.
Afterwards, Gargano says their recent wins should put them in line for a tag title shot. That brings out former champs American Alpha, who say the line forms behind them. Chad Gable tells them they can have a shot - against them after they beat The Revival. Jason Jordan agrees, and reminds everyone they also have a score to settle with Authors of Pain after they jumped them at TakeOver.
That brings out the champs, who tell all four men they’re gonna be disappointed. Dash Wilder downplays their recent loss to Ciampa & Gargano, calling them "good hands". Scott Dawson lets them all in on a "top guy secret", which is The Revival call the shots.
General Manager William Regal appears to tell Dash & Dawson that he does the shot calling in NXT... and he’s making a two-out-of-three falls title match between American Alpha and The Revival for next week. The champs are visibly upset, while the babyfaces in the ring shake hands out of respect.
Once Gargano & Ciampa leave, Authors of Pain slide into the ring and attack Gable & Jordan. The CWC entrants return to assist, but are taken out themselves. Their run-in lets the Alphas get in some offense, including a huge suplex from JJ, but both men end up going down to AoP’s finisher before Paul Ellering appeared on stage and summoned his new charges to his side.
- Have to agree with Graves, this was the best I’ve seen Mojo look. The tag pairing has been helping cover his deficiencies since they put him with Ryder, but the aggressive streak he showed here was also key. He channeled his energy instead of just being a spaz.
- At this point, with so many decent teams on the main roster and a brand split coming, call Rawley up and let the Hype Bros run wild on Raw or SmackDown.
- The Cruiserweight Classic duo are so great as a team, I kind of hate the idea of them breaking up. But then I remember that means we’ll get Ciampa VS. Gargano matches, and I’m fine again.
- Or should I say, Chimpi and Garganzala. Loved the good guys being good, but I have a special place in my heart for the heel champs. From their funny trash talk to their serious braggadocio to the way they reacted like spoiled brats when Regal blew up their spot... The Revival are my jam.
- To the point where I’m much more excited about next week’s tag title match (with Bliss/Bayles as a warm-up!) than I am for the latest "dream match" on the 13th.
- Now, after my pledging allegiance to the rudos above, I’ll walk that back a bit, because when Johnny & Tommaso ran in to assist Gable & Jordan (after a brief, understandable pause because they know they’ll have to face them soon, and they have a big tournament coming up), I popped like a 12 year old mark.
- The AoP build has been pretty perfect thus far. I’m anxious to hear Ellering offer us some glimpse of their backstory, but as with "Cien", I’m willing to give them a few more weeks.
- Lastly, anyone that doubts Jordan should watch this segment. Great fire to his promo and then DAT SUPLEX.
Fifty-two minutes flew by, with a couple of really fun matches, a great promo from Aries and a dynamite closing angle. It may be because they’re about to lose a bunch of people to the draft, but this set of tapings felt like the late 2014 golden days where we got story development and marquee bouts every week.
Now it’s your turn.