Still getting used to this Powerflo tune... but I’m getting over my resistance to it.
We don’t have to wait long for the promised Drew McIntyre action, as he’s here to face Rob Ryzin. The smaller man survives the initial lock-up, landing on his feet off a back body drop to shove McIntyre. He gets flattened with a big boot for his efforts. After a belly-to-belly, Ryzin actually gets a one count after a superkick, but from there it’s all Drew. The big Scot does take a few slaps after an axe handle off the top, but from there he literally throws his opponent around before connecting with what Nigel McGuinness calls his single-leg Yakuza kick for the win in about three and a half minutes.
The Iconic Duo’s run-in with Ember Moon at the Performance Center as she was signing her medical release paperwork two weeks ago is shown, and we learn Peyton Royce will face Moon next week. Then they play an Aleister Black hype video. The opening segments really let you know what to expect from this episode.
Paul Ellering leads the tag champs to the ring for a match against a couple local talents who don’t even get introduced (as you can see above, YouTube identifies them as Anthony Dominguez & Wilmer Freyday). Rezar heads outside to talk business with Ellering, and Akam destroys their opponents single-handedly. After throwing one guy clear to the ramp from the ring, he hits a Death Valley Driver-type move on the other for a one minute pin. His fellow Author of Pain joined him in the ring afterwards for a Super Collider before their Hall of Fame manager grabbed a microphone.
Heavy Machinery are as foolish as they are large, according to Ellering. His Authors have been here for a year and are still undefeated. Have we not read the Book of Pain? He lists the teams they’ve beaten, and says they want to write the first chapter in their Book of Dominance - but Heavy Machinery don’t even rate a footnote. That brings out Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight. They march down to the ring, but after going nose-to-nose in a staredown, Ellering pulls the champs back and gets them to leave.
- While I am very much ready for McIntyre to do something meaningful... still not tired of him throwing and kicking people around like a grown man in a world of little boys.
- If it please the court, I present this GIF as exhibit A. And rest my case.
- Spoiler alert on my grade for this episode... it won’t be 6.25 stars. It’s not as low as SmackDown’s ratings, either, but... this is the first episode since TakeOver: Orlando that felt inessential to me. Following even a fun squash with a video we’ve already seen to announce a match we all knew was coming (that we’ll be reminded of again later!) before giving us a video hyping someone who’s already debuted and doesn’t need hyping is a good example of why.
- AoP should whoop every team currently on the NXT roster around like this - including Heavy Machinery. YEAH, I SAID IT. More shots of Ellering diagraming plays/making “to do” lists for one of the Authors while the other dismantles jamokes, too.
- This was probably the best delivered, least head-scratching promo from Paul in... basically his entire NXT run. So that was cool.
- Just so you know I’m not a TOTAL hating-ass hater, I am intrigued when I see that much grade A hoss in the ring at one time.
- Having Akam & Rezar back down here was absolutely the right call, too. Especially since at least a few Full Sail-ers were going full Full Sail and cheering the heels during the segment.
We’re treated to highlights of last week’s Roderick Strong/Bobby Roode promo duel as a lead-in to Tom Phillips reading a Tweet from Roddy about how he’s seen a bunch of guys like Roode, and will only need one shot to take him down.
Then it’s a promo video for Sonya Deville. This emphasizes her MMA background, and gives her a chance to talk. She uses it to say “I didn’t ask for this, I was born for this” and try to get her “put your hair up and square up” catchphrase over. She’ll be in action next week.
Fresh off news he’s signed a full-time deal with WWE, the Cruiserweight Classic’s Raul Mendoza is here to face Velveteen Dream. Dream takes down his opponent a couple times in the early going and taunts him with things like walking on his back, which Mendoza uses against him with a roll-up. That brings out a flurry from Velveteen, displaying some athletic moves and crisp strikes, but takes a running kick and several strikes from Mendoza. Those strikes lead him right into a flapjack, and a frustrated Dream whips his headband at him. Mendoza lands another kick, but then takes a cartwheeling version of a Death Valley Driver and an elbow drop from the top. VD covers and blows a kiss to the camera just shy of the four minute mark.
More replays, as the end of Hideo Itami and Oney Lorcan’s match from last week and Itami’s run-in with Kassius Ohno sends us to Kayla Braxton asking Ohno about his relationship with Itami. Kassius says he doesn’t know where their friendship stands, but he shouldn’t have sunk to his level. He knows Hideo is frustrated, and he wants to lead by example. So he’s asked William Regal for a match, and next week he’ll face Aleister Black.
- Having already complained about showing us what we saw last week (but this time it was to set up reading us a >140 character message!), let’s talk about Ms. Deville.
- The decision to show us clips of her program with the Iconic Duo when she had a different name while proclaiming her “one of the baddest women in NXT” is a little curious, but overall I thought this was a great intro package. The MMA gimmick doesn’t often work for me within the confines of a pro wrestling match, but it’s definitely something she can adapt as she gets more experience.
- Quite like the slogans and catch phrases, too. If used judiciously and not spammed into every promo, they could really help her get over - especially at the next level.
- Count me out on Mr. Dream (may I call you Velveteen?). Patrick Clark is talented and will be fine once they get him something better than whatever this is. But the charm of seeing him commit to a preening, arrogant heel role isn’t enough to overcome forced Prince references - no, Tom, it’s not a “Sign O’ The Times” - and thinly veiled gay panic. “Ambiguous” is not an adjective I need to hear WWE commentators use, at least until one of them proves it can be delivered as something other than a code word.
- Decent little match though, if repetitive within this hour. Clark really could be something to see one day. But not like this.
- At least they’re committed to befuddling me with their presentation of Kassius Ohno 2.0. He’s some kind of good sportsmanship Yoda now? Okay.
- The battle between Heroes Eventally Die next week will undoubtedly rule my dumb ass, though.
After an Ember Moon hype piece, again focused on her finisher, we’re reminded again about her match with Peyton next week. Then it’s main event time!
Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot enter first, and can barely contain their desire to tear one another apart, but they wait for Asuka to enter for their elimination title match. Then everyone is hesitant until Nikki charges Ruby, only to be attacked by the champ. Cross fights her off before Riot re-enters the picture. Asuka trades regular kicks with the Punk Rocker, then missle drop kicks with the SAnitY member. The Empress talks smack in Japanese only to get sent to the outside by a double clothesline. Nikki goes for a roll-up on her nemesis, but Ruby fights her off and stands tall at our first break of the contest.
Asuka’s in control when we return, working over Riot. She sends the champ to the outside, allowing Cross to come back in and try a roll-up. Asuka tries to catch them both with a knee at the same time a la TakeOver: Chicago, but Ruby catches it. Riot has the momentum and takes both her opponents out with a drop kick from the apron to the floor. She rolls Nikki in and misses her dive, but lands a kick. When she goes back up top, however, Asuka pulls her to the outside. A top rope maneuver from the Empress also comes up empty, and gives Cross a chance to hit her swinging neckbreaker, but the champ rolls all the way to the floor before she can cover. Riot returns to hit a saito suplex on Nikki, but a kick from Asuka keeps her from following up, and Cross drapes her over the top turnbuckle for a swinging neckbreaker that eliminates her six and a half minutes into the match.
When we return from a second commercial, the remaining competitors are exchanging blows in the middle of the ring. Asuka gets the upperhand with some stiff-looking spinning backfists. A big kick and a German suplex gets the champ two, but Cross reaches around the referee to rake her eyes puts Nikki in control. She tries for the rope hung neckbreaker again, but Asuka slips out. A series of kicks through the ropes and on the apron puts Cross on the floor for a leaping, spinning hip attack. From there, they battle along the barricade and to the stage, before heading around the corner and out of sight, at which point the ref calls for the bell. It’s a no contest in just under ten minutes.
Out in the parking lot/loading dock area, Asuka chokes Cross, then gets thrown into a garage door. The champ freaks out and smashes Nikki into the same metal door repeatedly as referees stand around and yell at them. They make their way back inside to a make-up/dressing room set-up, where Asuka ends up getting dunked in a cooler of ice. Then it’s back into the arena. They throttle each other around the announce desk before brawling to a tech area. After trading strikes on an elevated barricade, Cross dives into Asuka, sending them both through a table. Neither moves much as Norman Smiley, Steve Corino and Robbie Brookside check on them.
- Did y’all know Ember’s finisher is really cool, and good at finishing people? You probably did. Now tell me one other thing about her character.
- The Triple Threat was awesome... before and after the bell.
- Perhaps my disappointment in the match itself, and this edition of NXT as a whole, stems from expecting too much. And most of my hope came from the introductions. Ruby giving Nikki side-eye, Cross’ noticeable, physical reaction to Riot’s presence, the threeway staredown before the action started... I was as hyped as Mojo when Gronk calls with the plans for the night.
- Then we got a pretty standard WWE Triple Threat. And worse, they were obviously shooting for a match that played off that set-up, with unpredictable, out of control action - that instead impending it finding a rhythm and at times came off as sloppy.
- Cross & Asuka’s initial strike-off in the match was good, and the brawl was a lot of fun (if plagued by some of the same awkwardness that impacted the match). They made the final spot work, though, and that’s the important thing. Both women sold the heck out of that bump, too.
- A little worried what happens to Ruby now. I halfway expected her to run in after the no contest was called for (which seemed rushed, and I’m pretty sure Phillips proclaimed “anything goes” earlier in the match, which contradicted the double countout, but... whatevs. I survived Extreme Rules ‘17, I’m not gonna sweat this too much), which would have made sense if for no other reason than she hates Nikki Cross.
- But we’ve got two months until Brooklyn III, and Cross vs. Asuka is a great way to get us there. We’ve seen them in 4Way and Triple Threat scenarios, so it’s about time Nikki gets a one-on-one shot at the belt.
- One last thing... we’ve learned to not expect much from Regal’s team in terms of security and keeping the peace. But don’t insult my intelligence by telling me the officials couldn’t get Nikki and Asuka apart when I’ve been watching them spend five minutes following them around, not get in their way and kind of suggest they stop fighting.
What can I tell you? I just didn’t really care for this one. Mostly filler, some of which reminded me of my least favorite things they’ve been doing lately. When the best bits of the show can be found in GIFs... well, I can’t tell you to seek this one out.