For a more detailed recap, check our live results post here.
Zelina Vega joins commentary to hype her client and explain their professional relationship. She also instructs Andrade “Cien” Almas on when to finish his match, as Almas def. Cezar Bononi via pinfall with the hammerlock DDT.
What we have here is the first of two segments on this episode which made me miss the NXT version of characters now on the main roster - perhaps fitting considering the main event segment.
In talking to Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness and especially Percy Watson, who handles the interview portion of commentary (and pretty well, honestly), Vega re-states what was in that WWE.com article most people probably missed... she and Almas met in Mexico seven years ago, parted ways and are now working together to establish him as a NXT main eventer. Watson tried to get some dirt on their personal connection, but Zelina shut him down.
In getting his win back from Bononi, who upset him in their first encounter before Vega emerged on the scene, we’ve got another example of the “new” Andrade. Cezar’s brief spurt of offense only angered Cien, who quickly ended it when his manager told him to.
And that’s what made me miss Alexander Rusev and Lana from their brief time here in late 2013. Not sure of the exact translation of what Zelina told Andrade in Spanish before yelling “Finish Him!” in English, but I like to think it was “CRUSH”.
#WWENXT GM @RealKingRegal warns @AdamColePro, @KORcombat, and @TheBobbyFish to keep the physicality IN THE RING! @WWENetwork pic.twitter.com/cgaXHFMYMO— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) September 7, 2017
After a flashback to tag champs SAnitY laid out in the parking lot last week, General Manager William Regal says he’s made it clear to Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly that out-of-ring violence won’t be tolerated.
Sure thing "boss" https://t.co/6lNA7UjBEJ— Adam Cole (@AdamColePro) September 7, 2017
I don’t think Cole is worried.
Despite his noble intentions, @WWENoWayJose ends up just like all 3 of @LarsSWWE's opponents tonight... #WWENXT pic.twitter.com/kZwpykcIwi— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) September 7, 2017
Christy St. Cloud is trying to get a word from Asuka when Velveteen Dream cuts in to say he saw someone at TakeOver: Brooklyn who needs “The Experience”, so he’ll be speaking on that soon. Lars Sullivan demands his 3-on-1 handicap tag match be changed so all three opponents can face him at once, then he squashes them. No Way Jose shows up to address their run-in in Brooklyn, and lands one punch before getting flattened himself. An interview with Johnny Gargano is interrupted by Tino Sabatelli and Riddick Moss, setting up a future match.
Even before his interview tonight, I’d read some scuttlebutt online about where this Dream angle is going, and I’m intrigued. My concerns about the gimmick stand, but Patrick Clark is really delivering within it. And I’m willing to admit that my being uncomfortable with it could be a form of NXT working me.
Don’t sleep on St. Cloud’s reactions during her segments, either. She’s still putting it all together, but she’s showing signs of following in Renee Young’s footsteps - at least when it comes to her non-verbal responses.
The version of this week’s show on my Network feed glitchs during the Sullivan match, and jumps right to the SAnitY segment, so... that’s annoying. It also leaves me unable to really comment on the scenes with Jose and Gargano. I only gleaned them from Twitter and chatting with folks in the Cageside offices.
There is nothing that @RubyRiotWWE wants more than a chance to silence @BillieKayWWE & @WWEPeytonRoyce! @RealKingRegal #WWENXT pic.twitter.com/3UltAblw7i— WWE (@WWE) September 7, 2017
Another quick recap of SAnitY being taken out before last week’s episode leads to a video the tag champs sent in promising to make Cole and company regret their actions, as Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dain and Nikki Cross only care about chaos. Sonya Deville quickly submits Zeda with a triangle armbar. Footage of Regal at the Performance Center sets up a tag match for next week between Ruby Riot and a partner against The Iconic Duo of Billie Kay and Peyton Royce.
Here’s the other thing which made me nostalgic. Remember the NXT version of The Wyatt Family? So good! Now we have rambling Bray on Raw and his invisible acolytes on... Luke and Erick are somewhere, I’m sure.
Anyway, pretty great stuff from the tag champs here, who I think were mixing meth and Xanax in a trailer somewhere in central Florida when they filmed this. Gigglin’ Nikki really sells it. Also a fan of how they’ve strung the Cole-led invasion along by focusing on their attack on Drew McIntyre last week and EY’s crew here.
The women’s match was more of the same from Deville, and hopefully the vacancy atop the division will be used to push her to the next level. It feels like we’ve seen this match from her several times now, and we’re past the point of her needing to be established like this.
That PC scene is great for many reasons, and the women’s tag set-up for next week (we’re also getting Pete Dunne vs. Wolfgang in a UK title tilt) is the least of them. In ascending order of how I marked out over them:
3. Hello, Progress execs Jim Smallman and Glen Joseph.
2. Long-hair Ruby is bae.
1. ONEY LORCAN/DANNY BURCH TAG TEAM.
Kassius Ohno def. Hideo Itami in a No DQ match via pinfall following low blow and rolling elbow.
Worth it for a couple of Itami’s big spots - namely the fisherman’s suplex on the ramp (Full Sail’s grated ramp has always struck me as a uniquely painful surface on which to take a bump) and the hesitation drop kick onto a chair draped across Ohno’s face - but this failed to rise above the level of “pretty good” for me.
Kassius gets a much needed win, while Hideo dominated much of the action. The loss should fuel his respect-demanding character all the more, so I really have no bones to pick regarding the booking or the story... I just didn’t love it.
McGuinness bringing up that fans cheered for KO resorting to underhanded tactics while booing the Japanese star for the same was a great heel commentator beat, since it kind of makes sense but isn’t an unassailable point. The finish and his taking that position leads me to believe this might not be over, which would explain why it felt like Itami and Ohno had another gear they could, but chose not to take things to.
If not, this was a lackluster blow off.
Asuka relinquishes her Women’s title, and NXT says goodbye to the longest reigning champ in brand history.
First off, I did get a little verklempt during this segment. As someone who’s been watching this show every week for five years - and pro wrestling for a lot longer than that, it’s impossible for me to not recognize Asuka’s run as special. I also try to not drink the “We Are NXT” Kool-Aid the corporation is selling me, but I’m human, and I do feel a part of this territory.
WWE is also very much in the business of selling us wrestlers as performers first and characters second. (Hate using shoot names like this, but hopefully you’ll allow it in service of a point) I can’t watch this and not appreciate what it means for Kanako Urai that Paul Levesque thought enough of her to write this story for her, or see the connection she shares with Adrienne Reese and be moved by what they mean to each other - professionally and personally.
Triple H may hate the “developmental” label, but the black-and-yellow brand will always be one where promotion to the main roster is seen by talent and fans as a goal and an achievement. It may not be the faux-reality show it started as, but tonight we still saw a person we’ve grown attached to “win NXT”.
All that said, I pretty much hate this as a story. Of all the ways they could have handled Asuka’s streak, her reign and call-up, this is the laziest.
Regal putting her over as honorable when the last six months worth of her story has focused on how she cuts corners to outmaneuver Ember Moon invalidates that, and means we’re never going to get any payoff for the interesting teases of the Empress possibly being tired of wearing the crown but afraid to lose it.
Why isn’t Ember demanding another shot, or the belt? Even in the ‘reality’ where Asuka just won the big prize, Moon and the other women on the roster should want answers about what’s next.
I’m actually not that worried about the Empress on the next level. It won’t be what we’ve known, but that’s okay. Her character is basically that she likes to fight and is good at it, and that’s hard to screw up. This isn’t something nuanced or layered like Bayley or Emma we’re talking about.
But this? Aside from the feel good moment for the performer, it doesn’t serve the story or the characters who keep me coming back every week. I guess I like the people who play Peyton Royce and Nikki Cross well enough, but their characters are what keep me coming back.
A behind-the-scenes farewell party doesn’t ruin any of that, but it doesn’t help it, either.
Anyway, thanks Asuka. This version of you rocked.
Still really excited about the post-Brooklyn direction of the brand, and they kept the momentum going on the margins this week. But the big angles on this episode felt like they were running in place. And without a standout match?