A Just Different Enough Alternative: NXT 4-1-2015

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I want to like this show. I want to like this show. I want to like this show.

NXT 4-1-2015

We hear familiar music off the top and Sami Zayn is BACK! He talks about how great it was to go over to Abu Dhabi and perform for his people, but all the while he couldn’t get Kevin Owens out of his head. Kevin has changed and is no longer the guy he came up the ranks with. He’s a killer now. He’s murdered countless dogs and cows on his way to the top of NXT and Zayn has had enough. Ok I made that last part up but that’s the gist of the promo. In fact we have no way of knowing whether Kevin Owens has killed any dogs or not. I will say this, I did run into him in a pet store in Lasalle Quebec a few months before he debuted and he looked very at home, almost too comfortable…

Please tell me you have hedgehogs...
Please tell me you have hedgehogs…

Zayn is OK with Owens being a different man, but the crowd wants him to kick his ass. Zayn talks about winning his title back and then just goes with the crowd and says that part two is kicking Kevin’s ass. Great face promo. That’s what wrestling needs. It has to breathe. You have to be able to bounce off the live feedback you get and run with it. That’s what makes it exciting and alive. Zayn’s also just a great genuine promo. There’s no acting here. We believe it because he believes it. I’m glad my fellow Montrealer is back.

Coming up tonight we have the Lucha Dragons challenging Blake and Murphy and Bayley in a “grudge” match with Emma. I love that they’ve set up a feud with the women that doesn’t involve the titles. THAT’S what makes it seem like they’re serious about a division. When they bother to build ALL the characters.

Even me???? Just die already...
Even me????
Just die already…

Rhino is here!!!!

Match #1 Rhino vs. Jobber.

They don’t name the man so I’m not going to bother either. Rhino throws him once and then gores him for the win. Squishy squashy squash. I like the gore as a finish for Rhino the problem is Roman Reigns’ is far more impressive and Moose’s looks like it obliterates his opponent. I think I’d go with Christian as least believable spear finish but now I’m getting way off track.

Rhino is on the mic. Here’s here to make a statement! He’s here to win the title! He puts Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Finn Balor on notice that he’s going to rip them apart with the gore. Then he tries to get the fans to chant gore with him. They charitably accept as I bury my head in my hands at the sheer awkwardness of it all. I like Rhino being here. If they make him champion I’ll murder a dog.

DANA BROOKE IS COMING. She’d better be fucking phenomenal with all the hype she’s getting.

Now that I think about it, I'm sure she'll do fine... I mean, why not right??? Why not give her a chance???
Now that I think about it, I’m sure she’ll do fine… I mean, why not right??? Why not give her a chance???

We get a re-cap of last week’s main event without the eight chin locks and twelve commercial breaks. It looks like a damn good match with all the slow parts taken out. We get a great interview from last week where Owens, minutes after victory, sits behind the stands and talks about his win. He won, and that was all that mattered. No one is taking the title away from him. Super well acted promo full of life and conviction. I love the quick little NXT promos, they get the same amount of ideas across as the Raw twenty minute openers without any of the proverbial rope to hang themselves with.

Match # 2 Bayley Vs. Emma

So here’s our grudge match. Emma is inexplicably still doing her strange dance, despite a character overhaul in which she bullies Bayley to take things more seriously. Just as my outrage boils Corey Graves steps in and covers her ass by telling us that her body language is different and that she’s dancing contemptuously at the audience. I’m not sure if that’s true, but damnit that’s the kind of support I’ve been looking for from WWE commentators. Michael Cole would be screaming and mocking her (if he wasn’t talking about John Cena) but Graves gets it and helps her tell the story in spite of herself.

But where did John Cena go for dinner???
But where did John Cena go for dinner???

The match is nothing special. Emma keeps goading Bayley into a more physical fight, but Bayley keeps it clean and wrestles her. It’s EMBRACE THE HATE 2015!!! Emma keeps trying to get her to be nasty, beating her to the mat and hitting her with the Emmamite sandwich. (which may be the single greatest name for a move ever) Bayley casually rolls her up though to prove that you don’t need to be a dick to win wrestling matches. They reconcile and Emma is left in the ring. Ok then. I’m pretty sure this is far from over…

Becky Lynch gets a back stage interview now. She’s requested this time to demand why she hasn’t gotten a one on one title shot yet when everyone else has. It’s a fair point which she punctuates by welcoming everyone to NBecksT. Yet another, in a long line of them tonight, solid believable promo. This is how they should build up every title: even when people aren’t fighting for it, they’re thinking about it and talking about it. It usually works better than having the champ lose a ton of non-title matches. Usually.

SEIZURE TIME!!!!!

Match # 3 Blake & Murphy Vs. The Lucha Dragons

I’m unsure if this is for the titles, as I haven’t heard it announced one way or another. Sure I could probably look it up, but I’m sure you, the reader would prefer the suspense of not knowing… Right off the bat the commentators are talking about how and why teams are successful. These guys are making my night as they’re focused on the action and keeping us in the world of each individual match. Kalisto gets caught in a Blake head lock, and as soon as I wind up to start lambasting the WWE style, Kalisto and Blake make it super interesting by making the fight about the struggle to get out of said lock rater than lying there. Kalisto twists around, and Blake twists with him. That’s how you do it. Now the story is about them getting in and out of holds instead of them just laying down and selling minor pain.

This is a pretty solid tag team match, The Dragons are ready for prime time and Blake and Murphy have really grown on me. I also love the fact that they bother to give us a reason why the momentum changes in the match. In a lot of WWE matches these days one guy hits his stuff, then the other guy gets his offence for no discernible reason. The story here is that Sin Cara is dominating until Blake hits a dirty punch to switch the momentum. Which in turn allows Murphy to hit a sweet running vertical suplex followed by a frog splash for the win. All it took was that one little moment, but it made all the difference in the world. It added logic to the illogical world of pro wrestling.

EPILEPSY!!!
EPILEPSY!!!

Sami Zayn is getting yet another interview in the back. I’m not sure why we need to hear from him again. He’s like the Authority of NXT. Before he can get two word out he’s interrupted by Rhino who informs him that he’s not here to wait in line. He cares not for Zayn’s personal vendettas with Owens, and the line starts behind him. So… is Rhino’s character that he’s a delusional madman on the verge of a murder spree? (of dogs?)

Match #4 Tye Dillinger Vs. Jason Jordan

Dillinger and Jordan EXPLODE!!!!! This pays off a feud that started a few weeks ago when one walked out on the other during a tag match. Honestly I’m all for these lower tier guys getting matches like these. They’ve got to start somewhere and it’s best to start with a story of some kind. They insist on referring to Jason Jordan as a “Blue Chipper,” which is the death knell to any up and coming wrestler.

What do you mean?
What do you mean?

Jordan is intense though. The two men fight to get themselves into a chin lock and I love it. When Jordan finally applies it I feel like he’s earned that hold. Graves and Brennan talk about how intense Jordan is in the gym and Graves states that he quit working out as a result. I think we’re building the next decent heel commentator here. I hope they don’t ruin him. Jordan hits a sweet suplex for a pretty decisive win. I’d definitely be down for seeing more Jason Jordan. Aside from the two first names he certainly feels like a diamond in the rough. I didn’t want to say blue chipper ok???

I guessing we’re about to go into the main event as we get a complete re-cap of the Hideo Itami/Tyler Breeze feud. I don’t think I like this package here. We’re about to see a twenty minute 2/3 falls match and we’ve just been shown all their best spots for two minutes. I think they would have been better served leaving this out and having Graves and Brennan go over how they’ve each scored a fall over the other.

Match #5 Hideo Itami Vs. Tyler Breeze 2/3 Falls

Right off the bat Brennan is asking Graves what the best strategy is in a 2/3 falls match. All these bits of great commentary tonight go a long way to legitimize everything. If the booth is talking about the action in the ring as though it’s important then we’ll view it as important and by consequence the stakes for the entire show rise. Graves really is great tonight. It’s a shame his wrestling career was cut short, he makes tremendous points on the mic and I fear he may not have enough in-ring experience for the higher ups to let him be the top flight analyst.

Itami kills Breeze with strikes and nails him with a running kick to get a very quick first fall. And right away Breeze hits a beauty shot out of nowhere to even the score at one. Ok… What was the point of 2/3 falls if we’re going to burn the falls in the first two minutes? We take the first commercial break of the night. I’m not even mad this week. At least they’re plugging next week’s show.

Brennan breaks the shutout of the commentators not saying something stupid by stating that Itami had his WrestleMania moment in the battle royale. I’m so glad that Graves quickly counters by saying that wins matter. WINS MATTER!!! There’s nothing wrong with the match that these two are having. It’s fast paced and interesting to watch. Itami gets his “fighting spirit” spot which will for sure get over on the main roster. Breeze certainly doesn’t look out of place in there with him. Especially so when he hits another beauty shot out of nowhere for the win. Got to say, I’m a little surprised they went with Breeze here. These two have pretty solid chemistry and this match was a lot of fun. With that we’re out!

Best Match: Hideo Itami Vs. Tyler Breeze
Worst Match: Rhino Vs. Jobber
Best Promo/Skit: Becky Lynch wants her title shot.
Worst Promo/Skit: Rhino: please chant gore…
MVP: Corey Graves

What Worked Really Well

Awesome commentary all night. They were on point, focused on each match at hand and interesting to listen to.

No bad matches this week.

It’s also nice to see that the whole show wasn’t treated as a squash show. Sure Rhino killed some guy, but the rest of the matches were competitive.

Everyone has a storyline. That’s important because it feels like everything has a reason for happening. Contrast that with the fifteenth Big Show/Reigns match for no reason.

Everyone seems to be focused on titles. It’s very refreshing.

Most of the promos are believable and to the point.

What Sort Of Works

I did enjoy the Tyler Breeze/ Hideo Itami match but…. It’s their third match and they’re not really doing anything new. It would be nice to see some evolution in their performances. Allow one match to build off the last.

There was also no reason for this match to be 2/3 falls. It’s like they booked it then realized they didn’t want to do it so burned the two first falls right away.

I kind of wish Breeze used the supermodel kick as his finish instead of the beauty shot. It looks so much more devastating.

What Didn’t Work

That video package before the main event was unnecessary and obtrusive. Sometimes less is more despite tremendous production value.

Rhino’s promos stand out as false and stale next to everyone else’s believable style.

So Why Should I Watch This Instead Of Raw?

This week was a major improvement over the past few weeks. I’m not so naive to think that anyone at NXT is reading these reports, but almost all of my complaints/insane ramblings were addressed. No commercials for bullshit we already paid for, no long rest hold sequences, the show is no longer Superstars circa 1987 and the commentating is miraculously listenable, even interesting. Sure there were no spectacular matches this week, but it was a fun hour to sit through. If they can keep producing shows like this I can probably remove the suicide prevention line from my speed dial. I really hope this show isn’t some cruel April Fool’s joke…

Just keep the Japanese Tattooed guy away from them!
Just keep the Japanese Tattooed guy away from them!

 

Author: Aaron George

Aaron is a classically trained Shakespearean actor by day who fulfils his culture quotient by watching wrestling by night. He has two sons a great wife and once explored the sewers in his hometown.