I was getting ready to write this week’s episode recap, when it hit me that a lot of people might not be watching what is consistently the best wrestling show on Hulu Plus, NXT. So I figured I’d lead this off with a little primer on the main faces of NXT.
Big E Langston – The current NXT Champion works as a face to the Florida fans, who love to chant his “FIVE!” along with him. His current work on Raw and SmackDown is only mentioned in passing.
Bray Wyatt – Obviously it looks like he and his family will soon be on the big stage, but he’s still a major piece of NXT. The former Husky Harris, Wyatt has reinvented himself as a mix between Cape Fear’s Max Cady, Justified’s Boyd Crowder, and a cult leader, with a little bit of True Blood or even Texas Chainsaw Massacre in his presentation. Wyatt has become one of the highlights of any given week. Amazing promos, great presence… this guy (and hopefully he’ll get the chance to show it) is ready to be a main event heel on Raw. His family includes Luke Harper, who used to wrestle in Northeast Indies as Brodie Lee, and Erick Rowan, who’s worked with Pro Wrestling NOAH in the past.
Kassius Ohno – Formerly Chris Hero, Ohno has largely been a villain in his run in NXT, with that being capped off with a story and match with William Regal that everybody should check out. Ohno tried to make amends for his previous actions, and was attacked that night by the Wyatt family, getting drawn into that feud.
Adrian Neville – An amazing high flyer, this crowd favorite used to wrestle on the indy scene as PAC. He was tag team champions with Oliver Grey, but when Grey blew out his knee, he picked Bo Dallas to team with, but they lost their titles to the Wyatt Family in their first defense.
Sami Zayn – A recent debut to the show, Zayn is an energetic, happy young man who loves competition as much as he loves fashion. He seems a little Generic(o), but I Like Sami Zayn.
Corey Graves – A long time indy favorite under the name Sterling James Keenan, Graves was a long time villain who has become a fan favorite by not really changing much. He now just dislikes guys like The Shield and the Wyatt Family as opposed to the favorites of Full Sail University.
Bo Dallas – Had a failed WWE run at the beginning of the year, where his stuff with Wade Barrett did not connect in the ring or with the fans. Dallas in recent weeks has been working on a subtle heel turn, obnoxiously smiling, quoting John Cena, and talking about giving less than 100% in the ring.
Paige – A 20 year old, who might be the best woman’s wrestler on the roster, Paige is “The Anti-Diva”. Going for a goth look, this British second-generation star (her mother is current SHIMMER fave Saraya Knight), has milky white skin and dark black hair. She’s known for her signature scream and her desire to eliminate the “Barbies” that populate the WWE Divas roster.
Summer Rae – She’s been on weekly as Fandango’s dancer, but she’s also learning to ply her trade in the ring. She’s the epitome of Paige’s “Barbie” rage, and they’ve been feuding for months.
Emma – An Australian star who’s unorthodox dance is surprisingly entertaining, and who’s charisma just screams that she could come up today and be very over among WWE fans.
Jim Ross is out to start the show, as he’ll emcee the contract signing between the winner of last week’s battle royal, Bo Dallas, and the NXT Champion, Big E. Langston! Ross puts over the history of NXT Title, naming Seth Rollins and Langston. Dallas gets a definite heel response. Langston coming out makes me realize I’ve never seen him in pants. Before signing the contract, Dallas starts to crack as the crowd chants “No More Bo!” Bo brings up Langston’s association with Dolph Ziggler and WrestleMania appearance (which immediately invalidates my primer). Dallas blames himself for not getting those opportunities and not being NXT Champion. He doesn’t want to be NXT Champion, he needs to be NXT Champion. The contract could change his life. Langston tells Dallas that he has a great deal of respect for him after seeing him go toe-to-toe with the Big Show, before reminding him he got knocked out. Langston says he’s the biggest, baddest man NXT has ever seen, and that Bo’s a geek who probably lives at home with his mamma and wears footie pajamas when he goes to bed. Langston will crush Dallas’s dreams, and do it in five!
Renee Young is backstage, talking to Corey Graves. Graves says that tonight’s not just about the NXT Tag Titles, but tonight, the Wyatt Family will fall. He doesn’t see Bray Wyatt as a mad man, but what he did was fire the first shot at a one-man army. Tonight, he’s going to put the Wyatt Family down, and they’re going to Stay Down. Young asks him about his issues with Kassius Ohno, and Graves says that he’s never liked Kassius Ohno, but the NXT Tag Championship is bigger than their dislike. If Ohno wants, he can stay out on the apron while he wins the Tag Titles, and tears the Wyatt Family house down brick by brick.
TONIGHT – The Wyatt Family defends the NXT Tag Team Titles against Kassius Ohno and Corey Graves!
Ooh, a new Paige music video. She says that she’s been called the Anti-Diva, but that’s wrong. She is a Diva. Tomorrow’s Diva. She’s not here to be another pretty face. She’s here to fight. And when she’s done, there will be no Barbies left.
TAMINA SNUKA vs. PAIGE
This is a first round match-up in the NXT Women’s Title Tournament. The two start out brawling a little, with Paige getting an advantage with a kick to the gut, only for it to be negated with a Snuka headbutt. Snuka takes the lead, stomping Paige as she tries to evade. Snuka hits a float-over suplex, but only gets a one count. Tamina throws the Anti-Diva by her hair, and locks in a chinlock. Paige is able to fight out, but when she hits the ropes, she gets a back elbow to her chin for her troubles. Snuka follows it up with a kneedrop, and then locks on another chinlock. Tamina puts a lot into a bodyslam, and then locks on a single arm chicken wing. Paige is able to scream and fight out of it with some back elbows, but Snuka is able to hit a big superkick and it appears Paige is knocked out. Tamina climbs the ropes and goes for the Superfly Splash, but Paige is able to get her knees up, and then hit a roll-up for the win!
The other first round matches are Bayley vs. Alicia Fox, Sasha Banks vs. Summer Rae, and Emma vs. Aksana.
We go backstage to Renee Young again, who’s now with Kassius Ohno. Ohno’s rocking an awesome Misawa T-Shirt. He’s asked about his plan for tonight, and it’s to attack. He’s not afraid of the fortress that Bray Wyatt has built for himself. He’s asked about the issues he has with Corey Graves, and he mentions that Graves likens himself a Lone Wolf, but it’s not about him tonight, it’s about taking the thing that Bray Wyatt treasures most in this world, the NXT Tag Team Titles.
A promo for Leo Kruger. He says some people might call him creepy, but he requires a little more understanding. His hands have done what they’ve done and his eyes have seen what they’ve seen. He’s lived a peculiar life that’s made him an exotic human being. Everything you know is about to change. Ta-ta. This felt like something taped for Raw or SmackDown. Very high quality on the production values, and no NXT footage was used.
COLLIN CASSADY vs. MASON RYAN
Cassady got the jobber entrance, so I’m not expecting this to last long. Ryan’s less swole than he was when he was in the New Nexus, but he’s still probably the worst guy in the WWE system in the ring. Ryan forces Cassady into the corner with some strikes, and whips him into the corner, although Cassady moved out of the way, and is able to get a little offense, although that quickly ended with a boot to Colin’s face. Ryan takes him back to the corner and continues brawling. Cassady is able to slip out but Ryan takes him to ANOTHER corner. Ryan throws him into the turnbuckle, and hits a clothesline when Colin bounces off. Ryan then hits his Rackbreaker, a Torture Rack Neckbreaker, for the win.
Renee Young is backstage with Sami Zayn, who’s wearing a very dapper fedora. Zayn talks about how great his first night in the company was, beating not just a former WWE Tag Team Champion in Curt Hawkins, but also former US Champion Antonio Cesaro. He says Cesaro’s a great wrestler, but on that night, and maybe other nights, he was just better. He’s interrupted by Cesaro, who tells him all he got was a cheap win. Zayn counters that the only thing cheap about that night was the cheap shot after the match. Cesaro tells him he ticked him off, and that’s not a good thing, and challenges him to a rematch. Zayn accepts the rematch under the condition that Cesaro tells him where he got his sweet, sweet man purse. (HEY, MESSENGER BAGS ARE VERY USEFUL, SAMI.) Cesaro asks him to repeat it, and when he does, Cesaro slaps him, and they have to be separated by WWE officials.
ALEX RILEY vs. CONOR O’BRIAN
Riley hugs a big man who’s a big fan on his way to the ring. O’Brian starts the match by basically holding a position until Riley approached him, where O’Brian is able to jump him and take advantage. It just hit me, these were both contenders on the original NXT Season 2. They go back and forth with strikes, and Riley’s able to hit a leaping spinning elbow. Riley climbs to the ropes and hits a flying lariat. O’Brian is able to counter a leap with a hot shot, and then hits a big flap jack on him. O’Brian hits “The Stockade”, which is kind of a variation on AJ’s Black Widow for the submission victory. As O’Brian slides out of the ring, there’s a new Ascension member on the ramp. Internet speculation says this man is Rick Victor. The blue light they’re using for this looks really creepy.
NEXT WEEK – BO DALLAS vs. BIG E LANGSTON, NXT CHAMPIONSHIP
It’s main event time! The challengers’ issues with the Wyatt Family are highlighted during their entrance. You can see the tension in the ring between the tag team. Wyatt leads his family out, and has a mic. He’s not afraid of snakes. He’s not afraid of fire. He’s not afraid of disease, or pain! Fuck, Bray Wyatt is so good at this character. What really scares him… is himself. The fact that Ohno and Graves showed up again allows him to understand that they do not favor their ability to breathe. He thinks it’s his fault. So what he’s going to do is start this whole thing over. His name is Bray Wyatt, and he is the Eater of the Worlds! The two men behind him, they are his brothers, and they want to give Ohno and Graves an introduction of their own. Wyatt pulls his family close and whispers to them, and they make their way to the ring, setting up Bray’s rocking chair on the ramp.
KASSIUS OHNO and COREY GRAVES vs. THE WYATT FAMILY – NXT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH
Rowan and Ohno start things out. Ohno has a neck crank locked on Rowan, but the giant red-bearded man is able to fight out of it. He sends Ohno into the corner, but Ohno’s faster, and able to move him away, and tag Graves in. Rowan takes control and tags in Luke Harper, who’s hypnotically yelling YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH at Graves. Harper drops Graves over the top rope, but Corey catches himself on the apron, rams his shoulder into Harper’s midsection, and then tries to fly over the top rope with a sunset flip, but Harper’s too big to get over. Harper picks him up, but Graves is able to slide over his back and roll him up for a two-count. Graves is able to counter an arm drag with one of his own. He tags in Ohno who hits an axe handle onto Luke Harper’s arm. Right before a commercial break, Harper is able to tag in Rowan.
When they come back, Rowan is in control of Ohno, who has a Million Dollar Dream variation. Rowan tags in Harper, and they’re able to double team the former Chris Hero. Harper hits some European Uppercuts, and tags back the giant red-bearded beast. Ohno is able to hit a jawbreaker out of nowhere, and hits the hot tag on Graves. Graves comes in with some shots, and then is able to take out Rowan by going low. He’s going for a submission, when he has to prevent Harper from coming in. He charges Rowan, only to be dropped to the apron. He turns around, and Harper hits a boot to the face on the apron. Rowan pulls him in and goes for the pin, but only gets a two. Harper tags in, and hits a big back elbow, then walks over Graves as he runs the ropes and hits a knee drop. The Wyatt Family is working really well now, quick tags and double teams, as they control Graves. Rowan hits a pumphandle backbreaker, but can’t get a three-count. Rowan is able to put Graves in an Argentine backbreaker, but Graves refuses to submit. Graves slips out, but Rowan keeps in control, by running his head into his corner, and tagging in Luke. Harper comes in and goes for a suplex, but Graves reverses it into a small package! Graves counters a clothesline into a crucifix! Graves back body-drops Harper when he’s going for some kind of power bomb, and then hits a BIG hot tag to Ohno. Ohno comes in, a house of fire, with shots to Harper, shots to Rowan, and hits a big leaping elbow into the corner. He kicks Rowan out, who was trying to come in, and then hits a flying senton onto Harper! Bray teases interference, but Ohno’s able to hit a rolling headbutt! Rowan breaks it up, but Graves is back in, and sends Rowan over the top rope! Bray gets involved, behind the referees back, hitting Ohno in the back of the head… but Graves sees him and hits a twisting plancha onto Wyatt! In the chaos, Harper is able to hit a twisting lariat onto Ohno for the pin to retain the titles!
After last week’s unique episode that really just treaded water, this was a welcome return to NXT goodness. Although this show only featured one long match, it was a great tag team match, great promo work, and lots of character and story development. This was definitely a very good episode of the show.
Next week – More divas, and the NXT Title Match!