Everyone seems to be on the NXT train lately, and with good reason. It’s consistently the best WWE show that they put on week to week and has a realism and freshness that we haven’t seen in years. Let’s take a look at this week’s episode and see if it stands up to the reputation I built for it no less than one sentence ago.
Here we go. Crowd is chanting NXT and the announcers are actually letting us hear it. Weird. We’re getting our first match right away…
Match #1 Hideo Itami Vs Bull Dempsey
Can I just say that Bull Dempsey’s music may be the worst piece of music I’ve ever heard. The six people who chant “Bull” over the guitar riff should be ashamed they accepted a paycheck for their uninspired performance. Have they not seen the man? Do they not see the resemblance to a bull??
This was a bit of an extended squash with Bull getting far too much offence for my taste. Every time I see Itami fight in NXT I get the impression he’s holding back. I’m not surprised people say he’s having a hard time clicking. Not only is he in there with a guy in King Kong Bundy’s old tights, but he’s forced to work the standard “WWE style,” which insists that the competitors have a segment where they lay around in a hold, more on that later, and slow the match to a crawl. You don’t see the ultra slow lie around in Japan or ROH, just action. There are slow parts, but they’re filled with drama. There’s a saying in theatre, “you have to earn your pauses,” and it totally applies here. You earn the slow part. You build to them so that when they happen they mean something. You don’t need to slow the match to a crawl two minutes in. And if you’re going to slap a hold on to kill time, at least Mr. Dempsey, apply it so that it looks like it hurts and that you’re working to a submission. I don’t see why the WWE can’t just let guys work their own style in a little more, it would greatly diminish the homogenization of their product. Anyways, this match is fine, Itami finishes with a bunch of kicks to end it. I really wish they wouldn’t use the ultra slow-motion replay for the Itami’s dropkick with someone in the tree of woe. It kind of exposes how he’s protecting his opponent.
A word on Bull Dempsey if I may. I’m not sure I’m getting it. I have no issue, in fact I think it’s cool, that someone who looks like him is on the roster. The problem is though, is that he doesn’t seem to be any good. There have been tons of good/great bigger guys. He doesn’t do anything interesting in the ring besides breathe heavily. As a punching bag for Hideo Itami he’s fine, but anything more and I start to feel like I’m completely out of touch with what WWE wants these days. I mean there’s a better version of him in ROH right now. He’s basically a poor man’s Beer City Bruiser. Imagine that. Do you think this man would have ever dreamt he’d have a poor man’s version of himself?
Itami goes to leave and gets ambushed on the ramp by Tyler Breeze and his selfie stick. I like the attacks and I like Breeze, but I’m a little disturbed that selfies and selfie sticks are such an integral part or two wrestling characters in two major wrestling promotions.
We’re back from a commercial on a network that we pay for , promoting the company and product you’re already watching. The announcers are smiling like fucking idiots at the camera. I HATE this shot. We get a pretty cool package about the returning The Brian Kendrick which sees him prance around the ring and look badass next to an intimidating black gentleman who I hope doesn’t make his way back to NXT. Strange, they didn’t show HHH treating him like a jobber at the Royal Rumble. Oh well…
Match #2 The Lucha Dragons Vs. Tye Dillinger & Jason Jordan
On the entrance Solomon Crow interrupts and his overacting is killing me. Didn’t he get the memo that everyone in NXT is underplayed and reality based? The announcers hang the albatross of “Blue-chipper” on Jason Jordan and I immediately feel sorry for the kid.
Kalisto is so good and I love the way that Sin Cara has kind of re-invented himself as a power guy. I don’t see why you don’t bring these guys up to the main roster as a tag team. They’re good. They deserve better than to be made into a hairdresser and a Botchamania star. Jordan shows some fire in the ring, and as he tags in Dillinger the announcers talk about the wrestling happening in the match. I’m so shocked/stunned that I’m completely shocked when Jordan “Rick Martels” Dillinger and walks out on him. The Dragons finish off Dillinger with the Solina del Sol followed by the senton from Sin Cara. This was a good squash with a bit of token offense. Fun stuff.
Finn Balor is backstage. Greg asks him about fighting Kevin Owens, but Balor instead puts over Kendrick and how important his match tonight is. This is great because it’s so rare on WWE television to have them place importance on the here and the now instead of trying to sell you what’s coming up. He’ll probably be fined.
Commercials! Total divas makes me want to kick a kitten. Then we get that asinine promo for WrestleMania play button. WE get the usual montage of stuff happening to shitty music. Something hit me watching it. In the whole package we have exactly two acts of wrestling seen. Everything else is just entrances or poses. Isn’t that telling? Look how cool these characters are. We make movies! People may pop in a building for Randy Orton posing, but they’ll buy tickets to see drama in the matches, not characters on a ramp.
We’re back and Dillinger is in the ring (still) he wants an explanation from Jordan. He’s not leaving till he gets one and he doesn’t care who’s going to come out. He’ll whip there ass. Reminiscent of The Honky Tonk Man calling out “anyone” Baron “dead eyes” Corbin makes his way down.
Match # 3 Baron Corbin Vs. Tye Dillinger
You know you’re the jobbiest of jobbers who ever jobbed if you job twice in one show not five minutes apart. I think the crowd is done with Corbin. They’re not even bothering to count during the matches any more. This is the crowd that chants “This is wrestling” after the first arm drag of the night. You’re done Corbin.
Charlotte backstage now. She says Sasha has never beaten her one on one. She needs some promo work. I love Charlotte but she sounds like a teenager mouthing off to her teacher about how her dad says she doesn’t have to do homework.
Tyler Breeze hates Hideo Itami. Calls him a cockroach. Is that racist?
Next week we’re going to hear from Sami Zayn. I like that he’s been left of TV since he lost. Not only are we all struck with “absence makes the heart grow fonder” syndrome but it’s done a great job of selling the severity of the beating he took.
Match #4 Bayley Vs Becky Lynch
Bayley’s entrance brings a smile to my face every time. Becky’s entrance makes me long for an Irish horsemen faction with Sheamus, Balor, her and Finlay acting as the mentor. Neither of them would ever care about getting in there and going toe to toe with anyone. Neither one of them have ever know their fathers.
This match is quite good, lots of stiff kicks and suplexes to start. They slow the match down (FACK!) but the two ladies bother to apply the “Million Dollar Dream” variant Becky puts Bayley in looks like it hurts and it’s actually wrestling. Take note Bull Dempsey. Here’s what I love about the women’s matches in NXT. I never have to qualify in any way. I never have to say “It’s good… for a women’s match.” It’s just good. Every time. I’d so much rather watch this than Bull Dempsey or Baron Corbin. No sooner do the commentators mention Bayley is favoring her shoulder, Becky applies an arm bar. When she can’t get Bayley to tap, she modifies the position so that it’s more painful and Bayley taps immediately. Solid, logical wrestling. I wish Becky didn’t look like she was trying to poop when she did her pose, but aside from that I liked this a lot.
Rhyno is being interviewed backstage. He gets asked why he’s there and he puts over the NXT product, the wrestlers and himself within three sentences. Great stuff until he tries to start a gore chant. I’ve never cared more about Rhyno in his entire career.
Jason Jordan is leaving the building. He’s not giving us an explanation. Come on! It’s right there. Just say “he’s ha looohser!” and be done with it.
Match # 5 Finn Balor Vs. The Brian Kendrick
Owens joins us for commentary. Kendrick prances to the ring with glee in his step we haven’t seen in years. It fills my heart with so much happiness that I almost ignore the shot of the young man mimicking Brian’s dance and treading the fine line or full body vomiting and seizure. Finn Balor is out to the best current music on WWE television. I have that song in my head all week after every episode of NXT. The violin elevates in to an event that feels more important than the moon landing. The WWE has been gifted wit something very special with Finn Balor. His excellent ring work aside, this guy knows how to be a star, which is a quality they seen in anyone in years. If they just let him be, he could be absolutely huge. Balor and Kendrick have a pretty solid match with lots of cool spots and fun stuff going on. Here’s the problem: the commentators and the company put the focus on Alex Riley getting into it with Kevin Owens on commentary. We get more shots of these two than the two guys in the god damn ring. Riley on commentary gets super quiet and talks about “being a man,” which would be fine if these two were the focus of some sort of morality play, but unfortunately there’s a match going on, with the number one contender and a big return you’ve been hyping all night. All the goodwill the commentators built up during the show has evaporated. Balor finished with the “coup de grace” after the dropkick to the corner. (which I liked more when it wasn’t part of a series of spots)
We get the obligatory Owens/Balor stare down, until Owens decides to attack Alex Riley. Great. Cause the announcer feuds are always the best part of any good wrestling program.
Best Match: Finn Balor Vs. The Brian Kendrick
Worst Match: Baron Corbin Vs. Tye Dillinger
Best Promo/Skit: Kevin Owens explains the difference between malice and winning.
Worst Promo/Skit: Charlotte is UPSET!
MVP: Finn Balor
What Worked Really Well
– I really enjoyed the squash match showcases main evented by the two more solid and competitive matches.
– Finn Balor is a star.
– Kevin Owens was great on commentary (when he wasn’t being told off by Riley). He continues to give simple yet effective reasons for doing all the heinous things he does.
– The women’s match was stiff and believable. So way better than anything on Raw or Smackdown.
– In fact they respect the women so much that they bother to make them a video package for next week.
What Sort Of Works
– I’d like to se more than job duty out of Dillinger and Jordan Maivia.
– The fans have some great chants. “Bayley’s gonnna hug you.” They’re bordering on obnoxious though.
What Didn’t Work
– It’s weird. When we get squash matches the commentators are on-point and interesting. They talk about the match and the wrestlers in it. As soon as we got to the main event and they had an actual story to work with that all went out the window. They have no confidence in just letting us put the story together. Instead they have to ram it down our throats and MAKE SURE we get it. The Riley/Owens stuff could have been subtly hinted at within the context of the Balor/Kendrick match. Instead the match was a backdrop to some stupid shit no one wants to see. We can follow the stories. They’re not fucking King Lear.
– There’s so many commercials for the main roster stuff in this hour. There’s barely any promo for NXT on the five hours of main roster.
– There doesn’t need to be this many commercials. They don’t need to cut away from matches.
So Why Should I Watch This Instead Of Raw?
It had a great old school feel this week. I know I kind of made fun of a lot of stuff, but then show was a lot of fun to watch for the most part. Watching it you can see the immense talent they have in developmental. Try no to think too hard about what will happen to them when they’re called up or you’ll get Tim White depressed. That being said this is a fine hour or wrestling only marred by stupidity in the main event. Which was the best match… ugh… please don’t become Raw.
Thanks for Reading! See You Next Week!