In something that I’m not sure is a long term change or not, but NXT is no longer behind the Hulu Plus paywall. You can watch this episode right now here.
The show starts with a video package showing the Cesaro-Zayn rivalry, with lots of highlights of their previous two matches, which are both worth going out of your way to see if you haven’t. This really makes the two out of three falls match feel special.
AJ LEE vs. BAYLEY – WWE DIVA’S TITLE
Bayley awkwardly approaches AJ for a hug while the crowd chants “Give Her a Hug”, but AJ shoves her down, and gives her a pair of Rude Awakening style neckbreakers. When AJ misses a charge in the corner, Bayley gives her a series of hugs, where she grabs Lee and shoves her into the corner, followed by a clothesline in the corner and a bodyslam. Bayley hits a twisting elbow off the second rope, but only gets two. Bayley tries to console AJ, who’s holding her nose awkwardly, but this allows the champ to kick Bayley and hit a Shining Wizard for the three. This was a really solid TV match that told it’s story well, and made Bayley look strong but still too naive to succeed and made AJ look very cunning.
Backstage, Tyler Breeze is shooting selfies until he approaches an unnamed pretty girl. He asks her about a picture, but rather than a picture together, he just wants her to be his photographer. Breeze’s photobomber, CJ Parker, is back, and he gives Breeze rabbit ears without him realizing it. When Breeze sees the finished product, he understandably freaks out and walks away basically in tears.
MICHAEL ZAKI and RON HICKS vs. THE ASCENSION
O’Brian starts with some rolling headlock takeovers… which doesn’t really fit the Ascension gimmick. The team does have some decent double team moves, such as a two person slam, or their finisher, which is kind of an elbow-based Total Elimination. This match went maybe sixty seconds, and Ron Hicks was in the ring the entire time.
BARON CORBIN vs. CJ Parker
This is Parker’s official in-ring redebut. In addition to the dreadlocks, he’s got jam band music and does some horrible dancing. Tony Dawson compares him to the Predator getting hit over the head with a Jackson Pollack painting. Corbin takes the early advantage until he counters a charge in the corner with a kick to the face, followed by a clothesline and a double knee in the corner, before hitting his finisher, a layout facebuster/ddt, for the win.
Renee Young asks him after the match, after being gone so long, where he’s been. He said he’s been everywhere, and he’s found what he’s looking for. He’s just going with the flow, having fun. He’s asked about the photobombing and he says that’s too “harsh” and he prefers to call it “video loving”. I don’t really buy Parker in the role, but it is kind of a unique character, unless you count Brad Armstrong as Buzzkill, and who wants to remember that? This brings out an angry Tyler Breeze. Breeze accuses him of ruining his photo, to which Parker tells him to “chillax”. Renee Young is breaking up. Breeze calls him a Lenny Kravitz wannabe, before ducking out of the ring and yelling at him from the floor, telling him he’s ruining his entire life.
ALEXANDER RUSEV vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER
Rusev does a board breaking ceremony before the match. The board says Ziggler across it. A “that was awesome” chant breaks out before they touch each other, so either Full Sail’s a little over-eager or something happened off camera. Ziggler spends most of the early match selling strikes from the big Bulgarian, until Ziggler hits a big dropkick. Rusev catches Ziggler in a cross body, and hits knee strikes before tossing him over the top rope. Rusev locks on a bearhug that’s countered by a jawbreaker. Ziggler then hits a Stinger Splash and a dropkick for two. Rusev takes control again until Ziggler’s able to hit a Rocker Dropper (I wonder why the official WWE term now is the Fame-asser) for two. Ziggler goes for the Zig Zag, but Rusev blocks it and hits a spinning jump kick. Rusev goes to the top but Ziggler rolls out of the way and Rusev hits canvas. Ziggler hits the Zig Zag for the win! Honestly, this match wasn’t bad, but Rusev has never been featured on NXT and because he wasn’t seen as special before the match, I think, even with a good performance, Ziggler comes off looking really, really weak.
ANTONIO CESARO vs. SAMI ZAYN – TWO OUT OF THREE FALLS
Zayn leaps over the top rope and hits a dive on Cesaro before he gets in the ring. Cesaro tells the ref to ring the bell, Zayn hits a Yakuza kick, and rolls him up for the first fall!
There’s no break for the second fall, and Zayn drops Cesaro to the outside. They exchange counters until Zayn hits a crossbody but only gets two. After struggling back and forth at a corner, Cesaro hits an elevated Snake Eyes. Cesaro’s working the chinlock, which he’s used in their other matches, but Zayn is able to keep it off. Cesaro hits a power bomb out of the corner and tries for the chinlock again to no avail. Cesaro hits a floatover suplex and just slaps Zayn, mocking him. Zayn counters a gutwrench with a sunset flip for two, and then hits a leaping headscissors for two. Cesaro counters with a bridging gutwrench slam for two. They trade reversals until Zayn hits a big dropkick. He charges Cesaro but Antonio is able to counter it with a chinlock, where he picked Zayn up and spun him, and then took him down and got the tap out! That has to be the only time I’ve ever seen a chinlock for a nearfall, and it put over how strong Cesaro is.
As soon as Zayn is on his feet, Cesaro charges him with a European uppercut. They fight with Zayn on the apron and Cesaro in the ring, and Cesaro hits the deadlift superplex for two. Cesaro goes for the chinlock, but Zayn’s able to roll him onto his back for two, and then hits the Yakuza kick in the corner. “This is awesome” chants break out. Zayn counters a powerbomb with a sunset flip for two, and Cesaro ducks out of the ring. Zayn goes out to another side of the ringside area, and Zayn hits a running, spinning DDT, leaping through the first and second turnbuckle, which prompts “NXT” chants. Zayn goes for the spinning DDT off the top rope, but Cesaro catches him, throws him up for a GIANT Swiss Death, and hits the Neutralizer for the three! This is a strong candidate for WWE match of the year. These two have great chemistry, played off their early matches, and worked up the intensity throughout.
There were three matches here that worked fairly well, with one of those being the best match in NXT history. This is an easy recommendation to check out.