How was NXT?
It all kicked off with Sami Zayn‘s music hitting –after a video package for NXT Takeover Unstoppable that is,– but was Zayn really back, already? Through the curtains burst none other than Kevin Owens, mocking his rival, but justifying it by saying he came out to that stupid music so the crowd could hear it one last time, since Sami isn’t ever coming back.
Owens was of course rocking the John Cena “The Champ Is Here” US Championship shirt, out to promote the Elimination Chamber match he’s got coming this Sunday, but in promoting the match, he was also there to mock his enemies, call them out on their crap, and make sure they know WWE is Owens’ stomping ground now. He joked about wanting to do an open challenge for the NXT Championship, a la Cena’s US Open Challenge, but said he’s a man that likes for his opponents to earn a shot at the title, that he’s not insecure and doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. Clearly William Regal wasn’t a fan of what his champion was saying, coming down to the ring, wanting to make sure Owens knew his place, but Owens was defiant as ever, arguing any chance he could and pointing out all the mistakes Regal was making. Regal talked about how NXT has had to stretcher out four superstars since Owens arrived: Alex Riley, Adrian Neville, Hideo Itami, and Sami Zayn; Owens made sure to mention he had nothing to do with Itami getting injured –they better not reverse that statement down the road, it would go completely against Owens’ character. If he injured Itami, he would bask in it.– Regal, fuming, went to utter another word and was cut short by the entrance of another NXT superstar, one I don’t think any of us expected for a moment: Solomon Crowe.
Crowe has talked in the past about being in NXT to win the title, but we’ve not yet seen him enter into the title picture, even for the briefest of moments, until last night. He said he couldn’t listen to the garbage being spewed in the ring any longer and felt the need to come down and face Owens, so he could point out that he thinks Owens is scared to face anyone, to lose his title, which is why he won’t face just anyone. This was seen as a bold enough move, that it impressed Owens and he granted Crowe a match last night, if Regal approved it anyway –he did.– So there it was, our main event was set and it featured a guy I never thought would get a chance like that. Crowe was kept off NXT TV for a very long time, despite fan interest and support, because the higher ups weren’t sure his character worked, weren’t sure he could succeed just yet, but finally pushed him into the spotlights once the #WeWantCrowe movement surged ahead enough to be taken seriously. Now, he was getting a chance to face the champion –in a non-title match,– which meant from now on, he could go after the title and no one would bat an eye; once you’re in the title picture, you’re always in it.
The last thing I’ll say about the opening segment was Owens making fun of Crowe’s raspy voice. When Crowe said, “you won’t fight anyone, unless they earn it” and Owens said in a mocking voice, “that’s right”, which I thought was a perfect reaction. This was the final thing I heard to know that Owens is finally fully comfortable in NXT, in WWE, and how could he not be after coming face to face with Cena and holding his own? Owens had a hesitant pause in his voice for months upon months, but now, he appears to speak more fluidly, with more intent, and it’s great to see.
We got an update on Hideo, with him saying he was attacked by someone –he wasn’t sure who– in the parking lot, injuring his shoulder and required surgery. He’s through his surgery and will come back stronger than ever, that when he returns, nothing and no one will be able to stop him. He won’t be back until around winter, so let’s wait and see what NXT even looks like around that time, if any of his current foes are even still with that brand. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with him when he does come back, how quickly he’ll be shuffled into the title picture, along with who he feuds with. They’ll make a story out of the injury, with “video footage” of the event, revealing who in fact was the one who attacked him and it will launch him back into NXT with a fury; I won’t even try to guess who it’ll be, because like I said, we don’t know who will even be in NXT come that time, but if it’s someone current? My guess would be a member of Shoot Nation, one of the amateur wrestlers with an attitude problem and hate in their heart. Hey, if you want to get noticed, you’ve got to do something big, right?
It was revealed in an interview that Zack Ryder was at NXT Takeover, sitting next to Mojo Rawley, taking in the sights, sounds, and Hype of NXT. I’d love to see Ryder come down to NXT to compete for a little while, something I think they’ll do, even if it’s just for a match or two, because what else are they doing with him? Ryder is the perfect person to send down there to help them figure out how to market themselves, to help the machine market them, just everything involved in pushing yourself out there.
Bayley took on Emma in yet another match, only this time Emma came out to her new music –which started out as her original theme, then switched over to the new one.– I don’t mind these two facing one another in a legitimate feud, but I would really like to see them plot out a match beforehand in a more cohesive way, because last night’s bout was confused and lacked any story. I know who we’re supposed to root for and who we’re supposed to boo, based on story line stuff and outfits, but in terms of the actual wrestling? I have no idea who to cheer. They’re both so ridiculously talented in the ring, so why on Earth are they incapable of putting on a show stealing match, when given ample time to do so? It seems like Emma hasn’t quite figured out who this new persona is or how to connect with her, despite wearing the outfit for weeks, and this match was all the evidence one could need to determine that. It was like Emma didn’t know what to do at any point, turning Bayley’s arm then stopping for a second to figure out what was next, rinse repeat with almost every hold and pause in the action. Once it was all over, Dana Brooke and Emma set out to break Bayley in half, but their plans were cut short when Charlotte came down for the save.
When Charlotte’s music hit, that’s when I noticed another unsureness, one in Brooke, who didn’t know how to react to a run-in. Charlotte’s music hit, Emma reacted almost immediately, but Brooke took another second, then Emma looked back at Bayley as if to consider continuing the attack, but jolted her head back towards Charlotte and prepared herself; meanwhile, Brooke was looking at Emma’s reactions and imitating them to the best of her ability. Why would you need to see what someone else is doing in this moment, when you should be reacting the way your character does? You’re supposed to be uber confident, so why do you lack all confidence in these spots? Then Charlotte attacked, the two of them managed to fend her off, and when Brooke got Charlotte up in her finisher, she almost broke Charlotte’s neck after not being able to lift Charlotte up high enough. I want Brooke to succeed, because there isn’t anyone else on the roster like her, but when she messes up every time out, it makes me think she’s not going to last very long. I know the first argument people will throw out there is that NXT is developmental, but the NXT we’re seeing, isn’t developmental in the sense you mean; even the main roster tries to work characters out, tries to figure out the things that succeed and the things that fail with all of them, but the main roster also develops each and every one of them, every time out. Saying someone is screwing up because they’re in NXT, so they shouldn’t be perfect yet, is a mockery of everything the others are doing down there; even the main roster screws up sometimes. Brooke hasn’t had a good match yet, nor has she had a single outing where she hasn’t stumbled at least once, which is concerning; the other women down there haven’t experienced the same things and it’s because they were put on the Network when they were ready or as close to ready as they could possibly be. They all mess up sometimes, but when it’s every time? That’s when you need to be taken off TV and trained more.
Baron Corbin had an interview that followed NXT takeover, where he said it pissed him off that Rhyno claimed there were two unstoppable forces in NXT, when Corbin knows he’s the only one down there and that Rhyno had just found out for himself. Almost as if he felt his ears burning, Rhyno shot into frame, saying their match was fun and they needed to have another one, sooner rather than later. Expect to see them next week.
Becky Lynch had a lengthy vignette, featuring her pre-Takeover interview, along with footage from her NXT Takeover match against Sasha Banks. They are building her up as being a name to know, far more than they have at any other point, but I think this was the right move and the right time, after the NXT Universe fell head over heels for her at NXT Takeover. When Lynch comes back, expect to see her as a full blown baby face character, which suits her over the top look and entrance.
Elias Samson and Mike Rallis faced off against the NXT Tag Team Champions, Blake And Murphy, with Alexa Bliss accompanying them. I have to admit, I didn’t know who Rallis was at all when he showed up on the screen, then I spent most of the match trying to figure out what his last name was, because at first they pronounced it like Rollins, then Rawlings, then Wallace, then it finally sounded like Rallace –turned out to be spelled Rallis,– so I was admittedly distracted while watching this one. It was a decent match, but the name thing, combined with feeling like the non-champs looked like every other beefy jobber WWE uses, made me question why they were around. I by no means would want anyone to have their dream stripped away, so WWE, keep them signed on, but what’s with them signing so many similar looking dudes? If you’re worried about people not standing out, why sign a ton of people who look like everyone else, just with more muscles? It’s an odd decision.
The other take away from this match was really digging Bliss’ new look. I like that she’s in team colors, along with dying her hair to match the outfit, just like she was doing on her own. Add in a defined new attitude, one that seethes arrogance and I find myself asking the question, how could you not appreciate the dedication she has for her new role? Sure, it’s a shame she’s now more of a valet than a competitor, but that issue was at least minimized by the announcement that she would be facing Carmella next week. I’m a fan of hers, so I’ll continue to support, while hoping this move does a lot more for her than just for the guys she’s standing next to –that post match interview really helped sell me on the idea that it will.–
Tye Dillinger and Finn Bálor decided to square off once again, in what would be my match of the night. I like their chemistry, but more than anything, I like the passion they both put into this one. When two talented superstars opt to put their all into a match, no matter the length, it’s a magical thing. They won’t be winning any awards, don’t get me wrong, but they set the bar for NXT last night and no one else was able to clear it. The only disappointment in seeing this, was that Dillinger was already in the ring when cameras went live, which meant we didn’t even get a glimpse of Dillinger’s character. I say that because he experienced a massive jump in popularity after the NXT Philly trip, when his character got fully over with every crowd and garnered praise by all his NXT peers. Why would you not start pushing this guy in front of the eyes on the Network? You’ve got nothing to lose by having us look more seriously at this guy, beyond just in-ring work. Hopefully they’ll tag him as someone of worth in the very near future and based on the interview afterwards? I think they will.
Jason Jordan was approached in the gym, asked about what his split with Dillinger was all about and how Jordan is going to move forward. Jordan said he’s got everything in hand, already has a tag team partner and will be just fine. This prompted a new(er) face to appear: Chad Gable. Gable was in the gym as well, overheard Jordan say he’s got a tag partner, to which Gable said he’s Jordan’s man. Jordan shrugged Gable off, saying he didn’t know who he was, Gable bragged about his past accomplishments –he was on the US Olympic team,– which momentarily impressed Jordan, but told Gable he’s got a partner already, but if he needs him, he’ll call him; when he said that, he pronounced the last name, “Cable” which nagged at Gable, who pointed to his towel, which had Gable printed on it, then said he’s got a lot of them, telling Jordan to keep that one and tossed it at him. I can see Gable becoming this generations Kurt Angle, not just because of the similar accolades, but his personality seems to match Angle’s a lot as well; serious, but with a good sense of humor. For me, this was another step towards debuting NXT’s first major faction –not counting the Wyatt Family,– but maybe that’s just me being hopeful.
Last up was the main event, where we saw Owens come to the ring first –that was a bit of a surprise,– soon joined by his challenger in Crowe. The match was mostly one sided, which was to be expected, because look at the two standing next to each other; but Crowe put up way more of a fight than I think any of us saw coming. For me, I loved the main event, I thought they did a really good job telling a story in the ring, having Crowe overcome the size difference from time to time, but mainly because I felt like it justified Crowe being considered for the main event of NXT down the road. Crowe has had matches against the biggest guys in NXT and faired well against them all, prevailing over Bull Dempsey, but suffering a loss against Owens and Corbin. Knowing he can hold his own against the bigger guys, means he should have outstanding matches against guys his size, all of which you want your featured stars to be capable of. While Owens may have won, then tried to break Crowe’s back with the same apron Powerbomb that took out Owens’ other victims, it wasn’t what played next that really struck me, it was how good of a job Crowe did.
When Owens lifted Crowe up for the Powerbomb on the apron, asking the ref to get the stretcher out, he was interrupted by Samoa Joe, who appeared for the second time in as many weeks. I like that this once again happened to close out the show, but I don’t want this to be habitual. We’ve seen Joe call out Owens twice now, with Owens escaping before anything physical happens, saying he can drop Joe in a second, but we’ve not yet seen what Joe can do. I need to see Joe in action next week or within the next few weeks, with Owens coming out to confront him, turning the tides, so I can witness what Joe is fully capable of in NXT. A lot of the audience hasn’t seen Joe wrestle before, they need to know that this big guy can live up to his billing, which is why I’m calling for it to happen soon.
We got to see a new challenger enter the title picture, Owens come into his own, along with finally wrestling on a normal episode of NXT. Then we got a great match out of Bálor and Dillinger, along with seeing Alexa Bliss reinvent herself. The problem? The tag match wasn’t great and the women’s match was less then what we’ve come to expect out of them. That being said, I give NXT last night a:
+ Finn Bálor vs Tye Dillinger
+ Kevin Owens looks to be getting comfortable in WWE
+ Solomon Crowe vs Owens
+ Alexa Bliss‘ evolution
– The other two matches
– Not including any hints as to Dillinger’s character
– Dana Brooke still not looking any closer to being polished
That’s The Lowedown on this week’s NXT, thanks for reading and remember to watch more wrestling!
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The future is bright and full of suplexes!