Previously on NXT…Finn Balor and Bayley successfully defended their respective NXT championships at “NXT TakeOver: London“, giving even more credibility to themselves and their belts. The Revival (Dash and Dawson) not only secured their own reign as Tag Team Champions, but they would go on to finish their rivalry with Enzo and Cass at “Roadblock“. Meanwhile, Asuka continues to rise in the ranks and NXT continues to be awesome.
Episode 313 (12/23/2015): This is the show where most of the roster has a day off and they play the matches that were filmed at “NXT TakeOver: London“, but not aired. There’s also going to be a lot of backstage vignettes. So we start with ‘The Vaudevillains Vs Hype Bros Vs Blake/Murphy Vs Chad/Gable‘, which was a fun, high energy spectacle. To be honest though, I felt like this was more about Chad/Gable fighting Blake/Murphy, with the other teams just being there. Elias Samson has his re-debut against Bull. It was kind of a dull match and deflated the crowd. Bull did too much damage considering this was more of a squash and his punches looked weak, while Samson didn’t get to show off most of his strengths. The Main Event is ‘Sami Zayn Vs Tye Dillinger‘ and it was a good return match for Zayn. The matches of this show were really fun, but I tend to ignore the recaps and vignettes as they feel like filler.
Episode 314 (12/30/2015): This was a ‘best of 2015’ compilation, showing large chunks of past matches and events, with the occasional interview. They also showed parts of some ‘house show’ matches, which are apparently on a new NXT DVD that will be available in a few months. This show was fine for what it was, but I can’t really review it…
Episode 315 (1/6/2016): This was the same kind of show as the above, but I wasn’t as fond of this one…maybe because I was a little more familiar with what occurred during the second half of last year…
Episode 316 (1/13/2016): William Regal opens the show, bringing out Sami Zayn (yay!). He gives a fun, face pandering speech before declaring that he’s going to go for the gold, which causes Samoa Joe to stomp onto the scene. He states that Zayn doesn’t deserve a shot, prompting Baron Corbin to arrive and echo his sentiments. They have some entertaining banter, but I thought the verbal climax where Zayn fires back was a little underwhelming. Nevertheless, the physical confrontation was pretty cool. Bayley gives an adorable interview back-stage. ‘The NXT Year-End‘ awards made me laugh because it seemed like a small handful of people won them all, making the acceptance speeches sound phony and repetitive. Ciampa takes on a guy named Birch in a nice little match, which was much more elaborate than the squash that I was expecting. Pretty good back-stage promo with Enzo and Cass. The Female competitors try to build up hype for their #1 contender battle royale, but I can’t help but feel like the Billie Kay and lower card ladies are shooting themselves in the feet with some of these comments. “In case you forgot who I am,” is not a good way to start a sentence. Reminding everyone that you’re known as the girl who got knocked out by Asuka is an even WORSE way to build interest. Even Emma seems to be talking herself down. Why? ‘Dash and Dawson Vs the Ascension‘ was decent, although predictable. Elias Sampson still bores me, even though they’re fleshing him out a little bit more. I thought his sinister smile was more goofy looking than scary. I didn’t like the pacing of his match, where he sits around for seemingly long periods of time while his jobber opponent lays on his back. There are more back-stage comments from the women, which get better, but Nia Jax is still suffering from her injuries to the point where she’s not allowed in the event? Isn’t she supposed to be a monster? Maybe this is being done to protect her, but it only makes her seem brittle. The aforementioned main event was…passable…I guess? There was a noticeable powerbomb botch and the pacing was somewhat slow. One of the problems here is that a lot of these women kind of look alike and half of them don’t have their own personalities yet, so the drama was low. I also thought Asuka was beat up way too much, considering she has been presented as a babyface monster. Shockingly, Carmella won…She’s not the worst on the roster and has been fleshed out a lot more than most of the ladies in NXT, but she’s primarily been used as talent enhancement so…I don’t buy it. This only cheapens the Battle Royale format. Nevertheless, the show was pretty good. Not a bad way to start the year.
Episode 317 (1/20/2016): ‘Sami Zayn Vs Adam Rose‘ is the first match and…I didn’t like it…Technically acceptable, but jobber Adam Rose (whose gimmick on the Main Roster is that he’s aligned with fellow jobbers) was way too dominant against potential #1 contender for the NXT Championshp Sami Zayn. ‘Tye Dillinger Vs Apollo Crews‘ was decent and ‘Baron Corbin Vs Rich Swann‘ was pretty good. Bayley and Carmella do a back-stage interview, but are interrupted by Dash and Dawson, who antagonize them. Their bout with Emma and Bliss was OK. The Main Event did its job, which was to make Joe look incredibly dominant while still allowing Gargano to show off some of his capabilities. This wasn’t one of the stronger NXT episodes, but it was alright.
UPDATE: To conserve time, I’m going to drastically reduce my weekly writings of wrestling programs.
Episode 318 (1/27/2015): This was a strong episode of NXT, boasting exceptional matches, intriguing story developments and mostly impressive interviews. I actually enjoyed the homo-erotic hype Brothers segment (funny!) and thought Alex Riley’s return was handled well, although Elias Sampson still bores me right now. The opening match between ‘American Alpha’ (Chad and Gable) and Blake/Murphy was awesome, while the Main Event was very compelling and exciting. The ending was a little anti-climactic, but I’m curious where they will go from here. Triple threat? Re-match without Corbin? I’m hooked!
Episode 319 (2/3/2015): The main event was ‘Finn Balor Vs Apollo Crews‘ and it was really good, making Crews look credible while ensuring that Balor remained a strong Champion. Unfortunately, the rest of the show underwhelmed me. I still don’t see Carmella as a believable challenger and her storyline with Bayley is currently too soft (I probably should spell that as SAWFT, but I didn’t intend the pun). The Vaudevillains returned and for the most part, are utilizing the same gimmick except they’re now more heel-ish. It’s not that this episode was bad, but outside of the final bout, it was just sort of…there…
Episode 320 (2/10/2015): This was an underwhelming, but watchable episode of NXT, disappointing primarily because of the build up to the main event- Bayley Vs Carmella for the Championship. This does lead to the next chapter…I think…as Eva-Marie and Nia Jax ambush Carmella at the end, prompting Asuka to rescue her. The rest of the matches were fine, but some of the booking was strange. ‘Cameron Vs Alexa Bliss‘? Who am I supposed to root for?
Episode 321 (2/17/2016): This episode had a strange feeling of deja vu, as I could’ve sworn the opening match was a reprisal of one that we got a week or two ago. The finale between Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn had the exact same conclusion as their three way fight last month. To be honest, the way it ended left me unsatisfied, as I presumed it would finish with Regal announcing that Finn Balor would defend against Joe and Zayn, but we’ll have to see. Some of the booking was strange, like how Asuka’s opponent (whatshername I think is her name) is presented as a babyface, even though Asuka was obviously the fan favorite x2. Furthermore, did Tye Dillinger just defeat the newly repackaged Alex Riley? So much for that comeback…The matches were solid, but with the exception of the Main Event, none stood out as particularly important or memorable. Still, this weeks NXT was an easy watch, if not a particularly riveting one.
Episode 322 (2/24/2016): This episode started strongly with an awesome match between Jordan/Gable and Blake/Murphy, but gradually descended into mediocrity. Apollo Crews’ match had a dead reaction, probably because of the slow pacing and the Main Event (Bayley, Carmella Vs Eva-Marie, Nia Jax) couldn’t maintain my interest. Nothing terrible, but the opening bout was just too damn good, making everything else seem more subpar than it probably was. I’m also not entirely sure of the whole Samoa Joe/Sami Zayn fiasco, but maybe I just want that Triple Threat too badly and NXT seems to disagree with me.
Episode 323 (3/2/2016): The Vaudevillains seriously need a new entrance, as it’s too comical for a team that’s supposed to be menacing…and personally, they aren’t particularly convincing as ‘scary villains’ with their current gimmick. The Majority of the show is to build up the villains, such as the aforementioned Vaudevillains, Emma, Elias Sampson and Baron Corbin- who interrupts the introduction/contract signing (?) of Austin Aries by kicking the crap out of him. Outside of Corbin destroying Aries just to spite Regal, most of this bored me. The Main Event- Finn Balor Vs Neville- was really good though, even if I thought they were recovering from certain attacks too quickly. Nice balance of story, competitiveness and brutal bumps. I guess the show was worth watching for the big match, but as a whole, it was pretty underwhelming.
Episode 324 (3/9/2016): The entire show was built around ‘Samoa Joe Vs Sami Zayn‘ and…that is not an exaggeration. Regal opens the episode with a quick announcement, followed immediately by a 45+ minute long main event. I loved the complete change of pace and this was something special, but the crowd seemed dead throughout much of the night. They arguably ruined the experience, although they did occasionally wake up from their slumber.
Episode 325 (3/16/2016): This was a solid episode, with nice pacing, solid matches and it really hyped up the card for the next NXT TakeOver event. ‘Asuka, Bayley Vs Eva-Marie, Nia Jax‘ was funny as hell and I enjoyed Marie’s constant humiliation. The Main Event, where American Alpha fights the Vaudevillains to see who would be the #1 Contender for the Tag Team Championship was good too.
Episode 326 (3/23/2016): This was an AWESOME show, with really good matches, such as ‘Asuka Vs Emma‘ and ‘Balor Vs Swann‘, but it also fleshed out the characters a lot more than I would’ve expected. Samson suffered his first loss against Gargano and snapped, actually becoming interesting and leading to a probably feud between him and Crews. Bull Dempsey was ambushed by Samoa Joe, who was so intimidating that I completely support a rematch between him and Balor. Emma and Dana show off a more serious side, as they are aware of the danger Asuka presents, which added a new dimension to the duo. The America Alpha package was emotionally moving and Alexa Bliss looks like she’s about to rise in the ranks once more, but overall, I liked everything this show had to offer.
Episode 327 (3/30/2016): I’m not a huge fan of ‘go-home’ NXT shows, because a lot of time is spent on video packages to pump up the event. I understand and respect the reasoning behind this strategy, as it’s designed to promote “NXT TakeOver“, while helping those who missed certain episodes catch up. But as someone who watches this on a weekly basis, I have to resist the urge to skip through it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this show, as all the matches were entertaining, but ‘Samoa Joe Vs Bull Dempsey‘ as the Main Event? There was a time when this would’ve been interesting, but Dempsey doesn’t win much anymore, so the drama is lacking. Yet at least the action was decent and made Joe look like a vicious beast. The post-match battle between Joe and Balor was intense, so this was another strong episode, despite the format putting it at a disadvantage (for me).
NXT TakeOver Dallas PREDICTIONS
- Asuka Vs Bayley: The finish was spoiled for me, so it’s pointless guessing but I figured Asuka would win.
- Austin Aries Vs Baron Corbin: Corbin
- Sami Zayn Vs Nakamura Nakamura:
- The Revival Vs American Alpha: American Alpha
- Finn Balor Vs Samoa Joe: Balor
NXT TAKEOVER: DALLAS (2016)
NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: The Revival (Dash & Dawson) Vs American Alpha (Jordan & Gable)– The Texas Crowd echoes my criticisms of the Revival with the “which one’s Dawson? Which one’s Dash?” chants (lol), but otherwise, their investment in the match was perfect. I loved the use of psychology, as the heels used a lot of underhanded teamwork, while the babyfaces would counter with flashier maneuvers. It was cathartic witnessing American Alpha use their own kind of teamwork against the evil team who abuses similar tactics, but Alpha’s version was a lot more triumphant and awesome looking, making them easy to cheer for. But Dash and Dawson also deserve credit because they function so well as ‘the bad guys’, without being ‘cool’, making them among the few villains who can generate real heat in NXT. The only criticism is one very noticeable botch, which the crowd noticed, but it wasn’t long before they were chanting “This is Awesome“. I don’t know if I’d call this a great match or any kind of memorable classic, but it was very good and is a strong start for the event.
Baron Corbin Vs Austin Aries– I find it strange that Aries would make his NXT debut in a cooldown match, which was technically fine. The pacing was a little slow, particularly in the middle and I have to admit that I occasionally found myself drifting off. I think the problem is that I’m not entirely sure who Aries is, so don’t quite understand the character and the match told me little about him until the ending (he’s crafty). Otherwise- He did too much damage to be an underdog, took too much damage to be a monster, isn’t strong enough to be a powerhouse, fast enough to be a speedster and his arsenal didn’t seem vast enough to be a technician. Don’t get me wrong, he’s just balanced and is a good performer, but it didn’t make THIS match particularly interesting once you got used to his style. I do love how he takes bumps, as his selling makes them look authentic. As for the Baron himself, he showcases more aggression and desperation than usual, so his character continues to develop I thought the match was solid, but Aries either needed a flashier debut or more time to show us his personality before entering this bout, so it was hard for me to care.
Sami Zayn Vs Shinsuke Nakamura– Damn, I feel like I need to nurse a bloody nose just from watching this. This was less about traditional psychology, crazy maneuvers or daring acrobatics- although there was enough of all- as much as it was about the brutality. Every strike looked so incredibly stiff that it was hard not to cringe.The slow burn pacing only locked in my attention, making me pay attention to every detail. Finally, Shinsuke Nakamura established his personality, charisma and fighting style within the first 5 minutes of the bout- something Aries failed to do in his entire match. It was a debut to remember and Sami Zayn’s tearful (implied) farewell to the NXT Universe was very emotional. Great stuff. Interestingly, the fans chanted “Fight Forever” at one point.
NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: Bayley Vs Asuka– This was a very good bout, except there was one problem which kind of ruined the experience…the previous match was EXHAUSTING. The Crowd was respectful and even enthusiastic, but their energy was inconsistent and that bug must’ve been contagious because I felt the same way. I can’t criticize anything within the match, as it had the right balance of brutal spots, stiff strikes, grapples and psychology. Admittedly, I was surprised that Asuka wasn’t presented as a monster against Bayley’s underdog, but this was very competitive and intense..Yet these ladies were attempting to deliver the same kind of match that Zayn and Nakamura had already delivered, except it’s not QUITE as good. Maybe it would’ve been more rewarding if this took place first, as it would simultaneously be an awesome clash AND a warmup for an even awesomer clash. Maybe the steady pacing of this one just made it seem slower than it really was, primarily because of its placement on the card. I cannot emphasize enough- this was good, but it just happened to follow a better and similar match.
NXT CHAMPIONSHIP: Finn Balor Vs Samoa Joe– Finn Balor enters with a f@cking chainsaw, which would be significantly cooler if Ambrose wasn’t doing the same thing on RAW. Nevertheless, it’s still a bad-ass way to make your presence known. I ended up really liking this match, although I might have a different interpretation of it than the masses. The build up of this story surrounded the fact that Joe was a monster on a warpath, conquering everyone who stood in his way. Yet it was ultimately a red herring, as Finn ‘I brought out a f@cking chainsaw with me, because that is how I say hello‘ Balor was the real monster. While this was a very competitive bout, it was Joe who was constantly being put into positions of vulnerability. He was bleeding very badly, requiring medical attention and appeared a lot more winded, while Finn Balor seemed to only gain more stamina as time went along. Near the climax, both men are nearly counted out and Joe warily staggers to his feet. Joe’s expression when Balor springs up and screams in rage can be best described as: “What in the hell are you!?“. The ending, while cool in its own way, didn’t feel right for this match. It made it seem like Balor got lucky. Many have already complained about the referee constantly checking on Joe, but even if the bleeding was unintentional, it served the in-ring story and gave a different dynamic to the pacing. Without the pauses, I think this would’ve also been too easy to compare to ‘Zayn Vs Nakamura‘, as the emphasis is also on violence. But the match stopping only made me eager to see them let loose upon each-other. I thought this was a great Main Event, because the action was exciting and more importantly, I thought the story was compelling.
Overall: I thought this was a good show, but it suffered from some uneven pacing for a few reasons. The first is that this card was jam packed with so many exciting matches that none could really afford to function as a breather, leaving the audience exhausted. The second is that the order was…questionable…as I think the final three matches were a bit too similar in intent, with the best being the first- making the others seem a little underwhelming in comparison. Nevertheless, the individual matches were exciting and the show in general felt important. We saw two title changes and unlike the Main Roster, these mean something because they don’t change hands on a monthly basis and have credible contenders. We saw NXT careers end (?) and two new ones begin, with Shinsuke Nakamura in particular making an incredible debut. Finally, I found myself making a strong attachment to the Main Event, even if the match of the night belonged to Zayn and Nakamura. Other NXT TakeOver programs provided better pacing, crazier matches and stronger booking, but I decided not to dwell on that because “NXT TakeOver: Dallas” was a fun time. Anything more is a bonus, so I was satisfied. Plus, this years “Wrestlemania” would make me appreciate this…so…much…more…