We’ve got two new debuts heading to NXT in the coming weeks in Austin Aries and Shinsuke Nakamura, but before that we’ve got to crown a new #1 contender to Finn Balor as Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin and Samoa Joe battle it out in the main event. It’s this week’s NXT Recap & Review…
1. American Alpha vs. Blake & Murphy
Crowd get ‘American Alpha’ chants going, which doesn’t quite work. Murphy grabs one of Jordan’s legs, but Jordan manages to jump over each of his attempts to sweep the other leg. That was a great spot. At one point, Murphy does a drop down/leap frog spot but when he comes down he grabbed his knee and started screaming bloody murder. The ref looks to stop the match as Murphy sells his knee, but then Blake attacks Gable from behind and Murphy miraculously recovers to chop block him. Amazing sell job by Murphy there. Crowd went totally silent as they legit thought he’d blown out his knee. They boo’d heavily because they’d been duped. The heels then work over Gable’s knee. Jordan finally gets the hot tag and takes Blake & Murphy to Suplex City. Jordan tags Gable back in (no longer selling the knee) and they hit Grand Amplitude for the win. The commentators put over that American Alpha have now beaten three former NXT Tag Team Champions. This was a fun TV tag match, but wasn’t anything special. Murphy selling his knee was pretty spectacular though.
Backstage, Emma and Dana Brooke are being asked about Carmella by some guy named Alex. He notes that Emma has a match was Carmella next week. Dana calls him ‘Adam’ and then says his name isn’t important. Brooke points out that Carmella didn’t do anything in their tag match last week – which is very true – and she doesn’t have the skills to beat Bayley. They even note that Carmella lost to Blue Pants once. Emma says that next week Carmella will be the unluckiest chick in the ring and they mock her catchphrase.
We get tweets about Sami Zayn entering the Royal Rumble.
We then get a video package for Asuka that highlights how awesome she is. The best part about this video package was her entrance music, which remains the best in NXT. Well, Samoa Joe’s is pretty cool too. And Sami Zayn’s. And Nia Jax’s. Man, NXT has some awesome entrance themes.
2. Nia Jax (w/Eva Marie) vs. Liv Morgan
Guess what happened here? Liv Morgan won! Just kidding. Jax controlled the entire match with choke holds and slams. Morgan tried a few dropkicks, but nothing took the big girl off her feet. Jax then hits the leg drop of complete death for the win. This was here to showcase Nia Jax as a dominant monster following her dramatic loss at NXT Takeover: London, and to show she’s still teaming with Eva Marie.
Backstage, Carmella is upset with what Emma and “Miss Piggy” said about her. Enzo & Cass are pacing around behind her like DX did for Triple H back in 2000. Carmella says she’ll beat Emma on her own next week and prove that the Emmalution is a joke. Enzo & Cass then cut a promo on Dash & Dawson and called them tubby. Enzo cut this awesome firey promo about losing in London and how he had a terrible Christmas because he wasn’t a champion. He tells them that they’re looking at stars and they should punch themselves or Enzo & Cass will do it for them. This was fabulous.
We get a video package for Baron Corbin putting over how dominant he is.
They show the same video for The Vaudevillians from last week to show that they’re turning heel.
3. Bull Dempsey vs. Alex Riley
RAGE RILEY is back in Full Sail, and he’s full of actual rage rather than just having it written on his Titantron. Riley is another one with great entrance music. If you recall from last year, Riley was injured by Kevin Owens and the crowd chanted “thank you Kevin”, something Riley was very upset about. Well, he’s full heel now. He beat down Bull Dempsey and then killed him with a flying knee of some kind. Riley’s hair is much longer now. That’s about all I have to say about the match.
Backstage, Elias Sampson plays guitar. He’s in action next.
We then cut to Alex Riley, who appears to be in the building’s basement. He says that he’s been sending emails and texts to Stamford to let them know when he’s coming back, and they did nothing to promote it. He says that he’s been watching a lot of the WWE Network and he saw countless promos about when Sami Zayn was coming back, but nothing for him. He notes that he’s been with this company for eight years and this is how they repay him. He walks off and knocks the camera out of the way.
4. “The Drifter” Elias Sampson vs. John Skylar
Skylar tries to get some offense in, but Sampson beats him down. This was pretty sloppy in places and dull to watch. The commentators sound bored too, and don’t really call anything from the match. The crowd is DEAD silent. They’re just not buying into this gimmick. Sampson hits the neckbreaker for the win. His finisher at least looks cool. Corey Graves buries this guy deep beneath the earth on commentary for making the crowd go silent. Tom Philips says that maybe he just wants to be heard. So he’s doing Chazz Derby’s gimmick from Airheads. That’s a joke about five people will get.
Backstage, The Hype Bros. talk about The Vaudevillians’ promo videos. They do this in the most annoying manner as possible. This went on and on and on and on and on and on. They said nothing, absolutely nothing. After about ten minutes of bickering, they announce they’re facing The Vaudevillians next week.
We get a video package for Samoa Joe putting over how awesome he is.
We then get a video package with highlights from the Finn Balor/Apollo Crews title match from last year. Next week, Crews gets his rematch.
5. Baron Corbin vs. Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn
This started out as quite a standard WWE three-way with two men fighting in the ring while the other waits on the outside. It was better when it was Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe, but Baron Corbin did hold his own in the ring with the two more experienced workers. They really sold how Zayn was the underdog in the match as he’s so much smaller than Corbin and Joe, but Zayn fights back and does a wicked flip dive over the top onto both men. Corbin hits Deep Six pretty early on, but Zayn kicks out. Joe knocks down Corbin and then slams Zayn on top of him and hits them both with the senton splash. That looked like it sucked for both Zayn and Corbin. Joe goes for the Muscle Buster, but Zayn fights out and Corbin breaks it up. Crowd is fully behind Zayn. Corbin tries to hit a superplex, but Zayn fights out again and hits a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall. While Zayn is trying to recover, Joe locks in the Coquina Clutch from the outside and drags him out to the floor. The commentators put over how it’s now down to Corbin and Joe because Zayn is out. Joe runs back into the ring, but Corbin hits End of Days out of nowhere. It looks like Corbin has the match won, but Zayn breaks up the pin. Given how hard they’ve put over the Coquina Clutch, this seemed like a stupid spot. Corbin attacks Zayn in the corner, but Sami hits the Exploder Suplex into the corner and hits the Helluva Kick for a nearfall that’s broken up by Joe. This is really picking up in the closing moments. Joe runs himself shoulder first into the stairs after Zayn ducks out of the way, and he then rolls into the ring and locks Corbin in a Sharpshooter. Joe then runs into the ring and locks Corbin the Crossface to make him tap out. Both Zayn and Joe act like they won. There’s a tonne of confusion as the ref can’t decide who Corbin tapped out to. William Regal comes down to the ring and talks to the ref. During all of this, Joe periodically stops to raise his arms and remind us that he thinks he won. Joe was awesome here. Regal says that he needs to review the tape with the ref, but both Zayn and Joe argue that there’s nothing to review. This was a bizarre finish to the match as no winner was announced. Not only that, but Corbin was nowhere to be seen, and it made the NXT ref look like a complete dweeb. That’s twice now where Corbin has been made to look inferior against Zayn and Joe. If you’re going to push the man as a top guy, you need to have him on the same level as the people he’s facing.
This should have been an excellent edition of NXT given what an epic three-way was being advertised, but it was mostly just ‘okay’. The triple threat was fun, but was marred by a baffling ending and the rest of the matches were mostly something of nothing. Quite a let-down, really. Next week we’ve got Finn Balor vs. Apollo Crews and Emma vs. Carmella, so that should be a really fun show. Well, apart from The Hype Bros., of course.
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and a contributor for Flickering Myth TV. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.