After weeks of recaps and best-ofs, NXT was back with a whole new set of shows. We’ve got a new number one contender for the NXT Women’s championship, three new #1 contenders for the NXT championship and SQUASH MATCHES. Plus some horrible promos. It’s this week’s NXT Recap & Review…
Show kicks off with Corey Graves and Tom Phillips introducing us to the show and they promise we’ll find out who won the NXT 2015 Awards. Are these really our commentating duo? Who is the lead announcer? Surely not Graves. I mean, I like Graves and Phillips – but as a commentating duo? I’m not sure about this. Getting a real Jonathan Coachman era commentary vibe going on. At least it’s not Byron Saxton, I suppose.
William Regal comes out onto the stage to welcome the NXT Universe to 2016. He thanks the fans for their support and says NXT is the fastest growing brand in WWE history. He announces tonight’s main event, which is a battle royale featuring all the women wrestlers for a shot at becoming the #1 contender. Finally, he welcomes out Sami Zayn who makes his triumphant return to Full Sail. He gets a huge pop as the crowd sing along to his entrance music.
Zayn says that a lot has changed in 2015, and thus he introduces himself to new viewers as the lead singer of the Zayniacs. He also notes that he is one of the men responsible for building the NXT brand, and pimped how the brand was so big they had a sell-out tour of the UK. But while it was great to return in the UK, he says, Orlando is his home and it’s great to be back. He promises that he will become the first ever two-time NXT Champion, and is then interrupted by Samoa Joe. Joe says that he appreciates Sami’s quest, but he’s not sure he deserves it. He said the last time Zayn had a title match, Joe had to save his life. He tells Zayn that Balor admitted that he didn’t beat Joe, he survived him. Baron Corbin’s music hits, and he walks out down the ramp. Corbin, out of the three, sounded the most scripted. He said that he agrees with Joe and Sami needs to join the back of the queue. Corbin says that he won in London, and Joe didn’t. He said that while Sami was home nursing his injuries, Corbin became the face of NXT and he says that he is the “uncrowned NXT Champion”. Not sure how he got there. Joe reminds us that he beat Corbin at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, and he says that he shouldn’t even be part of this competition. He turns his attention back to Zayn and says he doesn’t belong in his ring. Joe goes to walk away and Sami calls him back for a fight. While Zayn looks at Joe, Corbin attacks Zayn from behind. But Sami fights back and hits the Helluva Kick to send Corbin packing. Joe teases getting back into the ring, but backs up the ramp. This was a fun little opening segment, but Corbin came off looking like a bit of a chump. Looks like we’re heading to a three-way at some point.
Backstage, Bayley is with Rich Brennen. Get back on commentary Rich! He asks how she’s feeling following her match with Nia Jax at NXT Takeover: London. Bayley steals Balor’s line and says she didn’t win, she survived. She says she doesn’t know how she won, but she knew she had to. They talked about the battle royal tonight, and Bayley wishes the best of luck to all of the competitors.
They go through the NXT year-end awards. Enzo & Cass won the Tag Team of the Year, Bayley won the Women of the Year, Finn Balor won Male of the Year, NXT Takeover: Brooklyn won event of the year, Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (the Brooklyn match) won Match of the Year and Finn Balor won Overall Competitor of the Year.
1. Tommaso Ciampa vs. Danny Burch
Nearly twenty minutes into this one-hour show and we have our first match. Crowd is remarkably alive for this match too. Burch takes control early with some stomps in the corner and chin locks. Ciampa fights back though and hits a top-rope DDT for a near fall. Burch has a wicked right hand and he looks like he knocked Ciampa out, but it was only for another near fall. They get into a stiff chopping match, but Ciampa locks in a very inventive armbar for the tap-out victory. A very basic match, but they gave Danny Burch a lot. With James Storm heading back to TNA (the fool), it gives someone like Ciampa a chance to be a showcase fighter.
Backstage, Enzo & Cass cut a promo on Dash & Dawson. They said they went to London for a fight, and they put over how tough Dash & Dawson are. However, they say Dash & Dawson used Carmella to hide behind, and that makes them SWAFT. They said they have unfinished business with them, and the next time they meet the business will be finished.
We get a graphic for the battle royale tonight, and it’s just as you can imagine. It’s Emma, Asuka, Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Eva Marie and a bunch of geeks. No Dana Brooke. We cut to backstage where Billie Kay, Deonna Purrazzo and Emma who all cut invidivdual promos about winning the battle royal. Deonna Purrazzo was horrendous, like really bad. She introduced herself as the girl who got knocked out by Asukua. Good job in getting yourself over there. No wonder TNA booked you.
In his office, William Regal talks about the opening of the show with Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin. He makes a triple threat match for NXT in a fortnight.
2. Dash & Dawson vs. The Ascension
I keep saying it, but The Ascension should really just come back to NXT. They’re worshiped like Gods by this crowd. Viktor and Dash start things off with Viktor plays the valiant babyface. Dash gains control and the heels begin to work Viktor over. This was a very typical Dash & Dawson match as they grind down Viktor, and it’s weird to see him in the babyface-in-peril role. Viktor creates an opening and gets the hot tag to Konnor. Konnor does his YAR! punches, and even adds in a little Bubba Ray/Road Dogg flair to it. Very odd. He gets a visual pin on Dawson, but Dash distracts the ref. Ending was a little off. Dawson flipped over Konnor, but buckled his feet. Konnor knocks him back and he knocks Dash off the apron, but that also counted as a tag. Dawson then recovers and the pair hit the Shatter Machine for the win. Inventive, but it was a little sloppy.
Backstage, the medic staff tell Nia Jax that because Bayley chocked her out, she’s still not medically cleared to fight. Jax is very annoyed and comes off as a bratty teen rather than unstoppable Samoan Monster. Eva Marie says that its fine, and she’ll win the battle royale for both of them. Good way to get Jax out of the match so she doesn’t have to take another loss. We cut to Carmella, Peyton Royce and Alexa Bliss who all cut promos about the battle royale. Peyton Royce calls herself the Venus Flytrap of NXT and was probably the best promo of the three.
3. Elias Sampson vs. Corey Hollis
Elias Sampson is the new Solomon Crowe – a bizarre midcard gimmick that will never get over. He’s also doing the old Baron Corbin gimmick where “he doesn’t talk to anyone”. Sampson does some big power moves and goes for a very slow pinfall. He then hits a swinging neckbreaker for the win. I guess that’s his new finisher now? Not much of a match. Sampson has an uphill battle to get over. Crowd are chanting ‘freebird’ at him. He cuts a promo after the match, but doesn’t really say anything.
They show some highlights from the Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe match from NXT Takeover: London and then we cut to backstage where Rich Brennan (I think) is with the champ. Balor talks about the match in London, and then puts over the triple threat. He says Corbin thinks he’s the uncrowned champion, and Sami is a good friend of his while Joe is a monster that can’t be stopped. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who wins because he’ll remain champion.
Cameron, Liv Morgan, Asuka and someone called Aliyah all cut individual promos about the battle royale. They were all horrible, apart from Asuka obviously. Cameron in particular was dreadful, just dreadful. Liv Morgan was pretty annoying and Aliyah was just… there. Thank Jebus for Asuka.
4. Battle Royale for the #1 Contender for the NXT Women’s Championship
Alexa Bliss (with new music), Emma, Carmella, Eva Marie and Asuka all got entrances. Eva took her time coming down to the ring, so Asuka just barges past her. Corey Graves is playing the Jerry Lawler role of constantly changing his pick. The talent discrepancy in this match is astounding. It’s Asuka, Emma, and everyone else. Eva gets into Asuka’s face, and so she kicks her to death. Eva rolls out under the bottom rope, so she’s likely to play into the final moments of the match. Emma sneak attacks Asuka and the match breaks down. This was largely horrible. No one quite knew what they were doing in the early goings, so there was just a load of random action. Back from the break and there have been no eliminations. Aliyah is the first one eliminated, but the camera missed who did it. Deonna Purrazzo gets eliminated by Cameron. She can now go to TNA and lose another battle royale. Liv Morgan and Cameron botched a powerbomb spot something fierce, but it was a planned spot so they do it again. Morgan powerbombs Cameron over the top rope, but Cameron holds on so Alexa tips them both over for a double elimination. THIS IS A TAPED SHOW. Emma hits the corner splash on Carmella and she rolls to the outside. In a very convoluted spot, Bliss gets Emma in a sleeper, who then perches on the top rope. Emma pulls her down onto her shoulders and dumps her over the top rope. Not pretty in the slightest. Final four (in the ring at least) are Emma, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce and Asuka. Eva Marie and Carmella are still on the outside. Emma is put up on the top rope by Royce and Kay and Asuka kicks her off for another elimination. Royce and Kay double team Asuka and nearly eliminate her, but Asuka fights back. In a much more creative spot, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce both end up over the top rope but land on the apron, but Asuka hits the running hip attack for a double elimination. Eva Marie then runs back in and eliminates Asuka, which she somehow manages to botch. As she celebrates, Carmella rolls back in and eliminates Eva Marie to be the surprise winner. They show Bayley backstage awkwardly watching the match on a TV. They showed a replay of Eva Marie’s elimination, and she took twenty steps to get half way across the ring. It was hilarious. She looked like Fred Flinstone before he bowls. Bayley runs out and she hugs Carmella in the middle of the ring.
Usually the first show following a taping is really exciting, but this was not a great edition of NXT. It did start some new stories and it created a new star in the women’s division, but the in-ring action was pretty terrible for the most part. The battle royale was sloppy as hell, but the ending was at least fun. Looks like they’re setting up Eva Marie vs. Asuka, which is a fantastic idea. They need more women’s feuds rather than just the ones going for the title. And the three-way between Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin should be great fun when that happens in a couple of weeks. Perhaps I’m being too down on the show, but it’s hard to be positive about a bunch of squash matches, horrible interviews and a sloppy main event.
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and a contributor for Flickering Myth TV. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.