There’s a lot of things changing in WWE, not the least of which are the nights on which you can find WWE programming. At the end of 2014, it was announced that SmackDown would be moving back to Thursday nights, where it had originally debuted. Because of this fact, NXT will have to give up its current Thursday night slot on the Network and move to 8pm on Wednesday nights. [Side note: if you think that these moves and the move of IMPACT Wrestling from Wednesday to Friday nights on Destination America aren’t related, think again. Although, I can’t promise you I’m sure which came first.]
“But J,” you’re saying, “none of this starts until next week. What does that have to do with last night’s episode of NXT?”
Excellent question, mon petit lecteur. This week was a set-up. Everything that went on during last night’s show was a set-up for all of the action we’d be seeing next week and in subsequent episodes of NXT, leading up to what I imagine will be a PPV-style NXT Takeover event some time around early March, possibly as a lead-in to Wrestlemania on the 29th. Was last night’s episode of NXT the greatest episode? No. But it told a story and moved several plot lines and feuds along.
First off, we got to see Sami Zayn who has been MIA since Kevin Owens destroyed him, post-title win at NXT Takeover: R Evolution. Zayn is a true fan favorite, the crowd entirely supportive of his being the NXT Champion. I think if he came out and announced to the crowd that he would be spray painting the belt pink and wearing a tutu to the ring a la Alexa Bliss every week, they would go nuts. After Zayn basked in the glow and support of the NXT Universe, he mentioned Owens’s attack and was then interrupted by former champion Adrian Neville. After sufficiently stroking one another’s egos, William Regal came out to announce the rematch between the two next week. There’s a great main event for the first Wednesday night episode of NXT. Also, if you think we won’t see some kind of appearance from Kevin Owens, you’re just being foolish.
The first match of the evening was Curtis Axel vs. Hideo Itami. Axel had come to Regal a few weeks back and asked for an opportunity to revitalize his career in NXT. After a lot of annoyance from Axel, Regal caved and granted him this match. It was good to see Itami back in singles action after a successful run as part of a team with Finn Balor in a feud with The Ascension (who may have already been killed up on the main roster. RIP the YAH.) The match itself was aggressive, albeit a bit slow. However, it was good to see Axel back in action and he had a great opponent in Itami. I know Axel was never a huge favorite on the main roster, but I’m always interested in seeing guys who really are trying, and are willing to take a step back from the main roster to try something new.
A backstage promo featuring Natalya and Tyson Kidd followed. If Tyson Kidd’s new gimmick is going to be as a ridiculous, cat-obsessed bit of humor, I’m all for it. He doesn’t do much for me in the ring (I’m not into that much screaming) but his promos seem to get sillier and sillier. I am confused about continuity (a problem I regularly have with WWE). Is the Tyson Kidd we see on NXT supposed to be the same as the Tyson Kidd who is now partnered up with Cesaro on the main roster? And why do he and Natalya get to have such prominent roles on both programs?
A video package then appeared letting us know that Bull Dempsey and Baron Corbin would finally face off in the ring next Wednesday. Now I’m intrigued. The feud between the silent giant and the last of a dying breed seemed to come out of nowhere and managed to capture the crowd. The first time they glared at each other on the ramp to the ring, I knew it was on. They are both formidable opponents, and I’m sure it will not be the squash match either man is used to. I will be surprised if the ring is still standing when they’re done.
Finally, back to the ring. Alexa Bliss is back after having her nose broken by Sasha Banks back in November. Alexa is always fun to watch in the ring, but Banks is just mean. If you don’t watch out, she will find a way to destroy you. This match was over a little faster than I would have liked and I got the feeling Alexa was being perhaps a bit overly careful when it came to her face. I’m sure, however, that next week’s match of Charlotte and Natalya vs. Sasha and Becky Lynch will be a display of how talented the women are here on NXT.
Now there’s no way you’re going to be a fan of everything going on with a particular roster. When it comes to fans of the NXT product, I am usually in disagreement with them on one person: Tyler Breeze. I think his gimmick is silly and, to be honest, makes it hard to care about him at all. It’s not even so much a matter of “well, he’s a heel, you’re not supposed to like him.” But he doesn’t make me angry, he makes me embarrassed for him. And he reminds me a bit of Fandango: talented, but trapped in a completely ridiculous gimmick. I will say good work to Chad Gable on making sure that match wasn’t one-sided. Hope to see more from him.
Then Finn Balor was interview by Devin and I don’t remember what happened. I tend to faint when Balor appears on my screen. I think he may have spoken about facing Tyson next week. So now we have four big matches next week: Balor vs. Kidd, women’s tag match, Corbin vs. Dempsey, and the NXT Championship re-match.
ICYMI: there is a slight mention of Marcus Louis during the first match. Louis was last seen in late November when Tyler Breeze refused to wrestle him because of his hideous he is with no hair or eyebrows (another reason Tyler is ridiculous. If he keeps bleaching his hair, he’s going to end up not unlike Louis very soon!) Since silently wandering out of the NXT building and into a dark parking lot, we have not seen hide nor – hair – of Louis. Just before the main event, it is mentioned that a strange figure appeared in the crowd for just a moment, and it appeared to be Marcus Louis. If he is returning, I’d be interested to see who his feud will be with. Perhaps Breeze?
Finally, the main event – a rematch for the NXT Tag Team Championships, The Vaudevillains vs. The Lucha Dragons. I actually enjoyed this match more than the previous one at NXT Takeover: R Evolution. It seemed that all of the participants were more aware of how mismatched the two teams styles were. Sometimes luchadores vs. grapplers doesn’t work. But when you realize that the two styles are the perfect antithesis to one another, it creates balance. I felt the back and forth was more interesting and the move sets were better utilized by each team. I was a little less into the finisher, though. I’m not sure what that was supposed to be, but it didn’t appear that Kalisto connected with English at all. Regardless, I’m glad the title stayed where it is. The Vaudevillains need different opponents (preferably with a female valet they can tie to some railroad tracks) before they’ll be ready to be champs. I, personally, am hoping this creates room for more tag matches with Enzo Amore and Big Cass, as well as a secret favorite of mine – The Dillinger and Jason Jordan. Also, I now insist English sing something during every match from now on.
I look forward to next week’s big show – I’m sure it won’t let me down. Catch my roundup right here on FightBooth next Thursday!