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NXT Roundup: “Wednesday is Ladies Night”




Wednesday nights are turning into a venerable cornucopia of pro wrestling programming. While the NXT roster puts enough pressure on themselves internally to create great matches and promos, they now have external programming competition from Lucha Underground, which airs concurrently on the El Ray network. Wherever your attentions are on Wednesdays, you’re sure to witness something fresh and stunning.

With this being the first episode of NXT to air on its new night, it was vital to make sure the program could compete. The show got off to a great start, skipping the usual WWE lengthy introduction promo that always comes at the top of RAW or SmackDown. Instead we got right into a fantastic match between Finn Balor and Tyson Kidd. After their win over The Ascension (every time I type their name, my soul cries) it was time to see Hideo Itami and Finn Balor in singles competition. Last week we saw Itami with a win over Curtis Axel, and then saw a few backstage promos hyping this match between Balor and Kidd. Creating a bond between Itami and Balor and then letting them go off their separate ways leaves their individual story lines open to eventually reuniting or perhaps (please, please) a lengthy feud in the future. As for the match itself, I was surprised by how absorbed I became in it, as I’m not a huge Tyson Kidd fan. I detest how much screaming he does in the ring – its distracting and more than a little grating. But his match with Balor was aggressive and fast-paced. They made one another look strong, though Balor came out looking a bit stronger with the win. When you execute a move that leaves the commentators grasping for a description, you’ve reached a new level. Looking forward to more from these guys in the future, as they work so well opposite one another.

Two things stood out to me during this match that didn’t have anything to do with the competitors themselves. First of all, when Kidd sends Balor out of the ring, he ends up slamming back-first into a metal barricade with an NXT banner draped over it. As much as I am a fan of #explicitviolence, I’m not terribly interested in someone being knocked unconscious during a match. Appropriate ring barricades really need to be installed all the way around the ring, as this particular issue came up in the main event, as well. Second, why is the commentary team always different? Recently, a major adjustment was made to the main roster commentary teams, with Lawler being moved to SmackDown to take over for JBL, and Booker T replacing Lawler on RAW. Why not institute a steady commentary team, or at least a constant duo with a rotating third member? Several of the NXT episodes are recorded at one event, so there’s no reason why the same people can’t be used over and over again. This also gives NXT a voice – one I’d prefer was consistent (and sound remarkably like Corey Graves).


Now, if you know anything about Lady J and her NXT round-ups, it’s that if Baron Corbin is on the show, I’m spending part of the evening fanning myself and trying not to faint dead away. My adoration of Corbin’s character is partly because, yes, I am a stereotype: a heterosexual woman who swoons for a tall, dark, and handsome bad boy. But what you might not know is that, IRL, I have a degree in theater and work in the book publishing industry. My love for Corbin extends past the physical; I am a huge sucker for a brilliantly executed character, and that is precisely what Corbin is. He is so invested in his Lone Wolf gimmick that he’s starting to remind me eerily of The Undertaker. He’s imposing, he’s dangerous, and even when he’s paired with what physically appears to be a worthy opponent, he demolishes them, a perfect example of which was his match with Bull Dempsey. This feud has been well-developed over the past few months, a power struggle for the most dominant big man in NXT.

If you really paid attention, this match so beautifully demonstrates two very different physical approaches to wrestling (much like the Lucha Dragons vs. The Vaudevillains from last week): Baron Corbin is very still and focused. His movements are pinpointed, and much like Balor and Kidd, you can see where his thought process is going. Dempsey, on the other hand, charges to the ring, his movements frenetic and constant, not unlike a shark that has to keep moving. Unfortunately, this made for a sloppy match. It’s hard to tell who was responsible for calling the match, but if you split the match up into thirds: the beginning in the ring, the middle on the floor, and the end back in the ring, it all seems disconnected. Several times it appears as though Bull doesn’t know what he’s going to do until he does it. That same mentality is exactly what makes characters like Dean Ambrose so interesting, but in their case the audience knows there is a mind at work under that organized chaos. Dempsey just looked like plain, old, ordinary chaos and in the process he was making Corbin’s more decisive style look slow. All-in-all I was disappointed in the match, but happy Corbin took the win quicker than one would anticipate in such a heavily promoted match. Hopefully they will both move on to more appropriate opponents.

The women’s tag match that followed was absolutely beautiful and I found myself raising my fists in the air in sheer pride. If you are looking for the most technically sound match of the night, this was it. At times it seemed less like a story-driven match and more like an exhibition in solid wrestling ability. The match was built properly, in stages that progressively built, and everyone got a chance to look good. While it didn’t fit the age-old format of the heels (in this case Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch) dominating for most of the match before the baby faces (Charlotte and Natalya) rally, it made sense for the faces to dominate since the end was so dastardly. My only gripe about this match was that Sasha Banks no-sold Charlotte’s baseball slide. I hate that, don’t do that to somebody else because you wouldn’t want them to do it to you. Also, it doesn’t make you look strong or tough, it makes you look like you weren’t paying attention. As a side note, Becky Lynch has quite the mouth on her and I was dying with laughter listening to her after the match. Somebody needs to put a mic in that girl’s hand and let her go off.

Finally, we come to the main event, a title rematch between NXT champion Sami Zayn and former champ Adrian Neville. In general, I enjoy watching Zayn vs. Neville because they read each other so well. You’d think they’d never wrestled anyone else in their careers. Their movements are generally so fluid, transitions in and out of moves are so smooth that you can barely believe how fast these guys think. Also, Sami Zayn is executing my favorite move in NXT right now, the Blue Thunder Bomb, and Neville is the perfect person to be on the receiving end of it. Some guys just don’t lend themselves to another wrestler’s move set (see also: Bull Dempsey taking The End of Days from Baron Corbin. Yikes) but Neville and Zayn fall effortlessly into one another’s finishers. If anyone’s been looking for the “but”, here we go:

This match was weird. Sometimes they were in the groove and sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes it was smooth sailing and sometimes they stopped awkwardly. What story were they trying to tell? I don’t know if everybody backstage watched the first match go so beautifully and the women’s match be such a demonstration of skill that the other two matches just came right off the rails, but this match was pretty disappointing after the game-changer we got at NXT Takeover: R Evolution. Everything after the Hurricanrana Zayn takes 3/4 of the way through the match seems disjointed until he gets super-kicked coming through the corner for the Tornado DDT. Neville spent most of this time looking at the ref and then looking confused. Were we, as fans, supposed to buy that Zayn was really hurt? WAS he really hurt? I honestly didn’t know, and not in a “oh no, is he okay?” way. I was more aggravated that they weren’t giving me as an audience member enough information to know how to feel. If you are a heel, you need to make me hate you (I see you, Kevin Owens), and if you are a face you have to make me love you. If you’re supposed to be hurt, let me know. But your opponent should be doing something to let me know you’re hurt, too. Neville just seemed to forget what came next and it took me right out of the match. Then, after Zayn hits Neville with a Helluva Kick and retains, here comes Owens to power bomb him and kick the title. My immediate reaction to that was “wow. That was boring.” But upon further inspection, it was kind of genius. Kevin Owens is not here to win titles. He’s here to hurt people, simple as that. First up is Sami Zayn. He’s going to destroy everyone and stare menacingly into the camera. My real gripe with the ending was that he was just on TV for too long. Did the match not go as long as they’d anticipated and there was just empty camera time left? Another reason to question what was really happening between Zayn and Neville.

Hopefully next week we’ll see some new story lines, possibly get Enzo Amore back on my screen, get everyone out of their own heads.

photo credits – WWE

The Lady J is bringing her personal brand of internet sass via the US capitol, where she lives with her golden doodle roommate Gizmo and cannot find a good bagel to save her life. While it may not seem very lady-like, she is actually cutting a promo on you right now.

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