(Selfie) Stick It Out
– What perfect timing to bring Sami Zayn back into the mix – “fresh” in mind and eager to get back to competition. The former NXT World Heavyweight Champion addressed in his promo exactly what he needed to and vowed to get back from Kevin Owens what once was his. The crowd was firmly behind him, so the time off hasn’t affected his “overness.” The question is when will the rematch clause take place? Next TakeOver event?
– Rhyno – after a few weeks off the show – also re-emerged with a huge presence on this episode. He squashed a jobber and made a necessary claim to call out the rest of the NXT roster – Finn Balor, Zayn and Owens particularly – promising to become the next NXT World Heavyweight Champion. Two segments in and Owens has some more competition lined up, huh?
– Yet another Dana Brooke vignette that had her talking about her “perfect figure.” Cocky bodybuilder gimmick, for sure. Let’s see what she’s got.
– Showing highlights of the Owens-Balor NXT World Title match last week was a good way to set up Owens’ postmatch comments, which had him panting through deep breaths that he was better than everyone and the Title was still his and nobody else’s. Par for the course of what we’ve seen from him, but it works so well for him.
– The Bayley-Emma match had a decent backstory to it, but if we’re going to take Emma seriously as a heel, why is she still doing the ridiculous dancing? And what the hell is commentary saying she’s “making fun of herself” to progress her character? What the hell does that even mean? The “Bayley’s gonna hug you” chant was funny from the crowd. It’s just a little confusing though. Does Emma hate Bayley or is she rooting for her? It’s like she’s two different people. She should just stick with her newfound cocky heel side. Bayley getting the surprise pin was a decent finish, but where does this lead? The postmatch interaction needed an attack by Emma, but it never happened and left viewers likely disappointed.
– The Becky Lynch backstage promo was her complaining about not getting a title shot, which was all well and good, as it helped established that she was all on her own now. Her “N-Becks-T” comment was an okay, though corny way to put it.
– The Wesley Blake/Buddy Murphy-Lucha Dragons match was good in the way the two teams’ styles meshed together well, and Lucha Dragons sort of had an out with losing by dirty tactics from the Tag gold-sporting heels, but did we need to see the team that just had a successful Raw debut lose here on NXT? It was tricky here, being that Blake/Murphy are on a push too, but with their conflicts with Enzo Amore/Colin Cassady, why not have them interfere and cause them to lose the match? Would’ve been a better outcome, quite frankly.
– Perhaps a possible number one contender’s match between Rhyno and Zayn is certain down the road, telling by their backstage interaction. Rhyno in NXT is no pushover and needs to be presented that way.
– The Solomon Crowe hype video was short, to-the-point and the broadcast team actually acknowledged it. Who knew?
– The Tye Dillinger-Jason Jordan match was a squash in Jordan’s favor, who emphasized his amateur background with some tough takedowns, but it’s hard to see any depth to Jordan’s character at the moment. He came off as a cocky heel from his yelling, but he didn’t play the crowd too much. Dillinger mounted some offense, but this was mostly Jordan. A step in the right direction for him if anything.
– The hype video for the Hideo Itami-Tyler Breeze feud was quite solid in explaining their progress and showcasing their athletic affairs and ambush-style beatdowns.
– The 2-out-of-3 falls match between Itami and Breeze had a decent quick first fall with Itami getting the nod, and Breeze’s second fall victory had him outsmart Itami by playing possum. Can’t help but feel this match was being rushed in a sense. The third and final fall was the usual sleek exchange of near-falls, kicks and flips that we’re used to from the two. Very good action that appeared to set up a win by Itami perhaps using the TKO, but Breeze went over here and that shows a good sign for the New Age Narcissist with a main roster call-up supposedly in Itami’s future. Breeze could use this rub to move on to bigger opponents. We know he’s got the look and the gimmick – let’s see him take it up a notch with someone else.
– Rhyno def. Unnamed Jobber via pinfall
– Bayley def. Emma via pinfall
– Wesley Blake/Buddy Murphy def. The Lucha Dragons via pinfall
– Jason Jordan def. Tye Dillinger via pinfall
– Two-Out-Of-Three Falls – Tyler Breeze def. Hideo Itami two falls to one
Say what you want, but after the end of WrestleMania, the internet always seems to break and this year, we got yet another reason why.
Seth Rollins has pretty much had the best year anyone can have so far and now he’s topped it off big time.
Doesn’t get bigger than the main event of WrestleMania for a successful Money In The Bank briefcase cash-in.
This opens up so many possibilities. We’ll get into all of them below, but anybody can agree that this show – while lackluster in build and mild on paper except for the obvious marquee matches – delivered in almost every aspect of entertainment.
– The fatal four-way Tag Team Championship match with The Usos (w/Naomi), Los Matadores (w/El Torito), Big E and Kofi Kingston (w/Xavier Woods), and Tyson Kidd/Cesaro (w/Natalya) was predictable in the sense that Kidd/Cesaro were way over, New Day were way not, everyone appreciated The Usos when they weren’t in offense towards Kidd/Cesaro and Los Matadores were just there. The constant switch between control and utter chaos provided a nice pace to the match and set up the finish nicely as Cesaro tagged Uso as he was about to dive off the top and “stole” his pin. They retained and had their moment to shine.
– The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale was the utter expected chaos. Hideo Itami had his brief moment of glory by eliminating Bo Dallas (who just seemed way too happy about being there) but then was boringly KO’d out of the ring by Big Show. Lameness galore. Mizdow finally turning on Miz was excellently done and done in a way that can easily be followed up on post-Mania Raw, but with Show standing around while it all happened, it made you question the logic. Show getting the best of Mizdow was super lame on the big stage, but it gave him bragging rights for future segments if anything, because he needed more? Granted, that shot of him doing Andre’s pose next to the trophy was one to remember.
– The Intercontinental Championship Ladder match between Daniel Bryan, Bad News Barrett, Luke Harper, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust, Dean Ambrose and R-Truth started the show off on a nice note. It was cool to see the nod of acknowledgment on Bryan’s entrance that this year’s Mania started how last year’s ended, with the Yes Movement. That’s one of those little things that people will notice if they ever watch WrestleMania in consecutive marathons. The action wasn’t too extreme, but a few cool spots involving the ladders (powerbomb out of the ring) were enough to get the crowd on their feet. Bryan was the obvious choice from the get-go and can bring the IC Title to new heights, no pun intended.
– The Randy Orton-Seth Rollins (w/J & J Security) match was a solid, though predictable match that brought just the right amount of intensity. That finish with the “possum” RKO was hot and well-executed. Most beautiful RKO ever. The near-falls down the stretch were believable too. Ultimately, Orton got his revenge and taking the end of the night into account, he technically pinned the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Does that put him in line for a Title shot? Raw could be interesting.
– The Sting-Triple H match was preceded by the anticipated elaborate entrances – Triple H’s Terminator-inspired particularly went over well. This match fully lived up to the hype – bringing in an aspect to the match never even considered in the hype, but cool nonetheless in the nostalgia factor with D-Generation X and nWo all coming to blows, which the crowd was hot for. It was a unique sight, especially with memories of the Monday Night Wars in the rearview mirror. Just like WWE beat WCW, Triple H beat Sting, perhaps another metaphorical representation of the war, even though the WWE was led by heels here. Regardless, the “time warp” made this quite entertaining for everybody young and old. The embrace after between Triple H and Sting in the form of a handshake was also great.
– Having Daniel Bryan be congratulated backstage by legends and former IC Title holders like Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Pat Patterson, Roddy Piper and Bret Hart was an excellent rub and showed that he had the backing of everyone – fans and legends. Step one to Operation: Bring-Prestige-To-IC-Title is complete.
– The Paige/AJ Lee-Bellas Divas tag match was short and sweet, making the most of its rather short time. It had the Bellas dominate only to build up to Lee/Paige to grab the momentum and came out with the win. Not much to rave over, but nothing bad either, creatively speaking.
– The John Cena-Rusev match for The United States Championship really went all out with the entrances, especially for Rusev. The match was entertaining for the time it lasted, though it felt just a step behind their FastLane effort. The guys showed their urgency by pulling new moves out – Rusev going to the top rope for the first time and Cena doing a springboard stunner, which appeared better on instant replay – and it spoke to how bad both men wanted it. There were some strange moments – Lana throwing her shoes in the ring comes to mind – but Cena winning the belt was predictable. Lana getting knocked off the apron appeared to have been done for shock value as Cena pinned Rusev immediately after. Rusev not showing concern for Lana while she stumbled up the ramp with officials was an interesting hook for post-Mania Raw. Is there a problem on the Russian Front of the WWE Squared Circle?
– The Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Rock and Ronda Rousey segment delivered in terms of entertainment and did just enough to get everyone talking. Rock appearing on another WrestleMania was no shock and it closed the door on his Rumble appearance and what questions that had left unanswered. Though Triple H was great in his gloating of beating Sting and Rock did his schtick well, much kudos has to go to Stephanie here. She stole this segment with her toughness and facial expressions. She truly owned her words here and the eventual physical confrontation was a nice little payoff, but it makes us wonder just what the consequences will be, if any.
– The Bray Wyatt-Undertaker match lived up to all the hype and got better as it went on. The big moments came in the emphasizing of similarities in both characters with Taker sitting up as Wyatt was in mid-crawl and the trade of finishers was great. Taker winning by the Tombstone Piledriver was a fitting end for what could be his last two-step at the Mania dance.
– The Roman Reigns-Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman)-Seth Rollins match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship was everything built up to be and more. Just when we thought we knew what would happen – WWE changes the rules completely. Rollins cashing in with the most eyes on the product on the biggest stage in the biggest match of the year and coming out the winner was perfect. With the crowd’s pro-Lesnar reaction, Reigns could definitely not win this. Even the story of Reigns-Lesnar in the ring was well done, with an inhumane total of F5’s, Spears and Superman Punches as it looked like another Lesnar domination for much of the match. Reigns took a beating and a half and yet at the end was the one pinned and even then, it didn’t feel like he lost too much, besides obviously getting “robbed.” People could argue this moment will lead to a Rollins face turn, but his very actions were quite heelish and you can see it on his smirk with the photo of him, the belt and J & J Security going around online. This does however, set the road for a proper face turn with Lesnar/Heyman, as it also created perfect anticipation for the fallout, as Lesnar would probably be angry and can contest he was never pinned while Reigns had his match and lost.
– Tag Team Championships – Tyson Kidd/Cesaro (Champions) (w/Natalya) def. Kofi Kingston/Big E (w/Xavier Woods), Los Matadores (w/El Torito) and The Usos (w/Naomi) via pinfall to retain
– Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale – The Big Show eliminates Damien Mizdow to win
– Intercontinental Championship – Ladder Match – Daniel Bryan def. Bad News Barrett (Champion), Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper, R-Truth, Dolph Ziggler and Stardust to become new Champion
– Randy Orton def. Seth Rollins (w/J & J Security) via pinfall
– Triple H def. Sting via pinfall
– Paige/AJ Lee def. Nikki/Brie Bella via pinfall
– United States Championship – John Cena def. Rusev (Champion) (w/Lana) via pinfall to become new Champion
– The Undertaker def. Bray Wyatt via pinfall
– WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Seth Rollins def. Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar to become new Champion via Money in the Bank Briefcase Cash-In
So, here we are: it’s arguably professional wrestling’s biggest hurrah.
How we got here is a testament of just how WWE has been this year and how creatively stubborn they can be.
Headlining the show is WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar – who has stirred some publicity talk by choosing to stick with WWE – and young up-and-comer 2015 Royal Rumble winner Roman Reigns.
The story of the buildup has been surrounded by criticisms that Reigns “can’t” win the big one – and they’re fair to think that. We’ll get more into things further down.
Also on the show are expectedly marquee matches like John Cena-Rusev for the United States Championship, Sting-Triple H, among others.
Below is the list of matches, previews and predictions.
– Pre-Show –
– Tag Team Championships – Fatal Four-Way – Tyson Kidd/Cesaro (Champions) vs. Los Matadores (w/El Torito) vs. The New Day vs. The Usos: Kidd and Cesaro have been a unit since winning the belts, taking on all comers. Well, almost. We seemed to be going in the direction of a match between Kidd/Cesaro and The Usos for the belts, until Jey Uso injured his shoulder in the ring. WWE has been hush about his injury status since bringing it up and that coincided with the sudden emergence of The New Day on to the scene and re-emergence of Los Matadores. Let’s see: The New Day act sucks and will continue to do so until Creative gives them more of an “edge.” We’re sorry – clapping won’t do it. Nope. Los Matadores are just barely tolerable as a team and besides some flashy maneuvers, don’t add much variety to the division. Getting Jey Uso back into the ring appeared to be WWE’s biggest concern and what better way to do it than in a match than where he likely won’t have to do much work? With The Usos in the match, it’s hard to ignore them, but Kidd/Cesaro can really solidify their status at the top with an impressive showing and win here. We’ll go with them.
Prediction: Tyson Kidd/Cesaro
– Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale: When the idea of the match was first announced last year, it was met with mixed reviews besides the obvious tribute to WWE’s first big name Giant. It did however, realize its full potential as a way to give an up-and-comer an accolade and Cesaro was that guy last year. What looked to be his biggest career accomplishment went to the wayside as Creative lost focus on a supposed push and shuffled him all over the card. This year’s battle royale boasts talent the likes of The Miz, Curtis Axel, Damien Mizdow, Ryback, The Prime Time Players, Jack Swagger, Sin Cara, Erick Rowan, Goldust, Heath Slater, Fandango, Adam Rose, Zack Ryder, The Ascension and now Hideo Itami. Basically – the sum of the mid-card here. The importance of the match has even been lowered by moving it to the pre-show. While the moment of Mizdow turning on Miz would be golden and well-awaited moment here, the winner only gets a trophy, and we think that turn might be better fitted for the next night on Raw. This would be a perfect time to give somebody like Itami a rub with the award and we’re going to go out on a limb and say he wins it here.
Prediction: Hideo Itami
– Pay-Per-View –
– Intercontinental Championship – Ladder Match – Bad News Barrett (Champion) vs. R-Truth vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper vs. Stardust: There’s so much to say about this match hype, where do we even begin? The beginning would be a good place. So, we have a seemingly “tabloid” Champion in Barrett, who seems to be incapable of winning a wrestling match. His win-loss record is especially atrocious. You need one hand to count his number of wins this year so far. Add on top of that – he couldn’t even hold on to his very own championship belt – getting it stolen and tossed around week to week by the other competitors. This aspect of the match makes us shake our heads, but then something happened: Barrett got his belt back and it suddenly became about the prize and the match itself. Not to mention, take a look at the competitors. Every guy in this match could do good things as IC Champion. Harper has been greatly underutilized since The Wyatt Family split and could really use it. Ziggler could use a rub from it. So on and so forth. Will Barrett surprise everyone with a win? Not likely – and that’s because the match’s most popular guy – Daniel Bryan – will likely come out with the win in a probable show-stealer. Seemingly shunned out of this year’s World Title spotlight, he needs a pick-me-up and that coincides with WWE wanting to put prestige back into the belt. Bryan, Ziggler and Barrett are rumored to feud for the belt coming out of the match and that’s no shocker. A lengthy title reign by Bryan can do wonders in gaining fan interest in the belt again and offer some potential match-of-the-year contenders. WWE has sidelined Bryan’s biggest Mania plans, but can still do him a solid by giving him this match.
Prediction: Daniel Bryan
– Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins: Since The Authority has reformed, Rollins has been the poster boy for success. He’s gotten a huge rub from it. That’s no doubt. He had mega heel heat even before then, taking out Orton indefinitely with his infamous Curb Stomp. Building up the momentum for Orton’s return was going to happen sooner or later and that’s what we got. The feud hasn’t been bad per se, but Creative took unnecessary twists and turns with it. We were at that moment of satisfaction seeing Orton get his hands on Authority members at FastLane, with Rollins just escaping before an RKO could be delivered. For some odd reason, we had to see Orton rejoin The Authority and turn on Rollins yet again, beating him senselessly around the arena. A few weeks removed from that, the story again has been Orton wanting to get his hands on Rollins, with Rollins escaping every time. Doesn’t this story feel a little bit backwards? We can’t deny that Orton will get his moment of true revenge here, but what exactly does he gain from something like this? We’ve seen him dominate Rollins already. This match will probably have a rematch at Extreme Rules with a more brutal stipulation, but we’ll predict the feel-good Mania moment here and go with Orton.
Prediction: Randy Orton
– United States Championship – Rusev (Champion) vs. John Cena: When this feud was first announced coming out of the Rumble, it induced a few groans. However, both guys have brought it up a notch intensity-wise and put on entertaining matches. The “Do It For America” approach has motivated Cena and that’s been expected. On the other hand, Rusev continues to be built very strong and even without Lana, he comes across as a serious threat. The build for Rusev has been fantastic, and for that reason – we believe he has been groomed well to take his first decisive loss to Mr. America 2015, Cena. This has “Mania feel-good moment” written all over it and while we’re not quite sure how far Cena can take a belt like the US Title at this point of his career, but we’ll ultimately find out.
Prediction: John Cena
– Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker: While it’s somewhat noble that WWE has kept Taker away from the ring in the time between two consecutive WrestleManias, we can’t help but think that that has actually hurt this build from being all it could be. Granted, it should make the standoff of Wyatt-Taker in the ring a surefire Kodak moment, but this whole feud has literally been fog machine promos and lightning machines. Wyatt brought his best promo work with him on the go-home Raw and has teased the idea that Taker just doesn’t have it like he used to, but that makes it all the more obvious that Taker will go over. Wyatt with direction is one of the most unique, cool characters WWE has to offer and we’re glad to see his character revitalized and he should bounce back from this pretty well. The question is who will he take on next?
Prediction: The Undertaker
– AJ Lee/Paige vs. Nikki/Brie Bella: This match has been billed as the “Battle of the Divas” and while how we got there has been okay, we can’t help but shake our heads at the thought that the Divas Championship will be the only belt not defended on the big stage and that says a lot about the state of the Division. Nevertheless, we have the clash of personalities here: AJ Lee and Paige are crazy and the Bellas are conceited. Interest in the Divas has gone up a bit thankfully to AJ’s return, but she can only take things so far. With the emphasis on Pai-J being a solid unit and the Bellas out to defend their spot at the top, we can see something along the lines of the Bellas winning to restart a feud between Paige/AJ, as that’s what appears to be in store. Nikki Bella will still be Champion after the match anyway, so who really cares what happens?
Prediction: Nikki/Brie Bella
– Sting vs. Triple H: This is arguably WrestleMania’s biggest sell thus far and one of the earliest matches booked on the card. This will be a moment to remember: seeing Sting fight in his first WWE match against the “big cheese” of The Reality Era in Triple H. This has been one of the better booked feuds, as Sting has been kept silent for most of the build, finally culminating in an enthusiastic promo/confrontation with Stephanie McMahon by the go-home Raw. Nothing else is really on the line as far as the stipulation, but this should be an entertaining match where Sting will likely get the win, despite attempts by The Authority to help their captain out. What happens after here is a question mark, but hopefully Creative has something interesting planned for Sting post-Mania, if at all.
– WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Brock Lesnar (Champion) vs. Roman Reigns: It’s fitting that for a card with mostly lackluster build, this tops it. WWE fans let Creative know from the get-go that Reigns wasn’t wanted as their guy and yet Vince McMahon has boldly stuck with the fiery Samoan, protecting him more than he has past guys. From pre-taped promos to segments planned out to make him look strong (Spearing Big Show on the ramp, diving over the top rope onto The Authority, Spearing Mark Henry through the barricade, etc.), there’s no denying it. McMahon even used Daniel Bryan to help get him over, carrying Reigns to his best singles match to date. This is all well and good and while Reigns has improved on the mic and in the ring, comparing him to Lesnar is a huge mistake. The question mark of Lesnar leaving for MMA hung over this match and made this match all the more likely in Reigns’ favor, but with that rumor squashed, it makes the result very interesting. Rumors have gone around of a Lesnar face turn and that can be accomplished by having Heyman turn on him and embrace Reigns as his new client, also having Reigns win the belt, delivering the same result in a likely hostile environment. Kudos has to go to Heyman in this build as well – almost single-handedly hyping this match on his own great promo after great promo. Heyman continues to reinvent himself and in the midst of a “shakeup” that normally happens post-Mania, we believe he can do Reigns wonders as his new mouthpiece. Lesnar is popular and relentless enough to get over on his own. So, we believe Reigns will come out victorious – but it won’t be how you think. Don’t also count out a potential Rollins cash-in to spoil the moment, but we see it more fitted for the night after.
Prediction: Roman Reigns
Battle Without A Demon
– The opening video solidly put over the success of NXT’s first-ever road trip to Ohio, with highlights from all the matches and happenings, setting up what we’d see here on this show.
– The NXT Divas Championship match between Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks was a fair follow-up to last week’s match. It’s hard to get behind somebody like Bliss. While she has the look of a wrestler and the blue/blonde hair color combo is unique, her skills are still muddy and need improvement, as the difference between her and Banks in the ring is almost scary. Bliss did pull off a cool flip powerbomb spot for a decent near fall and we’ll give her an honorable mention for that, but we knew going in that Banks was likely going to win this. The story was getting Bliss to the Championship match and now that she lost decisively, who’s next for Banks? Nobody else has really risen up to a Championship shot recently.
– There was excellent hype for the Kevin Owens-Finn Balor NXT World Heavyweight Championship match. Having Owens and Balor cut backstage promos on each other followed by hype videos for each guy throughout the show was smart. It showed the stark difference between the two men: Balor was hungry for a chance and sought to solidify his rise in NXT, even claiming he didn’t need to dress like a demon to do so, while Owens was confident in that he’d destroy Balor like everyone else he had barreled through, as nobody would get in the way of him, his championship or his family. Brilliant, simple storytelling time and time again, which makes NXT a wrestling highlight of the week.
– The Bayley-Emma backstage segment did one simple thing: it made further enemies out of Bayley and Emma, with the story of Emma trying to guide Bayley to her more aggressive side. As for who they’ll push out of this remains to be seen, but we might guess it could be Bayley, as she’ll likely pull off her “aggressive” side on Emma to get to a shot at Banks in the near future.
– We already know next week’s show looks decent with a two-out-of-three-falls match between Tyler Breeze and Hideo Itami, as their backstage segment set up. Itami didn’t exactly deliver his lines with passion, but it was understandable and he made the best of it. Breeze on the other hand – holds enough charisma to fill for both himself and Itami.
– Dana Brooke continues to look like an interesting character. The question is when will she debut and what kind of role will she play? She sort of comes off as an overconfident bodybuilder.
– So it seems that Carmella may soon dump her SAWFT-mates in Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady to get with Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy. It could make for an interesting switch and the Amore/Cassady team wouldn’t lose any of their popularity, so why not go for it? Having Blake/Murphy do something like buy Carmella jewelry was a good place to start.
– The NXT World Title match between Balor and Owens was an excellent bout, with the continued story of Owens being obsessed with the Championship and doing anything to keep it. It was the equivalent of Balor taking on a freight train and he still put up his best fight, with it coming pretty close to a win on his end, but it was only a matter of time until Owens’ powerbomb ended it all. Owens targeting Balor’s knee was excellent technical work and while he broke him down, he didn’t do enough where he could be sidelined, but nevertheless, Owens has been built up extremely well in this time and you have to wonder just who’ll take him down.
– NXT Divas Championship – Sasha Banks (Champion) def. Alexa Bliss via submission to retain
– NXT World Heavyweight Championship – Kevin Owens (Champion) def. Finn Balor to retain
– The tag team of Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady remain one of NXT’s most over acts currently and they should be making strides towards the tag titles. The Lucha Dragons are the perfect team that can make them look good, as their importance in the division has greatly lessened since they lost the tag titles. The number one contender’s match itself was short and sweet, as Cass pretty much helped Enzo out, but the finish was cool.
– The video hype video for Alex Riley was well-done, mainly showcasing footage from his short time on the main roster in 2010-2011 and some stills of his NXT stint in its original inception with the “Varsity Villain” jacket. It was also smart to show a Kevin Owens hype video and how it is “a new era” and show viewers just what Riley is looking to go up against.
– The Carmella-Alexa Bliss match was made to make Bliss victorious in her comeback match, as she clearly had eyes set on the NXT Divas Champion Sasha Banks. Carmella did look good in defeat, despite this. The quality in these NXT divas matches – even in a glorified squash – is much higher than what you see on the main roster and thus, both acts were helped here. There was a lot of this on the episode. The matches weren’t bad, but they were all about painting the bigger picture at hand and progressed feuds to set up matches we really want to see.
– Riley’s promo was quite effective, with his comparison to being in a cage for two years rang somewhat true. Riley has always had good mic skills; it’s what made him standout on NXT Season 2 and as Miz’s sidekick. This hyped his match very well. Could we call it Riley’s best promo work to date? Perhaps.
– Tyler Breeze’s “selfie” promo fit his overconfident gimmick and hyped the main event match well. A Hideo Itami hype video would’ve also been nice, but that’s nitpicking, we guess.
– The Riley-CJ Parker match was a great way to bring Riley back to the squared circle fold. For one, his theme music kicks ass, and even the word “Rage” displayed on the screen was a nice touch for where his character currently is. His mannerisms and facial expressions in the match showed true passion and that’s exactly what we needed to see. Owens’ confident, unimpressed post-match promo was simple yet quite strong. It makes you want to see the two go at it and they will, soon. Just not yet.
– The Hideo Itami-Breeze main event match was another example of their solid chemistry, except this seemed more geared in Breeze’s favor, though they were very evenly-matched. It definitely says a lot that this rivalry went from a seemingly throwaway tournament match to an intense feud. It must be a good thing being that this was their third match together in 2015. This was definitely great for both guys, as their matches almost elevate the two of them, making them bring their A-game to the ring. With Breeze the victor though, where do both guys go from here?
– Tag Team Championship Number One Contender’s Match – Enzo Amore/Colin Cassady def. The Lucha Dragons via pinfall
– Alexa Bliss def. Carmella via pinfall
– Alex Riley def. CJ Parker via pinfall
– Tyler Breeze def. Hideo Itami via pinfall
– The opening montage had some necessary updated additions to it.
– The Hideo Itami-Bull Dempsey match was decent while it lasted, having the “Cruiserweight Vs. Giant” dynamic. Itami stays hot and Dempsey remains the saddest man in a singlet. 0-4 in NXT competition in his last four matches. Tyler Breeze’s attack on Itami, Itami sneaking up on Breeze’s “selfie” and Breeze getting away before real damage could be done was a nice way to progress their feud.
– We have Sasha Banks defending her Divas Title against Charlotte to look forward to next week. Marquee matchup. Seriously.
– Nice to see “The” Brian Kendrick back in WWE and who better for him to face in his first match than Finn Balor? The hype video was necessary as he had a great ring presence as he found his niche, albeit on Smackdown.
– The Lucha Dragons-Tye Dillinger/Jason Jordan match was too short to be anything special, though the story told between Dillinger and Jordan was solid, despite us just getting to know these guys. Solomon Crowe’s “hacked” promo was good in that it showed he was here to become NXT Champion, and the fact the broadcast team never acknowledged it made the “hacking” more legit.
– Balor’s backstage promo was short and sweet, focused on his current opponent and not worried about NXT Champion Kevin Owens.
– Dillinger staying in the ring mad at Jordan was different than the usual. Baron Corbin coming out apparently made it an impromptu match. Corbin made ridiculously quick work and looked okay here, but three matches in 20 minutes kind of rushed the pace.
– Charlotte’s backstage promo was also short and sweet in that it hyped next week’s match by saying Banks never beat her one on one.
– Breeze’s backstage promo had his confidence on point.
– Sami Zayn’s NXT universe address has to be must-watch and showing his footage of him in Abu Dhabi made him look like a star. About as good as you could do here.
– The Bayley-Becky Lynch match was okay too, but it mainly showcased Lynch’s aggressiveness by injuring Bayley’s arm. Bayley looked good in defeat though. She embodies the “comeback spirit” the most out of the NXT Divas.
– Rhyno’s backstage promo solidly put over the other NXT competitors and explained his desire to make a statement and climb to the top. If only Paul Heyman were on commentary.
– Jordan’s promo gave us a glimpse into his cold, rough personality. He seems to have good mic skills. We haven’t seen him perform a single wrestling move in the ring yet, but he’s got potential everywhere else so far.
– Having Owens out on commentary was smart, as he showed good confidence in his blunt demeanor. The growing tension between Alex Riley and Owens was excellent and led to what we saw at the end. The Balor-Kendrick match was good for what it was despite not being the focus with Owens on commentary though he put over Balor, who was kept strong here. The standoff between Owens and Balor was appropriate. Owens grabbing Riley from his seat and throwing him over the table was absolutely badass. Owens continues to brilliantly blur that line between decent family man and remorseless badass heel.
– Hideo Itami def. Bull Dempsey via pinfall
– The Lucha Dragons def. Jason Jordan/Tye Dillinger via pinfall
– Becky Lynch def. Bayley via submission
– Finn Balor def. The Brian Kendrick via pinfall
Say what you want, but NXT knows how to shake things up and with two Titles changing hands and an incredible match between Finn Balor and Adrian Neville in the #1 Contender’s Tournament Finals, “Rival” lived up to its namesake.
Every match brought something different to the table and delivered, par for the course for these NXT live specials.
– The opening video put over the true excitement brought about by the past specials and it’s downright hard to deny. The video also succeeded in hyping the Divas and Kevin Owens-Sami Zayn matches, with background and insight from sound bites from its competitors.
– The Hideo Itami-Tyler Breeze match already had some simple storyline background to it with the attack on Itami in the locker room by Breeze. Being that these two had a great #1 Contender’s Tournament match a few weeks ago, there were no complaints to see them go at it again. This was more of the same evenly matched affair. These guys work well together. Great use of the ring post by Breeze and Itami can cook up an emotional comeback like no one else. Good opener as both guys had time to shine and Itami keeps his roll going. Breeze has lost a good amount lately, but hasn’t lost much. They need to get him back on the victory wagon soon though, while his “narcissistic novelty” still shines.
– The Bull Dempsey-Baron Corbin No Disqualification match retained the intensity of their feud right from the start, which was necessary given the stipulation. Dempsey being a Brooklynite was emphasized to make him sound tough, but lately, he’s just been a sad man in a singlet, having now lost three straight matches against Corbin. He should just switch to pants at this point. The two men didn’t break new ground in terms of in-ring action, but at least Corbin is looking good from it. The post-match action with Corbin sitting on the chair, kicking at Dempsey was a bit cocky, but fit for the “Lone Wolf” character. Let’s just hope these guys don’t have yet another match. Let’s move on.
– If we’re watching the WWE Network advertise subscribing to the Network on the Network, wouldn’t that mean we already subscribed?
– The Tag Team Championship match between The Lucha Dragons and Wesley Blake/Buddy Murphy wasn’t without its sloppiness as it almost seemed both teams were going faster than they could keep up with, but they settled down towards the end and Murphy/Blake recovered and seem to be the recipients of a new push. Being Champions, it wouldn’t make sense to change hands now. Had to also love the Solomon Crowe hype signals for next week in there as well.
– The NXT Title #1 Contender’s Tournament match between Adrian Neville and Finn Balor was preceded by an excellent hype video that included sound bites from studio interviews. As usual, Balor’s “war paint” would be cool to be pulled out every bout, but picking it for “big battles” also makes the match itself feel more special. This was downright fantastic and arguably match of the night, if not one of the best of the year in wrestling to this point. The dropkick spot through the barricade was memorable and this match had some pure “omg” moments as each men kicked out of each other’s finishers and even more. The finishing exchange was downright awe-inspiring with the best near falls you could possibly see. If you didn’t watch this show, at least watch it for this. Balor had a career night here. Him going over was ultimately the smart move as he has grown immensely popular. Where does Neville go from here though? We know his character wanted the match bad.
– The 4-way divas championship match between Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch and Charlotte (Champion) made good use of the “fatal four” dynamic with some inventive spots and even had all women going to the top fearlessly. Bayley looked good in particular almost appearing to be the fan favorite at a point. That said, Banks was the smart choice to go over as Champion if it wouldn’t be Charlotte because this allows Bayley to chase her and also sparks a potential Bayley-Charlotte feud. Plus of course, Lynch will probably stand there and headbang. The post-match interaction between Charlotte and Banks was well-done as they teased a moment of embrace only to shove each other away.
– The NXT Championship match between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens definitely had some streak of controversy, but the actual storytelling of the match itself was great from Owens’ methodical dominance to Zayn’s comeback spirit. The story of Owens basically ignoring the medical concern of Zayn to get himself the NXT Title by Referee Stoppage made him look like an absolute beast. Zayn may had first appeared to be legitimately hurt from that steel ramp bump, but they took it and made it work towards the finish. Note that Zayn did lose without being pinned or submitted and the fallout from this should make great television.
– Hideo Itami def. Tyler Breeze via pinfall
– No Disqualification Match – Baron Corbin def. Bull Dempsey via pinfall
– Tag Team Championships – Wesley Blake/Buddy Murphy def. The Lucha Dragons via pinfall to retain
– NXT World Heavyweight Championship #1 Contender’s Tournament Finals – Finn Balor def. Adrian Neville via pinfall to earn Title Shot
– Divas Championship – Sasha Banks def. Bayley, Becky Lynch and Charlotte (Champion) via pinfall to become new Champion
– NXT World Heavyweight Championship – Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn via referee stoppage to become new Champion
Final Pieces Of The Puzzle
– Colin Cassady and Enzo Amore are an entertaining act to watch and definitely over with the crowd. Their introduction of Carmella was about right, although her entrance song sounds too much like Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” Probably on purpose. Carmella has got great mic skills too. On the other hand, Emma has got a weird entrance – as she came out doing some Power Ranger impressions possibly. The Carmella-Emma match itself was pretty good, but a bit short. Carmella’s submission finisher is brutal-looking. A forgettable return for Emma as the astoundingly better version of the Bro-Mans stole the spotlight.
– The Adrian Neville-Baron Corbin #1 Contender’s Tournament Round 2 match looked like an exciting match even beforehand. Neville was arguably the favorite here and Corbin could also look good in defeat. The obvious size advantage was smart to emphasize and having Bull Dempsey play a part in the finish meant those two weren’t done and Neville gets to moves on. You had the feeling that Corbin officially moved on from Dempsey before the interference finish, but dragging him back to this feud may do more harm than help for him.
– The Sami Zayn promo set things in perspective for his next week’s match with Kevin Owens that he was manipulated and it provided good hype. It’s going to be a good match when these two finally go at it. Their feud was a big spotlight on the show.
– The announcement of Corbin-Dempsey in a No DQ match for next week was also expected.
– The Bayley-Becky Lynch match was an interesting clash in styles. The idea of Sasha Banks coming out to “motivate” Lynch seemed fishy and it was proven when she shoved Lynch into the ring to be “fed” to Bayley, who hit her finisher and won. The interaction between Banks and Lynch was good and NXT Divas Champion Charlotte coming out had all four women within feet of each other, which hyped next week’s four-way Divas Title match excellently.
– Owens’ promo was pretty standard for his character to feel confident and him pointing out next week’s show was two months to the day of his debut was interesting and noteworthy of his quick push.
– The “Solomon” cryptic message appeared again during a match graphic. Maybe he debuts next week?
– Making a Tag Team Championship rematch between Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake-Lucha Dragons was an easy way to fill up next week’s card.
– The Tyler Breeze promo had him show off his good mic skills as he was obsessed with his phone and watching the finish of the tournament. Where will he go from here?
– The Hideo Itami-Finn Balor #1 Contender’s tournament Round 2 match already also looked good on paper, though Balor was probably the favorite. Having Neville out on commentary “scouting” also made sense and made the match feel important. Itami and Balor were given plenty of ring time and the evenly matched dynamic with them being former tag partners and just watching them break each other down in a technical affair made this pleasing in terms of in-ring psychology. Good match. Balor going over was the right move. The match finish was well done as they emphasized Balor’s kick that sent Itami into the turnbuckle. The stare down between Balor and Neville afterwards was also simple, but effective.
– The Owens-Zayn feud hype video set up the emotional highs and lows of their complete history. They’ve established this very much as a personal feud. Even if you’re not familiar with both guys’ work before NXT, how could you not dig it? Great way to end the show. It’s amazing how great television can be when it’s simple and to the point. No overbooking can do wonders.
– Carmella (w/Enzo Amore, Colin Cassady) def. Emma via submission
– NXT World Title #1 Contender’s Tournament Semifinals – Adrian Neville def. Baron Corbin via pinfall to advance
– Bayley def. Becky Lynch via pinfall
– NXT World Title #1 Contender’s Tournament Semifinals – Finn Balor def. Hideo Itami via pinfall to advance
Signed, Sealed And Delivered
– Giving the Tag Team Championships to Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy so quickly may hurt them – even if they looked good, as they defeated Lucha Dragons in shocking fashion. The idea is revolved around “newcomer’s success” per se, but we haven’t seen what Blake and Murphy can truly do when under pressure. The Dragons were over as Champions too and losing them so quickly hurts them too. These two teams are due for a rematch, so this might be the time for Blake and Murphy to solidify themselves as serious in the tag team picture, now that they lead the division. Blake and Murphy are quick and energetic – if one had to draw a comparison to another team, it might point to Paul London and Brian Kendrick. While they seemed to come off heelish last week, Blake and Murphy appeared to be humbled faces.
– The Bayley-Charlotte backstage segment played up the ongoing tension between Charlotte and Bayley, with Charlotte not pleased about Bayley coming out to save her last week. From a storyline perspective, it’s easy for us to see why Charlotte would be upset with Bayley, since her interference pretty much set up the reason why Charlotte has to defend her belt against three Divas. If only Charlotte had better mic skills, it would have been even better. She just didn’t sound threatening, though she made an attempt.
– After coming so close to victory in a great match last week against Hideo Itami in Round 1 of the NXT World Title Number-One Contender’s Tournament, Tyler Breeze established that it didn’t affect him and was ready for more competition. This was good for his “narcissistic” gimmick perhaps, but maybe they should’ve had him be a little bothered by it. This was his chance to go for the NXT Title. Isn’t that what everybody wants?
– The Adrian Neville-Tyson Kidd #1 Contender’s Tournament match was filled with good action. Some kind of cryptic message also popped up during Neville’s entrance. Interesting. Based on Neville’s previous spot in the Title picture and Kidd not really going anywhere in NXT, Neville was the favorite here. The good thing was Kidd was someone who could make this fun, and that’s what happened. Even in defeat, Kidd looked strong. With the exception of Dempsey/Corbin, they’ve booked this tournament just right and haven’t rushed any matches either.
– Neville’s post-match comments made him sound tough and eager to face more competition and get back to where he once was. Neville looked good on this episode. He’s going to go far. He’s an all-around kind of competitor.
– The backstage interview with Sasha Banks/Becky Lynch appeared to set up tension between them because of how the NXT Divas Title is in play. Lynch obviously won’t help Banks in this case.
– The backstage interview with Murphy and Blake had them again appear as humbled guys who respected the Lucha Dragons and just wanted to take on anybody. Fighting champions? We’ll see.
– The Charlotte/Bayley and Banks/Lynch tag team match disappointingly ended in a no contest, but it hyped the fatal four way for next week some more and followed up on the tension between Bayley and Charlotte headed into the match by having them fight. Having no finish in the match also prevented anyone from looking weak.
– The Finn Balor backstage interview played up his history with Itami, whose comment about having to take Balor out if he had to was good. Nothing too convincing here though as both guys lack good mic skills at the moment, but this was necessary to hype their match. What they lack on the mic they more than make up for in the ring.
– The Emma backstage interview set her focus on a “restart.” More hype for next week, but this was just random. What exactly will she do?
– Was it smart to have Baron Corbin defeat Bull Dempsey in such quick fashion in their match in the #1 Contender’s tournament? Albeit, Corbin came out looking like a beast. This may be in advance if he will lose to Neville next week, but this was all at poor Dempsey’s expense. He’s 0-2 against Corbin in a “personal” feud and just got dominated here. Dempsey has decent mic skills and that can help him, but he needs momentum back pronto.
– The backstage segment with Corbin and Dempsey furthered their feud some more, even though Dempsey got pushed away again, looking weak. Maybe Dempsey ties it up or costs Corbin when he faces Neville next week?
– They’ve spiced up the Kevin Owens-Sami Zayn encounter for February 11 as good as they could, with it now being for the NXT Title. The contract signing segment with them and William Regal was intense and entertaining. To Zayn, this was personal going back to their 12-year friendship and to Owens, this was business. Owen’s comment about it being “for his wife and kids” may had come across as sympathetic but with his laid-back demeanor and intense stare, Owens was definitely a bad-ass heel here. You had to love the tension between the two and Owens got the “first shot” by throwing the pen at Zayn’s face, clear disrespect. With some time left between now and February 11, how will they keep this feud hot? It seems WWE wants to keep the Belt on Zayn, but with Owens on the rise, this could be the time for Zayn to drop it and be in chase mode again, as Zayn’s character is completely investable in that way and Owens could be a dominant Champion.
– Tag Team Championships – Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy def. The Lucha Dragons via pinfall to Become New Champions
– NXT World Title #1 Contender’s Match – Round 1 – Adrian Neville def. Tyson Kidd via pinfall to advance
– Charlotte/Bayley and Sasha Banks/Becky Lynch to a No-Contest
– NXT World Title #1 Contender’s Match – Round 1 – Baron Corbin def. Bull Dempsey via pinfall to advance
– The opening video that revisited Kevin Owen’s two attacks on NXT Champion Sami Zayn – most recently last week’s NXT Championship rematch between Zayn and Adrian Neville – was straightforward. The match actually seemed better watching the highlights back the second time around.
– General Manager William Regal announcing that the next NXT special would air February 11, the upcoming #1 Contender’s Tournament for the NXT Championship that would start on this show as well as Charlotte defending her NXT Divas Championship against Sasha Banks gave fans things to look forward to already. Always good to set the pace.
– It was clear from the way that Zayn came out and attacked Tye Dillinger not even giving him the time of day was perfectly logical as he should have been out for blood. Sure – the actions seemed hellish, but Zayn is a guy fans can rally behind and when he gets screwed, the fans feel screwed too. Regal coming out and reprimanding Zayn about his actions showed he was no pushover as GM either, but eventually giving in to Zayn’s demands was bound to happen. Was it smart to have Zayn say the Title didn’t matter in this instance? Not that it does, but a Champions should never downplay the Title he has. That aside, this was a good way to hype the February 11 special as it will be spearheaded by Owens-Zayn, Non-Title.
– Regal’s backstage promo where he mentioned that Owens and Zayn would both sign a contract next week was good in that this guaranteed more in-ring confrontation between the two, but never really seen a contract signing for a Non-Title match, but maybe for liability purposes? They should have cleared that up.
– Finn Balor comes off a little like a more gothic Justin Gabriel, but still has a look unique to him.
– The NXT Championship Tournament match between Finn Balor and Curtis Axel was a good time for the two to go at it because either guy could have won. The match itself was fair and had moments where both guys put in offense. Guess Axel has a long way to go to rebuild his career. That, plus Balor is still new to viewers and being built up, so it was smart for him to go over. He probably won’t win in the end, but he can go pretty far.
– The backstage interview with Sasha Banks showed her sassy confidence in pursuit of becoming new Champion.
– The Bull Dempsey promo hyped the rematch with Baron Corbin in the tournament. He didn’t really say much, but at least the focus was somewhat there.
– The NXT Divas Championship match between Charlotte and Sasha Banks (w/Becky Lynch) was okay until the lame DQ finish where Lynch attacked Charlotte and both beat down Charlotte until Bailey made the save, until she looked at the Title, Charlotte ripped it away from her and Bailey suplexed her. Regal made a match where Charlotte would defend her Title against Lynch, Banks and Bailey in a Fatal 4-way. There’s many different stories headed in to the match too, which is great. Keeps it fresh.
– The backstage segment with Owens where he said he would tell whatever he wanted to tell Zayn in person kept Owens more or less in control of the situation. He seemed laid back, which rivals Zayn’s aggressiveness.
– The Vaudevillains-Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake match seemed to be originally focused on the Vaudevillains “changing up their act.” Nevertheless, Murphy and Blake – who came off like a Rockers/London and Kendrick kind of team came with the upset win. Decent action, but that’s just an example of NXT being an example of not knowing what will happen.
– The backstage promo of Tyler Breeze was his usual narcissistic banter. Not bad with his gimmick, but how many ways can you say, “Look at me, I’m pretty”?
– The backstage promo with Blake and Murphy said they showed they won decisively and not as an upset. They’re energetic and they wanted to challenge The Lucha Dragons for the NXT Tag Titles. The match became official. This will probably be a good match, but is it too much, too fast for this duo? A decisive loss could really set them back and a Title victory would hurt too. They have to be careful here on what they do.
– The NXT Tournament match between Breeze and Hideo Itami had guys who both came off wins when last in the ring so both had momentum. The broadcast team also did a good job of building both men’s cases for winning in the tournament. This was actually a really good match as it got close to the end, with both guys refusing to give in. Itami was the right guy to go over here.
– NXT Championship #1 Contender’s Tournament Quarterfinals – Finn Balor def. Curtis Axel via pinfall to advance
– NXT Divas Championship – Charlotte (Champion) def. Sasha Banks (w/Becky Lynch) via DQ to retain
– Buddy Murphy/Wesley Blake def. The Vaudevillains via pinfall
– NXT Championship #1 Contender’s Tournament Quarterfinals – Hideo Itami def. Tyler Breeze via pinfall to advance