NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces. But its primary goal is to make future superstars who will one day grace our televisions on Raw. Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week: can Sami Zayn keep his amazin’ match streak alive?
Bayley & Charlotte vs. Alicia Fox & Aksana
A serviceable women’s match the further establishes Bayley and Charlotte as quality fan-favorites in NXT. Bayley completely stole the show as usual, and I’m pretty sure she had the 2nd biggest ovation of the show. Her adorable reaction to getting a fan-made sign was priceless, and her “hugplex” was devastatingly cute. The quick pinkie shake between her and Charlotte before the match began was adorable and a nice way to show some camaraderie between the two. I also was pleasantly surprised by Bayley’s more subdued reactions during the match. They could easily let her slip into a one-note, fawning idiot, I’m glad she’s playing cute and not brain-dead.
Aksana continues to be terrible and Alicia Fox didn’t do much to impress me, but it was still light-years ahead of that triple-threat garbage WWE put on last Monday night. The finish was a bit of a hot-mess, but overall it was still a fun match. It can only help the “upper” division having Diva’s spend time in Florida with Sara Del Rey and company. I’m impressed with NXT’s commitment to the women’s division, opening the show with a ladies tag-team match is something you’ll never see on Raw.
Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.
Sylvester LeFort, Scott Dawson and Alexander Rusev Promo
And you thought Cesaro hanging out with Swaggs and Colter was weird. Is this the strangest threesome in pro-wrestling history? A gas-station attendant, a Bulgarian Muay Thai fighter, and a French bottle-tan spokesmodel/pro wrestling manager? Well, if anything can bring three random weirdos together, it’s the love of cheap steak and all-you-can-eat shrimp.
Verdict: Main Event worthy.
Rick Victor vs. Corey Graves
Corey Graves sucks. If this guy makes it to the main roster I’ll eat my hat. He doesn’t do anything special, and for a guy his size that makes no sense. He needs to bring something unique to the ring to make up for his unimposing look – maybe sell the shit out of everything a la Ziggler or Rollins or learn some sick high-flying moves.The man stomp-punches, shows off his knuckle tattoos, and the announcer sell him as a “submission specialist.” That’s it. How can you tell somebody to “stay down” when they’ve kicked your ass for seven minutes? Yeesh. Side note: As much as it pains me that Los Matadores are siphoning Not-El Generico’s “Ole” chant before he hits the main roster, I love that Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel pepper their CM Punk feud with shouts of “stay down.” Sorry Corey!
I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to stick him in the ring with the ultra bland Rick Victor. Victor’s been serviceable tagging in The Ascension, but left naked here in a singles match we get a jobber with a receding hairline and black eye contacts. I legit laughed that Tony Phillips excused Victor not knowing what the fuck to do in the ring as “being deliberate” and “having no wasted motion.” The man carries zero of his gimmick into the ring, and that’s not going to cut it after what Bray Wyatt gave the NXT universe.
No energy, no urgency, no dice. Fast-forward is your friend.
Verdict: Barely house show worthy.
Summer Rae manipulates Sasha Banks
Thespians, emote! I love Machiavellian Summer Rae antics, waging psychological warfare on Paige through her opponents to remain Queen of NXT. She’s been beaten physically by the Women’s champ, so it makes sense she’d regroup and attack with a different strategy. Depth to women’s feuds, how about that! Bonus points for Summer almost saying “relevance” every time she tried to say “relevant.” Good saves!
It’s too bad Sasha Banks could be out-acted by a piece of plywood. I want to see Summer screw with Bayley’s head. That would be fun television.
Verdict: Superstars worthy.
Renée Young Interviews Paige
A simple “I’m a fucking fight-ehha” promo from Paige. Oh man that accent, sometimes I close my eyes and…
Ahem. This was a short, sweet and necessary mission statement from our Women’s champ to remind us who’s wrecking shop next week. Extremely hard for any segment with Renée and Paige to score anything other than Raw worthy.
Verdict: Raw worthy.
Mason Ryan vs. Alexander Rusev
If you’re trying to sell me on Mason Ryan being a legit monster strong man, putting him in the ring with Alexander Rusev is a terrible idea. Rusev is an athletic 300-pounder who moves like a cat, meanwhile Ryan runs like the canvas is covered in marbles, and his muscles might be fake, Giant Gonzalez style. Watch the sequence where Ryan runs the ropes, Rusev ducks a clothesline then lays Ryan out with a spinning heel kick. The contrast in ability is unmistakable, and I’m not sure who can take Ryan seriously after this match.
Rusev looks as good as he can against a stiff like Ryan. What a stark difference from wrestling Dolph Ziggler two weeks ago. But if he can look solid against two entirely different wrestling styles, that bodes well for his long-term future. Teaming up with LeFort and Larry the Cable Wrestler, however, makes little sense outside of “he needs a mouthpiece,” and I don’t like a guy that talented needing distractions for victories. Let the Bulgarian beast smash.
Verdict: Main Event worthy.
Leo Kruger lays out Xavier Woods
I approve of this development. NXT does all the little things right, and in a 30-second segment a new feud is born. Is it really that hard to pull this off on the big shows?
Verdict: Main Event worthy.
Sami Zayn vs. Jack Swagger
I feel guilty how much I love Sami Zayn. Before he arrived in NXT, I only had a passing knowledge of the existence of El Generico. Admittedly, I’m one of those fans who didn’t pay much attention to the independent wrestling scene pre-Pipe Bomb. So now not only do I get these amazing NXT matches, I get to dive into YouTube and Vimeo and binge on the greatest hits of El Generico.. So much awesome at the same time! The only thing I can compare this to is when I discovered Queens of the Stone Age and then found out about this band named Kyuss. Once you get that taste, goddamn it’s insatiable, and having such a rich back catalog is a godsend.
Zayn versus Jack Swagger may not have reached the epic heights of the Cesaro matches, but it was still one of the best NXT bouts of the year. Zayn’s ability to work the crowd into a frothy frenzy is already Raw worthy, and I wonder how long WWE will keep him down in Orlando. If he can pull off Swagger’s best match of the year, what could he do for guys like Ryback?
The highlight of the match (for me) was Zayn’s sick running corner big boot that Swagger ate like a champ. That turnbuckle cam reply shot of Swagger getting smashed was just tremendous; I think I replayed it about eight times. Somebody .gif that shit. I’ve watched enough Generico matches now to know that’s a staple, and it was glorious here. It came right after a brutal Patriot Lock sequence that Zayn sold hard. We’ve seen so many guys tap out in two seconds, it was great to see Sami fight out of it (well, at least the first time) and sell it like a devastating submission finisher. All around an awesome sequence.
My only quibble with the match was the ending. I understand that Swagger is a main roster guy so he can’t stay and feud forever. That means Zayn’s contempt for Bo Dallas needs to ramp up – but distraction finishes suck the air out the room so fast. The match was too good not to have a definitive ending – unless we’re getting Zayn/Swagger II down the line. Begrudgingly, I’ll admit I’m ready to see Zayn whip Bo Dallas badly now, so this booking did work me on a emotional level. You win this time, pro wrestling tropes.
Verdict: PPV worthy.