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 Leo Kruger establish himself as NXT top heel?
Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Scott Dawson & Alexander Rusev
What the hell? I wasn’t expecting 20 minutes of heart-pounding action, but five minutes and a funky finish left me with some serious tag-team blue balls. I love almost everyone involved here (I’m coming around on Scott Dawson) and we some nice character beats from each wrestler, but I wanted much more. Enzo spit some verbal Jersey trash and got a nice SAWWWWFT chant going. Rusev went with the double-labeled board for maximum crackin’ action, and Dawson and LeFort continued to be the oddest couple in NXT.
But just when the match starting cooking, with Rusev and Dawson debuting some sweet tandem moves, the rarely enforced five-second rule for tagging in and out was called for some reason. And it suuuucked. The crowd was confused, Tony Dawson was confused, and William Regal, all knowing god of wrestling, could barely explain what had happened. These guys deserve so much better, and if they wanted a bigger, main-event type match between these teams down the line, they could have given us a clearer DQ finish to bring the heat up. Everyone here was solid – but that ending killed the atmosphere.
Verdict: Main Event worthy.
Bo Dallas Promo
For all the positive things Oblivious Bo can do, this segment was an example of how easily things can go off the rails. A lot of what he said worked well to continue his character’s evolution, like volunteering to mentor the veteran Zayn, mentioning “this business” like he hangs with Trips, and his amazing smile that never wavers. Problem is, the crowd decided they wanted none of what Bo was selling – and not in the fun “fuck you heel” kind of way. They chanted over and around him, and really didn’t reacted to anything he said. I’m not sure if this was an example of “X-Pac Heat,” but it sure seemed close to it. Any reaction is success for a performer, but when the crowd isn’t’ listening at all that’s might be a sign of trouble. I still endorse the character direction, but this was a step back.
Verdict: Main Event worthy.
CJ Parker Interview with Renée Young
Parker explains his feud with Tyler Breeze through hippie mumbo-jumbo while the Renee nods and holds her nose. Breeze then ambushes the interviews by attacking Parker, taking a selfie over Parker’s beaten body. A quick and simple segment, lots of characterization, with a strong heel moment. NXT doing it right.
Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.
Paige vs Sasha Banks (non-title match)
Paige is not ready for Raw just yet. She’s better then everyone currently on the main roster sans AJ Lee, but that’s just not good enough for what she can accomplish. When she gets called up she needs to be a revelation to that division, not just out-class the E! contingent. To truly be the “Anti-Diva,” we need to see a lot more consistent presence, attitude and execution throughout her performances. She has her moments of pure rage and viciousness, like those brutal knees on the apron, but when she’s not in rage mode she wears this smirk that throws off the illusion. I want the Paige that Regal describes, the lady that will straight eviscerate every woman in her way. We see it briefly in her matches, but it needs to be her whole existence.
Still, this match was better than the stuff we get on them cable shows, so I can’t complain too much. I did get a little curious why Sasha Banks was stuck on the headlock of doom – it seems they wanted her to look strong but she didn’t have much else to give. Hence five minutes of rest-hold headlockin’ that would make Curtis Axel proud. But she did look better than I’d seen her before, and Paige needed a roll-through quick pin to steal the victory. Add a post match sorta-heel turn beat down and it’s an eventful night for the women’s division.
Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.
Summer Rae & Sasha Banks backstage segment
Might want to cool it on these Summer/Sasha segments. Woof. Stella Adler is rolling in her grave.
Verdict: Community theater worthy.
Leo Kruger vs. Xavier Woods
First, I thought Leo Kruger’s work here was great. Any and all limb target for wrestlers with submission finishes will always work for me. His relentless abusing of Woods’ left arm, which Woods did a fine job of selling, did a nice of conveying Kruger’s “hunter” mentality. All good character fun. It’s time for Kruger to shine as the top heel in NXT, and I’ve seen enough to think he’s got what it takes. He’s legit creepy and off-putting, and he’s ring work gets better every week.
I thought this was Woods’ best match in a while, and Regal and Dawson pointed out how much more serious he was coming into this matchup. His arm injury selling was a highlight, I loved the fury of punches he unleashed on Kruger with just his right arm towards the end of the match. But his “Honor Roll” is terrible and needs to flunk out of his repertoire. You thought “Trouble in Paradise” took too long to develop? “Honor Roll” is the Chinese Democracy of signature moves. Poor Kruger had to stand there like a statue waiting for Woods to do a silly roll into a jumping clothesline.
Unfortunately, the real star of this match was Kruger’s endless armbar he employed to wear down Woods throughout the match. Normally I wouldn’t mind too much, as I’ve already praised Kruger’s ring work here targeting the appendage. But after sitting through Sasha Banks’ headlock stuck-on-pause, it was a curious choice to feature so much extended rest-holdin’ in one hour-long episode. I love me some ground game, but it can be a bit much if featured on the two biggest matches of the show.
Verdict: Superstars worthy.