This week on NXT, plot lines advanced, characters developed in intriguing ways, and the road to Takeover: Dallas rolls on. Let’s check it out:
Segment 1: Vaudevillains vs. Hype Bros.
The first match of the night solidified the heel turn of the wildly popular Vaudevillains, Aiden English and Simon Gotch sneering menacingly on their way to the ring. In a serviceable match against the Hype Bros (Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder), they had their new attitude on full display. Double team interference, a much more vicious ring style, and virtually ignoring the crowd contributed greatly to the characterization established in the previous weeks’ vignettes.
After an avoided Broski Boot turned into the Whirling Dervish, the villains emerged victorious. While Ryder and Rawley played their roles—the scrappy, energetic frat brothers—well, I wish Rawley showed as much improvement in the ring as Gotch and English. This match hit all the right notes, and I am interested to see where this goes next.
TL;DR: Vaudevillains turned heel in style, Hype Bros seemed a bit stagnant. Rating: 3.25/5 stars.
Segment 2: Previously Taped Carmella Interview
In an interview with Tom Phillips, Carmella reveled in her Number 1 Contender status, even three weeks out. Noting her family history (her dad wrestled in the ‘90s), and her friendship with Bayley (she was Carmella’s first friend in NXT), she showed resolve and determination fostered by her “boys”, Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady.
I sat riveted as she asserted that while she and the Women’s Champion may be friends, that will not matter in their title match next week. As she swore to prove to everyone—Emma and Dana Brooke included—that she’s one to watch, I smiled and wondered if we had, perhaps, found this generation’s Summer Rae as far as mic skills. Good job, lady.
TL;DR: Carmella takes mic workers to school, and made us believe she is a champion-in-waiting. Grade: A-
Segment 3: Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder Promo Backstage
Responding to Enzo and Cass’ challenge last week, the NXT Tag Team Champions smugged their way through a promo straight from the eighties. Showing that these guys know their gimmick, they brimmed with confidence, facial expressions and body language selling their belief that they are the greatest NXT Tag Title holders ever. Their derision in granting E & C’s demand oozed from the screen, making a line like “You can demand all you like, but you won’t beat us” truly make an impact. I wish they’d add a bit of variety, but that’s my only complaint.
TL;DR: Dash and Dawson cut an eighties promo that works. Wished I’d see more. Grade: B+.
Segment 4: Carmella vs. Emma w. Dana Brooke
This match, while it forwarded Carmella’s story and made us excited for next week, was no technical masterpiece. It wasn’t bad otherwise, showcasing Emma’s sense of entitlement and arrogance as she underestimated Carmella, to her peril. As Brooke watched on in horror, the Princess of Staten Island put Emma away with a backslide, after finding holes in Emma’s style and exploiting her snobby attitude. I believe she could give Bayley a fight, perhaps even win.
TL;DR: Psychologically intriguing and expertly booked, but I wish there’d been more technical content. Rating: 3.25/5 stars.
Segment 5: Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe Promos
These two promos lay groundwork for a seething rivalry after last week. While Zayn calmly reiterated his faith in GM Regal’s judgement, Joe snarled and chased off the interviewer. If Zayn could sound a bit more natural, this would have been better.
TL;DR: Standard character work, but Zayn a bit stilted. Grade: B.
Segment 6: Enzo and Cass vs. Random Jobber Tag Team
Before the match started, Enzo and Cass, filled with bravado, assured Dash and Dawson that they’re not done yet. Stellar, as always, their charisma shining through. The match was a squash, but it achieved its objective: demonstrating the new fire inside their guts, to the pint that I wondered if a heel turn may be coming, as they worked a vicious style and at one point literally threw an opponent out of the ring (not a standard toss: Cass actually ran and lifted). Enzo showed much improvement in the ring, as well.
TL;DR: I’m liking the new team SAWFT, but is a heel turn coming? Promo Grade: A , Match Rating: 3.5/5 stars.
Segment 7: Apollo Crews Promo Backstage
Crews must have read my review last week: I think I saw a character there. He’s still a nice man, but he does not brook interruptions like Baron Corbin’s lightly. The anger in his eyes was a nice touch, as was the distinct reduction in smiling.
TL;DR: Crews has a character, and his acting has jumped a notch. Grade: B.
Segment 8: GM Regal’s Verdict
After ignoring a barged in Corbin, Regal made the announcement that Zayn and Joe will face each other to determine Number One Contender. Not much to critique, there.
Segment 9: Asuka vs. Santana Garrett
This match surprised me: I thought it was gonna be a squash. Instead, Garrett gave a bit of fight to the Empress of Tomorrow, even though she no-sold her strikes early on. Even so, a jumping armbar into the Asuka Lock closed a technically sound match, both women working stiff and building Asuka as a monster.
TL;DR: A win, not a squash. I really liked it. Rating: 4/5 stars.
Segment 10: Finn Bálor Promo Backstage
Satisfied with Regal’s call, the NXT Champion focused on his match with Crews. Declaring that “he’s good, but I’m the best”, I was relieved to see that confidence and intensity in this promo. Much improved from two weeks ago. Just, please fix the cadence of delivery. It sat a bit weird with me.
TL;DR: Most improved promo of the week, but please fix the cadence issue, I thought it bounced a bit. Grade: B.
Segment 11: Apollo Crews vs. Finn Bálor
This was, simply, the best match on NXT weekly TV I’ve seen. Technical perfection, every spot naturally flowed from one to the other, with the exception of a headlock sequence that went on way too long. The champ needing to use both the Coup de Grace and Bloody Sunday to finish Crews off gave the young star a lot of momentum. Psychologically, Bálor appeared to have learned from their last match, keeping Crews grounded as long as he could, busting out the flying when pushed too far.
Crews, for his part, pushed his opponent to the limit, and I can’t wait to see him face Zayn or Joe. He’s going places. The show closed with the competitors embracing in the ring, as appropriate for faces. Next week, Carmella vs. Bayley for the NXT Women’s Championship. Let’s see if they outdo this. It’ll be hard.
TL;DR: Nearly perfect match, except for a dragging headlock sequence. Hard to top. Rating : 4.75/5 stars.