This was a pretty subdued episode of NXT, notable for its lack of familiar faces. It was a reminder of how many bodies were called up to the main roster in recent days. And while there are some colorful NXT mainstays still in rotation, here was a real emphasis on up and comers, a reminder perhaps that the division is about developing new talent. Perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a mode where appearances of the same wrestlers do not occur week in and week out. This could be a good long run strategy for keeping fans from burning out on certain talent, perhaps even increasing interest in seeing them when they tour live. It can make for a bumpy road between specials, as this episode clearly illustrates.
This very brief segment with William Regal and a doctor at the beginning of the show had a tinge of reality to it, as Joe was reported injured from his match with Shinsuke Nakamura at Takeover Brooklyn, yet mention was also made by the doctor of unreported injuries on Joe’s part before the match. It sets up intrigue for a rematch down the line, and sets up a plausible angle where the results of match number 1 are called into question. For now it seems like Joe will go away leaving audiences hanging on his return.
The Perfect 10 spot
Ty Dillinger seems to be on his way to the upper echelon of the NXT roster, getting another win and flaunting his gimmick throughout the match with audience participating rambunctiously. I could see a good next step being Ty taking on some of the more prominent heels like Aries and Rude, perhaps falling short but coming very close to victory.
Aliyah, heel you livin’
Aliyah came out to the ring for her match with Liv Tyler in some commanding ring attire, working a heel-ish look and attitude. It suited her. She used a painful-looking leg submission and smashed her leg down on Liv’s head a few times midway through, reminiscent of NJPW submission spots. The match was pretty rough, though, but potential is definitely there for Aliyah to play a brash, cocky antagonist on the roster.
The Revivial beat down Ciampa
The fighting between The Revival and the team of Ciapma and Gargano has arguably been the hottest thing going in NXT, and one of the best feuds in wrestling this summer. All players involved know how to work drama and storytelling into their matches and promos. Here a good old fashioned two on one beat down by The Revival made for us to want Johnny Gargano’s return from injury to come sooner than later so that we can see a rematch of their stunning battle at Takeover Brooklyn.
Itami, you talkin’ to me?
During Itami’s promo, which had nothing but great words, there was a forced feel to it. Toward the end it seemed as though Itami could have even been reading a card off to the side. I’m not saying that’s definitely the case. But regardless it definitely should not look like it. I know all too well the challenges of Japanese learning English and delivering long phrases smoothly. They should give him a lot of practice (My services are available!) and allow, even encourage lapses into Japanese. The ore natural delivery would make up for any missed meaning in the words themselves.
Andrade ‘I get no respect…from Austin Aries’ Almas
Here is another English as a new language issue, and I want to emphasize it is GREAT, fantastic even that wrestlers of multiple nationalities are given a chance tio shine in NXT. Use of those prerecorded promo segments should be taken advantage of to make things come off great, though, and plenty of practice should be given. Aries was great as an obnoxious heel but Andrate seemed too timid and when he was given a chance to talk, it didn’t feel that fiery.
Nothing weird, just an ok show with appearances by some of the main players in outside the ring roles, some new talent highlighted whose matches varied from ok to rather clunky. Some spicing up was definitely in order.
This was the popular tournament in prime functioning on all cylinders mode, with 2 long matches, making up half of the quarter finals, filled with great wrestling and fantastic story telling.
Gran Metalik VS Akira Tozawa
This was a great match with a lot of speed and agility on display. The two combatants’ styles varied making for interesting exchanges of moves, but both have had experience with Japanese ‘strong style’ rhythms and this match took on a lot of that, with exchanges of chops and shoulder blocks. Tozawa has such an effective manner of riling up the crowd, like in the way he runs for a suicide dive; his movements are fascinating to watch. A highlight on Tozawa’s part was breaking up a forearm exchange to land an unexpected stiff looking punch to the face. Gran Metalik’s move set looked very polished, and his unique rope walking techniques were executed smoothly. The final exchange between the two with finishing moves being reversed and kicked out of was unpredictable and plenty exciting. I hope we see more of Tozawa in a WWE ring, because his style and charisma have been entertaining throughout his matches in the tournament.
Kota Ibushi VS Brian Kendrick
This will surely stand among the best of the CWC tournament matches when all is said and done. With a finish that many had called from the beginning this managed to be extremely suspenseful. I was fully ready for a reversal from the expected outcome, as news was reported earlier that Ibushi, the often dubbed favorite to win, did not sign with WWE full time. In fact, looking at how this played out, one could even make a case that reporting that was a well placed plot device to make an Ibushi loss seem more possible to those following the behind the scenes of the industry.
This was a prime example of match as storytelling, based around the brilliant work of the wrestlers in the ring and commentators – Bryan and Mauro Ranallo – calling the action and giving background details to enhance the drama. Ibushi’s past previous neck injury was figured into the story, particularly when Kendrick got the advantage worked a backbreaker from on the apron outside the ring, bouncing the back of Ibushi’s head against the ring post. It looked incredible, complete with Ibushi selling it perfectly, falling straight down, face first, into the incoming ring apron and rolling to the floor like a sack of dead weight. The story of the injured neck continued, with Kendrick leading a very innovative offense. Must not forget the other story being weaved of Kendrick being a wily veteran, but one who has been away from action long enough to be an underdog throughout the tournament, but who would regain a lot by winning. This was sold perfectly by Kendrick pulling sneaky and original maneuvers like wedging Ibushi’s foot between slats in the guard rail to try to get him counted out. Throughout the match Ibushi hit his high flying moves with amazing preciseness. The timing of Kendrick’s moves, which included his patented Sliced Bread from the top (perfect considering the emphasis it has on impacting the opponent’s neck) and rarely performed moves named for us by Ranallo and Bryan, led for very believable false finishes. This match had instant re-watch value.
That this will come to an end. But hopefully an overwhelmingly positive reaction will lead WWE to continue delivering this style of programming in the future.
The WWE’s main shows on television, RAW and Smackdown Live can rarely deliver matches with this much excitement. If they cut the volume of events and let performers build matches with stories and drama, those tv shows would regain a lot of appeal.