If there was ever any doubt in the matter, this past month has demonstrated why NXT is the most exciting part of WWE at the moment. If you have paid the $9.99 to get your hands on the WWE Network, you are soon to reap the rewards of its premier brand. The signings of Kenta, Fergal Devitt, and now Kevin Steen has added to a young roster that is already brimming with amazing talent. Steen in particular is a man that could really make headway in the WWE, with fantastic promo skills and a repertoire that belies his physical appearance. He is a wrestling fan’s wrestler, and his cult following in the business will be cheering him through his run with NXT alongside Kenta and Devitt.
As for tonight, NXT is three weeks away from hosting its third live special this year, Takeover. In preparation for that night, this edition features a number of matches that will directly affect the structure of the card in September. The opening and closing bouts concentrate on the Tag Team tournament that has been raging the past few weeks. The semi-finals take place, with Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady battling the Vaudevillains, and Kalisto alongside Sin Cara take on Sami Zayn and Adam Rose. Outside the tournament, performances by Tyson Kidd, Tyler Breeze and Charlotte should make this an exciting evening at Full Sail University.
- The Vaudevillains defeat Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady
- Tyson Kidd defeats Tyler Breeze by count-out
- Charlotte defeats Becky Lynch
- Mojo Rawley defeats Steve Cutler
- Kalisto and Sin Cara defeat Sami Zayn and Adam Rose
The Vaudevillains vs. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady
The opening contest is the first semi-final of the Tag Team Championship tournament, where the winners will battle the Tag Team Champions, The Ascension. To many, this would not seem an enticing prospect, due to the dominance the champions have demonstrated since winning the gold nearly one year ago. Their unrestrained destruction of their reign would leave most dreading becoming their next victims. But, the opportunity to be the tandem to break their supremacy could be an incredible boost for one of the four remaining teams. First up is Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady, cutting a promo as they saunter towards the ring, the crowd repeating every word like a muted New Age Outlaws. Their opponents, the team with undoubtedly the most original and entertaining entrance in professional wrestling today, the Vaudevillains.
The strength of Cassady initially gives the East Coast natives an advantage, taking down first Aiden English and then Simon Gotch. A tag to Amore allows him to beat down on Gotch on the canvas. This is followed up with some cool double-team spots, including a version of a Poetry in Motion where Amore lands on the apron. However, as he ascends the turnbuckle, Cassady has Gotch set up for a slam, and English lands a dropkick on Gotch, sending him crashing onto Big Cass. Amore flies off for a crossbody, but the strongman Gotch catches him mid-air, hitting him with a seating senton, when a blind tag by English leads to him hitting the That’s A Wrap for the 1-2-3. An extremely short match, with the Vaudevillains only having to use a minimal amount of offence to get the victory. This might be due to Amore still recovering from the broken leg he recently returned from, but it means that the potential of this match wasn’t fully realised. That being said, the correct team won the match and heads to the finals.
Post-match, Amore and Cassady were jumped from behind by the Legionnaires tag team. Sylvester Lefort and Marcus Louis then took hold of Amore, and took a set of trimmers to his beard, leaving a noticeable patch. This humiliation leads Amore and Cassady back to the ring later in the evening, with Amore proving he is anything but SAWFT by putting his trademark Mohawk on the line against Lefort in a Hair vs. Hair match. Putting hair on the line in NXT could be a big risk, considering if you are willing to make such a change in appearance without being assured a main roster space. Nonetheless, this will hopefully give Amore his first extended bout since his return, and will leave a comedy moment in what’s shaping to be a compelling Takeover show.
Rating – 2/5
Triple H’s Announcement
A rare appearance by the COO of the WWE is met by a rapturous reception by the crowd at Full Sail University. Triple H is immediately met with chants of “NXT” from the appreciative crowd, as he creates hype for the importance of the brand to the WWE. He builds up the expectation for Takeover, the latest live special, by stating that every championship will be on the line, and it will be a show like never seen before. However, the major announcement that has brought The Game down to the Performance Centre is the arrival of a new general manager. Triple H informs the crowd that he will debut next week, and will be the one to preside over the Takeover special.
The news of a new general manager is not entirely surprising, considering the fact that JBL, the previous incumbent, hadn’t been seen on the show for a number of months. Though he had a great deal of charisma, and would have made an excellent authority figure, his commitments to the announcement team on both RAW and Smackdown makes the decision to employ another general manager is the correct decision. The question is of course who will it be? At the moment the frontrunners are William Regal, Ric Flair and Sting, and any one of those will be excellent figures to lead the exciting roster in Florida.
Tyson Kidd vs. Tyler Breeze
The next match is a follow-up on last week’s main event, where Tyler Breeze was challenging for the NXT Championship against Adrian Neville. Part-way through the match, Tyson Kidd, another rival of Neville, made his way to ringside, only to be met by a superkick by the Geordie champion. This triggered Kidd to interject himself in the match to assault Neville, which left Breeze an unintended victim in his shot for the title. Thus, the upcoming match is an opportunity for Breeze to unleash some of the frustration of losing his chance to be champion against Kidd in a rare heel vs. heel encounter.
Breeze started quickly, raining down kicks to the gut of Kidd in the corner, the crowd somewhat more behind Prince Pretty than the contempt they have for “Nattie’s Wife”. However, taking an second to pander to this uncommon adulation allows Kidd to launch his own offensive. His recent frustrations over defeats to Neville, Sami Zayn and Adam Rose come to the forefront in his assault. Breeze’s attempt to duck out of the barrage rewards him with kicks to the face and gut, before he rolls to the outside to catch his breath. However, Breeze screams from ringside that he doesn’t need this right now, and trudges up the ramp and heads backstage as the referee counts him out. Kidd picks up a simple victory, which can’t really be reviewed as a competitive match due to its brevity and finish. Nevertheless, it gives Kidd a win, which he celebrates like he won a championship, adorning his adversary’s vest and mocking his mannerisms.
Rating – 1/5
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch
The women are the next focus of proceedings, as the NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte gracefully approaches the ring. The panache with which she cartwheels and flips during her entrance shows how well she is suited to the genetic superiority that she flaunts as the daughter of Ric Flair. The Nature Girl will be challenged by Bayley at the Takeover special, with many wrestling fans also counting down the days until she is undoubtedly called up to the main roster. As for tonight, she battles the heavy metal-loving Irishwoman, Becky Lynch, in a rematch from a few weeks ago. Victory for Lynch would give her a boost early in her NXT career, but Charlotte will want to maintain momentum before her big title defence.
The match opens with a Woo/Screech off between the pair of ladies, an exposition of the different personalities of the two women. Soon they replace their mouths with their bodies, beginning with some good mat wrestling, with both ladies paying special attention to their opponent’s legs. However, every time a hold lasts for a few seconds, both transition into inventive covers, before Charlotte ends it with a kick to Lynch’s gut. Lynch is able to regain a foothold with some effective aggression, but when she is hoisted onto the apron by her larger opponent, on getting back through the ropes she is kicked hard against the turnbuckle. Charlotte shows how she is getting better and better at dictating the pace as a heel, employing a great mix of her natural strength/height and her technical prowess to keep Lynch grounded. But, the redhead refuses to quit, responding with clotheslines, though her constant screaming is becoming more of an annoyance than a unique selling point. This flurry is shortlived, as Charlotte counters with a modified suplex followed by Bow Down to the Queen for a relatively comfortable victory.
An okay match, nothing particularly special, but makes Charlotte look strong and genetically superior. Lynch’s time will come, as she does have talent, but for the moment she will have to settle for fodder for the champion. There are worse places to be – just ask Emma.
Rating – 2.5/5
Mojo Rawley vs. Steve Cutler
Another match steeped in the actions of last week, as Mojo Rawley makes his rapid approach to the ring following the beating he received from Bull Dempsey after the tag team defeat they suffered to the Vaudevillains. That was also an interesting segment, as it illustrated how a vocal section of the Full Sail audience has turned on Rawley’s hyperactive character, whilst the rest are apathetic to him, which is arguably even worse. His opponent tonight is Steve Cutler, someone who shouldn’t prove to be much competition before his inevitable meeting with Dempsey.
Rawley begins aggressively, not bearing the smile he usually carries, likely as a response to Dempsey’s attack. His barrage of clotheslines and slams is cut short by Cutler with a lariat of his own. A proportion of the audience chants “Steve”, which is bad for Rawley that the crowd has more interest in this nobody on the roster. Rawley is not on the defensive for long, connecting with a splash in the corner, before knocking Cutler down on the mat and landing the Hyperdrive splash for the victory. Another squash match, which only achievement was another sign of the crowd’s disinterest or contempt towards Rawley. The hyper one cuts a promo about how Dempsey caused him to lose his smile, and that he will pay in time. Cue chants of “Bull” and overall not caring about Rawley whatsoever.
Rating – 1/5
Kalisto and Sin Cara vs. Sami Zayn and Adam Rose
The second semi-final match in the Tag Team Tournament feature two face teams, with the luchadore pairing of Kalisto and Sin Cara first out to a good ovation from the crowd. The two finally are given matching attire in the red, white and green of Mexico – a nice touch, though I here Cody Barbierri suggested they dressed as gardeners like he views all other Mexicans. However, the crowd really get behind both Sami Zayn and Adam Rose, a unique pairing in only their second match as a team. But, their victory over Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel was impressive, and both being main-event level talent, they could be convincing challengers for The Ascension should they choose that path.
Rose and Kalisto start the match, but soon both switch for Zayn and Sin Cara, the Ole chants appearing more appropriate than ever before. Both opponents contest in fantastically quick chain wrestling and acrobatics, leading to a springboard armdrag by Cara that sends Zayn to the outside. Rose goes to check on his fallen partner, as Kalisto re-enters the ring and shares a knowing look with his partner, even though Sin Cara’s mask doesn’t have eye holes. They charge towards the rope, but only feign jumping onto their adversaries before inciting a “Lucha” chant from the crowd as NXT goes to commercial.
Returning from the break, Zayn and Rose are seemingly playing the heel role, utilising more rest holds than their usual matches. This is soon ended by Kalisto’s quick pace – he shares a great deal of similarities to a young Rey Mysterio in his ring style. This makes me believe that despite his diminutive stature he could make a big impact on the roster. On the contrary, it is becoming more of an advantage every time I see him, with the ease in which he can be thrown around by the opposition a really cool spectacle. This is the case for both Zayn’s tilt-the-world backbreaker and then a vicious spinebuster by Rose. However, he is able to escape and tag his more experienced partner, who bounces across the ring with springboards and headscissors to combat his opponents. As Cara dives to the outside to take out Zayn, Rose recovers with a kick to the stomach of Kalisto, but as he runs towards him he is caught be a spin kick, followed by Solita del Sol and the Falling Star senton by Sin Cara to get the win for the luchadores.
Indubitably the best match of the night, with some exciting back-and-forth action between the two popular teams. Giving the victory to the team with more chemistry is the correct move, and a match between Kalisto and Sin Cara against the Vaudevillains was certainly the right way to end the tournament. However, neither alone seem resounding threats to The Ascension. The champions have been portrayed as to powerful and cohesive to fall to one of these teams separately. So I feel that in the finals next week, the champs will make their presence felt, leading to a three-way match at Takeover.
Rating – 3.5/5