NXT Recap: April 8th 2015

This week’s episode of NXT was a special edition, recapping on when the brand took WrestleMania Axxess by storm. Along with some excellent matches between the roster that captivated the audience preparing for the grand event, a tournament was held between eight of the biggest superstars in NXT, with the winner earning a spot in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. The chance to appear in front of the 70,000+ crowd at WrestleMania was a significant prize for one of these up-and-coming names.

The early recap on the initial quarter-final matches left four men battling for the right to get a WrestleMania moment to remember. Finn Balor defeated the mountainous Baron Corbin with a quick roll-up, whilst Tyler Breeze pulled out his Beauty Shot to lay out Bull Dempsey. Hideo Itami outlasted Jason Jordan in a technically physical encounter, and finally Adrian Neville won a contest of high-fliers when he pinned Kalisto. One of Balor, Breeze, Itami and Neville would therefore get a chance to have their first WrestleMania come early, and the stakes couldn’t be much higher in that regard.

Quick Results

  • Hideo Itami defeated Adrian Neville
  • Finn Balor defeated Tyler Breeze
  • Hideo Itami defeated Finn Balor

Hideo Itami vs Adrian Neville

The first match of the semi-finals features Hideo Itami facing off against Adrian Neville. The International Sensation has endured a lot of criticism for very slowly adapting to the WWE style of wrestling, but I really don’t see what their complaints are based upon. His first few matches were somewhat restrained and he still is working through a language barrier, but other than that he’s been excellent. As for Neville, he has accomplished everything he can in NXT, and it would be the icing on the cake to announce his arrival on the main roster at WrestleMania itself.

Highlights

Some typically expert mat-based wrestling between both athletes

Neville taking a moment to interact with a fan giving him a hard time

Extremely hard kicks by Itami showing he is definitely not holding back anymore

Neville playing the heel role well, helping get the fans firmly behind Itami

Huge superkick by Neville that earns him a near fall as Itami went for his basement dropkick in the corner

Crowd Reaction

“This is Awesome” chants starting before the match even gets underway

“Let’s go Neville!” “Hideo!” – a very split audience for these two popular superstars

“This is Wrestling” – the fans loving the action unfolding in front of them

Low Points

I’m still not convinced by Itami’s finishing maneuver, so would love to see him pull out the GTS again

Finish

After dodging the Red Arrow, Itami connects with his Shotgun Kick to defeat Neville and advance

A very strong match between two of the most gifted performers on NXT’s roster. Adrian Neville, now part of the main WWE roster, has done an excellent job of building up other names in his final run, and did the right thing here for Hideo Itami. The Japanese star needs to rack up some important wins to cement himself, and Neville is just about as established a name as one can hope to beat. Itami now has one more obstacle to overcome in a bid to make his mark in WrestleMania folklore.

Rating – 4/5

Finn Balor vs Tyler Breeze

The second semi-final features two more established names on the NXT roster, with Finn Balor and Tyler Breeze fighting for the right to meet Hideo Itami in the final. Balor has made a massive impact in his short time in NXT, his explosive ring style and innovative entrance has captivated a large body of fans. As for Breeze, he has been a big part of NXT for a significant time now, but has always been more of a nearly man or worthy adversary rather than the standout player. A victory here would go some way to changing that, but Balor would certainly not make it easy.

Highlights

Balor connecting with his excellent dropkick that knocks Breeze off his stride, and then mocks his opponents posing in the corner

Breeze carries himself so well in his gimmick, telling the referee not to touch him

Excellent enziguri in the corner by Balor on Breeze, which the supermodel sold perfectly

Crowd Reaction

Fans firmly behind Finn Balor throughout, with Breeze playing the definitive heel

Low Points

Not many to mention explicitly, but the crowd didn’t seem to be as into this match as the other semi-final

Finish

Following a running dropkick slamming Breeze into the turnbuckle, Balor hits Coup de Grace to advance.

A solid match, if not as spectacular as the last one. I can’t really put my finger on what was less about it, but it just didn’t grab my attention as much. Finn Balor looked good, as did Tyler Breeze as a character, yet they seemed to be reining in their capabilities which stopped this match from shifting from good to great. There is certainly potential here for improvements that could result in a solid feud, but for now the main thing to take away is Balor takes on Hideo Itami in the finals of the Axxess tournament.

Rating – 3/5

Hideo Itami vs Finn Balor

The final encounter will feature a clash of two former tag team partners, Hideo Itami and Finn Balor. The pair have a great deal of respect for each other, but will certainly hold nothing back in their pursuit of a WrestleMania moment. They have previously competed in a tournament setting, with Balor overcoming Itami on the way to becoming number one contender for the NXT Championship a few months ago. Now, with another much sought-after prize on the line, would history repeat itself, or could Itami earn a vital victory?

Highlights

A flurry of hammerlocks and excellent mat wrestling early on, getting the crowd applauding

Balor reversing Itami’s attempted guillotine tornado DDT into his enziguri

Strikes and counters coming thick and fast towards the climax

Itami firing up after sustaining damage that really got the crowd on side

Crowd Reaction

Very balanced crowd, as both of these two are immensely popular with the NXT audience

Low Points

Balor’s Pele kick was slightly misplaced or mistimed, but this did not take away from the flow significantly

Finish

Balor reverses a GTS attempt with a roll-up, but Itami kicks up and meets his charging opponent with a Shotgun Kick to win the match and tournament

A very good match, demonstrating the best signature moves and chemistry of these two wonderful competitors. However, it probably would have felt more special and exciting if it wasn’t simply a carbon copy of both Hideo Itami and Finn Balor’s showings from the semi-finals. They didn’t really add anything new or different, except Itami teasing the GTS more against Balor. The Japanese superstar was the correct choice, as he has great international appeal, fan popularity and needed some added credibility among the elite of NXT.

Rating – 3.5/5

The remainder of the show was a superbly put together video diary following Hideo Itami’s journey to WrestleMania and being a part of the event. Those watching were introduced to Itami’s family, that also have had to make the transition to the USA, and the massive buzz surrounding his use of the GTS on Tyler Breeze in a live event in San Jose. Throughout this, you could see how humble, respectful and excited Itami was about the whole occasion, and established names on the main roster clearly held him in high esteem as a perfect representative of what NXT stands for, including Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan and John Cena.

Although his time in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was short-lived, as Itami was punched out by the Big Show, the International Sensation made a noticeable impression both on the fans and backstage. I am now fully convinced that he is going to be a massive star when he finally is promoted to the main roster, as what he lacks in clear English currently he more than makes up for in star power and technical mastery. Itami definitely has the it factor that pushes guys to the top, and it will be exciting to witness his growth from this point on.

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