The first ever NXT Ladder Match takes place for the NXT Championship, but not before Sami Zayn takes on Cesaro and Paige defends her Women’s Title against new Raw Diva, Emma! Surprise appearances abound. This show will not disappoint you.
For once, HHH starting off a show is the perfect choice. Seeing him completely hyped up to introduce this show is a sign of how WWE truly views their developmental division. New entrance theme for a show like this is the perfect time to introduce it. And we start with possibly the most anticipated match…
Match 1: Sami Zayn vs Cesaro
Winner: Cesaro via pinfall
Immediate lock up and Cesaro overpowering Zayn. Zayn eventually tries a headscissors, but Cesaro powers right out. Immediate reaction to this being an on demand item – It is very choppy. At a quick test of my FIOS speed, I’m at 27 down and 41 up at the moment. I’m seeing moments in slow motion and then it jumps forward to catch up. I absolutely do not plan to pay $10 a month for that. The sound is fine, but the video refuses to keep up.
Cesaro almost turns a headscissors into a Cesaro swing but ends up on the floor and eating a flip dive. Cesaro catches Zayn mid cross body for a tilt a whirl backbreaker. Cesaro takes Zayn to the floor and tosses him into barricades then lifts him in the ring by his ear. Back to the floor to lay in strikes on the NXT superstar. Back in and back out. This time Zayn fights back but Cesaro welcomes it and tosses him around once again. To the floor one more time and Cesaro chases with a stomp and snake eyes on the barricade. Cesaro tries to drape Zayn’s leg on the ringpose but gets pulled into it head first. Zayn preps for the through the ropes tornado DDT and dives right into a European uppercut. Regal loses his mind, putting over Cesaro actually preparing for a match and doing research – This is how commentary should be done. Cesaro begins a methodical attack at the previously injured knee with first the ringpost then a leg lock mid ring. Double stomp to the knee gets a two count. Cesaro lays in body strikes and a dragon screw then stays on the leg (psychology, folks – WWE actually knows what it is).
Video quality has just dipped to a bit of fuzziness but is no longer lagging. One step forward, one back I guess. Zayn lands a calf kick but Cesaro shrugs it off and grinds his boots into the hurt leg. Multiple more dragon screws which Zayn tries to counter with an enziguiri – Cesaro ducks and flows into a half crab. Back to HD and skipping video; that’s getting annoying. Zayn grabs the ropes and dumps Cesaro to the floor. Back kick and a split legged moonsault to the floor…which Cesaro catches and delivers a tilt a whirl slam on the ramp. Cesaro rolls back in expecting a count out. Zayn beats the 10 count Cena-style at 9.9 and Cesaro readies for a rush to the corner but he runs into an exploder and the turnbuckle for two. Zayn wants blue thunder but Cesaro hammers him down only to get pulled back into it (and they call it!) for two. Cesaro boots Zayn’s leg out and walks into a flatliner and the Koji clutch (again, called). Cesaro flows out and into a Stretch Muffler (that’s three called). Regal talks about the ligaments of Zayn’s knee and the damage being done. Rope break and Zayn runs right into the Cesaro Swing which he turns into a roll up for two. The second time, Cesaro manages the Swing and Regal again points out the increased damage to the knee. Running corner European uppercut for two and a crucifix from Zayn for two. Cesaro answers with an M. Bison style stomp to the head and it’s still only good for two.
Zayn ends up fighting out from the apron and tries a Frankensteiner but Cesaro muscles him back up, only to get caught with the Frankensteiner anyway. Zayn hits his Yakuza kick in the opposite corner and gets two. Cesaro cuts Zayn off at the leg once again and he slowly tries to fight back up to his feet. Cesaro crumples Zayn with another uppercut, then again as he fights back up. Cesaro tells Zayn to stay down. Zayn answers by fighting back and throwing a German suplex. Zayn runs into a boot and a Neutralizer attempt, but gets a roll up. Zayn runs into a powerbomb attempt and turns it into a Code Red. It’s all good for two counts and both men are exhausted on the mat. Cesaro hits a pop up European uppercut and Zayn kicks out with authority at one. Cesaro is taken aback and roars, delivering a discus European uppercut and a picture perfect Neutralizer for the three.
Cesaro reenters the ring, steadies Zayn on his feet and gives him a hug – For storyline, this enhances Cesaro as a true competitor and Zayn as a “newcomer” and for the guys, it’s probably an awesome moment to share in WWE after having matches all over the world. Zayn will absolutely be a superstar in WWE.
A video for Mojo Rawley, the hype man who uses his ass for a finisher plays – Way to bring down the mood.
Match 2: CJ parker vs Mojo Rawley
Winner: Mojo Rawley via pinfall
Now here’s the one flaw to opening a show with…well what we just saw. You get something like CJ Parker next. And you couple it with Rawley. The whole “staying hype” thing is an ADD gimmick. I want to get behind a guy who is a wrestler, a competitor and someone who doesn’t hop around the ring; that’s not Rawley.
Rawley blocks an O’Conor roll and hits a backdrop for two. The hype man who never stops moving settles on a basic arm bar and ends up pressured into the corner. Rawley reverses a whip but eats a boot and a clothesline. Parker practices his mean guy face and throws rights in the corner. Lots of pressure in the corner until Rawley pops Parker in the face, which sends him into a flurry. Rawley with a pair of Stinger splashes, Naomi’s Rear View and they “Hyper Drive” ass drop mid ring to win it.
Quick Emma video – Well done, but that’s something you can always expect from WWE.
Ascension video too.
Match 3: The Ascension (c) vs Too Cool, NXT Tag Team Championship
Winners: The Ascension via pinfall
New music and entrance style for Ascension. Seems like a change for the better. Ok I will admit I did not see Too Cool answering the challenge. They’re a good way to advertise the idea of the WWE Network.
Sexay starts off the match outspeeding Viktor, who gets shouldered down and kips right up to show Sexay he shouldn’t be dancing. Konnor tags in and lands a leaping leg drop after a Viktor snapmare. Two count and he follows up by blasting Sexay with shoulders mid ring. Roaring stomps in the Ascension’s corner before Viktor tags in for a two count. Quick Legion of Doom name drop (more good commentary!) and a snap suplex for another two, followed by a deep chinlock. Sexay with a chinlock to make some space but Viktor gets between him and Scotty. Sexay makes the hot tag and Scotty tags both of Ascension with rights. Scotty flips out and lays out Viktor, who resists a whip attempt. Scotty gets a boot up in the corner then manages the facebuster, which lights the crowd up. Konnor tries to stop a Worm attempt and gets tossed to the floor. Scotty gets through the Worm but Viktor blocks the chop attempt and blasts Scotty with an STO. Fall of Man is more than enough to retain.
Paige video time – Focus on her wrestling ability, her aggression, her desire to not be a cookie cutter Diva.
Match 4: Paige (c) vs Emma, NXT Women’s Championship
Winner: Paige via submission
Ric Flair and Charlotte are ring side for this one, I’m sure that doesn’t come in to play in storyline, right? Stephanie McMahon’s music hits and she gets a less than warm welcome. Happy, proud of her product Stephanie isn’t at all offensive; storyline bitch Stephanie is television poison. She’s out to play up that the women in WWE are to be and represent empowerment. Good verbal focus. Great shot of a little girl dancing along with Emma’s music. That’s honestly what it’s all about. New music for Paige tonight too and a bit of a new look – Little change up to the makeup.
No cute stuff here, the girls go right after each other. Paige with a big kick to the gut and an early attempt at the Paigeturner reversed into a rollup for two. Emma wants a slingshot and it’s Paige’s turn to counter for two. Huge dropkick and another two. Paige with a scoop slam and another near fall. Emma fights out of a chinlock but gets tossed back to the mat. Finally back up to their feet, only for Paige to rain elbows backwards in the corner. Emma catches a stomp and sends the champion face first to the mat. Paige gets a boot up ahead of the Emma sandwich. Emma wants the Emmalock but gets kicked away. Paige drapes Emma over the middle rope and delivers knees on the apron. Emma kicks her leg out from under here which has a huge impact. Emma drags her back in for a one count. Paige misses in the corner and gets stuck in the Dil-Emma. Emma sandwich connects this time for two. Crowd is loudly behind both women as Emma locks on a surfboard. Paige tries to run out of this one, but Emma grounds her and shoves her toes into Paige’s kidneys for more pressure. Emma transitions to Paige being strung up on her toes which is a great visual.
Emma finally ends the hold by dropping Paige face first to the mat and gets a two count. Emma tosses Paige by her hair and stomps away at her in the corner. Emma aggressively pulls Paige out of the corner for a two count. Emma dodges out to the apron but Paige elbows her in the jaw. Emma slams Paige headfirst into the turnbuckle but Paige readies for a superplex. Emma fights out and flips down to land a sit out powerbomb for a very nearfall. This one garners a “Better than Batista” chant. Emma lands a single leg dropkick for another two count. Emma screams for Paige to give up and pie faces her a few times which lights up the Champion who fights back and hits the Paigeturner for a very close two count. Commentary, keeping on the ball, talks about how big of a deal this is. What will Paige do when her best trick fails? She immediately pulls out a new move – A Scorpion Crosslock (Thank you, Mr Regal) and she couples it by lifting Emma in a double chickenwing to retain her title.
Handshake and a hug – “Divas” chant from the crowd. WWE, learn from this and make that chant happen on your main roster. You have the talent, now utilize it.
Match 5: Xavier Woods vs Tyler Breeze
Winner: No Contest
Woods is a man that is getting a career shortcut due to his educational pursuits. He’s been quickly relegated to main roster jobber and NXT occasional wrestler. The contrast of having a team like Ascension and Tyler Breezoolander is fun. The pretty boy that can get the job done in the ring is a fine gimmick. And it allows for easy heel moments like ducking to protect his feet. The selfie stuff needs to be cut down a lot but it does the job of getting the crowd hot as hell at him.
Alexander Rusev’s music immediately kicks in and he emerges, lead by Lana. Breeze and Woods go after him but Woods eats a leaping savate kick and Breeze gets squashed in the corner. Rusev hits his throw up Samoan drop on Breeze and his swinging slam on Woods, followed by The Accolade. Lana introduces Rusev and then he repeats the promo in his native tongue – That part of this will get boring quick.
Bo’s turn for a video. Bo has deluded himself into interpreting “No more bo” as “know more bo”. This gimmick has evolved pleasantly and I’m so happy to hate Bo when he walks out – That’s a good heel.
Match 6: Bo Dallas (c) vs Adrian Neville, NXT Championship Ladder Match
Winner: Adrian Neville, new NXT Champion
Disappointing that as I get to the main event the video is at its choppiest. Surprise HBK!! Who better to hype up a crowd for a history making ladder match? New music for Neville tonight, too.
Neville with explosive speed early on and a very early Red Arrow thought but Dallas rolls away. This allows Dallas to take over early on with his short arm elbows. Bo wedges Neville in a makeshift Tree of Woe in the top rope and takes a methodical walk to go get a ladder. Neville starts a comeback with a plancha but Dallas fires him into the stairs. Bo pins Neville into the decorative ring apron and beats on him. Neville back drops Bo onto the ramp to keep things even. Neville is the first to set up the ladder and climb but Dallas throws another ladder at him, sending him to the mat. Dallas drops the ladder across the mid section of the challenger then pins him under one of the rungs. Neville uses his leg strength to push the ladder over and send Bo crashing down. Neville boots Bo in the head for good measure and sets up the ladder again. Dallas drops the ladder over and Neville catches the rope on the way down.
Both men grab the same ladder and Bo drives Neville into the corner with it. Neville avoids a slingshot into a ladder and scrambles across the ropes, being flipped up like Rollins at Elimination Chamber then hitting a tornado DDT. Both men get run into a ladder and it falls on Neville. Bo throws lariats over and over in the corner as Regal implores both men to fight on and make history. Both men climb a ladder mid-ring and Bo pulls Neville into it shoulder first. Bo tosses Neville to the apron, who lands a huge kick to the head. Neville heads to the top rope for Red Arrow but Dallas shoves him to the floor. Neville sneaks past Dallas on the ladder and Bo wants a German suplex off of it. Neville fights Bo down, who wants a powerbomb, settling for a bucklebomb into a ladder that was set up a while back. Neville fights back with a front slam on a ladder, followed by Red Arrow as the champion lays on it. Bo rolls to the floor and as Neville ascends the ladder, he just about makes it back in, but not in time – Adrian Neville is your new NXT Champion.
“This is awesome” chants are well deserved from this crowd. This is what a good wrestling match is – Intelligent story being told with competent (what an understatement) action. Commentary to back it up, in simple fashion, without putting themselves over. They call the action, use the appropriate names and terms and enhance the story, like Regal talking about various things hurting the knee of Zayn. Brilliant to start with this match and I hope that this shows that the Zayn-type of wrestler is not only ready for the main roster, but an absolute star in the making. Does he talk like John Cena or CM Punk? No, not really. Will he get 30,000 people on their feet? Absolutely. Did the “new guy” need to win here? No. And that story got delivered in the perfect way. This action is what people watch ROH, PWG or CHIKARA for. If WWE can master having these matches (where appropriate, of course) coupled with the best of their storytelling, the product is in position for a boom. This was wrestling at its finest in every possible way. Even having had this spoiled for me, I was on edge for each near fall and that grasp is what keeps people watching.
You may have noticed…I don’t like Mojo Rawley. The man is huge, he’s in awesome shape and he uses a running ass drop to finish. Comedy finisher, comedy wrestler. That’s not the move you want to be known for if you want to be in title contention. This one was quick and from a strictly functional standpoint it was fine. Parker is a pretty ok performer with an absolute garbage gimmick.
I don’t see a way that could have been executed better. You got the nostalgia act that the crowd loves to see, they put up just enough of a babyface fight but ultimately got demolished by the huge NXT Tag Champs. This gimmick is a bit “90s” so to speak, but apparently HHH loves it and I’m sure we’ll see them show up to the main roster pretty soon.
The only criticism I could offer this match is a bit too much of the hair pull, catfight type of stuff. But they got that out of the way early and this was otherwise a great match. Not a great “womens match”. Just a great match. New moves out of both women, executed perfectly and Paige stands incredibly dominant. Paige is awesome; wrestling flows through her blood. Emma is nothing to sneeze at either as she truly understands what she’s doing in the ring and out. It’s so frustrating to see this match and be downright giddy about it while I have to see Eva friggin Marie botch doing an arm wrench on the main shows. It’s up to Emma, Bayley and Paige to show why Eva is a piss poor selection for a wrestler. Use her as arm candy, a manager, etc…just keep her the hell out of the ring.
Rusev the destroyer is the best way to introduce him. Just demolish grown men like they’re rag dolls. Rusev got fast tracked to the main roster, so it’s curious how he does. The athletic big man is usually a wrestling trope that either does incredibly well or fails miserably.
Fun end to a great show and the crowd goes home incredibly happy. The ladder match is one of those things that forces you do suspend your logic and disbelief for a while – Why do they try to climb so early? Why do they not wait until the guy is knocked completely out? Who cares – You know your spots are coming and you’re going to pop for them. Having Neville pick this win up is a good call, and now he gets to be “the ladder match guy” for NXT. Maybe we see him as a surprise entrant in a Money in the Bank or something similar in 2014. He wouldn’t have to win, but with NXT shown with a focus on The Network, it’s important to start highlighting it a bit on the main roster and treat it as a third brand where appropriate. Have them compete within NXT to get shots at main roster matches and opportunities. Earn a match on Raw to try and earn a spot at MITB, for example. If WWE can keep up this quality with NXT with the weekly hour long shows, the idea that all superstars (even guys like Zayn or Neville) have to go through developmental for a short time becomes far more palatable.
As always, if you like what you read here, let me know in the comments or on twitter @sbfantom. I sincerely would like to hear what people think and strike up some conversation!