Pretty stoked about this one as it doesn’t happen very often that I get to watch ANY wrestling PPV/Special in prime-time. We are at the SSE Center in Wembley, Triple H is out to welcome us, talks a bit about getting his ass kicked by Reigns but, most importantly, is here to kick off the show before a red-hot crowd. And we start with:
Asuka defeated Emma in 14:55 via pinfall
Holy shit what an opener. I was hoping this wouldn’t be just another squash for Asuka as I thought her opponent could certainly help make this a great one (as opposed to Asuka having to do all the work with less experienced wrestlers) and I got exactly what I wished for. Emma has done a great job re-inventing herself after her main roster run and it showed here. I especially appreciated the fact that we got a very focused Emma here, who clearly came in knowing she was in for the fight of her live. Even Dana’s encouragement throughout the match was in the right tone, as it had a slight sense of urgency to it. Speaking of Dana, she went for the Dominatrix look, but, as it turned out, there was a reason for that. Crowd immediately got in on the fun of course, with “Asuka is gonna kill you” chants. Fast paced opening sequence with Asuka getting the upper-hand until the fight spilled to the outside and Dana provided a distraction. Emma took control and worked very hard to make it believable she was dominating Asuka. And she succeeded. Asuka would make her comeback until a ref bump created some confusion. Dana detached some chained piece of her outfit, Asuka was having none of it and tried stopping Emma from using it, ref woke up… and found Asuka with the chain in her hand. He wisely choose not to go for a DQ here and simply confiscated the item. Well as WWE ref’s confiscate things, you know, by just dropping it on the apron. Asuka Lock, Dana distracts the referee who doesn’t see Emma tap. Emma then goes for the chain only to get nailed by one of Asuka’s roundhouse kicks. I could have done with a little less shenanigans at the end, to be honest, as Asuka and Emma were on their way to work a really great opener. It might have been logical, given the circumstances, but they didn’t really need it as they were telling a great solid anyway, supported by outstanding action. Regardless of that (minor) detail, very good opener for this show, that not only confirms Asuka’s rise as one of the major forces in NXT (I mean is she awesome or what?) but also re-establishes Emma as a force to be reckoned with, despite her loss. Great stuff.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match: Champions The Mechanics (Dash and Dawson) defeated Enzo Amore and Big Cass in 14:58 via pinfall
Great reception for Enzo, Cass and Carmella from the London crowd who chanted everything along with them. I rather like Dash and Dawson also as they have that old-school heel tag team feel that works very well in NXT. Challengers controlled heraly until dash and Dawson isolated Enzo. Good, solid offense from the champions, with the crowd edging Enzo on. Hot tag was made and Cass ran wild until, in a nice example of logical storytelling, the champs went for the knee they took out some weeks ago. Enzo and Cass then made they comeback but to no avail as the champs reacted with some fun heel tactics. Carmella even got involved and Cass tried to protect her but got send into the post for his troubles. That was the followed by an awesome off the rope Shatter Machine on Enzo for the win. Logical result as Enzo and Cass don’t really need the belts, while remaining champions legitimizes Dash and Dawson’s reign of terror. People are expecting Enzo and Cass (and Carmella) to be called up to the main roster soon, and I wouldn’t be surprised after their showing here. Good match with a great crowd.
Baron Corbin defeated Apollo Crews in 11:40 via pinfall
After two very good and fast-paced match, it was time for… Baron Corbin to slow down the pace. Drastically. I do get what they were doing here, but, I felt it went too long. While Crews can more or less sell being dominated by Corbin, this just isn’t what people came to see. Furthermore, while Corbin has improved, somewhat, he is still awfully bland. The result show Corbin’s push is far from over, but the match proves how much work there is still to be done on him before he can be fully accepted by the crowd. Easily the worst match of the night, it’s probably unfair to call it bad but it just didn’t do much for me.
Little backstage intermezzo with Nia Jax being interviewed and then getting unnerved by Asuka watching from the side. Stare-down between the two, ended by one of those awesomely psychotic Asuka smiles. Nia is in trouble.
NXT Women’s Championship Match: Champion Bayley defeated Nia Jax in 13:20 via submission
In my preview, I wondered how Bayley was gonna make People forget that Nia Jax just isn’t very good. Refreshingly the answer to that question was great storytelling and great in-ring psychology. The action was fairly simple, Jax overpowered the Champion for the majority of the match while Bayley was constantly searching for ways to outsmart her. The answer finally came in the form of a guillotine choke-hold that was repeatedly used to wear the massive challenger down. Not a patch on Bayley’s previous matches, but nobody really expected that anyway. Bayley is often dismissed by some as this underdog, girl next door character that hasn’t much else to offer, but dear gods, can that girl go in the ring. I was already impressed that she managed to make Eva Marie look like something approaching a wrestler, but here she showed how much of a ring general she has become. Nia Jax was rather efficient in her role and could become something if given more time. More story than match, they made the right call here and didn’t manage to pull off something that was impossible (having a great wrestling match). Another good example of how losing can mean more for someone’s career and progression than winning. Finally hats off (again) to that London crowd who was 300% behind Bayley and really made me laugh with a “Oooh Bayley, Ouh, Ha, I wanna know if you’d be my girl” chant. Awesome.
NXT Championship Match: Champion Finn Balor defeated Samoa Joe in 18:20 via pinfall
Funnily enough Finn Balor (in a little homage to his previous, very creative entrances in NJPW and elsewhere) came out as Jack The Ripper in Demon form. Or something. The English crowd even seemed taken aback at first, which is understandable, just imagine if Dean Ambrose came out impersonating Jeffrey Dahmer or something. So perhaps not the best decision NXT made tonight. That said the crowd recovered and the match started. While the crowd was, of course, firmly behind Balor, it was funny to see that at some points they simply couldn’t help themselves and had to chant Joe’s name as well. As for the match, it was really good and I really liked I got flashes of what both produced in their NJPW (for Balor) and ROH (for Joe) years. It lacked perhaps a bit of storytelling, this was supposed to be a long friendship turned sour after all, but the incessant, intense and hard-hitting action more than made up for that. Finishing stretch was great as both seemed to be very close to winning at various points. But ultimately it was Balor who got the last word with the Coup De Grace. In short a very good and gripping main event to close down the show.
Conclusion: Well, do I really need to spell it out for you? This was another very good show from NXT (with only Crews vs Corbin being somewhat underwhelming, but at least it had a reason for happening which is more than you can say for most WWE matches) and once again a WWE PPV (TLC) pales in comparison. This has been a tremendous year for NXT and they close it on a high note. Like noted during my review, kudos to all involved, including the crowd who gladly created that awesome atmosphere NXT has become known for. As for the future, well it seems Corbin will be the next number 1 challenger, putting Balor in much the same situation as Bayley on this show, meaning he has to figure out how to have a good main event with someone as limited as Corbin. Dash and Dawson will probably soon clash with Jason and Gable while Nia Jax and Asuka seem to be on collision course. Interestingly, the only one who seems to be out of opponents at this time is Bayley. But I have no doubt that situation will be clarified soon. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, the only thing you need to do right now is stop reading this and go watch another excellent show, if you haven’t done so already!
Tags: apollo crews, Asuka, Baron Corbin, bayley, Carmella, Dana Brooke, Dash and dawson, emma, Enzo and Cass, Finn Balor, Nia Jax, Samoa Joe