NXT Recap 4/8/2015: Home Movies
With Wrestlemania Play Button long since in the books, it seems appropriate that we revisit the Wrestlemania Axxess event in which NXT star, Hideo Itami earned a spot in the prestigious Andre the Giant Battle Royal seen at the biggest event of the year, The Wrestlemania Preshow. Snarkiness aside, the suspense level is off the charts this week as we witness 8 men fighting for a spot in the event that Itami appeared in two weeks previously.
We are also treated to same Wrestlemania Axxess clips and video packages that have been shown ad nauseum on the WWE Network and NXT programming. With what amounts to little more than a clip show, there seems to be little reason to tune in this week. However, we do get at least one match out of it. So open up that lap top or turn on that Nintendo DS, because a three week old NXT starts now!
After a very brief recap of the first round of the tournament, the semi finals and our first two matches of the night are set. Unfortunately, Kalisto vs Adrian Neville was featured during the opening rounds and will not be a match featured on the broadcast, despite appearing to have been an excellent contest.
Hideo Itami defeats Adrian Neville
Adrian Neville, having debuted on Raw two weeks prior, enters his farewell match in a losing contest against Hideo Itami. After a break we skip our entrances and go right to action. After pacing throughout the ring for some time, being rewarded with a “This is Awesome,” chant from the audience. The pair size each other up before finally engaging, trading control of waist locks until Neville finally takes control with an arm bar.
However, Itami would regain control with an arm bar of his own and a few strikes to the kidneys. During the opening five minutes of the match, the pace remained subdued, as much time was spent by both playing to the audience. However, as Neville took his turn to pose for the crowd, he fought off a few rogue boos, something I'm sure he's not used to. Despite the boos, Neville carries on hitting Itami back to the mat with a shoulder tackle. Itami quickly fights back, sending Neville into the corner, giving Itami time to play towards the crowd himself.
Neville exits the corner but is greeted with a huge kick, sending Neville to the outside, giving the audience more time to shower Itami with praise. After using the slightly heelish tactic of waiting for a nine count to reenter the ring, Neville regains control with a flurry of strikes in the corner. After a sloppy snap suplex courtesy of Neville and a short two count, Itami hulks out and snaps into beast mode. Itami delivers a trio of clotheslines, a Beauty Shot spinning heel kick and a slow moving leg sweep, Itami nails a flying clothesline for a long two count.
Holding control of match, Itami locks in a standard sleeper hold, keeping the pace good and slow. This gets modified into the rarely seen dragon sleeper, a great homage to legendary Japanese grappler, Ultimo Dragon. Breaking the hold, Itami retains command of the match, teasing the GTS, which of course, Neville breaks out of. As the match reaches it's climax, Itami turns up the gas, nailing his standard combo of a hesitation dropkick in the corner, finishing with a hesitation dropkick off the ropes for the pin.
Despite containing the eventual winner of the tournament and Adrian Neville, this particular match wasn't very good. A great deal of the bout consisted of breaks in the action for the two to placate to the audience, keeping the pace slow. Slow, calculated technical wrestling matches are a treat to watch, when executed well... which sadly this one was not.
Although it picked up in the second half of the bout, by then my interest was long lost. The analog to this was the live audience, who were loud and voracious throughout, despite the slow slog in the ring. Unlike the intimate setting of Full Sail, who have likely seen the pair live more than once, for many there, this was a once in a life time experience. Any of the NXT stars could have sat in the middle of the ring in a monkey costume and the crowd reaction would have likely been the same.
Finn Balor defeats Tyler Breeze
After a break we return to our next match near the end of Balor's entrance. After winning the early bout of grab ass, Balor goes for point two, continuing to chase Breeze around the ring, being sure to keep his eye on the prize. After fending off Balor's sexual advances, Breeze takes early control with a hard shoulder tackle. The pacing, like the last match remains slow and calculated as the pair trade blows early on.
The match takes on a standard flair, both being sure to hit their signatures and notable moves. After hitting a trio of takedowns, Breeze attempts to gain some control, knocking Balor to the mat and ascending to the top rope. Balor lands a hard Enziguri to the back of Breeze's skull, sending him tumbling to the canvas. Breeze would quickly take control of the match, sending Balor into the corner and landing a pair of diving elbows.
After hitting a Slingblade takedown, the match winds down with Balor hitting his hard drop kick into the far corner. Breeze would bounce away from the turnbuckle like a superball and land dead center of the ring as Balor sets up for his finisher. Balor hits the Coup de Gras from an impressive distance for the victory.
Like the last match, this bout suffers from pacing. Both Breeze and Balor took time to pose for the crowd, although there was a comical moment in which Balor draped himself across the top ropes, mocking Tyler Breeze. However, unlike the match prior, the action wasn't allowed to be dragged down by the slow pace as Balor and Breeze seemed to gel a bit better in terms of style.
We enter a break and get our final Dana Brooke promo before her debut next week. A bit more attention is paid to her as a character as we get a bit of a preview of her demeanor and some examples of her body building credentials. Unfortunately, it seems like we're getting another bitchy, heel female wrestler to compliment Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks, although unlike the formers, her physique seems to be the focal point of her character.
After the break, we get some footage and behind the scenes shots of the NXT live event in San Jose CA. Its a standard video recap. Little match footage and lots of clips of promo work from every one from Triple H, to Kevin Owens, the only one in NXT who seems to respect kayfabe outside of the ring. Even with the seemingly heavy entrance of promos and the self indulgence of the NXT brand, the event seemed like a great show, one far more entertaining than the package that was put together for this week's broadcast.
Hideo Itami defeats Finn Balor
Our final match of the night starts with a full entrance for both competitors, Balor's looking a bit out of place with the lights on in a bright white room. The bell rings and is followed by a quick flurry of well choreographed reversals during the opening mat wrestling sequence. After a round of applause from the audience, Balor takes control with an arm bar/arm drag combo. Itami quickens the pace with a sweep, however Balor replies with a high jumping drop kick.
The quickened pace continues until Itami locks in the premier NXT signature hold, the reverse chin lock. Balor would eventually break and reverses out of a sunset flip. Itami would then ascend to the top ropes, a set up for the Balor's special, an Enziguri to the back of the head for a short two count. Itami quickly jumps back into the driver's seat, hitting a running knee in the near corner, which he chains into a tilt-a-whirl ddt across the top rope for a two count.
After slithering out of a crowd pleasing GTS teaser Balor attempts to regain momentum, however, he is sent to the mat as the pair trade kicks to the skull. After arising to the count of seven, the pair trade blows until Itami resummons his inner Hulk Hogan and again enters beast mode, sending Balor in to the corner for a hesitation dropkick. As Itami sets up his standing dropkick, Balor counters with a Slingblade take down and sets up for his finisher. Itami rolls out of the way and again teases the GTS, however Balor again breaks the hold. After being sent into the corner Balor gives chase, however Itami counters, hitting the hesitation dropkick for the win. Itami enjoys his victory as Balor remains in the ring. The pair shake hands, Balor displaying the face of a man who was just screwed by politics.
With the induction of Tatsumi Fujinami into the WWE Hall of Fame this year, there was much international coverage, particularly in the country of Japan. What better way to add to this Cinderella story than to cover the ascent of national hero, Kenta from the minors, to a spot in Wrestlemania in a short six months? That's not to say of course that Itami doesn't deserve the victory and a spot during the big show, however, after a string of losses and a high profile loss to Tyler Breeze, it is an interesting choice
Made more interesting is the short documentary regarding Itami's rise from Kenta to Wrestlemania showed after the match. Much of it is common knowledge and contains some interesting back stage work after the battle royal. More interesting is the footage, albeit choppy footage, of Itami finally landing the GTS, sending the wrestling fan base into a frenzy. Never fear however, he didn't hit it on a televised event, so its okay to talk about it.
With the only substance coming in the way of the Dana Brooke promo, there was little reason to tune in this week. Save for the final bout, the broadcast was even devoid of good wrestling, instead full of crowd pleasing antics and photo ops. With the suspense of watching a two week old high school football game and the intensity of a full contact chess match, unless you're a fan of brief behind the scene shots of young Asian children, the NXT Time Machine Spectacular is definitely a skip.
NXT Rating: 1 out of 5 GTS Finishers