NXT Recap 4/29/2015: Make It Stop
I've made no secret of NXT's lack of forward momentum as of late. The period after Wrestlemania has not been kind to the little federation that could as NXT broadcasts have been rife with predictability and, at times, downright boring ring work. Last week seemed to have righted things somewhat, however, the good ship NXT has been sent back to sea by a broadcast that, at its best, was predicable and boring, and at its worst... downright stupid.
We march on to Full Sail University for a very special, NXT! An edition that lacks so much suspense, the only logical explanation for this evenings piss poor attempt at storytelling is that it was written by the WWE Main Roster Staff. Fire up Minecraft folks, this one's a laffer, and that's with two F's.
We began this week like any good episode of a WWE product, with a long drawn out Promo. However, unlike the main roster, we were graced with a wrestler who hasn't quite yet begun to wear out his welcome. Kevin Owens made his way to the ring to a loud and rowdy crowd. “Fight Owens Fight,” chants filled the arena, along with a healthy mix of cheers and Boos. These chants slowly morphed into the familiar “Ole,” chant as Owens did an A+ job of playing to the crowd and their heckling.
After admitting to desiring to kill Alex Riley the week prior, and calling out Sami Zayn for an immediate match, to no one's surprise, he was instead rewarded with NXT Commissioner, William Regal. Regal appeared to chastise Owens for demanding a match with Zayn while Owens countered with an excellent usage of the phrase, “With all due respect,” This off the cuff exchange would go on to be the highlight of the show.
Zayn's appearance would quickly follow, delivering an attack to Owens, stating that he has been living in Zayn's shadow for some twelve years. After a back and forth, Owens originally not wanting to put the title on the line, in true WWE fashion this led to a match being set for our next NXT Takeover event.
Enzo Amore and Colin Cassidy defeat Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy
After our typical high brow speech from Amore, our match got underway, with Blake taking the early lead. After a pair of quick tags with Amore in the far corner, Blake hit a quick takedown into a two count. After breaking free of a modified sleeper, Amore nailed a counter with a dropkick, sending both crashing to the mat. A hot tag would bring Murphy and Colin into the ring, with Colin taking back the lead for Team Dipshit.
Cass hit a pair of running takedowns to Murphy. Upon rising, Murphy was sent into the ropes only to receive a running knee. A splash into the near turnbuckle would lead to a slam into a pin attempt with Blake saving the match. Amore would ascend to the top for what had to have been a diving crossbody, however, with both adversaries standing in close proximity to each other, they simply took a step back, allowing Amore to eat the canvas.
At this time from the outside, Carmella began to stir, gaining the attention of the legal man, Buddy Murphy. After blowing her a kiss, Murphy would turn around to a running big boot courtesy of Cassidy, the other legal man. After a tag to Amore, the pair set up for the Rocket Launcher and a quick three count.
The intimate setting of NXT benefits both talent in many, diverse ways. The familiar setting allows wrestler superstars the opportunity to perfect their craft without the distractions of a hectic travel schedule. An unwanted symptom however, is the incubated popularity many performers seem to experience. Guys like Enzo Amore experience adulation akin to a Road Dogg or Ken Shamrock, when in all likely hood, a brief period in front of a wider audience would reveal that his jokes that seem to originate from a Laffy Taffy wrapper won't go over well.
The lack of genuine humor isn't the only problem with Enzo Amore and Colin Cassidy. Rewatch match footage of Amore and you'll begin to notice a pattern. Amore gets the shit kicked out of him before hitting maybe one wrestling or two wrestling holds before he hits a tag, allowing Big Cass to hit a finisher or set up for a pin. This has been the mode for sometime now, and the amount of progress that Amore has made is no where near the level that others such as Sasha Banks or Tyler Breeze have achieved.
Post match we were treated to a decent Becky Lynch promo, followed by the contender for worst feud set up of the year, an interview with Bayley is attempted. Bayley breaks the interview early in a huff, complaining she can't find her headbands which, much like Christian's Ass Cream of years past, are clear necessities when it comes to a professional wrestling match. While our damsel leaves in distress, low and behold, enter stage right... it was Emma fucking with her the whole time!
Dana Brooke defeats Bayley
#Huglife. With the announcers taking note of the headbandless Bayley, our match got under way with Bayley applying a standing wristlock. Brooke hit a quick takedown and sent Bayley into the turnbuckle as a loud “We want Blue Pants,” chant erupted from the crowd. Taking note of the chant, Brooke turned up the aggression, delivering a hard knee to Bayley's mid section. Bayley, however, was able to regain some momentum, hitting a somewhat sloppy drop toe hold.
After a missed splash, Baley is sent crashing to the mat. Brooke again took the fight to the far turnbuckle as she showed off her in ring heel presence with a choke hold against the second rope. A fireman's carry led into a single leg boston crab as the pace slowed, with Brooke clearly in the driver's seat. Bayley was able to counter, sending Brook into the near corner with a running tackle. A decent snap suplex sent Brooke to the mat as Bayley ascended to the top rope while her entrance music hits. Our camera panned to reveal Emma slowly making her way to the ring with (gasp!) Bayley's headbands in tow.
Bayley hit her diving corkscrew elbow and made her way to the entrance side ropes to confront Emma for her grand larceny. Brooke would obviously make use of this opportunity to hit the Michinoku Driver for the pin. Upon her exit, Emma would high five Brooke with Bayley in the ring, most likely dumbfounded at what had just taken place.
The entire foundation of professional wrestling rests on the suspension of disbelief. The pageantry is what sets wrestling apart from other combat sports. This is something that the non wrestling fan has a difficult time grasping, as much negative attention is focused on the predetermined results of the matches themselves. Generally WWE does a great job of allowing us to suspend disbelief and really get lost in the storytelling. This was not one of those moments.
The storyline used to set up this feud is insulting to the intelligence of the wrestling fan base. If there were any justice in this country, the Bayley/Emma headband incident would go down in the annals of history along side The Gobbeldy Gooker and the Yeti. Consider for a second if you will, if this situation happened in baseball. What would the headlines be if Nomar Garciapara struck out in the bottom of the ninth because Barry Bonds stole his baseball glove and was waving it from the dugout?
In Bayley's defense however, I too know what it's like to live on the edge. Things like two dollar pieces of plastic can be expensive! and sometimes that big fat WWE pay check barely covers food, let alone my personal headband budget. Also, lets face it, the idea that Emma would steal something of little to no monetary value is not a farfetched proposal.
Hideo Itami defeats Adam Rose
Adam Rose entered to an unusually quite crowd, particularly for an appearance from the prince of party. Our match got underway with a hard standing wrist lock, as Adam Rose broke the hold, leading to his trademark Mexican rolls around the ring. After a hard standing knee, Rose took refuge to the outside to regroup. He would reenter to take lead on offense, hitting a set of hard kicks in the corner into a picture perfect snap suplex for a two count.
After quickly breaking free from a headlock, Itami would take back offense for the remainder of the match. After a spinning heel kick, Itami would enter his end of match sequence. A flurry of strikes leads into a hesitation dropkick to the corner, into the hesitation dropkick off an irish whip for a quick and uneventful victory.
The match began and ended with little fanfare, including the typical hyped fan reaction that comes along side an Adam Rose appearance at Full Sail. I guess that's what happens when you continue to mismanage a popular character and an exceptionally talented performer and entertainer.
Hideo Itami is coming into his own quite nicely and is finally finding his way in the American wrestling style. He is proving to be a great acquisition for the company, and despite his age, will likely pay dividends for WWE for some time. However, it appears that Adam Rose is in serious trouble. Due to mismanagement and what appears to be WWE's and Vince McMahon's disdain for certain NXT talent, Adam Rose appears destined to be another “X” on Vince's wall along side the Ascension, Bo Dallas, Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan, Luke Harper, Cesaro, and Emma. Give them time, Neville will join this list soon enough.
Becky Lynch Defeats Sarah Dobson
A female jobber is somewhat of a unicorn in WWE, a fitting opponent for the loud, animated and boring Becky Lynch. Lynch got things underway with a standing wristlock into a takedown, with Dawson turning into a small package for a two count. After hitting a trio of running leg drops, Lynch sent Dawson into the corner to execute a flurry of kicks.
At this point, the crowd remained firmly split with chants erupting for both performers, Dawson's, however, seemed to be louder. The pair traded momentum before Lynch applied a similar choke seen by Dana Brooke earlier in the night. After being waved off by the ref, Lynch would capture Dawson and apply a vicious, Rhonda Rousey style armbar, the arm appeared to wrench in a manner seen more often in MMA than WWE. Dawson was given no choice but to tap out to the Chris Jericho special, The Armbar.
Female enhancement talent are fairly uncommon on WWE programming, however, its a great thing to see that change. Enhancement talent, when used in this way, are great ways for the new recruits to get some screen time, and a chance for us to see a performer before they are assigned a character. Kudos to WWE for not booking a Baron Corbin style squash match and giving Becky Lynch a chance to wrestle in a real match against a formidable looking adversary.
Sami Zayn defeats Alex Riley
With Owens on commentary we moved to our main event. The announce team did a decent job of playing up Owens prior stint at the commentary desk, while Owens played his character to the nines in entertaining fashion. Zayn got things underway with a standing waist lock as Riley countered into a waist lock of his own. Zayn fought out and took momentum with a series of strikes.
Riley would quickly swing things back in his favor with his signature high standing dropkick into a submission. Zayn would eventually fight out, nailing a running chop in the corner. Riley, again though, would quickly find himself in the driver's seat, hitting a swinging neckbreaker into a hold absent from NXT the week prior, the reverse chin lock.
After a nailing a high heel kick and reversing out of a back body drop, Zayn would appear to have finally taken over the match. However, Riley again would counter, hitting a spinning facebuster, more akin to Brock Lesnar's F5 finisher for a two count. After a countered irish whip, Zayn would send a stampeding Riley to the outside via lowering the top rope, allowing him to connect with his sunset suicide dive.
At this point, Kevin Owens, not content with his role behind a desk exploded onto the entrance ramp, taking down Sami Zayn. Setting his sights on Alex Riley, he would strike, setting him up and executing a powerbomb to the apron to a cheering crowd. The screen faded to black as Owens made his way back stage, title in tow.
The match itself was kept pretty uneventful. No Blue Thunder Bomb. No Blockbuster. No pomp nor circumstance, a theme that resonated through the night. A constant had been the predictability of the matches, and this one is no exception as any time a wrestler is on commentary, the match never ends clean. A curiosity though, is that the match seemed to have ended in no contest rather than a victory for Sami Zayn as he was struck first by interference. However, no winner was announced.
NXT appears to be in a dangerous place currently. Perhaps dangerous is an overstatement, however the similarities to this and the main product cannot be ignored. If NXT continues down the path of throwaway broadcasts between pay per view events, then what was once the last bastion of WWE's love of true professional wrestling will eventually become Smackdown, a show worth checking results, but not worth watching.
The Full Sail audience and the NXT universe at large have a very important thing in common. We are all long term marks and deserve far better than what we have been fed for the last three weeks. Watch the broadcast tonight and spot the person under the age of 18 in the audience. We may all watch wrestling for different reasons, yet I find it highly unlikely that anything seen tonight will be included in that list.
With any hope, my alarmist demeanor and message will be proven wrong and NXT will return to form as the gold standard for WWE. However, one month of misses for a usually spotless program and I begin to worry. While its likely we are on autopilot until our next NXT Takeover event, I'll continue watching, and waiting.