NXT Thoughts- Stay Down, Elias Samson
Powering through this weekend. Luckily for my time management, the last couple of shows I have to review for a little under one hour, meaning that I can get this stuff down and have time to vegetate later. Plus, I've got a comedy show to attend tonight, so that's bound to be fun, the stand-up stylings of Carl Barron. So, lots going on, including a pretty quality episode of NXT! (Man, I've been fortunate, imagine when I have to write about a show that sucks on this schedule?)
-Following a quick NXT Takeover recap video, onto Ember Moon and her 3rd best entrance theme in NXT. She's facing Aliyah. Aliyah appears to be babyface tonight, so it's face vs. face as Ember got a great response from the crowd, being a Texan (these matches were actually taped in San Antonio prior to Takeover).
-Aliyah's come a long way and actually gets a good amount of offense on Ember, including some wicked forearms. Phillips makes the point on commentary that Aliyah may be having success with Ember due to familiarity- they were tag partners a couple of months ago. Ember regains control with a hard clothesline, displaying a bit of viciousness to accompany her usual flashy moves, and follows up with the Eclipse (top rope diving stunner) for the win. Philips with the nice call of, "that's the move people pay to see when Ember Moon is in the building." The commentary team puts Ember over strong as the potential next challenge for Asuka.
-Following a quick Sanity interview, a recap of Tye Dillinger's weekend, from the loss to Eric Young to drawing #10 at the Rumble. We go to a backstage interview with Tye (from WWE.com after the Rumble match). Dillinger is clearly ecstatic as he talks about the ups and downs of his career, encapsulated in that weekend with the Takeover loss one night to his main roster debut the next. Really great to see that genuine emotion. One small issue- and it's not overly important in the current wrestling climate. but good for suspension of disbelief- Tye should have said something like, "Even though I came up short..." WWE should take every opportunity to make it look like wins and losses matter in the world of WWE, it just makes it easier to buy into the story. Dillinger should have had a quick second of disappointment in there that he lost, rather than just being happy to finally be there.
-Tyler Bate makes his NXT debut, facing Oney Lorcan. Having looked at upcoming NXT spoilers (obviously mild spoilers coming here so avert your eyes for a line or so), it looks like that until the participants in the UK Championship tournament get their own Network show, NXT will be their home for a little while. The smart Takeover crowd knows who Tyler Bate is and gives him a respectful ovation. Lorcan is a good opponent for the 19 year old champion, being a hard-hitting veteran. Bate has great confidence and fire, kipping up and staring straight into the hard camera. Main roster this kid, he's learnt the WWE style. Tyler Driver '97 finishes it, and I'm impressed and a little jealous of the power of someone 7 years my junior.
-Quick series of backstage interviews directly after the Takeover event which highlights the victorious Roderick Strong, AOP, Bobby Roode, and the injured Nakamura. Wondering if Nakamura is legitimately hurt (or going to the main roster) and this is writing him out (spoilers incoming again), not just because of his great selling, but I notice that Nakamura is absent from the next set of NXT tapings, much like the newest Raw roster member Samoa Joe was absent for the last set. Anyway, these interviews are great in keeping the ball rolling for NXT storylines while avoiding the problem of having them come out in front of the live crowd before Takeover even happens.
-The announce team is shown on camera, and it's to acknowledge the NXT departure of Corey Graves. This is his final episode. Phillips throws to a lengthy video package for Graves (who seems a little embarrassed by the pomp and circumstance of it). The video is absolutely outstanding, I've watched it 3 times and I'm sure I'll watch it several more. It acknowledges that Corey Graves was one of the original OGs of NXT, along with the likes of Ambrose, Rollins, Reigns, Big E, Neville, Wyatt and Sami Zayn. Clips of his FCW days and early NXT wrestling career are shown, including his NXT Tag Title win with the King of the Cruiserweights. Then, the injuries piled up for Graves, and we throw to "confession booth/promo class" videos of Graves appearing to lose his mind with the stress and frustration of having these concussions. At one point, he sounds and looks a lot like Dean Ambrose as he says "I'm not allowed to play." That part's a little hard to watch, because he was kind of in wrestling promo mode, but you could feel the truth in what he was saying... I'm guessing they may have recorded those videos in the hope that they could be used if Graves was able to make a comeback in wrestling. During his time out of the ring, he did everything he could be involved in NXT- sweeping, setting up cables, picking music for new NXT stars (which makes me wonder what current themes were Graves' choices). After four concussions in a year, though, Graves emotionally announces his retirement from wrestling and his transition to the announce team. Cut to some of his great calls of gushing over Eva Marie, Bobby Roode and his trademark "Kinshasa!!!!!" Nice quote to basically wrap things up from Corey- "My father told me if you ever want to succeed anything, you gotta fail first. And if you're lucky, you get to break through. And once you break through, you never have to look back." Amazing, amazing video. I'm a huge fan of Corey Graves, so I might be a little biased, but that really pulled at the heartstrings.
-In what feels like a rib on Graves, immediately following the big tribute, Elias Samson's music hits (who was in the video as a target of Graves' scorn). As the Savior of Misbehaviour is apoplectic at the appearance- and really, the existence- of the Drifter, Samson gives him a little wave goodbye. I can't stand him, but nice dick move. Graves gets in his shots while he can, saying "Last night, I was on the Riverwalk and saw a guy laying on the ground playing guitar, I gave him $50 for not being Elias Samson!"
-Samson controls the main event match with No Way Jose, and as usual is boring as sin. Jose rallies with the pop up punch for the win, and that's all I have to say about that one. Graves shares my apathy, as Tom Phillips asks, "Any last words for Elias Samson?", and Graves responds with an immediate, emphatic, "No."
-Good episode. It highlights the events and winners from Takeover, and although the nature of the show meant that we weren't getting lengthy matches, the first two matches were very entertaining albeit quick. They dedicated some time to officially setting up Asuka vs. Ember Moon, and Tyler Bate had a great NXT debut, and was fortunate to get a nice response from the knowledgeable crowd. The decision to move WWE-UK competitors to NXT, even for a short time, is a good one. The Corey Graves video package was one of the best I've seen over the past couple of years. He'll be missed on NXT, but is still kicking ass on Raw and 205 Live. Wasn't crazy about No Way Jose vs. Elias Samson, but Graves in roaster mode made it tolerable.
Back to Full Sail next week, and the view switches towards Takeover Orlando- which did I mention I'm seeing live? Will be fun to write the build up here in Australia then travel across the globe to see it all come to a head.
Until next time, take care,