NXT Thoughts- Chris Hero, Back In Orlando? Oh No!
Greetings, grapple fans! Welcome to my NXT blog. I feel slightly bad, because in my 205 Live blog, I gave the impression that I was unhappy with NXT, when that couldn't be further from the truth. I do believe that the show isn't as great as it was a year or two ago, but there's various factors involved. I referred to one at the end of 205 Live, and that's roster depletion. It should go without saying that a show starring Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe, Neville and Finn Balor is better than one starring No Way Jose, Eric Young, Bobby Roode and Tye Dillinger. Nothing against the latter group, but the former group was a collection of the world's greatest talent outside of WWE at the time (bar AJ Styles) and the current roster is filled with developmental projects, which, let's remember is the core of what NXT was originally about. It has evolved into a touring brand, but the overall purpose of NXT is to prepare wrestlers for how WWE operates on the main roster.
The other thing was creative. Dusty Rhodes had a huge hand in the creative and booking of NXT, and while his death had a profound effect on the industry as a whole, it had a direct, tangible effect on the way NXT operates. Also, long time head writer for NXT, Ryan Ward, was poached to write Smackdown once higher ups became aware of the stellar work he was doing at Full Sail.
On the positive side of things, the talent turnover has allowed Performance Centre products to take the ball and run it. Tye Dillinger might be one of the best examples of that. A long time veteran (he was around during WWE's version of ECW), he's always been a good hand in the ring, but in the last 12 months, I've seen a marked improvement in his promos, his confidence, his facial expressions, his body language.. all the things that people generally refer to as 'having it" in pro wrestling. Other successes are No Way Jose, Andrade "Cien" Almas, and Billie Kay & Peyton Royce. It's cool for me as a long time fan to see the change in performers, as opposed to indy standouts like Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn, who you knew had it the moment they walked in the door.
Onto the show!
-The Ealy Brothers are coming out to be squas- err, I mean take on the Authors of Pain, trying to get revenge from the other week where AOP jumped them. Amusingly- and I've touched on this before on NXT- the jobber team were bigger than the "monster" team they were facing, and it was noticeable to the point where the commentators had to acknowledge it. AOP aren't actually as big as you might like them to be for the roles they are portraying, it's just that they've faced smaller teams like DIY and TM-61 previously. Anyway, the Ealy twins get squashed- with a botched Super Collider in there. AOP are still very much a work in progress.
-Post match, Paul Ellering cuts one of his droning promos- seriously, he was meant to be a legendary manager, he managed the Legion of Doom, but he hasn't given a particularly good promo since he's been in NXT. Mercifully, DIY (I refuse to put a hashtag before their name) interrupt and Ciampa does a great job mocking Ellering's promo style. I approve. DIY have great personalities, I'm all for any time they're allowed to show it on NXT TV. The Revival interrupt and state their case for a tag title shot. Cue the music of NXT GM Mr. William Regal. He makes a triple threat tag team elimination match for NXT Takeover Orlando. I approve!
-My immediate thought was that Revival and DIY will do an excellent job covering AOP's weaknesses. My second though was, can we just have AOP eliminated in the first two minutes and have DIY and Revival go at it again for a good half hour?
-Really cool video package with Asuka. They've taken the Brock Lesnar approach to her booking in the ring, now they're doing it with her promo style, letting her deliver soundbites in a carefully edited video. She looks stunning in a sundress also! Beyond excited about seeing Asuka vs. Ember Moon at NXT Takeover Orlando.
-Macey Estrella makes her entrance to face Nikki Cross. She was on NXT a few weeks ago as a jobber in a tag match to the Iconic Duo, I believe. They've tweaked her name a little and rejigged her gimmick. She used to be in the Marine Corp, and her white and black outfit may be possible be a take on the Marine uniform, I'm not sure. It, umm, shows off her assets nicely though. She's very tall and has muscle definition, but still looks feminine. Closer to Beth Phoenix than Chyna. With some seasoning, she might do well in a featured role, great look and great story. Unfortunately, this isn't her time, and takes the loss after 5 consecutive swinging neckbreakers.
-Post match, Dillinger and Jose run in, Sanity beat them down. It's quite generic and repetitive at this point. I like everyone in this feud (bar Roderick Strong, who was absent on this episode), but it's just not clicking for me.
-Andrade "Cien" Almas picks on Ho Ho Lun at the Performance Centre, Oney Lorcan stands up for him. As a teacher, I don't normally condone bullying at all, but I'd be very happy if Cien locked Ho Ho Lun in a locker and we never had to see him again. Useless piece of trash, he is. Corey Graves has (or had) Elias Samson, I have Ho Ho Lun.
-Sanity vs. Dillinger/Jose/Strong next week. Well, that's surprising. I was positive that would be the opening match on Takeover. Maybe they'll rematch there with some kind of gimmick, Orlando Street Fight or something.
-Time for the main event! Bobby Roode defends his NXT title against a returning Kassius Ohno. I've only ever seen one match of Kassius Ohno, and that was against William Regal several years ago. As Chris Hero on the indies, he built up an amazing reputation, especially in the 4 years between his NXT stints, so I'm anxious to see what all the hype is about. For Roode, this is his first title defence since beating Shinsuke Nakamura at Takeover San Antonio.
-Speaking of Nakamura, he faces the winner of this match for the NXT Championship. He's shown backstage watching the match on a TV (dressed to wrestle, for some reason).
-Ohno controls all the early action, and quickly shows why the world (or the smarks that follow indy wrestling closely) has been talking about him. He's put on a good 40 pounds since the Regal match, and wrestles in a singlet, but is still highly agile, flipping over the ropes almost ala Ric Flair and nipping up at one point. The extra weight also adds more credibility to his strikes, and is almost JBL esque with his impact. Highly impressed so far.
-Roode, to his credit, fights back with a lariat to the back of the head. It's not a cheap move, per se, but there's something a bit callous and vicious about it, isn't there? The two men are performing as if it is a real fight, and the commentators call it very well in a sports-like fashion, noting the physical differences between the sculpted Roode and the bulkier Ohno. Probably Nigel McGuinness's best work at the table yet. But the wrestlers are using holds and strikes to great effect. While Ohno is doing some things to show his agility and stamina, he's not gratuitously flying around the ring- like Kevin Owens is often guilty of doing. It feels like a true battle.
-Ohno with the spinning elbows and cyclone kicks- so JBL with a ton of finesse and speed. Roode fires back with a spinebuster. Some great back and forth, and Roode gains credibility by getting the upper hand without cheating. The finish has a bit of shenanigans, but I'd say it's more resourcefulness- a series of counters led to Ohno flying throat first into the top rope, leading to the Glorious DDT for the win.
-Great effort. Roode defends his title in semi-clean fashion, gains cred as a champ. Ohno gains credibility by getting all his shit in and taking the champ to the limit in his first match back. That established him firmly as a main event guy in NXT going forward, and he made me a big fan in that match.
So, top matches at NXT Takeover: Orlando-
Bobby Roode vs. Shinsuke Nakamura II
Asuka vs. Ember Moon
DIY vs. Revival vs. AOP
...Take my money! Oh wait, they already have hahaha. Damn VIP Wrestlemania Travel Package! Yeah, I'm bragging a little. I was lucky enough to win the money on the pokies, so yay ticking a huge thing off my bucket list. 5 more days of work, 10 days until I fly to Orlando. So excited!
Until next time, take care,