WWE NXT Classic: NXT Redemption Episode 6

William Regal is on a one-man mission to make this show watchable. Watch the April 12 2011 edition of NXT Redemption right here.

striker checks out maryse

Striking Out

This week’s episode started with a video package highlighting all the drama that is the Maryse love square. The monkeys in the truck are well-known for their ability to knock out a top class video package but even they can’t polish this turd. To be fair, they weren’t given much to work with. Lucky Cannon, Yoshi Tatsu and Ted DiBiase Jr make Vin Diesel look like Mads Mikkelsen.

The big question is whether Maryse has chosen Ted or NXT. Surprisingly they get this out of the way immediately. Matt Striker asked for her decision, to which she said “look at me”. In an absolutely vintage Striker moment, he took this literally and proceeded to check her out. What she meant was look at me, I can get any man I want, see ya never Ted. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a relationship in WWE end with such little fanfare, Ted doesn’t even show up to dispute her answer.

Besides, why have one charisma vacuum when you can have six?

wheres the charasma

The rookies assembled for this week’s challenge, The Power of the Punch. Sadly, it wasn’t Regal putting his brass knuckles on and decking everyone. Simply put, it was one of those test your strength punchbags from a funfair. Each rookie got one punch, rookie with the highest score won. Byron Saxton got us underway and set the tone with a score of 649. The crowd booed. Jacob Novak went next and absolutely whiffed it, scoring just 456. This was Maryse’s reaction:

rice pudding

“Couldn’t break the skin of a rice pudding, that lad,” said William Regal, barely containing his disgust. The booing intensified. Up next was Darren Young, who barely beat Jacob with 469. Maryse insisted she could do better. Conor O’Brian took the lead with 770 but was immediately trumped by Titus O’Neil who smashed it with 801. It was down to Lucky Cannon but instead of taking a swing, he insisted he was above it. He’s here to win championships, which is fair enough in my opinion. However, they don’t take kindly to that sort of talk on this embarrassing talent show that no one is watching and Lucky got a DQ.

That meant Titus won! He took the four redemption points. I think you get two magic beans to the redemption point.

Lucky took out his frustration at being forced to partake in this wheelie bin fire of a show on Maryse, but Yoshi came out to defend her honour or something. Lucky laid out the challenge to his love rival and Yoshi accepted. An epic main event awaited.

orton film

I Am What I Am

WWE love to flog their films on NXT Redemption and this week’s shill slot was given to That’s What I Am, which I’ve never heard of but am now fascinated by after seeing this trailer. It’s set in the 60s and follows this geek at school as he falls for a girl, but he then has to work with an even bigger geek for a project and you can tell he’s a bigger geek because he’s ginger and wearing big fake ears and Ed Harris is a teacher but he might be a paedo and Randy Orton is threatening to go to the papers. It’s like four films in one and none of them sound any good. Incredibly, it has a rating of 7.1 on IMDb.

darren gets horny

Titus O’Neil v. Darren Young

It’s interesting to see the humble beginnings of Titus and Darren before their legendary battles in 2016. I still get chills when I think of this seminal promo from Titus, it’s the Cane Dewey of this generation.

Back to reality and Darren cut a promo on his way to the ring about how Hornswoggle is a “pint-sized joke”. In a fantastic bit of Randy Orton-esque over-explaining, Darren then pointed at Hornswoggle and said “you’re a joke.” Glad he cleared that up, I suppose he could have been talking about the 6’6 Titus. Todd Grisham pointed out this is height discrimination and he won’t stand for it. He didn’t even crack up as he said it, fair play.

It’s only the sixth episode but it’s already the third time Titus and Darren have been in the ring together. It’s probably because they’re the best the show has to offer in-ring wise, but that says a lot about the quality of the show. The match was par for the course, just a few minutes long and ended when Darren was distracted by Hornswoggle, allowing Titus to roll him up. Strong as an ox 6’6 guy wins with a distraction roll-up.

After the match, Darren attacked Titus and grabbed Hornswoggle, but was talked out of beating him down by his pro, Chavo Guerrero. Like I could believe that, if anyone on this show is going to beat up a dwarf, it’s Chavo Guerrero.

headcrack novak

Pretty Fly For A White Guy

Last week, JTG wagered with Vladimir Kozlov that he could make Jacob cool. So, this week JTG introduced Headcrack Novak and well, the result is above. Look at the sheer boredom on the faces of those kids. This is what William Regal made of it all:

regal disbelief

“I feel so sorry for this show.”

Headcrack heard all of Regal’s comments about him being a terrible excuse of a pro wrestler and he wouldn’t stand for it any longer. Regal sat in silence the entire time, watching Novak, infuriating him further until he appeared to challenge Regal. Only then, did Regal speak: “the last thing that lad wants is me turning him into a bloody vegetable.” It’s certainly not the last thing I want.

novak big boot

Jacob Novak v. Byron Saxton

The match was nothing, but Regal cut a brilliant promo on commentary about being an old pro. The sort you’ll be familiar with is you seen his spell as final boss on NXT. He goes into detail about what the ring means to him, why he wipes his feet before a match and his struggle to put his past behind him and reinvent himself in a new role.

silvio

Jacob bounced Byron off the top rope, followed up with two kicks and finished Byron with the softest big boot ever. It was similar to how you’d push open a door when your hands are full. The crowd couldn’t even be arsed to boo anymore.

edge retirement

Rated-R Feels

This show wasn’t even the worst thing to happen to wrestling that week. It took place a few days after Edge retired. His retirement speech is replayed in full and it’s a strange thing to watch. It’s so sudden that no one, Edge included, seems to know how to react. There’s total disbelief on the faces of some fans. There’s some nice nods to those with the benefit of flash photography, The Brood and even the live sex celebration. Edge was one of my favourites as a kid and I still remember reading his blogs on wwe.com when he was recovering from a broken neck. It’s good to see he’s settled into a life outside WWE now, having children and giving them mad celebrity names like Lyric.

luckys reaction when

Lucky Cannon v. Yoshi Tatsu

Here we are then, the battle for Maryse even though she doesn’t want either of them. She sat in on commentary and buried both of them, twice comparing Yoshi to a five-year-old before going on a remarkable tangent about how Lucky’s “Da Lish” nickname reminds her of a French dish of fried potatoes, gravy and cheese. I googled this and it turns out she was talking about Poutine. I am pretty confident Maryse has never eaten Poutine in her life. Not that I will either. Why ruin some chips and gravy with cheese? What is wrong with Quebecers?

This battle for the ages went a whole four minutes before Yoshi won with a diving spinning heel kick that almost made contact. The King of Kings was victorious and even got a kiss from Maryse for his trouble.

maryse and yoshi kiss

It’s pretty obvious she did it just to spite Lucky but who’s got the heart to tell him? He was made up, bless him.

WWE NXT Classic: NXT Redemption Episode 5

Straight from the depths of hell, NXT Redemption classic reviews have been revived. Essentially, it’s a lot more fun to write about terrible wrestling. Terrible wrestling is timeless, it’s why Botchamania is so popular.

This is where we left off way back when. Let’s get back to it with episode 5 from April 5 2011, watch it here if you dare.

as it stands

No, you did enjoy Wrestlemania

Previous episodes were hindered by the upcoming Wrestlemania 27, not that the show needs help hindering itself. Episode 4 was largely a 30 minute plug for Mania with a six-man tag slapped on the end. But now, with Mania out of the way, you’d think it’s time to focus on NXT. Well, you’d be wrong! Todd Grisham opens the show by saying it’s been two days since one of the greatest Wrestlemanias ever. Now thankfully I’ve never seen WM27, it happened exactly a year before I started watching wrestling again, but I do know that it was generally regarded as a stinker with one of the worst main events to ever take place at Mania. Basically, your opinion is invalid in the eyes of WWE.

That’s not it with regards to the showcase of the immortals, as the show starts with a Wrestlemania trivia challenge. The rookies simply have to take it in turns to name a winner from Wrestlemania 27, the show that took place two days ago. Piece of piss, right? Well, Darren Young goes first and says Bret Hart. It’s a wrong answer. ANYONE, Darren. You could have said any one of the winners from the show that was happening 48 hours ago. Byron Saxton & Jacob Novak get us on track with The Undertaker & Randy Orton, before Conor O’Brian goes with Snooki. Showcase of the immortals. Now, Lucky Cannon had been surprisingly decent in the last two shows. It was bog-standard stuff like local sports team heat but at least he was acting like something resembling a professional wrestler. But this week it’s a swing and a miss. Instead of answering he asks Matt Striker if he knows where his girlfriend was last night because he does. It’s like he had prepared the line and was going to say it no matter what. William Regal points out the other flaw with Lucky’s statement, Matt Striker doesn’t have a girlfriend. Lucky should know Striker is more of a Craigslist kind of guy anyway.

Titus O’Neil, Byron & Jacob all answer correctly but Conor comes up blank and gets eliminated. The topic switches to Hall of Fame 2011 inductees. We get through five answers until Jacob fails to come up with anything. Byron & Titus are the final two and have to name NXT rookies. They both open with themselves and after going back and forth for a bit, Titus says Byron. It’s an invalid answer so Byron takes the victory and the four crucial Redemption points, whatever they do.

conor roll up

Conor O’Brian v. Jacob Novak

It’s revealed on commentary that Jacob has switched from white trunks to gold because he actually took Byron’s diapers comment to heart. I was right! I was just joking and thought I was over-analysing a six-year-old bad wrestling show. What other subtleties have I been missing?

The main take away from these old shows is how good William Regal was on commentary. There’s about ten things from this episode alone I could quote. It’s more entertaining than what’s going on in the ring, that’s for sure. Todd tells us Conor has two dogs called Princess & Diva and asks Bill what this tells us about Conor. Regal’s response is: “Not a lot. I don’t like dogs.” He then switches flawlessly to analysing a wristlock. This show really isn’t worthy of his aloof charm.

Conor gets the win by ducking Jacob’s attempted Helluva Kick and rolling him up for the three. Hang on, I think we need to take a moment to absorb the news that Konnor from The Ascension called his dogs Princess & Diva. I wouldn’t have thought the wasteland was a good place to raise dogs.

maryse steps over yoshi

The Original (Sh)It Couple

In the latest chapter in Yoshi Tatsu’s quest to win Maryse’s affection, he is duped by the dastardly Lucky Cannon. Lucky apologises to Yoshi for interfering with his attempts and lies that he heard Maryse likes him too. Poor Yoshi takes the bait and goes to ask Maryse out. Now before The Miz, came Ted DiBiase Jr. Ted denies Yoshi on her behalf and beats him up for good measure. Yoshi’s misery is compounded when Maryse steps over him like he’s a puddle.

At this stage, Maryse is still a bit ropey but there’s moments where you see 2017 Maryse trying to burst out. Returning as Miz’s overly protective wife has been the making of her, Miz too. Those hilarious Total Bellas spoofs cemented them as one of WWE’s top acts.

maryse bella

You know whaaaaaaaaat? Perfect.

darren test of strength

Titus O’Neil & Hornswoggle v. Darren Young & Chavo Guerrero

Titus is wearing an Omega logo on his gear. It made me realise what this show needs is for Kenny Omega to fully embrace his Terminator theme from Wrestle Kingdom and time travel back to 2011 and V-Trigger everyone in sight. Anything that means I don’t have to watch a Hornswoggle match would suffice.

The referees seem to take a very lax view of the rules during tag matches on this show. This week takes that to the next level when Mike Chioda allows a blatant Hornswoggle low-blow. Darren gets on his knees for a test of strength with Horny and midget jokes ensue. In response, Hornswoggle boots Darren in the balls in full sight of the ref. Straight-up kicks him the daddybags. Chioda gestures that it’s a gut kick even though Darren is selling a kick in the swingers. I don’t think anyone cares at this point.

It doesn’t get any better as Chavo goes to the top rope but gets hampered by Swoggle biting his ankle. Chavo sells the bite despite the fact he’s wearing wrestling boots and wouldn’t feel a thing. The match ends with a member of the Guerrero family chasing a dwarf under the ring as Titus gives his future tag partner a Clash of the Titus for a merciful end.

ted ultimatum

Ted DiBiase Jr. v. Yoshi Tatsu

It’s obvious that nothing matters on this show but this match was preceded by a Raw recap that showed a John Cena/Rock promo in full. Wrestlemania 27 might be over but we need to start that build for 28, it’s only 51-and-a-half weeks away.

The main event of a show designed to find the next breakout star in WWE features one of the pros and a guy who isn’t even meant to be on the show fighting for the host’s love. The Game Yoshi Tatsu heads to the ring full of purpose but gets boringly stomped on for a couple of minutes before Ted gets disqualified for winning too well or some shit. All I can say is woof, Ted DiBiase Jr. It’s like they took one of the failed Randy Orton clones from the lab and thought sod it, he’ll do.

Maryse gets a pang of guilt and orders Ted to stop beating down Yoshi. Ted hilariously seems to think NXT is leading Maryse astray and sets her an ultimatum, somehow doing so with even less charasma than John Johnson. It’s either Ted or NXT. Maryse has one week to decide.

Tune in next time for her answer. The suspense is killing me.

WWE NXT Takeover Orlando Review: Revive It Yourself

Say what you like about the build-up, but Takeover delivered once again.

revive it yourself

We simply have to start with the Tag Team Championship match. Last year, NXT belonged to the tag teams and going by what we’ve seen in 2017 so far, it still does.

When #DIY and The Revival get in the ring together, magic happens. We all know what happened in Toronto last year and my favourite NXT match of 2017 so far was their title match back in January. Well, it was my favourite until last night because #DIY, The Revival and The Authors of Pain may have just put on the best NXT tag team match ever. I was absolutely blown away by what these three teams achieved on Saturday. This match was perfect in showcasing what these three teams are all about. #DIY are the best babyfaces in NXT and they got scrap around, punch above their weight and have love reigned down on them. The Revival continued to be a match of the year factory and the absolute best tag team on this planet. Meanwhile, AOP really turned up to the tag team party and they emerged looking like monsters. They rode out the 4-on-2 attack to eliminate both of NXT’s top teams. They actually got heat for it too, granted they were booed simply because they weren’t #DIY or The Revival, but take it where you can get it.

The story of the match was that #DIY and The Revival realised they needed to work together to eliminate AOP so they could take their chances with one another. However, they dislike each other so much that couldn’t co-exist for long enough to get the job done. They immediately teamed up to attack the champs but instead of going for the elimination, they ended up fighting each other. But whichever combination was in the ring, great things were happening.

dawson superplex

When the challengers finally got back on the same page, it was exhilarating. DIY tried to powerbomb Rezar through the table that had been set-up in the rapid opening, but it wasn’t until Dash & Dawson joined in that they could finally drive the big Albanian through the table. I’d have thought that would be a DQ, but I suppose they got away with it considering it took all four to drop Rezar. Before the match, I thought AOP would retain, but suddenly I was sure they were losing, Rezar was laid out and Scott Dawson locked Akam in an inverted figure-four. Johnny Gargano ran in to slap on the Gargano escape to ramp up the pain, Tommaso Ciampa & Dash Wilder egged them on and Orlando bayed for Akam to tap. It was an incredible sight and there were such disappointment when Rezar powered through to break it up. But the match kicked up another level when Dawson & Gargano combined to hit #DIY’s superkick/knee strike combo and then we got a Shatter Machine courtesy of Ciampa & Wilder. There’s few things in wrestling that get me more pumped than someone using an opponent’s finisher out of nowhere, and the half-and-half we got last night was a nice riff on the old trick. I think it was a nod to their Toronto classic too, when The Revival cocked up #DIY’s finish only to walk into a Shatter Machine courtesy of Johnny & Tom, my favourite part of that match.

Dawson attempted a desperate last-ditch effort with an insane superplex onto the crowd of bodies on the floor, but it even that wasn’t enough. AOP took out #DIY with the Last Chapter on Ciampa, leaving The Revival all alone. Despite Wilder heroically sacrificing himself to save Dawson from the Last Chapter, it was too much for Dash & Dawson and AOP ended it with the Supercollider.

aop new titles

An absolutely outrageous match. I don’t believe in giving out star ratings or assigning arbitrary numbers to indicate the quality of a match, but this was wrestling at its best.

roode new title

 

Main eventing the show, at least on paper, was Shinsuke Nakamura v. Bobby Roode for the NXT Championship. At Takeover San Antonio, Roode captured the title from Nakamura in a very good match, with a brilliant finale. It was the best NXT title match in over a year, but helped as it wasn’t preceded by anything truly great. That’s been the problem for the NXT Championship, by the time the main event rolled around, the crowd had already been blown away by the women or the tag teams. It was a tough act to follow, and last night it was the same. I pity anything having to follow that triple threat tag match, but Nakamura v. Roode II just didn’t quite stand out. It was a solid, perfectly watchable wrestling match that I will probably have no memory of in a few months. That’s not to say there wasn’t anything good about it. The match told a logical story and had the right conclusion.

Essentially, Bobby Roode is an intelligent wrestler that pays attention. The pre-match vignette showed him watching their previous match, when Nakamura buckled his knee and insisted on using it to hit a Kinshasa. Bobby knows Kinshasa is Nakamura’s best weapon because he felt the full force of it. In San Antonio, he was out for the count but survived because Nakamura was in horrible pain and couldn’t pin him quick enough. So here he spends most of the match working Nakamura’s dodgy knee and doing his damnedest to avoid Kinshasa. The first time he avoided it, he chop blocked the shit out of Nakamura’s knee and applied a figure-four. Shout out to Nigel McGuiness for implying the figure-four is 10x worse than childbirth, more on poor Nigel later. Bobby escaped the ring later backing off from a Kinshasa and turned another attempt into a lovely spinebuster. The first Glorious DDT wasn’t enough to put the King of Strong Style down but a beautiful tornado Glorious DDT did the trick.

glorious ddt

I had some fears we’d end up with three-time champion Nakamura. Not out of dislike or anything, it just wouldn’t have been a good use of him. Hopefully now he can move on up to Smackdown or Raw and we can get some fresh faces in the title picture. Roode might have a new challenger already:

drew mcintyre nxt

WHAT’S DREW MCINTYRE DOING IN THE NXT ZONE?!?!?!11!?1ONE!

I’m thrilled to see Drew back in WWE. I thought getting rid of him was a mistake anyway, but the time away has done Drew the world of good. I’ve seen Drew live a few times since he hit the indies and it’s clear to me that he’s one of the best in the world. Every time I left a show that Drew performed on, all I could think was how is this guy not a WWE main-eventer? The size of a wrestler is often exaggerated, but I actually think Drew’s size is downplayed. The guy is a giant and always seems to tower over his opponents, something something indie vanilla midgets etc.

The question is why NXT? While I could easily see Drew as WWE’s first British world champion, Drew in NXT can definitely be mutually beneficial. The last time a casual WWE fan saw Drew, he was a comedy jobber in a pretend rock band. The last thing he needs is a Raw crowd chanting 3MB or What or CM Punk at him. Muttonheads. But in NXT he can re-establish Drew McIntyre. Show everyone why he was “the chosen one”.

Welcome back Drew. NXT roster… You. Are. Fucked.

no eclipse

It was a battle of the streaks as Asuka put her NXT Women’s Championship on the line against Ember Moon. This is a match I’ve been looking forward to for a while, NXT’s top two women and a realistic challenger for Asuka. Initially, I thought this could be the end for Asuka but the clunky build-up quickly had me reconsidering. The foundations are there but I think this match came too soon. Holding Takeovers before the Big 4 PPVs presents scheduling issues. There were only nine shows between San Antonio & Orlando and one of those was pre-recorded before San Antonio, so that’s 8 hours to build to a show on the biggest weekend of the year, it’s not enough. The main story was that Ember Moon possesses a devastating move that could feasibly beat Asuka. Unfortunately, they beat us over the head with how deadly the Eclipse is. There was no subtlety, it was plainly THE ECLIPSE IS REALLY DANGEROUS, YOU GUYS. Honestly, I’m a bit surprised Asuka didn’t eat an Eclipse and kick out because of how silly the build-up was.

However, I liked what they did with the match. It’s always best to leave it to the professionals in the ring. Asuka hasn’t lost since arriving in NXT, she’s been champion for a year and she’s spent her entire tenure blitzing everyone who’s dared to face her. She doesn’t see how anyone can top her, so she hasn’t taken Ember seriously at all. After San Antonio, she didn’t even know Ember Moon worked at NXT. Asuka expected another geek like Liv Morgan or Billie Kay. But Ember is better than that and rocked Asuka. She threw some tasty forearm smashes, tossed Asuka with a couple of suplexes and resisted the Asuka Lock. Asuka was complacent and got spooked when Ember fought back, so much so that the champion resorted to cheating. When Ember went up top for the Eclipse, Asuka panicked and chucked the ref into the ropes, Ember crashed and burned, Asuka kicked her head in for the win.

asuka new title

This leaves us with several interesting options. Asuka has leaned towards being a heel in recent months but this is the first time she has outright cheated. I’d definitely be curious to see her go full Skull Reaper, she won’t get booed because it’s impossible to boo someone who looks this good in a sundress:

asuka sundress

I got distracted, where we were? Options, right. Clearly, Asuka wanted nothing to do with it last night and thought as long as she avoided it, she had Ember under control. This, of course, was true but she probably never planned for Ember to even make it to the top rope. There’s an insecurity there and a chink in Asuka’s previously impervious armour. Ember can learn from her experience of facing Asuka once and exploit Asuka’s fears over the Eclipse. There’s a long time until the next Takeover, which gives us plenty of time to sufficiently hype Asuka v. Ember II.

aleister black debut

Takeover marked the official debut of Aleister Black, and I’m very excited to see what he’s got in store. Tommy End was one of those wrestlers I always wanted to see in-person on the indies and while I was never fortunate enough, I’ll settle for seeing him on TV every week. He looks fantastic, he’s totally unique (especially for WWE), and he immediately looked like a big deal. His entrance was full of mystery and all eyes were on him.

It was good debut from in-ring perspective, Black and Andrade Cien Almas worked well together, apart from one dodgy pin. Black throws his strikes with real malice and it’s always good to see someone who makes it look legit. The way he lifted Almas by the chin using his foot was badass and he put him back down with the Black Mass spin kick.

ingobernable

While it was Black’s night, how good is Almas? I say get this man a championship ASAP, but I think it’s a little way off sadly. At the moment he’s stuck in the Tyler Breeze/CJ Parker role of making the new guy look good. Clearly, there’s a lot of trust in Almas to do this role but I think he could be so much more. I had little knowledge of La Sombra and his introduction to NXT was underwhelming but since turning he’s been a highlight of NXT. There’s a real intensity to his work and he’s starting to put together a good collection of work in NXT. Him and Oney Lorcan have had a couple of good fights and his match with Roddy Strong in San Antonio was arguably match of the night. There should be great things on the horizon for El Idolo. Dare I say he should recruit some Ungovernables, perhaps?

Also, Nigel called NXT Ring of Honor. Incorrectly referring to ROH, who does he think he is, Baron Corbin?

dillinger dream team

I have to pick fault with Sanity’s tactics. At Axxess, they took out No Way Jose, ruling him out of action. Tye Dillinger’s dream team were allowed to replace him and got a serious upgrade in Kassius Ohno. From Sanity’s point of view, why take out the weakest member of Tye’s team. Obviously, they wanted to punish Tye in the match so he wasn’t an option, but why not take out the team’s best wrestler in Roderick Strong? Attacking Ruby Riot was an option too, who would they have replaced her with, Aliyah? Deonna Purrazzo? As it happens, it didn’t matter too much as Sanity put on their best showing to date, getting the win, but they probably could’ve made it easier for themselves.

dain orlando

In all seriousness, the opener was a lot of chaotic fun. There was action happening all over the place, the sort of multi-man tag that WWE does really well. In amidst the madness, Killian Dain got the win for his team with an Ulster Plantation on Dillinger. I really do love Big Daino, I’m barely used to his new name and seeing him in NXT but on Sunday I was watching him at Wrestlemania. Surreal stuff. Back in October, I watched him face Joe Coffey in a small room in a university in front of about 400 people. Last night, he was performing for 70,000 people. Really happy for him. Bonus points for his new berserker look.

Sanity’s success comes at the expense of Tye Dillinger, though. Not only was he on the losing side, he ate the pin, too. I have no problem with Sanity winning, the dedicated unit should beat the thrown together individuals, but where does Dillinger go from here? I don’t see him as future world champion or anything like that, but he’s consistently getting huge reactions from the crowd, it’s hard to ignore.

We didn’t see a lot of Ruby Riot in her first match, she and Nikki Cross just ended up brawling whenever they locked eyes. I’ll confess that I’ve seen next to nothing of her work as Heidi Lovelace but I enjoyed her promo that was on Youtube after her debut, my only problem is that I keep calling her Ruby Rose. With regards to Nikki, she’s playing her role well but I would like to see her actually wrestle. There’s a reason why Nikki Storm was called the Best In The Galaxy, and I think she’s a bit better than what she’s been allowed to show so far. Hopefully we’ll get to see a bit more in her inevitable singles match with Ruby.

Final thought, Roddy Strong is really winning me over. The guy is a hell of a wrestler and posesses a fantastic moveset. He’s still garbage on the mic but as long as he’s breaking backs, I’ll look forward to his matches.

*

Another Takeover in the books, then. I’m already excited for the next NXT Tag Team Championship match.

WWE NXT February 2017 Review: I’m Still Whacking It With A Shoe

Oh no

kassius-throws-shoe

That’s right, Kassius Ohno is finally back on TV. After appearing in the post-Takeover episode comforting Shinsuke Nakamura which was bizarrely not acknowledged, Ohno’s “official” re-debut saw him confront NXT Champion Bobby Roode. KO wants the title and to right the wrongs of his first NXT run. Naturally, Roode’s reaction was to pretend cry at Kassius’ touching story and ask if Ohno was his real name. Anyway, they came to blows and Ohno managed to fight off Roode while wearing only one shoe. Show-off. He went one better though by actually throwing the shoe at the champ. Top marks.

While it’s great to have Kassius Ohno back in NXT, I am really not excited about another NXT Championship storyline revolving around the hottest free agent showing up wanting the title because of the buzz around NXT or whatever. Maybe they should ask Kenny Omega what he thinks of NXT’s buzz. There’s a reason why the NXT title picture has been overshadowed by the women and the tag teams for the past two years. NXT really needs a story where someone rises up to challenge the champion. Since Kevin Owens won the title, each title change has involved some hot new thing coming in and almost instantly inserting themselves in the title picture. NXT was at its best when Neville & Sami Zayn gradually worked their way to the top.

sanity-entrance

Sanity continue to show a lot of promise, the February 8 episode belonged to them. It sucks for Sawyer Fulton that he got injured when he did but what an upgrade Sanity got in Killian Dain. I’ve been a fan of Big Damo (suppose we’ll call him Big Daino, now) since I first seen him at an ICW show back in 2014. When he came out, I assumed he was the sideshow novelty act, the fat guy, but he went on to have a great triple threat with Jack Jester & Liam Thomson. He even did a Van Terminator. It soon became clear to me that he was the best big man working in British wrestling. It’s great to see him get his chance in NXT and Sanity provides him with a great platform.

big-daino

His first victims were the Bollywood Boyz. Herp & Derp Sihra weigh 303 lbs combined, that’s probably less than Dain on his own. Hell, Nikki Cross could probably beat those jokers on her own and it inevitably proved to be a mismatch as Dain destroyed the pair single-handedly, finishing it with the Ulster Plantation. Alexander Wolfe wasn’t even needed, he just enjoyed the show from the apron. Of course, all the Full Sail mutants could do in response was chant shave your back. How about he shaves his back once you lot shave your necks?

Sanity later attacked Tye Dillinger when he again refused to join the crew. To be fair, Tye was holding his own until he got Dainoed, but support arrived in the form of No Way Jose & Roderick Strong. An odd duo, I can see why Jose helped, he’s had issues with Sanity, but Roddy? I’m going with a mutual respect earned during the fatal-4-way from a few months back. I’m probably giving the writers too much credit. Regardless, Sanity were back in action in the main event against Tye and his new pals. Sanity won when Dain took out Roddy with that running crossbody that looks like it could kill someone. This was the first Sanity six-man tag we’ve seen on NXT and I’m hoping it’s the first of many. One of the great things about The Shield is that they would regularly take on dream teams, but they usually won because they were a unit. I’d like to see something similar happen with Sanity, they should be unbeatable in six-mans for a while until a new faction rises or a mega-babyface comes along. The Shield only lost when they came up against Daniel Bryan as he was catching fire and looking like the best wrestler of all time, build up Sanity right and it could be a huge moment when someone does get the better of them.

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My only problem with Sanity at the moment is Nikki Cross’ role. It’s nothing to do with Nikki herself really, more WWE’s view of intergender wrestling. Nikki is obviously batshit and wants to fight whoever she can. She’ll fight a bloke, she doesn’t care, she took out Dillinger with a rana during the six-man. The problem is that the men can’t fight back, which hamstrings the storytelling a bit. They don’t need to resort to the sort of intergender violence you’d see at a bad indie show, like beating her with chairs or having her take a ridiculous bump, but someone should be able to lamp her.

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In the women’s division, the latest sacrifice, sorry, challenger, for Asuka has been found but they took the long route getting there. First of all, Liv Morgan defeated Billie Kay despite Peyton Royce’s attempts to interfere. The Iconic Duo then went to William Regal demanding another match with Liv. He made a tag match allowing Liv to pick a partner. Just when you expect Billie & Peyton to remonstrate with the decision, they simultaneously laugh and joyfully declare “She doesn’t have any friends!” and BOUNCE OFF THE SCREEN TOGETHER. Wonderful.

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Liv did find a friend in the form of Ember Moon, but the Aussies managed to subdue the undefeated Ember and took out Liv with a double team knee smash. Billie pinned Liv and this where things get confusing. Regal decided to make a triple threat #1 contender match between Peyton, Ember & Liv. That’s right, everyone except the woman who got the pin gets a shot becoming #1 contender.

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Same.

Anyway, I thought the triple threat was well done. Everyone probably expected Ember to wreck shit and set up that match with Asuka that I’m sure we’d all like to see. Instead, Ember spent 90% of the match on the floor. She was thrown into the steps early on and every time she tried to make an impact on the match, she ended up being tossed out again. The crowd get frustrated as the best wrestler in the match is a non-factor and they have to watch Liv Morgan work what is essentially a singles match. Getting genuine heat isn’t easy these days so congrats on that. Billie Kay tried to get involved on behalf of her good friend but got Eclipsed by Ember. Just when you thought Ember had arrived, Liv then throws her out, but turns into a knee lift and a lovely Northern Lights Suplex from Peyton. Match over. Peyton Royce is #1 contender.

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Now, it’s kind of hard to picture Peyton being any sort of threat to Asuka when you consider what happened in San Antonio. After Nikki Cross had been indisposed, Asuka pretty much had to face the Iconic Duo in a handicap match. Asuka’s response was to kick them both in the face and win anyway. Can’t see next week’s match being any different, but it’s a nice distraction on the road to Orlando. Well, they’re in Orlando already but you get the picture.

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The tag team division feels a little weird at the moment but there’s still some good stuff coming out of it. The problem is that there’s only three established duos: Authors of Pain, #DIY & The Revival, and you wouldn’t be surprised if the latter turned up on Raw soon. Heavy Machinery are starting to become a thing so you might be able to add them soon and you could always throw two of Sanity into the mix, but until then it’s down to three. The lack of numbers mean the three teams are standing around daring each other to strike, ultimately to kill time. It feels like we’re heading towards AOP v. The Revival at Takeover, though I wouldn’t mind if they threw #DIY in there for a triple threat. Whatever happens, I think AOP will remain champions for a while yet.

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The showcase of WWE UK turned out to be one of the best parts of NXT last month. I think they rushed their way to the UK tournament, as good as it turned out to be, but until they sort out what they want to do with the UK Championship long-term then NXT is a good home for it. The first title defense saw Moustache Mountain collide as champion Tyler Bate faced Trent Seven. We got a very good match, probably the best in NXT in February, that showcased the best of British Strong Style and some sexual moustache twirling, as disturbing as that is given Trent is essentially Tyler’s dad. Tyler survived a Seven Stars lariato and delivered the Tyler Driver 97 for his first title defense. Wrestling is all kinds of weird in 2017, a few months ago I was buying a t-shirt from these two guys after a WCPW show, now they’re fighting for a championship in WWE, and will likely go back to competing in warehouses until WWE needs them again.

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Also representing Britannia were Mark Andrews and British wrestling’s favourite piece of shit, Pete Dunne. The Bruiserweight probably emerged from that tourney with the highest share price out of anyone, catching the eye of Uncle Trips himself. Pete travels the world collecting titles and breaking fingers, the Brummie prick is living the dream. Dunne v. Andrews was very entertaining, which isn’t surprising given their semi-final match was the best of the UK Tournament for my money. This one wasn’t quite at that level but it’s clear these two have a lot of chemistry together and both have big futures.

Until Takeover, try to resist the temptation to desecrate a grave and burn down your mate’s backwoods compound.

How Bray Wyatt Followed The Buzzards To The WWE Championship

After the harrowing finale to the Festival of Friendship on Raw, it would be easy to forget that something brilliant happened on Sunday. Bray Wyatt became the WWE Champion. But Wyatt’s journey to the top has had its ups and downs, to say the least. Let’s take a look at how the backwoods cult leader became champion of the world.

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Everyone knows about Wyatt’s humble beginnings as Husky Harris, a contestant on the second series of gameshow NXT where he was hilariously dubbed “the tank with a Ferrari engine”. Harris was eliminated from the show, and despite a brief spell in The Nexus, he was quite literally punted off TV thanks to Randy Orton. But, a few months later, he resurfaced in FCW sporting longer hair, a fedora and a Hawaiian shirt. The man we now know as Bray Wyatt was born and when FCW soon became NXT, he finally had a platform to shine.

Wyatt was an early standout of the refurbished NXT, simply because there was no one else like him. He would make his entrance to Mark Crozer and the Rels spooky Broken Out In Love and deliver entrancing promos. He would preach that he was more monster than man, the Eater of Worlds. His style was so refreshing and exciting and when he brought Luke Harper & Erick Rowan under his spell, NXT suddenly had a family of monsters ready to unleash chaos.

It’s a shame the early NXTs aren’t available on the Network as there’s some great stuff hidden away, including all of the Wyatts’ run. If you missed any of it, it’s worth tracking down whatever you can on Youtube and Dailymotion because it’s easy to see why people were so excited by this trio. Bray was arguably the top act on NXT. He lead Harper & Rowan to the NXT Tag Team Championships, and faced off with guys like Adrian Neville, Corey Graves, William Regal and he even had a match with Chris Jericho at Full Sail.

From May 2013, vignettes featuring The Wyatt Family began airing on Raw. They were coming. They were the first NXT act to have such a build-up to their debut. Expectation levels were rising and after six weeks they finally appeared on Raw, laying out Kane. Their attacks continued on people like R-Truth & 3MB but as they tried to establish themselves on Raw, they made one final visit to NXT:

Their last appearance at Full Sail was utterly electrifying. Once Harper & Rowan dispatched poor old Aiden English, Bray Wyatt took centre stage. He looked every bit the charismatic leader he was cracked up to be. Hell, after hearing this, I wanted to join the family and pledge my allegiance to Wyatt. It’s like he was declaring war on the world, promising to bring down the machine. The instant rapturous chants of “Bring it down! Bring it down!” just showed Wyatt’s ability to captivate an audience and hold them in the palm of his hand. To this day, it remains one of the greatest moments in NXT history and had fans like me dreaming of what the Wyatts could achieve.

Unfortunately, the Wyatts’ time on the main roster didn’t quite start right. The feud with Kane resulting in an inferno match at Summerslam wasn’t ideal but their battles with Daniel Bryan and CM Punk showed their promise. Daniel Bryan joining the family conjured up dreams of Bray & Daniel bringing down the machine together, but the angle was aborted fairly quickly. Bryan turned on the Wyatts two weeks later and while the sight of Bryan decimating Wyatt in the steel cage and leading the entire arena in yes chants is one of the most iconic moments ever seen on Raw and helped propel Daniel Bryan to stardom, it did little to establish the Wyatts as a force. However, the resultant match between Wyatt and Bryan at the Royal Rumble was fantastic and showed that Wyatt was just as good in the ring as he was with a mic in his hand.

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What happened next was the Wyatts’ finest moment yet. Back in November, the Wyatts came face-to-face with The Shield. The WWE’s two dominant three-man units stepped on each other’s toes and sent imaginations into overdrive. The Wyatts v. The Shield was suddenly everyone’s dream match. It came to nothing initially but by the time February came around, both teams were very much aware of each other again. Whenever they came face-to-face, arenas came alive. They could get a “This is awesome!” chant just for being in each other’s vicinity. The match was finally set for Elimination Chamber. In 2014’s match of the year, the Wyatts and The Shield went to war in Minneapolis. The match was everything you hoped it could be and after 20 minutes of chaos, it was the Wyatts who emerged victorious. The Wyatts were heading to Wrestlemania having proven they were the top faction in WWE, what could go wrong?

John Cena, that’s what.

It all started to go wrong when Bray took on the face that runs the place. Despite walking into Mania accompanied by a superb live performance by Mark Crozer and having a great match with Cena, Wyatt lost. Over the next few months, the Wyatts looked like losers. All Wyatt had to show for it was a win over Cena in a cage match at Extreme Rules which absurdly ended with Cena being distracted by a singing child. The match was voted the worst of 2014 by readers of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. The Wyatts’ mystique died when Cena demolished them single-handedly on Raw after his crushing defeat to Brock Lesnar at Summerslam.

With that, it all unravelled for the Wyatts. Bray “released” Harper & Rowan and the three went their separate ways. Harper initially coped by throwing his lot in with The Authority, winning the Intercontinental Championship and having the only good match at the legendarily bad Tables, Ladders, Chairs and Stairs PPV. Rowan got a bum deal as he was revealed to be a savant and an award-winning vintner. That’s still hilarious to write.

Bray Wyatt went on his own, starting a feud with Dean Ambrose which will forever be remembered for the ridiculous exploding TV incident. Man, TLC+S was really shit. Faulty electronics aside, Wyatt still had his fans and reminded us all of his ability when he was the only good thing about the 2015 Royal Rumble match, finishing as the Iron Man and racking up six eliminations. Any hopes of 2015 being the year of Wyatt were dashed as he lost again at Wrestlemania, this time to The Undertaker, and simply put, Bray Wyatt became a joke. There was no doubt over his talent, but Wyatt was presented as an impotent charlatan for the next year. The Family were eventually reformed, and Braun Strowman joined the party but an encounter with the Brothers of Destruction encapsulated how spectacularly mishandled the Wyatts were. Undertaker & Kane were kidnapped and Wyatt stole their powers. Just two weeks later, Taker & Kane returned TOTALLY FINE and beat up the Wyatts. Taker & Kane then handily defeated Wyatt & Harper at Survivor Series.

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2015 was bad for the Wyatts and 2016 didn’t start any better. An angle with Brock Lesnar went nowhere, mainly thanks to Bray’s back injury, and the Wyatts headed into Wrestlemania with nothing. At Mania, the Wyatts confronted The Rock with disastrous consequences. Now, plenty of people say being in the ring with The Rock elevates the other guy, but I fail to see how The Rock calling Wyatt a fat Duck Dynasty wannabe with no balls elevated him. It was embarrassing. The Wyatts were so directionless at this stage that even Wikipedia describes their April feud with League of Nations as “unexplained”.

WWE had killed my interest in the Wyatts. Even when things started to go south for them, I still held out faint hope for them but at this point, I was over them. It seemed like such a waste to invest any time in them. That final appearance in NXT seemed so far away. That promo gave me goosebumps, now I just didn’t care.

But the draft happened.

Bray Wyatt was sent to Smackdown and slowly he set about re-building his reputation. The addition of Randy Orton revitalised the Wyatts. You’d have been forgiven for thinking the association would end in two weeks as it did with Bryan but they stuck together and won the tag titles, incredibly the Wyatts’ first championships albeit about three years too late. Randy won the Royal Rumble and two weeks later, Bray Wyatt became WWE Champion.

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In the same night, in the same match, Bray Wyatt pinned John Cena (fucking finally) and pinned AJ Styles to become THE champion. The same championship held by Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels & Steve Austin. No one can take that achievement away from Bray Wyatt. Last year, he didn’t have a match at Wrestlemania. This year, he will be performing on the grandest stage of them all as the WWE Champion. It’s a testament to Bray’s charisma and talent that he can appear to be dead and buried but can re-legitimise himself with a few months good work. Despite all he’s had to deal with, Bray as WWE Champion just seems right.

Being a Wyatt fan has been brutal at times. I gave up, admittedly. But, I’ll sheepishly climb back on the bandwagon and once again follow the buzzards.

WWE NXT 1/2/17 Review: I Can Be Your Hero, Shinsuke

Chris Hero can kiss away the pain.

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So much for his great reintroduction then. There he is consoling Shinsuke Nakamura as no one acknowledges why a guy who was fired years ago is suddenly backstage. I mean, Chris Hero’s return is no secret considering WWE love plastering everything significant that happens at an NXT taping on social media right away but it would have been nice to see him get a mention: “We know who that is, Graves, etc.”. I’m glad he’s got a second chance though. Letting him go was a mistake in the first place from WWE’s perspective, but Hero responded in the best possible way, he set about proving that he’s one of the best wrestlers in the world until they had to bring him back. WWE’s hoovering up everyone with a hint of talent at the minute so they had no excuse to ignore Chris Hero.

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The show opened with Ember Moon v. Aliyah. Ember’s work is so smooth, even the way she enters the ring is slick. In-ring wise, she’s easily the most advanced in the division (Asuka excluded obviously) and she has the best moveset. They could do with expanding on her character a bit, I think she’s a mythical warrior werewolf or something. If that was cleared up a bit, then she could be built up as a legitimate contender to Asuka. A legendary goddess who draws her power from the moon or whatever she is sounds like she could hack it with a murderous clown. Aliyah looked pretty good here too. I’ve been quite impressed with her whenever she’s had a chance recently. She’s only 22, so could have a lot of potential, again she needs more character than wears cat ears and is from Toronto. It wasn’t to be for her though as Ember landed The Eclipse for the win and became the neeeeewwww Women’s Revolution Champion. The title has floated around a bit since Bayley had to vacate a few months ago, but this website once again has a top star holding its imaginary title.

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I loved that the aforementioned murderous clown’s reaction to Ember Moon was “Ember who? She work here?” Cathy Kelly’s serious “Yes, she does work here” reply was surprisingly funny. Asuka’s off to determine the best way to harvest a blood moon gladiator’s soul.

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It was great to see Tye Dillinger get his moment at the Royal Rumble. Entering at 10 was the obvious joke, but it was so obvious they couldn’t really afford to do anything else. Seeing how humble he is and knowing how long he’s had to scrap for his place, the least he deserved was a big cheer from 50,000 people.

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Waves back

Tyler Bate is gonna be yuge. When the field for the United Kingdom tournament was revealed, I pegged Tyler as a possible winner but thought they’d probably go with Pete Dunne or Trent Seven because Tyler is so young. But, over that weekend Tyler showed just how good he is and had Blackpool going mad for him . I can’t believe he’s only 19, mainly because of how absurdly good his moustache is for a 19-year-old. A great performance here from both the UK Champion and Oney Lorcan. It’s impressive how Tyler already knows how to naturally work the hard camera, the way he powered up for a second airplane spin was superb. Also, Tyler Driver 97 is a great name for a finisher. It sounds like a Nintendo 64 game that everyone gets nostalgic for even though it was crap.

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The best part of the episode was saved for the departing Corey Graves who got a lovely farewell video package. He said on Twitter that he didn’t deserve it but he really does. He’s been around since the days of FCW and the video showed how much commitment he has. I think several other wrestlers crediting him with helping to develop their character. That’s surprising to me because his only character trait as a wrestler was I have stay down tattooed on my knuckles and I’m going to show you at frequent intervals. But, this video showed how much more he did. He would lay cables and do sound checks just so he could be involved. He could have easily sat at home and sulked but he kept himself busy and got the commentary gig. Two years later, and he’s the most entertaining commentator in WWE. It’ll take a while to get used to NXT without him but at least he went out calling a Drifter match.

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Corey’s story of giving a guy laying in the street playing guitar $50 simply because he wasn’t Elias Samson might have been his best line to date. Even Tom managed to get a zinger in: “you’ve still got Saxton on Raw.” My God, Byron is even the butt of Tom Phillips’ jokes, how low can you get?

The match itself was ok, nothing special. No Way Jose is a bit of fun and Samson generates heat if nothing else but I can’t pretend I was particularly interested. Jose won with a pop-up forearm smash. Does getting a forearm in the face hurt more if you’re airborne? At least it looks good and, as an added bonus, we didn’t have to hear Elias sing.

Next week: maybe Chris Hero’s return is finally confirmed! As long as we don’t have sit through 17 weeks worth of Emmalina-style vignettes before it finally happens, I’ll be happy.

WWE NXT Takeover San Antonio Review: The Only Way To Live

For a show I wasn’t particularly hyped for and a card that wasn’t exactly eye-grabbing, this was pretty damn good. Let’s look back at NXT Takeover San Antonio.

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The big news is that we have a new NXT Champion. Bobby Roode beat Shinsuke Nakamura in a slow burner main event that caught fire by the end. NXT Championship matches were a consistent let-down in 2016, they weren’t bad but they certainly didn’t reach the heights they could have, so it was good to see that rectified early in 2017. This was probably the best NXT Championship match since the Finn Balor v. Kevin Owens ladder match back at the first Takeover Brooklyn.

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Roode’s amazing entrance aside, it took a little while to get going but I was well into it by the end. Everything after Nakamura wrecking his knee was brilliant, it probably helped that he remembered how to sell. WWE does the blurred reality thing so well that I was starting to question whether he was legitimately injured. Bringing out the physio and having Matt Bloom at ringside was a good touch. When Roode immediately grabbed Nakamura and gave him the Glorious DDT after Shin said he could continue, I jumped out of my seat. Nakamura kicking out and fighting on for a couple of minutes really sold his toughness and it was good for the prestige of the title, Nakamura’s willingness to risk his knee to try and remain champion shows what the title means.

It’s the right call to have Nakamura drop the title. I like him, it’s hard not to like a guy that’s brimming with so much charisma, but his title reigns have been forgettable. It would have helped if he had faced someone other than Samoa Joe obviously, but the title just seemed like an accessory, as if NXT are saying “Look, Nakamura is our champion, how great that is that?” That’s probably why it was such a nice surprise to see him desperately hanging on towards the end. I’m looking forward to Roode’s reign as he’s such a hilarious prick. We’ll probably get Roode v. Nakamura II because WWE is married to the rematch clause but hopefully we can get some good stories revolving around the NXT title again, beyond this guy has fought round the world and is now in NXT because of the buzz or whatever. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I hope Bobby Roode makes the NXT Championship GLORIOUS.

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New champions in the tag division too as the Authors of Pain defeated #DIY. Considering AOP are two young lads with very little experience, they’re very impressive. As well as being the new tag champ, Rezar is the new Revolution Champion after pinning Tommaso Ciampa. AOP have been booked well, even if NXT relies too much on undefeated streaks, and giving them the titles makes sense. My only concern is that it turns into an Ascension reign. Apart from #DIY there are no established babyface teams in NXT. Shane Thorne’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time and TM-61 are now out of commission for at least seven months. You could run The Revival at AOP, which sounds like a lot of fun, but would they do heels v. heels? That’s ignoring how Dash & Dawson could be called up at any minute. Might it be time to see more of Heavy Machinery? Putting Tucker Knight & Otis Dozovic up against Akam & Rezar would probably require a reinforced ring.

It’s a shame that #DIY’s reign had to end but as they are the scrappiest babyfaces that ever scrapped, the money is in them chasing. Gargano & Ciampa have developed into a great team with a fantastic chemistry and it’s only because of that that they presented such a good challenge to AOP. They look they would barely be a starter for two monstrous fuckers like AOP, but they’re so good they make it look competitive. They’ll get their rematch but you have to wonder where they’ll end up next. The cruiserweight division seems like a waste for them, here’s hoping they stay as a team and challenge whoever the champs are on Raw or Smackdown.

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Before the show, I was most looking forward to the women’s match but it might have been my least favourite match of the night. That’s not to say it was bad, but it ended quite abruptly and didn’t do half the things it could’ve. What happened made a lot of sense, but what makes sense isn’t always the fun option. I wasn’t surprised by Asuka retaining. Incredibly, they managed to build her as a great babyface heading into the event. No easy feat considering a heel turn has been teased recently. In that episode where Asuka was beaten up and humiliated by the Aussie girls, I felt so sorry for her. When she staggered into Regal’s office on the verge of tears, covered in whatever Peyton & Billie poured over her and with makeup streaming down her face, I just wanted to make her a nice cup of tea and give her a hug. Granted, Asuka would sooner tear my throat out with her teeth than accept a hug, but it was really effective. After that, I really wanted her to retain and she looked like her true self defending her title against three other women.

I seen a lot of people questioning why one of Peyton & Billie didn’t just lie down for the other. To me, it’s the same as asking why bad guys are such bad shots in movies. Think about it, if an evil henchman was an elite sniper, they would just blow the brains out of the lone hero. Terrorists win, movie over. It would suck. If Peyton had laid down for Billie, it would’ve FUCKING SUCKED. Asuka’s title reign ending like that would have been bullshit of the highest order. What’s the point of a near year-long reign if it’s going to end like that? If, when, Asuka loses the title, she needs to actually lose to someone because it makes whoever beats her look fantastic. At this point, Nikki Cross or Ember Moon looks most likely, so give Asuka the 365-day reign and have her lose to one of those two. Either works because Nikki is a psycho who isn’t intimidated by Asuka and Ember winning would establish her as a badass hero, plus, the O-Face is one of the few moves that looks like it might be powerful enough to finish Asuka.

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Seth Rollins used his head! Seth showing up to confront Triple H at NXT is so logical, I can’t believe it happened in WWE. Seth has been spectacularly mishandled since returning from injury but this is the man I want to see. He was so pissed off that his hand was violently shaking. That’s the fire I want to see from a screwed-over man. I don’t want wisecracks, I want a man invading the ring declaring he’s taking this bitch over. The build to Rollins v. HHH started way too early so we ended up treading water for months, but it’s a match I really want to see. It has Wrestlemania show-stealing potential.

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The undercard exceeded expectations too. Andrade Cien Almas v. Roderick Strong will undoubtedly be some people’s match of the night because they beat the mess out of each other. Almas’ heel turn has been the making of him and I’m turning into a massive fan of his. My only complaint was Strong winning. This was easily Roddy’s best performance in NXT but his character is non-existent. He sounds like he’s never spoken before. I get that injuries turned all plans upside down so he’s now a face due to circumstance but I don’t want to cheer him. He just seems like a total geek as a face. I daresay an Almas-like turn would benefit him immensely but my fear is that he’s being built up as a challenger to Bobby Roode. The crowd will almost unanimously get behind Roode, which is not good. He should be breaking backs over turnbuckles and lording it over fans, preferably without saying anything.

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Will Tye Dillinger ever win? It seems strange that he’s being tipped for a call-up despite never winning a big match but he’s often a victim of circumstance. He makes opponents look great, he’s a safe pair of hands and he’s not the hot new thing. Tye losing was the right call because Sanity needed the rub. If their leader had lost to Tye Dillinger, how could we buy them as a threat? Besides, every loss seems to build up more support for Tye anyway. I’m excited about what Sanity could achieve but I’m cautious because I felt the same way about the Wyatts in NXT. I hope they keep trying to recruit lost souls and turn into a genuinely dominant force.

*

Before we go, it would be remiss of me to not pay tribute to Corey Graves. This was his last time calling NXT and he will be a big miss. Nigel McGuiness is a great choice to replace him, though. Corey was at his usual best last night, be it fawning over Bobby Roode or his“Tranquillo, Phillips!” I hope him and Phillips will be reunited at the table someday just to hear another “SHUT UP, TOM!”