Ola NXTians! How are we all this WrestleMania weekend? I hope you’re all stocked up on hot chocolate and snacks for Sunday night – I’m super excited for the big show and toying with sitting up into the wee hours of the night here in the UK just to catch it. I mean, it’s Mania – you can’t help but be excited, right?
The NXT Review: 03/04/2014 – All the Young Punks (New Boots and Contracts)
Apr 4, 2014 - 1:20:00 PM
Anyway, before all of that we’ve got another 55 minutes of NXT to talk about! Graves vs Zayn II will headline the show, and you’ve got to wonder what condition Sami Zayn is in after being pushed into the ring post by Corey Graves a couple of weeks ago. Last week, he said he’d just had is bell rung – but does the damage run deeper than that? Certainly, Graves will be looking for any chinks in the armour when trying to avenge his previous loss to the Canuck using the 13th Step. Elsewhere this week, we’ve got Emma taking on BFF Sasha Banks, Tyler Breeze and The Ascension in action, and a return from an old face. All that, and a little bit more, in…
The NXT Review: 03/04/2014 – All the Young Punks (New Boots and Contracts)
Sasha Banks vs Emma
Here’s Emma! It’s fair to say that Emma’s main roster debut and subsequent work has left a little bit to be desired, but on NXT she is still greeted as a heroine and rightly so – she’s certainly done her best work in this arena and put on some excellent matches to boot. Sasha swaggers down to the ring with Charlotte and Summer Rae’s head on a stick, both of the two disgruntled with the amount of bubbles currently inhabiting the entrance ramp – after the distraction of Sasha cost Emma a win against Charlotte a couple of weeks ago, she must surely not allow herself to get distracted tonight as she attempts to extract some vengeance.
Emma puts up her dukes and incites Sasha to running in, ducking out of the way of the charging BFF before landing her on her face with a drop toe hold and locking in a side headlock. Sasha pushes her out off the ropes and hits the mat, but Emma lies down next to her, much to the displeasure of her opponent, who she then locks in a hammerlock on. Banks breaks that with an elbow to the jaw, but the Dancing Diva slips out of a bodyslam attempt and connects with one of her own for a one count. As she looks to take advantage, though, Emma gets planted into the turnbuckle by Sasha and the BFF takes over, ramming her head into the corner and running on her back. Emma is winded now, and Sashe circles her opponent, stomping on her and standing on her fingers because she’s the best heel ever. She slams Emma to the mat by the hair and goes for a cover but only gets a one count, and the ‘Sasha’s ratchet’ chant has now become so loud that they have to acknowledge it on commentary, Renee Young explaining that it’s ‘not nice’. It’s a little bit more than that, guys.
Banks takes Emma to the mat, but she misses a leg drop and now Emma has a chance to get back in the game – she dodges Sasha charging into the corner and locks in the DilEMMA! And then she hits the ‘EMMAmite Sandwich’ – welp – low crossbody and the near fall gets Charlotte up on the apron, but Emma sends Sasha crashing into her when she looks to take advantage of the distraction! Charlotte falls to the floor hard and Sasha is now all alone on her back…Emma Lock! The Emma Lock is in tight and Sasha has to tap out! If that happens on Sunday night we could have a new Divas Champion Makkle Coal…oh, hang on, wrong show. No Mania build here, chaps and chapettes.
Emma dances in celebration, but then has to bail on the ring as Charlotte looks for some payback that she just won’t get. The BFFs are furious in the ring as Emma chuckles her way up the ramp, escaping with her body intact. This was OK as a match, but I don’t think it’s the best these two have to offer. Banks is so much better than what she put on here – she really could do with a bit more signature offense, although I loved the standing on fingers she did. One of my favourite things in wrestling is seeing someone stand on their opponents fingers. Emma’s stuff was pretty much all signature moves, which is fair enough, but it almost came a little too quickly – a sort of blink and you miss it assault. I don’t really like the lying down thing she does on an Irish whip, it’s not really in keeping with her NXT character of a wrestling machine with a slight ditziness. Just a little bit off piste, is that move. Fairly standard fare, then, to start this show, but it was nowhere near as bad as the Mojo openings so that’s something.
Speaking of Mr. Hype, he’s appearing next week apparently, and here’s a video showcasing his ‘freakish ability’ (quote Tom Phillips, 2014). I think his freakish ability is ‘eating hamburgers and not doing cardio’, but who knows?
The Ascension vs Some Guys
Here’s The Ascension! You know, the more and more I see them taking apart guys, the more and more I like The Ascension. Funny how it works, huh? They still need more proper challengers, now more than ever, but these squash matches are actually become quite fun. Here, Viktor looks rabid before charging out and just mauling his opponent, throwing him into his teammate to affect a tag, before Konnor just starts throwing his new opponent into the ropes in a body slam – the crowd chants for one more, and Konnor gives it to them. He hits a body avalanche, and that lets them connect with Fall of Man and this one is over almost before it started. There really isn’t anybody who can challenge these two on the roster, and with them now getting over (even if it is not in the way they probably want) it seems remiss to not give them some serious competition. I’d love to see a reunited Hawkins and Ryder have a lengthy feud with them – two guys with main roster experience, so they don’t need to be built up too much through winning other matches, and with enough history, having been WWE Tag Champions at one point in time, for them to be considered a good tag team already.
Tyler Breeze has entered the building!
Brodus Clay vs Xavier Woods
Oh sigh. Sigh sigh sigh. You remember when these two were feuding over the Funkadactyls and some music? That was bad. So bad. I’m not looking forward to this at all. Brodus has some new music and a wooly hat on. Inside. Dick. Woods tries to use his speed early on and does get Clay down with a kick to the midsection, but then he gets T-Bone suplexed and Clay takes over, ramming his opponent into the corner repeatedly before standing on him and Banzai Bomibing him off the ropes. A body avalanche and a messy as hell T-Bone suplex gets another two count, and then Clay locks on a nerve hold that lasts forever. I think it’s still going on now. Woods eventually battles out of it and slaps Clay about a bit, knocking him down with an enziguiri and a shining wizard gets him a one count – I think there are some actual Brodus chants in the crowd, which is…interesting. Clay throws Woods across the ring, headbutts him, powerbombs him (better than Batista! Clap clap clap-clap-clap) and then splashes him from the second rope for the win.
Afterwards, Clay gets sad about WWE taking everything from him, including his pride, self-respect and dignity, and from now on he’s doing the taking – and the first thing on his list is The Man That Gravity Forgot, who is going to ‘feel the gravitational pull of Brodus Clay’ as he takes the NXT Championship. How exciting for him. This was as dull as I expected, although I was surprised that Woods actually got as much offense off as he did, to be honest. But…yeah, I never want to see these two wrestle again. Next!
Adrian Neville is backstage with Devin Taylor – he wants to talk about Brodus Clay wanting a shot at the title, but he thinks Brodus doesn’t understand what NXT is all about. He can’t just swan in here and take the title, he has to earn it, but if he does Neville will be right here, ready for the fight. For some reason, he apologises to Devin before walking off, but oh well. I like the idea of Neville as a fighting champion – it’s the sort of character he should have, and will probably work to get him over a bit more if he shows pluck and courage in his matches. I also liked that Brodus doesn’t just get a shot, and has to earn it like all the previous champions, which makes complete sense – I know I talked about having Ryder and Hawkins challenge for the tag title for a while earlier, but anybody who just appears on the show shouldn’t be immediately allowed to have a title shot just because they’re on the main roster. There are people on NXT who prove themselves week in, week out, and they have the history to warrant a shot at the title that someone like Clay doesn’t have. It’s going to be interesting to see how Clay proves himself over the next few weeks, if indeed he is going for a title shot.
Tyler Breeze vs Yoshi Tatsu
Fresh off of two losses to Corey Graves, Yoshi is taking on the hottest heel in the business Tyler Breeze. How do you think this one is going to end? Breeze is resplendent in gold tonight, looking the business, and his boots are made from Guatemalan Alpaca, and the product of a humpback dwarf from one of the tribes there. I bloody love William Regal for that, every week he adds these little anecdotes about Breeze’s boots. It was one of the things I loved about him on NXT: Redemption, he’d always add to Maxine’s story. As the crowd chants ‘Breeze is gorgeous’, this one gets underway.
Tatsu and Breeze trade waistlocks until the male model has had enough and just pounds on his opponent, and while Yoshi reverses an Irish whip to the corner he still gets caught with a boot to the mush. Breeze connects with a penalty kick to the back of his opponent for a two count and then tightly locks in a chinlock. The Japanese Warrior fights out of it with elbows, but off of the ropes he gets absolutely murdered with a flying punch to the temple. Breeze pulls Tatsu up, connects with the Beauty Shot, and this one is over.
Apparently, the new aggressive streak shown by Breeze here was because he is no longer worried about his face – as a result, he’s become more combative. I guess that’s as a result of his match against Woods a couple of weeks back, where he got struck in the face repeatedly by his opponent. Pretty interesting bit of character development, but Breeze certainly had a bit more of an edge to him here - levelling Tatsu with that flying punch was particularly choice.
Sami Zayn, after being diagnosed with a concussion (apparently), is backstage with Devin Taylor and is insistent that he’s ready to go – but mentally he’s in a very different place. Graves opened a can of worms by driving him into that ring post, and Zayn’s going to take it all out on him tonight. On the other side of things, Graves is lurking in an alleyway like some kind of lewd sex pest (no, seriously, it’s super creepy and weird, sets me a bit on edge to be honest) and he’s going to put down NXT’s resident underdog – underdogs walk through the woods and get caught in bear traps, before being struck down by wolves. Tonight, Graves is the wolf. A short promo, but something a little different from Graves and I really, really liked it. I love this little analogy promos, it’s something Bray Wyatt often did and it really endeared me to him.
Paige is beautiful. I don’t think I say it enough, but she really is a gorgeous young lady. There’s a promo video for her here, talking about how she’s the anti-diva (I have a feeling this aired on NXT:ArRIVAL?) and her eyebrows are intense. Oh, here she is, backstage, being lovely – that little lip piercing is so hot. Paige has just said this and I lost it giggling - ‘I’m always going to have people try to come in my face’. Sorry Paige, I can’t help but laugh at inadvertent sex funnies. Anyway, she’s mad angry about Charlotte not letting her have her moment and wants her to stop hiding behind her dad and come and talk to her women to women. Get the camera out of her face! Get it out!
Sami Zayn vs Corey Graves
Here are Graves and Zayn, making their way down to the ring in their usual way. I know I had a bit of a conversation with a few of you guys below the line last week about Graves and my feelings on him perhaps skewing to super negative – I don’t really hate the guy, honest, but there’s this immensely unlikable thing about him. Funny thing is, The Miz had this too and by God I hated The Miz the most when he was the hottest damn thing in wrestling but I was supposed to. Perhaps my dislike of Corey is just the way it’s supposed to be? When he wrestles well, he’s darned good at it. I just can’t get horrible Face Graves out of my mind – it’s like face Miz, it was never going to end well. Still rocking the acid wash jeans, though.
Zayn wants him some of Graves hard and the ref has to force him back, but the Saviour of Misbehaviour is just laconically reclining in the corner, staring his rival down. Zayn goes for him, but Corey ducks through the ropes to stop him from getting a shot in and then laughs at his opponent, the cocky sod. Finally, they lock up, but when Zayn nearly gains the advantage Graves returns to the ropes. Finally, Zayn’s had enough, and slaps him around the face for all this arsing around – but Graves is clearly happy to have pissed Zayn off like this. Is this all strategy? Graves ducks a lock up again, this time sliding out of the ring and making to walk away – don’t chase him Sami, not after what happened to Yoshi…no, Zayn is wise to it and ducks a clothesline, connecting with a hard right hand! He slams Graves into the apron and throws him back in, taking it to him with chops to the chest and right hands after blocking a kick. A back body drop has Graves reeling, and he gets clotheslined to the outside – here comes Zayn, and he flies over the top rope with a somersault senton! Graves is absolutely reeling here, his game plan lost – but he nearly gets back on track, throwing Zayn towards the ring post but the Canuck blocks it and connects with a back elbow. He throws Graves back in, the he rolls across to the opposite apron, only to get met with a right hand…but Zayn misses a shoulder through the ropes and instead meets the knee of Graves. Corey has control and is focussed on the head of Zayn now, dropping multiple elbows to the temple. Suddenly, I think Graves’ game plan is back on – focus on the head of Zayn until he can no longer go.
With the Pittsburgh Punk now firmly in control, Zayn is reeling and he gets planted with a snap suplex, taking a two count for his trouble. Graves stays on the head with a chinlock and even with Zayn trying to block it he gets it tied in deep. Sami gets to his feet, but Zayn gets him down on the mat again, still in the chinlock, and then wrenches at his nose. He drops a fist across the head, but Zayn kicks out because he’s super resilient – that said, he’s so groggy right now. I hope all this head work isn’t just leading up to the 13th Step finishing the match, because that makes zero sense. Sami throws a few hands, but he’s just swinging wildly and Graves is getting in all the offense on the head of his opponent, a few fists knocking Zayn down before he returns, again, to the chinlock. He wrenches it in with a bit of leverage, as the commentary team say that Zayn will fight until his last breath, and when he finally manages to break the chinlock of doom he has to use his head, which knocks him groggy again. The tattooed one fires back with a right hand a knee to the skull, and just keeps focussing on that head, knocking him down again and going for the chinlock. Come on, man, break out a different thing, please – a sleeper or something, The crowd are so tired of the chinlocks they are now chanting ‘we want headlocks’. Welp, that ain’t good. I mean, it makes some sense given the injury, but there are plenty of other holds that he could, and should, mix it up with.
Finally, Zayn whips Graves off and connects with a flurry of offense, pulling the crowd back in – a jackknife cover followed up with a pair of clotheslines, but a third misses and Graves just hoists him up and plants him on his face instead. Graves gets a two count from that, and then goes for 13th Step…Zayn fights of it, but ends up on Graves shoulders and gets dropped across his knee in a vicious backbreaker. The Pittsburgh Punk is lining up his opponent in the corner…but Zayn ducks the punch! Exploder suplex into the turnbuckle! He’s slow to cover though, and when he does he only gets a two count. Sami is trying to get his wits back about him, rubbing at his face and trying to fire himself up...he goes for a Blue Thunder Bomb but Graves fight outs of it…no, he doesn’t and Zayn connects! 1…2…NO! Graves kicks out, and Zayn is looking a little glazed around the eyes. He lines up Graves in the corner, but the Helluva Kick gets blocked and the two bump heads off of the ropes. Both men are down now, and Zayn has that faraway look in his eyes as the referee starts a double count on both competitors. Zayn uses the ropes to get himself up, and he spots Graves coming in and connects with a back elbow, but his equilibrium is way off – he’s trying to climb the turnbuckle, but he just can’t get his balance. Regal wants the ref to call the match, but Zayn won’t let him and hits a hard right to Graves – he’s still out of it though and is running on instinct, his balance lost. From nowhere, Graves hits a shot to the ear and Zayn is down…and the Pittsburgh Punk locks in the 13th Step which makes Sami pass out completely, apparently. Whatever happens, the ref calls for the bell – oh, Sami’s not out, he’s just lost all of his equilibrium and the ref has made the decision.
A medic comes down to the ring to check on Zayn as Graves proudly backs up the ring, arms out at his sides like a reversing Razor Ramon. Zayn is frustrated and seems to suddenly have his wits about him as he protests with the referee and the medic as he never tapped out, and this feud seems to be far from finished. OK. OK. So, I want to say something nice about Graves – strategically, this worked well. He constantly worked the head, which has been played up as the focal point in the lead up to the match. Zayn sold it like a champion throughout which helped. It was good, logical heel work and played into him being not just a brawler but also a master strategist, adding to his overall character really well. My problem with it is, and I said this to (I think) Maverick below the line last week – it’s all chinlocks. The same was true of the last match these two had, and whilst here it had logic behind it, there are so many other options for holds on the head that I feel like Graves should have switched it up here or there. A sleeper would have been good to see, as it would have allowed the ref to do the whole arm checking thing which is a great way to get the crowd behind the face and a fiery comeback, and also played into the question over whether Zayn was out of it or not. I just feel it could have been a little more creative, show off that Graves has this moveset behind him outside of a basic chinlock and punching that works the head. And I get the finish, I really do, but I can’t help but feel it would have been better had Zayn been locked in something that really puts pressure on the head. I’m a mark for dragon sleepers and something like that, which is rarely used but known to be pretty lethal, would have been a better fit than the 13th Step for that ending. It was a good match, and Zayn’s little flurries were just about timed right to keep you invested in it, but it could have been a great match with a little variety.
NXT MVP: The Ascension!
Technically, I don’t think they’re the best thing about the show given the nature of their matches, but I’m enjoying watching them so much right now it’s hard to look past them here.
03/04/2014 – The Ascension
27/03/2014 – Bo Dallas
20/03/2014 – Adam Rose
13/03/2014 – Paige
19/02/2014 – Tyler Breeze
12/02/2014 – BFFs
05/02/2014 – Aiden English
A much improved undercard, headed up by a strong main event, make this a big step up from last week for me. I’m not necessarily saying I loved every minute of it, and I do think this show was a little too full with matches, which is affecting the non-main event matches – notably, Emma and Sasha probably suffered from a lack of time to really get going and become something good. Equally, however, every match played had some kind of storyline reason for existing – perhaps the only exception was The Ascension squashing another team of nobodies, but I imagine this big build for them will result in a satisfying title change down the line. Breeze showed of his new aggressive side in his match, the BFFs continue to feud with Emma, Brodus asserted himself as a potential future challenger for Adrian Neville, and the main event tied the current strands of Graves and Zayn together really well. I assume we haven’t heard the last of anything that happened tonight, which is a good way to move forward.
As far as I recall, nothing was confirmed for next week tonight – that said, I believe we will have Bo Dallas fronting an ‘Occupy NXT’ segment. Yup, you read that right. It could be a hell of a lot of fun. Oh, they did say Mojo Rawley will be appearing again, too. Enjoy Mania season, NXTians, and as ever stay safe when crossing the road and drink more hot chocolate! Ciao!