In case you were wondering, this week’s episode of NXT was filmed before this past Saturday’s Beast In The East WWE special. How can I tell? Well, most of this episode is pre-taped footage added to NXT as opposed to pre-taped footage that is a part of NXT. This episode was filmed before Finn Balor became NXT Champion—note the lack of Kevin Owens or Finn Balor in Full Sail—and for that, NXT tries to buy time by having the Beast In The East match for the NXT Championship air in its entirety (with commercial breaks that are unnecessary on a network you completely own). As great as it is to relive Owens versus Balor again (and if you haven’t watched it or the special as a whole, please do—even Kane’s match), that match is something special from something else. It’s not indicative of the quality of the episode, because it’s not even really a part of the episode.
The chances of NXT’s filming schedule changing any time soon are slim, but as quickly as everything in WWE can go—despite how repetitive it all can be—NXT being so behind from the current storyline typically hurts it at worst and puts it in a holding pattern at best.
Typically. This week’s NXT does pretty well with what is has, even with a changing of the tide that the filming schedule just can’t quite grasp. In fact, NXT has been making a lot more use of backstage footage lately to catch up the show to the present. The downside of these segments—especially the ones in Japan this week—is all the noise in the background, but the messages come across. This time around, backstage at a house show, an injured Bayley isn’t adorably watching and pimping a Triple H DVD; she’s coming for the championship and for Emma, simple as that. And after the NXT Title match, Balor, is of course humbled. He’s just won the title in his second home and receives praise from his buddies Cesaro and Neville, as well as “The Face Whose Approval Is A Kiss Of Death” (just kidding, sort of) John Cena. Owens, on the other hand, murders a camera man. Done. Those are their characters in less than 30 seconds.
On the home front, Solomon Crowe returns from his self-imposed hiatus, less hacker from the movie Hackers and more weirdo from the independent wrestling scene. It’s strange how being a more marketable version of their independent wrestling personas has been working like gangbusters for the chosen few, but Crowe ended up hidden away from TV for so long with a new gimmick that was—well, the comparison to a movie from 1995 was apt, especially given WWE’s understanding of technology and trends. This Crowe, who hangs around in his “Crowe’s nest,” is now NXT’s “resident little monster,” and besides the fact that WWE should have checked up on the phrase “little monster” in relation to Lady Gaga (meaning Corey Graves’ commentary was probably the first time it was pointed out), it’s already so much better. His match against Marcus Louis comes out of nowhere, but it’s good for what it is, and the chance of the two of them doing a program together is already the most intriguing thing either of them have had to do. Just one note: Marcus Louis is doing everything right in his crazy, “I’m a monster” schtick, but he could stand to close his mouth sometimes. He should probably also never get called up to the main roster, because it would immediately be considered a joke.
Completely from a fan point-of-view, watching Sasha and Charlotte tagging together is a moment of absolute joy. In the interest of full disclosure, I absolutely found myself chanting “BFF” at my screen and hoping for a Summer Rae pop-in, even if it were in the form of her head on a stick. My hopes were dashed on that front, but the image of Sasha and Charlotte working together without missing a beat more than makes up for it. The NXT crowd during this match is a hot one, but they quickly grow too consumed with their own in-fighting, especially in the case of Dana Brooke, who apparently has just as many vocal lovers as haters in the crowd. Brooke hasn’t done the work to receive such reverence—in fact, her own mediocrity in the ring, starting with the patented Diva “shake your opponent’s head,” brings what could be a great match down—and honestly, the chants from the extremely pro-Dana crowd members in recent weeks come across more as a pitying response to her perhaps being too mercilessly piled on. If those same people are the ones who chanted “NO WE DON’T” in response to the “WE WANT SASHA” chants for the hot tag (Sasha Banks gets the hot tag in this episode, in case you were still wondering if she’s a face), it’s creating a strange Bizarro version of NXT that may only muddle the NXT Divas division as soon Sasha and Charlotte move on up and Eva Marie becomes the star.
Now, when it NXT going to update its opening credits for the new champ?
- RESULTS: Sasha Banks and Charlotte defeated Emma and Dana Brooke; Solomon Crowe defeated Marcus Louis; The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch) defeated Enzo and Big Cass (#1 Contenders match)
- You know what could be really bad? If, after all this, Chad Gable is absolutely terrible in the ring.
- As for the tag match between The Vaudevillains and Enzo and Big Cass, it’s an improved version of a match that has probably happened so many more times than we’ve even seen. The Vaudevillains winning is actually for the best, as Enzo and Big Cass are only spinning their wheels if they’re going to lose to Blake and Murphy again, and things could stand to be changed up.
- Just like I believed the Vaudevillains should beat Enzo/Cass (and they did!), I believe Emma should be the one to take the belt from Sasha. Then she and Bayley can have their title program, and Dana Brooke can go into a 60-minute Iron Man match with Devin Taylor.
- Next week, we get Sasha versus Charlotte for the belt and an injury update on Sami Zayn. I am happy about one of those things.