After a TakeOver special, NXT usually takes a step back to decompress and unpack everything that just happened. Without pitting the two against each other (but not defending main roster WWE’s ability to both rush and drag things out) one of the major differences between NXT and the main roster is the fact that NXT Superstars—and the show itself—are allowed the opportunity to breathe. After a WWE pay-per-view, the next thing on anyone on the main shows’ mind is the next pay-per-view. Hell, during a WWE pay-per-view, the next thing on their mind is the next pay-per-view. As the specials aren’t monthly, there’s no “need” to build up to the next big show in a few weeks. It’s not as though the show is in a holding pattern these times, but it is able to take things slower on a regular basis. While it being one hour show (that records four episodes in one sitting) is a reason a wrestler may not be on the show every week, it’s also the fact that NXT’s pacing allows for an important thing that’s often either lost or condensed on the main roster, except for post-WrestleMania: selling or simply just legitimate recuperating.
So while this week’s NXT isn’t full of stars—in fact, the performance (Center) enhancement is alive tonight—it’s for a reason. This is very much a TakeOver aftermath episode, and that right there is enough reason to just sit back and examine what’s on the horizon for NXT. While the main roster is dropping the ball yet again on go-home shows this week, NXT is almost effortlessly gliding out of its special show while working as a go-home show in the case of Kevin Owens and Elimination Chamber.
With this episode being chock full of those guys Jason Albert sees at the Performance Center all the time (in addition to failed experiments like Mojo Rawley), it’s an interesting case for what could possibly become of NXT in a world if and when stars like Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens go up.
Tye Dillinger is a wrestler who has really only been on the show as generic tall guy with a haircut. His break-up with tag team partner Jason Jordan was one of those rare creative messes on NXT, despite its brief screentime, as the heel-face dynamic was depicted in a way typically only reserved for main roster Divas. Simply put, Greg Hamilton addressing it weeks (or even months—here, time has no concept) after the fact, in an interview with Jason Jordan, is as out of left field as everything about Blake and Murphy’s aesthetic. I’ve thought for quite a while that Tye Dillinger has the “it” factor that’s talked about so much when it comes to wrestling, but I’ve also worried that he (and plenty of other developmental guys who haven’t had their Come To Tyler Breeze moment) could easily get lost the shuffle with nothing but an OVW good look. However, according to live event reports, he actually has a gimmick—that is over—when NXT is out and about, which eases a bit of the fear. His match with Finn Balor is everything it needs to be, and it doesn’t reach the “end this match” level that Blake and Murphy versus Sampson (who actually looked pretty impressive) and Rawlis does.
As for Jason Jordan—who it appears they actually want to do something with in NXT proper—I have yet to see that “it” from him, and his interview segment with Greg Hamilton (and introducing Chad Gable) is the biggest example of that disconnect between ready for TV NXT and not ready for TV Performance Center. It’s amateur hour, and it’s one of the biggest arguments for established indy guys coming in to cut the line; they know what they’re doing, while guys like Jason Jordan, Chad Gable, and a now even more hyped Mojo Rawley clearly don’t. The point of developmental is to get them ready for TV, but as I brought up last week, NXT isn’t that. Even Dana Brooke, who barely functions like a real human being at least has something to offer for TV. (No, not just laughs. Maybe.) At first glance—and it’s not even really first glance—none of the above do as characters (which is key). Yet.*
This week, Blake and Murphy—who are basically Performance Center guys who took some ecstasy—have added a new facet to their seizure-inducing entrance: choreographed moves with Alexa Bliss. Fun fact: At first, I thought the insane hairstyles were over now that they had proof of… something in their alliance with Alexa Bliss, but then the one they call Blake ended up having princess braids, and the world spins madly on.
In Alexa Bliss’ promo later in the show—which features another moment for Devin to put in her anger management journal—she challenges Carmella for next week; she states that she’s a winner (based on her spot on the card, agree to disagree) and as such, she only hangs out with winners. It’s not Austin 3:16, but it’s pretty amusing to see Alexa Bliss go from fairy to mouthpiece for Val Venis’ understudies and even adopt the Chris Benoit ring gear. It’s weird, but it’s amusing. It really doesn’t say anything—other than “I’m heel” now—but it’s amusing.
All that said, everything about Blake and Murphy is weird, and that can only keep their lack of personalities and wrestling ability (they’re not bad, but as generic as they are, they should be so much better) from being a talking point for so long. Really, that point has passed.
And now for the non-Performance Center portion of the show: all things Kevin Owens. Everything about Kevin Owens’ work in this episode of NXT is the ultimate example of how to feud with someone without wrestling them eight times before the big match where you wrestle them. It’s also an ultimate example of how to book a heel without making them a coward (even when they kind of are a coward) and the positives of actually addressing and engaging the audience (or the Universe) instead of just ignoring what they’re saying and hoping it stops.
NXT opens to Sami Zayn’s music, the crowd goes wild, and out comes Kevin Owens in John Cena’s shirt again. It’s not even as elaborate as CM Punk doing that with Jeff Hardy or Rated RKO (Edge and Randy Orton) doing it with D-Generation X. In fact, I read the spoilers and knew it was going to happen, yet it still got me when it happened. That’s a feeling that’s hard to fake or replicate, but it’s something NXT can do when the mood strikes.
As Owens proceeds to talk about how Sami Zayn sucks, he eloquently says “I told you so” to everyone in the crowd, including William Regal. And you know what? He’s right—he did everything he said he was going to do, and he did it for his family. On paper, that does make him the good man that he says he is.
Want to know what all those Performance Centers guys are missing? Just watch the opening Owens segment and his main event match with Solomon Crowe. The segment and match also solidify his role as anti-Cena, as he makes it clear that unlike Cena—the grinning, corporate, face that runs the place—he has nothing to prove, which is why he makes sure people earn the right to face him for his title. Again, how can you really argue against that when taken at face value? Cena’s open challenges are weekly endeavors set out to prove that Cena can (still) hang in the ring and that he can defend this country or whatever. As good of matches as they’ve led to, that’s extremely stupid, and in theory, kind of cheapens the title (not really, but it’s a sound logic) if just anybody can win it on one good night. The match itself with Crowe is Owens admonishing him for his nerve to even challenge him, as there’s a reason he’s the champ, and if Crowe wants to go toe-to-toe with him, he better show him he belongs there.
After the match, however, someone who can easily show Owens he belongs there, Samoa Joe, again has him running—though he says it’s for Joe’s benefit, of course. Please note the fact that a wrestler successfully feuding with more than one wrestler is considered a rarity and cause for celebration in this era of WWE creative confusion.
As for Crowe, he’s another conversation for another day, but his white hat need to stand up to bigger guys who push their weight around is a step in the right direction, despite the result.
- RESULTS: Emma defeated Bayley; Blake/Murphy defeated Sampson/Rawlis; Finn Balor defeated Tye Dillinger; Kevin Owens defeated Solomon Crowe
- * I do know that Jason Jordan and Chad Gable are part of the Shoot Nation stable when it comes to live events, but I also know that the stable is about wrestlers with amateur wrestling background… who, again, have no characters.
- The Bayley/Emma match is good for what it is, and Bayley giving out high 10s and putting on slap bands will never fail to make me smile. But “Evil Emma” sure does have some generic entrance music. Speaking of, Crowe’s music sounds eerily similar to Owens’ at times.
- Rich Brennan calls the Emma Lock a “submission maneuver,” and Michael Cole’s heart grows three sizes.
- If you haven’t gotten a chance to read WWE.com’s interview with the Four Horsewomen of NXT (Sasha, Bayley, Becky, and Charlotte, of course), please do. It’s just really nice to know Sasha does Becky Lynch impressions even when it’s not for the camera. Now to make Vince read it and watch all of their matches on a loop until their dreams can come true…
- Rhyno apparently got off on his and Baron Corbin’s match and wants to do it again. No thank you.
- Since there’s nowhere else to really discuss this, let’s talk today’s Destination America wrestling news.