NXT is back with another live special on the WWE Network and I'll be damned if this isn't a loaded show ... Sami Zayn vs. Adrian Neville for the NXT Title, Finn Balor and Hideo Itami against the Acension, and the long-awaited debut of Kevin Owens. Strap in, this is going to be a wild ride!
1. Kevin Owens vs. C.J. Parker - 3
Right out of the gate we get the former Kevin Steen debuting against a guy who does a trippy hippy kind of deal. Owens just smashed this dude across the ring the few minutes that it was allotted. Parker hit a open palmstrike so hard that it just busted up Owens’ nose. The running cannonball style dive over the top rope was pretty wicked as was the powerbomb that sent Parker packing back to the 1960s. Parker makes a really good punching bag.
2. NXT Tag Team Titles: The Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara & Kalisto) vs. The Vaudevillans (Simon Gotch & Aiden English) - 3
After watching Lucha Underground for a couple weeks now, there is no possible way I can take the Lucha Dragons seriously. The announcers kept harping the fact that they were paying homage to their Lucha culture but I seriously doubt you’d see La Parka, Mil Mascaras, or any other number of Lucha legends being a comedy team. The Vaudevillans are doing the old timey carnival wrestler type deal, complete with black and white entrance. The work was solid but not really notable. English went for a roll-up really close to the ropes which ended up being him throwing Sin Cara straight to the ground. What I’ve seen of the Vaudevillans in general, I haven’t been too impressed, although English seems like he could be a solid hand. Finish with Kalisto pinning Gotch with the sliced bread was a fun ending.
3. Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillenger - 1
Corbin destroyed Dillenger in about 30 seconds and then stared down a guy named Bull Dempsey in the crowd. Had the announcers not mentioned it was Dempsey he was staring at, I would have honestly though it was just a random dude in the crowd.
4. The Ascension vs. Hideo Itami & Finn Balor - 5
Here’s where things started to get good. Never did care much for the Ascension, always thought their names (Konnor & Viktor) along with their team name sounded like they belonged in some sort of metal band or wrestling for a random indy fed somewhere in the Midwest. Balor’s body paint was completely nuts and featured giant monster teeth painted on his neck like a mouth and whenever he moved his head and neck, the teeth opened and closed. Truly something to behold. This was probably the best Ascension match I’ve seen, mainly due to their opponents. They have the big guy look that WWE likes down pat but I’d like to see them use more moves that stand out. Right now, I couldn’t tell you which guy was which or what their trademark moves are. Itami and Balor worked good as a team and there were some nice nearfalls towards the end which really sucked the crowd in. Balor did some sort of wacky looking DDT move that dropped one of the Ascension dudes right on his head. I dug the double mushroom stomps from the top rope as a nice way to cap this off.
5. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks - 6
Women’s matches in NXT are usually very good however going into this I couldn’t really get excited for it. Charlotte has had a nice little run with the Women’s title in NXT and some good to great matches. Banks has the act down for the homegirl, ratchet type she’s portraying (someone out there correct if I butchered that completely please). If she was stuck in here with anyone else, this wouldn’t have been near as good. Charlotte has definite star power but that will quickly be squandered when she gets called up to the main roster and has to do 2-3 minute matches as an afterthought on Raw with Emma. The match istelf was one of the better ones she’s had as champion. Banks busted some wild stuff including a tope and got some good nearfalls. Charlotte retained with a top-rope neck snapper that just looked to ruin Banks night.
6. Sami Zayn vs. Adrian Neville - 8
Stipulation here was that if Zayn lost, he was done in NXT. This was an absolute classic and by the end, these two had me sucked in and on the edge of my seat reacting to every moment and every nearfall. The story that was played into this was that Zayn was tired of being the nice guy and needed to be more aggressive to win the title. Early on, this felt really basic but about halfway through, things kicked into high gear. Zayn did his trademark dive across the corner of the ring and kill the other guy with a DDT spot which added a nice touch since he hasn’t used that much recently. Neville completely crashed and burned doing the Red Arrow into Zayn’s knees which Zayn then transitioned into a submission hold. If this was an arcade game, he would have gotten bonus points for a combo move on that one. We got two ref bumps that were done effectively for a change. The big spot was the second ref bump where Neville brought the belt into the ring. However, Zayn got the belt and they did the Piper/Bret spot from WrestleMania 8 where in this case Zayn couldn’t bring himself to cheat to win the title, just like Piper couldn’t bring himself to cheat to retain the title in that match. After Zayn through the belt away and got rolled up by Neville, I though for sure that was it but HE KICKED OUT!!! Then, finishing it off, we get Zayn hitting the STO into the turnbuckle and nailing a big kick for the win. But wait … THERE’S MORE!! After the bout, the big celebration commences with the entire roster coming out, Zayn and Owens hugging, and then as Zayn is leaving, Owens comes out a second time and just floors the poor fucker who was just through a war with Neville. My jaw absolutely dropped when I saw that! This match was pro wrestling at it’s absolute finest. While I can’t vote it NXT match of the year (Charlotte vs. Natalya from May is my runaway winner in that category), this is an absolute must see match with a fantasticly done post-match angle.