They say that you’re only as old as you feel. I’m not sure if that is entirely true, since I feel pretty good for my 31 years, but considering my sleep schedule, I’m either a radio host for early morning drive-time or an octogenarian. Based on my slightly stammering performance on my first (and hopefully not last) appearance on NAIpod, I think we can all safely say I’m no radio host.
The point I’m trying to make is that I started falling asleep during the Zayn / Owens main event on Wednesday’s NXT:Rival. I know, I know, that’s shameful, but its true. It wasn’t that the match was bad - far from it, though I do think the number of reverse chinlocks might have had something to do with it. Besides, its not like this is the first time. Ask Doc Manson (@DocManson); I’ve been falling asleep during wrestling shows for close to a decade now.
Like I said… I’m an old man.
So this morning, at the bright eyed and bushy tailed hour of 5 AM (which is when my body naturally woke up, I’ll have you know), I decided to re-watch NXT. Not just the Owens and Zayn match, which I still hadn’t seen the end to, but the entire card. NXT is that good.
I also wanted to WATCH it. The first time I was live tweeting it, and as any of you who have done that knows, you’re not really watching wrestling when live tweeting. You’re listening to it while typing, which is perhaps why Michael Cole is so reviled among the NAIWC - most of the time during RAW we’re only hearing his voice.
So replacing my Chromebook with an actual looseleaf notebook, I sat down to record an NXT version of DC’s Network Diaries. As always, this isn’t a review or a recap. This is simply a few of my thoughts. I’ll share a Highlight, a Lowlight and a So What?, a takeaway from the match. All set? Onwards, then!
Highlight: Tyler Breeze, apparently, is a submission specialist and decided not to tell anybody until Rival. I was grinning ear-to-ear for both his ringpost Figure Four and the “Figure Four Cloverleaf” (perhaps known as a Mexican Cloverleaf?) he applied during this match. Considering he got a seal of approval from his trainer Lance Storm (who tweeted that Breeze did a better half-crab than Storm ever did), I’d say I wasn’t the only one who loved it.
Lowlight: Go back and watch this match. With the exception of the flurry of punches ending in a spinning backfist (which, I’ll admit, was awesome), I’m pretty sure Itami did nothing but kicks. . . Nothing.
Unfortunately, Hideo, you’ve left me no choice but to return to you your earlier nickname. From here on out, until you show me that you are actually going to WRESTLE, you are known as Kick-Tami. And that is not a nickname of affection.
Seriously, someone who cares more than I do should go back over all of Kick-Tami’s matches in NXT and calculate the percentage of his moves that are kicks. I’m willing to bet its over 80%. That’s not good, no matter how solid the kicks are. Scott Steiner did 80%+ belly-to-belly suplexes in his day, and people hated him.
So What: Tyler Breeze is WWE ready, Hideo Itami is nowhere close.
From the selfie-stick to the submission moves, the way he sold each of Kick-Tami’s 457 kicks to the “I hate you” punches near the end of the match, everything about Breeze’s performance Wednesday night shows me he is done with NXT. This guy has been on the cusp of being ready for a long time (Those with long memories will note I’ve been saying he should move on up for months now), but Rival sealed the deal. He’s now officially “languishing” in the minor leagues. Get this guy to WWE!
As for Kick-Tami, I offer this. . .
Kevin Owens is the NXT champion.
Finn Balor is the #1 contender.
Hideo Itami gets his ass kicked for a while, then kicks his way through a rather meaningless match to win.
I once predicted he’d end 2015 back in Japan. . . I may have been wrong with that, but I do think we’ll see him there before we see him in WWE.
Highlight: What do you think my highlight is going to be? With the exception of a very well executed spinebuster and a very poorly executed ‘End of Days’, this match was all about Bull Dempsey. Goon McGoof him all you want, but you have to admit he was impressive. He beat down Baron for a majority of the match and, in my opinion, looked good doing it.
Look, you can hate on Goon all you want. You can criticize his hairy paunch and his too-short tights. I can’t argue with those. But when the bell rings, he can get things done, especially in a No-DQ “hardcore” format. That’s no longer in question.
Lowlight: That End of Days was rough. Had this been a Smackdown taping, they’d have re-shot that in a heartbeat. I would hope that NXT talents have permission to alter endings - as in “that sucked, let’s do another one before the match is over.”
So What: As much as I like Bull, and I do, I have a hard time seeing where he goes from here. Beating down Kick-Tami makes some sense, but that’s only going to help get Hideo over more. Is that what Goon McGoof’s lot in life is for now?
Random Aside: I’ve had very little to say about Rich Brennan til now, mainly because I’ve never really stopped and listened to his commentary. However, when he brought out an old school Mulkey Brothers wrestling reference and then, 5 seconds later, talked about Pop Culture with Jon Stewart leaving the Daily Show, I became a fan. That’s the voice of the NAIWC, my friends, more so than any other announcing talent I’ve heard on WWE programming.
Note: I’m probably going to offend some people in this section, so you may want to skip down to Finn vs. Neville. You won’t hurt my feelings - go ahead.
Highlight: There were two moments that stood out for me here. The first was the Kalisto Frankensteiner that Buddy Murphy took like he was channeling RVD. The second was Wesley Blake’s frog splash, which was as beautifully executed as I’ve seen since. . .Well, also since RVD, though this one had a Guerrero flair to it. I’m not trying to be biased because Wesley Blake joined our conversation briefly on Twitter a week or so ago, I’m serious - it was fantastic.
Lowlight: Here comes the offensive part. Last warning. . .
The worst part of this match was not anything done by Kalisto, Sin Cara, Murphy or Blake. It was the reaction of certain members of the Twitter-verse, including some people who may or may not be NAI Hall of Famers, at the slight number of miscues in the match.
Holy cow, folks. . . When did you all become the second comings of Dean Malenko? What gives you the right to blatantly (and in some cases, brutally) criticize these athletes for a less-than-perfect performance? Last I checked, NXT was the DEVELOPMENTAL league, the place where talents go to hone their craft. In a place like that, they should be able to make mistakes freely without being jumped on by folks sitting on their sofas at home.
All four of the talents in that ring for this match are giving you 100% night in and night out. If you want to mock them slightly for screwing something up, that’s fine. . .Especially if its funny.
But don’t bitch when they botch. You couldn’t do a tenth of the things they can do, and they’re doing it for your entertainment.
Alright, rant over. If you’re offended, all I have to say is - You were warned.
So What: I wonder if this is going to be a problem with NXT in the future - there are so many top notch matches with internationally acclaimed talent that the crowd can’t keep up the enthusiasm for the lesser known “homegrown” guys. The crowd felt flat for this match, and in a 2 hour show like this, I can’t necessarily blame them.
Can there be too many good matches on a card? Do we need the bathroom breaks in order to fully appreciate a show as a whole? Am I suddenly understanding why the Bella Twins are always on my TV?
A quick note on the entrance before I get to the match itself.
I don’t know that I like the precedent being set with the paint. Don’t get me wrong - the entrance is awesome, but do we need to see it at every Takeover? When Finn gets to WWE, is he going to be wearing the paint for each PPV? Won’t the frequency make it lose its meaning? I would have prefered he come out as usual for this match, since he has no history with Neville, and save the paint for whatever title match was coming his way. But that’s just me.
Also, I think the early parts of the match were so slow because everyone in NXT knew people were going to still be losing their minds online about the entrance, so they gave us 5-6 minutes to calm down before the match got good.
Highlight: That counter of the Red Arrow, the knees into the inside cradle, was something I had never seen before.
Lowlight: Not much to choose from here, but I don’t really understand why Neville, after taking the dive from Balor, crawled into the ring, out of the ring and then over to the chair. That seemed to just be to set up the next spot, and I would have liked it to be more of a fluid, organic transition.
It’s a good sign that something as nit-picky as that is what I’m calling a “low point” in the match.
So What: Balor’s going to be a huge star. There’s no doubting that. I also really think Neville could work as a heel. We started seeing it in the feud with Zayn and got glimpses of it with Balor. It’s little things - rolling to the outside, showcasing a Phoenix splash from the second rope (take that, Rollins!).
Barrett needs to introduce his latest piece of Bad News - his new partner “Nasty” Neville.
Ok, the name needs some work.
Highlight: There were lots, and in a women’s match, that is amazing in and of itself. (Though to be fair, NXT women's matches are always like this. It isn't until they get to WWE that things go South.) Each talent had a time to shine, each looked like they could win (or retain the title), this was a well-done contest. It was a bit of a spotfest, which if I had to pick anything would be my Lowlight. Fatal Four Ways are usually this way, though, and again - I’m nitpicking here.
So What: Becky Lynch has arrived. That’s my takeaway. She was the most impressive talent in the ring for this match, surpassing Bayley by quite a bit, I think. Her suplexes were crisp and beautiful, her submission move was fantastic, and had she won the NXT title, I’d have stood and applauded. She’s going to be a big star.
I saw someone post something on Twitter earlier that said that if this keeps up, Owens vs. Zayn could be a feud the likes of Rock and Austin, of HHH and HBK.
I like the sentiment here, but here’s my problem. I think it already is. With the exception of mainstream WWE exposure, these two talents have been feuding for years, and from all reports it has been one of the better feuds in history.
The match on Wednesday proved it, as we were treated to a phenomenal match that was also (and here’s the important part) a complete story told from beginning to end. Every move mattered, every moment built on the one before it, and while this chapter ended with Owens standing over a beaten and soon-to-be- Z pak’d Sami Zayn, the book is far from being finished.
This entire match was a Highlight. Seriously, when was the last time WWE told a story like that? The Triple Threat at the Rumble was good, but it didn’t have the emotional energy that Owens and Zayn did.
No lowlight here, and here’s the So What:
NXT fans are in for a treat with this storyline. I can’t wait for Wednesday to find out what happens next.