Dark match: Mojo Rawley d. Jason Jordan with his Earthquake-like finisher.
–Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady issued an open challenge, which was quickly answered by Tons of Funk. The faces won a quick match, then the heels tried a double-team beatdown after the match, which caused Mason Ryan to come make the save.
–Charlotte d. Sasha Banks. This was my first time seeing Charlotte—she has many of her dad’s mannerisms, including the “whoo” and a sort of Flair flip into the corner. No figure four, though.
–The Wyatt Family d. Aiden English and Mickey Keegan. The Wyatts were ridiculously over as babyfaces, the conquering heroes returning home. They did the full ring entrance, including the lantern. After a quick squash, ending when Rowan splashed English, Bray Wyatt got on the stick and gave a great promo—how it was time for the family to move on to its next phase, say goodbye to NXT and “go bring down the machine.” (The crowd chanted “Bring it down!”) They left to a huge reaction after Bray led a chorus of “Time Is On My Side.”
–Corey Graves (with Adrian Neville) d. Scott Dawson (with Sylvester Lefort). The match didn’t have a ton of time to get going. Graves won with the 13th Step. Afterward, all three members of the Shield came out onto the stage. Rollins compared their rise as tag champs with Graves and Neville’s, then Ambrose chided Neville for not earning his belt, just taking Kassius Ohno’s spot. This was an injustice, Ambrose said, and he challenged Neville to a singles match “next week.” Neville agreed as long as the U.S. title was on the line.
–Leo Kruger and Antonio Cesaro d. Bo Dallas and Sami Zayn when Kruger pinned Dallas after a lariat. The psychology in this match was weird—it almost felt like a Mexican incredible partners match. Dallas is still booked as a babyface, but the Full Sail crowd HATES him and loves Zayn. Kruger is also popular, and the crowd loves to hate Cesaro. The tag left a lot of the crowd reactions mixed, but the work here was really good. An example: Zayn was in for a long heat spot, really got the crowd on his side, to the point that when he got the hot tag, the crowd popped huge—for about a second, until they realized the tag was to Bo. Then they booed again. I know Dallas has sometimes been booked as a smarmy, smiley heelish guy, which should be his role, but if that’s the case, tagging him with Zayn seemed odd.
–Tyler Breeze gave a backstage interview, spending the entire time admiring himself on his cellphone. He took many pictures of himself, and in many of them, C.J. Parker (newly dreadlocked, playing a mellowed-out psychedelic character) photobombed him.
–Adrian Neville beat Dean Ambrose by DQ in about 10:00. Both came out alone, without their partners. Really good match—I thought it would be a contender for match of the night. Finish came when Neville hit his twisting top-rope splash, and Rollins and Reigns sprinted in from the back to make the save at 2 7/8. Could not have been timed better. Graves and Xavier Woods came down to even the odds and the Shield retreated.
–Emma d. Summer Rae in a dance contest to determine the No. 1 contender for the NXT Divas title. Yep, a dance contest. Summer did her thing and looked amazing; Emma did her usual unpolished crowd-pleasing dance, which the crowd ate up. Emma won the crowd vote, but Summer attacked her after the decision and left her laying.
–Breeze d. Danny Burch. Breeze’s gimmick is that his cellphone camera is hooked up to the Titantron in real time, so when he admires himself, the crowd sees it all. He posed over Burch’s lifeless body afterward. The ring announcer also says “Tyler Breeze has left the building” after his matches.
–Dallas d. Kruger to retain the NXT title in another good TV main. No mixed message here—Dallas was hated as much as Kruger was beloved, though he never played heel. Good, competitive match—Kruger had Dallas in an armlock that had the crowd believing for a minute, but Dallas made the ropes, then got an armlock of his own to get the submission.
–Paul Heyman opened hour No. 3 and showed why he’s one of the best in the business. A small portion of the crowd chanted “ECW” as he entered. “I’m here at NXT looking for the next ‘Paul Heyman Guy.’ If I may step out of character for a moment, I am blown away by everything I’ve seen today here at NXT. And while I am proud of my time in ECW, I choose not to live in the past but focus on the future, and that’s right here in this ring and that locker room. Sitting back there right now isn’t just the next ‘Paul Heyman Guy,’ it’s the next Paul Heyman. It’s someone who could live up to the title of ‘The Next Big Thing,’ Brock Lesnar. And it’s someone who, if they’re lucky, might be as good as the Intercontinental champion. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Curtis Axel.” Axel cuts a heel promo, saying there’s nobody in the back who’s man enough to challenge him for his title and he’ll put it up anytime, anywhere. Cue up Big E Langston’s music, and yep, Langston’s still a super-over babyface at Full Sail. He says he is the man for the job, and wants his shot right…now. Axel and Heyman say when they meant “anytime,” they thought maybe Thanksgiving might be good, or perhaps a nice Christmas special. Really funny line. Axel finally agrees to the match, over Heyman’s protests.
–Langston d. Axel by DQ. A short, even match, ending when Heyman ran in to break up a pinfall. Langston went to attack Heyman. Axel made the save, but then ate a Big Ending for his trouble. Effective segment.
–Mason Ryan d. Scott Dawson in a quick squash. Amore and Cassady tried a run-in afterward, but Ryan made his own save.
–Paige d. Summer Rae to retain the Divas title. It was never explained to the crowd why Rae got the shot instead of Emma—it was assumed Emma was “injured” by last week’s attack, but after Paige got the win, Emma ran in and attacked Rae. Their feud must continue.
–The Shield beat Graves, Neville and Woods in a six-man tag. Excellent, excellent match that would have been the best of the night on most nights. The work was close to typical of the Shield’s TV tags, but seeing these three guys work at that level was gratifying. Graves was the face in peril for much of the latter stages. Neville had some good work and good high spots—he went to hit Ambrose with his finisher, but Ambrose got the knees up. Finish came when Woods was power-bombed onto the turnbuckle, then turned around into a spear from Reigns for the win.
–To open hour 4, A.J. beat Bayley. The crowd loved to see A.J., but she heeled on Bayley quickly and it worked. Short match, nothing wrong with it.
–The Ascension (Conor O’Brien and Rick Victor) d. ? and ? in a quick squash.
–C.J. Parker d. Baron Corbin. During Parker’s mellow in-ring interview afterward, Tyler Breeze interrupted—he just found Parker’s photobombs from earlier, and that started their feud.
–Antonio Cesaro d. Sami Zayn in a 2-out-of-3 falls match. I think it was about 20:00. Just ridiculously good; one of the best TV matches you’re ever going to see. The first fall took only seconds—Zayn hit a flip dive on Cesaro before he even got to the ring, threw him in, rolled him up and pinned him. The crowd loved this, and sang Zayn/Generico’s old “Ole” music to celebrate—as over as he is here, a lot of the crowd has still remembered him best from his old gimmick. Cesaro took the advantage quickly in the second fall, but it had a lot more length to it, as Zayn got a few hope spots, and kicked out of a bunch of near falls before Cesaro finally caught him for a submission. The third fall was magical. Cesaro kicked out of a Canadian destroyer. Zayn kicked out after a picture-perfect uppercut. Zayn hit a tornado DDT after diving through the ropes across one corner of the ring. It was around this time that you started to hear “Sami” chants a lot more than “Ole”s. Also, a lot more “NXT” chants than I’ve ever heard here before. The finishing sequence: Zayn came off the top rope, looking for another tornado DDT. Cesaro caught him, went to throw him off, but Zayn got him in a headlock, going for a choke in midair. He didn’t have the body scissors, though, and so Cesaro got hold of Zayn’s legs, muscled him up overhead, then dropped him into a perfect uppercut. Cesaro picked him up immediately (no playing to the crowd), brought him to the middle and hit the neutralizer for the clean 3. Both guys got a standing O, with lots of “Match of the Year” and “Sami” chants.
–In the dark main event, Dolph Ziggler beat Alexander Rusev. Eight minutes, maybe? Ziggler came out alone. Crowd was happy to see him, but also drained from the last match. Rusev got a few hope spots, giving Ziggler the chance to sell. Those ended when Rusev missed a top-rope splash, then Ziggler hit the Zig Zag for the pin.
–After Ziggler left, Mark Henry made an appearance—he announced that he’ll be at the next NXT taping, Aug. 22, and he’s bringing the belt with him.
I’ve been to half a dozen NXT tapings in the last year, and this was easily the best one. They gave one match on each TV show the time to shine, and the talent came through in all cases.