Takeover – Break’s Over

Did you miss me?

It’s been a whirlwind past few days in the House of J. Since returning home to New York on Wednesday afternoon just in time to watch NXT Takeover: London, I’ve basically been going non-stop. Lots of family and friends to see before I head back to the land of warmer temperatures and politics next weekend.

A few things have been on my mind over the last 72-ish hours, so forgive me if I jump around a bit. The first, of course, being that Takeover program. I was never worried that it was going to be bad show – none of the Takeover shows have ever been bad – but it was certainly anti-climactic in the wake of what TLC and Monday Night RAW brought to the table for WWE fans. Plus, I have my own personal biases that the NXT roster isn’t giving us what it once did in terms of storylines.

Bailey vs. Sasha Banks is going to be a feud that every other women’s feud (and men’s, for that matter) in NXT will be compared to. Now, as the leader of the division, she’s trying to bring the rest of her colleagues up to her level, but they’re not there yet. I commend her for the work she did in the ring with Nia Jax. I’m also very interested to see where Nia’s career goes, as she is so physically different from the rest of the roster. But I think the stand out match of the show was really Asuka vs. Emma. It was paced well, it told a good story, and Asuka is just the most compelling person to watch in the ring. She’s wonderfully weird in backstage promos, effectively overcoming the language barrier with her amazing facial expressions and bizarre gestures. In the ring, you cannot take your eyes off of her. That doesn’t mean Emma didn’t bring her own level of talent to that match – it might have been different with a lesser opponent (it certainly would not have been as exciting.) I could honestly watch Asuka wrestle anyone and everyone, week after week, and never get tired of her. She constantly changes things up and comes across as unpredictable. That’s just good TV.

I am always cheering for Enzo Amore and Big Cass, but there was no point at which (during their feud or during this match) that I thought they were going to win the Tag Team championships from Dash and Dawson. It’s not easy to stay invested in a title match when there doesn’t appear to be any real possibility of the challenger winning. I liked the false finish, but the camera being on Carmella was a dead giveaway that it wasn’t really over. Perhaps I’m just nitpicking, but as a big supporter of this team it is disheartening when a feud isn’t actually built to go anywhere. We all know  Gable & Jordan are next in line for a title shot, but I’m worried where Enzo & Big Cass are headed next.

A match I was really happy with was the Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews match. I have been a fan of Corbin since his return to the NXT ring in September of last year. I like his character, and I prefer him as the strong silent type (see also: stay off the microphone, kid.) Now that the feud between him and Crews is over, I look forward to his next opponent. I have hopes it’s someone who is as interesting to me as he is, because Apollo Crews does nothing for me. He seems like a nice guy and isn’t bad in the ring, but he’s kind of boring. No, he’s not “kind of” boring – he IS boring. And I don’t know what you do about boring. Give him more interesting storylines? I don’t know that there’s any way to repackage him to make him appear more interesting. He’s just sort of forgettable, and that’s like a death sentence to a wrestler. As someone who never followed his indie career, NXT has not given me a reason as new fan to Crews to tune in and watch him. I’m actually more interested in Tye Dillinger, whom Crews beat in his first televised match at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn than I am to watch more from Apollo Crews ever again.

I’m not going to spend too much time on the main event of NXT Takeover: London, because I really enjoyed the match and wasn’t entirely sure who would win in the end. I like both of these guys, and am actually finding lately that I prefer two very different styles of wrestlers together. It keeps the audience on their toes, and impresses us when one of the wrestlers reaches into a new bag of tricks to get on his opponent’s level. What I do want to talk about is the Finn Balor entrance.

I love the body paint. I once “accidentally” fell into a black hole of Prince Devitt’s entrances in a variety of different body paints and costumes. (If you have some time to kill, I recommend starting here.) So when we first saw The Demon entrance at NXT Takeover: R Evolution, I was impressed, but I knew it would evolve over time. It was not so perfect that there was no room for change (for example: PLEASE GET RID OF THE STUPID FAKE DREADS I HATE THEM.) I enjoyed watching Balor at each new Takeover special, knowing his body paint and costume would be different. So naturally, in London, the Demon had morphed yet again and was now Balor the Ripper, in his top hat and coat. Suddenly – the internet went wild.

“Is WWE really suggesting that Balor is a murderer of prostitutes?” “Does whoever put him in that getup even know the story of Jack the Ripper?” People? Get a grip. Please go back and watch Balor’s entrance for this show. He is in London, and the crowd goes completely insane. They don’t suddenly notice his garb and go “oh, now that’s just – that is inappropriate. No no, absolutely not. We can’t have this.” It’s their history, so if the Brits (who we’ve all made fun of for being stodgy, don’t lie) can enjoy the entrance without being offended, I think we can, too. I really like the idea that the Demon Balor and the Finn Balor we see on weekly TV are separate things. The Balor the Ripper entrance brings forth the idea that the Demon persona might be even more dangerous than we know. But I feel confident that no one at NXT was trying to subliminally tell the audience that Finn Balor is a murderer. Please stop reading too far into these things, you all give me such a headache.

Moving away from Balor in particular, I just wanted to point out that this was a low point for NXT in terms of the excitement factor. The card itself was not that thrilling – but it was still a good program. When the main roster low-balls their programming, they tank. It’s god-awful. But this, while not as good as something like NXT Takeover: R Evolution, is certainly still an entertaining and worthwhile show to watch. I would like to see less of the one-off indie wrestlers on TV and give more time to the people still currently toiling away at the performance center waiting for their spot. If they tank, they tank, but you don’t have to draw your audience in with names from other promotions who are only going to do a job and leave. WWE is already showing us faces of people we’ve never seen on NXT TV with their program Breaking Ground. Why not let their story play out that way and at the end bring them out on an episode of NXT? Seems like a plausible way to get someone over – or at least have a crowd know who they are when they walk to the ring. Regardless of how they do it, I’d like to see NXT get themselves out of this slump they’ve been in since so many of the women, Neville, and Owens were called up.

In other news, the Slammy Awards are happening in 48 hours on Monday Night RAW. I would like to know why WWE gets to decide when NXT exists and when it doesn’t. And if maybe we could all agree to redefine kayfabe as an object, like – say, a cast-iron frying pan. And then maybe I could smack someone over at headquarters around with it. NXT EXISTS. IN FACT, SOME OF THE PEOPLE ON THE MAIN ROSTER WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER OFF STAYING THERE (that’s another post, J, calm down.) Why, for the love of all things wrestling, is NXT not on any of the ballots?

No, you know what, I know why. Because they would wipe the floor with the main roster. Match of the year would be Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, though the Ironwoman match is a close second,) feud of the year would be Zayn vs. Owens – the list goes on and on. But to try and find “best of” moments, when for most of the year the Best of WWE was happening in NXT is laughable. Maybe WWE thinks it’s a good idea to hold an award segment like this when all of the best thing they’ve done this year happened in the last week. At least that’s fresh in our minds.

The holidays are a nutty time of year for everyone, and I can’t promise I’ll be watching RAW on Monday instead of spending time with my family. I CAN tell you I will be back to it on the 28th with my newly converted fan friend who watched TLC with me. She’s very stoked, and I’m very stoked to have someone new to the product making me excited to watch. I hope to be able to post a few more times before my return to the DMV next weekend, but forgive me if they’re not daily. Also, leave me some snarky comments about the Balor entrance stuff, I want to know what y’all think. That really bothered the crap out of me.

I need to run out for more eggnog. See you kids on the flip side.

The Lady J Says

NXT 12/9/2015

After doing this post last week, I felt I owed it to myself to actually sit down and watched NXT tonight. So I did.

This was a very different go-home show than the one I watched on Monday. I don’t even know what RAW was about. This show, inside of an hour, very clearly set up all of matches we are going to see next Wednesday in London.

I really enjoyed seeing a more aggressive side of Enzo Amore and Big Cass. I thought it was a great idea to have them skip their intro in favor of just storming to the ring and demolishing their opponents. I don’t really know what happened with current tag-team champs Dash and Dawson, but apparently they did something dastardly to Enzo and Cass and are likely to catch a beating next week. I couldn’t, however, tell you the name of their opponents for tonight, or why they were even out there.

I really enjoy Asuka. I like her over-the-top entrance and her weird smiling, and I love her in-ring work. I don’t like Dana Brooke, and I’m neutral enough on Emma that I can boo her if the situation calls for it. I have no issues with this feud either (except that it involves listening to Dana Brooke speak) but I don’t know what Asuka’s opponent’s purpose was. Couldn’t tell you her name either. What I CAN tell you is that she received crickets from the audience. No cheers. No boos. Not even so much as a sneeze. Nothing.

Alexa Bliss has always been enjoyable, whether as a tutu-wearing fairy babyface or as this “she be but little, but she is fierce” heel. I also like her as the “manager”of dopey Blake and Murphy. I like to think of her as Cruella DeVille with Blake and Murphy as her Jasper and Horace. They are an excellent heel team. I can’t stand Mojo Rawley, and have no real feelings about Zack Ryder, so the match itself did nothing for me. And I’m not sure what the purpose of it was, since neither of these teams are on the card for next week’s Takeover in London.

Bayley defeated Peyton Royce, who is apparently an Australian mermaid horticulturalist, for reasons passing understanding. But we did get an Eva Marie/Nia Jax promo afterwards. Jax has a match with Bayley for the NXT Women’s Championship next week, and I imagine it will be excellent – especially with all the heat Jax has acquired just standing next to Eva Marie.

Finally, we had a tag match of Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin against NXT Champion Finn Balor and Apollo Crews. Now this match actually made sense – Corbin vs. Crews and Joe vs. Balor are both matches occurring at NXT Takeover: London, so they put the faces on one team and the heels on the other. Brilliant. Why was that so hard? The match was good and the finish left the audience wondering if there will be a new NXT Champion by this time next week.

I think NXT is still a product I can take a lot more pleasure in than I am currently taking in watching RAW, but I’m starting to notice a lot more WWE-esque things creeping into the product. I’m not sure why matches on a go-home show are booked so strangely. I suppose if the show features storylines I can actually get myself invested in, I can overlook strange booking for now. I’m entirely sure that this episode would make me want to watch next week’s show, even if I hadn’t already been a fan. And isn’t that what the go-home show is for?

Paul Heyman tells a story about Dusty Rhodes putting him on TV to cut a promo. Herman went on forever and put everyone he could think of over. But when he was finished, Dusty asked him where the money was, because he never sold the show. He didn’t give people a reason to tune in next time. NXT always gives you a reason to tune in next time. The only thing RAW gives you is a reason to tune in to anything else.

The Lady J Says

What Became of NXT?

I used to be an avid follower of NXT. In fact, I actually used to write Fight Booth‘s NXT review, that’s how into it I was. Even after Wrestlemania 31, when I became too overwhelmed by my personal life to dedicate three hours a week to RAW or writing reviews, I was still tuning in to the WWE Network on Wednesday nights to watch NXT. So, why am I suddenly not watching anymore?

I don’t even know why I tuned in to watch the main event of last night’s episode, which was a match between Tommaso Ciampa (who I really enjoy) and Samoa Joe. I thoroughly enjoyed this tight match up, but realized when it was over I had no idea why they were even in the ring together. So this morning, I read my friend Sean’s review of the episode, and it occurred to me that I really have no idea what is going on at this point.

So what happened? Did I really get so sucked in by the mayhem of the main roster that I just gave up on NXT? No, of course not. The NXT Takeover: Brooklyn PPV made me cry multiple times, and I’ll never not feel attached to that program. But now I am feeling a disconnect. A lot of my favorite parts about NXT aren’t there anymore. One of the first matches I ever saw on NXT was between Sami Zayn and Cesaro (*sobs* injuries!) and I just have yet to become as invested in the new people.

And there are a lot of new people. I almost feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of talent on the program. I don’t deny that they are (almost) all deserving and bring something unique to the show. There’s a great deal a variety to it and that keeps it from being boring.

My question is this – what is NXT? When I started watching it was almost like a separate indie company from WWE – a weird mash-up of the indies and the old territories while still behaving like a finishing school for eventual main roster talent. But now it feels more like it’s own pinnacle – bringing together some of the best of the indies, some of whom will probably never flourish on the main roster but will develop a more mainstream audience while on NXT TV.

Seeing individuals appearing on NXT while not even actually signed to a developmental deal is not something that should be happening. As much as I enjoy Blue Pants, Leva Bates has spent too much time on TV for someone who doesn’t seem to have any interest in furthering her character or WWE career. I suppose the counter-argument to that is that every time she takes the pin in an NXT match, she makes someone else look strong, with no real detriment to herself, because her character has no future. And that’s fine. That’s basically the definition of a jobber. But NXT is about the future and we should absolutely be moving away from a booking style where there are components that have no stakes or no meaning.

When I was regularly watching NXT, I was emotionally attached to the characters – The Vaudevillians, Sami Zayn, Bayley – but now there are people I’m seeing whose names I don’t know, and whose affiliations I’m not aware of. Are they a heel? Should I boo them? Are they putting someone else over as a heel? I’m not sure what NXT wants from me as an audience member anymore. Of course, the Full Sail audience is distracting and I don’t like watching shows taped in their studio. But, as someone who was so loyal to the product mere months ago, why have I become so alienated as an audience member?

I will be traveling home for the holidays when the NXT Takeover: London special happens, so I will have to catch that after the fact. And perhaps I can start fresh with that and see if it gives me any insight to what NXT is all about now.

The Lady J Says

All Heel Everything

I like to think I am open to a lot of things. Unless your argument is baseless, disrespectful, or downright cruel, I like to think I will hear you out. I can’t promise we’ll agree at the end, but I will hear you out.

Today was a weird day. I went into work feeling disjointed and off. I decided to drink too much espresso to make up for it and spent most of the afternoon vibrating. I ended up talking a co-workers ear off and trying to get into Twitter battles. Beware of Lady J looking for a fight.

My fight of choice was about Eva Marie. After hearing that she came out after Bayley beat Alexa Bliss on NXT last night and announced a title match for herself next week, I wanted to vomit. I can’t stand Eva Marie. I never liked her on Total Divas and she was garbage in the ring during her main roster run. I’m told she has improved quite a bit since going back down to developmental (which, let’s face it, is different then NXT at this point) but I wouldn’t know since I skip over any match she’s in. I understand people’s attraction to her physical form, but there’s something about her that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t believe in slut-shaming anyone, or putting another women down for the way she chooses to dress, but there’s something about her that makes me want to turn away. I suppose that’s my problem, though, and not hers.

No one did end up engaging me in a fight (thank you to all of my Twitter followers for not taking the bait when I’m being a jerk) but my poor co-worker listened to me rant and rave. And then they listened to me try and talk through it on my own. Now, I would boo Eva Marie if I could be bothered watching anything she does – which is great, because she’s a heel. Has she earned the right to a title match? I’m not sure. Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that anyone who is pro-Eva Marie thinks she has. She is also currently aligned with the Big Bad of the NXT Women’s Division right now, Nia Jax. So she’s an über-heel with a heater. She’s pretty much the perfect opponent for Bayley, too. Bayley is not a traditional “diva” – she is a beautiful, strong woman, but not necessarily overly sexualized like Eva Marie is. Bayley’s friends have all moved on to the main roster, while Eva Marie is only starting to form her alliances. While Bayley had to work hard to prove herself and become the champ, she has worked some amazing matches – matches that will go down in the history books – while Eva Marie still struggles to prove herself worthy of the championship or even a place on the NXT roster, for some of us.

I don’t think Eva Marie winning the title off of Bayley on a regular one-hour episode of NXT is a good idea. (Note: I write these blogs assuming you don’t read spoilers. Feel free to assume I don’t either.) I think Eva Marie losing by some technicality is good, because it gives her a chance for a re-match, probably at NXT Takeover: London. This would be a great venue for Eva Marie to win and go back to a Women’s Title heel regime. She could conquer people with the help of Nia Jax until it was time for her to move up to the main roster. Then she could write off people like Becky Lynch, Naomi, Alicia Fox, & The Bella Twins – none of whom could say they were ever NXT Women’s Champion. I would tune in to watch her get in Brie’s face and say “when they told me I sucked, I went down to Orlando to get better. They’ve been telling you that you suck for years, and what have you done about it?”

For me, the problem (besides my own personal discomfort around her) is that she isn’t a very good promo. I know some people might blame the hostile, selfish NXT Universe. There is nothing, it seems, that the NXT live audiences love more than to hear themselves screaming ridiculous phrases. Sometimes I think the NXT audiences just want to see themselves get over and not the wrestlers. But after watching the promo between her and Bayley from last night, I did feel a bit sorry for her. It’s no good for a heel when the babyface has to try to calm the audience down – and they don’t even listen to her because they despise you so much. But here’s the thing anyone who ever gets in the ring to cut a promo should remember: you have a microphone. I have seen gifted actors fall apart in front of live audiences because they don’t get the reaction they were expected. I spent months with a cast of The Rocky Horror Show who were as tight as you can be, but the second the audience started calling things out, they fell apart. When you’re cutting a promo, and the audience gets rowdy, DO NOT ADDRESS THEM. It’s precisely what they want, and then they know they have the power. Instead, just keep talking. Maybe they won’t be able to hear you – but the only person who needs to hear you is your scene partner if they are going to respond. Otherwise, your microphone is going to pick up your voice just fine. I would like to see Eva Marie come out one night and just stand in the ring, let the audience boo her and scream a bit and then cut her promo and leave. Eventually people will pipe down to hear what you have to say. And your TV audience (who, let’s face it, makes up more of the people watching you than your live audience does) will ALWAYS hear you.

I’m not an Eva Marie fan. Maybe I’ll change my mind about her. But right now – I’m willing to wait and see what happens. I spent quite a while last year shrieking on the internet for Lana to get her promos (and her extremities) under control. Guess what? She did. So there’s hope.

The Lady J Says

And They All Went to Sleep For A Thousand Years

Hello readers – sorry to have left you hanging after RAW on Monday. Been a strange past few days. I’m back on track now, though! We’re going to have a guest post coming up soon (be gentle, would you please?) and I’m even working on the logistics of a video post. I used to do them a while back, but my hair is much better now.

I actually watched last night’s episode of NXT in its normal time-slot, and even the subsequent episodes of Table for 3 (which featured former NXT champions Bo Dallas and Adrian Neville, along with current NXT talent Samoa Joe) and CultureShock (featuring excellent cosplay of The Vaudevillains by some friends of mine, Dan & Diego!) Now, I didn’t have any problems with the matches per say, but I was thoroughly unimpressed by the stories being told.

I’ve been hearing a lot lately that “NXT is in a transitional phase”. Which, I have to admit, doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. They already HAD a transitional phase in building the NXT brand to what it was not three months ago. There is no reason why they should be floundering in the way that they are right now. In fact, the NXT brand is experiencing the complete opposite of the main roster at this moment.

Right now on the main roster, they are missing three of the big names that are usually draws for the company in Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Randy Orton. Post-Hell in a Cell they also temporarily eliminated the Undertaker, and during RAW, we saw the demise of Kane. We’re now looking at a depleted roster – or are we? One day – in the not-so-distant future – all of those guys will be gone. What we’ll have left is a roster not entirely unlike what we saw on Monday. And how did WWE deal? They created a tournament for the #1 contender spot that actually made sense: put all the winners from HIAC in matches together, and the winners of those matches go into a fatal four-way for the chance to face Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. And it was great television as well as great wrestling. (NOTE: I’m not claiming this is normal on the main roster, or that they’ll maintain this for next week.)

On NXT, however they seem to have lost sight of their purpose. I will give them this much: they’ve been bled a little dry. With Sami Zayn and Hideo Itami out on injury for months, and Adrian Neville, Tyler Breeze, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch all called up to the main roster, it’s been hard to fill the void. But there is currently so much new talent down in NXT and so little TV time that the product is making very little sense from week to week. It used to be that when people were going to be debuting on NXT they were hyped – there was some sort of commercial we’d see a few weeks before they finally appeared in the ring. Now people are just showing up left and right without warning. It doesn’t seem to fair to them to get swallowed up in a whole crop of new faces – especially the people who have been in the business forever. Every once in a while springing someone new on us could be fun, but the hype for Kevin Owens was so palpable when he finally appeared on an episode of NXT, people were climbing the walls. I want to get that excited for people as a fan, but I need some help from the NXT marketing team.

As far as the actual programming goes, it seems they don’t know what they want. We’ve heard that Triple H listens to the fans as he focuses the direction of the NXT product (though I hope that doesn’t just mean the live audiences, because I’m beginning to hate them more than I hate live main roster audiences.) NXT is constantly making adjustments, which is understandable – but make them during the live events, not on TV. I like Jason Jordan and Chad Gable a lot, but I don’t want to see the “talented guy looks for scrappy new tag partner” trope one more time. And while I empathize that the women’s roster was shaved down quite a bit by the main roster call-ups, but I’m tired of watching indie girls get fed to actual contracted talent. I think it’s great that NXT is trying to diversify their audience, but the new WWE Network program Breaking Ground shows us there are plenty of people who could use the air-time, even if it’s to job to Emma.

I’m not going to give advice to a publicly traded company on how to do their job. I’m sure Trips will get the swing back in NXT eventually. But in the meantime, how about a request: more stories and less filler. You’ve got plenty of heat brewing in your roster, just open the lid and let it go.

The Lady J Says

The Future’s Unstoppable – NXT 5/20/2015

Just when you think NXT can’t get any better…it does.

Tonight’s live show, NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, was a testament to what NXT as a part of the WWE brand truly is: a fully formed, safe-haven product for performers to grow in front of an audience of dedicated wrestling fans. Everyone in the audience at Full Sail University tonight knew the history of each of those performers, and not just as their NXT characters. They knew their true history – who they were before they ever signed on the dotted line of a WWE contract. This is their house.

(Just a quick reminder for new readers: I don’t critique matches because I’m not well-versed enough in wrestling technique. My expertise is in story lines and promos.)

As a whole, Unstoppable was not perfect. It came in waves of excellence. But there is nothing that was unworthy set before us. The opening match, originally a triple-threat match between Hideo Itami, Finn Balor, and Tyler Breeze to be the #1 contender for the NXT Championship, was altered when a video was a shown by a “fan” of an injured Hideo Itami in the parking lot. The video shows Kevin Owens walking past Itami, saying his injury was a shame. Were we, as the audience, meant to believe Owens had something to do with this injury? Did he take out Itami because Owens felt he was the only real competition in that three-way match?
When the match did get under way, Tyler came out to a new entrance with female counterparts holding phones. I, personally, think the phones don’t make the gimmick – the projection of the front-facing camera does. But we didn’t get that. Instead, on the titan-tron was a large, stagnant, typewriter font “TYLER BREEZE” on a white background. *snore* Meanwhile, Finn Balor’s entrance is only getting better. Today’s episode of “Talk is Jericho” feature Balor as a guest in which he explained to Chris Jericho that his name comes from a Gaelic “One-Eyed Demon” called Balor, and Balor’s nemesis, Finn. Balor’s body-paint and ring gear has altered since his first NXT TakeOver appearance, but I think he’s still growing into his WWE persona. I don’t like the dreadlock-hat, but I did like the spiked back piece and the eye hiding beneath it, as well as the slash marks on his legs. I also think the bat wings were okay, but a longer cloak might be more impressive, and if he’s going to wear a headpiece, something with horns is more fitting of a demon. Just a thought.
In the end, the outcome of the first match pits Balor against Owens once again as the #1 contender for the NXT championship. Let’s hope we don’t play this story out the same way as last time.

Following this match was a diva’s tag match pitting Charlotte & Bayley against Emma & Dana Brooke. I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch most of this match, it just didn’t hold my interest, which is a shame, because I really enjoy Charlotte & Bayley. But I would much rather them be opponents then have opponents that are unworthy of them. I am not sure what the point of pitting Emma against Bayley is, and I’m not too pleased Bayley is taking her bait. This type of booking makes Bayley seem petty, like the girl in middle school who gets picked on and lashes out. Bayley is a grown woman who is talented and shouldn’t be falling for Emma’s taunts.
And just in case you, fine reader, do not follow me on twitter, this is my feeling on Dana Brooke:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 11.49.27 PM
Moving on.

As a tattooed freak of a lady, I was on the bandwagon for Baron Corbin from the very beginning. I liked when they developed his Goldberg-esque gimmick of squash matches (and by “they” I mean The NXT Universe did it themselves) but I always knew the character needed to grow beyond that. Baron’s story line with Bull Dempsey was probably a try for that, but I never felt that Bull Dempsey was anything more than a Rhyno wanna-be, short on the mic, big with the punches. When their feud, culminating the last NXT live “PPV” event, fell flat, they needed to try something else to reconnect Corbin with the audience. So why, exactly, did they choose to pit him against the REAL Rhyno, a guy not known for his stellar promos or his in-depth story lines? He’s fun to watch in the ring, but there’s more to wrestling than “I want to gore someone, I pick you!” What Corbin needs is a chance to be challenged. We need to see more of who he is. One of the things that makes the main event picture so great is because there is history and back story to Zayn vs. Owens. We need Corbin to become 3 dimensional – he needs back story. Nobody starts out a lone wolf. What happened to this guy to make him what he is, the bringer of End of Days? He needs to be picked apart. This would be a great opportunity for a Bray Wyatt type, or a Leo Kruger (just sayin’).

I was and was not disappointed by the tag team match. I am a HUGE fan of Enzo Amore and Big Cass, and not just because I’m from New York. Enzo is undoubtedly the #1 stick man in WWE. If (heaven forbid) Enzo should ever get hurt, he needs to be a manager. Him vs. Paul Heyman in a promo-off. (Book it!) Enzo & Cass have made a connection with the audience: their characters are recognizable, they are over-the-top and fun, but they’re still humans and they make mistakes. They try to do the right thing. Blake & Murphy (reigning NXT Tag Team Champs) are ridiculous. They remind me so much of the New Age Outlaws, which is fine. They’re not my favorites – they remind me too much of guys I went to college with who did molly and had black lights in their dorm rooms. But when you get all four of these guys together, they tell you a story. They got Carmela involved, which is very important. Why have a valet if she’s not part of the story? And in the end, she WAS the story, as Enzo & Cass lost the match when Alexa Bliss came in and attacked Carmela from behind, thus aligning herself with some of the worst hair WWE has ever seen. If Alexa Bliss is turning heel, can we fire Dana Brooke? Please? I love Alexa Bliss, regardless of her face/heel status.

The Women’s Championship match was unbelievable. I spent the entire 20 minutes on the edge of the my seat. There was balance to what happened in the ring. They told a beautiful story. Just watching them made me feel exhausted. But everything leading up to this match made sense as well. Becky Lynch was never on Charlotte’s radar when she was champ. To get herself into what (at the time) was the Holy Trintiy of the NXT Women’s division, Charlotte, Bayley, and Sasha Banks, she had to make some changes. She ended up aligning herself with Sasha which worked until her hunger for the title got too big. On the last NXT TakeOver, we saw Becky face Sasha, as well as Charlotte and Bayley, in a Fatal Four Way for the title, which Sasha won. But now Sasha’s ex-minion wanted her chance in the limelight, and boy did she ever shine. The story felt very complete to me, it arced nicely and I would like to see Sasha and Becky move on to face other opponents. They definitely had the match of the night, no question.

The main event was not what I was expecting. The story that has been unfolding between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn has revealed a side of Sami Zayn we’ve never seen before. Kevin Owens came to NXT as a cold, collected, and vicious fighter. Sami was a fan-favorite, a good guy, a solid worker. When he took that horrible beating from Owens and lost his NXT Championship, I thought they were moving him to the main roster – but no. Sami came back, after a time, and demanded a chance to redeem himself. Owens wasn’t having it. In Zayn’s absence he had turned his attention to other things, bigger fish, like his upcoming match with John Cena at Elimination Chamber in a week and a half. But Sami knew all the right buttons to push. I have never seen Sami Zayn cut promos like the two he cut, one to get the match and two last week. Sami pulled out all the big guns – that everything Owens did has Zayn’s name attached to it and that Owens had to put Zayn down because Owens’ son was a Sami Zayn fan. You NEVER mention a guy’s kid – and definitely not this guy’s kid. But in true resilient Sami Zayn fashion, he held his own until the very end. And when it seemed all hope was lost…

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Some big things are happening in NXT. It’s a great time to be a wrestling fan.

The Lady J Says

The Lady J “To Watch” List:
1. NXT Women’s Division (minus Dana Brooke)
2. Kevin Owens vs. Samoa Joe
3. Samoa Joe vs. Kevin Owens
4. Uhaa Nation is in NXT!
5. Me, passing out from excitement