Hey, it’s WWE NXT! Or Hideo’s Journey To The West! Or The Secret Diary Of Kenta Kobayashi, aged 34 and no quarters!
There’s a tradition in American sitcoms of the Very Special Episode. They usually involved Arnold from Diff’rent Strokes being violently groomed or the death of a beloved uncle who we’d only just met in the very same episode.
This episode of NXT is a Very Special Episode. But don’t worry – no-one gets high or set on fire – it’s a celebration! It’s all about the fun times the NXT crew had at WWE Axxess over Wrestlemania week, and one man’s vision quest to represent his brand, his country, and his family at the Big One.
The show started with a light-hearted look at some of the NXT roster at Axxess. Kevin Owens complained that he wasn’t in the latest Ultimate Guide to the WWE – but Sami Zayn was – and Enzo & Big Cass said that if they had a dime for every SAWFT t-shirt they’d seen at Axxess they’d have… millions of dollars.
They re-capped the quarter finals of a tournament to find the NXT representative in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania. Finn Balor beat Baron Corbin, Tyler Breeze beat Bull Dempsey, Hideo Itami beat Jason Jordan, and Adrian Neville beat Kalisto.
That brought us to the first semi-final, a match-up between Hideo Itami and Adrian Neville – for the first time on NXT.
They had a GREAT match. Eleven and a half minutes long, and it was a barnburner. Itami won with a running kick after Neville missed the Red Arrow. Seriously, make time to see this if you can.
The matches were held in main hall where Axxess was held, with fans on two sides. There was a distracting giant banner for Wrestlemania 28 in the background, and too much daylight, but it must have been a neat attraction for the vocal crowd.
They went straight into the second semi-final, between Finn Balor and Tyler Breeze, another first time match up on NXT.
Their match was good, but nowhere near the standard of the opener. Breeze played his usual petulant heel and Balor was a strong favourite with the smart fans that Axxess attracts. Balor won with the Coup De Grace, which he’s starting to hit perfectly now.
They showed a hype video for Dana Brookes, who will be debuting on NXT next week. Men like her, it seems. Eh, we’ll see.
A video package on the run-up to NXT’s debut in San Jose aired, with HHH understandably proud of what they’d achieved. Testimonials from Scott Hall, Shawn Michaels, John Cena, and Stephanie McMahon were shown – everyone’s on board. They showed brief clips of the show – I want it all!
They advertised Sami Zayn versus Rhyno for next week. ‘kin hell!
Hey, it’s our main event! Half way through the show! It’s Finn Balor versus Hideo Itami, and the winner goes onto Wrestlemania to be thrown out of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal by The Big Show! Spoiler: Hideo itami wins. We know that because he was at Wrestlemania ten days ago.
They had a very good match. Maybe not as good as their match in the number one contender’s tournament but still pretty good. Balor played subtle heel to Itami’s indomitable spirit – he did it in New Japan just fine so it’s good to see he can switch both ways.
Itami won with the running kick after Balor had escaped a GTS. He’s going to Wrestlemania! After the match they hugged. Not a dry eye.
They showed a video package of Itami’s journey to NXT, and beyond. Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Hart were shown introducing him to the fans in Japan after he signed, and a clip of the press conference he gave to announce that signing was also shown. Daniel Bryan put him over as a better kicker than he is.
Flashing back to the present, Itami was coming through the gorilla position after his match with Balor, who was there to hug him again. The first person to greet him, though, was BRAUN STOWMAN. Mark him off your NXT Rookies list.
Itami was shown with his family, and his kids are damn cute. One of them was bugging Tyler Breeze, just like his dad. They showed the end of his match with Breeze in San Jose, where he finally hit the GTS, and then highlighted the buzz that it got on social media. Dean Ambrose and Paige put Itami over as perfect for moving onto the main roster.
John Cena talked up the Performance Center, and Seth Rollins was shown joking with itami that it took him three years to get to Wrestlemania, and it had taken Itami six months,
They showed clips from the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, with Itami eliminating Bo Dallas, and then getting eliminated by The Big Show.
Backstage at Wrestlemania, Itami was congratulated on his performance by Rollins and The Big Show, and lots of other main roster stars. The show ended with HHH saying that, “in every way imaginable, he won.”
This was a Great Show. The first half had some really good wrestling action, and the second half was the best hype video for Hideo Itami EVER. NXT does this stuff so well. The future is secure.