Previously, on WWE NXT, Bayley tried to punch her ticket to another shot at the NXT Women’s Championship by defeating Nia Jax. It was a great showing for Bayley, who managed to conquer one of her biggest rivals en route to – hopefully – another shot at her other biggest rival. With Jax (and Carmella and Alexa Bliss, too) off to the main roster in the draft, it’s Bayley’s biggest chance to get a shot at Asuka. Elsewhere last week, Rhyno got the match he challenged Samoa Joe to, and it didn’t work out so well for the beast. The NXT Champion proved why he carries the gold by defeating Rhyno quite convincingly. We also saw American Alpha drop a heartbreaker to The Authors of Pain, although a pre-match beatdown on Gable and Jordan certainly gave the upper hand to Paul Ellering’s charges.
Where does that leave us this week? It’s the first episode from a new set of tapings, and tonight starts the road to TakeOver: Back to Brooklyn. One of the first orders of business will be seeing the card for the next big special begin to take shape. With Samoa Joe having a chokehold on the NXT Championship, who will be given the enviable task of trying to wrest the gold from him? In addition, with the draft claiming several NXT superstars for Raw and SmackDown Live, how will the roster change in the wake of the departures? Will they leave right away, or continue to pull double duty? And who will step up to fill the void created by the brand split – especially in the women’s division?
1. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Wesley Blake
Nakamura returns to Full Sail two weeks after sending Finn Balor up to Raw. Blake is trying to figure out if he’s the Jannetty or Michaels of his former tag team with Buddy Murphy, so he challenges the King of Strong Style tonight.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Wesley Blake
As Blake and Murphy continue to display dissension in the ranks, it’s Blake – with a new look and entrance music – getting his chance at the King of Strong Style. A few weeks back, Murphy put up a valiant effort against Nakamura but came up short. And Blake also gave it his best shot, but again, there’s no stopping Nakamura right now as he marches towards what we now know is a championship opportunity at TakeOver: Back to Brooklyn. Nak is in a world all of his own, and the post-match announcement from William Regal that his NXT Championship match is set is a testament to how far he’s risen so quickly in NXT. Quick aside: Part of Nakamura’s appeal is how well he can connect with an audience despite a pretty significant language barrier. While he speaks limited English and gets things done, it’s his non-verbal “speaking” and his body language that tells you everything you need to know. Go back and watch that sequence where Blake blows him a pair of kisses, and tell me you don’t immediately know everything going on in Nakamura’s head.
2. Billie Kay vs Santana Garrett
Billie Kay has been absent from NXT programming for some time, but has the ability to be a big part of the women’s division. Santana Garrett is a stellar independent competitor who has made a few appearances on NXT in the past.
Billie Kay defeated Santana Garrett
This is probably a preview of where the NXT Women’s division is headed post-draft (and the inevitable Bayley call-up). Billie Kay looked pretty good here, and Garrett put in another solid appearance in a stop over from the indies. With Bayley, Asuka, and Peyton Royce among the non-drafted NXT women with significant prior television exposure, the face of the women’s division between the yellow ropes is bound to change. Kay has been around for a while but seemed to get lost in the shuffle – now she has a chance to make herself stand out, and that big boot finisher is one way to do it.
3. TM61 vs Rob Ryzin & Adrian Nails
Shane Thorne and Nick Miller have slowly been climbing the ranks of the NXT tag team division, gaining popularity hand in hand with victories. Rob Ryzin has new gear, new hair, and a new partner in Adrian Nails.
TM61 defeated Rob Ryzin & Adrian Nails
Pretty much a showcase for TM61, as Thorne and Miller controlled for the majority. With American Alpha headed to SmackDown, TM61 are one of the most well-oiled, teamwork based tandems in NXT, along with The Revival. Just the thought of those two having a 25-minute title match is pretty exciting. Throw in The Authors of Pain, as well as Gargano and Ciampa, and you have the makings of a really good tag team division. I like the focus on tag teams in NXT, because as a developmental show tag teams are a great way to go. Rather than two guys in a match, a tag bout gives you four – more guys in less time, so you can build characters and talent faster.
If this continues, the centerpiece of NXT may very well be the tag team division, which will spell success for the main roster division down the road. Even the part-time teams like Ryzin and Nails (with the kneepads outside the jeans like a roller blader) can get in on the action. The show of respect after the match was a little weird, but welcome. It seemed a little out of place, but there’s nothing wrong with guys acting like decent human beings – in victory or defeat.
4. No Way Jose vs Steve Cutler
Jose is coming off laying a beating on Austin Aries, in retribution for The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived ruining his fiesta. Cutler is coming back after a long time off screen, and Tom Phillips says he’s heard Cutler has a bad attitude – off screen heel turn!
No Way Jose defeated Steve Cutler
Jose makes quick work of Cutler, and the continued expansion of Jose as a real character beyond “dancing baseball fan who also wrestles” rolls on. The fire in his eyes when he’s “disrespected,” according to Corey Graves, and the whole concept of flipping a switch in the middle of competition is great. Giving Jose time to speak in the ring is a good call, as well. He delivered a great promo, and it sounded real and from the heart – that doesn’t happen often enough in WWE, where things are scripted to death. If Jose cut a scripted spiel there, he’s a better actor and orator than 90% of the main roster and probably ALL of the NXT roster. Kudos to him.
5. Kota Ibushi vs Buddy Murphy
Earlier in the evening, Buddy Murphy told his (former? who knows with these two) tag team partner Wesley Blake that he was going to challenge one of the favorites in the Cruiserweight Classic to a match tonight. We found out before the break that it would be Kota Ibushi stepping up from the CWC to take on the former NXT Tag Team Champion.
Kota Ibushi defeated Buddy Murphy
First off, Kota Ibushi in a WWE ring outside of the Cruiserweight Classic is something pretty impressive. Ibushi has had great matches with inanimate objects, so against living and breathing human beings he can do amazing things. As far as the match, it was about what you would expect if NXT would take the time to put Ibushi on the show. He got a chance to show what he could do, without making Murphy look like a tomato can in the process. Ibushi had the crowd solidly behind him, which is a good sign for his potential future in NXT/WWE. We’ve seen lately that upon a promotion to the main roster, popular NXT superstars seem to do okay (Bayley at Battleground, Balor on Raw). If Ibushi is this popular already, imagine how he can get built up ahead of an appearance on Raw in the new cruiserweight division.