Saturday, January 24, 2015

NXT Cocoa 1-23-15

It was one more action filled night of wrestling in front of yet another packed house for the wrestlers of NXT as the road to Takeover made a stop in Cocoa, Fl. Fans piled into the National Guard Armory to see their favorite stars even scores and gain momentum heading into the next live special.

The opening contest saw Tony Briggs taking on Elias Sampson, two wrestlers that have much potential. It was the speed of Sampson vs the power of Briggs in a game of one-upmanship that could have went either way. At one point Sampson looked to be taking definitive control after a painful jumping knee strike to the face of Briggs, before Kevin Owens burst into the ring to decimate both competitors ruling the match a no-contest. Owens immediately delivered a thunderous powerbomb to Samson, following by his trademark cannonball senton to Briggs laid out in the corner. He then grabbed a mic and let the fans know on no uncertain terms that he was not done.

The night continues with tag team action as the Sawyer Fulton and Angelo Dawkins of Shoot Nation took on the odd pairing of CJ Parker and Ty Dillinger. Using their mat skills and size advantage Fulton and Dawkins start off hot with a distinct advantage over Parker and Dillinger. The odd couple wouldn’t struggle for long using their cunning to gain the advantage over Shoot Nation. Dillinger and Parker worked surprisingly well together making frequent tags and punishing Sawyer Fulton who struggled to make it to his corner. Finally Fulton made the hot tag to Dawkins who burst into the ring cleaning house and taking out anyone in his path. In the final moments an unfortunate Dillinger would receive a backbreaker from Fulton followed by a spear from Dawkins giving Shoot Nation the pinfall victory. It was yet another entertaining tag match between the two teams. The stock of both Dawkins and Fulton have risen considerably since the formation of Shoot Nation, ironic since most people assumed it would primarily be a vehicle for Chad Gable. Both Parker and Dillinger have been underrated in the past, but I think fans are starting to take notice. Dillinger has more of a fan following with every show, while CJ Parker may get the most legitimate heat out of anyone in NXT.

“The hottest chick in the ring” Carmella comes out next for a promo. She mentions that she has recently been out on lunch dates with Enzo and he repeatedly has “forgotten his wallet”. The last time they went out she even came back from the restroom to find him getting the waitresses phone number. So apparently she was looking for a guy right here in Cocoa, as she flirted with guys in the crowd. I’m not sure what the point of the whole segment was but it was entertaining and Carmella is very comfortable on the mic. 2014 was a great start for Carmella and has gotten very good very fast since her first match early last year. I have no doubt it’ll be a stellar year for the princess of Staten Island and that she will be competing for gold sooner than later in 2015.

The action continues as Jason Jordan attempts to defeat the resident wrecking ball of NXT, Bull Dempsey. Not one to be intimidated, Jordan takes the fight right to Dempsey using his impressive strength to toss around his larger opponent. Unfortunately for Jordan he would tweak his leg after it got hung up as he went over the top rope. This would give Dempsey the opening he needed to go in for the kill on his wounded prey. This led to Bull working the leg and giving us varied offense we have rarely seen from the big guy, such as a perfectly locked in cloverleaf. As the match wore on Jordan attempted to mount a comeback but too much damage was done to his leg and Bull ran him down in a cringe worthy collision and followed that with a flying headbutt off the top turnbuckle for the victory.

The next match could be a main event about anywhere in the world, but here in NXT it wasn’t even intermission and it was Adrian Neville vs Finn Balor vs Hideo Itami. These three have been battling it out for a few weeks on the house show circuit now and the definitive heat thus far has been between Neville and Balor. Tonight though right from the beginning Hideo let it be known that he was no ones afterthought and brought the fight right back to his two competitors. The fight that followed was an instant classic much to the delight of a boisterous crowd. I’ve been lucky enough to see these three men battle three times in the last couple of weeks and I’d gladly pay to see them battle several more times. Neville has proven himself in NXT, and future champ Balor has taken NXT by storm, but it’s the dark horse Hideo Itami that is getting more and more comfortable in WWE rings every time I see him perform. This match could have went to any one of the three competitors but it was a superkick from hell to Itami followed by a 450 splash that gave former champ Adrian Neville the victory.

Next up in a Takeover preview it is fatal four way womens wrestling action as Bayley, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte clash in a great match. In NXT it is not uncommon for women to try and steal the show and these four put on a hell of an effort. Early on the four broke into alliances, however it was short lived. After Lynch and Banks were ejected from the ring it was Charlotte and Bayley left in the ring with so much to prove. The bad girls Banks and Lynch used that to their advantage and gain control of the match. Even their alliance would be tested at times and eventually it was every women for themselves. In the climatic final  moments Bayley delivered a Belly-to-Bayley to Sasha, and then Becky for the win. This was yet another fantastic match, and all four women looked great here as usual. However standouts tonight would be firstly Charlotte who is breaking out new offense these days, and is just as comfortable executing neckbreaker variations as she is figure fours and chest chops. Also to Becky Lynch, whose strikes could rival about any wrestler on the roster male or female and who happens to have the best leg drop in the business.

Next up, old friends (and foes) Solomon Crowe and Kalisto met once again in a back and forth contest. It was the explosive brutality of Crowe vs the speed of the popular luchadore that fueled this match that saw Kalisto playing the underdog for much of it. Kalisto is hard to contain though, and began to mount a comeback. Like we’ve seen many times he performed a flurry of moves and attempted to seal it with a Selida Del Sol, but this time Crowe countered it pushing Kalisto into the ropes and clocking him with a forearm. With Kalisto grounded Crowe finished him with a boing splash for the pin. One can only hope rumors are true and the man known as Solomon Crowe will be making his long awaited debut at Takeover. One thing is for sure based on tonight, he looks ready.

Next up, is an entertaining back and forth tag match with The Vaudevillians taking on Cass and Enzo. While Amore makes an impressive start showing off improved ringwork it isn’t long before he is doing what he does best and that is playing the underdog. Gotch and English take firm control of the match. Eventually Enzo makes the hot tag and Big Cass takes control, but in the chaos Gotch is able to roll up Cass (with a handful of tights) and get a surprise leverage pin. I’m a fan of both teams and think they have a great chemistry together, unlike The Vaudevillians previous feud with the Lucha Dragons. Both The Vaudevillians and Cass/Enzo are way over with the crowds, it might as well be face vs face.

Our main event is Sami Zayn vs Tyler Breeze. Reluctant to get into the action, Breeze keeps evading Zayn by jumping out of the ring. Zayn grabs Tylers phone and takes a selfie, an irate Breeze jumps into the ring only to cowardly leave again, except now Zayn gives chase. A frustrated Zayn eventually grabs a chair and begin to chase Breeze. While referee Drake Wuertz attempts to grab the chair Breeze take a cheap shot and begins to beat down Zayn. From this point Breeze is in control in a surprisingly one sided match with Prince Pretty proving why he is still deserving of the main event. But for all of his fervor Breeze could still not put down Zayn and his composure began to crack, first by exposing a turnbuckle and second by trying to use a chair, both attempts thwarted by the referee. Out of nowhere Zayn mounted a comeback with a Blue Thunder powerbomb followed by two German Suplexes, but a resilient Breeze countered with a jaw shattering superkick. Then out of nowhere Kevin Owens once again erupts into the ring knocking Breeze to the wayside. He then picks up Zayn only to be met with a surprise dropkick that sends him reeling to the corner. Then Zayn attempts to finish him off with a Helluva Kick that Owens narrowly escapes. The crowd chanted “Let them fight”, and though that fight wouldn’t happen tonight, it’s only a matter of time before one of the indie scenes most famous feuds continues in NXT.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

NXT Jacksonville 1-17-15

The infamously boisterous Jacksonville fans piled into the Maxwell Snyder Armory for another intense night of wrestling action. The men and women of NXT looked to finish their weekend on a strong note and that they did. Fans would leave just as fired up as they were when they arrived, after witnessing a night of ongoing feuds and dream matches.

The night began with the power of Tony Briggs vs the speed of Elias Sampson, both wrestlers that I’m looking forward to seeing more of. The natural heel Tony Briggs immediately used to his size and strength to try and take the early advantage over the energetic Sampson who halted Briggs momentum with an impressive jumping knee strike to the face. Unfortunately for both men it didn’t really matter who took control at all, because Kevin Owens stormed the ring and he wasn’t in a very good mood. He immediately executed a brutal pumphandle neckbreaker to Sampson and followed with a cannonball senton to Briggs in the corner. For good measure he finished off Sampson with a vicious powerbomb and then grabs a microphone. He answered the fans “that was awesome” chants with a foreboding warning. He said that wasn’t awesome, but it was pretty good. He promised it would be awesome later when he was done, because he was only getting started. He exits the ring and brutalizes Briggs who had just made it to his feet.

Next up Sawyer Fulton and Angelo Dawkins of Shoot Nation took on the bizarre pairing of CJ Parker and Ty Dillinger in what turned out to be an exciting tag match. In the opening moments Parker makes the mistake of challenging Dawkins to amateur style wrestling which didn’t turn out too well for the hippy. Using their shoot skills and definitive size advantage Fulton and Dawkins looked great until the experience and cunning of Parker and Dillinger came into play. Keeping Fulton isolated from his corner Parker and Dillinger punished their opponent and worked surprisingly well together. Rolling out of the path of a moonsault from Parker would allow Fulton to make the hot tag to Dawkins who came like a man possessed. In the chaotic final moments a isolated Dillinger would receive a backbreaker from Fulton followed by a spear from Dawkins for the pin and a victory for Shoot Nation. In a tag team division that I’m constantly raving about, Fulton and Dawkins are yet another team that I look forward to each night. It’s also worth noting that Ty Dillingers following seems to grow with every show despite whatever gimmick he has that particular week. Perhaps Dillinger just needs to be Dillinger, the talent speaks for its self.

Enzo Amore and Big Cass make their way out to a huge pop, which is par for the course with this always over duo. Amore goes through his usual animated spiel before introducing Carmella, who once again reminds us that she sent “Old Bluepants” to the clearance rack and is now looking to go straight to the top of the womens division. Big Colin Cassidy takes the mic and inspired by a fan in the crowd dressed as Sting makes a mock phone call to HHH, letting him know that the vigilante Sting is here in Jacksonville, Florida and sitting in the fourth row. Sometimes these random promos in the middle of a wrestling card come off as pointless, but when Big Cass and Enzo are involved it is always entertaining and the crowd is left pumped.

Next Solomon Crowe takes on Kalisto. In the early going Kalisto took the advantage with his speed and agility. It wasn’t long before Crowe took the advantage after bicycle kicking Kalisto in the face as he flew off the turnbuckle, followed by Crowes explosive running knee into a grounded Kalisto in the corner. Crowe then followed by punishing and wearing down Kalisto. However, the luchadore is never easy to keep down and mounted a comeback with his lightning fast offense. A corkscrew body press off the ropes followed by a Salida Del Sol was enough to give Kalisto the pinfall victory. These two obviously know each other well and have a great chemistry, but for Crowe fans it was another bad night and another disappointing loss.

It’s not often you get that “big fight feel” before it’s even intermission time, but that is exactly what happened. In a match that could have very well been the main event fans saw Finn Balor vs Hideo Itami. Immediately upon the ringing of the bell Neville tosses Hideo out of the ring and sets his sights upon Finn Balor. The two competitors tear into each other with fervor. Hideo, not to be an afterthought reemerges in the fray and from there it is non-stop action that had the entire crowd standing more than sitting. Unfortunately for his opponents Hideo is getting more comfortable in WWE rings as his strikes and world famous kicks are getting stiffer every night. Finn Balor is already main event quality on any roster in the world. Tonight though it was Adrian Neville who was a step ahead of everyone proving why he was the longest reigning NXT champion ever with his dizzying offense and unparalleled speed. Neville managed to end it with a superkick to Hideo followed by a perfectly executed 450 splash off the top ropes for the pin. The show could have ended right there and fans would have went home happy, but it was only intermission.

We come back from a short break for fatal four way womens wrestling action as Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Charlotte all faced off in an excellent fast paced match. Team B.A.E. controlled much of the match until the inevitable arguing over pins began. At this point the odds evened out and it was every woman for herself. In the final moments of the match Charlotte attempted to lock on a figure four on Sasha only to be kicked off and into Bayleys waiting arms for a Belly-To-Belly Suplex. Meanwhile Becky tosses Banks from the ring only for Charlotte to put down Lynch with a neckbreaker followed by a natural selection. Banks quickly pounced tossing Charlotte out of the ring and stealing the pin and walking out victorious once again, even if at the expense of her ally. I have nothing but positive things to say about all four competitors, and truth be known with performances like this they may just steal the show next month at Takeover.

Next up Jason Jordan steps up to the daunting challenge of facing the Alpha of NXT Baron Corbin. Jordan made an impressive showing against, while Corbin did a good job of selling his opponents offense. However it would all prove to be futile as the lone wolf Baron Corbin mounted an unstoppable comeback and lay out Jordan with an End Of Days. The celebration would be cut short though as Bull Dempsey hit the ring and laid out Corbin and accentuated it with a massive flying headbutt that would leave his nemesis laid out.

Newly crowned tag champs Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy defended their titles against everyones favorite gentleman bruisers The Vaudevillians. In a match that involved two great teams it’s strange that the most shocking moment of the match and possibly the whole evening came from the referee. In the early going referee Drake Wuertz (formerly Drake Younger) had enough of the disrespect from Aiden English and began pointing and yelling at the bad guy before he totally lost his cool and gave a deafening chest chop to English. Wuertz had a look as if to say “What the hell have I just done!” before he delivered a chop to Gotch as well followed by more shock. It was a fun moment that was probably spur of the moment due to how over Drake Wuertz really is with the Jacksonville crowd… but yet, on a night with a ridiculously stacked card, it’s funny that this was truly the OMG moment of the night. Soon order was restored and a more traditional tag match followed. Despite brawling referees The Vaudevillians managed to gain control isolating Blake and punishing him before he made the hot tag to Buddy Murphy who entered the ring as explosive as ever and laying waste. It was a running brainbuster to Gotch followed by a beautiful frogsplash from Blake that gave their team the win. Blake and Murphy are simply charismatic and exciting to watch and this title run is well deserved. Though the real question is will anyone ever really boo The Vaudevillians?

Our main event of the evening was an NXT title match with champion Sami Zayn defending against Tyler Breeze. The match began with plenty of antics as Breeze attempted to keep his distance from his enemy. Zayn got a hold of Breezes phone, and eventually put it down…. After taking a selfie. Then champ took control in the early going but Prince Pretty is not one to be taken lightly and shows it whenever he main events. It was an exhausting back and forth battle between the two that eventually saw Breeze take control. Zayn began to mount a comeback and executed a trademark Blue Thunder Bomb into a pin attempt. The two men made it to their feet and Zayn walked into a beautiful superkick from Breeze. Then Kevin Owens once again stormed the ring laying out Breeze and tossing him from the ring. He stood over Zayn, then picked him up to begin his attack. Out of nowhere, Zayn grabbed Owens and launched him into the turnbuckles with an exploder suplex. He looked to follow that with a Helluva kick, which Owens dodged before making a retreat into the back. Afterwards, Zayn cut a nice promo thanking the fans. Once again NXT delivered and even the notoriously smarky Jacksonville crowd went home happy.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

NXT Tampa 1-16-15

Voracious fans piled into the UADC Gymnasium as NXT made its return to Tampa for the first time this year. 2014 was a stellar year for the brand but they promise this year will be even better, and if tonight is any indication it may be. With much to prove heading into the next special the superstars of NXT set out to settle scores and gain valuable momentum.

Our opening bout saw Tony Briggs taking on Ty Dillinger who made his way to the ring without any real gimmick to speak of, in contrast to the several he has been trying out as of late. Yet the “Canadian Superman” was on his game tonight using his experience to overcome the size difference between him and the stocky powerhouse Briggs who couldn’t quite get his footing against Dillinger. The match was cut short with the emergence Kevin Owens ran into the ring to make an emphatic statement by taking out both men with a pair of powerbombs. He took the mic and made sure we knew on no uncertain terms that he was just getting started.

The night continued with tag team action as The Mechanics took on Sawyer Fulton and Angelo Dawkins of Shoot Nation. Using their size advantage in the early goings Shoot Nation looked strong, but the team of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder are just as wily as they are tough and took out Fultons leg. Isolating him from his partner they worked the leg while making frequent tags before Fulton finally made the hot tag to Dawkins who came into the ring with a vengeance taking out anyone in his path before he ran into a vicious clothesline from Dawson. He followed with a tag then flapjacking Dawkins into Wilders knees for the pin. Once again The Mechanics prove that they can consistently put on great matches, while Fulton and Dawkins work really well together and are looking better every time.

Big Cass and Enzo are out next to a huge pop. The overly charismatic Amore works the crowd like only he can before introducing Carmella. She takes the mic and begins by mentioning how she made quick work of “Old Blue Pants” Leva Bates, which prompts a decent Bluepants chant from the Tampa crowd. She continued stating that she wasn’t done there and was headed right to the top and the Womens title. Big Cass takes the mic and goes on that this will be their year whether they’re doing their thing there or on Monday Night Raw. Amore is great on the mic but Cass has gotten really good in his own right. These guys never fail to get the crowd going.

Next up Solomon Crowe takes on Kalisto. These men know each other well and it shows in the ring as the two traded offense in the early stages of the match. Wisely Crowe grounded the high flyer and slowed the pace, punishing his smaller opponent. However keeping down the very durable Kalisto is never an easy task and the luchadore mounted a comeback with a flurry of aerial moves and ending with a Salida Del Sol for the win. It was a short but entertaining match, also interesting to see Crowe as the aggressor rather than the underdog that he has been lately.

Our next match is not only a triple threat but also a match that could steal the show on about any card anywhere in the world, Finn Balor vs Hideo Itami vs Adrian Neville. The bell rings and Neville immediately dispatches Hideo from the ring, leaving him and his old competitor Balor in the ring. Almost immediately they tear into each other and it’s non-stop from there with almost too many awesome spots to call. Hideo is adapting well and looking more incredible with every match, once again teasing the fans with not one, but two attempts at a GTS. Finn Balor, I’m convinced is not only going to be “the man” in NXT, but in the WWE as well one day despite size and dubious WWE booking. However, Adrian Neville was the longest reigning NXT champion for a reason and is not one to be outdone, finishing off Hideo with a perfectly executed 450 splash for the win.

We follow that with womens wrestling action in the form of a fatal four way as Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Charlotte faced off. It was another fast paced match as they immediately broke off into teams with Charlotte and Bayley taking the fight to Becky and Sasha. With the bad girls ejected from the ring the two turned on each other with Charlotte almost immediately going to work on Bayleys injured knee. Banks and Lynch made their way back into the ring and took control working together until they inevitably began arguing over pinfalls. As dissention fell upon team B.A.E. it became every women for themselves. Charlotte landed Natural Selection on Lynch but Sasha took her opportunity and tossed Charlotte out of the ring seizing the pinfall over Becky Lynch. Another excellent match from four of the toughest ladies you’ll find on any roster.

Jason Jordan is out next to take on Baron Corbin. Facing the Alpha of NXT is a daunting task but Jordan didn’t back down and took the fight right to him. Jordan took the advantage over Corbin, but when Corbin began to turn things around Bull Dempsey ran into the ring and laid out Corbin. Dempsey climbed the turnbuckles to execute a flying headbutt, but Corbin rolled out of the path of the wrecking ball. Corbin then finished off Dempsey with an End Of Days. Both Baron Corbin and Bull Dempsey continue to quiet naysayers at house shows, hopefully they can get lengthier televised matches together soon and show the world as well. I’m glad to see the battle isn’t over between these two monsters.

The action continues with tag champions Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake taking on The Vaudevillains. Blake and Murphy are exciting to watch and it’s with that flash and excitement that they started off taking the early advantage. However it didn’t take long before the gentleman bruisers took control of the match and slowed down the pace cutting off Blake from his corner. Things looked bleak for the new champs until Blake achieved enough separation to make the hot tag to Murphy who can be absolutely explosive at times. He quickly cleaned house and ejected Gotch from the ring, executing a running brainbuster on English accentuated by an impressive frogsplash from Blake for the win. Tough booking for The Vaudevillians these days, but I’m glad to see Blake and Murphy getting due recognition.

Our main event of the evening was an NXT title match with champion Sami Zayn defending against Tyler Breeze. The champ took control in the early going but Prince Pretty is not one to be taken lightly and shows it whenever he main events. It was an exhausting back and forth battle between the two that eventually saw Breeze take control. Zayn began to mount a comeback and executed a trademark Blue Thunder Bomb into a pin attempt. The two men made it to their feet and Zayn walked into a beautiful superkick from Breeze. Then Kevin Owens once again stormed the ring laying out Breeze and tossing him from the ring. He stood over Zayn, then picked him up to begin his attack. Out of nowhere, Zayn grabbed Owens and launched him into the turnbuckles with an exploder suplex. He looked to follow that with a Helluva kick, which Owens dodged before making a retreat into the back.

It was another hot night of action from NXT, but it looks like things are only going to get hotter in the coming months.

Friday, January 16, 2015

NXT Full Sail TV Taping 1-15-15

Fans packed in to the NXT arena at Full Sail University for another electric set of television tapings. The following write-up contains spoilers for the next three episodes. Pictures courtesy of @wgwphotos.

Credit: @wgwphotos

The dark match of the evening saw Solomon Crowe defeat Jason Jordan in a short but fun match accentuated by Crowes explosiveness. Dominated in the early goings by the Jordans sheer strength, Crowe rebounded with an erratic offense of kicks and strikes before finishing his opponent with a boing splash for the victory. Crowe delivered as always, unfortunate that it was yet another dark match.
First Episode
We start with a video from our general manager William Regal announcing that the next live special will be held on February 11th. He also announces a tournament to declare a new number one contender for the NXT title, and that tournament will begin tonight.

Ty Dillinger is already in the ring and ready for action when Sami Zayn makes his entrance. Zayn is in no mood for dancing and engaging the crowd. Fired up he storms to the ring and beats down Dillinger before tossing him out and grabbing a mic. An irate Zayn calls out Kevin Owens but is instead answered by an equally irate William Regal who admonishes him for his out of character actions. Regal tells him that there will be no match between them and that Owens must earn a title shot. Zayn tells him he doesn’t care about any of that, that it doesn’t have to even be a title match. Regal relents and announces that it will be Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens at Takeover in February.

Credit: @wgwphotos

Next up is our first tournament match featuring Curtis Axel vs Finn Balor in an entertaining opening bout. Axel took the early advantage and controlled Balor for much of the match. Finn managed to turn things around with his innovative offense finishing off Axel with his double foot stomp off the top rope and advancing in the tournament.

Credit: @wgwphotos

The womens title is on the line next as Sasha Banks once again challenges Charlotte for the gold. After several classics between these two ladies, Charlotte had Banks number and dominated a largely one-sided match between the two. Meanwhile at ringside Becky Lynch finally had enough and jumped in to make a save costing Sasha Banks the match via disqualification. Banks looked initially annoyed at Lynch before the two began a beatdown on Charlotte. Bayley ran down to make the save chasing off Team B.A.E. The two stood strong in the ring before out of nowhere Bayley turned around and laid out Charlotte with a belly to Bayley suplex to the shock of the crowd. Luckily for them general manager William Regal has a special to book. He announced that at Takeover it will be Charlotte defending her title against Bayley, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks in a fatal four way for the womens title.

We continue with tag team action as Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy take on The Vaudevillians. The early advantage went to The Vaudevillains who kept Murphy cut off and punished him while making frequent tags. Eventually Murphy made the hot tag to Blake who exploded into the ring taking out everyone in his sight. In the chaotic final moments, a kick to the head from Buddy Murphy dazed English allowing Blake to roll him up for an upset victory. Blake and Murphy celebrated up the ramp leaving a very livid English and Gotch in the ring.

Credit: @wgwphotos

In another tournament match Tyler Breeze took on Hideo Itami. These two are evenly matched and both came out of this back and forth match looking good. Though Breeze found out that the kicks he tried so hard to avoid in the early going where in fact unavoidable. In the end of a grueling match Tyler found himself victim to Itamis furious flurry of kicks and a final running kick to the face that gave Hideo the victory.

Episode 2
The tournament for the new number one contender for the NXT title continues as Adrian Neville takes on Tyson Kidd. These two know each other so well now and begin cautiously in front of a very split crowd. The two evenly matched competitors put on yet another great match together that went back and forth and seemed like it could have went either way. At the climactic end of the battle Neville nailed a Red Arrow for the victory advancing in the tourney.

Next, Charlotte and Bayley took on Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch in tag team action. Tensions ran high and it wasn’t long before things got out of hand when Bayley attempted to break up a pin and Sasha moved causing Charlotte to take the attack. This culminated in an all-out brawl between the two before being separated by several referees.

The tag title are on the line next as Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy take on The Lucha Dragons. If there is any team in NXT that can match the energy of The Luchas it is Blake and Murphy. The two evenly matched teams put on a back and forth battle that seemed to be swinging in the favor of Kalisto and Sin Cara. But in the final moments with Sin Cara thrown from the ring Buddy Murphy made the blind tag to Blake. Kalisto nailed Murphy with a Selida Del So only for Blake to roll him up for the surprise pin. It was another upset victory for Team B.A.M., this time culminating in tag team gold.

The tournament continues with Baron Corbin and Bull Dempsey colliding once again in another match that was a short burst of violence. In a match that was far from pretty or technical these two brawled inside the ring and out before Corbin put down Dempsey with an emphatic End Of Days for the victory. It was another win for Corbin, but I have a feeling this one is far from over.

Out next is William Regal, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens for a contract signing. Regal lays down the law telling them that this will not end like every other contract signing in the WWE. In fact, if they lay their hands on each other the match is off. Zayn lays down an impassioned promo before signing the contract. Owens pauses pointing out that the contract says it is a non-title match. He continues stating that regardless of what Zayn thinks it is not personal, rather that it is about the prize. He says that title means more money and a better life for him and his family, and that he refuses to sign. Zayn pleads to Regal make it a title match. Regal relents, amends the contract on the spot and Owens signs. We are officially in store for one hell of a main event at Takeover.

Episode 3
Cass and Enzo make their way out to a huge pop from the crowd to introduce Carmella. Her opponent for the evening is a returning Emma. This was a short but entertaining match that was largely one sided with Emma in control. However a crafty Carmella thwarted the Australians offense with a drop toe hold into her finishing submission maneuver, a modified head scissors, giving Emma no choice but to tap out.

The number one contenders tournament goes into the semi-finals with an intriguing match as Adrian Neville takes on Baron Corbin. Using his size to his advantage Corbin made an impressive showing against Neville. However, the wily Neville took the fight right to the big man providing  Corbin with perhaps his greatest challenge yet. At one point Corbin ended up on the floor and with the referee distracted Bull Dempsey ran down and rammed Corbin into the steel ring post. Corbin managed to make the count back in the ring but the worse for the wear, allowing Neville to lay him out and finish him off with a red arrow and advance to the finals.

In perhaps the best womens match of the night, Becky Lynch took on Bayley. Lynch took the advantage early on working on Bayleys leg. Eventually Bayley started to turn things around and ejected Lynch from the ring onto the floor. Banks came out “coaching” her partner, yelling at her to get back in there, eventually picking her up and rolling her back in the ring. Unfortunately for her Bayley met her with a Belly to Bayley for the win. After Banks and Lynch began to argue in the ring and that evolved into shoving before they were interrupted by Charlottes music as the champ emerged at the end of the ramp. All four women stared off, the magnitude Takeover looming.

Credit: @wgwphotos

Our final semi-final tournament match was a match that could headline about anywhere in the world as Finn Balor took on Hideo Itami. The crowd was marking out before the bell even rang. These two are so evenly matched and similar, and in showed in their bout as well, a grueling match that swung back and forth like a pendulum and showcased so much of the signature ringwork of these two men. It was a match that could have went either way, but tonight it swung in the favor of Finn Balor who finished Itami with his double stomp off the top rope.

At the end of the entrance ramp, Balor shakes hands with the other finalist Adrian Neville. These two will meet at Takeover. As anyone who has seen their past work together would attest, these two may well steal the show.

Dark Match Main Event
Our final match of the evening saw Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville take on Tyson Kidd and Kevin Owens. Neville and Owens are set to start when Zayn tags himself in. Not impressed Owens tags in Kidd and the action begins. Smartly, they kept Owens and Zayn apart with Kidd handling most of the work. Finally, Owens picks his moment running in to attack Zayn only for Zayn to turn things around and eject Owens for the ring. With a firm advantage now, Zayn looked to have the match won for his team after a helluva kick to Kidd only for Owens to run back in and begin a beatdown on Zayn and the referee throws out the match. After putting down Sami Zayn with a massive powerbomb, once again an evening at Full Sail ends with Kevin Owens standing over the body of Sami Zayn.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Five To Thrive In 2015

As a new year begins the internet is once again at no shortage for yearend retrospectives and articles looking at the year ahead. Recently ran a feature highlighting 15 stars to look out for in 2015 and to the surprise of no one, many NXT stars made the list. So to crowd the internet with one more highly subjective look at the year ahead, here are my picks for the top 5 NXT stars to look out for in 2015. I chose to limit myself to only 5, simply because as an avid NXT fan it would be too easy to get carried away and include most of the roster.

For my list I chose to omit the obvious, wrestlers like Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, and Charlotte who are obviously at the top of the NXT heap. The hot additions of 2014 such as Hideo Itami, Finn Balor, and Kevin Owens are no-brainers. Baron Corbin, Bull Dempsey, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch would all be great picks for any list. However I chose to highlight athletes that at this point are flying under the radar. I picked wrestlers who have yet to debut on the network, or have at least been minimally featured but have become staples of house shows. These are athletes the casual viewer may not even know, but are almost guaranteed to make an impact in NXT in 2015. In no particular order they are:

Solomon Crowe
It is undeniable that Solomon Crowe showed up in NXT with an already sizable fan base, but it is also safe to say he’s made many new fans as well, and he’s done this without ever showing his face on the network. It’s easy to see why, the Ohio native with a hardcore reputation comes off as dangerous and explosive in the ring, just as likely to bicycle kick you in the face as contort you into a stretch muffler. Yet to the dismay of increasingly impatient fans he has yet to be debuted which has led to rampant speculation and conspiracy theory. The only thing for sure though is when the powers that be finally pull the trigger on Crowe he’ll be a top player in NXT.

Hugo Knox
With seemingly a new lauded indie superstar coming in every week, it is an admirable feat for a relatively unknown wrestler to make such an impression with his first match. Former UK soccer player Hugo Knox made a big splash with his debut proving that he will be a face to look out for. Regardless of the Magic Mike/Male dancer gimmick, he comes out with such enthusiasm and exuberance that it is contagious. That energy translates in the ring as well. Knox is not a small guy but at times he moves like one, being just as comfortable flipping off a rope or executing a perfect enziguri as he is performing power moves. Knox has maximized his time in the spotlight making a lot of fans with a few matches.

Chad Gable
He may not be the biggest guy in NXT, but the 2012 Olympians wrestling skills may cast one of the largest shadows. At 5’8 and 185 pounds he is prone to be the underdog in about any fight, which he does well, but it is when he is on offense that he is the most fun to watch. Technically sound and fast paced Chad Gable also leads a stable of wrestlers with amateur backgrounds known as Shoot Nation, sizable backup with each member bringing much to the table in their own right. For me, the formation of Shoot Nation is one of the more intriguing developments of 2014. Given the chance Chad Gable could be a main eventer and Shoot Nation the next great faction in NXT.

Braun Stowman
At 6’8” and 370 pounds Stowman is an absolute mountain and watching him slowly making his way to the ring with an icy stare it is easy to see him as the monster he claims to be. Once in the ring the former strongman tosses his opponents around like dolls while moving about the ring with more agility than a man his size should. A sight to behold and beast in the ring it is only a matter of time before NXT has one more resident monster on the WWE Network. How long before he crosses paths with Baron Corbin? Stowman is possibly the only guy in NXT that could make Corbin look like a legitimate underdog.

The Mechanics
The mantra of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder is no flips, just fists. While that is an appropriate slogan for the two roughnecks whose offense isn’t pretty, it is effective and the two are smarter and more calculating than they care to admit. The term old school is thrown around a lot these days, but these guys are it, harkening back to the golden age of great tag team wrestling. I am often singing the praises of the NXT tag scene to anyone who will listen, but you put these two in a program for tag team gold with a team like Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake, and everyone will see it for themselves.