Sunday, May 31, 2015

NXT Venice 5-30-15

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Maryann Mason

Saturday night NXT rolled into Venice, Fl for the first time ever. A sold out crowd piled into the Venice Community Center for a night of great wrestling action and would not be disappointed. From a meet and greet with Irelands greatest exports Finn Balor and Becky Lynch to a chaotic six man main event, it was an unforgettable night from beginning to end.

The night starts off with Mojo Rawley taking on Chad Gable. The match begins with trash talk as Mojo informs the crowd that Gable “ain’t hyped and he can’t get chicks” to which Gable retorts “I’m married, ya morons”. Gable attempts to get down to business but an animated Rawley would much rather dance. They finally lock up and the obvious size and strength advantage goes to Rawley until a wise Gable lures him into the corner and locks on an armbar over the top rope. This is where Gable is at his best, working the arm and tossing Mojo around the ring with ease. Eventually though Rawley would mount a comeback and bounce around the ring like a pinball and send Gable flying with a crazy shoulder tackle for the win. After the match Ty Dillinger comes out and rates the match a 2. Recent crowds seem to be receptive to the returning Mojo Rawley, but I wonder how long it will be before the dancing wears thin and crowds begin to turn on him as they started to before he left. Chad Gable is literally one of the best pure wrestlers in NXT and seems to be getting comfortable as the cocky heel, hopefully he’ll be moving up the ranks sooner than later.

Tag team action is next with The Vaudevillians taking on Sawyer Fulton and Angelo Dawkins. Gotch and English dominate the early part of the bout with their manly antics and Hindu leg squats much to the delight of the crowd. Later though Fulton and Dawkins would take control of the match, isolating Gotch and working him over for much of the duration. Employing frequent tags and great tandem wrestling they dominate Gotch until he finds an opening and makes the hot tag to English who clears the ring. Later chaos ensues with all four men in the ring when Gotch dodges a spear from Fulton sending him into Dawkins. Gotch uppercuts Fulton into the back of the skull reeling him forward into a running spinning neckbreaker from English for the victory. This was a really fun tag match with great wrestling from all four men. The Vaudevillians are very over with the crowd in every town whether working as heels or faces, it’s a real head scratcher that they are not contending for the tag titles. Meanwhile, Dawkins and Fulton are becoming more impressive every time they perform. With their size, strength, and obvious wrestling ability Dawkins and Fulton could become downright dangerous with a little momentum.

Emcee Greg Hamilton is out next and he introduces former NFL player and NXT newcomer Sabby Piscitelli. He makes sure to let us know that all of his accolades as football player don’t matter in NXT, and that he is here to prove himself with the best athletes in the world. He is interrupted by Preston Cunningham Jr (UCF wrestler Josh Woods) who is not impressed. Cunningham, a spoiled trust fund kid with an atrocious fashion sense, trades barbs back and forth with Sabby. Finally an altercation ensues and Piscitelli tosses Cunningham out of the ring.

Next, Tucker Knight takes on the very tortured Marcus Louis. For much of the match the much larger Knight dominates with a strength based offensive, but it really didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the deranged Louis. Finally, Louis finds an opening and attacks the leg ferociously and focuses on it for the remainder of the match. Despite a few flurries of offense from Knight, Louis continued and eventually trapping Knight into a leglock giving him no choice but to tap out. Ty Dillinger comes out and gives the match a 4. Marcus Louis is exceptional as a deranged madman, and is fun to watch whether he is wrestling or simply walking to the ring.

The crowd lights up for six woman tag action as the team of Charlotte, Carmella, and Devin Taylor take on Sasha Banks, KC Cassidy, and Jessie McKay. Early on Charlotte and company take the strong advantage over their opponents. Eventually though the ring wise Banks turns things around for her team attacking Carmella behind the referees back. With Carmella in trouble Banks and her teammates dominate until Carmella makes the hot tag Charlotte who takes over and takes down Cassidy with a neckbreaker followed by a spear. At this point the match breaks down with all women in the ring and in the chaos Charlotte lands a Natural Selection on KC for the pin. This match was a highlight of the night and the Venice crowd would certainly agree. Ring generals Charlotte and Sasha Banks looked great as always, while Carmella continues to be the most quickly improving women in NXT. Cassidy and McKay are already proving themselves to be valuable additions to an already strong female roster. Even Devin Taylor, who people have been critical of, seems to be making strides in the ring, even if I still can’t stand her preppy valley girl gimmick.

Next, Bull Dempsey takes on Mike Rawlis. Much of this match swings back and forth as both competitors are evenly matched. Eventually Rawlis takes charge after impressively tossing Dempsey over his head with a fallaway slam. He follows by wearing down Dempsey with a series of rest holds and an abdominal stretch. Finally Dempsey rebounds, running down Rawlis and finishing him off with a seated senton from the top rope. Rawlis is getting better every outing, but I’m glad to see Bull Dempsey pick up a victory after a long stretch losses. Bull is a charismatic big guy; hopefully with the proper booking they can translate that to television soon.

Ty Dillinger is out next and apologizes that the show thus far has only been a 4, however he is about to give us a perfect 10 performance. It wouldn’t be easy though because his opponent is the always exciting Solomon Crowe. In the early moments after a successful maneuver Dillinger would cartwheel into his corner and raise his perfect 10 sign up high. Finally a frustrated Crowe sends Dillinger flying with a head scissors and grabs the sign scoring himself a 10, much to the chagrin of Dillinger. An excellent back and forth battle ensues between the most explosive guy on the roster and the most underrated guy in NXT. Dillinger eventually takes over and looks to finish off but Crowe fires back with a series of kicks and strikes eventually toppling Dillinger and locking on the Stretch Muffler for a submission victory.

                                                           (Photo courtesy @WGWDesign )

Greg Hamilton and Dasha are out next to interview Uhaa Nation who comes out to a nice pop. Uhaa tells us of his humble beginnings and how he has fought for everything he has in life. I had a chance to ask him what it has been like transitioning from the indies to NXT, and he assures us that everything has been about getting here to this point, and eventually the NXT title.

Next up the “Lass Kicker” Becky Lynch is out for action against Lina. Not one to be intimidated Lynch takes the fight right to her strong and powerful opponent. Lina barely budges and fires back at Lynch, taking charge of much of the match. Eventually she traps the underdog Lynch in a massive bear hug, tossing her about like a rag doll. Lynch escapes and mounts a comeback, first toppling Lina with a dropkick off the top rope followed by a trifecta of her trademark leg drops. However Lina keeps coming back until she is halted with an armbar from out of nowhere giving Becky Lynch a submission victory. This was another great performance by Lynch, showing off her versatility against a larger and strong opponent. I’ve only seen Lina a couple times now but I enjoy her quite a bit, and guarantee she will be one to watch out for.

It is time for our six man tag main event, as Cass and Enzo come out to a huge pop from the crowd to introduce their partner Finn Balor. Balor makes his way down in his usual theatrical fashion, cutting up and having fun in the ring with Cass and Zo. Out next are their opponents for the evening Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder with their partner Baron Corbin. This was a very entertaining match where they pulled out all the stops, even the Dawson/Amore boxing match gimmick. The good guys dominated the early goings of the match until their opponents managed to isolate Enzo for much of the match. Finally, he makes a hot tag to Big Cass who comes in a clears the ring. Much like six-man matches often do, it eventually descended in chaos with men fighting everywhere until Balor finishes Dawson with a Coup De grace. This was a fun match in which all six men came out looking great. Dawson and Wilder continue to prove they are more than capable of hanging with anyone in NXT. House show faithful can attest to the fact that Dawson and Wilder tear the house down on a regular basis, to the point it is downright criminal they are not doing the same thing on my television yet. Meanwhile, I love the serious “demon” Balor as much as anyone, but some of my favorite Finn moments come from house shows like these. House shows where is he is simply playful, and having fun, with a smile on his face that tells you he genuinely loves his job.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Banks/Lynch 2 Needs To Main Event Next Takeover

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Maryann Mason

Whenever I lightheartedly refer to myself as an “unbiased sports journalist” my wife simply rolls her eyes and laughs at me. The reason she finds it amusing can be traced back to one person, Becky Lynch. That’s right, I am a huge mark for Becky Lynch. The wife knows it, friends know it, and even Becky knows it. Luckily for me I am not a journalist, but rather a lowly blogger and if I am a little biased it is my prerogative. However after an impressive performance at Takeover: Unstoppable, I feel more justified in my bias as the Becky bandwagon has picked up considerable steam.

Biased or not I believe that at Takeover: Unstoppable, wrestling fans across the world saw exactly what I saw from day one. They saw a fiery athlete with incredible ring acumen and an explosive move-set take on another incredible and passionate athlete in Sasha Banks. Together they put on an instant classic with great storytelling and fantastic ringwork. Quite simply, Lynch and Banks stole the show. Not only that, but they raised an already incredibly high bar concerning women’s matches in NXT. However, in the end they did not put on a great women’s match; they put on a great wrestling match, period.

I wasn’t surprised. I had predicted that they would steal the show. I wrote it, tweeted it, and told it to anyone that would listen. Also, when the status of Sami Zayn was unclear heading into the special, I made the case for Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks to main event Takeover. After their match they proved that they are more than capable of headlining, which has me already contemplating the future.

Fans are already clamoring at the idea of Banks/Lynch 2. While none of us know if there will even be a rematch, I think they could easily main event the next live special. The chemistry between these two ladies is incredible and with the proper booking the rematch could be even bigger than the first. I think we are on the verge of a new era in women’s wrestling and in many ways NXT is paving the way for the WWE, rather than the other way around. NXT can once again set the standard, just as they did in Philly when Sasha clashed with Charlotte in the main event, just as they have at several house shows down here in Florida. Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks in a Takeover main event can be the opening shots in a women’s wrestling revolution.

Or not. It really doesn’t matter where you put them on the card, because when they meet again they will steal the show anyway.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Full Sail TV Taping 5-21-15

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Maryann Mason

Tonight the rowdy and raucous NXT fans piled into Full Sail University for another action packed set of television tapings. The following recap contains spoilers for the next four episodes of NXT.

The dark match of the evening saw Dash Wilder with the daunting task of taking on Braun Stowman. Wilder attempts to take the fight right to the 6’8” 375lb Stowman, who is immovable. Stowman tosses Wilder around with ease and beats him to the mat with big clubbing blows. He continues torturing Wilder with a claw to the shoulder. Wilder attempts to mount a comeback anyway he can, first by pulling himself up by the big mans beard and eventually even biting him. Wilder’s rally would be short lived though as Stowman puts him down with a big boot, and follows by hoisting him on his shoulder for a big slam onto the mat followed by a pin. It was a lopsided contest which is to take nothing away from the underrated and underutilized Dash Wilder, however wrestling Braun Stowman is akin to grappling with a mountain.

Episode 1

The music of Sami Zayn hits and the crowd erupts, but instead of Zayn it is Kevin Owens who strolls out and down the ramp. In the ring he tells us that he could stand there and issue an NXT title open challenge, but he is not that insecure and has nothing to prove to anyone. The crowd breaks into a “John Cena Sucks” chant, but Owens shuts it down by telling them that Zayn sucks too but they don’t chant that at him. Owens continues by telling us that he is a good man and he did us a good deed by insuring we’d never have to hear Sami Zayn’s music again. He also says that at Takeover he let Samoa Joe have his moment. He assures us he could have easily dropped Samoa Joe. General Manager William Regal makes his way to the ring. Owens tells him that at Takeover he headbutted Regal only after he laid his hands on him. Regal tells him that that is the only reason Owens is still here. The two exchange more words before the two are interrupted by Solomon Crowe who immediately confronts Owens. Crowe tells Owens he is scared and is a piece of crap. William Regal sets up a main event between the two. Owens tells Regal to add Solomon Crowe to the list of wrestlers that has had stretchered out of the building.

Next is Bayley taking on Emma, accompanied to the ring by Dana Brooke. After an initial flurry of offense a very aggressive Emma takes over pummeling Bayley and following with a few snap mares by the ponytail. She stops to trash talk and Bayley fires back first with signature elbows in the corner and eventually a nice suplex. However, moments later Emma would come back and lock Bayley into an Emma lock for a submission victory. After the match Dana comes in and they begin to beat down Bayley. Charlotte runs down to make the save, but with Bayley out it is still two on one. They overpower Charlotte and Dana finishes her with a Samoan Driver.

Tag team action is next as Mike Rawlis and Elias Sampson compete against Blake and Murphy, accompanied to the ring by Alexa Bliss. Despite a size and strength advantage Blake and Murphy manage to easily take control over the rookie Rawlis. The usually explosive champs took to a slow pace as if simply toying with him until he eventually found an opening to make a hot tag to Elias Sampson. The pace quickens drastically as Sampson comes in with a series of chops and kicks until Murphy halts his momentum with a heel kick. He follows with a running vertical suplex and Blake finishes him off with a frogsplash for the win. After they put an explanation mark on their victory as Alexa Bliss executes a Sparkle Splash onto a still down Sampson. This match was about making the champs look strong, but I’m still happy to see Elias Sampson on television in any capacity. Sampson is one to look out for, as anyone who attends house shows will attest to.

Next out is Ty Dillinger who comes out with huge support from the crowd who are familiar with his house show “Perfect 10” gimmick. Unfortunately, that has not made its way to television yet and worse for him, his opponent is Finn Balor. Dillinger starts off with some strong chops but Balor comes back with a flurry of offense. Ty pummels Balor in the corner and puts locks him into a chickenwing. Eventually Balor breaks free and comes back with a series of chops and kicks. He follows with a slingblade and a dropkick into the corner. Balor finishes off Dillinger with a Coup De Grace for the victory. This was a good match and both men came out looking strong. Hopefully this is the beginning of a push for Ty Dillinger.

The main event is next as Solomon Crowe takes on Kevin Owens. As he often does, Owens immediately leaves the ring to dictate his own pace. Crowe follows him to the outside, but Owens gets the jump and the two begin brawling on the outside. Back on the inside Crowe begins mounting offense until Owens knocks him of the turnbuckle. Owens tosses Crowe to the outside and Crowe narrowly makes the count back in. Owens beats him down and throws him to the outside yet again. Crowe finally comes back with an explosive array of kicks and knee strikes, he follows with a running high knee into the corner. Owens fights back and flattens Crowe with a senton and a pop-up powerbomb for the win. After the match Owens attacks Crowe and yells to “Get the stretcher” as he prepares to powerbomb Crowe onto the apron. Samoa Joe comes out to make the save. Owens makes a hasty retreat as an angry Samoa Joe stands in the ring ready for a fight.

Episode 2

A scruffy looking and aggressive Adam Rose takes on Tyler Breeze in the opening match. From the opening bell a back and forth battle begins with both men getting a fair amount of offense. However, it’s a less playful and more focused Rose who shined. In the final moments of the match he delivers his trademark spinebuster and follows it with a Boston Crab which Breeze manages to escape. Moments later, Rose summons his best Cactus Jack by delivering an elbow off the apron onto Breeze on the outside. He tosses Breeze back into the ring and Tyler hits Rose with a Beauty Shot out of nowhere for the pin.

Next, announcer Greg Hamilton introduces Eva Marie. He asks her what brings her down here to NXT. She replies that NXT has the best women’s wrestling and she wants to be with the best. This was actually pretty painful to watch because of the audience, and I actually felt a little ashamed to be in a crowd that was eating her alive. Eva Marie has a lot of detractors and I have been one in the past, but I only wish for anyone to succeed and right now I just want to see her prove a lot of people wrong.

In our next match Carmella takes on Alexa Bliss. Immediately a fired up Carmella attacks and beats down Alexa. Soon Bliss comes back and the two battle back and forth. Later Bliss goes for a glitz flip but Carmella moves and mounts an attack. She charges the corner but Bliss moves and rolls her up for a pin with a handful of trunks. This was a short but fun match. These two ladies are evenly matched and have a good chemistry together. I think if this feud goes on long enough they could produce some very entertaining matches.

Next, The Vaudevillians take on the strange pairing of Jason Jordan and Marcus Louis. English and Gotch start off strong against the deranged Louis with some signature spots. Jordan gets tagged in and the complexion of the match changes. Jordan is amazingly strong and seems to manhandle his opponents with ease. He beats down English and follows with a chinlock before tagging Louis. Eventually, English finds an opening and makes the tag to a very fired up Gotch who uppercuts Louis to the back of the head and English follows with a running swinging neckbreaker for the win. This was a fun match and no doubt many will be happy to finally see The Vaudevillians back on their television.

Up next is Rhyno taking on Finn Balor. Early on Rhyno out-powers Balor with heavy clubbing blows. Balor attempts to comeback but Rhyno shuts him down. Balor mounts momentum and a back and forth battle ensues. Rhyno absolutely manhandles Balor with a powerslam and a spinebuster that practically puts Finn through the mat. Finn comes back with a pele kick and a slingblade. He dropkicks Rhyno into the turnbuckle and climbs up for a Coup De Grace but Rhyno rolls out of the way. Rhyno goes for a gore but Balor dodges it and rolls up Rhyno for the in. Balor celebrates as a visible irritated Rhyno makes his way to the back. Balor makes his way up the ramp and poses on the stage only for Rhyno to give him the most hellacious gore I’ve ever seen.

Episode 3

The episode begins with Mike Rawlis and Elias Sampson taking on the team of Zack Ryder and the returning Mojo Rawley. Mojo starts the match with some dancing and trash talking before he finally tags in his partner. Ryder comes in with a lot of momentum culminating in a Broski Boot. Eventually, Sampson takes over and slows down the pace of the match until Ryder makes a hot tag to Rawley. Mojo clears the ring and lays out anyone in his path with splashes and tackles. He tag Ryder and hoists Sampson onto his shoulders. Ryder comes off the top rope with a Rough Ryder for the win. Afterwards the two celebrate into the crowd. The fans seemed receptive to the returning Mojo Rawley, hopefully he can expand upon his character and his move-set before the crowds start turning on him. Zack Ryder was very over with the crowd and one can only wonder how a prolonged stay in NXT could affect his career.

Women’s action is next as Emma takes on Bluepants, who is very over with the NXT crowd. Bluepants begins with some Emma style dancing and Emma attacks, beating her down and tossing her around by her hair. Emma turns Bluepants around with a big clotheline and goes for an elbow but Bluepants moves and mounts a comeback with a series of kicks. Emma dodges the last kick and beats down Bluepants before locking in the Emma Lock for a submission victory. Afterwards, still in the ring Bluepants is given an impromptu Birthday party. It’s amazing how over Leva “Bluepants” Bates is with the NXT crowd, signing her full-time certainly seems to be a no brainer.

Next is a short but fun match between Tyler Breeze and Bull Dempsey. Early on Dempsey easily overpowers and takes charge of Prince Pretty. Eventually he runs him down and climbs the ropes for a flying headbutt, but Breeze rolls out of the ring. Bull follows and Breeze runs away. Bull gives chase as the two run circles around the ring. Dempsey stops to catch his breath while Breeze can’t contain his smile. The two repeat this again until Dempsey is completely winded at which time Breeze tosses him back into the ring and follows with a Beauty Shot for the victory. It’s no doubt that this was an entertaining match, but hopefully Bull Dempsey can catch a break soon.

Next up, Becky Lynch battles Jessie McKay. Coming off the heels of a sensational performance at Takeover, Lynch has practically the entire building behind her and she starts strong with beautiful arm drags and a text book dropkick. McKay equalizes the situation with a big boot and begins to work the arm of Lynch. Eventually Lynch fights back with a suplex and three signature leg drops. Moments later McKay is in an armbar with no choice but to tap. It seems Becky Lynch is riding a very strong wave of momentum after the live special, and deservedly so.

Out next is Angelo Dawkins to take on the alpha of NXT, Baron Corbin. Dawkin put forth a good effort but in the end he ended up like everyone else, in an End Of Days. I’m a fan of Baron Corbin, but that is because I have seen him put on great matches at house shows. They are not doing him any favors with matches like these. Personally, I’d like to see Corbin in an underdog role against someone like Braun Stowman.

Kevin Owens sits down at the announce table to watch Scott Dawson take on Samoa Joe. Dawson starts off strong before Joe runs him down and continues with a flurry of punches. Moments later he nails Dawson with an enzuigiri and a side slam. He finishes off Dawson with a muscle buster. Afterwards Joe calls out Owens angrily. Owens tells Joes he is sort of a rookie in NXT and gives him veteran advice. He tells him you can’t just walk into NXT and get a title match. Clearly the irony was not lost on the laughing crowd. William Regal comes out and agrees that Joe has not earned a title shot but he has earned a fight, and that fight will happen next week.

Episode 4

This episode opens up with an inter-gender six person tag with Enzo, Cass, and Carmella vs Blake, Murphy, and Alexa Bliss. It’s not long after the bell that chaos ensues with all six competitors in the ring, until Cass, Enzo, and Carmella send their opponents out to the floor. The referee gets the match back in control and Blake and Murphy work over the underdog Enzo Amore. Finally he makes a hot tag to Carmella who makes quick work of Bliss who quickly manages to make a tag to Blake. Big Cass comes in and cleans house sending Murphy to the floor and putting down Blake with a swinging side slam. He tosses Amore onto Blake in an assisted splash for the win. A fun match, but clearly this feud is just getting started.

We continue with more tag team action as The Vaudevillians take on the team of Jason Jordan and Mikaze. Gotch and English start off strong until Mikaze makes a blind tag to Jordan. Jordan comes in and manhandles Gotch with ease. Later after much punishment things turn around when Gotch dodges a running kick from Mikaze allowing Jordan to get clobbered instead. The Vaudevillians were set to finish it when Mikaze sort of crumbled and the ref quickly ended the bout awarding it to The Vaudevillians. It is unclear what happened, there were no spots that went visibly wrong. Some fans in attendance said he seemed to just pass out. However, I won’t speculate as to what happened. The important part is that managed to leave the ring without the stretcher and on his own two feet. Later that evening, he was seen leaving Full Sail and seemed okay.

We continue with women’s action as Charlotte takes on KC Cassidy. Charlotte starts off strong but Cassidy thwarts her momentum and slows her with a side headlock and later a headscissors, anything to keep Charlotte down. It’s not long though before Charlotte fights her way out and becomes unstoppable hitting Cassidy with a neckbreaker and following with a spear. Charlotte then locks in the figure-4 leg lock for a submission victory. This was a good match with Charlotte looking strong as always, but also allowing newcomer KC Cassidy to come out looking good as well.

It is time for the main event with Samoa Joe taking on Kevin Owens. The bell rings and Owens evades the ring, but Joe quickly follows and the two face off nose to nose on the outside. Back in the ring and Joe immediately takes over with a flurry of punches in the corner, but the champ fires back with some strikes of his own. It becomes clear quickly that this one is going to be a brawl. The fight eventually spills to the floor and Owens attempts to escape but Joe follows and the two brawl up and down the ramp and eventually back into the ring. The champ finally manages to get an upper hand and squashes Joes with a cannonball in the corner and follows with a senton before settling into a side headlock. Samoa Joe gets free and back to his feet and lays out Owens with a kick. Joe follows with a senton of his own. Later, he gets Owens up on the turnbuckle attempting to set him up with a muscle buster, but Owens counters with a thunderous side slam. The action spills to the outside again, except this time the referee loses total control and calls the match. The two continue to brawl until more referees come out to separate them. They finally do and Joe goes to the back. Kevin Owens rolls back into the ring taunting Joe and telling him “C’mon Bitch!” Joe comes running back out and the fighting continues in and around the ring. Soon it takes all the referees and much of the talent out of the back to eventually break them up. It was a hell of a collision and an emphatic way to end a great set of tapings. I can’t wait until these two meet again.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

NXT Orlando 5-9-15

The athletes of NXT made their final Florida stop before NXT Takeover: Unstoppable in front of a hometown crowd in Orlando, Fl. Feuds were furthered, momentum was gained, and the crowd of faithful fans jammed into the National Guard Armory were wowed.

The night starts off with a six woman tag match as the team of Bayley, Alexa Bliss, and Carmella take on Dana Brooke, Devin Taylor, and Lina. The good girls start strong against their opponents and seemed to be controlling them with ease, with Bayley hitting a flurry of her signature spots. Brooke tags in the debuting Lina and things quickly turn around. Lina is a strong and imposing woman who could quite easily be made into a monster heel of the division. She slams a helpless Bayley to the mat with ease, and follows by squeezing the life of the self-proclaimed hugger with a bearhug. Eventually though, Bayley manages to escape their corner and make a hot tag to Carmella. Moments later, all the girls are involved in a melee as Carmella gives an STO to Lina and Bliss follows with a Sparkle Splash. Moments later, Carmella traps Brooke in her headscissor submission for a tap out. This was a fun match and a great way to start the evening. Carmella is quickly becoming a standout of the division, while Dana is making great strides of her own in the ring. However it may have been Lina that made the greatest impression tonight as the most intimidating addition to the women’s division. Ty Dillinger was not quite as impressed though, he gave the match a 2.

Next Steve Cutler takes on the drifter Elias Sampson. The two men shake hands and the action begins as they lock up. Grappling follows with the more powerful Cutler taking over. The two men go back and forth with headlocks and armlocks before the pace quickens. The agile Sampson counters a monkey flip by landing on his feet and taking Cutler off his feet with a series of strikes and kicks. It becomes a slugfest before both men run the ropes and take out each other out as they both go for a crossbody. At this point Kevin Owens storms the ring, tosses out Sampson and follows by powerbombing Cutler practically through the mat. The crowd chants “Thank you Owens”, but the champ is not impressed. He takes the mic and points out that he doesn’t need any of the idiots and hypocrites in the crowd. He also assures us he is not done tonight. Solomon Crowe emerges from the back challenging the champion to a match. Owens accepts and tells him he is in for a long night. Crowe replies by letting Owens know that he is in for the fight of his life. It seems we now have a hell of a main event ahead.

Next up, Mike Rawlis takes on the Olympian Chad Gable. In the opening moments Gable easily out-grapples Rawlis, like he does with just about anyone he steps in the ring with. Eventually though, the size and strength advantage of Rawlis comes into play as he overpowers his opponent. Gable attempts to come back with a crossbody but Rawlis catches him and tosses him overhead with a fallaway slam. Gable mounts a comeback and throws on an armbar over the ropes and begins working the arm afterward. Rawlis eventually mounts a comeback of his own and finishes Gable off with a crucifix powerbomb. Gable has been on a bit of a losing streak lately, which is a shame because the guy is an amazing athlete and becoming quite good at playing the arrogant heel. Ty Dillinger gives this match a 4.

Next is a Takeover preview as Cass and Enzo take on the tag champs Blake and Murphy in a non-title match. Cass and Enzo start off strong against the champs with the crowd squarely behind them. However a distraction allows Blake and Murphy to take over and begin taking apart Enzo Amore. After much punishment Amore makes the hot tag to Cass who comes in takes charge against the champs with several splashes followed by a big boot and swinging side slam to Blake. He follows by tossing Amore onto him with a splash for the pin. Cass and Enzo are probably the most over tag team in NXT, no one can deny they are full of charisma and awesome to their fans. However heir tag matches very formulaic to me, I’d like to see more offense from Amore and hopefully we will, as they are a very likeable team.

Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks clash one more time before there big title match at Takeover. Becky starts off strong sending the champ reeling with a series of beautiful arm drags. Banks regroups and comes back targeting the arm of Lynch. The two brawl outside the ring before making their way back in, and Banks sends Lynch to the mat with a double knee smash in the turnbuckles. Becky fires back tossing Banks over head with a pumphandle suplex. Later Becky throws on an armbar but Banks grabs the ropes. Sasha pulls Becky into the corner and smashing into the turnbuckle. Banks rolls up Lynch but she kicks out. Lynch traps Banks with an armar giving her no choice but to tap. This was another excellent encounter between these two ladies who are sure to steal the show at Takeover.

Next Finn Balor collides with the lone wolf Baron Corbin. Undeterred Finn takes the fight right to the big man first targeting the legs and then clotheslining Corbin out of the ring. He dives over the top rope on Corbin to the excitement of the crowd. The two make it back in and equalizes things with a massive punch that squashes Balors momentum. Corbin begins taking apart Balor with a controlled brutality. He then slows the pace with a shoulder claw before Balor starts firing back. On their feet again Balor hits Corbin with a slingblade. He charges Corbin for a dropkick but Corbin answers with a big boot. Later Balor thwarts an attempt at End Of Days and dropkicks Corbin into the corner, laying him out and finishing with the Coup De Grace for the win. This was an exciting match with Balor looking as great as always. Baron Corbin has always had the strength and presence, but lately he just looks so much more brutal and mean which is exactly the element he needed. Once he gets a few performances on television like I have seen the last few days he will quiet many naysayers.

Tag action continues as Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder take on The Vaudevillians. In the opening moments Wilder taunts Gotch by performing some manly squats of his own. Gotch responds by stretching his leg to his head. Wilder tries to do the same and hilariously fails, even with Dawson trying to help him. Soon after the wrestling begins and The Vaudevillians are on fire keeping one step ahead of their opponents. Gotch and English go on to perform a lot of their signature antics much to the delight of the crowd, including the addition of an old school Airplane spin from English. Eventually the crafty team of Dawson and Wilder take charge and begin to dismantle English and this is where they are so dangerous and so fun to watch. The two are proclaimed roughnecks but are just as comfortable grappling as they are brawling. However, English eventually makes the hot tag to Gotch who comes in and begins to clear the ring. With Wilder on his back he performs a rolling senton onto a prone Dawson. Aiden English follows with a senton bomb onto both men and picking up the pin. This was a great tag match from two excellent teams. Unfortunately, Ty only gave it a 4.

Our main event is next as Kevin Owens answers the challenge of Solomon Crowe. The two immediately stare each other down and Owens throws a cheap punch knocking Crowe to the mat. Crowe answers the referees count and gets back to his feet before the champ knocks him down again. Crowe once again makes it to his feet this time fighting back and sending the champ reeling to the outside. He flies through the ropes like a bullet into the champ on the outside. They make it to their feet and Crowe continues with multiple chops before the champ fires back and sends him into the ring steps. Owens fires back with chops of his own and the two make it back to the ring. Owens begins a methodical beat-down of his opponent. Crowe jumps onto Owens throwing on a sleeper but the champ falls back flattening Crowe. He follows with a signature senton before continuing the beatdown. Crowe fires back with strikes and then a high knee followed by a tornado DDT. Owens catches Crowe in a crossbody attempt and slams Crowe to the mat. He attempts to follow with a senton but Crowe puts up his knees. With Owens grounded Crowe attempts a boing splash but this time Owens throws up his knees. He picks up Crowe and follow with a pumphandle kneckbreaker. He then finishes off Crowe with a pop-up powerbomb. Once again the champ is victorious, but not without enduring a strong effort from his challenger. Crowe proved one thing I’ve known for a long time, he belongs in the main event picture.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

NXT Largo 5-8-15

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Maryann Mason

NXT Wrestling returned to The Minnreg Hall in Largo for another night of action as only they can deliver. Boisterous fans piled in to see their favorite athletes gain valuable momentum as they head closer to NXT Takeover: Unstoppable.

Big Cass comes to the ring to a huge pop accompanied by Enzo Amore. His opponent for the evening is the drifter Elias Sampson. The match begins evenly as control of the match goes back and forth until Sampson takes the big man down with an explosive knee strike to the face. At this point Sampson keeps Cass grounded, wearing him down and working the arm. Further into the match Cass dodges an elbow drop and mounts a comeback. He lands a big splash onto Sampson in the corner and follows with a big boot. He then finishes off Sampson with a swinging side slam for the victory. We’re used to seeing Cass in tag team action usually coming in off a hot tag, so it was great to see him playing a different role. Elias Sampson certainly continues to impress, win or lose.

Next out is Steve Cutler to take on his opponent Marcus Louis. Sadly it seems we’ve seen the last of the tortured and crazy Marcus, as he was decked out in black pants, black shirt, black gloves and sunglasses. He looked like a hitman, though I am not really sure what they are going for. Cutler starts off strong, but soon the arm locks and headlocks evolve into brawling and that is where Louis takes over. Marcus slows down the pace and appears to be as methodical and sadistic as ever as he enjoys taking apart Cutler. At one point he seemingly Rock Bottoms Cutler through the mat but somehow Cutler kicks out and fights back. His comeback is short lived though and Louis finishes him off with a pumphandle slam for the win. Marcus Louis has a lot of untapped potential, hopefully he can find a gimmick that connects with the fans.

NXT announcer Greg Hamilton is out next to introduce Uhaa Nation who comes to the ring with a nice pop from the crowd. Hamilton asks him why was he here in NXT, and Uhaa lets us know bluntly to be champ. He continues that everyone knows the toughest talent in the world is right here. He concludes the interview by saying that when he is done everyone will realize that the future isn’t now, but rather “The future is me!”

We continue with tag team action as Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder take on The Vaudevillians. In the opening moments Wilder taunts Gotch by performing some manly squats of his own. Gotch responds by stretching his leg to his head. Wilder tries to do the same and hilariously fails, even with Dawson trying to help him. Soon after the wrestling begins and The Vaudevillians are on fire keeping one step ahead of their opponents. Gotch and English go on to perform a lot of their signature antics much to the delight of the crowd, including the addition of an old school Airplane spin from English. Eventually the crafty team of Dawson and Wilder take charge and begin to dismantle English and this is where they are so dangerous and so fun to watch. The two are proclaimed roughnecks but are just as comfortable grappling as they are brawling. However, English eventually makes the hot tag to Gotch who comes in and begins to clear the ring. Gotch appears be about to finish it when in the melee Dawson makes a blind tag to Wilder. Dawson flapjacks Gotch into a waiting gutbuster from Wilder for the win. This was a really entertaining tag match that all men came out of looking great. Fans of the house show circuit have long been aware of how good of a tag team Dawson and Wilder really are, but soon television fans will see as well. Ty Dillinger comes out and scores the match a 4.

Next is women’s action as Becky Lynch once again collides with the champion Sasha Banks. In the opening moments Lynch tries to end it quickly by attempting to lock on an arm bar but Banks wisely evades. Lynch leads the match tossing the champ around with a series of beautiful arm drags. Banks turns things around and slows the pace as she begins targeting the arm of Lynch. Lynch dodges out of the corner avoiding Banks and firing back first targeting the champs arm and eventually locking on her armbar submission, but Banks grabs the ropes. Moments later Banks draws Becky into the corner slamming her into the turnbuckle. Banks capitalizes propping her feet on the ropes for a leverage pin. I’ve seen these ladies in the ring now several times over the past few weeks and they not only put on an excellent performance every time, but they switch up a lot of offense as well giving us different matches every time. I’ve already made the prediction before but I’ll say it again, they will steal the show at Takeover. One could even make the argument (and I have) that they should be main eventing Takeover.

Solomon Crowe is next taking on Baron Corbin. Unintimidated Crowe takes the fight right to Corbin but Corbin swats him off. Tenaciously Crowe is right back on him again but Corbin counters with a punch that turns Crowe inside out and makes the crowd cringe. He slams Crowe first onto the mat and then into the turnbuckle with velocity. Crowe makes a comeback and contorts Corbin into an octopus hold, but Corbin powers out. Later, Crowe mounts a final comeback laying out Corbin with a swinging tornado DDT. He follows diving off the ropes but Corbin catches him in an End Of Days for the win. Ty Dillinger comes out and only gives the match a 2. I’d give it higher though, this was a great smashmouth match. Solomon Crowe has long been one of the most exciting guys on the roster, but Baron Corbin came out tonight looking absolutely brutal and mean, and probably the best I’ve seen him.

Two of NXT’s newest additions KC Cassidy and Jessie McKay introduce themselves and inform us that not only are they the best divas in the world, but they are also best friends. Bayley and Carmella, or “Baymella” come out taking exception with the statements of the new girls. A referee is called out and a tag match is set. Bayley and Carmella start off strong, with Bayley hitting a lot of her signature spots, but eventually Cassidy and McKay take over making frequent tags and methodically taking apart Bayley. Eventually Bayley makes a hot tag to Carmella, and moments later she executes an STO transitioned into her headscissors submission giving Cassidy no choice but to tap. This was a really fun match. Bayley and Carmella always have a great chemistry together whether teaming or facing off. McKay and Cassidy both comes to NXT ring ready and with plenty of experience, the two are a welcome addition to the NXT women’s roster.

Tag team action continues with Angelo Dawkins and Sawyer Fulton taking on the team of Bull Dempsey and Tucker Knight. Both teams start out strong with plenty of back and forth action. Slowly the advantage shifts to Dawkins and Fulton who look impressive manhandling a team as immense as Knight and Dempsey, including an impressive deadlift suplex from Fulton to Knight. Eventually Dempsey and Knight took over dominating Fulton until he makes a hot tag to Dawkins who comes in a clears the ring. In the final moments Fulton gives Dempsey a backbreaker and Dawkins follows with a spear for the victory. Apparently, even with the Shoot Nation concept gone, the teaming of Dawkins and Fulton is the best thing that could have happened to their career and they have gelled well as a team. Dempsey and Knight actually make a pretty imposing team that I wouldn’t mind going forward. Unfortunately though whether it is in singles or tag action it seems as if Bull Dempsey can’t catch a break. I still think he has a lot of potential as a face.

Ty Dillinger is out next for our main event and lets us know that simply he by himself is a perfect 10 main event, but he would fight while he’s out here if someone answered his open challenge. He was about to leave when music hit and NXT champion Kevin Owens emerged. In the opening moments after each successful maneuver Dillinger would cartwheel to the corner and score himself a perfect 10. After Dillinger does this a second time Owens answers by knocking Dillinger out of his boots with a picture perfect dropkick. Dillinger retreats to the outside but Owens follows him out pummeling him with multiple chops to the chest. Dillinger manages to launch Owens into the steps and escapes back to the ring. Owens beats the count back in and Ty attacks. Later, Owens comes back squashing Dillinger with a senton and attempts to follow with a cannonball, but Dillinger evades it and answers with a superkick. Moments later Owens climbs the ropes but Dillinger follows him and attempts a superplex but Owens counters sending Dillinger to the mat. He follows with a beautiful senton bomb. The two make it back to their feet and Dillinger delivers another jaw shattering superkick followed by a knee smash to the face. Owens kicks out of another pin attempt and a disgruntled Dillinger begins to expose the turnbuckle. The ref stops him, but as the ref puts the turnbuckle back on Ty simply begins exposing the next one. It backfires as Owens sends Dillinger into the exposed turnbuckle and follows with a cannonball. He then finishes off Dillinger with a pop-up powerbomb for the victory. It was a good match made notable by a well- deserved main event role for Ty Dillinger, perhaps I won’t be able to call him underrated for much longer? After the match maybe feeling overly cheered Owens made sure to roll out of the ring and let a large group of fans in Finn Balor shirts know that “Finn Balor is nothing compared to me!”