Saturday, August 29, 2015

NXT Cocoa 8-28-15

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Maryann Mason 

Hot off the heels of their biggest live special yet, the stars of NXT made their return to The National Guard Armory in Cocoa, Florida for another night of wrestling action. In an evening of high impact action titles were defended, the tag tournament progressed, and fans went home very happy. 

First out is the drifter Elias Sampson who upon entering the ring regales us with song about Cocoa and “he’d say it was nice to be here/but that would be a lie”. His opponent Apollo Crews is out next. The two competitors lock up and then break, Sampson drops down in the corner and strums his guitar. They lock up again and repeat the same routine. A few moments later a distracted Sampson drops his guitar and Crews drops him with a massive dropkick. Crews looks impressive as always until Sampson finally gains control and pummels Crews in the corner before slowing the pace and settling into a chinlock. Apollo makes a quick comeback but Elias shuts him down and wisely grounds him with another chinlock. Moments later Crews dodges an elbow from Sampson and comes back with a splash and a series of strikes. He hoists up Sampson and drops him with a military press followed by a standing moonsault for the win. This was a great way to start a show. It’s apparent that Apollo Crews is going to be a very big deal in NXT sooner than later. Elias Sampson is not without an “it” factory, and is undoubtedly one to look out for. 
Next, Riddick Moss takes on Steve Cutler. Immediately Moss grabs up Cutler into a side headlock before he breaks it and the two trade off in a series of grapples. Cutler hits a dropkick, followed by a bodyslam and a leg drop before settling into a headlock of his own. Moss drops Cutler onto the ropes and goes on the attack. The much larger Moss nails Cutler with a series of uppercuts and clubbing blows before settling into a chinlock. Eventually Cutler fires back finally planting Moss with a facebuster. He follows with a Michinoku Driver variation for the pin. This was a good match from two up and comers. Both men have progressed a lot over the last year. Riddick Moss is much better as a heel, but Cutler’s choice of wearing shorts to the ring are not going to help the Cena comparisons.

Women’s tag action is next with Peyton Royce and Billie Kay taking on the team of Dana Brooke and Emma. Peyton starts for her team immediately taking over and working the arm of Dana. Finally Brooke breaks free and tags to Emma who comes in a misses an elbow allowing the Australian divas to regain control. Royce and Billie Kay work great as a team staying one step ahead with frequent tags and some tandem moves. Royce catches Emma with a headscissors and several high heel kicks. Emma eventually fights back gaining control for her team. Brooke and Emma counter with some great tandem maneuvers of their own before Dana settles into a grounded abdominal stretch on Royce. Emma comes back in and continues the attack until Royce catches her with a facebuster before making the hot tag. Billie comes in with a clothesline and a headscissors of her own to Dana Brooke. Emma thwarts her momentum with a distraction and Brooke follows through with a roll-up to Kay using her feet on the ropes for the win. With 3 out of 4 of the horsewomen on the main roster now, the NXT women’s division is at a virtual reset. However, it’s safe to say the division will be okay. Dana Brooke improves exponentially every week, while the Australian duo of Peyton Royce and Billie Kay may just be two of the best in the division right now.

The action continues with the Perfect 10 Ty Dillinger taking on the rookie Noah Kekoa, who comes to the ring wearing leis and carrying a ukulele. The bell rings and Dillinger attempts a lockup before Noah sits atop and strums his ukulele. The two make a few more passes before Dillinger grabs the ukulele and mocks Kekoa. The angry Hawaiian charges but Dillinger easily outgrapples him before settling into an armlock. The action continues back and forth until Kekoa takes over pummeling Dillinger in the corner before planting him with a side slam. He locks Ty into a half nelson sleeper. Dillinger eventually breaks free and fires back with several chops. He takes the big man down with a Russian leg sweep and finishes him with a facebreaker knee smash for the victory. Ty Dillinger looked good here as always and did a class act of making Kekoa look great too.

The next match is being televised for the WWE Network and is to be an opening match in the Dusty Rhodes Memorial Tag Team Tournament. Cass and Enzo come out to a huge ovation along with the “hottest chick in the ring” Carmella, their opponents for this match are Sawyer Fulton and Angelo Dawkins. In the opening moments Angelo Dawkins is almost toying with the much smaller Amore until he tags in to Big Cass who manhandles Dawkins. He tags in Enzo who comes in with a crossbody. Thanks to a distraction from Fulton, Dawkins takes advantage, pummeling Zo and putting his team in control. The two take their time decimating Amore until Fulton misses with a big elbow giving Amore the separation to make the hot tag to Cass who comes in with a splash for Dawkins and a big boot for Fulton. He finishes off Dawkins with a huge swinging side slam and they finish with “Air Zo’, with Cass launching Amore off the turnbuckle with an assisted splash onto Dawkins for the victory. Formulaic or not, Cass and Zo matches are fun with their energy and charisma more than making up for the predictable matches. Dawkins and Fulton make a formidable team and could do well if only the powers that be would commit to them.

Bayley is out next to much deserved fanfare to give a promo. She talks about Brooklyn being the biggest night of her life. She says it was made possible by all of us who have built NXT, that we make dreams come true. She concedes that the hard work starts now and that she is going to be the best champion. She backs it up by offering an opening challenge to any women in the back. The intimidating Nia Jax answers the challenge and we have a women’s title match. The two women lock up but Jax easily swats Bayley off and to the mat. Bayley tries several times to take Nia down with no success. She finally jumps onto the Samoan’s back and locks on a sleeper hold until Nia backs up and squashes her in the corner. Bayley makes it up and runs the ropes but Jax runs her down. A determined Bayley attempts a sunset flip unsuccessfully, Nia pulls up Bayley and thrashes her around in a massive bearhug. Eventually Bayley breaks free and fights back landing several of her signature elbows in the corner. She delivers a dropkick to the knee of Jax before planting her with a one handed bulldog. She attempts to execute a Belly To Bayley, but can’t budge Jax. Moments later Nia charges the corner but Bayley dodges and rolls up Jax for a surprise pin. Just as the title signifies Bayley is the best in the division right now and showed versatility wrestling such a ominous opponent. As everyone now knows that Nia Jax is coming to television soon and believe me that is reason to be excited. Nia shows much promise and is just the monster heel the division needs.

The action continues with tag team action as the newly crowned tag team champions The Vaudevillians take on Jason Jordan and Chad Gable. Simon Gotch and Chad Gable start off for their teams going toe to toe with some serious grappling. Gable tags in Jordan who comes in initially manhandling English. The artiste comes back with his trademark arm drags before settling into an armlock. The champs keep one step ahead seemingly riding the momentum of their recent win. Later, Jordan manages to leg drag Gotch into the ropes making an immediate target. Gable and Jordan begin employing frequent tags while continuously working the leg of Gotch. Finally, Gotch makes the hot tag. English comes in with a hellacious uppercut to Gable, then follows with a Directors Cut and goes for a pin. Jordan breaks the pin before getting ejected by Gotch. English climbs the turnbuckle for a senton, Gable dodges but English manages to roll through. Gable lands an impressive bridging German suplex that English manages to kick out of. English makes the tag to Gotch and they finish Gable with their Whirling Dervish, an uppercut followed by a running swinging neckbreaker. This was another fun match in the underrated NXT tag team division. The Vaudevillians are deserving champs, with Gotch especially showing more versatility of late. Meanwhile Jordan and Gable have quickly and easily become one of my favorite tag teams on either roster.

Our main event of the evening is Solomon Crowe taking on the champion Finn Balor. Before the bell even rings a particularly aggressive Solomon Crowe attack Balor from behind, making it a point to target the taped up ribs. Finn fights back with a series of strikes and chops but Crowe goes right back to the injured ribs of the champ. Solomon Crowe dominates Finn before contorting the champ into a Gory Special. Moments later, Balor rolls through a sunset flip and dropkicks Crowe to finally mount a comeback. He whips Crowe from corner to corner and finally drops Crowe with a hellacious clothesline and a standing double foot stomp. Back to their feet Finn hits Crowe with a slingblade. Finn attempts to follow with a dropkick to the corner but Crowe dodges and locks Balor into a crab. Later the two worn out fighters trade blows until Crowe nails the champ with a bicycle kick, but Balor answers with a Pele. Balor climbs the turnbuckles for a Coups De Grace, but Crowe jumps up and charges him, fighting onto the turnbuckles. Crowe superplexes Balor off the top ropes. Crowe attempts to climb the ropes but Balor drops him with a kick and follow with a big dropkick into the corner and follows with the Coups De Grace for the victory. This was an excellent main event. Balor is a wrestler that deserves all the hype he comes in with, while Crowe (who is a much better heel) is going to be a main event player despite what the naysayers say.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Full Sail TV Tapings 8-13-15

Written by Wayne Mason

Thursday night fans piled into the NXT arena at Full Sail University for another round of television tapings. With only a little over a week before NXT Takeover, the booking was a little strange to say the least, with some unique matches and possible swerves. It will be interesting to see how the tapings stack up to the actual episodes after the magic of editing. The following report contains detailed spoilers for the next three episodes.

In our opening dark match Riddick Moss takes on the drifter Elias Sampson in a short but well wrestled contest. Moss takes control early on with an obvious strength and size advantage flattening Sampson with a powerslam. Sampson fights back pummeling Moss in the corner. Later he sends Moss to the mat with a double mule kick out of the corner before attempting to ground Moss with a side headlock. The two trade shots back and forth until eventually Sampson comes off the turnbuckles with a crossbody. Moss reverses the momentum and tosses Sampson over his head with a fallaway slam. Moss finishes off Sampson with a crucifix powerbomb for the victory. I’ve been a fan of Elias Sampson from the beginning, but Riddick Moss is starting to come into his own and is looking better with every outing.

Episode 1
General Manager William Regal makes his way to the ring to officiate the contract signing for the women’s title match at NXT Takeover. Bayley is out first, followed by the champ Sasha Banks. Before signing Bayley takes the mic and gives thanks to all of us for getting her to this point. She tells us that this is the biggest match of her life. She explains that she has been in this position before but let the title slip through her fingers. She insists that this time will be different, she can feel it, and Sasha can feel it too. Bayley signs the contract and Sasha takes a mic now. Sasha says she is the baddest diva in NXT and the greatest champ on either roster. Sasha signs the contract and begins to leave the ring. Bayley says she knows how these contract signings end and she doesn’t get to just walk off. Bayley tells her she is ready for a fight now. Banks tells Bayley that Becky and Charlotte were threats but she is not. Banks continues by telling her that is why they are on Raw right now and she is not. She finishes by calling her a loser and telling her she is not worth the fight. Sasha leaves but Bayley attacks her on the ramp and the two fight until they are broken up by several referees.

Next up Prince Pretty Tyler Breeze comes out with a Jushin Thunder Liger mask to make quick work of enhancement talent Rob Ryzin. The bell rings and Ryzin comes out of the gate ready to fight but Breeze knocks him out with a superkick for the win. Afterwards Breeze puts the Liger mask on Ryzin to give us a Takeover preview. Breeze picks his opponent up off the mat only to drop him again with a Beauty Shot.

The action continues with a big eight man tag match with The Hype Bros and Enzo & Cass taking on Aaron Solow, Jesse Sorenson and two other unnamed talents. This was a mostly one sided match with the enhancement talent getting minimal offense against Amore. Cass looks to finish a relatively easy night with a swinging side slam to Solow but Sorenson breaks the pin. Sorenson then gets leveled by Cass followed by a broski boot from Ryder for his troubles. Cass executes another swinging side slam to Solow and launches Enzo off the turnbuckle with an assisted splash for the win.

The night continues with more tag action as the team of Sawyer Fulton and Angelo Dawkins take on the champs Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy accompanied by Alexa Bliss. Dawkins and Fulton start off strong in the early goings using their size to their advantage along with tandem wrestling. Finally Blake turns things around with a big clothesline and control Dawkins until he makes a hot tag to Fulton who comes in and cleans house with a series of strikes and a nice gutwrench suplex to Murphy. It wouldn’t be enough as Murphy quickly regain control and the champs finish Fulton with their running suplex/frogsplash combo for the win. Afterwards The Vaudevillians come out to cut a promo but Alexa marches up and slaps each of them. English and Gotch regain their composure and begin again, but Bliss assaults them once more before the champ’s music hit.

Next up is Steve Cutler taking on Samoa Joe. Cutler bravely takes it right to Joe with a series of strikes into the corner. Cutler backs up and charges but Joe catches him with a thunderous side slam. Joe picks him up and locks on a Coquina Clutch for a quick submission victory. Joe leaves the ring but Corbin runs out and drops him with a big boot. The two brawl into the ring and Joe begins to mount a comeback but Corbin snatches him up with an End Of Days.

Kevin Owens comes to the ring and sets up a ladder. He begins to talk about his match with Balor at NXT Takeover. At the first mention of Brooklyn he is met with loud boos and a “Brooklyn Sucks” chant. He tells us that we are a bunch of hypocrites and are basically the John Cena of wrestling fans because nothing genuine ever comes out of our mouths. He points out that we say we love NXT and want it to grow yet cry that they are doing a sold out show in Brooklyn. He says we’re all trash and that beating Balor and taking his title will make him feel better. He says Japan was a fluke and that at Takeover it is going to be “Climb Owens Climb”. The lights go dark and Finn’s music begins but when the lights come back on Finn is already in the ring perched on the turnbuckle. The two begin to brawl and Finn drops Owens with a pele kick. He takes the ladder and launches it but Owens dodges and clears the ring. Finn tells him that he is going to do more than win, he is also going to kick Owens ass and shut his mouth. This was a great segment. Owens scathing promo had so much truth to it, and how he utilized it is another example of why he is simply the best heel in the business.

Episode 2
The episode begins with Gionna Daddio taking on Sasha Banks, who came to the ring wearing her women’s title, again it will be interesting to see how these episodes are edited for television. The match starts with much fast paced back and forth action. Gionna starts off strong with several grapples, pin attempts and acrobatic maneuvers but ultimately Banks halts her offense with double knees in the corner. Banks then slows the pace choking Gionna in the corner before settling into a chinlock. Gionna mounts a comeback culminating in a crossbody but moments later Banks hits her with a backstabber transitioned into the Bank Statement for the submission victory. There were a few rough spots but ultimately Gionna shows a lot of promise and is a wrestler to get excited for.

The Ascension are out next to a huge hometown pop to take on the weird pairing of Baron Corbin and Rhyno. Viktor and Konnor start off strong manhandling Corbin with a series of strikes and uppercuts. Viktor and Corbin end up brawling on the outside, my visibility was limited (they were on the other side of the ring) but Viktor went down and did not immediately get up. The bell rang abruptly and the match was called a DQ. However, Viktor made it back up and everyone seemed poised to restart the match. Regal came out and said the match would not end like that and to restart it. Rhyno and Corbin dominate Viktor until he nails a hellacious clothesline on Rhyno in a last gasp effort. Viktor makes the hot tag to Konnor who comes in with a flurry of punches to Rhyno. He accentuates it with a big flapjack and The Ascension surround Rhyno for The Fall Of Man. Corbin makes the save pulling Viktor out of the ring, and moments later Rhyno gores Konnor for the win. Flawed match or not, it was nice to see The Ascension welcomed back to Full Sail in such a loud raucous way.

We continue with Alexa Bliss taking on Bluepants in a very one sided match. In the opening moments Bliss attacks and beats down Bluepants, She continues with intermittent kicks and strikes in between armlocks. Bluepants fights back with two high kicks and a suplex, but Bliss answers with a Glitz Flip followed by a Sparkle Splash for the pin.

Next, Apollo Crews takes on Martin Stone. In the early goings Apollo shows off his amazing agility and fluidity finishing off the opening moments with a beautiful dropkick. Stone mounts a slight offense, wisely trying to ground Crews. However Apollo comes back with a mean kick followed by a series of axehandles and a big splash. He hoists up Stone with a big military press and drops him. He then follows with a perfect standing moonsault for the win. It was a short but fun match and a good introduction to Apollo Crews.

Next up is women’s action with Billie Kay taking on Eva Marie. After a few successful grapples in the early goings Eva stops to gloat but Billie shuts her up with a big boot. However moments later Eva is back in control with several shoulders to Billie in the corner. She follows with a suplex and a senton before settling into a grounded abdominal stretch. Billie makes it up and mounts a comeback with two clotheslines and a suplex of her own. Billie goes for a pin and the referee counts one, two, and he hesitates on what should have been a three count. Apparently, Eva Marie forgot to kick out, it was terribly noticeable. It certainly didn’t help to sway the already negative crowd who pounced upon the botch with “Bullshit” chants. The match continues and the two fight into the corner where Eva manages to hit Billie with the Sliced Red #2 for the victory.

Tag action is next with Solomon Crowe and Neville taking on Jason Jordan and Chad Gable. Neville is met with a hero’s welcome from the crowd at Full Sail University.  Crowe and Gable start with both men showing off some incredible ringwork. Crowe takes charge and eventually flapjacks Gable before settling into a front chancery. Moments later Neville takes over on Jordan with a flurry of kicks and signature offense for his team. Later Jordan and Gable would turn things back around isolating Crowe from his partner. Crowe eventually makes a hot tag to Neville who comes in with a speedy series of strike and kicks laying out Jordan. Neville climbs the turnbuckles for The Red Arrow, but Gable wisely pulls Jordan to the outside. Undeterred, Neville executes a moonsault off the turnbuckle onto Jordan on the outside. Crowe follows with a suicide dive through the ropes and into Gable. Back in the ring Jordan and Gable somehow manage to take advantage ejecting Neville from the ring and hitting Crowe with Grand Amplitude for the victory.

Episode 3
The episode opens up with Peyton Royce (KC Kassidy) taking on Carmella. The match opens up with much grappling and reversals, and both women looking strong. Finally, Carmella takes charge with a nice headscissors and a sitout rear slam. Peyton fights back with two high spinning heel kicks and a crossbody. Ultimately though Carmella would nail Royce with an STO and transition into her modified figure four head scissors for the submission victory.

Tag team action is next with the bizarre pairing of Tyler Breeze and Bull Dempsey. Their opponents were the surprising duo of Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, who were both welcomed with much fanfare. Very early on Ciampa slaps the taste right out of the mouth of Breeze. Gargano comes in and continues the momentum with a mean neckbreaker to Breeze. Eventually Prince Pretty makes a tag to Bull. Gargano continues his onslaught but bounces right off of the much larger Dempsey. After several unsuccessful takedowns Gargano drops Bull with a kick to the head and tags in Ciampa. Tommaso first tries to ground Dempsey before eventually jumping onto Bull’s back and locking on a sleeper hold. Dempsey falls back squashing Ciampa before tagging in Breeze. Breeze quickly begins to get owned again and once again tags in Dempsey. Moments later Dempsey accidently knocks Breeze off the ring apron. All alone in the ring Gargano rolls up Bull with a sunset flip and Ciampa follows through rolling Bull up for the pin. Afterwards Bull and Breeze argue in the ring, then Breeze attacks Bull. He finally drops Bull with a kick to the head. This was a really fun match possibly setting up a program for Bull and Breeze. Though a more pressing question right now would be the NXT status of Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa.

Women’s action is next with Billie Kay taking on Dana Brooke. The match begins with much fast paced back and forth action. Billie mounts some nice offense with a perfect headscissors but a frustrated Brooke beats down Billie afterward. She continues choking Billie in the corner before settling into a scissor lock. Later Billis fights back with a clothesline and a hurricanrana followed by a big boot. Brooke attempts a kick, but Billie catches her. Dana answers with an ensiguri and finishes with a Samoan Driver for the win. I enjoyed this match, Dana Brooke really is makings strides every week.

It’s main event time and Kevin Owens is out first with the NXT belt (let the speculation begin), his opponent is Adrian Neville. The bell rings and Owens immediately rolls out of the ring dictating the pace as usual. Neville gives chase and they end up back in the ring with Owens in control. Neville comes back with a flurry of signature kicks and a headscissors. The battle continues to the outside where Owens attacks Neville with a vicious clothesline before striking a Finn Balor pose. They end up back in the ring and Owens flattens Neville with a senton before settling into a chinlock. Moments later after a mean cannonball Owens hoists Neville up onto his shoulders for an Attitude Adjustment, but Neville reverses it into an outrageous DDT. The battle rages on until Neville avoids a powerbomb and drops Owens with a big German suplex. Moments later Owens eats a superkick and Neville climbs the turnbuckles for a Red Arrow. Owens rolls out of the ring, grabs his belt and begins to leave. Neville doesn’t relent and the two end up back in the ring where Owens levels Neville with the belt causing a DQ. Owens begins to beat down Neville after the match but Finn Balor makes the save. Tyler Breeze then runs out to help Owens beat down Balor. Neville makes it back into the ring evening the odds and chasing off Owens, leaving Breeze to defend himself. Balor hits Breeze with a slingblade followed by a dropkick into the corner. Neville climbs the turnbuckles and finishes Breeze with the Red Arrow.

Overall, it was a fun night with some nice surprises and some feel good homecomings. Otherwise though, the booking was sort of bizarre. With that said I will still be eagerly tuning into the tv show before and after Takeover to see exactly how tonight translates into television magic.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

NXT Largo 8-8-15

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Maryann Mason

Saturday night wrestling fans packed into the Minnreg Hall as NXT returned to Largo, Fl. As always the superstars of NXT delivered in a big way with an action packed night filled with much hard hitting action culminating into a big six-man tag match.

The evening starts with tag team action as everyone’s favorite gentleman The Vaudevillians take on Jason Jordan and Chad Gable. Jordan and English start out for their teams grappling evenly back and forth. Jordan displays his obvious power advantage but English comes back with his trademark arm drags before settling into an armlock. Moments late it is Gotch and Gable’s turn as they show off their ring prowess with some excellent back and forth grappling. The evenly matched teams go back and forth wresting control of the match before The Vaudevillians start to take over  working in their signature squat and “Duke up” spots. However the strength of Jordan would later come into play when he tosses English overhead with a thunderous overhead suplex. Gable and Jordan make frequent tags taking apart English until he eventually makes the hot tag to Gotch who comes in and lays waste with a series of innovative strikes and kicks. He tosses Gable from the ring and delivers a overhead suplex of his own to Jordan. Gable and Gotch deliver their uppercut/neckbreaker on Jordan for the win. This was an exciting match and a great way to start the night. Gable and Gotch were the stars of the match for me, Gable is an impeccable grappler but Gotch went toe to toe with the Olympian. In fact, Gotch has been stepping it up a lot more these days, or I’m just now noticing how varied his arsenal really is.

The action continues with Elias Sampson taking on Riddick Moss (formerly Mike Rallis). Before the action Sampson plays his guitar and sings a derogatory song about Largo, Fl. Finally the match starts and the two start slow feeling each other out and exchanging side headlocks. The two battle back and forth for much of the early goings in a very even match. Sampson takes over after a double mule kick out of the corner sends Moss to the mat. He follows with a big elbow and a frustrated beatdown. Riddick fires back and it turns into a slugfest. Moss scoops up Sampson with a huge powerslam and follows with a beatdown of his own ending with a big fallaway slam. Moss goes for the pin but Sampson puts his foot on the ropes. Back to their feet Sampson gets the advantage kicking Moss in the head and following with a sick running knee to the face giving him the victory. This was a good contest, at the beginning there were “boring” chants but by the end the crowd was thoroughly invested in the match. The athletic Elias Sampson is such a natural, while Riddick Moss is getting better with every outing.

Up next is the hyped Mojo Rawley taking on Tyler Breeze. In the early goings Breeze dictates the slow pace of the match taking his time preparing until he nails Rawley with a series of kicks and strikes. Mojo fires back with a series of shoulder tackles and clothelines Breeze right out of the ring. Tyler decides he doesn’t need it and starts to head to the back, but Rawley gives chase and tosses Breeze back into the ring. At this point Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder run in and beatdown Rawley. Tyler Breeze joins in and the three beat down Mojo until they are stopped by several referees. Dawson takes the mic to explain their actions. He tells us that people like Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder make a mockery of this business. He continues by stating that for him and Dash it’s about supporting their families and putting food on the table. He tells us that they won’t stop until they rid NXT of garbage like Mojo Rawley. I’ve long said that Dawson and Wilder are two of the most underrated guys in the company, but tonight Dawson showed us he is great on a mic too. Later on announcer Greg Hamilton announced that the main event would be a six-man tag featuring Scott Dawson, Dash Wilder, and Tyler Breeze taking on Mojo Rawley and partners of his choosing.

Women’s action is next with Eva Marie taking on “the hottest chick in the ring” Carmella. The match starts and they jump into it with an aggressive fast pace. The action swings back and forth in an evenly matched contest. Finally, Carmella nails Eva with an atomic drop followed by a dropkick. Eva fights back with a nice suplex followed by an armlock. Later Carmella comes back with a beautiful headscissors followed by two Lou Thez presses. Moments later Eva fights back and ends it with a running facebuster for the win. The most common questions I get about house shows these days are all about Eva Marie and how she is doing. While she is nowhere near  performing at the level people have come to expect from the women of NXT, she has improved significantly, and has shown definite improvement even over the last few weeks. Tonight’s finish was a bit sloppy, but she is selling moves better and showing more expression in the ring. Carmella looked fabulous as always. All in all, it was a fun match.

The action continues with Solomon Crowe taking on Apollo Crews (formerly Uhaa Nation). The two shake hands and start off with fast paced grappling with neither man getting an advantage. After several lock-ups ending in a stalemate a frustrated Crowe extends his hand for another shake but takes a cheap shot instead. Crews still fights back, lifting Crowe up for a vertical suplex with a twenty second hang time before dropping him to the mat. However Crowe puts a stop to Apollo’s momentum with one nasty punch and follows with a series of chops and strikes. He continues beating down Crews with several knee strikes and brutal punches and forearms. Crews mounts a comeback with several chops of his own but Crowe shuts him down with an ensiguri followed by an explosive front facelock cutter. Crowe climbs the turnbuckles and dives off but Crews catches him, tosses him on his shoulders and falls back with a Samoan Drop. The two weary competitors can barely stand but they exchange punches on wobbly legs until Crews nails Crowe with a brutal sounding kick to the back of the head. He hoists up Crowe with a military press and drops him following with a standing moonsault for the win. This was an absolutely great match and easily highlight of the night. A great hard fought victory for Apollo Crews, but a more aggressive Solomon Crowe came out looking stronger than ever. I hope for the sake of everyone reading this that this will be the Crews debut they see at Takeover.

Next is women’s tag action with the team of Bayley and Gionna Daddio taking on Dana Brooke and Nia Jax (formerly Lina). The bell rings and Gionna starts strong staying one step ahead of Dana with her impressive speed and agility. She tags in Bayley who continues the momentum and looks to perform her patented Slip-N-Slide but Jax threatens to get involved. Gionna gets tagged back in and continues to one up Brooke until a blind tag is made to Nia Jax. She rocks Gionna with a huge backbreaker followed by a thunderous bodyslam. Dana tags back in a lays out Gionna with a forward firemans carry slam. She continues, pummeling Gionna in the corner before chokng her with her boot. Nia comes back in a clamps on a bearhug, thrashing Gionna around like a doll. Later in the match she manages to make the hot tag to a fired up Bayley who suplexes Brooke and follows with several signature elbows in the corner. Nia runs in but Bayley dodges and sends her flying into the corner turnbuckle. She then nails Dana with a Belly-To Bayley for the win. This was another entertaining match with all four ladies coming out looking strong. The rookie Gionna Daddio is looking very impressive while Bayley continues to pick up valuable momentum heading into the next special.

Next up is Bull Dempsey taking on Angelo Dawkins. The match starts off with back and forth action until the men start running the ropes. Bull wisely stops and watches as a clueless Angelo continues to run the ropes until exhaustion, at which point Bull easily knocks him to the mat with a shoulder. He mocks Dawkins, putting on his headband and dancing around the ring. Later Dawkins comes back and beats down Bull eventually grounding the big man with a headlock. Eventually, back on their feet Dawkins throws several punches but now Bull is “hulking up”. Bull fires back with several punches and a bionic elbow. He bounces off the ropes and runs down Dawkins. Bull climbs the turnbuckles and jumps off with a Whoopie Cushion for the win. Thanks to Bull-Fit, Bull Dempsey is more over than he has ever been. Angelo Dawkins, a man with the size and the tools, seems to once again be in limbo.

Mojo Rawley is out next for our main event. Out next is Dawson and Wilder, followed by Breeze. The three men circle the ring to attack but are thwarted by Rawley’s partners Enzo and Big Cass. A big brawl ensues and the good guys clear the ring. The referee regains order and the match begins with Dash Wilder pretty quickly taking control over Enzo. What follows is a systematic beatdown of Amore by all three men. They take their time destroying Enzo until he eventually makes a hot tag to Mojo. The hype man begins cleaning house with a series of shoulder tackles and a big splash to Breeze in the corner. Dawson distracts and Breeze nails Mojo with a superkick. The three men begin taking apart Mojo, just as they had Enzo. Dawson especially seems to relish taking apart Mojo. Eventually Mojo would make a hot tag to Big Cass who would come in with a big boot for Dash Wilder. He follows with a swinging side slam and a big elbow to Breeze. He calls for Enzo to climb the turnbuckles but Dawson makes the save knocking him off. The match begins to break down and a melee occurs with all six men in the ring. With all three bad guys in the corner Cass lands a big splash. Breeze finds himself in the ring alone and Rawley picks him up for a firemans carry drop, and Cass launches Enzo onto him with “Air Zo” for the win. Although predictable, it was a fun match. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder look at home in the main event scene, meanwhile tag teaming is exactly where Mojo needs to be right now.

With much of the NXT star power moved on, or on the road recently, it is a monumental statement that the remaining talent step up and deliver the way they do in a big way. Owens is gone, Balor on the road, and the women’s division raided…. Yet the NXT crew delivered as they always do.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

NXT Orlando 8-7-15

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Maryann Mason

Friday night the superstars of NXT delivered another evening of solid wrestling action. The Orlando Armory was once again packed with a standing room crowd that included the remaining competitors of WWE’s Tough Enough. It was a solid card with a few unusual match-ups, and show-stealing tag matches.

The night starts off with the super-over tag team of Cass and Enzo who come to the ring with much fanfare. Their opponents are Marcus Louis and Alexander Wolfe (formerly Axel Tischer), they are accompanied to the ring by Sylvester Lefort, who is once again in a managerial role. The fan favorites start off strong with Enzo using his size and speed advantage over the much larger Wolfe. On a roll Enzo climbs the ropes, but with the referee distracted Lefort knocks him off the ropes. Marcus does what he does best, stalking his prey slowly before beating him down and grounding Amore. Later Enzo finds an opening and makes a hot tag, but a once again distracted referee misses the tag and sends Cass back to the apron. However, moments later Enzo would once again make a hot tag to Cass who would come in with a mean clothesline and several strikes, whipping both men into the same corner and following with a splash. Lefort climbs onto the ring apron and Cass yanks him into the ring, whipping him into the corner and splashing all three men. He nails Marcus with a big boot and follows with a swinging side slam to Wolfe. Enzo climbs the turnbuckle and they follow with Air Zo for the win. A simple, but fun match and a great way to start the evening. I’m also glad to see Sylvester Lefort back in NXT.

The drifter Elias Sampson comes out next and serenades us with song berating the Orlando crowd with lyrics such as “I’d say it’s nice to be here/ But that would be a lie”. His opponent Bull Dempsey is out next to a huge Bull-Fit chant. Sampson belittles the fitness of Dempsey, dropping to the mat to give us several push-ups. Dempsey answers by dropping for some push-ups of his own, and after digging down deep manages to give us three of them. An irate Sampson attacks and settles into a headlock. He runs the ropes and bounces off an unmovable, tired Dempsey. Moments later outside the ring Dempsey gives chase to Elias but gets winded rather easily. They make their way back into the ring and he pummels the exhausted Bull before settling into a chinlock. He follows with several strikes, but by this point Bull begins to “hulk up” and fire back with a flurry of jabs of his own. He runs the ropes and runs down Sampson, then climbs the turnbuckles for the Whoopie Cushion giving him an easy pin-fall victory. Afterwards Tyler Breeze comes out with his stoic new bodyguard Radomir Petkovic. The stonefaced Petkovic comes in and stands face to face with Dempsey before extending his hand. Dempsey accepts his handshake and is given a thunderous modified tombstone for his troubles. Bull Dempsey is more over than he has ever been with this Bull-fit gimmick. The highly athletic Elias Sampson is perhaps one of my favorite up and comers and I am even a fan of the guitar carrying drifter gimmick. However, the singing songs for cheap heat really takes away from the cool mystique of the whole character. At any rate it was a silly yet fun match, as most all Dempsey matches have been lately.

Next up is women’s tag action with the team of Dana Brooke and Eva Marie taking on Carmella and Billie Kay (formerly Jessie McKay). In the early goings Kay stays one step ahead of Brooke following some back and forth grappling and culminating with a nice headscissors before tagging in Carmella. The princess of Staten Island keeps the momentum going for her team leading into a headscissors of her own on Eva Marie. Later Dana causes a distraction which is enough for Eva to take advantage and pummel Kay in the corner. Eva slows down the pace as she works over Kay. She tags in Brooke who begins to work over. Somewhere in the fray Kay apparently got her nose busted and the match was called as a no-contest. It didn’t appear to be broken, and later on Twitter she boiled it down to a bloodied nose. Unfortunate that the match ended so abruptly as all four ladies are doing so well. Billie Kay definitely has all the tools to step up and be the next star for the recently gutted women’s division. Dana Brooke is improving at such an exponential rate and looking better and better every week.

Next up, Levis Valenzuela Jr is out for an interview with Dasha Fuentes. He puts over NXT as the hottest brand around, along with all of the talent in the back. It was a very wordy promo that really didn’t say that much. However, Valenzuela could sell anything with his charisma and contagious exuberance. Finally, it is fiesta time. His music hits and he leads the crowd in dance along with Dasha.

The action continues with the perfect ten Ty Dillinger taking on Riddick Moss (formerly Mike Rallis). The early goings start with Moss mocking Dillinger. Moments later Ty comes up on the winning end of a series of grapples, then cartwheels to his corner to hold up his 10 sign. Finally Moss takes a cheap shot and beats down Dillinger. He delivers a massive yet awkward backdrop before settling into a chinlock. Riddick Moss controls the majority of the match with Ty making sporadic comebacks. Moss tosses Ty across the ring with a massive fallaway slam, but moments later Dillinger delivered a superkick that would make the whole crowd crings. Dillinger quickly follows with a facebuster to the knee for the victory. Maybe not a perfect 10, but you can be guaranteed Ty Dillinger is going to give you a hell of a performance every time he gets in the ring.

Mixed tag action is next with the unusual pairing of The Vaudevillians and Bayley take on Blake, Murphy, and Alexa Bliss. The girls start but Bliss quickly tags out to Murphy who quickly finds himself in a headlock from Aiden English. The Vaudevillians manage to stay one step ahead of the champs and eventually tag Bayley back in. Bliss sweeps Bayley’s legs out from under her and delivers a barrage of strikes. Bayley fires back and eventually spins atop Bliss with her signature Slip-N-Slide. With Bliss still prone on the mat Bayley attempts a patented Vaudevillians hammerlock and squats. Blake and Murphy run in but get dropped and locked up by Gotch and English. In a “This is awesome” moment Bayley, Gotch, and English gave us 10 manly (and womanly) squats at the expense of their grounded opponents. As if things could not get more epic Bayley finds herself alone in the ring with Blake and not intimidated she kicks him in the gut and delivers a stone cold stunner to the delight of the erupting crowd. English drops down talking trash in Blake’s face ala Steve Austin. Moments later Murphy takes over beating down English. Eventually, English makes the hot tag to Gotch who comes in and clears house with innovative strike and kicks. The Vaudevillians hit their uppercut/neckbreaker finisher but Bliss breaks the pin before walking over and smacking Bayley. The gentlemanly English grabs Bliss, kissing her on the hand before tagging Bayley who comes in to deliver a Belly-To-Bayley for the pin. This was a really fun match with possibly a lot of foreshadowing pertaining to not only the tag titles, but a future women’s title feud.

Next, Apollo Crews takes on Tucker Knight. In the opening Knight easily outpowers Crews, tossing him around before settling into a headlock. Crews comes back with a beautiful dropkick and an impressive suplex. The much larger Knight fires back with big clubbing blows. He pummels Crews in the corner, eventually locking him into a full nelson. The match continues pretty one-sided until Knight climbs the turnbuckles and Crews picks him off of them lifting the big man into a military press before dropping him and following with an astounding standing moonsault. Not his best match, but as always, Apollo delivers. I just can’t wait to see him move up and into the main event picture.

The night continues with show-stealing tag action as Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder take on the team of Jason Jordan and Chad Gable. In the early moments Dawson and Gable go back and forth with excellent grappling but Gable finds himself on top locking in an armbar. Dawson takes cheap liberty raking the eyes of Gable, but to little avail. Gable is on fire delivering several armdrags and back into an armbar. Jordan keeps the momentum going with a few fireman carry slams and impressive suplexes before tagging Gable back in who immediately is back on the arm of Wilder. Gable is on fire tonight with fast paced grappling, but eventually Dash drops him onto the ropes and takes control. Dawson and Wilder slow the pace and take control with impressive tandem wrestling and frequent tags. Gable makes a slight comeback with an armbar over the ropes, but Dawson wrests control back with a slingshot suplex before continuing to decimate Gable. Dawson charges the corner but Gable dodges and makes the hot tag. Jordan comes in with a series of dropkicks and impressive overhead suplexes for both Dawson and Wilder. Moments later with all men in the fray Jordan gets ejected from the ring leaving Gable by himself. Dawson and Wilder take advantage hitting Gable with the Shatter Machine for the victory. Fans who lament the state of tag team wrestling need to see these two teams compete, easily my favorite teams in all of NXT.

Our main event is Solomon Crowe taking on Prince Pretty Tyler Breeze, who is once again accompanied by Radomir Petkovic. After an initial back and forth Crowe goes for an early Stretch Muffler, but Petkovic pulls Breeze to the ropes. Referee Drake Wuertz is having none of it and quickly ejects Petkovic to the back. With the playing field level, Crowe attacks Breeze with a kick and then a clothesline out of the ring before lounging atop the turnbuckle to mock Breeze. Getting back to business Crowe shoots out of the ring like a bullet with a suicide dive into Breeze. The two brawl on the outside with Crowe on the attack until Breeze launches him into the ring steps. Breeze wisely slows the pace while targeting the leg of Crowe. He wraps Crowe’s leg around the ringpost and contorts him into a half crab. Crowe makes the ropes and is eventually back to his feet. Back and forth action ensues until Crowe takes charge attacking the leg of Breeze. He attempts a Stretch Muffler but Breeze makes it to the ropes. Moments later Breeze launches himself over the ropes but Crowe catches him for a front facelock cutter. The two battered men continues to fight to the point they can barely stand. Breeze lands a superkick out of nowhere and locks Crowe into a cloverleaf. Later, Crowe mounts a final comeback hitting Breeze with his patented high knee and following with a dropkick to the knee. He locks Breeze into a Stretch Muffler but Petkovic runs back out and jumps onto the apron. Crowe confronts him but turns back around to walk into a Beauty Shot giving Tyler Breeze a cheap victory. This was a great match with both men proving that they are main event players.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

NXT Lakeland 7-31-15

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Maryann Mason

Friday night wrestling returned to Lakeland for another unparalleled night of action as only NXT can dish out. A standing room only crowd piled into the National Guard Armory to see their favorite wrestlers battle it out for supremacy in the squared circle, and they would not leave disappointed.

The night kicks off with women’s tag action as the team of Bayley and Gionna Daddio take on Emma and Dana Brooke. Emma starts off aggressively for her team but Bayley stays one step ahead thwarting all of her offense. Bayley tags in the rookie Gionna who continues the momentum with much athleticism and some nice grappling and pin attempts. Eventually Dana and Emma turn things around and isolate Gionna in the ring. Later she makes the hot tag to Bayley who comes in with a vengeance hitting a flurry of signature moves on Brooke. She tosses Emma out of the ring and nails Dana Brooke with a Belly-To-Bayley for the victory. This was a fun match that newcomer Gionna Daddio came out of looking impressive. Meanwhile Dana Brooke’s hard work is noticeable in her rapidly improving ring work.

Next up Mojo Rawley takes on the German Axel Tischer. The much hyped Rawley starts off strong and follows with his usual banter of letting us know that Tischer “ain’t hyped and can’t get chicks”. He accentuates that with Hammertime onto a prone Tischer. Later Tischer finds an opening and begins a vicious beatdown before grounding the usually animated Mojo. Eventually Rawley fights back and takes down Axel with a shoulder tackle, following with a big splash in the corner. Mojo finishes off Tischer with a fireman’s carry drop for the win. I’m glad to see Mojo Rawley using a new finisher, much improved over the last few he’s had.

Sawyer Fulton is out next for a promo. He says that he has been in NXT for three years now and has seen too many real talents get pushed aside for indie darlings. He tells us he is a two time all American and he is going to make some changes around here. He is interrupted by Sylvester Lefort who agrees with him, and offers Fulton his services as manager. An angry Fulton asks “You think I need your help? You’re right” before shaking the Frenchman’s hand. Sawyer Fulton is a sizable guy with a lot of skill who has had a tough time finding the right gimmick. Hopefully this new direction will be successful for Fulton. It certainly can’t hurt being paired with Lefort, who is a heat magnet.

The action continues with Mike Rawlis taking on Bull Dempsey. The cocky Rawlis mocks the fitness of Bull before dropping for a few push-ups. He challenges Dempsey to do the same. Bull drops and with much effort manages to give us three push-ups. Moments later the action begins and an agitated Dempsey chases Rawlis around the ring until he gets winded. Back in the ring they run the ropes an absurd number of times until Bull gets winded again. Eventually an angry Rawlis gets the upper hand and attacks Bull with a series of kicks and strikes. He accentuates that with an impressive fallaway slam before grounding the big guy. Bull gets fired up and fights back with a series of jabs. He runs Rawlis down like a truck and climbs the ropes, jumping off with a Whoopie Cushion for the pin. This was a silly, but fun match. Safe to say by the crowd chants this Bull-Fit angle is getting over already.

Next, Steve Cutler takes on Uhaa Nation. The two lock up for much back and forth effort in the early goings. It becomes a total mat game with each man vying for control. The two make it up and the speed of Uhaa quickly comes into play until Cutler takes a cheap shot, following with a series of kicks in the corner. Cutler follows with  a series of suplexes before settling into a front chancery. Uhaa makes it to his feet and mounts a comeback but Cutler shuts him down with a hellacious clothesline. Uhaa quickly rebounds with a heel kick, several clubbing blows and a big splash. Finally Uhaa drops Cutler with a huge military press and follows by his amazing standing moonsault.

Next up is four way tag action featuring Dawson & Wilder vs Jordan & Gable vs The Vaudevillians vs Blake and Murphy. A contest with this many personalities and combustible elements make for match of the night, but is nearly impossible to call. As it goes in these types of matches there were lots of momentum shifts and many blind tags. In the final moments as the ref lost control the bodies were flying with wrestler after wrestler taking out each other with signatures and finishers. Finally it came down to a fired up Gotch and English who finished off Buddy Murphy with the uppercut/neckbreaker combo. All four teams looked great in this match, but Dawson and Gable would be definitely be the stars of this one, I’d love to see those two compete one on one in the future.

The action continues with “Perfect 10” Ty Dillinger taking on Tyler Breeze. With the crowd clearly behind him Dillinger takes control early on until Breeze takes advantage of a distracted referee and gouges the eye of Dillinger. Breeze follows with an ensiguri and pummels Dillinger in the corner. He drops Dillinger with a backstabber and grounds him with a front chancery. Dillinger mounts a comeback but is shut down when he runs into a jaw breaking superkick. Still, Dillinger comes back again laying out Breeze with an impressive fireman’s carry powerbomb. The two exchange several pin attempts before Breeze takes out Dillinger with a Beauty Shot for the win. This was a great match with easily two of the best in NXT.

Next up is more women’s tag action as the formidable team of Lina and Jessie take on Charlotte and Becky Lynch. Riding a wave of much recent momentum Lynch and Charlotte start off strong against Jessie who wisely tags Lina. Despite that, Charlotte fails to take down the immovable Lina. Charlotte tags in Lynch and the two take down Lina with a double dropkick. Becky follows with a trifecta of her trademark leg drops. Later in the match Lina would shift the momentum after dropping Charlotte with a thunderous slam. The bad girls take over with frequent tags wearing down Charlotte. Jessie wears down Charlotte in an octopus hold. Moments later Lina locks in a bearhug thrashing Charlotte around like a rag doll. Finally Charlotte makes a hot tag to Lynch who comes in with a vengeance clearing the ring with her intense ring work. She throws her armbar onto Jessie, while Charlotte locks on the Figure-8 onto Lina giving them a tap out victory. I’m thankful I got to see Charlotte and Becky Lynch one more time, these two haven’t redefined women’s wrestling; they have knocked down the walls. Becky Lynch isn’t my favorite female wrestler, she is one of my favorite wrestlers, period.

Our main event is next with Solomon Crowe taking on NXT champion Finn Balor. The two begin trading armlocks until Crowe gets the upper hand. Crowe pummels Balor before the two fight to the outside and back into the ring. Crowe quickly finds his target, working the leg before settling into a half crab. Later Balor comes back rolling through a sunset flip and nailing Crowe with a dropkick. Not to be outdone, a fired up Balor targets the leg of Crowe. The two trade offense until Finn drops Crowe with a pele kick. Balor goes for a dropkick to the corner, but Crowe swats him off and locks on another crab. Balor fights back and levels Crowe with a slingblade. He follows with a dropkick to the corner. Balor climbs the turnbuckles and finishes Crowe with the Coup De Grace for the victory. This was a great match, and one I have been wanting to see for a long time. Balor looked as impressive as always, but Solomon Crowe proved he is more than capable of being a main event player in NXT.