Saturday, November 19, 2016

NXT Tampa 11-18-16

While NXT's top players prepare for Saturday’s Takeover: Toronto, the rest of the crew returned to the UACDC Gymnasium in Tampa, Fl. With a sizable chunk of the roster north of the border, many fans wondered exactly what NXT had in store… apparent by the ticket sales in a usually sold out venue. This show was hardly a consolation prize though. With names like Andrade Cien Almas, Gran Metalik, Tommy End, Big Damo, and Sarah Bridges on the card, I’d hardly call it a “B” show. Much to the contrary, the show felt fresh and different. While performers like Nakamura and Asuka are always missed, freshness is exactly what many people need from a brand that has lost quite a bit of its magic in the last year.

Jack Gallagher vs Akira Tozawa
Regardless of how well the cruiserweight division is fairing on the main roster, it is benefiting NXT fans in spades. That fact was evident in our opening bout of Akira Tozawa vs Gentleman Jack Gallagher. This back and forth match was a great way to start the night illustrating the technical prowess of Jackie Boy and the hard-hitting style of Tozawa. The match was a condensed version of their CWC match with some of the same spots, including Gallagher tying a helpless Tozawa into a pretzel. This match was a lot of fun, and it’s clear both men are going to be a huge asset to the cruiserweight division. Jack Gallagher defeated Akira Tozawa with a huge running corner dropkick.

Adrian Jaoude & Cezar Bononi vs The Bollywood Boyz
It was team Brazil against team India in our first tag team match of the evening. Jaoude and Bononi controlled much of the match with the much larger Bononi taking charge over the smaller duo of Gurv and Harv Sihra. I like Jaoude and Bononi but they are both very much works in progress, showing a lot of potential. This match was your standard formula tag match with the Jaoude and Bononi working dominant heel over their underdog opponents. The Bollywood Boyz defeated Jaoude and Bononi with a double superkick to Adrian Jaoude.

Sarah Bridges vs Macey Estrella
The night continued with women’s action as Sarah Bridges, formerly known as “Crazy” Mary Dobson made her Tampa debut against rookie Macey Estrella. I was excited to see Bridges finally compete in NXT beyond enhancement talent, and she doesn’t disappoint. However, it seemed at times it seemed she had to force herself into a slower pace for the inexperienced Estrella to keep up. Surprisingly Macey dominated the match over an underdog Bridges. Estrella has much work to go, but seems to progressing more so than some of the other new women. Macey Estrella defeated Sarah Bridges via submission with an arm bar.

Big Damo vs Ho Ho Lun
In perhaps the most lopsided match of the night, the Hong Kong cruiserweight found himself across the ring from the beast from Belfast. Undeterred, Ho Ho used his speed to attack his opponent with a flurry of offense, which unfortunately had no effect on the massive Damo. Finally, Damo grounded Lun with one big strike and began systematically picking apart the much smaller wrestler. Lun mounted a small comeback to little avail. While it’s always fun to watch a monster wreak havoc, it also reminds us that for the main roster cruiserweight division to be taken seriously, they must be kept away from the heavyweights. Still yet, it was an enjoyable match as both men are fun to watch. Big Damo defeated Ho Ho Lun with a massive running crossbody.

Wesley Blake vs Kishan Raftaar
Wesley Blake is a good wrestler that has lost his way. In this match, the former tag champion that has taken part in some of the most memorable tag matches in NXT history, didn’t look that much more experienced in the ring than the rookie Kishan Raftaar. Both men looked competent enough, but compared to the evening’s previous matches, it slowed the night tremendously. After a back and forth match Kishan Raftaar defeated Wesley Blake with a sunset flip off the turnbuckle.

Tommy End vs Buddy Murphy
This hard-hitting match started before Murphy was done with his entrance as End attacked him from behind and threw him to the outside. They brawled briefly outside the ring before heading back in where Murphy mounted a comeback. What followed was a tremendous back and forth between the two. Tommy End comes to NXT with a lot of hype, and he delivered with a myriad of strong strikes and kicks. Buddy Murphy held his own and is probably the most underrated performer in NXT at the moment. Excellent match that culminated with Tommy End defeating Buddy Murphy with a brutal high knee. Easily match of the night.

Tough Enough alumni Mada came out to the ring next for a promo. He dissed us Americans and boasted his superior Egyptian bloodline. He seemed confident on the mic; I have yet to see him perform in the ring though.

Tino Sabbatelli & Riddick Moss vs Angelo Dawkins & Kenneth Crawford
This was your standard tag match with several false finishes and a bit of shenanigans. All four men seem to be benefiting from their new tag team affiliations. Moss and Sabbatelli seem to really be getting over with the fans, and I swear, they will probably be Vince McMahons favorite wrestlers one day based on physiques and hair alone. Nothing spectacular here, but entertaining nonetheless. Sabbatelli and Moss have an interesting tag finisher now; Moss hoists his opponent up into a Gory Special setting him up for a running bulldog from Tino. This move won them the match when Tino Sabbatelli pinned Kenneth Crawford.

Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas vs Gran Metallik
This was a great main event, maybe the best I’ve seen an already impressive Almas, simply because of how much he and Metallik work so well together. As imagined, this match featured lots of back and forth, fast paced, and “flippy” action. Both men looked great in this outing. Gran Metallik is going to be a major asset to the cruiserweight division, while heel Cien looks to have finally found his footing in NXT looking better every outing. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas defeated Gran Metallik, after nearly pulling off Metallik’s mask and following with a roll-up. After the match, Almas continued to beat down Metallik, until the good guy turned it around and sent Cien packing.

 This was no ‘B’ show, with several new faces stepping up and the arrival of the cruiserweights, this show was as good as any other.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

2016, The Year In Review (And Pictures!)

It’s been a year since I wrote my last blog post for Mason’s Ringside View, and out of the few reasons I chose to take a hiatus, lack of things to write about certainly wasn’t among them. 2016 hasn’t just been a huge year for NXT, it has been a huge (and strange) year for the entire wrestling industry. However, you can read about all of that elsewhere… besides, I am not a wrestling journalist, but rather a dude who is lucky enough to go to a lot of shows and these are my views from ringside.

A year has made a huge impact on NXT. We said goodbye to the face of the brand, Finn Balor who moved on the  main roster, as well as Bayley, Enzo and Cass, Baron Corbin and several others who have laid down the groundwork for what NXT is today. Some of the hottest names on the independent scene have taken their place, performers such as Roderick Strong, Tommy End, and Cedric Alexander now call NXT home.

One of my favorite wrestlers on the planet and a man I doubted I would ever get to see live, Shinsuke Nakamura, has not only arrived in NXT but risen straight to the top. It’s been a stellar year for the King Of Strong Style, capturing the NXT title and continuing a brutal feud with Samoa Joe.
Asuka has continued to prove why she is the most dominant female wrestler in the world. She is still undefeated, still champion, and still one of the most exciting performers in the brand.

However, there is a challenger on the rise. 2016 saw the debut of Ember Moon, another ridiculously talented competitor who seems the most obvious threat to Asuka’s reign.

There are also several other challengers in the locker room who would love to knock the Queen off her throne. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay seemed poised for a push in the near future, while Nikki Cross is about as "Takeover" ready as any female on the roster. Mandy Rose is acclimating well post Tough Enough and has a star quality that can't be denied. Also, one can't forget that the debut of Sarah Bridges aka Crazy Mary Dobson is imminent.

The Revival, a team who I tirelessly promoted on this blog as criminally underrated are now enjoying their second tag title reign. The duo of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder has not only kept the titles on lockdown, but has elevated tag wrestling and given the fans several match of the year contenders.

However, the top guys might have more than a few obstacles in their way in the coming year. If this years Dusty Classic has reminded us of anything, it's that tag team wrestling thrives in NXT. From DIY to The Authors Of Pain, Sanity to Tucker and Otis, there is always another team to step up to the champs.

We finally saw the return of Hideo Itami… only to be injured a few months later.

It's beyond frustrating and one has to wonder if Itami will ever get that main event run he deserves, especially in an increasingly crowded field that includes names like Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, and Oney Lorcan. One also can't forget the very over Bobby Roode, and Andrade Cien Almas, who has been fantastic since his heel turn. I would imagine that Tommy End and Big Damo will be making immediate impacts.


The Cruiserweight Classic was possibly my favorite thing going this entire year, and the cruiserweights continue to kill it both on the main roster and in NXT. Regardless of how well the cruiserweight division is being received on Raw, the cruisers are making a lot of new fans here at house shows.

While NXT tours the world, the Florida loop has several PC talents grinding hard and looking to make a big name for themselves in the coming year.

Outside of the WWE/NXT bubble, I don’t think any promotion has had a bigger year than EVOLVE. Sure, they have prospered from a relationship with the WWE and a recent huge deal with FloSlam, but it’s the top-notch talent and killer live shows that make EVOLVE a promotion everyone should be keeping their eye on.

In 2016 Timothy Thatcher continued with a dominant title reign, Ethan Page has stepped up in a big way, and even EC3 made his presence known. Drew Gulak and Tony Nese pull double duty killing it in EVOLVE and performing in WWE’s cruiserweight division.
Perhaps no one’s stock is rising faster than the bro himself, Matt Riddle. From EVOLVE to PWG, everyone who has seen him live agrees the bro is a star.
Carrying the torch for women’s wrestling down here in the sunshine state is Shine. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more fun night of wrestling anywhere in the state, I just wished they would stop booking shows when I’m working (a guy can dream).
Every month or so some of the best female talents of the independent wrestling scene converge on The Orpheum in Ybor City for hard-hitting action. One of these competitors would be Su Yung, probably my favorite female talent not currently signed by the WWE.
I’m hoping we’ll see several of these wrestlers in the upcoming WWE women’s tournament.

ROH has had a year of ups and downs (some more than other, depending on whom you ask) but I am still a big ROH fan and they brought it on their recent Lakeland, Fl stop. Biggest take away from the show? Dalton Castle is perhaps the most charismatic man in wrestling, Kyle O’Reilly is even cooler in person, Jay White has superstar written all over him, Silas Young is underrated, and Adam Cole is worthy of every bit of the hype. I can’t wait until ROH returns to Lakeland for Supercard Of Honor next year.
It's been a fun and crazy year of pro graps, and 2017 looks like it's going to be just as nuts.