Saturday, December 17, 2016

NXT Citrus Springs 12-16-16

One of the best parts of the three years I’ve been frequenting NXT shows, besides the wrestling, has been having an excuse to drive all over the state. From metropolitan areas to rural nowhere towns, I’ve seen many places I never would have seen via the highways and backroads of Florida. One of those rural spots is Citrus Springs, a sleepy town somewhere in between Crystal River and Ocala. Driving the wooded back roads past “Bear Crossing” signs, you’d swear you were more likely to find a sasquatch out here rather than world-class international wrestlers. As the sun begins to set and your cell phone signal wanes you begin to feel hopelessly lost, but suddenly you see a gorgeous community center smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

The brand has cooled considerably on the Florida loop in recent months, call-ups and near constant touring for the marquee stars have caused a huge drop off in the casual fan base, and NXT looks a lot more like it did when I first started going. However, Friday night had a great turn out thanks to a last minute surge in ticket sales. I’m glad to see it because the arrival of the cruiserweights and several other fresh faces have reinvigorated the brand; I haven’t seen anything I’d categorize as a “B” show in a very long time. This show would be no different.

Jack Gallagher vs Noam Dar
I can’t think of many better ways to start a show than with than these two charismatic cruiserweights. When most people think of cruiserweights they think of flying and flips, but these two show that they can put on a ground game and be every bit as entertaining. Noam and Jackie boy put on a grappling clinic that went back and forth. Gallagher paid homage to Johnny Saint with the spot where he rolls into a ball, much to the chagrin of Dar. Both men came out of this match looking really good and it could have went either way, but Jack Gallagher got the win with a backslide pin.

Lince Dorado vs Brennan Williams
The opening of this match saw the underdog Dorado trying to find a way to compete with a much larger opponent. Dorado attempts a few dropkicks only to be swatted away like a fly. An attempted springboard didn’t do any better, as Williams just caught him with ease. Thus went most of the match, with Williams punishing the luchador. I’ve only seen Williams a handful of times, but I see a lot of potential. He’s a big, intimidating dude that showed some really impressive striking. He controlled much of the match, but after a few superkicks and a spinning heel kick Dorado would drop the big man. Then Lince Dorado would defeat Brennan Williams with a shooting star press for the win.

Next, ring announcer Kayla Braxton came out to interview the tag team of Angelo Dawkins and Kenneth Crawford. Crawford is now going by the name Montez Ford. They gave a short interview that really didn’t go anywhere, and culminated with them dancing around in the ring until Sanity came out to crash the party, setting up our main event of the night.

Mandy Rose vs Macey
This one was a textbook back and forth battle, and I’ll be honest, it was a lot better than I thought it would be considering there was no ring general here. Macey misses her strikes by a mile and her bodyslams are worrisome, but for no more matches than she’s had, she’s doing okay. And while Mandy has a lot of room to grow, she is at least as good as a Carmella or Nikki Bella. Mandy Rose defeated Macey with a facebuster.

Roderick Strong vs TJ Perkins
This was easily match of the night. Strong and Perkins started it slow, feeling each other out before the match would build into a frenetic crescendo. This was another one with a lot of grappling and submission spots from both competitors. Eventually, the pace quickened and we saw some signature strikes and a high knee from Roddy. TJP would later drop Strong with a dropkick to the knee and then a roll-up into a knee bar for the win. I can’t do this one justice, but if you are reading you probably know enough about both guys to know it was great. I’ve been a fan of Roderick Strong for a while and he has delivered some of the best house show matches I’ve seen this year in a few short weeks. TJ Perkins, I give him a lot of crap for his dabbing (and well, to annoy my teenage daughter) but honestly, he is impressive as hell, and is constantly raising the bar.

The Authors Of Pain vs Heavy Machinery
If you are a fan of a big old hoss battle, you would have enjoyed the hell out of this match… but I feel like I’ve seen this one too many times. I dig Heavy Machinery, I’ve been behind Tucker Knight through several gimmick changes, and Otis has “it”. I’ll say this about the Authors Of Pain, they really do come off as dangerous and destructive. When they hit the ring you really feel as if someone is going to legitimately get hurt, probably because we’ve actually seen it happen. After a hard fought, hard-hitting battle, the Authors Of Pain defeated Heavy Machinery after a double team to Otis.

Nikki Cross vs Daria Berenato
Nikki Cross is amazing, and she has embraced the Sanity gimmick with fervor. Meanwhile, Daria is at this point the standout alumni of Tough Enough. Together they put together another standout match of the evening. Daria started out strong with her speed and quick strikes, but thanks to a distraction from Alexander Wolfe, Cross was able to take control of the match and punish Daria for the remainder. Berenato made a strong comeback, but thanks to yet another distraction, Cross took advantage and defeated Daria with a swinging fishermans neckbreaker. I enjoyed this match a lot, Daria is improving at an exponential pace, and Nikki Cross… well, I can’t wait to see her with a belt around her waist.

Sanity (Eric Young & Big Damo) vs Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford
This was a fun, albeit odd main event. Most of the match was very much a back and forth battle… until Big Damo tagged in, The Beast from Belfast is a mountain of a man that moves way too fast for someone his size (imagining Damo vs Strowman) and he dominated the match when he was in the ring. All the while, Wolfe and Nikki were great outside the ring being crazy and yelling at the crowd. Nikki Cross being antagonized by three little boys in the front row before yelling at them that Santa wasn’t bringing them presents may have been the highlight of the night. Kenneth Crawford, aka Montez Ford is a standout with a sweet running shooting star. Ford came in on the hot tag and cleared house until yet another distraction allowed Cross to pepper spray him in the face. Eric Young took advantage with a dirty pin for the win. Afterwards, Sanity began a post-match beat down, but Dawkins and Ford turned it around and sent Sanity packing to send the crowd home happy.

NXT is on a roll, and it finally seems as if they have achieved a nice balance between their touring shows and Florida loop. So whether you catch them in Australia or Citrus Springs, you are going to get a fun night of professional wrestling!


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