Sunday, June 4, 2017

NXT Venice 6-3-17

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Gravenbabies

Saturday night NXT finished it's wet and rainy Florida weekend in Venice, Fl. With most of the television roster preparing for the UK tour, it was all hands on deck for the remaining crew. The wrestlers put on a solid show, despite the constraints, bad weather, and the drunken Venice crowd. Venice is easily the worst stop on the Florida loop. Even the people online who compain about the Full Sail crowd, would beg for Full Sail after  night in Venice. 

Nick Miller (w/ Shane Thorne) vs Wesley Blake (w/Steve Cutler)
It was a nice surpise to see one half of TM61 back in action after a long absense. He looked good, showing no ring rust as he took the fight to Blake with a series of deep headlocks and long arm drags. A frustrated Blake took advantage after dumping Miller into the turnbuckle and controlled the remainder of the match. Miller made a comeback and sealed the win with a spinning sitout slam. This was a solid opener. Wesley Blake seems rejuvenated, and I'm hoping his team with Steve Cutler makes tv, because they work very well together.

Cezar Bononi vs Adrian Jaoude 
The two Brazilian up and comers went head to head in a match that began with a lot of limb work and impressive grappling. Jaoude stayed one step ahead, until a frustrated Bononi took a cheap shot and beat down Jaoude with a series of strikes. Bononi grounded Jaoude and worked the arm until Jaoude mounted a comeback culminating into a suplex slam for the win. TV viewers will probably know Bononi as the competitor who recently gained an upset victory over Andrade Cien Almas. Hopefully this leads to bigger things for the big man, who clearly has the look and potential to go far. Adrian Jaoude looks like a legitimate badass, and with a background as an amatuer wrestler and martial artist, he is. Jaoude clearly has the tools, once he finds that connection with the audiences, he'll be over in no time.

Liv Morgan, Kimberly Frankele, and Sarah Logan vs Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, and Mary Kate
The match starts with plenty of bantering, much of it from Mandy Rose playing off the fact that she is gorgeous and has no problem letting the crowd and her opponents know it. This was a back and forth match where all six women looked great in their respective parts, until the bad girls isolated Kimberly for much of the latter half. Eventually, Frankele makes the hot tag to Liv who comes in clearing house. All the girls end up in the ring and in the chaos Mary Kate plants Liv into the mat with a black hole slam. While the women's television roster seems centered around a few women, matches like this seem to indicate the division is in good hands. Liv Morgan reminds me of a 2014 Alexa Bliss, more than capable, sometimes overambitious in the ring. but watch out when she hits her stride and flips the switch. Sarah Logan seems to have acclimated to the WWE atmosphere and is quickly becoming a fan favorite.

Next out is Lars Sullivan for an interview. He's asked about taking out his frustrations on his tag partners. He admits to being frustrated because he's not a loser like everyone else in the locker room. He continues that everyone in the back, everyone in the crowd are a bunch of conformists. He says he follows no one and that he is the future of the WWE. He will retire John Cena and headline Wrestlemania. The promo sort of meandered all over the place, and left some people scratching their heads. However, Sullivan is solid on the mic, confident, well spoken, and unfazed by the crowd.

Sawyer Fulton vs Babatunde Aiyegbusi
Much like their Friday night match in Ocala, big guy Sawyer Fulton struggled to gain traction against an even bigger 6'9" Babs. No technical match and was a hoss fight from beginning to end. This time it would be Babs picking up the victory after a thunderous backbreaker. Babs is an impressive sight to behold and is sure to go places on sheer look alone. I'm curious to see where Fulton ends up, I'd actually like to see him back in Sanity.

Tino Sabbatelli vs Oney Lorcan
As Lorcan matches often go, this one was very hard hitting. It was a hard fought, back and forth match, but Lorcan eventually got the win with his somersault neckbreaker. Oney Lorcan is a workhorse that can put on a great match with just about anyone. Tino is very over where ever they go on the Florida loop. The crowd was split on this one.

Street Prophets (Dawkins and Ford) vs The Ealy Brothers
This match mirrored the Friday night encounter, with the athletic and charismatic Prophets strong in the early goings until the Ealy Brothers slowed the pace and worked over Ford for most the match. Eventually, Ford makes the hot tag and Angelo cleans house. He tags Ford back in for a frog splash and a pin. The Ealy Brothers are getting better at aworking the crowd.

Binky Blair vs Lacey Evans
This match featured two women who have picked things up really fast. Lacey worked most of this match as underdog against Binky, who had no problem using her long braid as a weapon… first as a whip and later as a restraint. Ultimately though, Lacey would tap out Binky with an armbar. I expect these women to do well down the road. Binky (who had a great match with Asuka a few weeks back in Dade City) especially shined tonight.

The Velveteen Dream vs Roderick Strong
This was actually a strong main event (no pun intended) with a great showing from both guys. Strong obviously has an impressive resume, and could easily be “Mr. NXT” if given the opportunity. Clark is better than most people care to admit, his selling is on point, and he is so easy to dislike. The two worked a solid main event. In the final moments, the Velveteen Dream hit his elbow from the top rope, busting open Roddy in the process. However, a bloodied Strong kicked out and a few moments later finished off Clark with his finisher. He stood tall, victorious and bloody to send the crowd home happy.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

NXT Ocala 6-2-17

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Gravenbabies

Friday night NXT returned to Ocala, Fl for another night of wrestling action. The Reserve Pavillion at The Hilton is essentially a large tent. The outside venue was made that much more thrilling by the large Florida storm system that was moving through the area bringing much rain and wind, flooding the floors (cords and electrical equipment too) with sheets of rain that interns would be sweeping away all night. Despite the wetness, humidity, and technical difficulties the show indeed went on.

The Ealy Twins vs Street Prophets (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford)
This was a solid opening match that saw The Prophets working from underneath for most the match despite a strong opening. The Ealy Twins are two big intimidating guys who fit into this new tag team division developing in NXT which seems to be centered around larger guys. They’re still looking for that connection with the crowd but definitely have the tools to get there. Alternately, Dawkins and Ford are extremely over right now and are quickly becoming favorites of the tag division. Ford is overflowing with charisma, and is just as entertaining on the ring apron or in the ring. After a hard fought match, Crawford got the win for his team with a frog splash from the top rope.

Sawyer Fulton vs Babatunde Aiyegbusi 
Far from a technical match, with lots of brawling and big guy power moves this was your hoss fight of the night. However, even Fulton who is no small guy, looked small next to the 6’9” Babs. In the end, Babs looked to have it won but an eye rake was enough of a distraction for Fulton to hoist Babs up for a vertical suplex for the win. It will be interesting to see where Fulton fits in going forward after finally getting over with Sanity.

Mary Kate (Amazon Andrea) vs Sarah Logan
Prior to the match Logan was announced by her real name Sarah Bridges, but I’m assuming that was just a mistake. Whatever you call the former Crazy Mary Dobson, she seems to really be hitting her stride and becoming comfortable in a WWE ring. She played underdog to the very dominant Mary Kate in what was one of the better matches of the evening. Logan made an impressive comeback though, nailing Mary Kate with a vicious running knee and series of strikes in the process. In the end though Mary Kate finished Logan off with a mean looking Black Hole Slam. This was a great showing for both women, and it was a big relief seeing Mary Kate back in the ring after a few weeks of being Lana’s muscle.

As tradition dictates in Ocala, wrestling legend Dory Funk came to ring for an interview but was interrupted by his former student Wesley Blake, along with Steve Cutler. Blake claims he was the best thing to ever come out of Funks wrestling school, and challenges Funk to a fight right there. Roderick Strong comes out to make the save, telling them he’ll give them a fight. Cutler agrees, but says they fight in the main event!

Only Lorcan vs Jeet Rama 
This was a standard back and forth match that saw One Lorcan take the win with his somersault neckbreaker. Lorcan is easily one of the best in NXT, and can put on a good match with just about anyone.

Andrade Cien Almas vs Buddy Murphy
The match started off slow with each competitor feeling each other out, plus some posturing and “tranquilo” posing. The match quickly evolved into a fast paced, back and forth hard hitting affair with each men hitting a lot of their trademark spots. Finally, after a mean super kick, Murphy landed double knees off the top rope onto Almas for the win. This was easily match of the night. Andrade, who already had an impressive resume before NXT, has hit his stride as a heel and can work the crowd just about better than anyone else, using body language and expressions alone. Buddy Murphy is absolutely explosive , with the proper push be could easily be a main event player.

Lars Sullivan vs Kona Reeves
This was standard fare with Lars ultimately defeating Reeves. Sullivan seems to be getting over fairly well with the crowds on the Florida loop.

Ruby Riot vs Sonya Deville
This match saw fan favorite Ruby Riot as underdog most of the match, while Deville looked dominant with an array of strikes. Ultimately, Riot would make an impressive comeback for the win. This was another stand out of the night. Ruby Riot has gotten over with the NXT crowds in a big way very fast. 

Roderick Strong and No Way Jose vs Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler
The match started with many shenanigans, as one would imagine with the animated Jose. After a rough start Blake and Cutler take over working over Strong. Finally, Strong makes a hot tag to Jose who looked to be turning around. However, thanks to a distraction Blake nailed Jose with a backstabber, and got the pin with the assistance of the foot on the ropes. Dory Funk (who had accompanied the good guys to the ring) told the ref, who restarted the match. Eventually, Jose makes a hot tag to Roddy who comes in a cleans house. Roddy hits Blake with his finisher for the win. Afterwards, the two celebrate in the ring with Funk. Jose wears Funks hat while all three men dance in the ring to send the crowd home happy. Ladies and gentleman, professional wrestling in 2017.