American Alpha Defeated The Revival to win the NXT Tag Team Championship:
This was a great match to kick things off with, with the crowd always getting energized by American Alpha. They were of course going to win with the big push they’ve been getting, along with the even bigger reception from the audience. The Revival was always going to be a stop-gap championship team, because it’s not that they are particularly bad it’s just that they are so unmemorable and have absolutely nothing to make you feel true love or hatred either way, they’re so faceless voids that make you pause for a second to remember which one is Dawson and which one is Wilder.
Austin Aries Defeated Baron Corbin:
I’m a big Austin Aries fan and have really been liking Baron Corbin over these last few months as he’s been improving mightily, especially putting together some nice promos. Aries got the win, which I guess was expected, but I kinda thought Corbin might pull it out in a surprise as a sort of furthered push on his growing character, but I’m not mad at Aries getting his first win in his first match as an older guy. I knew Aries was a smaller guy and of course Corbin is huge, but jeez, Aries looked like a baby trying to attack a giant in this match, which was a great visual in Aries trying to take down this beast. Like, I said, I’ve been impressed with Corbin lately and think he has good potential in filling out a monster heel role, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he delivers in the next couple months.
Shinsuke Nakamura Defeated Sami Zayn:
Charisma’s a weird thing where you can obviously detect it, but it’s sometimes impossible to pinpoint exactly what it is and exactly how you can get it and fully utilize it. However complicated and undefined it may be, one thing for sure is that Shinsuke Nakamura has it in spades just after one second of entering an arena. He lives the cliche of looking up “charisma” in the dictionary and it’s just a picture of him.
The match itself was a well-booked masterclass in ring psychology in two geniuses in their own right. Little things like Zayn kicking out at one early in the match and then progressing through the match where he would then kick out at two as he got tired were nice small touches that unfortunately you don’t see much of nowadays where guys will get an unrealistic near-fall pin after a simple early suplex. That was a great thing about the match, they really played up the tired and exhausted angle as you would expect in any match really, but since it’s so rarely done, and especially to the level like this, it really played well into the big match factor. Nakamura got the pin, of course, and Sami went out on his back in his last NXT match, but really who better to do it to than Nakamura.
Asuka Defeated Bayley to win the NXT Women’s Championship:
After the last match I was a little worried what would follow since they were guaranteed to be in a lull after all the emotion spent in the Nakamura/Zayn contest. Fortunately, the crowd wasn’t that deflated and had some energy, although it wasn’t anything noteworthy. This was a pretty good match, through and through, but the ending was pretty weird and very anticlimactic. Asuka kept trying to put Bayley in her choke submission and once she finally got it cinched it looked to set up the idea that it looked like Bayley was done for only to see her miraculously find her way out of the move, except that totally didn’t happen here and instead Bayley just passed out and like that we have a new champion.
It wasn’t that it was a surprise or unexpected or anything to see Asuka walk away with the title, its just that how they finished the match in what looked to be an innocent move with the crowd fully expecting Bayley to wriggle out or the match to at least not end there, were shocked to see it finish like that when the crowd had to get their bearings for a few seconds to process what actually happened.
Bayley was seemingly going to lose the title sooner rather than later and Asuka was the perfect person to lose it to. Looking at the other women on the roster like Eva Marie, Nia Jax, Emma, Alexa Bliss and whoever, none of them are even close to the level of Bayley and are nowhere close to being believable in beating here. Whereas Asuka is this stone cold killer who wants nothing more than to wreck havoc on Bayley’s happy universe. And now I presume this will set up a redemption story for Bayley in getting here title back, because I really don’t see this title loss as freeing her up to go to the main roster, especially when the NXT women’s division is pretty thin and the main roster actually has a bunch of female talent who have the power to establish that division.
Finn Balor Defeated Samoa Joe to retain the NXT Championship:
I haven’t really been looking forward to this match until the last few weeks. And it didn’t really have anything to do with the participants, but with the rumours of what was going to the happen with the fallout with the idea that possibly the loser could be heading up to the main roster, along with the incoming Balor Club. I’ve tried and tried, but I really cant’ get into Finn Balor in any way, his ring work is fine enough, but his promos are just horrendous and often cringey. His title run has long grown stale and Balor as a babyface is just something that hasn’t worked well as he seems like someone which such little personality. I’m hoping the Balor Club institutes him turning heel and providing a spark to his character and at least lets them do some heel stuff with him which seems more naturally fitting to his character.
Thus, I thought Joe was for sure winning this thing and ushering in the age of bad ass Joe as champ. Joe is just the meanest looking guy on the roster and just personifies this animal in a cage mentality in every fight he’s in. The early blood that was drawn just adding fuel to that fire and provided a nice extra level in his menace. Unfortunately, because nowadays they medical staff have to be over every little bit of blood like a hawk, the momentum was severely halted in all the semi-stoppages and didn’t give the match the flow it had in the ending. It was unfortunate, but the match was still uniformly great throughout with both men believably until the very end in taking home the title. I have no clue what this means going forward, and am pretty disappointed that Balor will be retaining the title yet again, especially with rumours of his Balor Club direction popping up. Joe seems like the perfect guy to hold the belt for a bit until a younger guy makes his name by beating him for the title. But, maybe this all means that Joe is soon to see the main roster, and boy could they use not only his body, but strength at being a heel up there.
Overall I really liked the show and enjoyed it much more than the December show (although, it’s not like I hated that or anything). Not entirely sure of the direction of any of these guys after this, including their big guns like Nakamura, Balor and Joe, but they’e got gold in every one of them if they utilize them properly. Here’s hoping…