January 8, 2015
Full Sail University
The last two episodes of WWE NXT aired on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, needless to say I wasn’t about to interrupt Christmas dinner with my parents to go watch NXT. I’m devoted but not THAT devoted. I probably could’ve watched New Year’s Day but I was a little… under the weather and ended up sleeping for basically 90% of the day. Unlike those other devoted writers on this website who go back and review three shows at a time, we’ll just consider those two never happened and pick up with Episode 258. Let’s get to it!
We start Episode 258 with Sami Zayn coming down to a HUGE reaction, this is his first appearance since winning the title in a 2014 Match of the Year contender at NXT Takeover: R Evolution. Zayn continues to be the best babyface in the world as he starts going through the crowd as they all start chanting SAMI and OLE. The guy is money, folks. Sami cuts a solid babyface promo (like there’s any doubt) saying he won the title his way and that the NXT title isn’t his, “this is OURS.” The guy who spent most of his career with a mask on then says he is apart of a band (Sami and the Zayniacs), Zayniacs being the crowd, of course. They chant OLE, he says he loves that song… man, this guy gets it.
Finally, we get to business as Zayn says R Evolution didn’t end how he wanted because Kevin Owens ruined his moment and hurt him: “Guess what, you hurt me but you didn’t end me!”
Adrian Neville’s music hits as he comes down to confront Zayn. Neville says he and Zayn had a battle at R Evolution and congratulates Zayn. Sami says Neville has a contracted rematch if he wants which prompts NXT general manager William Regal down. We’re up to almost 10 minutes of talking at this point.
Regal thanks the two men for a great match at R Evolution and says next week, we get the NXT Title match. I should note that next week begins NXT’s run on Wednesdays so adjust your calendars.
Hideo Itami vs. Curtis Axel: I love the idea of putting Axel on NXT. I’m not sure how he’s going to take it but he should look at guys like Justin Gabriel and most notably Tyson Kidd who finally have something to do. Sure, you aren’t with the main roster but it has to be feel better doing something that matters versus working Superstars and Main Event matches that mean absolutely nothing. Titus O’Neil clearly didn’t take to it, Curtis Axel would do well to cherish this opportunity and make the most of it.
I loved Axel here. Sure, his heel work was mostly yelling really loud but his offense was fierce and Itami did a great job taking the damage. I’m not sure what I think about Itami constantly being the babyface in peril but Hideo Itami is never going to be NOAH-era KENTA so it’s time to adjust expectations a bit. Axel had some good offense for the first few minutes of the match before regressing into the “grab a side headlock that nobody cares about and doesn’t react to anymore because it happens in literally every match.” Luckily, it didn’t last long as Axel continued to work over Itami with more yelling.
Itami grabbed the momentum with a flying clothesline and hit a nice looking Shining Wizard/Corkscrew Roundhouse (doesn’t appear to have a name yet) to get the 1-2-3. Itami still needs a lot of work as the fiery babyface on the comeback as his offense is still not QUITE what he’s capable of, but he’s improving. I enjoyed this a lot. **¾
Backstage we get some more awkward arguments between Nattie and Tyson Kidd with Tyson is going all out with the cat thing. This is the WWE Subtly Hammer at its finest as literally the entire promo talks about cats, while he’s wearing a cat beanie with cats on his gloves. Tyson Kidd loves cats in case you were wondering.
Next is a promo for Bull Dempsey vs. Baron Corbin, who will finally face one another on next week’s NXT — oh joy.
Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks: The story of this match is Alexa getting revenge on Sasha for breaking her nose a few weeks back. Bliss starts out with some hard strikes to the face (nice storytelling) but very quickly Sasha takes control.
Bank Statement and this bad boy was over quick, Alexa never had a chance. This was well-worked for what it was (a squash) as Sasha continues to improve at a startling rate. She understands her character well and has tailored her offense toward that aggressive behavior. *¾
Tyler Breeze vs. Chad Gable: Tyler is back, Chad is here — can’t wait to see this! Gable is a Kurt Angle early 2000 template which isn’t a bad thing at this point. The fans are way into him, he even got a chant so that’s a good start. Breeze takes control early and starts slowing the pace down with a, yes you guessed it, headlock. Jason Albert asks, “How does the wrestler feel being out-wrestled by Tyler Breeze?” Yes, Jason, how does he feel? I thought this was a silly part of the match. I’m fine with Breeze being the better of the two but can we find a way to do it other than having a former Olympic wrestler get out-grappled by the male model? Gable finally fires up and locks in a nice arm bar but Breeze hits the Money Shot and it’s over. Gable looked good here but didn’t have much offense as he was selling for a Breeze headlock most of the match. *½
Back from commercial, we get a video showing what happened during the break: Breeze was in the ring taking a selfie when in the background we see a dark figure who appeared to be NXT prospect Dylan Mile. Presumably we’ll be seeing him very soon, cool!
NXT Tag Team Championship – The Vaudevillians vs. Lucha Dragons (c): I zoned out during a lot of this match as neither team seems to make a profound connection on me or the audience for that matter. Aiden English controlled much of the match as he slowed down Kalisto with, yes, a headlock. Kalisto made the hot tag to Sin Cara who cleaned house. Kalisto tagged in and the Dragons hit a BEAUTIFUL double-team finisher. Sin Cara had English on his shoulders and Kalisto hit a corkscrew neckbreaker/Powerbomb combo. You have to see it to fully understand what’s going on and it looked a bit sloppy here but it’ll get better in time. The finish helped an otherwise dry match as the Dragons retain their titles. **
Decent episode of NXT with no much to write home about but some good segments, builds and a few solid matches. This felt more like a go-home show for next week’s debut on Wednesdays, which is fine, they can’t all be great nights. Zayn had a great segment to start the night off while Itami/Axel had a solid match you should definitely check out. Like most episodes of NXT, nothing was bad and what more can you ask for out of weekly TV?