February 4
Full Sail University

Enzo and Big Cass kick off this week’s episode with their standard promo. This was all a build to introduce Carmella. During her entrance a “We Want Blue Pants” chant started to which Carmella responded: “Blue Pants went back to the clearance rack” Ouch.

Emma vs. Carmella: Good to see Emma making her return to NXT. Unfortunately, her dance, music and everything about her is about half as over as it was months ago. Oh well, time to evolve the act a bit because she’s super talented. Emma hasn’t missed much of a beat and worked well here but Carmella was too much for her, making Emma tap with her head-scissors submission.

We got an awesome promo video hyping up next week’s NXT Takeover special event which now has the official name of NXT Takeover: Rival. No, not ArRival, just Rival. If you don’t mind I’m going to keep with my Clash of the Champions theme and just call this Clash of the NXT Champions V. Anyway, the video was great and used quotes from TMZ, IGN.com and the Houston Chronicle. Good to see WWE, (well NXT) embracing outside media to hype their own shows, that’s just smart business.

NXT Championship #1 Contenders Tournament (Semi-Final) Adrian Neville vs. Baron Corbin: Interesting match-up here as you have the former and longest reigning NXT champion in Adrian Neville going up against the “undefeated” Baron Corbin who’s been destroying guys left and right. Will this be a back and forth match or will Corbin continue to plow his way through the roster? What we got was a nice little match between the two with Neville trying to knock Corbin off his feet and Corbin playing the role of monster. It worked really well and though it was slow-moving offense from Corbin (which it should be) he played the role well. It all fell on its face when off-camera Corbin was attacked by Bull Dempsey leading to a near-countout victory for Neville. Bummer. Corbin slid into the ring at 9.999 but Neville immediately hit the Red Arrow to win and move on in the tournament. **¼

Bayley vs. Becky Lynch: Not much to write here but both women did a solid job. It was worked at a relatively slow pace, but both played their roles well with Becky working over the knee of Bayley. Sasha came down to the ring to help Becky but ended up distracting her leading to a Bayley-to-Bayley suplex and a win for Bayley. Sasha didn’t seem distraught at the loss for Becky which caused a shouting match. Becky eventually shoved Sasha to the mat which brought out Charlotte. All four women stared at one another giving us a nice visual to build to next week’s Fatal Four Way for the NXT Women’s Championship.

Backstage, Kevin Owens gets interviewed by the Powers That Be (okay not really but there’s a faceless interviewer over screen), he says he knew what he was doing last week when he walked in with a non-title match and left, only two months after his debut, with an NXT Title shot.

We’re getting Blake & Murphy vs. Lucha Dragons in a NXT Tag Title rematch at NXT Takeover: Rival. Devin Taylor (looking great as always) interviews Tyler Breeze backstage, he says nothing of note but shrugs off his loss in the #1 Contenders tourney.

NXT Championship #1 Contenders Tournament (Semi-Final) – Finn Balor vs. Hideo Itami: This match was a tale of two halves. The first half of the match had me super disappointed as both Itami and Balor worked various side headlock spots and really slowed the pace down to a crawl. It was done well so I won’t get too upset but to see them fall into the side headlock trope was a little disappointing. I’m not saying every second of the match has to be 99 MPH but for god’s sake these two dudes have no other restholds besides a side headlock. Whatever, who cares what happened in the first half because when they came back from commercial this was Prince Devitt vs. KENTA. Itami, in particular, broke out of his shell and started hitting a series of beautiful kicks to Devitt and even hit a truly KENTA-style backfist that had the crowd going nuts. Balor hit a flying dropkick which sent KENTA into the corner (this was sick). Balor to the top, Coup de Grâce and it’s over. This was given plenty of time and once these two finally broke out of their WWE-style shell this was great. Balor will face Adrian Neville for the #1 Contendership of the NXT Title. ***¼

The show ended with an INCREDIBLE Owens/Zayn promo. Seriously, words won’t do this justice, just watch it:

Final Thoughts:

Another fantastic episode of NXT who have really put together a masterful 2015 thus far. The build to NXT Takeover: Rival overall hasn’t been as good as prior specials but I’m salivating at finally getting to see Owens/Zayn so everything else is just the cherry on top at this point. Go watch this episode and seriously, start watching NXT regularly if you don’t already.