Episode 265
February 18
Full Sail University – Winter Park, FL

Episode 265 starts with a fantastic recap video of NXT Takeover: Rival leading into William Regal clarifying that the NXT championship can change hands via ref stoppage so Kevin Owens’ title win at Takeover: Rival is valid. Regal also makes a match for tonight: former NXT champion Adrian Neville vs. Kevin Owens but the caveat, it’s not non-title. Regal doesn’t believe Neville has earned a title rematch quite yet.

Regal caps his intro off by saying “It’s a new era in NXT and it begins now.” I love you, NXT.

Kevin Owens’ music hits and the new NXT champion comes out to a split reaction with a few scattered “FIGHT OWENS FIGHT” chants. I know the NXT crowd is a bit of a smarter crowd and hell, I’m guilty of it too but if you really appreciate what Owens does, you should boo him. Chanting for him, cheering, clapping isn’t a true testement to how good he is, roundly booing him and projecting heel heat is. Again, I’m guilty of doing this when I go to shows too and I don’t want to sound like someone who tries to tell the crowd what to do but c’mon. Owens is a mega-heel and he’s being built as such (quite well, I might add).

Owens cuts a great promo to get us started saying he hasn’t lied to anyone since he arrived in NXT. He promised to make a better life for his family by winning the title and that’s exactly what he did. Owens showed great poise here given the pressure of cutting a show-opening promo but he nailed it. “Who I beat or how I beat them is irrelevant, what matters now is Sami Zayn is the past… Now I look toward the future and the future is Finn Balor.” Owens then tells Finn to pick a date and he’ll be there. God, I love this simple storytelling. “Nobody is going to take this (NXT championship) away from me or my family.” Now I’m already invested in Balor/Owens, it’s that simple, folks.

Out of nowhere, Rhyno’s music hits. Yes, fucking Rhyno. The crowd goes nuts with “Holy Shit!” chants and Rhyno looks happy as hell to be wrestling in front of hot crowds again.

Rhyno vs. Elias Sampson: Rich Brennan with a terrible line “We may call it the spear now but this is the guy (Rhyno) who made it famous.” Right, Rich, I can’t think of anyone prior to Rhyno who used a spear-like maneuver to any sort of fanfare. This is Rhyno’s first WWE match since June 2005 (ECW One Night Stand 2005) so I was a bit surprised how over he was but that’s a pretty good indication of who makes up the majority of NXT’s crowd. Anyway, Rhyno destroys Sampson with a Gore and wins quickly. NR

Backstage, Finn Balor cuts a simple but effective promo previewing his future matchup with Kevin Owens. Rhyno interrupts the interview as the two have a brief staredown as we go to commercial.

The Vaudevillains vs. Big Cass & Enzo Amore: Enzo is rocking a Hollywood Hogan opposite beard/mustache combo (blonde beard/black ‘stash), it’s impressive. Enzo and Big Cass dominated this match, Cassady finishing off English with a Big Boot. This was REAL quick (roughly two minutes), dangerously quick if I’m Aiden English or Simon Gotch. *1/4

Post-match, Blake & Murphy appear on the big screen and start hitting on Carmela while slapping their title belts. This was odd.

Backstage, Adrian Neville hypes up his match tonight with Kevin Owens. We get a graphic showing Sasha Banks vs. BLUE PANTS. No, seriously, the graphic says BLUE PANTS. We aren’t going to change her name or just have it be a nickname, she’s literally called BLUE PANTS? I mean, I’m fine with it.

CJ Parker comes out and he is NOT happy that he wasn’t booked on the recent Takeover special. He starts putting police tape all over the ring but then digital static begins and it’s the debut of Solomon Crowe, the former Sami Callihan to minimal reaction. Crowe beats Parker down, says “Back to your regularly scheduled program” and they almost immediately cut to promos. This was a bit flat and I’ve never personally been a fan of Callihan. That doesn’t mean I’m not rooting for him but don’t be shocked if he’s a bit of a dud.

Sasha Banks vs. Blue Pants: Blue Pants is announced as coming “straight from the clearance rack.” What the hell am I watching here? Solid “Let’s go Sasha! Let’s go Blue Pants!” dueling chants. Blue Pants knocks Sasha to the outside, hits a drop toe hold but this run of offense was short-lived. Sasha immediately takes back control and never let up. Sasha eventually locks in the Bank Statement and it’s over. Maybe next time, Blue Pants.

Kevin Owens vs. Adrian Neville: Owens has clearly been listening to Bill DeMott’s classes because we almost immediately went into the patented side headlock spot from Owens. In this instance, it works though, Owens should be trying to ground Neville. The problem is, every heel does this in every NXT TV match so it loses some appeal. If you read my reviews, this has nothing to do with rest spots or not working every match at 1,000 MPH but can we please get a different rest hold? Is a side headlock all we have?

Back from commercial, the match kicked into another gear. This wasn’t a quick match but it was special in it’s deliberance. Neville hit a beautiful moonsault from the top to Owens on the outside. Neville hit a series of kicks, a beautiful missile dropkick but Owens smartly rolls to the outside to get a breather. Neville looked great here, hitting a German Suplex and getting a nearfall. This is the most offense anyone has had on Owens thus far, interesting they’d save it for someone like Neville. Eventually, Owens kicks into gear, teases a rolling senton but Neville cuts him off with crescent kick and a spike hurricanrana. Neville to the top but Owens roll out of the way of the Red Arrow and eats a powerbomb for his trouble as Owens picks up the victory. I enjoyed this match but I’m not in love with the structure. Neville got a lot of offense, the majority of it actually with Owens just squeaking out a win at the end. Given how they’ve built Owens to this point and what he did to Zayn at Takeover: Rival, it seemed odd to have him on the ropes for so long. I get that it’s Neville, a former champ, but this was definitely odd. I would’ve preferred Owens running through more nobodys to keep up the aura but what can you do. This was a fun match regardless. ***

Final Thoughts:

This wasn’t a blow-away show by any means but it was important in continuing storylines and had some solid to above-average matches with a really good main event. NXT is on a roll and I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon.