NXT Live!
Columbus, OH
March 5, 2015

On Thursday night (March 5), I made the last minute decision to travel from my home in Northeast Indiana to the first ever (except for that one in Georgia) NXT Live event outside of Florida. NXT Live in Columbus, Ohio, had been a much anticipated event, with tickets selling out in under one hour for the live show. Over 1,000 people attended the event, with many of them standing for the entire show as there were only about 400 seats at the LC Pavilion in Columbus. To be short with it, the show was quite fun, with some small surprises that made a big impact, as well as featuring an enthused crowd that wanted to love this show. In full, I think they did. Credit goes to WWE for providing what the fans who purchased tickets were looking for, and not trying to throw them a show that WWE casual fans would expect. This was, clearly, a show designed for Network subscribers and those very familiar with the NXT Superstars. This was no introduction show.

I’ll include several photos from my vantage point, which again, wasn’t the best, due to the lack of seating and tightly packed in audience at the LC Pavilion. Even with that, it was a very fun time at NXT Live in Columbus, and I look forward to hopefully attending when they return next year.

The show began with Corey Graves beginning his evening’s hosting duties, welcoming us to the show while letting us know there may be some surprises. The first surprise happened immediately, as Triple H made an appearance to welcome us all to the event.

ShakeThemRopes.com NXT Columbus HHH Triple H

Triple H spoke about this being the “first time” NXT has traveled outside their home base for a Live Event, and that everyone remembers their first time. There are thousands that can say they’ve seen NXT, but we would be able to see we saw it first. Triple H also mentioned, as we confirmed on Shake Them Ropes #69, that NXT was taping the event for television. Everything on the show was recorded, but you can expect to see 2-3 matches show up on NXT TV shortly, with other footage being used in Best of NXT releases and video packages.

It was here where I noticed somebody familiar sitting in the front row with bright red hair: Independent wrestler LuFisto.

Finn Bálor & Hideo Itami vs Vaudevillains (English & Gotch)
It was surreal, actually, to see an NXT show live that wasn’t a Full Sail event, as I had been to several of those but never a house show. What’s more, is that these two mega stars within NXT were opening the show. It was excellent, though, as the already excited crowd was able to go mega-hot right away. The match was a basic WWE tag, with Itami getting beaten for much of the match until getting a hot tag into Bálor. There was some wonkiness with Bálor’s fire, as Simon Gotch seemingly stayed outside the ring as if he didn’t realize what was happening, but other that that this was a very fun opener that got the crowd ready. Bálor won after pinning English with the double foot stomp.

ShakeThemRopes.com Hideo Itami Finn Balor NXT Columbus

Alexa Bliss vs Sasha Banks
Alexa was the hometown girl, getting an intitially positive reaction when announced from Columbus. However, this crowd viewed Sasha as the big star, and was a bit more in favor of her. It was more noticeable when, after the count out victory, the fans actually booed. Alexa had just won, albeit via count out, and the fans were upset. Obviously, they booed at the count out and not necessarily Alexa, but you’d like the hometown girl to be cheered after a win. While this show was in no way about best and worst matches, but rather fun and atmosphere, this was one of the weakest matches of the night.

ShakeThemRopes.com Sasha Banks Alexa Bliss NXT Columbus

Baron Corbin vs Tyson Kidd
Kidd seemed to be a bit of a surprise to the crowd, as he got a bit of that type of reaction. The fans were pro-Kidd here very much, to the point where Corbin was actively booed by a majority of the audience. Interesting to note, also, is that I didn’t hear the usual female-friendly reaction to Corbin that he has always gotten in NXT at Full Sail. Baron did get the win here with the End of Days, after which he posed and encouraged more booes in a cleverly heelish manner.

ShakeThemRopes.com Baron Corbin Tyson Kidd NXT Columbus

Big Cass vs Wesley Blake
Yep, Cass & Enzo’s entrance was the first real “Oh, wow” of the night from me. These guys are super over at Full Sail, but damn, they may have been even moreso here. It’s the entrance, it’s the catchphrases, it’s Enzo’s superb confidence in what he’s doing out there. They could have done their entrance, then left with no match, and the crowd would have been just as happy. But, Cass and Blake did end up wrestling. It was less than average, I’d say, under WWE Main Event quality. Blake won with a schoolboy when Murphy got involved, distracting Cass.

ShakeThemRopes.com Big Cass Enzo Blake Murphy NXT Columbus

Big Show vs The Ryback
What are yooooooou doing here!? Big Show and Ryback had been advertised for this show since Day 1, as WWE felt they needed at least some WWE names on the card to sell tickets. Of course, they under estimated the drawing power as a high level indie of NXT, which sold out in minutes. Still, these two were here and it was quite possibly the most fun segment of the night. When the two both made their entrances, some fans were tepid, while others were surprised, apparently not realizing they were advertised. Some fans were tepid just because they thought they should be. After all, this was an NXT show, not a WWE live event. They wanted NXT names, not WWE Raw names. Big Show made the best of the negative reactions, though. I chronicled the segment on Twitter ShakeThemRopes, with Big Show turning around a “Please retire” chant by saying “I’m not going anywhere. I have ten years left on a guaranteed contract!” That lead the crowd to chant “Ten more years!” which drew a chuckle from Big Show. Really, the story here was Show’s interplay with the crowd, getting them to turn from negative to positive. In the end, the crowd was happy with the match, and actually thrilled with Big Show. As for the match, both men worked hard and Show did things he doesn’t usually do. Show landed a Vader bomb for a near fall before going back up top, but Ryback caught him that second time into a press slam. Ryback got the win with the Shellshock in, honestly, was the match of the night up until intermission.

ShakeThemRopes.com ShakeThemRopes Big Show NXT Columbus

ShakeThemRopes.com WWE NXT Columbus Big Show Ryback

Intermission came after the WWE match, although many people stayed right where they were so as not to lose their standing spot. Again, much of the crowd was standing room only, so people jockeyed for the best viewing position.

After break, we returned with a match featuring Tyler Breeze & Kalisto.

Tyler Breeze vs Kalisto
Breeze came complete with his selfie stick, iPhone, and selfie entrance. This was the new Match of the Night, as everything was clicking with these two here in Columbus. Breeze won with the Beauty Shot, even after Kalisto gained a near fall with a 450 splash that everyone bought as the finish.

ShakeThemRopes.com Tyler Breeze Kalisto NXT Columbus

Charlotte vs Bayley
A new contender for Match of the Night! Ric Flair was out first to introduce his daughter. Charlotte worked several chops and Flair spots into the match, including the Flair Flop which drew a huge positive reaction. Both women wrestled smart and worked a rather great match, giving Breeze and Kalisto a run. In the end, Charlotte was able to win with the Diamond Dust of all things. Flair, Bayley, and Charlotte all hugged after the match.

NXT Live Ric Flair Columbus ShakeThemRopes

ShakeThemRopes STR NXT Bayley Charlotte Columbus

Alex Riley vs Kevin Owens: Non-Title
I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t get to see this match live at NXT TV on February 18th, so you can imagine I was quite excited when these two came out for the match at NXT Live in Columbus. Alex Riley, despite looking like a 40 year old gym rat, is an odd favorite of mine. I know, I know, but it’s true. His heated fued with Owens OUT OF NOWHERE is quite fun, and this match didn’t disappoint me. It was hard hitting, heated, and a crowd pleaser in the end as Owens gets the win with the Pop Up Powerbomb. After the win, Owens wasn’t done. He was setting Riley up for another powerbomb onto the ring apron when Finn Bálor showed up to put an end to that. Bálor and Owens brawled for a bit, with Bálor getting the better of it, until Owens ran away with his title belt. This was building up the Bálor vs Owens title match on NXT TV in a couple of weeks, so you should see this segment on TV next week.

Kevin Owens Shakethemropes.com NXT Columbus Live

Shakethemropes.com Finn Balor Kevin Owens Brawl March 5 NXT Live

Unfortunately, Sami Zayn didn’t wrestle on the show. Fortunately, he was present anyway and delivered a speech that made the audience forget he wasn’t wrestling. Sami Zayn came out to address Columbus, praising NXT as the most relevant show in wrestling because the men and women of NXT made it relevant. They weren’t here to rot and wait for a spot on Raw, they were here to to be significant. The promo was full of babyface fire, and the crowd loved it.

ShakeThemRopes.com Sami Zayn NXT Columbus Live

Adrian Neville vs Cesaro

Shakethemropes.com Cesaro Adrian Neville NXT Live in Columbus
The main event of the night was the final surprise of the evening, with WWE Tag Team Champion Cesaro showing up to basically “take Sami’s place.” I had known Cesaro was there for a few hours, so I expected him to wrestle, but you never know with WWE. Much of the crowd was surprised and delighted to see him, as he got one of the biggest reactions of the night. The match, as well, was superb. Easily the match of the night, with Cesaro winning via the Neutralizer. It was hard hitting, quickly paced, action packed, and cliche after cliche of goodness. Cesaro was the bad guy in the match, despite being heavily cheered, and continued to play that role throughout. An excellent performance which ended an excellent show.

Again, NXT Live in Columbus wasn’t about seeing **** classics and matches of the night. It was about the stars of NXT getting in front of a larger, enthused audience, outside of Florida, and to provide a fun show. They succeeded on both fronts, and I hope this becomes an annual thing for WWE, NXT, and the working relationship with the Arnold Classic.

For more photos, notes from the events, and live coverage of WWE, NXT, and Ring of Honor: Follow @ShakeThemRopes