April 8, 2014
San Jose, CA
Hideo Itami won a tournament at WWE Axxess during Wrestlemania 31 week to earn a spot into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. This week, NXT TV chronicled that road to Wrestlemania for Hideo Itami, including highlights from NXT events in San Jose and at WWE Axxess. It’s an episode out of the norm for NXT, but brought much excitement to the show as we got to see NXT on a large stage outside of Full Sail.
The NXT Tournament: The show began with a video package, shining some line on some of the activities surrounding Wrestlemania 31 that featured the stars of WWE and NXT. Right after, highlights of the first round of the Andre NXT Tournament were shown. Finn Bálor defeated Baron Corbin, Tyler Breeze bested Bull Dempsey, Hideo Itami began his road with a victory over Jason Jordan, and Neville won a first time in NXT meeting with Kalisto. That would set the stage for the semi-finals, Bálor vs Breeze and Itami vs Neville.
Hideo Itami vs Neville: The crowd was quiet at first, somewhat subdued, although it was a much different atmosphere than what viewers are used to. The crowd was all standing, watching this WWE Axxess match. It didn’t take long, though, for these two to win the crowd over. Hideo Itami pulled out a dragon sleeper during the match, which Rich and Corey acknowledged as an ode to Tatsumi Fujinami, before landing the running kick for the victory. No shock here, these two are really good. Hideo Itami’s Road to Wrestlemania continues! ***
Finn Bálor vs Tyler Breeze: Bálor won a five minute match with the double stomp to move onto the finals against Hideo Itami. WHO ON EARTH WILL WIN THAT ONE!? It’s a mystery. Given the time, it’s no surprise this match was pretty basic. *3/4
Remember, Dana Brooke debuts in one week. The promo vignettes make it rather clear that she’s coming in as a heel, while she calls herself The Total Diva.
NXT Takeover, San Jose: On the Friday before Wrestlemania 31, NXT ran a live event in San Jose. Highlights of the event were shown, which really made NXT look super, big league. Scott Hall, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon all had video clips putting over the event. Portions of a Kevin Steen live promo, claiming himself to be the reason for the touring sellouts, were included. Of course, match highlights were packaged in as well, but nothing too in depth as far as the matches go. It was a highlight video for the overall experience, which is what the NXT live touring shows have been so far: Experience over matches. That’s what WWE does. The entire segment may have just been the best pro-NXT segment they have produced to date.
A promo for next week’s NXT TV, featuring Sami Zayn’s road to revenge, was shown. Sami vs Rhyno is the main event for next week.
Finn Bálor vs Hideo Itami: The finals of the NXT Axxess tournament to gain a spot into the WWE Wrestlemania 31 Andre the Giant memorial battle royal, Hideo Itami won a sprint against Finn Bálor! It was a relative sprint for these two, in a way, as the match lasted 8 minutes. Hideo won out of nowhere with the Shotgun kick to earn the spot at Wrestlemania. **3/4
Hideo’s Road To Wrestlemania: The final ten minutes of the episode were solely focused on Hideo Itami, his entry into WWE, and his road to Wrestlemania. We began in July of 2014, when Hideo Itami’s signing with WWE was announced in the ring in Japan by Hulk Hogan. From there, Hideo’s transition to WWE and NXT was highlighted, featuring snippets from Hulk Hogan, Daniel Bryan, Triple H, and Hideo himself. Quickly move ahead to the NXT Axxess tournament finals, Hideo wins the spot at Wrestlemania, and now, the big week for one of the biggest international signings in WWE history. After winning the spot at Wrestlemania, WWE cameras give us some backstage footage of Hideo being congratulated on the win. With his two sons, Hideo reflects on his dream of Wrestlemania coming true.
Before getting to Wrestlemania, however, Hideo’s night at NXT San Jose gets an in depth look. In full HD, Hideo Itami finally landing the GTS in NXT was captured on video by WWE cameras and delivered to us on this episode of NXT. WWE Superstars like Big E, Stephanie, and Hogan all commented on how crazy the fans went when Hideo hit the GTS.
Next up, WWE Wrestlemania, and Hideo says that he’s ready. We saw Hideo in brief conversation with Seth Rollins, him preparing for the match backstage, and him hanging out in Gorilla with the other combatants. On his way backstage after being eliminated, cameras caught many fans chanting his name and congratulating him as he exited. Hideo, once backstage, dropped to his knees, near tears, as his Wrestlemania dream finally came true. The New Day, Sasha Banks, Daniel Bryan, Becky Lynch, and many others all congratulated Hideo on the night. Big Show, the man who eliminated Hideo, shook Hideo’s hand and awaited the next time they could work together. The show ended on such an uplifting note, as this episode of NXT was the Hideo Itami show.
NXT began this week as an episode looking at their takeover of Wrestlemania Axxess, and ended as one of the single most character-building episodes they’ve done in two years. Hideo Itami, the wrestler, the Superstar, and the person, came out huge after this episode. I have high hopes WWE and NXT can build upon that with Hideo. *****