This is a big one, folks. Not only do we get the beginning of the next Golden Age in NXT, the Eva Marie Era, but Voices of Wrestling has a brand new NXT reviewer. Rob McCarron is still doing big things here at VOW, but those other projects opened up a spot reviewing the one wrestling show that I still believe is appointment viewing, and a show that has a very interesting immediate future with a half-dozen of NXT’s top stars being either called up to the main roster or out with long term injuries. The future starts now, indeed.

Rich Brennan opens the show recapping Finn Balor’s NXT title win at Beast in the East (which seems like it was a month ago because it nearly was), and says we’ll hear from the new champion tonight. What he meant was that we’ll hear from the champion immediately because Balor’s music immediately started. Related: Finn Balor can rock a suit.

Balor, in an entirely uneventful promo, recaps his rise to the NXT Championship and sets up the rematch for the SummerSlam Takeover in Brooklyn. Balor didn’t sell the story properly, but Brennan told us after the promo that the contract signing is tonight.

Up next? The beginning of the Eva Marie Era. Marie has a backstage interview and tells us that she’s “so serious” about her opportunity.

Eva Marie vs. Cassie nxt eva marie cassiePoor Cassie is already in the ring when Eva Marie makes her entrance, surprisingly, in all red.

Eva was inoffensively competent even if neither woman lived up to the lofty expectations for women’s wrestling in NXT. Eva picked up a win with Sliced Bread No. 2, but the stand out from this match is that Cassie can throw a leg lariat really well.

William Regal enters his office to find a grumpy Tyler Breeze complaining about his spot at Takeover. William Regal continues to be the best authority figure in wrestling since Commissioner Foley.

Baron Corbin vs. Jesus DeLeon

Baron Corbin beat his own record in NXT and didn’t take off his shirt. His opponent never got a name other than Corey Graves mockingly calling him Grimace (he wore purple) after he lost.

Samoa Joe vs. Mike Rallis

Samoa Joe comes out to a reworked version of his theme song. I think I was the only one who didn’t mind the first one, so I don’t know how you’re all going to feel about this one. The tone was a little more consistent though, so maybe y’all will like it.

For the third straight match tonight, the opponent didn’t get an entrance. This feels like a mid 1990’s RAW. We saw the dominant Joe for the first time in NXT so far, however, and Joe picks up a win with the Muscle Buster in about as long as it took for you to read the recap of this match.

Emma cut a decent-for-heel-Emma backstage interview despite the involvement of Dana Brooke before we cut to a Tough Enough commercial.

Bayley vs. Emma (w/ Dana Brooke)

WE’RE GETTING ENTRANCES FOR BOTH WRESTLERS. I like seeing a heel properly bully Bayley’s childlike persona almost as much as I like Graves referring to Bayley’s slap bracelet as an “illegal foreign object.” It’s the nuance with NXT, unlike the main roster, that makes it so much fun. Emma has been showing what a great heel she can be in the ring by taking shortcuts, involving Brooke wherever possible and adapting her moveset to include things like trying to rip Bayley’s fingers from her injured hand.

The match hit a final act after Brooke was sent backstage by the referee after mild interference. Bayley hit the Bayley-to-Belly before (I assume) Brooke even had the time to walk up the ramp and got a clean win over Emma. Standard television fare.

This might be the end of the Bayley-Emma feud, however, because Bayley says she wants the NXT Championship and that she has to beat the very best to get there. Obviously she then challenges….Charlotte? We’ll work on it, Bayley.

Charlotte, like her dad, cuts half of a misty-eyed promo backstage before being interrupted by the slowest talker in the WWE Universe, Dana Brooke. Lots of Dana Brooke on NXT tonight and the show isn’t better for it. By the end of the segment, we’ve got Brooke-Charlotte next week and, presumably, Bayley-Charlotte the week after.

The Vaudvillains vs. Angelo Dawkins and Sawyer Fulton

You might remember (I didn’t), the the Vaudvillains are the No. 1 contenders for the NXT Tag Team Championships. They’re out to face a couple of no names who didn’t get an entrance nor were they referenced by name before the match started.

My favorite thing about the Vaudvillains – and there are many – is the almost unspoken connection between them and wrestling’s absurd carnie past.

The Vaudvillains win tonight’s fourth one-entrance squash match with the Whirling Dirvish.

NXT Championship Contract Signing nxt finn balor kevin owens contract signingI guess we’re already heading for the “main event” tonight. Kevin Owens goes into classic Owens Troll Mode by interrupting Regal’s announcement of the match. I hope to see a lot more of petulant Owens on the main roster after being the first person in ages to tap out from Cena’s STF, it seems to me that the only way to really save face for Owens is to have him double down on trolling and brutality.

The Full Sail crowd hates that the next Takeover is coming from Brooklyn and Owens plays the crowd, as usual, like a fiddle. Surprisingly, Balor was able to hang with Owens verbally by keeping his words short.

Obviously no WWE contract signing can go peacefully and eventually Owens tipped the table and even struck Regal – expect there to be some comeuppance between this and Takeover based on the last time Owens laid hands on the commissioner. Balor got the upper hand when Owens went for the pop-up powerbomb and sent Owens packing.

Final Thoughts: This felt like a hangover episode after a Takeover special…but we’re exactly a month away from the next Takeover. I don’t know if this was NXT in a holding pattern before getting into rhythm for Takeover in Brooklyn or if it was just a horrible episode of NXT. Either way, not the best start for the Eva Marie Era and this is the first NXT in recent memory that you can completely skip.