This week’s match-heavy WWE NXT more than makes up for the lack of actual matches in last week’s pre-thanksgiving episode. Two big, meaningful matches and the NXT return of James Storm headline the week.

Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger

On this week’s Shake them Ropes, Rob McCarron pondered Baron Corbin’s future in NXT as the new Tyler Breeze. Despite the image of Corbin with a selfie stick, it makes sense. As Rob said, he’s a “homegrown guy” who loses all his big matches, especially since Breeze went to the main roster. In the end though, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. A guy with the potential of Corbin can put some work in against guys like Samoa Joe and James Storm, who are unlikely to ever rise higher than NXT in WWE before heading to the main roster.

In this match, however, Corbin displayed a fair amount of the pretty-cool big man moveset he’s putting together. He had a surprisingly easy time throwing Dillinger, who is not a small man, around. Corbin picked up the win in short order with the End of Days after catching Dillinger jumping off the top rope.

Apollo Crews cut a promo backstage after the match regarding his match with Corbin in two week at NXT Takeover: London.

Speaking of Takeover: London, WWE is now running commercials for the event on the network that basically show a shadow of Jack the Ripper walking down an alley in London. Can’t say I’m crazy about that imagery.

Nia Jax vs. Blue Pants

Nia Jax, sans Eva Marie, decimated Blue Pants.

Blue Pants got new, less cool, music though. I’m guessing there was a copyright issue from the Price is Right folks or at least the fear of one.

Jax scored the win with her leg drop, which she really should start doing a running version of, and put her foot on Blue Pants to score the pin Chris Jericho style. Corey Graves was convinced that this was the end of Blue Pants in NXT.

Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder have a sit down backstage with Tom Phillips that was “filmerd earlier” as opposed to the rest of the promos and interviews this week, I guess. Dash and Dawson refer to Enzo and Big Cass as the Catchphrase Kings, which is an incredible nickname, derisive or otherwise, and it is confirmed that Dash and Dawson will defend the NXT Tag Team Championships against Enzo and Big Cass at Takeover: London.

Adam Rose vs. James Storm

Adam Rose started coming out to his normal Party Time music, but cut it off when he got to the top of the ramp and walked to the ring in tonal silence. The crowd at Full Sail University, however, was kind enough to sing Rose’s music for him.

The James Storm pop was decidedly less than it was for his debut, but it’s still such a weird sight to see him in any WWE ring, even NXT. The novelty alone will feed the masses for a while yet.

Even though I think Rose’s party pooper role has potential, he isn’t quite fully working the gimmick yet. He should be drawing heat by trying to obviously quiet the crowd and control the pace of the match. His gimmick should be wrestling that isn’t fun and egging the crowd on. Instead, he’s playing a generic heel by asking for adulation when he has his opponent down.

James Storm win with the Last Call superkick.

The Vaudvillains face off with Jason Jordan and Chad Gable before in a backstage promo before their match. Jordan and Gable, as usual, were excellent and funny. They end the segment with a handshake.

A video package chronicles Sami Zayn’s journey starting with the “Zayn can’t win the big one” narrative and his eventual NXT Championship win. If you saw last week’s video, you know this one.

The Vaudvillains vs. Jason Jordan and Chad Gable

Gable started the match off showing his incredible ground prowess against Simon Gotch. The truly impressive part is that Gable makes all of those mat wrestling moves look painful and meaningful. Jordan did much of the same against Aiden English, but differentiated himself from his partner with more suplexes and traditional pro wrestling.

The match turned to the Vaudvillains when Gable took a nasty looking spill over the top rope to the floor following a back body drop from English. Shortly after returning to the ring, Gable reaches Jordan for the hot tag and the match ends with the Grand Amplitude.

Jordan may be the most exciting hot tag outside of Titus O’Neill and he’s been paired with Gable for just a few months. This tag team has unlimited potential for both guys and was probably a job-saver for Jason Jordan.

The Vaudvillains refuse a handshake after the match.

The Drifter ELIAS SAMPSON sings us another deep, introspective tune despite continuing to not be Steve Earle. Some eagle-eared Wredditors pointed out last week that Sampson’s tune was recalling the history of the NXT Championship. I’m interested to hear their interpretations this week, but the best I garnered from it was that NXT is filled with poseurs (“masqueraders,” as Sampson says) and that he’s the cure for what ails NXT (“What they need is what I am”).

Emma vs. Liv Morgan (Gionna Daddio)

Heel Emma is best Emma. She’s vicious as a heel, unlike a lot of heels, her disposition actually shows off her athleticism more than her face persona.

Emma wins in less than 5 minutes with the Emma Lock, but her celebration is interrupted by Asuka on the big screen, kicking a heavy bag. “See you in London,” Asuka says. The crowd goes wild. This Asuka thing is working.

Nia Jax has what appeared to be a silent face-to-face with Bayley after interrupting Bayley’s backstage promo, but after walking away Jax returned to attack Bayley from behind and throw her through a door backstage.

Tomasso Ciampa vs. Samoa Joe

Prior to this match, my favorite thing about NXT-era Ciampa was his being billing from Milwaukee. I have no idea who makes these decisions, but my cursory research shows no Ciampa connection to my hometown.

The announce team did a heckuva job building the Ciampa and Joe’s relationship pre-NXT, a world-building technique grossly missing from main roster content.

Joe opened the match with the strongest striking display we’ve seen from him since coming to NXT. His strikes were fast and powerful. Ciampa, however, used his speed to counter and attack Joe’s left arm. Graves, to his credit, pointed out that Ciampa was working the arm to take away Joe’s Coquina Clutch. Ciampa followed up the arm work with a couple of major elbow strikes and locked in a front headlock.

I’m not going to give a move-by-move for the match, but the match was towards four solid stars and would’ve been a match of the month contender if it was a full match. Obviously, the eight-or-so minutes it got limited what they were able to do. If they both stick around NXT long enough, and Ciampa rises high enough up the card, I would love to see them go for 20 or 25 minutes in a Takeover match.

Joe lands a Muscle Buster and immediately locks on the Coquina Clutch to win the match. NXT ends with Joe celebrating in the ring. ***1/4

Final Verdict

A good episode of NXT that was clearly highlighted by the main event match. Don’t sleep on the Vaudvillains vs. Jordan and Gable, though, and James Storm’s second WWE-sanctioned match.