So I’ve been out of the WWE NXT reviewer’s chair for two weeks now (shout to VOWer Aaron Bentley for doing a great job stepping in for me while I was traveling for #ShootJob). Obviously, I kept up with the show in my absence, watching off schedule when I had the chance. I noticed just how slow and often meaningless a lot of the program is. We’re all so tied up in the top of the NXT card and excited about the fantastic things going on in the women’s division that we gloss over just how many practice reps make air on an average episode of NXT. Hell, I’m furiously writing through most of them.

Still, to have that much time devoted to either dead ends or actual prospect development AND be one of the very best weekly wrestling programs is remarkable.

The Vaudvillains vs. The Hype Bros

I’m really surprised that a certain percentage of Full Sail continues to react positively to the Hype Bros.

The following exchange took place after Corey Graves insulted the Hype Bros attire while their entrance was dragging on and on:

Corey Graves: “I’m fashion forward!”

Tom Phillips: “You wear black.”

When was the last time anyone on the NXT commentary desk successfully shot down Graves? Phillips is great and these two could be the best commentary team in the company, if not the world, by the end of 2016.

Simon Gotch and the Vaudvillains got the better of Zach Ryder and the Hype Bros in the battle of fresh haircuts, but I’m not sure where the “more aggressive” attitude was for the Vaudvillains. They looked pretty much the same as they always have, which is pretty good, but Enzo and Cass are doing the “now we’re serious” thing much, much better.

Enzo and Cass’ fellow New Jerseyan, Carmella, has pre-taped sit down with Phillips before her match with Emma tonight. Phillips chronicles Carmella’s victory in the battle royal last month as well as her friendship with Bayley which was well established on Breaking Ground. The Bayley-Carmella storyline has been the best instance of WWE Network programs being tied together, something you would expect more of from a company with it’s own network and own “universe.” As an aside, Carmella has always kind of just been “there” on TV, but I was at my first WWE NXT live event in January and Carmella is a great live performer. Her wrestling looks so much more natural and her connection with the audience is so much more genuine in person than on television.

Carmella vs. Emma (w/ Dana Brooke)

This was a classic “get your stuff in” match for Emma and Brooke was at her best in her role of “not having a microphone in front of her.” For all of the stuff that Emma got in, Carmella got in almost none of hers, but did secure the win with a backslide. The major takeaway: Carmella is perseverant and resourceful.

Before we head to an American Alpha vignette, we learn that Commissioner William Regal will make his decision regarding the No. 1 Contender for the NXT Championship following last week’s controversial finish in which Baron Corbin tapped out to a submission combination in which Sami Zayn applied a Sharpshooter and Samoa Joe applied a Crossface.

In separate interviews, Zayn provides a reasoned if biased opinion on why he should be the No. 1 Contender, whereas Joe silently threatens the interviewer. Joe’s not doing himself many favors threatening non-wrestler folk.

Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady vs. Jamoke and Jamocha 2

While I was wondering whether or not the announce team would address these poor guys going up against Enzo and Cass by name or not, Graves called one a Jamoke and his partner Jamocha 2. I figure that’s as good as any name for the time being, but Jamocha 2 took a brutal fall over the top rope to the outside and appeared to snap the back of his head onto the mat pretty hard just before an Air Enzo ended the match.

As I said earlier, Enzo and Cass are doing the “we’re serious now” thing really well. Enzo has even adapted his increasingly strenuous series of metaphors with remarkable aplomb.

William Regal’s No. 1 Contender Announcement

Commissioner Regal announces that there will be a rematch between Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe (sorry, Baron) to determine the No. 1 Contender. NXT the program is so far behind NXT the tapings right now that, if you’ve been following the results, this feels likes it’s dragging so much.

Asuka vs. Santana Garrett

Asuka is the most complete talent of the indie darlings signed to NXT 2015. She’s just the best. The singular goal of this match was for Asuka to dominate again, and she did. Asuka wins with the Asuka lock.

Apollo Crews vs. Finn Balor

Apollo Crews has been exposed a little since debuting in NXT. A lot of people just hadn’t seen a ton of him as Uhaa Nation, myself included, and thought he was coming in as a finished product. Far from it. It’s funny then how Crews the character has seemingly come the same realization when he challenged Finn Balor to a rematch after their title match was interrupted by Baron Corbin, but not for the championship this time.

Balor continues to add new character elements. It started with the sexy jacket, continued with a new intro for his music and now he has “FINN” decals on his trunks. Unfortunately, just after we finished appreciating Balor’s character additions, Phillips referenced the poorly-themed Finn the Ripper from Takeover: London again. How did NXT get away with that one? I don’t think anyone other than those of us reviewing the show at VOW had a problem with that imagery – either from a storyline angle (your babyface world champion draws inspiration from a sexually charged serial killer?) or from the angle of glorifying a sexually charged serial killer at all.

This match didn’t really get going until Crews kicked out of a Coup de Grace delivered while Crews was standing hunched over. The move seemed to wake Crews up who was playing his normal NXT role of offensive pin cushion for the first half of the match.

The second half of the match, however, brought the match into snowflake levels. Great back and forth, a big bicycle kick from Crews coming out of the corner, Balor kicking out of the Gorilla-Press-Moonsault combo and another Coup de Grace across half the ring.

Balor didn’t finish the match following the Coup de Grace, however. Balor immediately picked Crews up and delivered the Bloody Sunday (unnamed to this point in NXT) before pinning his opponent. A solid ***1/2 match to close out this week’s NXT.