This is it. The week we’ve all been waiting for. Finally, for the first time since Takeover: London, WWE NXT is building towards something. The past two months have been decent viewing, but relatively meaningless. After weeks of reading taping results and spoiler (updates?) from giving away the surprises, we get to see our first big debut and a fantastic match between the NXT Champion and one of WWE NXT’s best alumnus.

The Vaudevillains vs. Hugo Knox and Tucker Knight

I’m pretty sure Hugo Knox and Tucker Knight were both Rosebuds at one point, but their partying lineage did them no favors against NXT’s resident maybe time travelers. The Vaudevillains are attempting to go through the same seriousness renaissance that Enzo and Cass went through but, to this point, haven’t had the same sticking power or believability.

Tonight’s match may have helped a bit, but squashing Knox and Knight doesn’t instill the utmost confidence in the return of manliness.

“And you’re about to be emasculated…”

In the feud that just won’t end, Dana Brooke (regrettably getting mic time) continue to talk to Alex Reyes about Asuka, more specifically talking about Asuka detaching Deonna Purrazzo’s head from her shoulders. At least in NXT, only the backstage male interviewers are emasculated as opposed to every major babyface who has the audacity to question the Authority.

After a commercial, our guy Tom Phillips recaps the parking lot brawl between The Revival (Dash and Dawson) and Enzo and Cass. Both teams cut promos before Phillips announces that The Revival will defend the WWE NXT Tag Team Championships at Roadblock in Toronto against Enzo and Cass in what is likely to be the blowoff to send Enzo and Cass to the main roster.

Emma vs. Santana Garrett

In what would’ve been the largest surprise of the show in any of the NXT episodes in 2016, Santana Garrett got a full, televised entrance. Her TV time is probably a product of her being a “hometown” girl (Ocala, Florida is about 90 minutes from Orlando). Garrett’s following came with her, apparently, as a couple of Santana chants broke out during the match.

The match was surprisingly back and forth for the level of Garrett, but Emma picked up a clean win with the Emma Lock.

All Radiant Everything

After telling Eva Marie and Nia Jax how radiant they are, WWE NXT Commissioner William Regal informed the pair that their next tag match will be against Bayley and Asuka. Good luck, ladies.

“The absolute best and most talented competitors…”

Regal must have run to the ring during that 15 second Edge and Christian spot because he’s already in the ring to announce the debut of NXT’s newest signing.


Phillips and Corey Graves absolutely lost their minds when Aries got to the top of the entrance, but before Aries could make it to the ring he was attacked by Baron Corbin who threw Aries into the LED board on the ring before delivering an End of Days outside the ring. Regal looked on incredulously as Corbin yelled “an eye for an eye” and threw Aries shirt at Regal.

Based on how many people are hurt on them, you’d think WWE would ditch the LED boards, what with their focus on contractor safety and all…

Safety or not, we have our first clear idea for a Takeover: Dallas match (second if you already read the Bayley-Asuka tea leaves).

Steve Cutler vs. Elias Sampson

Elias Sampson wins in a squash against former Marine Steve Cutler, which is effectively The Drifter winning a squash match against America. He still didn’t get any heat. And he still didn’t use Chekhov’s Guitar. The whole thing stinks.

“I’m glad we lost that first match”

Mojo Rawley, clearly not understanding the point of pro wrestling, says it might have been a good thing they lost to the Vaudevillains last week because they’re no longer taking teams lightly. After they leave the camera’s view, the Vaudvillains come out from behind the set and sneer. Maybe the Vaudevillains aren’t doing the super serious thing…

Neville vs. Finn Balor

Can we include Neville’s first name when he’s back home in NXT? The whole one name thing is terrible and we all know these characters have first names that being willfully ignored. And it can’t be a length or memory thing because Neville has, like, a dozen different monikers during his introduction.

Phillips and Graves played up Finn Balor’s Bullet Club connections and internet speculation during the champ’s entrance, even mentioning the Bullet Club by name and saying there are rumors that they’re coming to NXT. Predictably, Phillips bought in and Graves dismissed the whole idea as foolish.

Neville and Balor matched up evenly from the opening bell and Balor did well to maintain pace with Neville, something that the former NXT Champion isn’t used to in either NXT or the main roster.

The fight moved to the outside after Balor threw Neville over the top rope and Neville hit his head and/or hands on the steel steps.

Balor followed Neville to the outside, but lost the momentum of the match and Neville hit a 2nd rope moonsault to the outside before rolling the current NXT Champion into the ring.

The whole match was exactly what you look for in NXT: hard hitting, fast paced and with just enough of the WWE-style showmanship to not feel like the indies.

The match flowed seamlessly into the closing stretch, unlike the clear act breaks that most NXT matches include. Both wrestlers went into successive attempts of their most impactful moves sensing the other was ripe for the picking.

Balor picked up the win with the Coup de Grace followed by the unnamed Bloody Sunday in what was the best match in NXT in 2016 so far. Arguably the best match in WWE in 2016. ****

The result is fine, but the line is starting to get blurred as to where NXT wrestlers slot into the overall WWE landscape. As early as last year NXT talent wouldn’t have gone over any main roster talent, but the victories are piling up on NXT alumni returning to the program. Does the NXT Champion always slot in just above a main roster midcarder like Neville? Is Balor an exception because he’s the champion whereas other NXT main eventers wouldn’t win against the main roster midcard? The universes are hard to mesh with NXT’s emergence.

The show closes with Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe giving pretty great dueling promos for their 2 out of 3 falls match for the No. 1 contendership that will main event NXT next week. Joe says his arrival to NXT is the only reason Zayn is even walking anymore, and he’s going to take that back next week.


Tonight was unquestionably the best episode of WWE NXT in 2016. Between the debut of Austin Aries and a legitimate four-star match in the main event, the road to Takeover is underway and the ride is only going to get better.