Wait, a weekly dose of Shinsuke Nakamura? In my review space? Thank you, WWE NXT.

For a long time now – it’s hard to say since when, but at least all of 2016 – WWE NXT has been a chore. The weekly NXT show has been a glorified episode of Superstars with a SmackDown-level main event once per month. There’s good and bad news since Takeover: Dallas, however. Let’s break it down…

The Good:

  • Shinsuke Nakamura.
  • A ton of call-ups following WrestleMania leave room for talent to emerge.
  • Two new champions and an edge developing on Finn Balor.

The Bad:

  • A ton of call-ups following WrestleMania leaving the roster talent-shallow.
  • The next Takeover is still unannounced, and could be as far away as August.
  • A full month of weekly NXT episodes were taped at Axcess and as dark matches at Takeover: Dallas.

Is a weekly dose of Nakamura enough to liven what has been an absolute bore of a television program in 2016?

Other than Apollo Crews’ and Elias Samson’s match that was cut from takeover, tonight is going to be very recap heavy. Just about everything you haven’t seen before is going involve lots of Cathy Kelley and a green screen. That sucks from a viewing standpoint, and is a super garbage cop out, but I get to dive a little deeper into a lot of the developments from Takeover, so stick with me in this review.

The American (Alpha) Dream

American Alpha are leading the tag team division after winning the NXT Tag Team Championships from the Revival at Takeover and a recap video leads into an incredible, emotional interview with American Alpha backstage after their win. These guys are awesome, especially now that Jason Jordan has gone from generic athlete to one of NXT’s best redemption stories. And Chad Gable is Chad Gable, he’s going to be the best.

The NXT tag division is historically strong, even with the loss of both the Vaudevillains and Enzo and Big Cass. The top end rivalry will be American Alpha and the Revival for a long time, but Tucker Knight and Steve Cutler have some potential and Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have an unlimited ceiling whenever they get into the regular NXT rotation again – hopefully full time.

“Heeeeey, We Want Some Bayl…Zzzzz”

Bayley went to sleep Friday night and lost her title when she passed out to the Asuka Lock. Surprisingly, Bayley didn’t immediately show up on Raw after WrestleMania. There’s a rematch coming, and hopefully their second match won’t immediately follow an instant five-star classic like it did at Takeover: Dallas.

The continuation of a Bayley-Asuka program will allow NXT to develop a few more contenders, though Nia Jax and an imminent Athena debut could round out the top of the NXT women’s division nicely even with Emma possibly moving to the main roster full time once again.

The Demon Retains

Despite Balor’s problematic proclivity for serial killer motif’s, the champion and Samoa Joe put on a wonderfully chaotic NXT Championship match.

Who can challenge the champ now? Baron Corbin has gone to the main roster. So has, confusingly, Apollo Crews (we’ll get to him later). Newcomers Nakamura and Austin Aries are candidates, but NXT needs to start building guys in-house who can main event Takeovers. There aren’t many more guys like those two left to be signed. Put it this way, the tag team and women’s divisions exist – there’s nothing below the top four guys in the NXT Championship picture, however.

Apollo Crews def. Elias Samson

The two can’t even main event a recap show over Sami Zayn and Nakamura.

Samson comes out first and sings a predictably godawful song to the Takeover crowd who responded with a “we want wrestling” chant. Where was that chant during WrestleMania? At least Samson was using Chekov’s Guitar again. Crews’ music interrupted Samson’s schtick and got a nice pop for it, but they were cheering for the end of Samson’s singing based on the lack of follow up for Crews’ pop.

Jeff Hawkins, who was at this show, called this a “nothing” match on Shake Them Ropes this week, and that’s about the gist of it. The entire match was really just an extended version of Crews’ Raw debut.

Like his debut, Crews held a lot of the televised offense, though there had to be a commercial during their NXT match which apparently was when the Drifter got his stuff in. With a commercial break, this whole thing took about 15 minutes and was about five minutes too long. Samson doesn’t have enough to work a match that long, even if he does sing a song.

Crews wins with his toss-powerbomb.

“Strong Style Has Arrived.”

There isn’t much to say about this match that we didn’t already say on Friday. Nakamura’s debut match against Zayn was one of those rare moments when the hype behind something, especially in pro wrestling, just wasn’t enough. The expectations for this match were arguably higher than anything else over the weekend and it surpassed them all.

Knowing what happened on Friday, the NXT recap package was predictably great. This was what pro wrestling is supposed to be, from Nakamura’s incredible entrance to Zayn’s heartfelt goodbye to NXT. I watched this match four more times over the course of the weekend and I love something more about it every time. The Blue Thunder Bomb nearfall still gets me on my fifth viewing.

The video package also includes some alternate angles not shown on the original production, including Nakamura’s Kinshasa from the middle rope.

Nakamura, who speaks pretty good English, was using Funaki as a translator. As Funaki was answering a question in a backstage interview, however, Nakamura interrupted and simply warned NXT of what was to come before his match on next week’s Axcess-taped show:

“Strong Style has arrived.”