WrestleMania week is officially over – WWE NXT has returned to Full Sail University minus a few stars, but has brought in a couple new faces (and one big-ish surprise on tonight’s show) to keep pairings fresh and lead NXT into a new era of it’s own this summer.

Speaking of new eras in WWE NXT…

We’ve got them all over the WWE Universe. The main roster has Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin. The developmental territory’s new era is about to be led by Samoa Joe, a 37-year-old man. At least he’s got a young guy chasing him in Shinsuke Nakamura. Oh, wait, Nak’s 36-years-old.

Just as Joe is issuing an open challenge to anyone who has a problem with his reign, unfamiliar music hits. Out comes…Eric Young? (Eric Young is 36-years-old, by the way.)

Young, feeding off of his familiarity with Joe from TNA, lays down a challenge. A challenge that will be fulfilled in the main event of this episode.

Nia Jax def. Tessa Blanchard

Not a great prospecting outing if you’re looking for signs of Tessa Blanchard’s ceiling. She threw a few moves at Nia Jax, but Jax shrugged her off at every turn and won in a squash, literally, with the leg drop.

Obviously, the immediate destination for Blanchard is on the main roster in a four-way feud with Charlotte, Natalya and Eden Styles. Daughter-in-law is good enough, right?

Austin Aries def. Tye Dillinger

Tye Dillinger is stupid-over. He’s on every third or fourth episode of NXT, but every single crowd loves him. He’s a midcard wonder and he almost never says a word. I know he’s been around the WWE since the latter days of Bruno Sammartino’s run, but the guy’s got something that the majority of wrestlers in this company don’t have.

Austin Aries won this match with a 450 splash, which highlights one of my favorite things about Aries’ still pretty early run in NXT: he doesn’t have a finisher. Aries has had three televised matches in NXT and has won each of them with a different move. He defeated Corbin with a roll-up, Angelo Dawkins with a roaring elbow and Dillinger with the 450 splash (which was admittedly set up by a roaring elbow). If NXT is going to try something different with Aries while maintaining the “Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” gimmick, having him able to finish a match with any of a half-a-dozen moves isn’t the worst way to start.

This, like most Dillinger matches, are really good TV-level matches. He’s not going to steal the spotlight on a Takeover special, but he’s spectacular in this role.

The Revival def. The Hype Bros

My opinion on both of these teams is no secret:

  • The Hype Bros: A waste of Zack Ryder, but at least he’s on television in some capacity. Also, a waste of television continuing to use Mojo Rawley, but at least the Rawley family can keep tabs on Mojo.
  • The Revival: Among the four best teams in this entire company. I would love to watch some combination of Enzo and Cass, American Alpha, The Revival and The New Day wrestle on every show, every week.

As great as The Revival was as smug NXT Tag Team champions, they’re even better as pissed off, vicious title chasers. Ryder put in some good work before bringing Rawley in for a hot tag. Rawley hits a Monty Brown Pounce before he’s cut off by Scott Dawson and The Revival scores the pinfall following the Shatter Machine.

“It’s time to rage.”

Alex Riley has the unenviable task of wrestling Shinsuke Nakamura on next week’s episode of NXT, and he laid out a pretty decent argument for why he has a puncher’s chance to compete with the King of Strong Style. He then ruined any progress he made by finishing with his cringeworthy catchphrase: “It’s time to rage.”


No Way Jose def. Noah Kekoah

I don’t know if I’m supposed to offended by No Way Jose or not. He’s got Rocky Maivia written all over him, but he does have cool pants and the crowd seems into it for now.

Even if I shouldn’t be offended by the character, the name is enough reason to be offended. No Way Jose wins with a full nelson slam.

Samoa Joe def. Eric Young

Is this what TNA’s like? Should we ask Garrett? Technically sound, but not a lot of heart and ultimately more dull than it should be?

Credit to Young for taking a hard bump to the outside when Joe tossed him over the top rope, but this was not the guns blazing debut you might’ve hoped for from someone with the cache of Eric Young.

Joe wins with a Muscle Buster followed by a Coquina Clutch which he wouldn’t release until well after Young tapped out. If I had to guess, it seems like this might’ve been a one-off for Young, but that’s speculation.

Thought the match was an ever-so-mild disappointment, tonight was an clever little side track in the history of Samoa Joe. Obviously no one is allowed to mention TNA by name, but there were plenty of allusions to the shared history between the two. Next week we have Nakamura/Riley and the return of Finn Balor, but tonight was an NXT alternate universe featuring three of the biggest names to come out of TNA.