Being a wrestling aficionado these days can be an exasperating chore. WWE has raided the smaller wrestling companies, depriving them of their top-tier talent. It would not be so unfortunate if it were not for WWE underutilizing and mismanaging them and thus stripping them of their opportunities to exhibit their aptitudes at a full capacity. Fortunately, for all the hardcore wrestling fans, NXT is still around.
NXT is a concoction of 80s ‘rasslin booking and state-of-the-art wrestling, and it is the closest produce to rival the excellence of ROH’s four year run (2004-2008) when Gabe Saposkly was running the ship, and its talent pool was overflowing. The product keeps everything as simple as it needs to be. The booking is the vehicle that steps up matches and then it trusts its wrestlers to carry on the story in the ring and put on something worthwhile.
It has its finger on its audience’s pulse. It knows what the audience wants and gives it to them. It does not fool with them nor fickle with their emotions. NXT gives its fans interesting characters, well-narrated storylines and memorable matches with as little tomfoolery as possible. The company will adjust to the crowd’s reactions, which means it will not ignore the crowd and jam something they do not want down their throat. NXT also understands wrestling is more fun and entertaining when it taken ultra-serious product and that the “sports entertainment” tongue-in-cheek genre is more insulting to its audience and detriments the seriousness of the product.
Its objective is satisfy its audience as much as it can, and it passed that test with flying colors tonight.
The show opened with the NXT Tag Title Match (Revival and American Alpha, and it was what an opener should be. It was a fast and well-paced adrenaline rush to get the crowd amped up off the bat. It did not try too hard. It did not burn the audience out by overindulging them. It served its purpose and then
went home. The wrestlers involved knew their job as; they did it well and then got out of there. You could not ask for more. NXT’s tag division has always been their weak point, but these two teams are a good for the resurgence of the division.
Austin Aries and Barbon Corbin was the worst match of the night, yet it was still an entertaining match. Because of being jammed in between a hot opener and Nakamura and Zayn, they had to tone it down so that the audience could recuperate before the highly anticipated next match. Rather than making Aries a fighting from under never-say-die, face-in-peril underdog – it would have been better to show off his uncanny athleticism. In the long run, his surreal, aesthetic and flashy offense will get him over more with the NXT audience than being a small fry babyface. He then can rip everyone’s hearts out by turning heel and channeling his glorious contemptible heel persona.
With no backstory assistance, Shinsuke Nakmura and Sami Zayn still put on a classic affair. It was a tremendously problematic undertaking, but these two virtuosos constructed something exquisite in spite of no story to play off. It is one of the greatest exhibition matches ever. Nakamura effortlessly adjusted to NXT’s style and made it look like he had wrestled Zayn an infinite amount of times. These two had astounding chemistry, possessing the same vision and direction of where they wanted to take the match and placing the crowd in the palm of their hands. The crowd just went on for the unforeseeable ride, filled with twists and turns and peaks and valleys. The chain wrestling to start was crisp and smooth, transitioning and setting up the match’s pace so effortlessly.
The match was built on showmanship with both wrestlers trying to outperform the other in every facet. It manufactured into an exquisite “anything you can do, I can do better” seesaw battle with unbridled intensity, hard-hitting strikes, breathtaking spots, sequences, and top-of-the-line athleticism. You name it: psychology, storytelling, physicality, selling, pacing, timing, moves, chemistry, high spots, building to the crescendo; it is all here.
Bayley and Asuka had a tall task following an early strong match of the year contender, but passed the test by telling an effective story. This made Asuka look like a force to be reckon with, a no-nonsense dominant beast. She annihilated the ever-so resilient Bayley. Bayley kept fighting back, but Asuka’s brute strength and technical prowess was too overwhelming for her to overcome. The MMA-esque finish was unique way to end a match, helping Askuka come across as one scary chick. These types of decisions separate NXT so much from WWE. Unlike WWE, NXT is brazen enough to put someone over strongly without thinking about how it can protect someone else. Bayley is too beloved, which means in no way will this affect her popularity. NXT somehow understands this while WWE cannot grasp its head around it.
Samoa Joe and Baylor kicked off in such an epic fashion. They were not interested in having a feeling-it-out start. They instead wanted to rip each other’s heads off. The animosity and detestation were off the
charts. As Jim Ross would say, you could cut the tension with a knife. This was a perfervid mêlée, and it was the best Samoa Joe looked in a while. He was interested and motivated. This rivalry has rekindled his keenness for professional wrestling again. Joe works better as a vigorous antagonist these days. He can no longer move around like a cruiserweight but can still be a tough, uncompromising and intimidating ruffian.
The referees trying to stop Joe’s blood marred the flow of the match, and it never seemed like they
could fully recuperate from all the stoppages. The match thusly ended on a rather flat note. Still, they had very good outing that made Joe an undomesticated animal but Baylor courageous and opportunistic enough to sneak out victorious. These two are not finished with each other, and no one will complain about that.
This was an early candidate for show of the year. It was excellent from top to bottom, as every match was given time and had a distinct purpose. The show was also not lackluster nor overindulging. It was the perfect amount, enough to satisfy someone but also leaving them wanting more. It was exactly how long it should have been with nothing dragged out nor cut short. The show emphasized wrestler’s in-ring talents and treated the matches as if they were all special with the booking taking a backseat to the wrestling. There was no hokey pokey or razzle-dazzle stuff, either. It was all meat and potatoes and that is all a wrestling PPV has to be.