Like many others, I was unable to watch the final half hour or so of NXT Arrival due to the WWE Network dropping the feed. During Tyler Breeze’s entrance, the feed gave out and never came back. I tried my PS3, Roku, laptop and desktop, and I couldn’t get past a 30-second loop of Breeze entering. The on-demand issues WWE has had with the Network so far are excusable, but this was not. If their servers can’t handle the demand of people trying to watch NXT, I can only imagine how unbelievably ill-prepared they are for WrestleMania. At any rate, now that I’ve actually seen the entire show, here are my thoughts on NXT’s first-ever live event. –Scott Strandberg
Overall Event Grade: A-
Adrian Neville def. Bo Dallas (c) in a ladder match for the NXT Championship
Shawn Michaels entered first, carrying the NXT title belt, playing to the crowd’s “one more match” chant, saying that he prefers being “fat, out of shape and not adhering to a dress code.” Bo dominated the early portion of the match, keeping Neville grounded with a series of shoulder tackles and elbows, followed by a huge clothesline. Bo tangled Neville in the ropes and grabbed a ladder, but Neville landed a baseball slide, sending the ladder crashing into Bo. Neville followed that with a splash to the outside, but Bo threw him into the steel steps.
Neville tossed Bo spine-first onto the entrance ramp, set up a ladder in the middle of the ring, and climbed to the top before Bo knocked him off with another ladder. Dallas trapped Neville under the ladder in the middle of the ring and climbed, but Neville summoned up enough strength to push the ladder over. Neville tried to capitalize by setting the ladder back up and climbing, but Bo knocked it over, sending Neville flying into the turnbuckles.
The two men played a game of tug of war with a ladder until Bo smashed Neville into the corner with the ladder. Bo wedged the ladder in the corner and tried to throw Neville into it, but Adrian held onto the ropes, finally countering by running sideways across the ladder and planting Bo with a DDT that Bo sold beautifully. Bo recovered and delivered repeated clotheslines to Neville, who was trapped in the corner.
Bo tried for a DDT onto a ladder, but Neville showed off his strength by countering to throw Bo face-first into the ladder wedged in the corner. Neville caught Bo with an enziguiri and climbed to the top to try for his Red Arrow corkscrew shooting star, but Bo recovered in time to throw him out of the ring. With Neville seemingly incapacitated outside the ring, Bo started to climb the ladder, only to have Neville come out of nowhere, flying off the top rope to land on the ladder above Bo.
Neville nearly won when he briefly touched the belt, but Bo pulled him down and threw him back-first into the wedged ladder. Neville then slammed Bo onto a ladder and hit the Red Arrow while Bo was still lying on the ladder. Neville set up the ladder and climbed it, grabbing the title just as Bo was about to tip the ladder over. A very good match, albeit one that many people were unable to watch, but the finish felt a bit lacking. I can’t help but wonder if they ran out of time and had to rush the finish. I also think they missed a golden opportunity for Neville to attempt a Red Arrow off a ladder, which would have been an incredible spot.
Cesaro def. Sami Zayn by pinfall
Cesaro planted Zayn on his face with a sideslam and slapped him in the face, taunting him. A series of chain wrestling maneuvers was halted by a dropkick from Cesaro. Zayn escaped an early Cesaro swing attempt and hit a suicide dive to the outside. Zayn attempted a top-rope crossbody, but Cesaro caught him with a swinging backbreaker.
Cesaro took the action back outside, throwing Zayn into the barricade and slamming him head-first into the steel steps. Cesaro then dropped Zayn neck-first onto the steel barricade and rammed his back into the edge of the ring apron. Zayn attempted his leaping DDT through the ropes, but Cesaro countered with an uppercut in an absolutely crazy spot.
Back in the ring, Cesaro went to work on Zayn’s surgically repaired knee. Cesaro locked in a half-crab in the middle of the ring following a missed enziguiri from Zayn, who wriggled through Cesaro’s legs to reach the ropes. Zayn dumped Cesaro to the outside to give himself some space and tried for a moonsault DDT on the outside, which Cesaro countered into a spinebuster onto the entrance ramp.
Zayn reached the ring on the 9-count to avoid the countout. Zayn hit an exploder suplex into the turnbuckles for a near-fall. Zayn hit a ridiculous belly-to-back powerbomb and locked in a Koji clutch in the center of the ring on Cesaro, but Cesaro countered it into a submission of his own, wrenching Zayn’s knee above his head, and Zayn finally reached the ropes.
Zayn countered the Cesaro Swing into a rollup for a near-fall, but Cesaro hit the swing on his next try, following up with an uppercut in the corner for a two-count, which Zayn countered. Both men exchanged pin attempts as Zayn started to bleed from above his right eye. Cesaro climbed up top, but Zayn joined him and attempted a hurricanrana. Cesaro attempted to reverse it into a top-rope powerbomb, but Zayn countered with the hurricanrana, followed by a huge kick to the face to Cesaro for another near-fall.
Cesaro finally regained the advantage with a series of vicious uppercuts, to the point where Cesaro was begging Zayn to stay down, as William Regal on commentary sold the beating beautifully, questioning whether Zayn’s career was worth the show of bravado. Zayn finally countered with a punch of his own, and the two started brawling in the middle of the ring. Zayn hit a huge German suplex to get back into the match.
Zayn ran into a big boot, and Cesaro set up for the Neutralizer twice, which Zayn countered with a roll-up and a sunset flip pin attempt for two near-falls. Cesaro picked up Zayn and tossed him into the air, hitting his European uppercut, but Zayn incredibly kicked out at one. Cesaro hit a spinning uppercut followed by the Neutralizer for the win. After the match, Cesaro returned to the ring as the crowd chanted “Hug it Out,” and that’s exactly what they did, as Cesaro embraced Zayn in the middle of the ring. Zayn appeared to be nearly in tears as Cesaro exited, leaving Zayn alone in the middle of the ring for what certainly felt like a curtain call to the NXT Universe. It was an incredibly powerful moment. I expect to see Zayn on the main roster any day now. This match was an emotional instant classic that lived up to the massive hype surrounding it.
Paige def. Emma by submission to retain the NXT Women’s Championship
Stephanie McMahon introduced “the future of the Divas division,” even dancing with Emma. As soon as the bell hit, Emma exploded with a Thesz press and the two really started going at it. Paige hit a kick to the gut and went for the Paige-Turner swinging leg hook slam, but Emma reversed into a backslide. Emma tried for her Emma Lock muta lock, but Paige countered and hit a big dropkick, followed by a bodyslam.
Paige got Emma in a headlock, but Emma fought her way out and set up the Emma Lock, but Paige fought her way out before it was locked in. Paige draped Emma over the second rope and hit her with repeated knees to the face. Emma swept her legs out from under her and Paige hit the edge of the apron hard on her back. Emma locked in the Dil-Emma rope-hung Boston crab and followed it with the Emma Sandwich crossbody into the corner.
Emma followed up with a series of submission holds which worked over Paige’s arms and shoulders. As the announcers correctly pointed out, this was a whole new style of match from Emma. Emma hit a hip toss for a near-fall. Emma and Paige climbed to the top rope as Paige set up for a superplex, but Emma rolled down and hit an incredible sit-down powerbomb for a near-fall as the crowd chanted “better than Batista.”
Paige recovered with a clothesline and hit the Paige Turner, but Emma shockingly kicked out at two, which was the first time anyone had kicked out of Paige’s well-protected finisher. Paige locked in an unbelievable Scorpion crosslock for the submission win. A wonderfully unexpected finish to a 15-minute match that made both women look incredibly strong. Paige and Emma hugged in the center of the ring to end the match before Paige celebrated her victory.
The Ascension defeated Too Cool by pinfall to retain the NXT Tag Team Championships
Too Cool accepted The Ascension’s open challenge. Konnor and Viktor took turns beating up on Grandmaster Sexay, isolating him in their corner. Konnor delivered a big boot and tagged in Viktor for a near-fall. Viktor earned another two-count with a suplex. Viktor locked in a headlock on Grandmaster Sexay in the middle of the ring. Sexay finally hit the hot tag to Scotty 2 Hotty, who started taking it to both Konnor and Viktor. Scotty 2 Hotty hit a bulldog and did the worm, but Viktor pulled him forward, bouncing his neck off the second rope. Viktor hit a huge clothesline, tagged in Konnor and they hit their Fall of Man legsweep/uppercut finisher on Scotty for the pin. This was a fun nostalgia match, but the finish was never in question.
Mojo Rawley def. CJ Parker by pinfall
The two exchanged offense until Parker hit a running clothesline for a two-count and went to work with strikes on Mojo in the corner, grounding him. Mojo recovered and hit multiple running splashes into the corner before hitting his awkward seated senton finisher. It is so damn bizarre to see a guy his size using a seated senton as a finisher. At any rate, this was a brief match that was fine for where it was on the card, as the comedown match from Zayn/Cesaro IV.
- In an interview with Bo Dallas on the pre-show, Alex Riley asked if Dallas was afraid of Adrian Neville. Dallas responded, “I am afraid…of spiders. I’m afraid of lightning.” Never change, Bo.
- Tyler Breeze and Xavier Woods were about to have a match, but Alexander Rusev entered, grounding both Breeze and Woods with superkicks, then hitting a Samoan drop which sent Breeze rolling out of the ring. Rusev hit a slow, awkward sideslam on Woods and locked in his Accolade camel clutch finisher, forcing him to tap out. Unfortunately for him, instead of a referee, Lana approached the ring and Rusev held Woods in the Accolade for a bit longer. This segment felt forced and didn’t work at all. I would’ve rather just watched a Woods/Breeze match.