NXT Review – Clever Main-Event Booking Keeps Title Picture Crowded

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1/27/16 – Scott Strandberg – @wrestlerosters

Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin wrestled to a No Contest in a triple threat match to become the No. 1 Contender for the NXT Championship 

Joe came up empty with a knee drop early on, and Zayn capitalized with a basement dropkick. Joe rolled out of the ring, and Zayn took out both him and Corbin with a plancha. Back in the ring, Corbin hit Zayn with a Deep Six spinning side slam, but Zayn kicked out.

Joe hit Corbin with an inverted atomic drop and a big boot, then planted Zayn with a scoopslam for a near-fall. Joe hit a step-up enziguiri on Zayn, but Sami recovered enough to hit a blue thunderbomb on Corbin. Joe caught Sami from behind with a Coquina Clutch, leaving him on the floor.

Joe got back in the ring, but Corbin planted him with End of Days. Zayn broke up the pinfall just in time, then hit an exploder suplex and a Helluva Kick on Corbin. Joe pulled Zayn off of Corbin before the referee could count the pinfall, but Sami drove him into the ring steps.

Back in the ring, Zayn locked in a sharpshooter on Corbin. Just as Corbin was about to tap to Zayn, Joe got back in the ring and put Corbin in a crossface. Corbin tapped out, and the referee had a hard time deciding who had earned the submission.

William Regal entered, and each man made their case:

  • Zayn: “I had him in the sharpshooter and he tapped out!”
  • Joe: “That was a horrible sharpshooter, that’s why I put him in the crossface.”

Regal said that he had to review the tape, taking the referee with him. Joe walked up the ramp, leaving Zayn alone in the ring, with Regal and the ref still debating the call at ringside.

Scott’s Thoughts: This was a pretty fresh way of creating a triple threat title match, which is what I assume to be the outcome of all this. Seriously though, how often does a triple threat end in a No Contest finish? The added genius of the booking is that Corbin has made tremendous strides over the last few months, and he doesn’t lose any credibility for tapping out to two of NXT’s biggest stars putting him in submission holds at the same time. No one would.

Furthermore, a triple threat is likely the most logical booking decision for NXT, seeing as we’ve already had Joe vs. Finn singles, and a face-vs-face feud is rarely as compelling as a traditional face-vs-heel match. Besides, if you have your choice of booking Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn, or both into a match, which one of those options do you choose? I go with both, and so did NXT.

Alex Riley def. Bull Dempsey by pinfall

Riley made his surprise return after missing more than half of 2015 with a knee injury to face Bull. As the match began, Riley beat down on Bull, asking “Is this what NXT’s come to?” Riley hit a sitout neckbreaker for a near-fall, then followed up with a spinebuster and a leaping knee strike for the quick pin.

After the match, Riley cut a backstage promo, saying that for the past four months he’d been trying to get ahold of WWE brass, letting them know how his recovery was going. Riley said that he hadn’t heard a response at all, but he’d seen NXT advertise the exact date of Zayn’s return. Riley added that he knows what Apollo Crews had for breakfast three days ago thanks to the WWE Network, but that he hadn’t seen Alex Riley anywhere.

Scott’s Thoughts: It was great to see A-Ry back in the ring, seeing as his stint in his brief NXT run before he went down with injury was the best work of his career. His promo was intense, focused, and decidedly heelish. He’s a guy who could rise quickly up our exclusive NXT depth chart in the coming weeks.

American Alpha (Jason Jordan and Chad Gable) def. Blake and Murphy (w/ Alexa Bliss) by pinfall

Jordan hit a belly-to-back suplex on Murphy, and Gable added an athletic headscissor takedown on Blake. Murphy got back in the ring and feigned a knee injury, giving Blake a chance to take a cheap shot on Gable. Blake and Murphy went to work on Gable’s knee, with Alexa taking a shot as well when the referee wasn’t looking.

Gable finally reached Jordan for the hot tag, and Jordan hit both Blake and Murphy with dropkicks, before suplexing Blake onto Murphy. Jordan speared Blake into the corner, tagging in Gable for their sideslam/bridging suplex finisher.

Scott’s Thoughts: I’m not sold one bit on the “American Alpha” name for Jordan and Gable, but I am still 100% invested in their potential as a tag team. I’ve long been a fan of Jordan — ever since seeing him wrestle at NXT San Jose last spring — and Gable has really helped him reach the next level.

Nia Jax (w/ Eva Marie) def. Liv Morgan by pinfall

Morgan hit two dropkicks, failing to knock Jax off her feet. Jax hit a sidewalk slam and a leg drop for the squash victory.

Scott’s Thoughts: The only point of this was to keep Jax relevant on the fringes of the Women’s Championship scene, which I suppose it accomplished.

Elias Samson def. John Skyler by pinfall

Tom Phillips showed as little understanding of Samson’s “Drifter” gimmick as I have, saying that “he likes to go town to town, meeting people and competing.” Well, great. Samson hit a spinning neckbreaker for the pinfall.

Scott’s Thoughts: I will be shocked if this “Drifter” gimmick lasts much more than a couple of months. Yeesh.

  • Emma and Dana Brooke cut an anti-Carmella backstage promo, in which the most notable aspect was how much weight Dana has gained. She’s looking like she’s had more than a few cheat days since competing in the Arnold Classic…As it turns out, later in the show, Carmella cut a promo, referring to Dana as “little miss piggy,” almost certainly a rib on Dana’s significant weight gain.