NXT Review – Huge Upset Crowns New Women’s No. 1 Contender

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1/13/16 – Scott Strandberg – @wrestlerosters

2015 NXT Year-End Awards

On their first new episode of 2016, NXT announced their first annual fan-voted Year-End Awards. I felt that all of the choices were appropriate and worthy:

Overall Competitor of the Year – Finn Balor

Male Competitor of the Year – Finn Balor

Female Competitor of the Year – Bayley

Match of the Year – Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (NXT Takeover: Brooklyn)

Tag Team of the Year – Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady

NXT Takeover of the Year – Brooklyn


Carmella won the Women’s Championship #1 Contender Battle Royal by last eliminating Eva Marie

Each woman — even the jobbers — got a chance to cut a promo throughout the show, staking her claim to the #1 Contendership. Backstage, a doctor checked out Nia Jax and didn’t clear her to return to action after being choked out by Bayley in London, but Eva Marie promised to win the battle royal “for us.” As Eva made her entrance for the battle royal, Asuka entered behind her and shoved her out of the way.

As the battle royal started, Asuka knocked Eva down, and Eva rolled out of the ring. Seems like this spot telegraphs a classic “competitor you forgot was still in the match comes back to win/nearly win” battle royal scenario. We’ll see if I’m right.

Cameron first eliminated the debuting Aliyah, then tossed Deonna Purrazzo out as well. Liv Morgan tried to powerbomb Cameron over the top, but lost her grip. When she tried again, Cameron caught her in a rope-hung armbar, giving Alexa Bliss time to sneak in from behind and eliminate them both.

Emma caught Carmella in a Dil-Emma, then hit her with an Emma Sandwich, but Carmella rolled onto the floor. Emma lifted Alexa over the ropes and knocked her off the apron with a forearm. With the announce crew suspiciously still not mentioning Eva Marie, Asuka hit Emma with a step-up enziguiri, sending her to the floor.

Billie Kay and Peyton Royce nearly eliminated Asuka, but for some reason changed their minds and started fighting each other. Asuka recovered and eliminated both women with a double hip strike, as the crowd chanted “We see Eva!” Eva finally returned to the ring and predictably eliminated Asuka, celebrating excessively until Carmella snuck up behind her and tossed her to the floor, winning the #1 Contendership.

After the match, Bayley ran to the ring and gave Carmella a hug, as Asuka creepily smiled from the entrance ramp.

Scott’s Thoughts: I appreciated that this battle royal had an “over the top rope” stipulation, because main-roster women’s battle royals can get awfully ridiculous without it. Furthermore, I loved the booking, as the match was clearly structured to make people think that the fix was in for Eva Marie’s victory. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. NXT has done a tremendous job turning the fans’ legitimate distaste for Eva into kayfabe heel heat.

Carmella’s win was a truly surprising move by NXT, and the crowd responded by giving her a huge ovation. It’s amazing to think of how far she’s come since she debuted as Enzo’s ill-fated hair stylist. It seems like Asuka will remain in the title picture, as well.

NXT starts to sort out crowded men’s title picture

After a quick introduction from William Regal, Sami Zayn entered Full Sail Arena for the first time in months. Zayn said his contributions had helped NXT reach new heights, and that he was there to make an announcement. Zayn said the only reason he’s back in NXT is to become the first-ever two-time NXT Champion, but was interrupted by Samoa Joe.

Joe reminded Sami that the last time Zayn had a title match, Joe had to come out and save him. Joe told Sami that if he wants to keep his shoulder in his socket, it’s time to walk away. Baron Corbin entered next, saying that for once he agrees with Joe, in that Sami’s place is at the back of the line.

Corbin reminded them that he was victorious at Takeover: London, but Joe was not. Corbin told Sami that while Zayn was at home resting, his spot was taken by someone more deserving, “and more durable.” Joe told Corbin that after he beat Baron in Brooklyn, he has no place even being in the conversation.

Joe turned around to leave, allowing Corbin to take a cheap shot at Sami from behind. Sami dodged an End of Days attempt, hitting a Helluva Kick to send Corbin over the top rope. Joe teased a confrontation with Sami, but decided against it and exited up the ramp.

Later in the show, Regal announced that a Zayn/Joe/Corbin triple threat for the #1 Contendership will take place in two weeks.

Scott’s Thoughts: With three viable options for Finn Balor’s next opponent, a triple threat is a good way to sort things out a bit. Sami seems the obvious choice, but I personally think a Finn/Corbin pairing — along with a non-title Joe/Sami feud — would be the most interesting route.

Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson def. The Ascension by pinfall

Dash and Dawson teamed up on Viktor early and often, with Dawson earning a near-fall with an elbow drop. Viktor finally fought back with an STO, making the hot tag to Konnor, who hit a flapjack on Dawson. Dash distracted the official so that he couldn’t see the pin, and tagged himself in blindly. Dash and Dawson hit their flapjack/codebreaker finisher on Konnor for the win.

Scott’s Thoughts: It was fun to see The Ascension playing the babyfaces in the match, and a win over them still feels significant on the NXT stage. Dash and Dawson are getting slightly more interesting as champs, but they still suffer from having a bland, generic gimmick.

Tommaso Ciampa def. Danny Burch by submission

Burch hit a missile dropkick for the first big offensive move, but Ciampa fought back with a slingshot DDT for two. Burch fought back with an enziguiri, and the two exchanged stiff shots in the center of the ring. Ciampa countered a backslide into a roll-through armbar, earning the submission victory.

Scott’s Thoughts: I’m liking Ciampa’s development in NXT. His recent in-ring style incorporates many elements of strong style, which is particularly refreshing on a WWE-branded program. Kudos to Burch as well, as he displayed good athleticism in this match.

Elias Samson def. Corey Hollis by pinfall

Samson grounded Hollis early and quickly put him away with a spinning neckbreaker.

Scott’s Thoughts: It’s been a while since a gimmick fell this dead on arrival. “The Drifter” needs some serious tweaks before anyone will take him seriously.