12/16/15 – Scott Strandberg – @wrestlerosters
Finn Balor def. Samoa Joe by pinfall to retain the NXT Championship
Match Grade: B+
Finn entered in Jack the Ripper garb to the sound of a woman screaming, which doesn’t seem like a very babyface thing to do, but maybe that’s just me. Finn hit two early dropkicks, including one between the ropes. Finn delivered a basement dropkick outside the ring that sent Joe flying into the ring steps.
Finn tried for a Coup de Grace onto the ring steps, but Joe rolled out of the way and hit a lifting side slam on the floor. Back in the ring, Joe hit an enziguiri and a knee drop for a two-count. Joe followed up with an inverted atomic drop and a big boot, but missed with a running senton.
Finn fought back with an enziguiri, but Joe chopped him out of the ring when he tried to springboard. Joe impressively launched himself between the ropes to take Finn out on the floor, then tossed him back into the ring. Joe hit a powerbomb for two, then transitioned it into a Boston crab.
When Finn refused to tap to that, Joe switched to a crossface. Finn worked his way to his feet and hit a DDT to finally slow Joe down. Finn followed up with a step-up enziguiri, which sent Joe out of the ring.
Finn hit a plancha and threw Joe back into the ring. Finn hit a double stomp to the back, but Joe kicked out. Finn hit another enziguiri and a Sling Blade, followed by a corner dropkick attempt, but Joe slipped out of the way.
Joe tried for a Musclebuster, but Finn slipped through. Joe and Finn exchanged stiff strikes in the middle of the ring, but Joe caught Finn in a Coquina clutch when Finn tried for a Pele kick. Finn managed to drive Joe into the corner to break the hold, but Joe locked it in again.
Finn rolled through over Joe’s back and hit a double-stomp. Finn hit another Sling Blade, and this time he landed the corner dropkick. Joe stayed on his feet, and Finn hit another two corner dropkicks to finally knock Joe down.
Finn climbed up top, but Joe caught him and hit an enziguiri. Joe climbed to the second rope, but Finn fought him off with a chop and hit Coup de Grace to retain the title.
Scott’s Thoughts: There was nothing at all wrong with this match, but it just never hit that next level that truly special matches reach. I expected Finn to retain, and Baron Corbin appears to be next in line for a title shot, unless Sami Zayn gets re-inserted directly into the main event picture. A solid — if unspectacular — match, to cap off one of NXT’s less-impressive live specials.
Bayley def. Nia Jax by submission to retain the NXT Women’s Championship
Match Grade: D+
Before the match, Asuka approached Jax backstage, staring her down. Jax showcased her power early, tossing Bayley around the ring with a variety of mid-1980’s heel moves. Bayley finally hit a series of dropkicks and two flying back elbows, which still didn’t knock Jax down.
Bayley tried for another flying back elbow, but Jax swatted her out of the air. Jax set Bayley on the top rope, but Bayley shoved her to the mat, finally knocking her off her feet. Bayley hit a Swanton Bomb to earn a two-count, but Jax answered with a painfully telegraphed Samoan drop.
Jax hit two more Samoan drops and a leg drop, but Bayley kicked out. Jax hit three leg drops to the back of Bayley’s head, but Bayley still kicked out. Jax took Bayley up top again, but Bayley locked in a guillotine choke.
Jax slammed Bayley back down to the mat, but Bayley locked in another guillotine choke. Again, Jax slammed Bayley back down. Bayley locked in yet another guillotine choke, forcing Jax all the way down to the mat. Bayley wrenched back for more leverage, and Jax finally tapped.
Scott’s Thoughts: Jax’s moveset is so extremely limited that it felt like each spot in the match repeated many times, simply because it was the only way to get Jax through a lengthy match. If you can’t wrestle a decent match with Bayley, you probably can’t wrestle a decent match at all. Sorry bout ya, Nia Jax.
Asuka def. Emma (w/ Dana Brooke) by pinfall
Match Grade: A-
Asuka and Emma opened with a lengthy chain wrestling sequence, and Asuka locked in an armbar early. Emma reached the ropes to break the hold, but Asuka followed up with a running hip strike from the apron. Emma took advantage of a Dana distraction to hit two basement dropkicks, keeping Asuka grounded.
Asuka earned a two-count with a backslide, but Emma answered immediately with a stiff clothesline for a near-fall of her own. Asuka turned the tide with a missile dropkick and a running dropkick, followed by a furious series of strikes. Emma nearly came back with a jackknife cover for two, but Asuka hit several stiff forearms and a hip strike.
Emma caught Asuka in the Dil-Emma rope-hung Boston crab, following up with an underhook suplex into the corner and an Emma Sandwich for a close near-fall. Asuka managed to get Emma in an ankle lock, which she bridged into a German suplex. Asuka hit a shining wizard, but Emma kicked out again.
Asuka tried to trap Emma in the Asuka Lock, but Emma stayed on her feet. Emma grabbed referee Drake Weurtz’s shirt and tossed him into the corner, where Asuka unintentionally ran him over. Dana threw a metal chain into the ring for Emma to use, and Asuka took it away.
Weurtz thought it was Asuka’s foreign object, and Emma took advantage of the distraction to roll Asuka up. Asuka reversed into an Asuka Lock, but Dana again distracted Weurtz, who didn’t see Emma tap out. Asuka finally hit a spinning heel kick to finish Emma off.
Scott’s Thoughts: Great booking decision to give these women so much time to kick off the show. They got the crowd fired up in a hurry. Asuka continues to show an impressive ability to adapt to the “WWE style” without losing her uniqueness, and Emma got a chance to remind everyone how good she really is. Excellent opener.
Baron Corbin def. Apollo Crews by pinfall
Match Grade: B
Crews and Corbin found themselves at a stalemate early, with each unable to gain an advantage for any significant length of time. Crews hit a dropkick, but Corbin retaliated by tossing him over the top rope, and Crews hit his head on the ring steps on the way down. Corbin screamed “You should’ve stayed in Ring of Honor!” to Crews, which was awkward because Crews was never in ROH.
Corbin hit a big boot when Crews returned to the ring, but Crews caught him in a small package for two. Corbin regained his momentum with a backbreaker and tried for a Razor’s Edge, but Crews slipped over his back as Corbin awkwardly fell to the mat.
The action spilled outside, with Crews hitting an apron moonsault on Corbin. Back in the ring, Corbin hit a big spinning side slam for a near-fall and tried for End of Days, but Crews rolled through and countered with a dropkick. Crews hit a standing moonsault, but Corbin managed to kick out.
Crews tried for an over-the-shoulder powerbomb, but Corbin hung onto the ropes. Corbin hit End of Days to pin Crews.
Scott’s Thoughts: I can’t say I expected Corbin to win this match, but I don’t mind him getting a main-event level push either. A clean victory over Crews is a major win for Corbin, possibly his biggest to date. While the match wasn’t great — due to some pacing issues and a couple messy spots — it was still solid.
Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson def. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady (w/ Carmella) by pinfall to retain the NXT Tag Team Championships
Match Grade: B
Enzo entered wearing a hilarious pair of leather overalls, saying that they’re willing to leave pieces of themselves in the ring, as long as they can take the NXT Tag Team Championships with them. Enzo said that if he had a pound for every time he and Cass had been beaten down and not gotten back up, he’d have zero pounds.
Once the match began, Enzo and Cass gained the early advantage, isolating Dawson in their corner. Enzo hit a big running crossbody, but Dash and Dawson still managed to ground him. Dawson hit a single-underhook suplex, bridging it for a two-count.
Dawson followed up with a leg drop and a slingshot suplex for two. Enzo tried to reach Big Cass, but Dash knocked him off the apron. Dawson hit a facebuster on Enzo and Dash tried to pin him, but the referee didn’t see the tag, and didn’t count the pinfall.
Enzo finally responded with a tornado DDT and reached Cass for the hot tag. Cass hit a spinning side slam on Dawson, forcing Dash to make the save. Cass tossed Dash from the ring, but Dawson tackled Cass in his recently injured knee.
Dash trapped Cass in a leglock and Enzo tried to make the save, but Dawson took him out with a clothesline. Cass finally reached the ropes and rolled up Dash for a very close near-fall. Cass hit a big boot and tagged in Enzo, who hit a frog splash.
Before the referee could count to three, Dawson pulled Dash out of the ring. Carmella hit Dawson with a back elbow, but Dawson sent Cass into the ring post. Dawson took Enzo up top and sent him into a codebreaker from Dash to win the match.
Scott’s Thoughts: I probably would have bumped this score up a notch if Enzo and Cass won the match. The finish was less than ideal, and I don’t really see the point of Dash and Dawson as anything more than transitional champs, much like Blake and Murphy before them. The tag team division is my one consistent gripe with NXT, and that continued today.