Kevin Owens retains the NXT Championship in a No Contest against Sami Zayn; Samoa Joe targets Owens
Match Grade: A-
Owens entered wearing John Cena’s “The Champ Is Here” US Title shirt. What a delightful piece of heelishness. As soon as the bell rang, Owens, rolled out of the ring and walked around for awhile. Zayn followed him, landing several stiff shots. Owens tried for a pop-up powerbomb onto the floor, but Zayn reversed it into a back bodydrop.
Zayn drove Owens head-first into the ring steps, then slammed his ribs into the opposite set of steps. Zayn sent Owens flying over the guardrail and into the crowd. Owens tried to powerbomb Zayn onto the concrete floor, but Zayn grabbed the rail attached to the arena stairs.
Zayn tossed Owens back over the guardrail and into the ring, where he planted him with a blue thunderbomb for a near-fall. Zayn followed up with a half-nelson suplex for another two-count. Zayn tried for a tornado DDT, but Owens countered into a backbreaker.
Owens came up empty on a cannonball, and Zayn hit an exploder suplex into the turnbuckles. Zayn came up empty on a Helluva Kick, as Owens rolled onto the floor. Zayn hit an exploder on the floor, but Owens fought back with a pop-up powerbomb onto the ring apron.
Several officials had to pull Owens off of Zayn so they could check on his health, but Owens kept returning to take more shots at the prone Zayn. Owens dragged Zayn back into the ring, as referees pleaded with him to stop. Finally, William Regal entered the ring, berating Owens. Owens refused to back off, so Regal locked him in a submission hold.
Owens headbutted Regal and grabbed a chair, approaching Zayn. Suddenly, Samoa Joe appeared and entered the ring, as a shocked look came over Owens’ face. Joe and Owens stared each other down, until Owens retreated back up the entrance ramp. Owens reappeared shortly thereafter, teasing a confrontation with Joe before saying “not tonight. I did what I had to do.”
Scott’s Thoughts: This was an exciting way to debut Joe, though it creates another huge logjam in the NXT title picture. With this match being a draw, Zayn should be entitled to another rematch. Finn Balor became the new No. 1 Contender earlier in the show, and now Joe is targeting Owens. Hell, could we even see Regal wrestle a one-off match against Owens, much like he did with Cesaro? I’ll be interested to see how NXT books their way through this crowded field of indie legends at the top of the card.
The match itself was very good, and I enjoyed the pacing and psychology very much. It didn’t feel like an all-time great match to me (which would have been a pretty excessive expectation, but with these two, you never know), but it was still a highly enjoyable main event.
Sasha Banks def. Becky Lynch by submission to retain the NXT Women’s Championship
Match Grade: A-
Lynch entered with a very cool new steampunk-inspired look, complemented with bright orange hair reminiscent of Leeloo from “The Fifth Element” (as Corey Graves astutely pointed out). The two started the match by exchanging a series of pinning maneuvers, until Becky caught Sasha with a running drop toehold. Becky followed up with two arm drags and an RVD-esque springboard thrust kick.
Sasha fought back, knocking Becky off the ring apron. Becky rolled Sasha up in a small package for two, but Sasha hit a neckbreaker for a near-fall of her own. Sasha hit a lungblower, transitioning it into a straitjacket. Sasha tried to set up Becky for her double-knee to the gut, but Becky wouldn’t let her place her into position.
Sasha improvised, hitting a double-knee to Becky’s left arm, before locking in an armbar. Sasha torqued Becky’s arm backward in a legitimately painful-looking manner, before locking in another armbar variant. Becky tried to reverse the armbar into a pinning maneuver, but Sasha rolled back over at the one-count, with the hold intact.
Becky rolled Sasha over again, this time picking up her dead weight and hoisting Sasha above her head, flipping her over and delivering a truly impressive vertical side suplex. Becky followed up with a dropkick and climbed up top, delivering a missile dropkick for a near-fall. Sasha responded by hitting consecutive running double-knees to the face in the corner, but Becky kicked out.
Sasha transitioned a headscissor into another armbar, but Becky countered by tossing Sasha out of the ring. Becky now attacked the left arm of Sasha, driving it into the ring post. Back in the ring, Becky hit a single-underhook overhead suplex, following up with a T-bone suplex for a near-fall.
Becky hit a snap suplex, rolling over Sasha and locking in an armbar. Sasha finally reached the ropes to break the hold, dumping Becky over the top and hitting a diving crossbody between the ropes. Becky caught her with her one good arm, and drove her left shoulder into the ring steps.
Becky got Sasha back in the ring and climbed up top. Sasha caught her, hitting an armbreaker from the top rope, which she transitioned into the Bank Statement. Becky tapped out, allowing Sasha to retain the title. After the match, Becky stayed behind in the ring for a long time, as the crowd gave her a huge ovation, even trying to sing Becky’s not-that-singable theme music.
Scott’s Thoughts: An expectedly top-notch match between two women with lots of experience working together. Also, holy crap, Becky is strong. Her babyface persona has given her the opportunity to show off more of her moveset, and she’s been nothing but impressive. The decision to keep the belt on Sasha was not unexpected, nor is it unwelcome. Becky’s time will come.
Finn Balor def. Tyler Breeze by pinfall to become the No. 1 Contender to the NXT Championship
Match Grade: B+
Breeze made a tremendous entrance, wearing a completely ridiculous cape. He was accompanied by four women dressed in clothing that looked like it came straight from Breeze’s entrance, holding up phones for him to admire himself in. Meanwhile, a quick backstage angle made it appear that Kevin Owens had injured Hideo Itami in the parking lot before the show, kayfabe eliminating Hideo from the match.
Balor’s entrance started with some creepy slowed-down backwards talking, and Finn entered, dressed as some sort of futuristic pterodactyl. That’s the best way I can describe it. It was awesome. Once he took his bat-wings off, it was revealed that he had painted a twisted yellow eyeball popping out of his back. Pretty great.
The match began with a deliberate pace, as Breeze kept Finn from getting anything going. Finn landed a dropkick, but Breeze answered with a springboard dropkick and a neckbreaker for two. Breeze continued to control the pace until Finn rolled through a sunset flip and hit a basement dropkick.
Finn hit Breeze with another dropkick, sending him from the ring. Finn followed up off the ring apron with a double footstomp to Breeze’s back. Back in the ring, Finn hit a Sling Blade, but Breeze earned a near-fall with a Supermodel Kick.
Breeze started to remove the turnbuckle cover, but thought better of it and hit Finn with a series of strikes instead. Breeze came up empty on a Beauty Shot, but rolled Finn up for two. Breeze drove Finn into the now-exposed turnbuckle, then hit a Beauty Shot. Somehow, Finn managed to kick out just before the three-count.
The fight spilled out onto the entrance ramp, where Finn knocked Breeze down. Finn climbed up on a lighting panel behind the stage, taking out Breeze on the entrance ramp with a flying crossbody. Finn got Breeze back in the ring, hitting a dropkick into the corner.
Finn climbed up top and nailed Breeze with Coup de Grace to polish off Breeze and become the new No. 1 Contender to the NXT Championship.
Scott’s Thoughts: A very entertaining, well-paced match to start off the show. Finn kicking out of Breeze’s well-protected finisher was a very convincing near-fall, especially coming immediately after the exposed turnbuckle spot. These two rarely fail to live up to expectations.
Blake and Murphy def. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady (w/ Carmella) by pinfall to retain the NXT Tag Team Championships
Match Grade: B-
Blake and Murphy entered to new music that is at least slightly less obnoxious than their old theme, yet is still pretty much dubstep. Enzo hit a running crossbody to gain the early advantage on Blake, following up with a dropkick for a near-fall. Murphy tagged in and tried for a tornado DDT on Cass, who simply tossed Murphy across the ring.
Enzo tagged back in, hitting a top-rope crossbody for two. Murphy took advantage of a quick Blake distraction to hit a clothesline, earning a near-fall. Blake and Murphy hit a powerbomb/codebreaker combo, but Enzo managed to kick out.
Murphy took Enzo up top, but Enzo fought him off and hit a leaping tornado DDT from the second rope. Enzo made the hot tag to Cass, who planted Blake and Murphy with big boots. Cass hit the Empire Elbow on Blake, forcing Murphy to make the save.
Cass took out Murphy with a clothesline, following up with a spinning side slam on Blake. Cass tagged Enzo in and tried to take him up top for the assisted splash, but Alexa Bliss suddenly attacked Carmella at ringside. Murphy used the distraction to hit a superkick on Cass, as Bliss toppled Enzo from the top rope. Blake covered Enzo to retain the titles.
Scott’s Thoughts: I liked how this match didn’t follow the same “Enzo gets beat down for a few minutes while Cass wait for the hot tag” formula that so many of Enzo and Cass’ matches have. There was a brief segment of that, but not too much. Enzo did more actual wrestling than he usually does, and he looked good doing it. I especially liked the tornado DDT.
That finish though…yuck. The last thing anyone wants is for more Blake and Murphy as champs, because they are still not even remotely over. I completely disagree with this booking decision.
Baron Corbin def. Rhyno by pinfall
Match Grade: C+
Early in the match, Rhyno kicked Corbin, who stumbled backwards and got legitimately caught up in the ropes in an awkward spot. Rhyno clotheslined him over the top to get Corbin to the floor, but Corbin managed to knock Rhyno down when he tried to go up top.
Corbin drove Rhyno into the ring apron, then got him back in the ring. Corbin unloaded on Rhyno in the corner, but Rhyno responded with shoulder tackles and a spinebuster for two. Rhyno followed up with a belly-to-belly suplex, but Corbin countered a Gore with a clothesline. Corbin connected with End of Days for the pinfall.
Scott’s Thoughts: Other than the one early awkward rope spot, this was a pretty enjoyable undercard hoss fight.
Charlotte and Bayley def. Emma and Dana Brooke by pinfall
Match Grade: C
Bayley and Charlotte exchanged early tags, wearing Dana down. Emma managed to tag in and deliberately worked Bayley over, with help from Dana. Emma hit an Emmamite Sandwich on Bayley for a near-fall, then mockingly hugged her, before knocking her down again.
Bayley responded with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex on Emma, tagging in Charlotte, who hit a neckbreaker and a big boot on Dana. Charlotte followed up with a double DDT on both Emma and Dana, covering Emma for a near-fall. Emma responded with a top-rope crossbody, which Charlotte rolled through into a figure-four.
Dana tried to break it up, but Bayley hit her with a belly-to-Bayley, leaving Charlotte alone with Emma. Charlotte planted Emma with Natural Selection to finish the match.
Scott’s Thoughts: A pretty smooth, but rather unexciting tag match, and one that again raised the question of what exactly to do with Charlotte in NXT, if she’s not going to be called up to the main roster. We’ve been expecting her imminent call-up for about six months now, but she’s still just kind of hanging around down in NXT, picking up wins in relatively meaningless matches like this one.