Could it be that the WWE has finally manufactured for itself what it’s lacked since the heyday of WCW: real competition? With all due respect to TNA, Ring of Honor, and other wrestling promotions out there, it sure looked that way on Saturday night, with the Barclays Center packed to capacity in Brooklyn.
The difference, of course, was that all of the money spent there was going to line the WWE coffers as well. That didn’t take away from the spectacle of seeing as many people in the same venue that will take in SummerSlam on Sunday night all there to watch the developmental arm of the WWE. That would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.
And while it might not have been the best NXT card to date, it didn’t disappoint, as it was headlined by two title matches that matched great in-ring action with solid build-ups. The co-feature saw Bayley complete her rise to the top of the women’s ranks — just in time, since most of the other top talent in the division has been called up to the main roster — and the main event featured a Ladder Match pitting the current NXT Champion, Finn Balor, against the man from whom he won the belt, Kevin Owens.
While Balor did his usual extravagant ring entrance, Owens sat in a chair by the announce table with the least impressed look on his face since MM. One or two people threw streamers in just a tiny reminder of what happened before their match in Japan.
The challenger pointed to the belt hanging above the ring and told Balor exactly what he intended to do, though the champ greeted him with a quick dropkick. Balor sent Owens from corner to corner for chops before getting knocked down and hit with a standing senton.
After absorbing blows from Owens, Balor sent him to the outside only to see him come right back to deliver the cannonball. As the fans serenaded Owens with the “Ole” song to remind him of Sami Zayn, he responded by mocking Zayn’s shoulder injury.
The battle moved up the ramp to the ladder, with Owens managing to use it as a weapon and faking out the fans with a mock cannonball up the ladder before simply landing a punch. As they fought out through the crowd, Owens considered a powerbomb on the concrete but got back dropped instead.
Recovering quickly, Owens sent Balor flying over the announce table and used the top of the table as a weapon. The challenger fished under the ring for a second ladder, but that move backfired when Balor jumped off the table to kick it into his face.
Just as Owens looked like he was going to regain his feet, Balor went flying over the ropes with a somersault plancha. For the first time, the champ attempted to set up and climb a ladder, but Owens was up to put a stop to that plan, painfully.
A fight for control of a ladder set up in one corner ended with Owens exploding out for a clothesline. He drove the top of the ladder into Balor’s chest and slammed him on top of it to set up a standing senton on the metal.
Owens looked for a powerbomb on the side of a ladder only to get back dropped onto it instead. Balor set up a ladder and began to climb, but while Owens was able to stop him, he missed a cannonball against the ladder in the corner. The champ hit the Coup de Grace and tried to climb again, but Owens yanked him down right into a powerbomb.
Next it was Owens’ turn to ascend, but he fared no better when Balor tipped the ladder back and bounced him off the turnbuckles and out of the ring. The champ escaped a powerbomb to deliver a running kick to the head, yet he couldn’t avoid a second attempt to powerbomb him on the apron in a painful looking spot.
Once again, Owens was prevented from climbing up to the belt, but this time he was able to deliver a superkick. He warned Balor to stay down before connecting on another superkick and yelling, “You did this!” Setting up a second ladder between the first one and the bottom turnbuckle, Owens tried to suplex the champ onto the metal only to get knocked down and suffer the same fate.
Balor made it to the top of the ladder, but seeing that he was not quite in position, he turned, took a dramatic pause, and administered a Coup de Grace from the ladder’s penultimate step. That left Owens unable to rise from the canvas, allowing Balor to drag the ladder over slightly and ascend to reclaim his gold.
The next NXT special episode will air on October 7.
Triple H tells all of us that the future is now. That looks like a full house at the Barclays Center, and they cheer before a bunch of women come out dressed as iconic New York landmarks. If you guessed this was part of Tyler Breeze’s ring entrance, you win an early prize.
Jushin Liger makes his NXT debut.
Match 1 – Tyler Breeze vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger
It’s occurred to me that Liger is old. Dale Plummer just looked it up and says he is 50. Wrestling his style, he probably feels more like he’s 70. Liger gets some applause from the crowd by mocking Breeze’s corner pose and introduces him to the inverted surfboard. Thunder also has some fun by “borrowing” the selfie stick, but he’s not laughing when he gets hit with the Supermodel Kick. There’s a bit of back and forth, but Liger manages to win it with the Liger Bomb. Props for not making the legend work too long.
Winner … Jushin “Thunder” Liger
There are some familiar faces in the front row: Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and X-Pac. In the locker room, Bayley gets hugs (naturally) from Charlotte and Becky Lynch, and we get to see a quick promo for the coming of Nia Jax.
Match 2 – The Vaudevillains (challengers) vs. Blake and Murphy (champions) – NXT Tag Team Championship Match
Blue Pants got a good pop.
Is someone going to even the odds with Alexa Bliss? Yep, it’s Blue Pants. There’s a “Blue Pants City” chant that rises up, so this development is okay with the Brooklyn fans. That wasn’t guaranteed. Blake and Murphy do a great job slowing the pace and controlling the action for big chunks of time. Aiden English finds himself in all kinds of trouble, and Corey Graves scoffs at the idea that Blue Pants would make any difference. Simon Gotch gets the hot tag and runs off a nice string of offense, but English finds himself right back in trouble … or does he? His high angle senton connects but is good for only two. Naturally, Bliss gets up on the apron, but Blue Pants manages to neutralize her. The Vaudevillains pull off the Whirling Dervish, and we’ve got new tag team champions.
Winner … and new NXT Tag Team Champions … The Vaudevillains
From earlier today we see Neville and Cesaro shaking hands with Finn Balor on his way into the arena. Inside the Barclays Center, super producer Rick Rubin has a pretty awesome seat.
Match 3 – Tye Dillinger vs. Apollo Crews
Man, Crews has about as stereotypical a WWE name as you can have right now. He shows off some impressive flips in the ring, but he ends up getting beaten down for a pretty long stretch after that. The fans don’t seem to be digging Crews all that much, and after a gorilla press and standing moonsault win him the match, it seems more like polite applause from the fans after the bell.
Winner … Apollo Crews
General Manager William Regal announces the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, a tournament that will start in September and run through the next TakeOver in October. Could be interesting.
The four finalists from Tough Enough are in the house. Do we still care about that? A video promo tells us more about Baron Corbin. I’m curious if he can wrestle full matches, because all I’ve seen him do is squash dudes.
Match 4 – Baron Corbin vs. Samoa Joe
Joe’s early flurry of kicks is answered by Corbin’s impressive (said in jest) arsenal of punches and corner charges. Joe gets submission holds applied, and I beat Graves to the punch by saying it might be Corbin’s first time in submissions. They battle to the outside, where Joe hurls Baron into the apron and the retaining wall. Corbin manages to get Joe in a heel hook, but Joe fires back shortly thereafter with an enzuigiri. There’s an extended exchange of punches, forearms and slaps, and Corbin follows a big boot with an exploder suplex for two. Baron’s big slam looks like it might win it, but Joe manages to kick out and apply the Kokina Clutch, and while Corbin won’t tap out, he does pass out, so that’s that.
Winner … Samoa Joe
Stephanie McMahon comes to the ring to talk about how cool it is that more than 15,000 people are watching live at Barclays Center tonight. She also gives props to the idea that the Divas Revolution she asked for began in NXT. Hard to argue that. We see a video detailing what Bayley has been through to get to this point, and while her ring entrance is big, Sasha Banks’ is bigger, as The Boss rides to the ring in an Escalade with her own security detail.
Match 5 – Bayley (challenger) vs. Sasha Banks (champion) – NXT Women’s Championship Match
A fired up challenger hits a springboard elbow with Banks upside down in the corner for a quick two, and she’s able to surprise Sasha with a dropkick on the outside as well. Bayley gets bounced off several ropes after getting knocked off the apron, but after some back and forth action, she has to kick out after taking knees to the gut while strung out across the top turnbuckle. Bayley taps into more of her rage, but she ends up getting her arm guillotined off the bottom rope. Banks decides to focus on Bayley’s previously injured hand, smashing it in-between the steps and the apron. With the ref leaning over to check on Bayley, Banks runs up and flips over him to hit Bayley on the outside, earning the “This is awesome!” chant from the fans. Bayley digs down and rallies, but her attempt at the Bayley to Belly is blocked, and she locks in the Bank Statement. It ends when Bayley makes it to the ropes and reverses it, and now it’s the champ who has to scramble to kick out. Bayley hits the Bayley to Belly, but Sasha kicks out. Bayley tries some kind of high risk move with both of them on the top rope, but Banks knocks her to the mat, jumps on top of her and almost pins her. Up top they go again, and Bayley manages to hit what I can only describe as an inverted Frankensteiner, following with the Bayley to Belly to give us a new champion. Charlotte and Becky Lynch congratulate her, and Sasha pops up, breaking character a bit to thank
Winner … and new NXT Womens Champion … Bayley
Hey, here’s a promo for SummerSlam. Forgot all about that show. Just kidding. Seth Rollins is on hand to watch the action tonight.
Finn Balor is the man in the mist.
Main Event – Kevin Owens (challenger) vs. Finn Balor (champion) – NXT Championship Match
Winner … and still NXT Champion … Finn Balor
Total Event Rating: 8/10
- Nick Tylwalk has been with SLAM! Wrestling since the dawn of time, or at least since before the turn of the century. He spends his days running Bam Smack Pow and overseeing FanSided’s Entertainment efforts, but he’ll always make time to sneak away for some wrestling.