By John Moore
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Kassius Ohno: Why didn’t we get a war like this when Andrade Almas faced Drew McIntyre a few weeks ago? Anyway, this was a really fun match, as expected. Both men are great strikers with good agility. One thing I like in Kassius Ohno’s current run in NXT is his usage of more strikes and less rest holds as I remember his last NXT run had matches that would drag a bit. Just like Drew McIntyre, Ohno is putting on some good battles in the ring that are compelling no matter who the opponent is. Ohno even got a compelling match out of The Drifter. As for Andrade, I still want NXT to give the guy the spotlight that his immense talent deserves. Maybe we can go back to that amazing Almas vs. Lorcan feud? At least I have confidence that there is some effort to protect him because the commentators were laying it on really thick that Almas is only losing matches due to his carelessness, nightlife, and lack of current focus. They are laying it on real thick as if Tom Phillips is being specifically produced to protect Andrade Almas.
Hideo Itami and Bobby Roode: Solid final hype for the presumed main event of NXT Takeover: Chicago. Itami continues to show off the subtle changes he made to his character delivery. He’s calm, cool, collective, and intense. In his first run in NXT, he played to the crowd a bit more than he should and seemed too excited in the ring. Now he’s just a kickass dude who kicks ass, even kicked the asses of the independent security force. Roode still exhibits that he might be the Earth-2 doppelganger of Triple H with the way he both performs in the ring and delivers promos. What’s good is those promos did draw heat as long as there was some quick wit involved and the wit here included mocking Itami for spending most of his time in NXT on injured reserve. Meanwhile, we may have already seen the payoff to this feud with Itami delivering a second GTS to Roode, which means Roode will probably find a way to escape NXT Takeover: Chicago with his title. Hopefully, the creative forces figure out a way to protect the hell out of Itami because he is finally carrying himself like a champion. NXT’s main event picture suddenly looks stacked with Itami, Strong, Galloway, Roode, and Ohno. Hell, I’d plug Andrade “Cien” Almas in that top tier if he didn’t lose so damn much.
Drew McIntyre vs. Sean Maluta: Yet another squash match for McIntyre, but every single one of his squash wins have been solid wars with his opponents. The most one sided one was the Andrade Almas match, but it was still fun while it lasted. Ever since Drew broke away from 3MB and was released, he turned it up on the independent scene and even stood tall as the flagbearer babyface of TNA. With Shinsuke Nakamura gone, McIntyre has the chops to become an even better flagbearer for NXT than Shinsuke was (given that Shinsuke was the top star in a down time in NXT). Even though Wesley Blake vs. McIntyre looks “meh” on paper, several years worth of Drew Galloway matches prove that the guy can have an entertaining match with anyone, so I’m looking forward to the continual squashes, which also allow the other top babyfaces to get their shots against Roode. Sean Maluta continues to do a good job as the babyface enhancement wrestler.
Asuka: This was billed as an interview, but just like last week with Nikki Cross it ended up being a non-interview due to lack of cooperation from the interviewee. It was perfect in getting over Asuka as an overconfident snob. The best part of adding to this snobby character was Asuka being fake happy to take pictures and hype up the fans outside of Full Sail, only to let out an exhausted “ugh!” when out of their sight when she rolled her eyes at the fans.
Lacy Evans vs. Sonya Deville: This was an interesting match to analyze in that in the first minute or two of the match it was a Hit. The former Daria Barrinato has a good look and MMA persona that plays into her real life status as a professional MMA fighter. The match got below average when Sonya settled in on the wrestling and also allowed Evans to get some offense in. Maybe, I have different expectations for the Deville character, but I felt like it should be a one sided squash on Deville’s end rather than an even match, akin to the Alistair Black squashes. I hope Lacy’s 1920s gimmick doesn’t stay because I don’t see it catching on, especially with Tom Phillips preferring to focus on her military background. Sonya just needs to squash people. I think she should be the new Michael Tarver, the FCW wrestler/Nexus member whose boxer gimmick was that he could beat people in 1.9 seconds. She can also tone down the shadow boxing, which seems forced.