2/18 WWE NXT in Philadelphia: Finn Balor and Austin Aries vs. Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin, Asuka vs. Eva Marie, Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss for the NXT Women's Championship, The Vaudevillains vs. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady
NXT Live Event
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Tower Theater
Report by Dot Net reader Nick Malfitano
NXT made its live event return in front of yet another red-hot crowd in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Tower Theater, and put on a very solid show. Though I wasn't able to get a ringside ticket on the stage like I did in May due to much bigger demand during the pre-sale last month, I was still able to get a great seat for what would prove to be a night of entertaining action. Beginning the night was NXT ring announcer Dasha Fuentes, who introduced the National Anthem before things got underway.
1. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady defeated The Vaudevillains. Just as last time, Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady were over huge with this Philly crowd, who recited all of the signature catchphrases for "The Realest Guys In The Room" along with them. The Vaudevillains were their opponents, who drew massive boos from the moment they appeared in the entranceway. This match definitely showed the progress Amore and Cassady have made in the ring, as they're getting their tandem offense down to a science. That also led to some great comedy spots, with both teams doing a chicken fight on each other's shoulders and even going underneath the ring at one point to get robes and corner chairs, in order to set up an impromptu "boxing match" between Amore and Aiden English. Funny stuff. Amore and Cassady would take the win with their "Sky's The Limit" rocket launcher finisher.
2. Carmella defeated Peyton Royce. Carmella enjoyed the support of the crowd, while Peyton Royce (in her new "Poison Ivy"-esque persona) was booed throughout. Royce is using new entrance music, which sounds like an instrumental rip-off of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me". Royce used a ground-based offense and a lot of aggression to attempt to neutralize Carmella, but "The Princess of Staten Island" couldn't be kept down. After fighting back strong towards the finish, Carmella put Royce away with her modified figure-four headscissors hold for the tap-out victory.
3. Apollo Crews beat "The Drifter" Elias Samson. Out next was "The Drifter" Elias Samson, and to say that the Philly crowd wanted no part of him would be an understatement. When Samson attempted to play his guitar and sing for the audience, he was greeted with massive, deafening chants of "Shut the f*** up!" and "Hipsters suck!" In stark contrast, Apollo Crews was received very well by the Philly fans, and set about using his agility and power to take the fight to Samson. After a decently long back-and-forth match, Crews would gain the victory with his version of the Blue Thunder Driver and take Samson's guitar to the top turnbuckle for a bit of strumming of his own, which the crowd ate up.
4. Bayley defeated Alexa Bliss to retain the NXT Women's Championship. NXT's resident "bad girl" Alexa Bliss entered the arena to a chorus of boos, while Bayley absolutely got one of the strongest reactions of the night (and several song-based chants directed towards her). Bayley is by far one of the best babyfaces in wrestling today, and this match was a perfect example of why that is. In a sweet nod to her colleagues, Bayley led the crowd in chants of "Yes!" and "10!", even working in a Tye Dillinger-style cartwheel at one point. This was a very well-worked match, which I thought put forth a good case for being Match of the Night. Bliss denied the crowd the Sparkle Splash, but soon fell victim to the Bayley-to-Belly Suplex and the pinfall victory from Bayley.
5. Sami Zayn defeated Alex Riley. Sami Zayn entered to a hero's welcome and a ton of "Ole!" chants, since he had just been injured when NXT came to town last May and did not work those prior Philly shows. Though Alex Riley received seemingly nothing but boos from the crowd, he's in incredible physical condition and was clearly hitting the gym hard during his recent stint on the injured list. Riley tried to use his size and power to overcome Zayn with a methodical and impactful attack, but the former NXT Champion kept rallying back. In the end, Zayn got the win with the Helluva Kick.
6. Asuka beat Eva Marie. Eva Marie's nuclear heat was so loud that it drowned out her entrance music and pre-match promo for me. I couldn't hear anything above the crowd's unabashed hatred for the "Total Divas" star, who did not have Nia Jax to back her up on this evening. Asuka was greeted exceptionally well by the Philly crowd, who responded to everything she did in the ring and showered the match with "Asuka's Gonna Kill You!" chants towards Eva Marie. Not the most technical, finely-tuned outing for the soon-to-be NXT Women's Championship contender Asuka, but that was to be expected given her opponent. Though, Eva Marie got in more offense than I or the rest of the crowd expected. Asuka would take the submission win here, after Eva Marie tapped out to the Asuka Lock.
7. Finn Balor and Austin Aries defeated Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin. Along with NXT Champion Finn Balor returning to in-ring action after his recent ankle injury, was Austin Aries making his in-ring debut for NXT. Both men got a great reaction from the crowd, and their positive reception was equaled by the heat garnered by Baron Corbin, who clearly did not make any new friends since the last time he was here...though Samoa Joe received a near-universal positive reaction from the people. Aries handled the majority of the in-ring work for the babyface team and when Balor did enter the match, he executed a standing double-foot stomp and looked to have re-injured his ankle (but he did appear fine after the match later). The power-based offense of Joe and Corbin did not win out against Balor and Aries, as Balor secured the win for his team with Bloody Sunday on Corbin.
This was a very solid show. Last May's events were more landmark overall and had a "bigger" feel to them, but this was still a great time and showcase night for the NXT roster, who finds itself in a state of transition. I had been hoping to see talent like Dash and Dawson and American Alpha as well, but they were working the other NXT show being held last night in Crystal River, Florida. This crowd was typical Philly and boisterously enthusiastic throughout, as I'm sure they'll continue to be for the next time NXT comes to the Tower Theater.
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