By Zack Zimmerman
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NXT on WWE Network
Taped January 27 in Winter Park, Florida at Full Sail University
The opening video played… Inside the arena, the fans excitedly chanted “NXT” before they were lulled to a hush by “The Drifter’s” music. Graves noted that he was wise to be wearing a scarf in case of a spontaneous blizzard in central Florida. Johnny Gargano was out next.
1. Johnny Gargano vs. Elias Samson. Samson instantly took Gargano to the mat with an armlock, but before long Gargano reversed the hold while making some nice movement. There was a brief separation before Samson closed the gap and put a beatdown on Gargano in the corner. He hit a hard back-elbow to ground Gargano and then did nothing for a while. Garage mounted a comeback and hit a rolling low kick, but he was taken out of mid-air on a slingshot spear attempt by a knee strike. Samson looked to follow up, but Gargano rolled him up deep and scored the surprise pinfall.
Johnny Gargano beat Elias Samson in about 2:20.
Right after the bell, Samson attacked Gargano from behind. He put the boots to Gargano and then dumped him out to ringside. Samson pursued and yelled at Gargano, calling him “nothing,” and then driving him back-first into the ringpost. Samson sent Gargano into the ring apron and then hit a leaping knee strike. The referee tried to talk Samson into backing off but Samson looked to continue his assault.
Suddenly, Apollo Crews ran down and tackled Samson off of Gargano. The two squared off, with the Drifter drifting off to the back rather than confront Crews. The commentators noted that this was Samson’s first loss and it looks like Crews will have more to say going forward. They hyped Asuka vs. Emma in the main event, and Finn Bálor was hyped to be in action against Rich Swann up next… Takeover Dallas promo aired… Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes were thanked for a song that they’re using…
Zim Says: Coincidence that The Drifter losing is the best thing he’s done yet? The guy just hasn’t done a single thing for me yet, but cool to see Gargano picking up a win here similar but different than Ciampa. Is Crews vs. Samson really what either guy needs right now? More importantly, is that what the fans need right now? (Hint: the answer to both is a resounding “No!”)
Back in the arena, Rich Swann danced his way to the ring. NXT Champion Finn Bálor was out next.
2. NXT Champion Finn Bálor vs. Rich Swann in a non-title match. A fragment of the crowd was singing All Night Long in support of Swann, and there was a loud “Swann!” response to a small “Let’s go Finn” chant early. Bálor grounded Swann by the arm in the opening minute, and impressively managed to keep ahold through a kip-up attempt and a monkey flip by Swann. Finn transitioned to a headlock and kept things slow on the mat well past the two-minute mark. Swann got a brief hope spot with a nice running ‘rana before being grounded by the armlock once again moments later.
Swann managed to create some space before connecting on a nice dropkick, superkick, and Frankensteiner. Swann looked to follow up with a dive to ringside, but Bálor cut him off with a hard chop and dumped Swann to ringside. Bálor followed up with a dropkick through the ropes and a running PK from the apron. Back in the ring, Bálor connected with the shotgun dropkick, diving stomp, and Bloody Sunday for the win.
Finn Bálor over Rich Swann in about 5:20.
Post-match, replays aired… Backstage, an interviewer asked Emma what would be different about tonight’s match with Asuka from their last. Emma said unconfidently “a lot.” She said she’s been training extra hard. Dana Brooke took over the interview and said that it would be her out there taking care of things but her injury is preventing it so Emma will handle their business. Emma said that she’ll show that she deserves the shot at Bayley in Dallas and closed by vowing that the “Empress of Tomorrow” won’t make it past today. Dana pretended like she wasn’t going to pat the guy on the head, but did…
Zim Says: Nice little showcase for the champion going into Takeover, but this isn’t the Finn Bálor we’ve seen since his debut in NXT. There have been subtle and not-so-subtle hints at a new attitude from Finn, but I think this is the first time he’s really played heel in NXT. It’ll be interesting to see what else is coming and when. Swann looked good here and I’d assume it’s only a matter of time before he breaks out of this enhancement tier and becomes a featured talent.
Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura at Takeover Dallas was promoted before a video package aired hyping up the signing of Nakamura. They also included a short replay of his first appearance on the big screen from last week…
Back in the arena, Alexa Bliss made her entrance with Blake and Murphy alongside. Her opponent was already waiting in the ring.
3. Alexa Bliss vs. Sarah Dobson. Dobson got the better of Bliss with a quick pin attempt and a dropkick, but she was tripped up face-first into the turnbuckles and Bliss took control from there. Bliss slapped Dobson and stepped all over her before grounding her in an armlock. Bliss hit a series of shoulder thrusts into the corner before Dobson did the Flair flip over the turnbuckles. She hit a kick and then a cross body attempt which resulted in her knee coming right down on Alexa’s face. Dobson was in control and looked for a high-impact move, but Blake and Murphy provided the distraction which allowed Bliss to gain control and hit her flipping splash off the top for the win.
Alexa Bliss beat Mary Dobson in about 4:13.
Backstage, the same reporter (Alex Reyes?) tried to get a word with Samoa Joe but he wanted no part of it… Emma vs. Asuka was hyped for later in the show…
Zim Says: I was super bored with the match. It wasn’t sloppy or remarkably bad, it just went too long at a pace that wasn’t particularly entertaining.
Back in the arena, Bull Dempsey was making his entrance when he was ambushed from behind on the ramp. Joe locked him in the Coquina Clutch until he was incapacitated. Joe then walked to the ring and targeted Danny Burch, who was inexplicably still lingering around the ring during the attack. Joe locked him in the Clutch as well. Joe then yelled into the camera that Finn Bálor’s future holds the exact same fate…
The Revival vs. American Alpha for the NXT Tag Team Titles was hyped for Takeover Dallas before a video package aired building up American Alpha. They admitted that they caught on faster than even they thought they would, but they attributed it to their bond in an amateur wrestling background and the type of competitors that the sport made them. They both took some time to discuss their backgrounds, including coming up short in the NCAAs (Jordan) and the Olympics (Gable)… Asuka was shown preparing backstage and was hyped up next… A vignette aired featuring funky dance music and the phrase “No way Jose” repeated over and over…
Zim Says: Hispanic Adam Rose? Anyways, short, sweet, effective segment for Joe. Excellent character piece on the hottest tag team in the company right now.
Apollo Crews vs. Alex Riley was hyped for next week, as was Samoa Joe vs. Bull Dempsey…
Back in the arena, Emma made her entrance flanked by Dana Brooke. Asuka was out next. Asuka vs. Bayley for the NXT Women’s Championship at Takeover Dallas was hyped and Graves called it Bayley’s greatest threat to date.
4. Asuka vs. Emma (w/ Dana Brooke). Asuka looked for her spinning KO kick early, but Emma wearily avoided it. Emma briefly got the better of Asuka, but she was promptly tripped up and Asuka took ahold of a headlock. Asuka mocked Emma before catching her in the flying cross armbar and forcing Emma to scramble to the ropes. Emma looked for sanctuary out on the apron, but Asuka sent her flying with a running hip attack. [C]
Back in the ring, Asuka maintained a hammerlock despite Emma’s attempts to roll out. Asuka caught her in a kneebar before transitioning into the ankle lock, but Emma managed to send Asuka tumbling out to ringside and took control upon her re-entry. Emma began to work the heat on Asuka with her aggressive offense. Emma sank rear choke and maintained control with a handful of hair and a yank to the mat when Asuka tried to fight back.
There was an awkward spot where Emma looked like she wanted to whip Asuka hard into the corner, but Asuka didn’t sell it like that. Emma hung Asuka up in the tree of woe and took advantage from that position. She then distracted the ref which allowed for Dana to take advantage from ringside before Emma charged and hit her low running crossbody in the corner for a two-count. The crowd rallied for Asuka and before long, she caught Emma with a flying hip attack. Asuka fired up with a series of stiff kicks and a spinning backfist, and followed up with a sliding hip attack when Emma tried to dropkick her.
Emma got a near-fall on a roll-up with her feet on the ropes, but the ref caught her and stopped the count. Emma ducked Asuka’s kick, but she couldn’t avoid the German suplex, which Asuka followed up with a sliding kick. She applied the Asuka lock and dragged Emma down to the mat for the submission.
Asuka defeated Emma in about 12:15.
Replays aired and the commentators questioned if an Asuka Lock in Dallas would being a new champion into the picture. The show closed with Asuka confidently holding the ring…
Zim Says: Nice match from the ladies. It wasn’t ultimately memorable, but both worked hard and they entertained for the 12 minutes they got without feeling out of place in the main event slot whatsoever. It sucks that an act as good as new Emma is little more than fodder for Asuka at this point, but it’s hard to complain when Asuka is as talented as she is and the matches they put on are of the quality that they are.
Overall, this show had more good than bad, but there were multiple segments throughout where I found myself a bit bored and thats atypical for me while watching NXT. The build for Takeover Dallas hasn’t been what I would’ve hoped for, as the show takes place next Friday and things just don’t feel like they’ve built to their peak. I think the marquee value will more than make up it, but I can’t help feel like we didn’t get as much direct storytelling and interaction between the Takeover opponents as I would’ve liked to see. We’ll see how much they can cram in next week before Takeover on Friday the 1st.
Be sure to check back for the DotNet NXT Audio Recap and Darren Gutteridge’s NXT Hitlist.
Throw comments, questions, criticisms, or corrections @DotNetZim or DotNetZim@gmail.com; always happy to discuss.