by Shanna Harris (@AbsoluteSmark)
Wrestling friends! What a night. I have returned to write some sentences about the very first streamed WWE Network PPV, NXT ArRIVAL.
Before I start, I would like to say that this review is not about the stream issues with the Network last night. If I wanted to write about streams and all its complications, well, that would be very boring.
However, this write up is all about the goodness from Thursday’s first ever NXT PPV. Which, if you saw what I saw, was a tremendous show. Most of the folks who had their head on straight stepped up to the plate and delivered some above the board wrestling. Those who did not were exposed for what they are. NXT was the most watched wrestling program on Thursday for a damn good reason.
I have to admit, I was very nervous about what we were in for, quality wise. NXT is not full of “professional” wrestlers. These men and women, for all intents and purposes, are still “minors” with no proven PPV experience.
Well, you won’t hear that talk out of me anymore. If you and I were watching the same show with the same set of eyeballs, you and I witnessed some cannot miss televised wrestling. From the promos, elaborate stage, to all the other little things you loved about this show, NXT put itself on a new level last night. For a show about the minor leagues of WWE, this show felt larger than life.
But, as always, it’s my job to make you want to see this show. So let’s quit talking and get to the goodness.
Match 1: Antonio Cesaro vs Sami Zayn
I was surprised that this was the show opener, but I was not surprised this was the show opener. This was Sami Zayn’s first run in the sun, and oh boy did him and Antonio Cesaro deliver some compelling wrestling. This match was incredible. So many false finishes, so much emotion, SO MUCH WRESTLING. Actual wrestling that made sense and made you cry or frown.
If you haven’t been watching the show and need a quick recap, I’ll give it to you. Cesaro is a cocky jerk here at NXT, and one of the best things he did last year was toss Sami Zayn in the air and uppercut his head off in a 2 out of 3 falls match in 2013. That match still ranks as one of the best wrestling matches I’ve seen in WWE ever. This match is a rematch of that match. Antonio was looking to beat Zayn with authority, and Zayn was looking to beat Cesaro to prove that he’s can hang. It’s a battle of wrestling pride, but with two participants who could wrestle a plastic bag and make it look like a champion.
Now. This match. It was many things. Intense. Filled with heart. Violent. Inspirational. Exciting . Antonio and Zayn took what they did last year and molded this rematch into a beautiful clay pot of wrestling perfection. This match, with no stipulations or extras, stole the show before it even started, and it did so in a different way than The Shield vs The Wyatt’s did at Elimination Chamber. (another match that you MUST SEE!)
At the end of this performance from these men, everyone watching this show knows the name Sami Zayn. And they absolutely should. Cesaro and Zayn are magic together, and I’m sure the wrestlers watching this match on the big screen were nervous about having to follow this.
If you want me to star this match, I would give it 5 out of 5. If you want to read me saying that you should catch this match immediately, there you go. No matter how you slice it, this match needs to be analyzed by scientists.
See it soon.
Lastly, the post match show of respect was a much needed break from the chest beating idiocy we see in the main roster. A poignant and beautiful way to end this series.
Move of the match: Sami Zayn diving through the gaps in the ring post, then being uppercut to death by Cesaro.
Winner: Antonio Cesaro
Match 2: Mojo Rawley vs CJ Parker
I felt very sorry for these two considering they had to follow such an emotional first match, but hey. You work with what you’re dealt with.
Unfortunately for all of us, new NXT viewers were treated to CJ Parker, who is consistently the worst part of NXT. Mojo Rawley has been wrestling for less than a year, and isn’t exactly what I would call an exciting talent.
Nevertheless, these two men managed not to make too much of an embarrassment of themselves, and I’m grateful for that. This night didn’t need their hiccups.
Was this something you need to see? Not particularly. But if you want some time between wrestling to pay some bills or use the bathroom…..
Move of the match: n/a
Winner: Mojo Rawley
Match 3: The Ascension vs. MYSTERY OPPONENTS
NXT Tag Team Championship match
A lot of what happened in this match didn’t resonate with me. A big one is the change in environment with The Ascension. Before they were spooky, mysterious and threatening (in a way). Now, with this music and no weird blue lights and black contacts, they come off as angsty teens writing dark poems in diaries.
One of the more watchable aspects of The Ascension WAS the gimmick with the blue lights. Now, as a long time watcher of this show, I can no longer make heads or tails of what they are. They are tall men outfitted with mason symbol aprons . This confuses me.
Another thing that’s wrong with The Ascension is the lack of a tag team division. This was exposed in all it’s glory last night when NXT had to dig up Too Cool (Brian Christopher and Scotty 2 Hotty) to wrestle these men. THEY HAD NO OTHER TEAMS TO WRESTLE THE ASCENSION. That needs to be screamed in capitol letters because I can’t imagine any reason for Too Cool to be there when you could literally throw two jobbers together and have them wrestle.
Was the match memorable? Not particularly. For a show whose goal was to put the spotlight on up and coming talent, I left it not wanting to see anything with The Ascension ever again. And I’ve seen them before. Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but I’m tired of having an tag team division that lacks direction. It makes no sense to have two giant gold tag team belts and stick them on a team that does nothing.
Please, NXT, fix this.
Move of the match: The Fall of Garbag….I mean, The Fall of Man. I’ve been hanging out with a certain villan too much.
Winner: The Ascension
Match 3: Paige (c) vs. Emma
NXT Women’s Championship match
I’m ignoring the fact that Stephanie McMahon came out before this match and tried to show up Paige and Emma.
So, besides that, what can I say about this? It was everything I wanted and more. Emma and Paige put on quite a compelling performance. You knew when Paige and Emma started glaring at each other and slapping each other real hard that things were going to get serious in a hurry. And it did.
What followed from this point was the high point of WWE women’s wrestling. This is the best women’s match that I’ve seen in WWE in at least 2 years. I saw a lot of people on my timeline wondering why Emma and Paige aren’t doing this match on the main roster. Which is a very good question that requires much lengthier paragraphs to get into.
All I know is when I saw submission holds being placed and women with contorted faces screaming for mercy and not worried about looking cute or if makeup was being smudged, I looked up at the sky and thanked the lord that Paige and Emma stepped up. Because they did.
The moment Emma pulled off a sitting powerbomb, I very nearly lost consciousness and the ability to breathe. THIS is the Emma that I love watching. THIS is the Paige that is so compelling. I loved every minute of this match and would’ve been happy with half an hour of this if we could get it.
I think Paige, Emma, and Alicia Fox could do some damage on the main roster. Combine them with Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Summer Rae, and the Bella Twins and Eva Marie will be irrelevant by this time next year. NXT’s women are strong WRESTLERS and engaging performers. A big difference to the women on the main roster. You can guarantee that Emma and Paige’s time in the sun will not be so easily forgotten by women’s wrestling fans. We need more matches like this on the main roster, and we need this now.
For all the people who want to see competent female wrestling, look no further than NXT. NXT will give you the women’s wrestling you need without ridiculous romance angles or forced pairings.
Thank you, NXT, for giving us women’s wrestling without bullshit.
Move of the match: Emma’s seated powerbomb that earned a “Better than Batista” chant and (or?) Paige’s corner elbows to Emma’s head.
Match 4: Xavier Woods vs. Tyler Breeze
So. I was sitting on my couch looking at Twitter when Xavier came out. No attention paid, kept looking at Twitter. The second I heard Tyler’s music I flinched, shouted BREEZE, and paid strict attention to his entrance and overall fabulousness.
Tyler Breeze, despite what you saw last night, has an incredibly bright future in professional wrestling. He’s got it all. Wrestling ability in droves and lots of crowd response. Tyler Breeze makes wrestling look like walking. I’ve said it before in these reports, but I’ll say it again. Within 3 seconds of spying Tyler Breeze in his debut, I was hooked on him forever. He’s one of the main reasons I continue to watch the show each week. He is that good.
This week didn’t do much justice for his in-ring talent, but I would like to ask (and possibly beg) you to keep your eyes on Tyler Breeze for the long term. He’s going places fast and you don’t want to miss what he’ll do next.
Unfortunately, before Xavier and Tyler could grapple, they were interrupted.
Post (during?) match shenanigan’s saw Alexander Rusev (and Lana!) come out and make orange juice out of Tyler and Xavier. Whatever.
Move of the match: N/A
Match 5: Bo Dallas (c) vs. Adrian Neville
Ladder match for the NXT Championship
I have a very complicated relationship with this match. I didn’t hate it. Quite the opposite, actually. For where these two men are in their careers, they put on a good ladder match. Especially when you consider that this is Adrian’s first match of this type.
However, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. Perhaps because this match lacked the batshit ladder spots that we normally see. Perhaps it’s not a good thing that I’m expecting folks to kill themselves in these types of matches in order for me to be entertained. Either way, when you hear ladder match, you expect craziness. I felt like we got a subdued kind of crazy during this match.
Now, as most people who’ve been reading my reports regularly know, I am a BO-Liever. My Bo card is in my wallet. Love the guy unapologetically. However, I knew going in that Bo’s time as champion was finished. In my opinion, it’s beyond time for him to move up. I think in about a month or so he will be up on Raw or Smackdown. I’m looking forward to it.
Neville still has something to prove now that he’s champion. He’s not the best talker in the world, but his wrestling is as close to perfect as you can get. He is the definition of high flyer and is one of the best in-ring movers on NXT. He busts out backflips out of nowhere, and is a consistent in ring performer. If anybody needed a championship, it’s him. It’s now up to Neville to take this opportunity and move it to the next level of greatness. I’m incredibly proud of have witnessed this passing of the torch, and I think with some work, Neville can do great things. He has all the tools. Time will tell if this becomes a reality.
All in all, this may not be the greatest ladder match of all time, but for the level these two are at, they did a fine job. I’m not offended at all by what they did in this match, and hey, for all your Bo haters out there, NO MORE BO! Rejoice!
Move of the match: Adrian Neville climbing to the top rope and leaping from there to the ladder.
Winner (and new NXT Champion): Adrian Neville
Shanna says: In closing, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for those included on this show. I’m not sure if NXT will have another PPV like this, but I wouldn’t be against it if it happened again. The benefits to shows like this outweigh the negatives, in my opinion. This is a great opportunity for those close to moving up to the main roster to get some big show experience. After this show, there can be no doubt that some of these men and women will be on their way to Raw and Smackdown sooner than soon.
Despite stream issues and other hang ups, I was very satistified with ArRIVAL. I had to think very hard to find something wrong with this show, and like I said earlier, there are matches on this show that you cannot miss. Dare I say, in some aspects, that NXT showed up Raw and Smackdown? I know some of the main roster guys should take a close look at this show, that’s for sure.
+5 stars, guys. If you haven’t seen ArRIVAL, watch this show and discover the magic of NXT. It will make you believe in wrestling again.