For those who are unfamiliar with my writing, these matches will be graded from positive to negative using the terms Classic, Awesome, Solid, and Poor
TM61 vs. Tony Nese & Ariaya Davari
The first bout saw the fast rising Australian team TM61 taking on two of the competitors from the Cruiserweight Classic, Tony Nese and Ariaya Davari. The crowd at Full Sail seem to have taken to TM61 and it appears that they will be poised to take over the moniker of top babyface tag team in NXT once Ciampa and Gargano split for RAW in the coming weeks. The offense was stiff and fast paced from the very start with Tony Nese going move for move with Shane Thorn in the early moments of the contest. Tony Nese displays an impressive combination of raw power, muscle mass and agility that isn’t often seen with wrestlers of his size. Nese and Thorn traded dives over the top rope onto each of their partners that further showcased the amazing athleticism of Tony Nese and was probably the best constructed spot of the match. Nese and Davari did well in using old school heel tag-team psychology that saw them isolating Shane Thorn from his partner for a few solid minutes in the middle of the match. Although he may not have been as technically sound as the other three men in the ring, Ariya Davari displayed a natural ability to come across as a heel and get heat on himself with sneaky and opportunitstic offense. The matches ending was particularly entertaining with each team seemingly have done enough damage to put away their opponents, only to have each pin attempt broken up by their respective tag partner. The second near fall being a very well done Superkick-Powerslam-Frog Splash combination from Nese & Davari. Soon after, the back and forth action was brought to an end with Thunder Valley from TM61. Above average television bouts like this serve as a reminder of how seriously NXT treats their tag team division. It also served as a vessel for Tony Nese and Ariya Davari to begin establishing a connection with the Full Sail crowd, whom I am sure were impressed with their performance.
TM61 wins via pinfall
Overall Rating: Awesome
The next segment was a sit-down interview Tom Phillips conducted with Asuka. Even with very limited English speaking abilities, Asuka was able to allow her natural charisma to be prevalent in all of her responses to Tom Phillip’s questions. It served well in getting Asuka over even more as a woman who could honestly care less what kind of opponent is put in front of her, as long as she gets to hurt them.
After a Connor’s Cure video package, we get a backstage interview segment with Steve Cutler who is facing NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura in the night’s main event. We saw Steve win last week and got a little background on the former Marine from New Jersey. It’s surprising to see him facing the champ after only one recent NXT television appearance, so they must have some plans for this guy. The promo was pretty good overall with Cutler coming across as very comfortable in front of the camera and on the mic.
Leah Von vs. Ember Moon
The next contest of the night saw Ember Moon making her debut at Full Sail. With a crowd that sounded very excited to see her work, Moon made quick work of Leah Von. In the process Moon showed off her unique brand of offense that seems heavily influenced by equal parts lucha libre and strong style. Moon picked up the dominant win after her signature diving corkscrew stunner, which has to be one of the most spectacular finishers being used in wrestling today. While the match may have been short, Ember Moon hit all of her offense near flawlessly and put on a very entertaining contest with the three minutes she had.
Ember Moon wins via pinfall
Overall Rating: Solid
A backstage interview with No Way Jose is our next segment. The Dominican brawler cuts a pretty basic, yet effective enough promo about his confrontation with Bobby Roode the previous week. A video package of the Revival plays next and then immediately cuts to a trainer working on Tomasso Ciampa. We see him and his partner Johnny Gargano talk about their tag match at the CWC finale next week. Ciampa makes it clear his sights are still set on the Revival. This was a really quick and effective way of having two separate angles get some airtime without having the talents involved in the ring this week.
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Austin Aries
It was nice to see that Andrade Almas had finally stopped wearing that god-awful entrance attire they kept sending him out in. It has been difficult to tell whether he is coming out to wrestle, or strip for a bachelorette party. The jeers he received as he made his way to the ring were pretty hard to ignore. He hasn’t been as big of a player as many thought he would be upon his debut and hasn’t been able to get the NXT faithful to invest in him yet. The match itself featured good solid in ring work from both guys, with Aries continuing to play the role of a crafty heel to perfection. The contrast in styles made for some interesting sequences of wrestling, as Aries would answer Almas’ aerial assault with his signature brand of stiff landing strikes. The ending of the match would see a cool spot with Aries countering a springboard hurricanrana with a power bomb and going directly into the Last Chancery for the submission win. NXT creative are going to have to try to find a direction for Andrade Almas soon before the NXT crowd starts to really turn on him. As of right now he doesn’t seem to have any definite direction with the company.
Austin Aries wins via submission
Overall Rating: Solid
Another one of those “Sanity” promos plays after we get back from a break. There hasn’t been much else explained about these so it’s anybody’s guess as to who or what there for. My guess is they are for the re-debut of Eric Young
Steve Cutler vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Samoa Joe is sitting at the commentary table as Steve Cutler makes his entrance for the night’s main event. His body language and attitude seem a bit off from his normal monster heel persona. While Shinsuke and Cutler locked up in the bouts opening minutes, Joe humbly answered all the questions asked to him about his match at TakeOver Brooklyn II and even referred to Shinsuke as “the guy” now. The match was over before it started with Cutler getting in very little offense and eventually falling victim to KINSHASAAAAAA!!!!!! Damn you Corey Graves, I can’t never say or type that without looking like an ass. Once the match was over a seemingly dejected and broken Samoa Joe quietly left the announce table and walked to the back without causing any of his normal destruction. Perhaps the beginning stages of a Samoa Joe face turn?
Shinsuke Nakamura wins via pinfall
Overall Rating: Solid
NXT came out of the gates strong this week with an action packed tag match that seemed to only be a taste of what was to come for the rest of the show. While the rest of the show wasn’t bad by any means, it just couldn’t quite keep the pace set by the first bout of the show. The flow from segment to segment was great however. None of the non-wrestling segments wore out their welcome and did well to move forward the plots of several angles, even if that forward motion was ever so slight. I was a little surprised that we didn’t get at least a video package from the Authors of Pain, who haven’t gone on to do very much since their shocking debut at TakeOver: The End. The same goes for Tye Dillinger, who I feel is being criminally under used for over he is with the NXT fans. Based on what we’ve all seen from Ember Moon it’s a good bet she is next up for Asuka, and that is gonna be awesome. The match between Aries and Almas could have been something really spectacular, but Almas relied heavily upon spots that we have already seen him do in his other higher profile bouts. The connection he lacks with the NXT fans didn’t help his cause either. Having a squash match as your main event is never going to be the most popular decision, but the strange behavior of Samoa Joe added a level of intrigue that had us looking forward into the next week of programming, instead of being disappointed by what was just watched.
Overall Rating: Solid