Time for another irregular catch-up on NXT, aka “I just wanted to see the two Joe/Nakamura matches”
Starting with NXT 367, from December 7th, and we have DIY celebrating in the crowd, cue “you deserve it” chants. That’s old now, right? Quickly interrupted by Authors of Pain, with Paul Ellering giving a spooky promo that threatened to lead to a title match, except the Revival came out, with the crowd singing their song. Revival bragged that the reason AOP won Dusty classic was b/c they forfeited their match. AOP stalk down the Revival, tower over them, then shove them down with ease. Revival leave, and Ellering outlines AOP as next contenders.
Percy Watson’s back as a colour commentator for NXT. I remember watching him in the original NXT, with the goofy glasses. The act didn’t work, and after leaving WWE, his career really hit the skids.
No Way Jose & Rich Swann vs. SAnitY (Eric Young & Alexander Wolfe)
Mostly a nothing match which was used to get over a change in SAnitY – Sawyer Fulton was written out due to an apparent injury, which came across as Eric Young stomping on, then throwing his ring jacket into the aisle.
Swann and Jose worked over Wolfe, but a second rana was caught as Young tagged in and took Swann to the outside. Young keeps on top of Swann with a lifting Dragon sleeper on the top to choke him. Wolfe worked over Swann with a nerve hold crossed with a wristlock, before a double clothesline knocked both men down.
Jose tags in and hits the hiptoss neckbreaker, before turning Young inside out with a lariat. TKO gets a two as Wolfe runs in, then misses Swann and dives to the floor, where he gets a corkscrew splash. Young dives off the apron into a forearm as Swann gets shoved into the steel stairs, and just as Jose looks to take over, Big Damo appears from the crowd and posts Jose. Wolfe looked shocked at Damo’s appearance, but still threw Jose into the ring as he took Young’s wheelbarrow neckbreaker for the win. A decent TV outing from a SAnitY group that gets more intriguing with the possible addition of Damo. **¼
After the match, Damo picked up Sawyer Fulton’s jacket and threw it back down, whilst Wolfe, Young and a rabid Nikki Cross looked on in confusion.
Speaking of confusion, as much as I like Damo, I’m not hot on how he was introduced as “it’s Damo”. No back story, no nothing… just a big guy coming out through the crowd.
William Regal’s backstage with Dasha Fuentes – he tells us DIY face Revival in a tag title rematch on January 11’s NXT, before the winner of that faces the Authors of Pain on NXT Takeover: San Antonio, the night before the Royal Rumble. Tye Dillinger then enters and seems to want to quit, but he’s talked out of it as Regal offers him a spot in the number one contender’s tournament for the NXT title.
I love the small details – like the brass knuckles and the canvas print of Blackpool in Regal’s office. Speaking of small details… Nikki Cross gets caught staring at the NXT women’s title belt by Asuka. Once Nikki’s wrestled a few times, that’d be quite the match to build to.
Ember Moon vs. Kimber Lee
Ember’s entrance doesn’t seem to be quite the confusing “mysterious X dancing” mess as on her debut. Hey, it’s Kimber Lee! Fresh off of a recent tour of the UK too, including shows for PROGRESS, WhatCulture and Fight Club: PRO. They work a test of strength early that turns into a big monkey flip, and Kimber turns into a crash test dummy for Ember for a while. A side slam and a full nelson-with-the-legs gets Kimber back into it, but Ember chops back and finally lands a ‘rana. Ember takes a knee to the head for a near-fall, before she fires back with a rolling forearm into the corner and ends with the Eclipse (top rope stunner). Always a spectacular finish, and a pretty damn good squash too. **½
Next week we have four qualifiers for the number one contender’s match: Tye Dillinger vs. Eric Young, Elias Samson vs. Roderick Strong, Oney Lorcan vs. Bobby Roode and Andrade Almas vs. No Way Jose. Two of those names don’t quite seem to fit… Up next, NXT goes to Osaka for a rematch between Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura!
NXT Championship: Samoa Joe (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Oh My GOD. The One-Fall bollocks made it to the Edion Arena in Osaka… Nakamura got the expected reaction in his homeland, including a tonne of streamers when his name was announced. British wrestling fans… THAT is when you throw them!
A cagey start saw Nakamura take Joe into the corner early on, forcing the champion to roll to the outside in a move that quickly turned into mind games. Joe raked the eyes as the referee tried to separate them, and that took us to an ad break. We return as Joe has Nakamura trapped in an STF, eventually ending via a rope break. Nakamura reversed a suplex and tripped Joe before going for an armbar, then an arm triangle as Joe wriggled towards the ropes. The challenger stayed on top with a German suplex, but a Kinshasa attempt was countered into a swift powerslam for a near-fall.
Another Kinshasa attempt missed, and Joe was able to get the Kokina clutch on, then switch into a pair of rolling German suplexes. A wrist-clutch Exploder followed for a near-fall, as Nakamura took an overhead kick off the top rope as the challenger fell to the floor. This has been mostly Joe so far, and he looked to end things with a uranage on the ring steps, only for Nakamura to elbow free and send Joe onto those steps with a knee to the back.
Back inside, Joe struck away at Nakamura, who ducked a shot and landed another knee to the head, before a fireman’s carry ended with Nakamura falling into the ropes, sending Joe all the way to the floor. Nakamura kept up with another knee to the back of the head of Joe, then followed up with a Kinshasa to regain the title! This… was disappointing, I have to say. There wasn’t much wrong with the match, save for the slip-up on the fireman’s carry at the end, but it just didn’t have a big match feel or indeed, any importance. ***
The Joe & Nakamura World Tour continued the following week, with the December 14th edition of NXT (number 368 according to the Network’s canon) opening up with the steel cage rematch from Melbourne, Australia.
Steel Cage Match for NXT Championship: Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (c)
The crowd in Melbourne is hot for this, including that one guy who wants Lizmark Jr back. We get an ironic cheer for the cage lowering (they had technical problems which held the show up briefly), and we’re into the Saturday Night’s Main Event style of main event to get us going!
Nakamura starts by taking down Joe, who easily gets back up as they scramble into the ropes, before Joe gets taken down and choked with a boot in the corner. Joe replied by throwing Nakamura into the cage wall, then avalanching him against it as we cut to a rather abrupt commercial break.
We return to see Nakamura taking down Joe and drilling him with knees to the ribs, before Joe elbowed out of the inverted Exploder… but he had no answer for a German suplex from the champion. Joe and Nakamura traded boo/yay forearm strikes, before a missed kick allowed Joe to wrap in a Kokina clutch.
Nakamura fought out and followed with a knee to the head, before draping himself onto Joe for a near-fall. Shinsuke did an Undertaker and balanced on the top rope, flying off onto Joe with a Kinshasa off the ropes. Instead of exiting via the door, Nakamura pulled it shut and opted to drill Joe with another Kinshasa, then a third – which looked to bloody up Joe – to secure the pin. Much better than the Osaka match, but still didn’t feel like a big or important match. ***¼
We’re going back to Full Sail for the rest of the episode, for those four number one contender qualifiers… They show us a replay of a match from the post-Takeover NXT where Billie Kay and Peyton Royce turned on Daria Berenato during a six-woman tag, leading her into the path of an Eclipse from Ember Moon. This leads to a promo with the Aussies, and of course, Daria walks in on them… then promises to hurt “one of them next week”.
Tye Dillinger vs. Eric Young
SAnitY was still Young, Wolfe and Cross, and Young started by laying into Tye with punches, before the tables turned.
A clothesline knocks Young down as Tye continued the comeback with mounted punches, then with ten stomps in the corner. Dillinger looked to set-up for the Tye Breaker, but after knocking Alexander Wolfe off the apron, Nikki Cross ran in and attacked Tye for the DQ. Too short to rate…
After the match, Eric pulled the rabid Nikki off of Tye, then dropped him with a clothesline before Dillinger despatched all three members, only to be flattened by Damo. A Wasteland and a back senton from Damo squashed Tye… and this week, Damo’s looking more and more like a member of SAnitY, even if he doesn’t acknowledge them.
So, after that waste of time, Tye’s in the fatal four way next week to become number one contender for the NXT title.
No Way Jose vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
Almas’ new entrance kinda reminds me of Shawn Michaels’ during his comeback stage, with kneeling and pyro…
Jose started by grabbing a waistlock on Almas, who reversed it into a headlock as they went back and forth early on. A flapjack from Jose takes Almas down, before an airplane spin and a Finlay roll set the Dominican up for a leg drop for just a one count. Almas fired back with clubbing forearms in the ropes, and a diving leg lariat for a near-fall.
The pair traded shots, before some double-handed chops knocked down Almas, with a hiptoss neckbreaker setting up for a windmill punch. Instead, Almas ducked it, only to take a pop-up forearm for another two-count. From there, Almas countered a Fireman’s carry with a waistlock, before a big boot set up for the hammerlock DDT to snatch the win. A perfectly fine TV match, but at just over three minutes long, way too short. **¼
Elias Samson vs. Roderick Strong
The groans for Elias Samson… this man is hated, and not in a good way! Samson started by taking Strong into the corner, then biel throwing him across the ring, but Strong hit back with a dropkick and a pendulum backbreaker for just a one count. Strong’s taken into the ropes again as Samson tried to make a comeback, placing Strong in a Tree of Woe and then choking him outside the ring.
Samson drills Strong with a leaping running knee onto the apron, then returned to the ring to wear away on Strong with a rear chinlock. Strong kicks away a back body drop, then connects with a beautiful dropkick, then with a knee and a forearm. The comeback ends with a Fireman’s carry gutbuster and the Sick Kick as Strong books his ticket in the final four. Another throwaway match that could have done with much more time. **
Next week is Billie Kay vs. Daria Berenato as payback for what happened in Toronto…
Oney Lorcan vs. Bobby Roode
This ended up being the longest of all the qualifiers on the show, but the match still only started with six minutes-or-so left!
Roode starts by working Lorcan’s left wrist, before they reverse back and forth, ending with Roode getting a waistlock takedown to school the Boston native. Who replies by sending Roode into the corner with an uppercut as he mounted a comeback with a release Northern Lights suplex for a near-fall.
A back suplex gets Lorcan another two-count, as he looked to follow up with something incredibly dangerous, before Roode elbowed away what looked to be a Dragon superplex attempt. Roode took over from there, ramming Lorcan chest-first into the apron, before choking him with the ring apron. Lorcan hit back again though, landing a running flipping neckbreaker for a two-count, before a second Blockbuster attempt missed and met with a spinebuster.
Roode picked up the pieces from there, and drilled Lorcan with the Glorious DDT for the win. The best of all four matches, but that wasn’t saying much – way too short… do you see a theme? **¾
Next week, we’ve got Billie vs. Daria, plus the four-way to get a shot at Shinsuke Nakamura’s title: Roode vs. Strong vs. Almas vs. Dillinger. This was a fun episode, but ultimately, a waste of a show. Save for the Nakamura/Joe cage match, this was two weeks’ worth of matches pointlessly crammed into one. Tournaments are only as good as their matches, and the fact that next week’s fatal four-way qualifiers were all done in under fifteen minutes should tell you how much of a throwaway this is.