Our hosts review WWE TLC 2016, talk Royal Rumble and WrestleMania 33 predictions, praise Cody Rhodes, and more.
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Our hosts review WWE TLC 2016, talk Royal Rumble and WrestleMania 33 predictions, praise Cody Rhodes, and more.
Donate to our Patreon at www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
by Frank Lucci
The end of the year is closing in fast, and the last SmackDown exclusive PPV of 2016, TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, seeks to end things on a high note for the blue brand.
SmackDown Live has had the best weekly programming the WWE has to offer, which granted is not saying much. Each match on the card has been built up in enjoyable fashion, and even some minor feuds got some spotlight time in during Survivor Series. It definitely helps make this event stand out over the general sameness that prevaids over Raw, and throwing in stipulations galore also spices things up nicely. As long as WWE refrains from throwing in a stairs match (or another exploding TV monitor), this should be another solid event that overshadows its Raw counterpart Roadblock: End of the Line later in the month. I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my predictions for TLC 2016.
Heath Slater and Rhyno (c) vs. Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton (WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships Match)
This is the only match on the card that does not have a stipulation (so far), which is probably a good thing. For one, this match was made official on the go-home SmackDown. And two: I imagine if WWE had a stipulation for this match Slater would spend 90 percent of the match getting murdered.
Slater and Rhyno continue to be entertaining, but they clearly are not the focus of the tag team scene. At this point they’re just a stepping stone for the inevitable Orton vs. Wyatt feud. The X-factor here is Luke Harper, who might try to break up Wyatt and Orton out of jealousy. The (Quasi) Wyatt Family wins and sooner rather than later, both these teams will break up.
Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin (Chairs Match)
This match has been building for some time, which is amazing considering these guys were begging for time before and after the brand split. Co-General Manager Daniel Bryan promised Corbin retribution for costing SmackDown the Cruiserweight Division, and his punishment is…facing the guy he previously beat so bad he got legit hurt? Sure.
If Bryan really wanted to punish Corbin he would trade him to Raw or have him team with Apollo Crews. I’m pretty sure this whole match is just building up to Corbin hitting the End of Days on a steel chair, which is something I swear already happened on NXT. Corbin wins and then is one of those guys in the middle of the Rumble who lasts for ten minutes before Brock or Goldberg tosses him out.
Nikki Bella vs. Carmella (No Disqualifications Match)
Who knew these two had big enough vicious streaks to beat the holy hell out of each other enough for people to excited to see these two go No-DQ? The crazy part is Nikki legitimately had a tooth knocked loose a few weeks ago and now Carmella has a black eye (Hopefully WWE incorporates that into the video package for this match). Carmella has won a fair number of their matches, but Nikki is the bigger star here. However, I ‘m guessing we get Nattie Ice as Nikki’s mystery attacker at Survivor Series who also takes her down here. Carmella wins and sneaks into the title picture in a sink or swim feud.
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Alexa Bliss (Tables Match for WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
I hate tables matches. Unless you have a James Ellsworth type who manages to shove somebody through a table to win, I do not see the appeal. Lynch is probably the most well-rounded woman on SmackDown, but Bliss is the second best heel on SmackDown period. Plus, it is easier to see Bliss hitting a Sparkle Splash through a table to win the belt than Lynch awkwardly hitting a pump handle slam through one. Bliss wins to test the waters on her being the top dog and Lynch gets her shot with Carmella at the Rumble.
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler (Ladder Match for Intercontinental Championship)
After about a three week break for Survivor Series, these two are back at it again. Their first go around was amazing, but do we really want to see Ziggler chase The Miz again? We already had the payoff, and the unceremonious way Ziggler lost the belt took most of the wind out of his sails. In addition, The Miz’s only good ladder spot throughout the years is cockily sitting on top on a ladder before getting knocked off of it. Some fresh faces are needed for these guys, but I have a feeling they’ll end up in the Rumble and this angle gets drawn out even further. At least The Miz has Total Divas to make him much more likable outside the ring. The Awesome One wins after Maryse throws a newly adopted dog at Ziggler.
AJ Styles (c) vs. Dean Ambrose (TLC Match for WWE World Championship)
It is about time Ambrose gets to throw down in an extreme match with Styles, and for the first time it seems as though he might have an advantage as the champion. This figures to be the blow off match between the two, and I expect these guys to beat each other like Cookie beating Hakeem with a broom. Ambrose is fired up after Ellsworth was murdered to death by a Styles Clash off the stairs, so I think these guys might have enough leeway to get crazier than usual. That being said, Styles is keeping the belt until John Cena comes back. Maybe Ellsworth returns and turns heel on Uncle Deano? We shall see.
SmackDown Live continues to bring back old Pay-Per-View titles with their October PPV, No Mercy. An appropriate title considering that WWE is showing no mercy in their onslaught of content they put out every week. SmackDown is the clear winner so far in the brand split, as they have outshone Raw in every aspect (except the women’s division, but it’s close even there). With less time than Raw and a smaller roster, the blue brand has put out consistently better content, to the point where even the post-show interviews have become important.
This has helped my interest in No Mercy, but it’ll take a stellar effort from WWE to make it stand out over the deluge of content they produce. Spaceman Frank is here to short out the card and bring you my predictions for No Mercy 2016 (sponsored by the anti-euthanasia lobby).
Jack Swagger vs. Baron Corbin (Kickoff)
Both these guys do not have much momentum, leading them to fight for the new pre-show Time Waster Championship for SmackDown (Raw has Neville and Bo Dallas). Swagger got traded to SmackDown in the first draft of the New Era and has…existed on the show ever since. Corbin is not terrible and can keep his end of the bargain when it comes to feuds and wrestling, but he’s constantly had to deal with go-nowhere feuds. It would seem weird that Swagger would switch shows and lose, but Corbin’s the one who needs the win here. Corbin wins and goes on being a Lone Wolf character and career-wise.
Curt Hawkins vs. TBD
Hawkins has come back to the WWE to be make filler vignettes for SmackDown, but now it’s time for the veteran to get into the ring (on television anyway; he already lost a match at a live show). No clue what WWE’s plan is for the former Edge doppelganger, so I’m going out on a limb and saying Apollo Crews squashes him to give him something to do.
Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
Two women’s matches on a show?? And neither on the main event (LE GASP!)!!! Anywho, Carmella is a surprisingly good heel and has taken down Nikki Bella in convincing fashion. However, since this is so one-sided and Nikki Bella is Nikki Bella, Carmella is going to take the loss here. After all, it’s not like it’s called Total Carmella and we can see Big Cass obsessively keep his giant house clean as Enzo keeps walking around in his dirty Jordans (but maybe someday).
Heath Slater and Rhyno (c) vs. The Usos (WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match)
Speaking of surprisingly good heels, The Usos have been fantastic as vicious bad guys (perhaps a certain cousin of theirs should copy them so he could finally get over). This has deadened Slater and Rhyno’s momentum, as their feel-good story has stalled. Sure, they’re still entertaining, but it seems unlikely that the team will beat the Usos and their mean streak. Plus American Alpha is waiting in the wings to take a shot at the Usos again with the titles on the line this time. Then Rhyno betrays Slater leading to “Broken” Heath Slater.
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
Randy Orton got hit on the head, taking him to Spookytown and making him able to counter Wyatt’s madness with his own! Who will win this epic battle? Find out on the next episode of Goosebumps!
This match is finally happening, and while the build has not been terrible, it stands out among the more serious feuds on SmackDown. Erick Rowan is also out with a torn rotator cuff and with rumors pointing to Luke Harper heading to Raw, it will be telling to see how much faith the WWE has in a solo Bray Wyatt if he beats the Viper. However, an Orton win makes more sense since he would naturally slide into the main event scene that is red hot right now and could feud with any of the top three guys.
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Alexa Bliss (WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Bliss is finally getting the proper championship push she never really got in NXT, and so far she has done a very good job. Sure, both her and Camella have been written to just beat down their foes every week, but Bliss has the better mic skills and has built this feud up right. I’m high on Bliss’ potential, but this is not her moment. She will get a shot to carry the belt and division, but now it’s Lynch’s time to establish the new belt with a solid run. Lynch wins and runs the gauntlet of new opponents every PPV to prove her mettle.
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler (Title vs. Career Intercontinental Championship Match)
This build to this feud has been perfect. SmackDown has two hot feuds going on surrounding their top belts, which is a testament to how well the show is doing post-brand split. The Miz is on a whole ‘nother level compared to his peers on the microphone and Ziggler has stepped up to make him the sympathetic babyface we saw flashes of (such as the conclusion of Survivor Series 2014). Do I think his in-ring career is over if he loses? Hell no. Do I think The Miz is going to lose? Hell no. The Awesome One wins and continues his never ending title reign.
AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose (WWE Championship Match)
Oh Boy. This match has plenty of layers and with all three men firing on all cylinders it’s guaranteed this match will be the highlight of the show. Ambrose seemed to be sleeping through half his title reign, but he’s awake now and playing the tweener to a fantastic degree we haven’t seen since the PG era started. Cena has played his boy scout self, but this time he has his merit badge in Knifework as he cuts his opponents down with lethal precision on the mic. Styles has been in third place in terms of selling this feud with words, but since he’s the villainous champ he can coast on his amazing ring work instead. Much like Charlotte vs. Banks vs. Bayley at Clash of Champions, I think this is pretty even on who has the best chance to win. Therefore, I’m going with the champ AJ Styles to retain in what should be a stellar match.
by Frank Lucci
After a delay due to a WrestleMania weekend induced wrestling coma, Spaceman Frank is here to once again recap Breaking Ground. With several NXT wrestlers from the show now on the main roster, it will be especially poignant to see them trying to make their mark down in Florida.
We immediately start where episode six left off with Carmella getting a concussion due to Eva Marie being the worst and just straight-up kicking her head off. Carmella is escorted back and head NXT trainer Matt Bloom makes sure she’s OK and reminds her that it is imperative that she protects herself in the ring and lets people know if she’s hurt mid-match. Bloom sympathizes with Carmella but sees this as a chance for her to show how tough she can be.
To help Carmella feel better after her match her boyfriend Big Cass, her BFF Bayley, and ENZO FREAKING AMORE go out to a suspiciously deserted restaurant. Suddenly this has turned into Table for 3…errr 4. Bayley gets a side of beans which leads to Amore making fart jokes (100% approval rating from Spaceman Frank). The group then makes fun of Cass for snoring and being so tall that his piss goes everywhere when using the bathroom and sounds like a waterfall (I love this show. Follow Enzo for season two please). Eventually they reveal that Carmella isn’t concussed, which is good.
Once the gang gets back to Florida, we see Bloom arriving before dawn where he works out in the Performance Center along with coach Amato. He manages to pinch his nipple ring (dude you are in your forties get that shit removed). Baron Corbin rides his motorcycle to the PC (again without his helmet!) and does a shitty parking job because that’s what a good heel would do. Bloom farts around keeping the NXT wrestlers focused, which pretty much boils down to keeping Mojo Rawley and ZZ on point. For whatever reason a giant cardboard cutout of Tyler Breeze adorns the trainer’s area of the building.
Lovepreet returns, training with Robbie Brookside for an upcoming battle royal. Lovepreet gives a dick punch to a dude he’s trying to hoof out of the ring, which Brookside obviously isn’t thrilled about. Nhooph is practicing her entrance with William Regal, who gives great tidbits concerning how to work both the crowd and camera during the entrance. Her entrance is pretty bland and feels like a generic “create-an-entrance” from WWE video games.
Next we see the NXT women going to a makeup/skincare class. Seems pretty sexist that the women have to do this, yet the men – who also have to worry about the same problems of looking presentable on TV are not shown doing makeup tutorials. Bayley admits she needed these classes when she first arrived, which is why we love her so much.
In a cool behind the scenes bit we see that NXT rookies put on mini shows at the Performance Center in front of more established wrestlers and coaches to get more in-ring experience. This also includes rookie announcers and proper entrances. Lovepreet works a tag match, but we don’t see much of what happened. Nhooph does her entrance, which does not go well with the crowd. She tries to cut a promo, which she also bombs as the wrestlers boo her mercilessly (hilariously booing even when she announces she is from “Toronto…that’s in Canada!”). Tino Sabatelli “main events” the show against Tucker Knight, which goes decently.
It’s Halloween and Carmella and Cass are carving pumpkins. Carmella is worried about getting cleared to compete again the next day and Cass plays the supportive boyfriend role. Next we see Bayley at home with her boyfriend (aka the most hated man in the world for dating the internet’s favorite girl). Bayley talks about her match with Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn as her boyfriend has a man-bun and is the worst. They bring up how Bayley is the last of the Four Horsewomen in NXT, which drives her to get to the main roster soon.
ZZ drives a car he can’t possibly afford to go volunteer at an alligator park (yes, those exist). He wrangles a giant snapping turtle and helps move a gator to a bigger pen. It’s amazing that ZZ is more comfortable doing this rather than eating right and exercising. That being said, it’s great to see ZZ in his element and looking confident for once.
Carmella passes her in-ring physical with flying colors, which is no surprise at this point. Bayley has a meeting with coach Amato, who puts over how Bayley’s fan base has diversified the NXT audience. Amato wants Bayley to focus on grooming the next generation of NXT women wrestlers, which explains why she has worked programs with Nia Jax and Carmella.
Lovepreet hosts Robbie Brookside to an Indian meal, which is petty adorable. Meanwhile, Bayley drives Carmella and Tough Enough winner Sara Lee to a show (shouldn’t Lee, the rookie be driving the vets?). Lovepreet and a few other Indian wrestlers are driving to the show as well and Lovepreet is nervous about his upcoming match. He’s in a Battle Royal and Braun Strowman makes a cameo as one of the other competitors and stands out with his Wyatt Family ring gear. Lovepreet actually eliminates someone before getting tossed out. Carmella makes her in-ring return as well.
THE BOSS IS HERE! Not Sasha Banks but Triple H, who requests a meeting with Banks and Bayley. The two divas reunite and immediately go into bestie mode until Hunter shows up for their meeting. Strangely, this meeting takes place in the bleachers of Full Sail (which makes me think this meeting was shot specifically for the show). The ladies are nervous about the meeting and the episode ends on a cliffhanger.
Long story short, Breaking Ground’s seventh installment is a decent episode featuring a lot of feel-good segments with the highlight being Amore making his first big appearance on the show.
by Frank Lucci
Another “road trip” style episode of Breaking Ground sees NXT go to Louisville, KT, Nashville, Tenn. and the official debut of Baymella! Let’s get right into it.
We see “Stone Cold” Canyon Ceman giving out raises and firing Cal Bishop again right off the bat. Ceman repeatedly puts over how competitive NXT is and given Bishop’s injury history (and the flood of new talent they were acquiring) that he was expendable. Bishop looks wrecked and he leaves without shaking Ceman’s hand (which is kinda shitty but hey dude just got fired). Everyone is sad about Bishop and Nia Jax even cries during her talking head segment (DAMN YOU CEMAN, YOU MADE NXT’S MONSTER HEEL CRY!).
After that frankly depressing business it’s time for another road trip.
We find out Carmella and Big Cass live together, hopefully with Enzo Amore living in the basement like a petulant teenager (Now that is a sitcom idea if I ever heard one). Carmella claims what you see on TV mirrors their real life, so I assume every time they enter a room Amore informs people that Big Cass is seven foot tall (and you can’t teach that). They make omelettes and steaks before five A.M. due to the upcoming trip and Bayley shows up with a tiny dog for some reason. Carmella cries over Bayley potentially being called up and leaving her without her best friend (Dawwwww). The gang arrives at the airport for the beginning of a 18 hour day.
After the travel segment we meet a new NXT rookie, Lovepreet, a Pehlwani (ancient form of grappling dating back to 5,000 BC and was studied by Karl fucking Gotch) wrestler from India. He was discovered by Ceman and William Regal during one of their many international trips to find potential talent for the WWE. Lovepreet seems like a humble dude, but this segment pretty much exists to show how WWE looks all over the world for their talent.
Back to Louisville where the music festival NXT is performing at is dealing with flash storms subsequently turning the place into one giant mud pit. This apparently calls for the tour bus to hit up the nearest shoe store, as everyone scrambles for new footwear to avoid dragging mud into the ring. Jason Jordan finds Jordan knockoffs (I see what you did there) called Catapults (A quick Google search reveals the highest priced Catapults are $30). Needless to say, everyone makes fun of Jordan for his selection.
Apparently it took 12 hours for the NXT crew to get there, and the Superstars have to rush to get ready. Hilariously, when we get a wide shot of the bus it seems like maybe 8 people are in it, which does not seem very cost efficient.
An autograph signing before the show reveals a fan who made a Baymella Army shirt, which has each girl super stoked. Carmella loves Bayley because she is a good friend and role model while Bayley loves Carmella because she does the string connected to your lips trick and I love them both because they are adorable human beings (#SpacemanBaymella Triumvirate). Also, one fan gets a picture with Carmella but uses hover hands instead of actually touching her (FOR SHAME, SIR JUST TOUCH HER SHOULDER). Bayley helps produce a match between Eva Marie and Alexa Bliss, which Bayley takes a huge opportunity to learn how matches come together from a television standpoint.
Baron Corbin is here again to remind us of his “lone wolf-ness” and how he wants to move up to the main roster. Coach Bloom acknowledges he works hard in the ring, but does not have enough character and mic development to move past NXT (Pretty spot on there, though I would love to see him paired with Paul Heyman). Corbin to his credit knows he has to improve outside the ring and discusses how football taught him not to show emotions while he knows he has to emote constantly for his current career.
For whatever reason we get a segment where the NXT talent and coaches go to a haunted sanitarium. An obvious spot inserted simply to kill time (in an episode that is already 36 minutes long) sees Corbin loving it, Jordan being scared and a bunch of post production horror film cliches thrown in. Pretty lame.
NXT hits Nashville and everyone is pumped to go the country music capitol of the world for the first time. Bayley messes with Jordan when he asks for an autographed poster, which shows why she is the best yet again. Jordan and Gable get hyped (pun intended) to face Enzo and Big Cass. Corbin being the oddball, goes to a weird goth shop with a friend to look at bones and shrunken heads. Corbin buys human brain samples from the insane asylum, which I’m sure his girlfriend will love.
Lovepreet is back, and he struggles in promo class due to english being his second language. He says his english is not good, but he seems fairly well spoken in his talking head segments. He cuts a bare bones promo in class that goes over well and MY BOY Sami Zayn gives him advice about speaking confidently and with a clear goal.
On the road Bayley puts over the Nashville crowd. Curiously, she says she’s surprised the place was sold out with 1,300 people, but when I went to see NXT in Albany we sold out the place that seats nearly 5,000, so that seems like a scripted line for her talking head segment. Jordan and Gable impress the coaches. Carmella has a match with Eva Marie where a stiff kick to the head gives Carmella a concussion to end the match. The episode ends with Carmella receiving medical attention.
Why is Marie on the main roster again?
A great episode of Breaking Ground shows several favorites (Bayley, Carmella, Jordan, etc.) in their element and keeps the reality show forced segments (besides the asylum bit) to a minimum. A strong episode that is a breeze to watch.
by Frank Lucci
NXT has become the hottest brand in all of wrestling and it’s easy to see why. The “developmental” promotion has sought out many top wrestlers in the industry with seemingly little regard to the unwritten rules of what the WWE wants in their superstars.
Triple H, the man playing the wizard of this veritable land of pro wrestling Oz, has signed big guys, little guys, guys who have been told before they “would never make it to the WWE” and perhaps the most important of all, women for his brainchild. Throw in key elements that have been missing from the main WWE roster (simplified, cohesive stories, emphasis on in-ring ability, focus on both women’s and tag team wrestling) and the brand that was once a third-rate reality TV show has eclipsed the WWE in the eyes of many fans.
When NXT began touring outside of Florida for the first time in May of 2015, I saw no reason not to drive over 200 miles from Rochester, New York to Albany for a chance to see NXT. With the company once again coming to the Washington Avenue Armory on February 20 of this year, I jumped at the chance to see the superstars in training once again.
Of course, it’s never quite as simple as jumping into a car on a Saturday afternoon and driving down the thruway. I had to get up early (i.e: 10 in the morning, I worked until one A.M the previous night) and scramble to secure five tickets. Shockingly, the tickets cost more per person than the WWE live show that had come to Rochester the previous September. I purchased five tickets, (enough to fit into one car) and then had to figure out a) who to offer tickets to first and b) how to gather people who lived out in Buffalo and Oswego to my place so we could all drive together.
I was confident in my ability to go, as that day happened to be a guaranteed day off from Saturday overtime for the shift I was on. Lo and behold, two weeks before the event my work changed my shift to the morning shift. This meant I went from having the day guaranteed off to being on the shift that was primary for working Saturday.
I began to panic slightly. However, it had been several weeks since anyone had needed to work Saturday, so perhaps I would still be in the clear. God and the weather laughed at me and proceeded to dump a foot of snow on Rochester the Tuesday before the show. While I managed to get to work, the main highways were actually closed later in the day due to the storm, a feat unheard of in Rochester lore. Sure enough, the other shifts were cancelled that day and we got to “leave early” (aka shovel our cars out of the parking lot and brave the storm). This lead to Saturday overtime, leaving me high and dry for NXT unless I could find a volunteer to work for me. Despite my best attempts to convince people that a painted up Irishman and an adorable woman in a side ponytail needed me to cheer for them, people did not want to wake up at six in the morning to work for me.
Things were bleak until I asked the women on night shift (who were also coming in for Saturday, but due to their schedule worked through Friday night) If she was willing to work a 12 hour shift. Finally I had a success, and she agreed to stay, leaving me with only four hours to give away. Thankfully my good buddy and fellow wrestling fan John (who had the privilege of seeing Andre the Giant perform) agreed to come in for the rest of my shift knowing how important seeing NXT was to me. John, a diehard Phish fan (as if there are any other types of Phish fans) compared my love of wrestling to that of his love of Phish. I took that as a huge compliment and with my wrestling plans secured braced myself for the long drive ahead.
Saturday came and my four traveling companions were ready to make the long drive with me. Marques (aka occasional Manopera guest Lord Boximus) was ready to see his girl Asuka kick people’s heads in. As the most veteran wrestling fan of our group (he saw the premiere of the Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002) he got to ride shotgun for part of the trip. Kim, the owner of the car we piled into, intrepidly drove the first half of the trip. Her boyfriend Dan, being the next smallest person in the group, had to ride in the middle seat the entire way. Rob, our fitness freak friend who proudly lost over 100 pounds to become the height and weight of Cesaro, managed to squeeze into the rouge as well. With the weather doing a complete 180 from Tuesday’s storm, deciding to be 50 degrees and sunny, things were on the up and up. With this good fortune we barreled down highway 90 discussing who we thought would be on the card, theorizing about Wrestlemania plans, addressing internet wrestling rumors and in general forgetting that Fastlane was the next day. The 200 plus mile trip was conquered in three hours and change; and after a brief trip of downtown Albany in a quest to find parking we were set.
Feeling good about arriving half an hour before the show was scheduled to start, our spirits were high. Groups of wrestling fans converged on Washington Avenue and everyone was excited to attend the sold out show. On the way to the building we passed a dead crow who had slammed into a window while flying, broke it’s neck and face planted into the ground below. I decided this hardcore sight warranted an “ECW” chant – unaware of the bad omen the crow represented. We got to the doors to see the line snaked around the side of the building, which was expected. Little did we know, the line went around the building and had almost passed the end of the line walking from our car to the building’s front door. With the clock rapidly counting down to the start time of 7:30 the familiar panic began to set in. We joked that Rob, fit as he was, should have stripped down to his underwear and pretend to be a local jobber working the show to get us in. With five minutes until the start time seeing us still snaked around the building, we debated bum rushing the garage entrance of the building when a car pulled up. 7:30 hit and we were still outside.
All seemed quiet so we thought perhaps WWE officials had wisely delayed the start time. We were wrong however, and soon we reached the point where we could heard the crowd inside cheering. It turns out that Triple H had come out to hype up the crowd before the show’s first match started, and a large portion of fans missed it. With the doors nearly in view we heard the first wrestler’s theme hit. It was Asuka, and the mood in the line soured quickly. Many fans were peeved that poor planning was leading them to miss one of NXT’s brightest stars, myself included. Once I recognized Asuka’s theme I let out a F-bomb at the top of my lungs, public decency and the children (which there was a surprisingly large amount of, though nowhere near the amount found at WWE shows) be damned. We were even more pissed when her opponent was announced as Eva Marie, as we knew the match would be a disappointment anyway. Finally, realizing the crowd outside was getting hostile, the event staff opened up the VIP entrance to the crowd, and we filtered in to see Asuka make Eva Marie tap out to the Asuka Lock. With my group finally in the building we settled in to our seats and got ready for the show.
Next we had Apollo Crews come out to a decent crowd reaction. His opponent Alex Riley received a very mixed reaction, as some people were either confused as to whether he was heel or face. Some wondered why he was facing Crews when the official fight card poster for the event had Elias Samson wrestling Crews. Either way, the two had a short but relatively uneventful match that saw Riley kill time by running out of the ring repeatedly and Crews trying to hit his signature moves. Eventually Crews rallied against the former announcer and hit his five moves of doom for the win.
Nothing against Riley, but he is a pretty bland wrestler in a sea of colorful personalities and has become the Curtis Axel of NXT. Crews needs an opponent who can work at a higher work rate so he can really shine. Until then, he is destined to be second banana in NXT.
Carmella came out solo for the third match on the card and did her usual stick on the mic. The princess of Staten Island was bursting with energy, but without her main men she lost a step or two. However, she is miles ahead of her opponent Peyton Royce when it comes to having a character. At this point I decided to check out the merch booth, but the line was long enough that I could still check out the action in the ring. However, roughly 70% of this match was the crowd chanting “smell her flower” – referring to the flower Royce brings to the ring as part of her frankly terrible “Venus Fly Trap of NXT” gimmick. When Carmella got ahold of said flower, she smelled it to the delight of the audience as Royce acted like Carmella had just bit the fingers off her newborn child. Once the actual in-ring action took place it was decent, but as I neared the merch booth the bleachers obstructed my view. With only a few people ahead of me I heard the bell ring and Carmella won the match. I was comfortable with my choice to skip the match to grab the awesome fight card poster they made for the event as well as a Samoa Joe shirt.
Just as I had almost made it to the merch booth my heart sank as Enzo and Big Cass’ music hit and the crowd collectively lost their minds. The tag team easily got the loudest sustained pop of the night and the two New York City natives responded accordingly. I got my gear just as they got to the ring after Enzo’s introduction speech and the crowd chanting “How you Doin?” Enzo and Cass relished the Albany crowd, as they considered wrestling there a hometown crowd. It’s astonishing how over the tag team are, although part of the crowd’s love may have been due to the (false) rumor that the two were to appear at the Fastlane Pay-Per-View the next day. Their opponents were The Vaudevillians, who got a nice pop before the crowd settled into the routine rhythmic clapping audiences use to show their love. The two veteran teams have wrestled countless times in the past, but the four men put on a great show for the crowd. In particular, Aiden English played to the crowd while Simon Gotch was in the ring and Big Cass threw Enzo around almost as much as his opponents. Seeing as Enzo and Cass had the crowd in the palm of their hands, the two walked away with a victory before intermission hit.
After a fairly quick intermission (that the venue botched hard by not having enough food prepared for the audience and ridiculous lines to boot) the crowd was ready for more action. What we got was Elias Samson, who got booed like he just ate the last known bison. When he meandered his way to the ring and began playing his guitar things got even worse. The crowd started chanting “drift away” to the New Day Rocks beat. Channeling my best Zoidberg impression, I yelled “Your music’s bad and you should feel bad” which at least made the guy in front of me laugh. While Samson’s gimmick is really lame, he generated so much heat I couldn’t hear him over the boos, so at least he can say he is the male Eva Marie. In addition, his negative reception perfectly dovetailed into monstrous cheers for his opponent Sami Zayn. The ska-tastic Zayn made Samson look good, although to be fair Samson is perfectly fine in the ring. Zayn gave The Drifter plenty of offense, probably because he is polite and Canadian. However, Zayn stormed back and delivered a Helluva Kick to end the contest.
Bayley stormed into the arena next, and the Women’s champ got a very high pitched pop for the many young ladies in the crowd. Bayley spent several minutes giving high fives and knick knacks to fans at ringside because Bayley is pretty much the perfect woman. Her opponent was Alexa Bliss, who was without Blake and Murphy. Quick side note worth mentioning: Bliss has a fantastic butt. Our entire group and everyone in our section agreed. Meanwhile, back in the ring Bayley opened up the match by doing the worm several times, because once again, she is perfect. After the third time Bliss attacked, showing some good heel instincts. Both women put on a good match, and the Glitter Blizzard by Bliss is a thing of beauty. Like most heels, however, Bliss ended up losing to Bayley. Another worm was in order, and the crowd showered the champ with cheers for a great match.
The main event of the evening was a tag match with Baron Corbin and Samoa Joe facing Austin Aries and NXT Champion Finn Balor. Corbin got a decent amount of boos, but the crowd cheered heel partner Joe. Meanwhile, Aries got a tremendous pop from the crowd as most everyone knew who the indy veteran was despite not yet appearing on TV. Balor also got a great pop, but the leather jacket/flashing the title thing makes him look like he may be a pervert. Just once I want him to open his jacket to reveal Krang.
There was a nice bit of psychology to start the match as the face team sent out Aries to please the chanting crowd, only for Joe to refuse to start the match unless Balor was in the ring. Corbin did a series of hokey strikes in the corner followed by posing and yelling, which was super goofy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ares ended up taking loads of punishment and the small boy behind us tried in vain to start a “let’s go Austin” chant for five minutes before his mom told him to stop. This match inspired many great moments from the crowd, with a guy near us yelling “NXT lifer” at Corbin, who clearly heard it and looked pissed afterwards. The Lone Wolf had one fan who kept cheering for him, despite the “shut the fuck up” chant he drew. Because I have the maturity of a five-year old, I tried to start a “Baron Corbin’s a weenie” chant (which did not take off). The four men gave a great performance, ending with the champ cleaning house and winning with the Bloody Sunday. The good guys swept the event, making sure everyone went home happy. Balor thanked the crowd and as a special treat called out Bayley so he could dress up like her and imitate her entrance to the delight of the crowd. Immediately after we hightailed it out of the arena, as we had a three hour drive home to deal with.
The event was a huge success, despite the staff trying hard to throw a wrench in NXT’s momentum. They were probably the biggest heels of the whole show. As our car drove the long stretch from Albany to Rochester listening to Deltron 3030, Action Bronson, and 18 minute long prog metal songs we went through highlights of the evening and tried to picture a scenario where Fastlane could top even an untelevised NXT show.
While a stadium full of fans screaming for the spectacle of a Pay-Per-View is always a treat, an armory of passionate fans watching passionate performers trying to give back what they have received to the fans cannot be topped. Not by the WWE as it stands now, but perhaps when Balor, Bayley and the others make it to the main roster (hopefully with their personalities and gimmicks intact), the company can find its way out of the rut it’s in and start flying high again.
by Frank Lucci
It’s a road trip episode as our favorite developmental talents tour through Texas in one of their first trips outside of Florida. How will they do outside of their home turf?
Continuing the segment from the end of episode two, everyone’s favorite Cylon human Dana Brooke struggles to take a power move from Nia Jax. She eventually gets it because blah, blah, blah, perseverance and such. She also talks about not giving up after a year and a half in NXT (I wonder how Sami Zayn and Tyler Breeze would feel about that statement).
Tough Enough winner Josh Bredl is getting used to being at the Performance Center and coach Bloom reminds us that as the dude with the quarter of a million dollar contract he (Bredl) has to prove he belongs there every day (Damn right he does!). Bredl also reveals that his motivation to succeed is his daughter and how as a parent he has no choice but to succeed for his girl. A nice humanizing moment for a guy we don’t see much of.
Full Sail finally shows up and we get a montage of NXT favorites performing at the venue as well as fans freaking the hell out. Josh is seen helping set up the ring before having a chat with Apollo Crews. Crews makes a point of comparing how Josh’s contract status and Crew’s indie rep have lead some people to dismiss or dislike them. It’s cool to see Crews helping out a rookie and overall being a nice dude.
With all the newbie stuff out the way it’s finally time for the road trip.
The NXT stars board their plane and Baron Corbin is peeved about not having an aisle seat (as someone who is half a foot shorter than Corbin and still barely has any legroom on a plane, I 100% understand. Also, Breeze has a neck pillow because of course he does). Banjo music plays in the background to remind you they’re down south and the NXT superstars sign autographs for fans in the Houston, Tx. airport. Even though Corbin is down for photos, he will not bend to help a fan clearly struggling to get him in frame. There’s a random blink and you miss it gag with Crews and Breeze on the bus as Crews takes a selfie and Breeze says “how dare you?.” Classic.
Bredl FaceTimes his lady and daughter while grocery shopping. Some standard “missing the family” stuff here as they have yet to move down to Florida from Colorado as Bredl gets settled and finds a place to live. This transitions to Breeze being interviewed about his struggles to be successful in NXT and how he is blown away that he went from being on the chopping block to having people cosplay as him (Fun fact: Breeze is the first wrestler ever to have his Titantron footage be a live-stream from his phone). Breeze wrestles Finn Balor in the main event to a losing effort.
Bredl struggles in promo class as he tries to get over his Yeti character. His promo goes off the rails quick as he refers to himself as a piece of meat that’s been marinating in a special type of infectious sauce. Therefore, Bredl’s new nickname is Ebola Steak. Ebola Steak knows he fucked up but Regal tells him to slow down and drop the Yeti shtick. Regal has a classic Regalism here with “most of the audience have figured out if they will take to you or not about one third of the way down that ramp.” Regal is the man. Bredl however, is hesitant to reinvented himself.
Day two of the NXT road trip and Austin’s stop is even bigger than Houston’s. Jason Jordan acts like he has never seen Breeze’s furry boots before and Breeze (in character) makes fun of him. Referee Drake Wuertz deadpan sings Breeze’s entrance theme (awesome). When Breeze’s opponent Samoa Joe catches the selfie stick when he smacks it into the air, (more awesome) then finishes off the trifecta of goodness by taking a selfie (the real MVP of the show, folks!). Also Corbin, in true lone wolf fashion has a pink spray bottle to constantly wet down his hair. Breeze is ecstatic over his match, but Corbin works the main event with Balor this time.
After the show, the NXT stars get a chance to explore the town. Crews, Jordan, and Brooke decide to hang out on the bus like the cool kids they are. Corbin decides the best way to be a lone wolf is to hit up a punk rock bar, because lord knows if you want to be alone, a bar is the best place to go. He gets annoyed by a clingy fan and leaves (probably to go find a better lone wolf spot like the library). Meanwhile, Breeze and Tye Dillinger go looking for bats under a bridge which is the highlight of the episode.
San Antonio is the final stop of the tour and several of the wrestlers stop by The Alamo. Corbin explains the historical significance of the building, but Breeze does not believe him (you are from Canada mate, just give up). Big Cass and Carmella go cowboy boot shopping because, why not?. As contrived as the segment is, (they are literally the only people in the place) the two are pretty adorable together. Big Cass finds a tiny cowboy hat like Kurt Angle did in his WWE days and does a southern accent, which is funny but probably annoyed the crap out of the owners.
Crews gets a chance to hang out with his sister, who lives in San Antonio. With him touring and her in the Army, they never get to see each other so it’s pretty touching to see them hang out. Corbin also gets a chance to hang out with his cousin and nephew, which is also adorable. We also find out that Carmella has a thing for dudes in cowboy hats (if I were Cass i’d start buying them in bulk). Crews and Corbin have fun performing in front of family and everyone passes out on the plane.
Back to Ebola Steak trying to cut a promo and he does a much better job this time around, which ends the episode. While still a little hesitant on the mic he looks a lot more comfortable as a heel (wrestling term for “bad guy”).
Overall, the road trip highlights were more entertaining than the Performance Center footage. Having Bredl dominate the episode while the established stars gradually divide up the rest of the episode somewhat brings down the show. That being said, there is a lot to like about the episode and each person gets a chance to show off their personality with whatever screen time they get.
By Frank Lucci
NXT TakeOver: London is in a unique position in many different ways.
Unlike most NXT live specials, this event takes place after a main roster Pay-Per-View rather than before. In addition, that PPV, TLC, was a surprisingly good event.
Instead of giving wrestling fans a high standard to judge WWE specials on, now the shoe is on the other foot. There is no reason to believe that NXT TakeOver: London will fall short, but it will be curious to see how NXT responds to the pressure of TLC’s quality.
Secondly, with the NXT roster in flux and the main roster’s injury woes, the results of the London could be a preview of what NXT will be like in the new year.
Finally, several NXT superstars such as the returning Sami Zayn and the teams of Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake and Jason Jordan and Chad Gable are not booked for the special. These wrestlers could appear on the episode of NXT being filmed before the live portion of the special, but their shadows may loom large if the special fails to live up to the hype. With that being said, here are Spaceman’s Frank predictions for NXT TakeOver: London.
Asuka vs. Emma (with Dana Brooke)
Both of these women have been on a roll lately.
Emma has expertly grown into her heel role and has shown that she is still the great performer we all fell in love with. With her catchy yet dark theme song, goofy half gloves (seriously what possible function could they have) and her pet (I mean friend) Dana Brooke by her side she could be in line for a championship run. On the other hand, Asuka has been a force of nature. Her hard hitting matches are full of moments worth capturing in GIF form and she even made the perpetually stupid Flying Butt in the Face attack look viscous.
Asuka has all the makings of a future superstar, and for that reason I see her getting the win in an excellent match over Emma and continuing her spectacular run.
Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady (with Carmella) (NXT Tag Team Championship Match)
When Dash and Dawson first won the NXT Tag Team Titles, many thought that they would become Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake 2.0. Instead, they have quietly shown flashes of brilliance both in the ring and on the mic. However, they still have a lot of work to do if they are to rise to the level of the The Vaudevillains, Jordan and Gable and their challengers Enzo and Big Cass.If they weren’t the champs they would be lost in the shuffle – which may be why they’re champs in the first place.
Enzo and Cass are perpetually in the title hunt, but have never grabbed the brass rings. They deserve a run with the belts, but Dash and Dawson need a good run to prove their worth. Dash and Dawson win in a decent match.
Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin
This match could (and should) be a number one contenders match.
With Crews already having challenged for the NXT title before and Corbin recently spotted working dark matches on SmackDown, both these men look to be moving up sooner rather than later.
While Crews has skyrocketed to the top of NXT with his amazing moves and buckets full of charisma, Corbin has shown incredible attention to the little things that make him a gem. For example, Corbin may have the best punches in the WWE and the former NFL player can throw his body weight around in ways that help sell the force of his moves tremendously. Despite all that, there is no denying Crews’ rise to the top and it looks as though he will pin Corbin for the victory.
Bayley (c) vs. Nia Jax (with Eva Marie) (NXT Women’s Championship Match)
Poor Bayley. She went from headlining the last NXT TakeOver event to being in a hastily put together feud with the new monster heel on the block (perhaps Triple H is preparing her for life on the main roster).
Bayley has had several mini-feuds since her epic rivalry with Sasha Banks came to a close and while Alexa Bliss did well, Eva Marie (to put it kindly) served as bait for this new feud.
Side note: If you think that Eva Marie’s ability to garner jeers somehow makes her a standout performer then shame on you. The woman cannot perform in the ring and her matches are either short exhibitions done at a quarter speed or dangerous (as seen when she gave Carmella a concussion). She showed in her promo challenging Bayley for the Women’s Championship that she also cannot handle live promos as she just attempted to repeat the same lines over and over again and her attempt to combat the crowd was pathetic. Being a manager is a better fit for her, but she does not need to be paired with another newbie. She should be managing a veteran who can show her the ropes. She is not a grand-meta example of brilliant commentary on the modern heel, she is a reality TV star that will be gone the moment Total Divas ends.
Anyway, with little build up besides Nia Jax throwing Bayley through a door, expect the champ to retain in a match that could either be good or expose Jax for the green wrestler she is.
Finn Bálor (c) vs. Samoa Joe (NXT Title Match)
Balor and Joe are sure to put on a great showing here, but the build to this match has been on and off.
The parts of this feud that don’t involve the combatants getting physical have been great, but besides Joe’s initial attack on Finn the physical portion of this feud has been subpar. We already know how much of threat Joe is, so having him choke out Balor repeatedly signals (to me at least) that he will not win the championship.
Both these men will deliver a hard-hitting match that sees Joe and Balor beating the holy hell out of each other, but Finn will walk out champ to set up a rematch. Perhaps before Wrestlemania 32? We shall see.