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NXT Arrival Retro Review

by Frank Lucci

In Preparation for the inevitable crowning of Roman Reigns as Universal Champion, Spaceman Frank has taken it upon himself to go back and look at some events that happened around the same time WWE tried Brock vs. Roman. He will look back at the last WrestleMania to take place in New Orleans, WrestleMania 30, as well as WrestleMania 31 and the first encounter between the two men. But first The Spaceman will check out the very first live wrestling event ever streamed on the WWE Network, NXT Arrival!

Nowadays it is taken for granted that TakeOver shows will be the better show going into big event weekends. But in the early days of the WWE Network heading into WrestleMania 30 there was no such hype. As a slightly younger Spaceman still in the infancy of my superfandom I watched the weekly NXT shows and while they were fun they were far from must watch television. Honestly I think the biggest draw for me was that they were just one hour long and they featured characters that you would never see on Raw or SmackDown. But with the launch of the Network it seemed the developmental brand was poised to take off, and when they announced a live special weeks before Mania it was hard to not get at least mildly excited. But how does this experimental and primordial TakeOver feel four years later? Let’s find out.

Now to get it out of the way, yes there was some technical bugs that plagued NXT Arrival. I was one of the many people who were stuck watching Tyler Breeze posing on the turnbuckle as the stream froze. WWE later apologized for the interruption to this “special episode” (as Wikipedia describes Arrival as if the roster would host an intervention for Mojo Rawley over his caffeine pills), but I was nervous that, if a lowly NXT event could get messed up, how would WrestleMania fare? In addition WWE overbooked Full Sail University, leaving about 200 people who bought tickets in a lurch and unable to watch the show. All in all, not the best showing for NXT and WWE. I watched this program live (until being forced to watch Breeze over and over again), and while I have fun it just felt like something to do on a Saturday night rather than something equal or surpassing a PPV. At just under two hours this should be an easy watch, so let’s dive right into it.

The intro to the show jumps right into the darkened arena as Triple H hypes the crowd. He does his standard “the future is now blah blah blah” stuff before we get the regular NXT into video. Our announce team is Tom “check out my bulge” Phillips, Byron Saxton, and William Regal (JBL is GM at the time, which is something I completely forgot about). Considering two of these guys are black holes of charisma the commentary throughout is not great. No special video package and two minutes in Sami Zayn’s music hits. Kind of a lame opener, but again I do not think Triple H was thinking to himself “these kids are gonna sell out Brooklyn three years in a row.” Speaking of Sami…

Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro

Sami won an epic 2 out of 3 falls match against a moonlighting from the main roster Cesaro, which lead to this match. I wish WWE would occasionally bring in ringers again for NXT, if only to give some floundering people some touch ups or a chance to try a new character. Sami is out first to his weird and super generic first theme song. It sounds like music from a menu screen for a Street Fighter clone on the PS2. We the People Era Cesaro is out with his garter belts on his thighs and Tea Party track jacket out. Crowd is hot for both these guys, and we get “match of the year” chants before the bell rings. Lockup and Cesaro smacks Sami in the back of the head, which is something all heels should do 100% of the time. Immediately shows your the bad guy and works for wrestling machines like Cesaro. Commentary seems to hint that big things are going to be happening for Cesaro which, um, may happen still. Much of the early portion of the match is Cesaro using his efficient Swiss engineered strength to counter Zayn’s high flying offense. The big highlight is Cesaro turning a crossbody into a tilt a whirl backbreaker. Nice.

Things slowwwwww down as Cesaro constantly throws Sami to the outside and bounces him off the guardrail. Epic uppercut counter to the diving corner DDT and we slow things down again. This was probably more exciting at the time, but now this feels like a Raw match. Cesaro works the leg as Regal provides insight into the little things that make Cesaro into a world class wrestler. Sami almost gets his comeback until his “bounce off the ropes backworks plancha” (which he needs to bring back and find a better nickname for) is caught and turned into a massive titing slam on the ramp. Awesome spot. Zayn sells like his leg is broken but crawls back into the ring to deliver his exploder suplex that everyone has stolen from him at this point.

Sami starts his classic comeback moves of Blue Thunder Bomb and Koji  clutch but Cesaro powers out into a stretch muffler, which IMO is one of the most underrated submission moves in wrestling. Someone in WWE pull this move back out instead of everyone using the Rings of Saturn nowadays. Zayn reacts to the Cesaro Swing like my roommate’s cat stuck in her pop up cat fort which made me laugh so hard my chest hurt. Swiss Superman repeatedly tries to give Sami CTE with strikes until an attempted top rope powerbomb is turned into a hurricanrana. Helluva Kick isn’t enough and at this point Cesaro starts to feel bad…but not enough to stop giving Sami uppercuts and trying to get the win via TKO. Sami sells head injuries like no one else, and a final rally by Sami leads to hockey punches being thrown into the “pop up reversed code red powerbomb” thing that only these two guys seem to be able to do. Great spot, but literally I think these two are capable of doing that move. It is not enough to get the win for Sami, who eats a pop up uppercut and kicks out at one. This freaks Cesaro right the eff out, who hits a running uppercut into the Neutralizer (such a great name) for the win. They hug it out for fans of sportsmanship/ WWE shippers.

Overall: The longest match of the night was pretty good. Crowd proclaims it match of the year, and it has its moments especially at the end. But the middle section is pretty bland and features lots of walk and brawl. Sami does a lot of moves he never does anymore, which retroactively reminds me of what a great babyface he was in NXT and how poorly he was booked on the main roster. Cesaro meanwhile looks like the boss he always has been, and I am still waiting for a main event Cesaro run. Nowadays Sami is the Martin Prince to Kevin Owen’s Nelson, and Cesaro is with the admittedly awesome The Bar. Cesaro would win the first Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale at Mania 30, but that is a tale for another time…AKA part two.

Mojo Rawley vs. CJ Parker

We get a literal hype package for Mojo before the match, and it is pretty hilarious how much faith WWE had in the guy this early on. CJ Parker is out first, who dances and spins around in what probably was Dusty Rhodes’ best guess as to what hippies were like back in the day. Mojo comes out already peaking on a combination of preworkout powder/ Molly as what appears to be his entire family in custom made Mojo shirts cheers him on. It’s pretty adorable. Crowd for some reason chants for Mojo instead of praying for Mojo. Big dirty squash match to show off Rawley’s “explosiveness” AKA the four moves Triple H knows he can’t mess up as Regal talks about his SUV. Mojo wins with the Hyper Drive (a move I personally cannot stand even when done by guys like Yokozuna) in about three and a half minutes. “We just saw a star being born tonight!” proclaims Regal in a call that made me grab a beer.

Overall: I forgot this match happened to be honest. Mojo would fart around in NXT before farting around on the main roster. He did win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (just like Cesaro!) and then feud with Zack Ryder, so you know his family probably regrets those shirts. Meanwhile CJ Parker was doomed from the start with the hippie gimmick, especially because Daniel Bryan was the hottest guy in wrestling at the moment and was actually a God Damn hippie. He would ask for his release and now has a fairly prominent spot in NJPW, which makes him the real winner here.

Hype package for Emma before her title match with Paige. I miss bubble popping fun Emma and it is hard to not fall in love with her. Of course Bayley would perfect the goofy but super talented female wrestler, but I think Bubble Emma should have gotten a better shot. We then get a package for The Ascension who have the tag titles and the next match on the card. They face a mystery team which turns out to be a Florida Swamp person and his parole officer. Oh wait it is just Too Cool.

The Ascension (C) vs. Too Cool (NXT Tag Team Championship)

Weird to see the crowd make noise for The Ascension. Scotty 2 Hotty looks pretty good considering he is 40 here. Meanwhile Grandmaster Sexay is…himself. Once I found out he was Jerry Lawler’s son it is hard not to unsee it and shower afterwards. Ascension work the vets using locks of head/chin locks and occasional power moves. Hot tag to Scotty who admittedly has some great strikes. He does not do much else until it is time to tease the worm, which Heavy Machinery’s Otis has now perfected. Konnor decides enough is enough, flattens Scotty, and they hit the Fall of Man for the win.

Overall: The Ascension were as hot as they ever were going to be here, but it is telling they have them work with the jobber team for a bygone era instead of another tag team in NXT. They would eventually lose the titles to the Lucha Dragons later in the year. 2014 was a strange, magical time. Scotty would turn this performance into a job at the Performance Center and is a firefighter/EMT so good for him. Sexay meanwhile probably retreated back into the Florida swamps, only occasionally appearing to be drunk in public or add further shame to the Lawler name.

Hype video for Paige who is in the middle of her run as the first NXT Women’s Championship. Cut to Ric Flair and proto-Charlotte in the crowd. It’s weird how Charlotte having darker dirty blond hair makes her almost unrecognizable.

Paige (C) vs. Emma (NXT Women’s Championship)

Ah, the old school NXT Women’s belt complete with glittering pink jewels and My Little Pony style sound effects for the logo animation. Thank God WWE treats women more seriously now. Stephanie Mcmahon the inventor of women is here to take credit for the success of this show, gender equality, and the universe in general. Crowd chants “you still got it” at her and she replies “ I never lost it!” Ya better still have it Steph you got Rousey coming up! Emma is out first as Steph and Regal imitate the bubble popping dance like lizard people attempting to act humans. Paige is out and she is OVER. She gets a loud sustained pop despite being the heel.

Match starts with Paige trying to physically intimidate Emma, who responds by getting the jump on the Brit. They start hot as Paige goes for the Paige Turner early and Emma tries for her setup to her finisher as well. Pure fire to start with some stiff kicks and even their headlock rest spot is more entertaining than usual as Emma flails trying to escape and Paige yells and constantly adjusts the hold. Fast pace to start as Emma tries to get the Emma Lock and Paige does her best to wear down the Aussie with kicks and strikes. Regal claims to have been married 17 times in the meantime. What the hell? where did that come from??!!

Emma in control with a bow and arrow which looks vicious when she plants a boot on the back of Paige’s head and starts cranking her arms. Paige is crying and looking like the good guy here as we see a glimpse of Dark Emma. Emma stomps away and I am pretty sure she may be possessed by the Phoenix Force. Top rope powerbomb from Emma only gets a two and I LOL when Paige makes sure to get her hair out from in front of her face before the spot hits. Paige starts her comeback with kicks leading to a superkick to Emma’s womb before hitting the Paige Turner for a two count. She debuts her quickly abandoned PTO submission to get the win.

Overall: Paige has always been one of those people (especially after this latest injury) who I debated if she was as good as advertised or someone who just looked good because her competition was not up to par. Here at least she looks phenomenal, as does Emma. WWE made a big mistake releasing Emma, and hopefully she does some good starting up Ring of Honor’s women’s division. It blows my mind when WWE looks to cut corners they start at the women’s division like they did with Emma and recent releases Abbey Laith and Sage Beckett when they need every talented women they can get their hands on right now. The fact that they did a Royal Rumble match with only 18 women available on the main roster says it all about the shallowness of the division. Anyway this probably was my favorite match of the night as it closely follows the pace and style modern WWE matches now use and both women bring it with little breaks. There is some definite hints of “THEY ARE HITTING REAL MOVES! LIKE REAL PEOPLE!” from the commentary team, but if you tune them out it is not particularly aggravating.

Video for Neville which makes me sad. Please come back Neville. We Need you. I need you. Dusty and Pat Patterson are in the crowd which makes me even sadder. Angel Grove/Somebody Call my Momma theme song Xavier Woods come out for a match. Woods really overcame some bottom of the barrell booking when he first debuted on Raw. Tyler Breeze is out with his wordless original them which still works for him. Can they bring back the selfie video thing again? At this point this is where my original watching of the show in 2014 froze up. This match lasts half a minute before (Alexander) Rusev and Lana show up and he murders the men in the ring. It is crazy to think how over and beloved all three of these guys would become years later, but here they are just here to kill some time and get over Rusev as a killer.

Bo Dallas is seen resting his head some lockers before a Bo montage begins. God, Dallas was such a great character in NXT. His face is just so punchable. It is a real shame how butchered his character became on the main roster, and you would think a guy who made a name for himself on the mic would get more chances to talk. I blame his white trunks. Seriously, White/grey trunks are one of my most hated things in wrestling. It looks like you are wearing a diaper and grey trucks show off your swamp ass pretty well. Larry Zbyszko and Steve Keirn are in the crowd as we get the second video package in three minutes explaining the build to the championship match. Long story short they both are ready for their first ladder match, which Triple H made because something something HISTORY. HBK shows up first to ramble through a promo and plug his DVD. Woo?

Finally after all the stalling Neville comes out first. Dallas is out second to some generic rock music instead of the instrumental music he had during his Bo-leve days. Bo’s hair is already dripping wet, which is gross as hell. Neville starts off strong with some explosive offense until Bo takes control and slows things down with forearms every 30 seconds. Neville gets caught in the ropes and Bo causally gets a ladder instead of sprinting to get one and win the match. Not sure why everyone does not try hog tying their opponents during ladder matches. Almost as if they want to fall off ladders repeatedly. Neville tries to take control with a baseball slide and plancha, but Dallas counters with some generic offense. Pretty sure Bo has the same moveset as a default create a wrestler. Back and forth spots of people trying to climb the ladder only to be knocked off. Bo takes perhaps the safest fall of the ladder possible as he jumps off and lands on his feet. Shows the difference between a guy like Dallas and a guy like Neville who has flown repeatedly off the ladder and taken a few hits from one as well.

The action begins to pick up finally as Neville hits an awesome tornado DDT off a ladder wedged in a corner that Dallas sells like a champion. Neville loses control again and takes an inadvertent ladder shot when it falls on his head. Look like it was the most painful bump so far. More generic ladder spots until Dallas shoves Neville off the ring post and he hits his back again the ring apron. Bo is about to climb the ladder the ladder but Neille leapfrogs him. Its all for naught as Neville takes a buckle bomb on the wedged ladder. Dallas finally takes a serious bump with a slam onto the ladder and then the Red Arrow on the ladder. The Red Arrow is just as spectacular as I remember. This is enough to put Dallas down long enough for the Englishman to grab the ladder and win the belt. Dry ice shoots down as Neville celebrates on the ladder, the ring, and a golf clap from John Cena as the broadcast ends.

Overall: Decent match. Not a whole lot of crazy ladder spots due to the smaller size of the arena if I had to guess as to why. Neville is a way better wrestler than Bo and it showed here. As much as I liked Dallas’ character he was always a C+ wrestler in the ring. Putting the belt on Neville started the template of NXT champs who were the best wrestler in the company over cartoon characters like Bo. This title run has been the highlight of Dallas’ career as soon after his main roster debut he was treated like a jobber. R-Truth of all people snapped his winning streak. Neville meanwhile would be a reliable workhorse for the company until they decided to have him lose to Enzo Amore. Considering how terrible that decision has proven to be it is easy to see why Neville walked out of the company. Hopefully we see him return to a WWE ring eventually,as his King of the Cruiserweight run was a highlight of 2017.

Final Thoughts: When I watched this event live it really blew me away. Now with the main roster filled with high quality workers this feels like a typical episode of NXT. The opening match and the women’s match were highlights and the NXT championship match was ok in places. The rest was a bunch of filler. NXT did not really become the hottest brand in WWE until Sami Zayn’s chase for the title, and this very much felt like the first attempt to start taking the brand more seriously. At just shy of two hours this was an easy watch, and even the slow portions of the event were not bad. I watched this in two chunks and the matches flew by for the most part. I’d say this is a solid B, with the big matches worth a watch and everything else being skippable.


Spaceman Frank’s NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia Predictions

by Frank Lucci

It is time for the Road to Wrestlemania, which also means we are taking the footpath to Takeover: New Orleans as well.

Currently NXT is the bastion of sanity in a WWE Universe full of shock releases, hot debut rumors, and disappointing 25th anniversary shows. With WWE having plenty of open spots for both the men and women rumble matches, this could be a last glimpse of NXT in its current form. Every random match featuring the likes of Lacey Evans or Bianca Belair makes me wonder if these folks will soon be stepping into more prominent roles. But Shayna Baszler looms over all the women as the hot newcomer who is way better than expected in her role.

Meanwhile, on the men’s side there is plenty of rumors of who may be jumping up to the main roster via the Rumble, and each men’s match could see a participant leave NXT once the event is done. I’m SPaceman Frank and here are my NXT: Takeover Philadelphia predictions!

Kassius Ohno vs. Velveteen Dream

Despite hyping a potential Killian Dain or Roderick Strong vs Lars Sullivan NXT decided to throw this match together because reasons. Not that I am necessarily disappointed by seeing this match, but they spent several weeks building someone challenging Lars and now we got nothing. Ohno seems to settled into his role of opening TakeOvers and losing to the next big talent, and Dream is going from trying to be number one contender to jerking the curtain in less than a week.

Still, this should be fun, and I hope Velveteen throws Ohno a pair of shorts to cover his cellulite (sorry for body shaming but please Kassius stop with the tights). I really want Kassius to get a victory on a Takeover, but Velveteen Dream has some momentum going in and he is the future so he will win here.

The Undisputed Era vs. Authors of Pain (NXT Tag Team Championship Match)

This match has the feeling of a swan song for the Authors of Pain. Sure, they could grab the belts again and hold the fort down, but there would not be any point in it. They have been floating around since losing the belts, and while War Games was nice it didn’t mean much to the team’s status. Meanwhile Undisputed Era have been establishing that they are plotting the run the show going forward.

Really, I see Adam Cole potentially challenging for the belt around ‘Mania time if they don’t go for the other obvious choice for Mania time (more on that later). Kyle and Bobby have done pretty well as a team, but I see this being their true coming out as a team without Cole. The Era wins and AOP show up and start wrecking main roster teams and eat Heath Slater or Kurt Hawkins.

Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole (Extreme Rules Match)

A rare stipulation match sees Old Dutch Al (New nickname pending) taking on Michael Cole’s troubled stepson in an extreme rules match because Philly. I like how they firmly established why this match is happening, and the escalating violence really sold this as a blood feud to watch. It is tempting to give Aleister an advantage here, but really Undisputed Era can just pile on the numbers and help their man win this match.

I think the Undisputed Era are going to be NXT’s big thing in 2018, and a win here would solidify that feeling for me. Meanwhile Black could show up in the Rumble and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. Cole wins after some shenanigans.

Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler (NXT Women’s Championship)

When they first started building to this I was very skeptical. I do not like the shoot to the top immediately push for “legit” athletes, and nothing in the Mae Young Classic told me Shayna would be a star within a year. But she is doing really well with her character work, particularly with her sit down interview with Percy “My head looks like a turtle” Watson and Ember Moon.

Meanwhile, since winning the belt I have seen the same old Ember as before, and I feel like I have seen the limits to her character and ring work. She is good, but not quite attention grabbing enough to carry a division. She is a prime candidate for a call up, where she will do fine…but just fine. With Ember being in the main event scene for over a year in NXT I am ready for here to get gone and let the hot newcomer take over. Lazer Blazer wins and gets the Brock treatment while she learns to actually wrestle.

Andrade “Cien” Almas v.s Johnny Gargano (NXT Championship Match)

Did anyone think this would headline a TakeOver event? Sure, their first TakeOver match was great, but who could have predicted this would be the headliner before the Rumble? Cien has been ok, but Zelina Vega is the real star here and everyone knows it.

Meanwhile, Johann Von Wrestling has been milking his steady rise for all it’s worth and it truly feels like he earned this spot. There is plenty of options on the table here. One is a returning Tomasso Ciampa costing Johnny Wrasslin’ a victory, but does anyone see Cien Almas as the headliner going into Mania season? Wouldn’t Team DIY exploding make much more sense for the biggest TakeOver of them all?

If Almas wins I see him moving on to Adam Cole, but again would Jonathan Grapples vs. Cole match more sense? I think the outcome is Johnny wins for the feel-good moment leading to Ciampa showing up to stare down or attacking his former partner.



Spaceman Frank’s NXT Takeover: Chicago Predictions


by Frank Lucci

NXT has snuck in a TakeOver event several weeks after WrestleMania, and the general reaction I’ve seen from people talking about this event is “There’s a TakeOver going on that week?”

It seems very random that WWE would pick Backlash of all Pay-Per-Views to piggyback a Takeover event onto, but when you consider that waiting until SummerSlam would be far too long for a TakeOver and the fact that Chicago is consistently one of the best crowds for wrestling, it makes a little bit more sense.

NXT has had a good run of television since ‘Mania and I dare say after a bit of a lull, the developmental brand has reemerged as the best weekly program WWE has going. Chicago promises to be a weird blend of established NXT talent with some new people thrown in to replace departed stars, which should be an explosive mix to watch. However, there are several notable people missing from the card (Kassius Ohno, Alister Black, Cien Almas, etc), and with only five matches announced as of this writing I expect a last minute match added just to screw with me. That said, I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my NXT Takeover: Chicago predictions!

Roderick Strong vs. Eric Young (with Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain)

The only (as of this writing) non-title match sees The Messiah of the Backbreaker taking on Tye Dillinger’s role as the thorn in Sanity’s side as he gets a one on one match with their leader Eric Young.

Strong has had a hell of a time in NXT since ‘Mania as he went from generically handsome dude who does not talk into someone I generally want to succeed. Part of this is the excellent vignettes NXT produced that addressed the gaping void where his personality should be. Another large part was his supremely enjoyable number one contender’s match with Hideo Itami that sold me on him being someone who can have main event matches. Finally, during his amazing vignette he wore an Every Time I Die “Hot Damn” album cover t-shirt, which is a golden ticket into Spaceman Frank’s heart.

Strong has all the momentum here, but since Young has the number’s game here I think he will get the win. He has a solid TakeOver record thus far, and I think this feud has legs so Young will draw first blood for Sanity.

Tyler Bate (c) vs. Pete Dunne (WWE UK Championship Match)

The title match with the least build, mostly because WWE shot the UK show tapings out of order so we knew Dunne was getting a rematch before we actually saw him win the privilege of facing Bate.

Bate was excellent during the UK tournament, but I can see Dunne on the main roster now and immediately becoming a player in the main event scene a la Samoa Joe. I’d go as as far as to say Triple H needs to make Evolution 2.0 (EV 2.0?? Oh wait…) with Joe, Dunne, Triple H (as Ric Flair) and Brock Lesnar where the group feud over who is Brock’s number one contender by proxy while The Beast Incarnate is off strangling Emu’s or whatever he does on his farm.

Anyway, Bate wins here because I feel like if they make the switch it will be on the new UK show to build interest in that rather than prop up a TakeOver special.

Asuka (c) vs. Ruby Riot vs. Nikki Cross (NXT Women’s Championship Match)

Ember Moon’s injury and subsequent withdrawal from this match has really deflated the hype surrounding it.

Moon vs. Asuka still feels like the endgame for the women’s division, though Asuka vs. Cross has me much more hyped than any other potential matchup. That leaves Ruby Riot to take the pin, and with Asuka oh so very close to breaking Goldberg’s record for longest undefeated streak there is no reason for her to lose. As of late, we have seen WWE make sure to break every possible record they can, and Goldberg’s will be next. Cross and Riot keep brawling with the Empress of Tomorrow avoiding them until she can kick Riot in the head and keep her title.

The Authors of Pain (c) (with Paul Ellering) vs. Team DIY (NXT Tag Team Championship Ladder Match)

I want to see the big boys known as the Authors of Pain fall of a ladder.

I am ready to see this match, and it is far and away the match I am most looking forward to. Team DIY constantly have the best match during TakeOvers, and even though they are tasked to carry the massive dudes in AOP in a match best fit for smaller guys, I’m all in. I see bodies flying, amazing feats of strength, and above all else, people tumbling off of ladders. NXT only does a handful of gimmick matches during the year, so it is telling how much DIY has management’s faith if they get the nod for a Ladder Match. With rumors swirling that Ciampa is getting a new theme and confirmation that Gargano’s new theme is in the works, people think DIY will split soon. Not sure about that leap in logic, but I think AOP gets the win here.

Author’s note: With the news that Ciampa has suffered some sort of leg injury, it seems even more in doubt that Team DIY will win the belts back. Triple H has gone on the record to say that the guy has turned an ankle and should be good to go, but reiterated the fact that it is up to the medical staff to make the final call. This gives AOP even more of an excuse to beat up Johnny Wrestling for 15 minutes as Ciampa recovers outside the ring for extended periods of time.

Bobby Roode (c) vs. Hideo Itami (NXT Championship Match)

Hideo is finally back (for real this time), and immediately punched his ticket to the title scene by beating Roderick Strong. It makes sense that he would face Roode, as he is a holdout of a class of WWE signees that, for the most part, have vacated NXT. It also makes sense that he goes right back to the main event scene since that’s where he was suppose to be this entire time if not for injuries.

However, plenty of time has passed, and now many of the attributes that made Itami stand out in 2015 are par for the course in WWE. Honestly, I can see him getting hot-shotted to the main roster, but only as a Cruiserweight on 205 Live. Roode is an engaging as ever, and he is a prime candidate for a callup in the summer. For now, I predict he keeps his championship and the sudden influx of main event caliber guys in NXT leads him to losing it in a multi-man match down the road.


Manopera! Episode 38: WrestleMania 33 Part 1 – NXT TakeOver Orlando


For the first half of our WrestleMania 33 coverage, we begin with NXT TakeOver: Orlando. Spaceman Frank cuts a promo on Amy Schumer and her recent swimsuit cover controversy.

Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.


Spaceman Frank’s NXT TakeOver: Orlando Predictions


by Frank Lucci

It’s time again for WWE to put on their biggest show of the year. Lately, that big show had been overshadowed by the critically acclaimed Takeovers that precede it, which act like the Guardians of the Galaxy films to the populist Avengers movies. They are not suppose to be better, but really, with this cast, how could they not be? This year it seems like WWE has made a concentrated effort to tamper or even dull the NXT before Wrestlemania, with the build being built primarily on video packages as other people who are not even on the card (cough, Kassius Ohno) to keep the weekly NXT shows running in the meantime. I mean, I get that WWE does not wanting for Shinsuke during the main event of their big show like last year, but why not just try to make Mania better rather than hurt NXT? Petty conspiracy theories aside, until NXT actually disappoints me I will be all in on their live events, and their is plenty to like here despite the promo package heavy build. I am Spaceman Frank, and here are my NXT: Orlando predictions.

Team Perfect Best Friends (Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong, No Way Jose, and Ruby Riot) vs. Sanity

The big question here is if this will be the standard WWE mixed tag match, or if NXT will be bold and allow Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross to mix it up with the boys. It would make sense for Cross to attack the men since that would very much be in her character, and I believe the best way to get the debuting Ruby over with new fans is to have her stand up to Sanity and lay into them  regardless of gender. I like everyone here, and given that this is one of the best built up feuds in NXT, I think NXT can have a brawl for the ages here. If this is a plain jane mixed tag natch I see Cross getting the win to give Sanity some cred and herself some momentum because I think she is next up for the Women’s Championship. If everyone can hit anyone I think this will end up being an epic chain of finishers that give Tye a win that he is desperate for. Dillinger has put in the work in NXT, and her deserves a Big Damn Hero moment for once. In front of the Mania crowds right in the backyard of NXT and I think The Perfect Ten gets the pin.

Aleister Black vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas

Another big debut sees the former Tommy End get his proper debut (after showing up during the UK Tournament in an exhibition loss to Neville) against Almas. Almas has gotten so much better as a heel, and honestly I see him taking over the mantle of cocky heel for Bobby Roode whenever he gets called up. It seems odd then that NXT would feed him to their next big debut, and it is even stranger that Kassius Ohno is nowhere to be found despite being all over NXT TV the past weeks. Ohno has not exactly impressed since coming back, and NXT honestly seems to be punishing him by having him lose and wear unflattering outfits. I think a triple threat between the three would have been dynamite and add an air of mystery here, but without Ohno I see Black getting the win. He is knew, he has a stellar look, and he can be the star power NXT will need post-Mania. I just hope Almas gets his stuff in and looks good here because NXT is going to need him to step up even more in the weeks and months to come.

Asuka (c) vs. Ember Moon (NXT Women’s Championship Match)

Asuka is facing literally the only women possible that seems to have a remote chance to take her championship. I should be super hyped for this and yet…I am not. Triple H is on the record for saying he is not pleased that the NXT Women’s Division was gutted by the WWE draft, and it really shows that only Asuka and Moon are the legit ladies left who can get the crowd into a singles match for the belt. But the booking has done Ember Moon no favors, and she has been hot and cold since her debut the past summer in Brooklyn. She is undefeated, sure, but she appears infrequently and did not face as stiff competition as Asuka has. I think Asuka will win here in a competitive match, then go the main roster (preferably Smackdown because in generally I think they handle people much better there). She is very close to breaking Goldberg’s streak, and if there is one thing WWE loves is stats they can parade around every week. Have her keep the streak intact so she has a default storyline and drawn out her beating each person on the roster as she gets closer. Then we get Asuka vs Charlotte in the battle of ladies with have/had streaks to get her past 176. Asuka is ready and we need new blood ASAP. Meanwhile to cover the cost of getting to the main roster she gives up her NXT championship without losing it and the long rumored women’s tournament crowns a new champ in Moon leading to an eventual rematch down the line. Book it Triple H the Spaceman demands it (please don’t hurt me).

Authors of Pain (c) vs. The Revival vs. Team DIY (Triple Threat Match for the NXT Tag Team Championships)

This is NXT’s (and WWE’s by extension) Big Giant Indy Exhibition Craziness Matchup of the weekend. The important (aka only) tag teams in NXT go at it all at once, and this will surely big the match that people talk about when the dust has settled on the weekend. Team DIY and The Revival are opposite sides of the same workhorse coin, while The Authors of Pain are the stereotypical team WWE craves while at the same time showing of some impressive moves when asked. Something special is here, and what I really want is a Wrestlemania 17 TLC match between the three to crown the next wave of stellar tag teams going forward. Instead, we get an elimination match between the teams, which is fine but I really want to see something that requires people to crash and burn to achieve glory. I could almost see the two smaller teams teaming up on Authors of Pain to take them out, but I think they are keeping the belt her and sticking around to dominate for a long time as is customary in NXT I could also see the long standing split between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Wrestling actually happen if not for the fact that NXT (and WWE) are desperate for tag teams. I think The Revivial are the ones out first because they are the most main roster ready (Evolution 2.0 with them, Joe, and Pete Dunne with Triple H being the shadow puppet master please!) and to balance things out between face and heels. But in the end AOP needs the belts to stay relevant, as heel tag teams have a bad record in NXT once they lose the belts.

Bobby Roode (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (NXT Championship Match)

After putting on a psychological showcase, we now get Roode trying to fend off a pissed off Nakamura in Orlando. What I do not get is WWE first running the injury angle of Nakamura, followed by backstage or pre taped segments of the former champ. I can give a pass on the whole injury angle if I believed for a second Nakamura was actually inured. Meanwhile, Shinsuke is best in front of a live crowd to feed off their energy and showcase his charisma, as he just does not have the same effect over Twitter updates and taped footage. Roode has suffered as well, though props go to the props department for adding little things for people to praise the champ over such as the picture of himself behind the champ during his sit down interview. Bobby is such a dastardly heel that my roommate Kim has wished get dies in a fire, so he must be doing something right. I think he will retain here cause Nakamura has nothing left to give NXT and needs to be on the main roster. Roode is the evil champ the brand needs as it collects some new stars, and Nakamura is the exciting new babyface both shows needs. I think this match will be fine, but I am ready to see what’s next.

For more of Spaceman Frank’s antics, check out Spacemanfrank.com and listen to our pro wrestling podcast, Manopera!


SSEP: SSEP – Episode 11: WrestleMania 33/NXT Takeover Orlando Preview


by Jonathan Schorr

Jon and Matt go on the ultimate thrill ride with their WrestleMania 33 and NXT Takeover: Orlando predictions while watching WrestleMania 13 from 1997.

Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.


SSEP: Episode 7 – Jon and Matt Review Rumble Weekend/’Mania Predictions


by Jon Schorr

Jon and Matt review NXT Takeover San Antonio, The 29th annual Royal Rumble, WrestleMania possibilities, the loss of Seth Rollins and do a quick preview of Superbowl LI.

Donate to our Patreon at www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.


Manopera! Episode 33: NXT TakeOver: San Antonio Review


Spaceman Frank and Chris review NXT TakeOver: San Antonio and talk a bit about the WWE UK Tournament.

Donate to our Patreon at www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.


Spaceman Frank’s NXT San Antonio Predictions


by Frank Lucci

It’s time for a major WWE Pay-Per-View so you know what that means! It’s time for several indie feds to put on shows in and around the area of said PPV (Oh, and also for WWE to roll out NXT shows the day before). While previous NXT PPV’s always threatened to overshadow their big brother PPV shows (and they universally did), San Antonio seems destined to comfortably fit in the background.

First off, it’s behind Royal Rumble, the most unpredictable WWE PPV of the year. Second, the build to this Takeover has been…bad. NXT no longer has time to breath and have periodic specials that make sense, and now they fit more of the WWE model of “well, something has to fit here.” Throw in several episodes focused on international tours and this definitely has been a weird time for NXT. Granted, NXT has the benefit of the doubt with me and most fans, but still, this may be a case of what could have been. Spaceman Frank is here to predict NXT Takeover: San Antonio.

Roderick Strong vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas

Roderick Strong was someone I was excited to see come to NXT, but once he got there I started wondering what the hype was about.  I know he is grand and all, but seeing him in NXT makes me think he is destined to get lumped into the Cruiserweight Division. Meanwhile, he is “feuding” (I consider it a strongly worded argument) with Cien Almas, who is much better as a bad guy but still needs lots of work. I think this match could be a great match, because it needs to be a great match in order for these guys to have any sort of meaningful impact in 2017. Considering the field is wide open for a couple of top guys to get into the main event of NXT, hopefully these guys show us what they got. A coin flip of a match, I think Cien is due for a big win over newcomer Strong.

Eric Young vs. Tye Dillinger

Out of the two non-title matches, I have more hope for this. For one, Dillinger is as hot as he has ever been, and NXT fans are desperate to see this guy get a win. I do not expect a Sami Zayn-style push for him, since he seems destined to leave NXT sooner rather than later, but a significant win for The Perfect Ten would be nice. When everyone seems to leave NXT by losing, sending him off with a win and momentum would be fantastic. On the other hand, besides entering the Rumble at number 10, what is he going to do on the main roster? Especially in Wrestlemania season? I see him going the Tyler Breeze route. Actually, him going Breeze and Fandango would not be that bad…and they could all be henchmen for The Miz (Holy cow I just stream of conscious booked main roster Dillinger and saved Fandango).

Eric Young and Sanity in general are my dark horse candidates to have an excellent 2017. While not particularly impressive so far, I think they can go far in the new year. Sawyer Fulton’s injury is unfortunate, but replacing him with Big Damo catapults this group to the top. NXT has been missing a stable like this for some time, and having a dominate group take on the undefeatable babyfaces that populate NXT is a good idea. I don’t’ see Eric Young as NXT champ, but I see the group having plenty of gold in the near future. Tye gets a sneaky win, only for Sanity to beat down the guy immediately afterwards so that Tommy End or Chris Hero can come in and make the save.

Team DIY (c) vs. Authors of Pain (NXT Tag Team Championship match)

Team DIY (refuse to use the hashtag) have been the show-stealers for the second half of 2016, but now they face the massive but green Authors of Pain. I think the Authors of Pain are better than people give them credit for, but they really need to have Paul Ellering cut more promos and get involved. Perhaps one of the biggest things going for this match is that Team DIY (especially Johnny Gargano) are masters of selling, so the big men should look like a million bucks as they beat up the champs. I think DIY deserve a good run with the belts, and while Authors of Pain seem to be on the up and up they will get humbled here. The champs retain while the specter of The Revival looms over this match.

Asuka (c) vs. Nikki Cross vs. Billie Kay vs. Peyton Royce (NXT Women’s Championship Match)

This is the type of match that gives me pause that Asuka may get her first loss here. Much like Charlotte losing her title in a fatal four way with the rest of the Four Horsewomen, this is a way for Asuka to lose while not getting pinned. However, I still have doubts. Here is how it breaks down for me, from least likely to most likely to win:

  1. Peyton Royce: When you are the second Australian in the match and the default henchmen in the match, you ain’t winning. Not to say that she is bad, but the “Venus Flytrap of NXT” just reeks of failure. Maybe she will prove something here, but really I think she is here to eat a pin.
  1. Billie Kay: Has going into a multi-man match ever worked out for anybody? Has anyone successfully planned out having someone win in advance? Really, the smart move would have one person pin another as soon as the bell rings. Anyway, Kay actually has a character and is the only other person besides the champ to work a singles match on a Takeover Special, so at least she has that. Kay can be a worthy wrestler, but she needs a chance to shine one on one like Becky Lynch did to really show her stuff.
  1. Nikki Cross: The wildcard of the whole match. Cross has not had a chance to show how good a wrestler she is, but NXT has perfectly established her character and shown her to be the crazy wild women in the match. I really hope NXT takes advantage of the No-DQ rules inherent in Fatal Four Ways to have her go nuts on the other women. Considering she keeps losing matches because she gets herself disqualified, have her bite and claw her competition to make things interesting. I think she and Asuka take themselves out at some point leading to some close near falls from the Aussies. However….
  1. Asuka: The NXT Women’s Champion is winning this. While there are enough variables to make me sincerely doubt the outcome, as champ I give her 51% of winning. The rumors always swirl around her taking on Ember Moon, and really she is the only one who can walk in and take on the champ that the hardcore fans of NXT will accept as a worthy contender. With WrestleMania coming up, it seems like the logical step. Throw in the serious doubt that Asuka makes the main roster before ‘Mania, and I think she is keeping the belt.

Bobby Roode vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (NXT Championship Match)

Shinsuke has nothing left to prove as champ, and the extremely abbreviated feud with Samoa Joe (noticeably in his absence on this Takeover) on the international circuit has me thinking he may jump to the main roster in 2017. He is a two time champ, he has beaten everyone noteworthy in the past year, and he needs to move on. Give him the Sami Zayn route where he loses here, faces the hot new wrestler in NXT (Kassius Ohno), then leave for the main roster. Roode is one of the few people who can take on his mantle, and he can spend several weeks on NXT TV hyping his feuds and save his wrestling for when it matters. Hell, he sold this match in one promo for me, and has one of my roommates hating him like my Grandma hated Ric Flair. Roode grabs a handful of tights, becomes champ and NXT gets glorious.


Spaceman Frank’s NXT TakeOver: Toronto Predictions


by Frank Lucci

A big Four Pay-Per-View is here, which means that WWE is rolling out the NXT brand the night before for a (probably) superior show of their own. What’s most likely is that the last major show for the developmental brand of the year promises to be an exciting event, and considering the event will be around one-third of the time Survivor Series promises to be that is very welcome. With an emphasis on tag team action reflecting the overall Survivor Series theme, Toronto has massive potential to show why WWE deserves to invest in more serious tag teams instead of the multitude of joke tag teams that populate the main roster. While it’s unusual for no new talents to be making their debut during a live special, Toronto features several grapplers having the highest-stake matches of their careers, plus the return of a legendary women’s wrestler. I’m Spaceman Frank, and here are my NXT TakeOver: Toronto predictions.

The Authors of Pain vs. TM-61 (Finals of Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic)

It’s smart of the WWE to only have the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic on the Toronto show rather than the semis and finals in one night. It’s also smart of NXT to have two up and coming teams clashing for the trophy rather than having a superteam win it like last year. While I would (and honestly) rather see Team DIY and The Revival clash for the NXT Tag Team Championships and the trophy, I’ll take this alternative instead. What I don’t like is Paul Ellering being suspended from a cage above the ring. If we had seen the dastardly manager interfere in more matches it would make sense, but since the Authors have been pretty dominate it doesn’t seem necessary. It’s tempting to say that the Authors of Pain will win…so I will. TM-61 is a fine team, but to me they are discount Team DIY until they fully establish themselves.

The Revival (c) vs. Team DIY (Two Out of Three Falls Match for the NXT Tag Team Championships)

Having this be a two out of three falls match is perfect. This was already shaping up to be the match of the night, and guaranteeing there will be high drama throughout the match. These four can steal not only this NXT special, but the whole wrestling weekend as well. I think The Revival will win, so they can bide their time until AJ Styles brings them in to be his henchmen in the SmackDown chapter of The Club (please let it happen WWE). There is a lot of fertile ground for Johnny Wrestling and the Sicilian Psychopath to begin feuding, and the smart money says that losing their chance at the belts for a second time will lead to the split. I could also see them splitting up while trying to take the Cruiserweight Championship on the main roster, considering how many times we’ve been teased with their divorce. Either way, the stakes in this match are high, and I’m ready for The Revival to pull out some shenanigans and Team DIY to lay some some serious hits that echo so loudly I hear it from Buffalo.

Bobby Roode vs. Tye Dillinger

The only singles match on the card not for a title involves Dillinger finally getting a match on a live special he is not guaranteed to lose, and it’s about time considering how long the dude has been working away at NXT and has been overdue for some sort of push. The crowd is solidly behind the guy, as they have wanted The Perfect 10 to get the spot he finally deserves. On the other hand, he’s going up against the immensely popular Bobby Roode, whose theme song admittedly is more over than he is. NXT is in need of some main event heels besides Samoa Joe, and Roode fits the bill to a “t.”

In order to do this, I predict he will bully and batter Dillinger to get the win, earning him some heat so people begin to turn on him. Roode wins to set himself up as the next challenger for the NXT Championship and Dillinger solidifies himself as a midcard face with a strong outing.

Asuka (c) vs. Mickie James (NXT Women’s Championship Match)

Asuka is facing her stiffest competition yet…or at least that’s what WWE wants you to believe. Mickie James is a legend and probably a future Hall of Fame candidate, but rumor has it that the only reason she’s here is because Trish Stratus was not available. I also have concerns over how their styles will mesh, but considering the biggest thing I know about James is that she sexually assaulted Stratus at ‘Mania 20 I’m probably not a good reference point. Asuka seems destined to hold on to the belt until Ember Moon (or someone else) steps up, so she’ll win this match and will have to wait awhile until someone becomes the clear-cut choice to take her title away. Either that or NXT books her in a multi-women match so she can lose the belt without being pinned.

Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Samoa Joe (NXT Championship Match)

While I predict the Tag Team Championship match will be the highlight of the show, these two are engaging every time they face off. While their first encounter was built around the dream match potential, now there are personal stakes involved as Nakamura and Joe have taken turns beating the bejesus out of each other. I predict these two will lay down some serious lumber, and if Brock vs. Goldberg II matches 50% of their intensity I’ll be shocked.

I know NXT is reluctant to throw around gimmick matches, but if any two needed a Street Fight stipulation this is the pair. Joe has nothing left to prove in NXT, and is an early candidate for a 2017 Rumble entrant. Therefore, Nakamura is walking away with the title. Maybe he’ll have one final encounter with Joe, or maybe Roode will sneak into the main event scene, or maybe No Way Jose turns heel and uses an actual baseball bat on the champ. We shall see.