Submitted by Thomas Green from Indianapolis, IN – Old National Centre Egyptian Room
Asuka def. Emma via submission with the Asukalock (crossface chicken wing)
This wasn’t as good as the Takeover: London match, but it was a pretty good opening match. They did a lot without having to do a lot, if that makes sense. No big bumps, no nearfalls, but lots of action. Asuka is so much fun to watch when it comes to finding unique ways to transition from spot to spot, and Emma’s no slouch. Can’t complain.
Blake & Murphy def. Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa via pinfall with their running suplex/frog splash combo
Blake & Murphy often get overshadowed due to the immense talent in NXT, but seeing them live on shows like this, you can tell how good they are. It’s like going to a WWE main roster live event and noticing how much more polished someone like a Kofi Kingston is than all but the top level indie guys. Blake & Murphy are always in the right place, everything they do looks good, and they’re good at interacting with the front row fans. Ciampa & Gargano showed so much poise and as technically good as they are on indie shows, they felt like WWE-level workers in the stuff between the moves. They worked the match in a way where, even with Blake & Murphy winning, it was designed to build to Gargano & Ciampa getting a big reaction doing their bow post-match. This wouldn’t blow anyone’s mind on a TV show, but you couldn’t ask for a more fun undercard house show match.
NXT Women’s Champion Bayley def. Alexa Bliss with the Bayley-to-Belly Suplex
You can’t really put into words how special Bayley feels in front of the NXT crowd. After years and years of awful dudes catcalling even the best of female wrestlers on WWE shows, it’s refreshing to see an entire audience so emotionally invested in a female character. There were no rude comments that I could hear, nothing remotely sexual from any of the drunkards in the audience. Other than a couple of guys shouting that Bayley was “adorable”, this was a crowd that wanted to boo the bad guy and cheer their favorite on. Bayley’s work is something to behold live.
You don’t really notice it on TV, but she works in this way where she kind of moves like an ungraceful, awkward child at times (in a way that fits the character where you can tell it’s something she’s trying; not trying to bash her), but can kick it up to where she’s a credible champion wrestler. That probably reads really dumb to most people, but that is about the best way I can express that thought. Alexa Bliss isn’t technically on the level of most of the NXT roster of either gender, but she has absolutely stellar heel facials and is great at getting boos without having to do a thing.
After the match, Bayley called out Finn Balor to come in front of the audience, which led to Bayley doing Finn’s entrance (the video of which is all over the place online right now). It was interesting in that it kind of felt like a parody of those lame ECW angles where the valet would offer her “services” and the male wrestler would have to act like he was going to get some right in the middle of the ring, but it ended in a funny moment and a hug – and the audience LOVED it. I thought this was the evolution of wrestling on this level in a nutshell – an audience who, fifteen years ago, would’ve been chanting for the woman to do lewd things to the man, now going crazy because they’re doing goofy stuff and displaying genuine friendship. It was a really cool moment.
NXT Tag Team Champions Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson defeated American Alpha in a 2/3 falls match
Holy cow – I absolutely LOVED this match. I’m not a stranger to good live wrestling, but this might have been the single best tag team match I’ve ever seen live (and up extremely high on the best matches I’ve ever seen live). This felt like top-level 80’s teams with 2016-level athleticism, where they weren’t afraid to break from the formula and tell a different type of tag team story, but they didn’t have to do a million false finishes or do anything intelligence-insulting.
As graceful as Chad Gable looks on TV, he really is incredible to watch live. He’s at a different level from even the big name indie/Japanese stars when it comes to quickness and movement. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a pro wrestler be able to work as fast as he does with the quality of his wrestling. Saying all of that, Scott Dawson was the best overall wrestler in the match. He was able to keep up with Gable so all of his acrobatic and fast wrestling looked perfect, but also was a lot of fun to watch stooging from the babyfaces and filling the time between the stuff. This might be hyperbole, but watching these two at the beginning of the match felt like Satoru Sayama hooking up with Dynamite Kid in one of their earlier matches. As good as Gable is, Dawson is the heel he’s needed. There’s no one that Gable has worked that has been able to be on the receiving end of his stuff and make it look that good, while also providing the dimensions to the match that Gable is still learning how to perform. Gable & Dawson are absolutely perfect opponents and I hope eventually get a long singles run against each other.
Dawson gets the Arn Anderson comparison often, but I see a lot of Dennis Condrey in him too. It was like watching one of those old vets on nostalgia shows who still blows away most guys in wrestling with his basics, but with the athleticism of a young wrestler who almost never is at that level at the little stuff. Dawson also has the best-looking punches I’ve seen on a WWE show in a long time. He punches like Bobby Eaton; it’s crazy.
This was likely the only town NXT will run where Jordan is the more popular American Alpha member, as he wrestled for Indiana University and this is a crowd that is knowledgeable about stuff like that. He got “Hoo-Hoo-Hoosiers” and “IU” chants the entire match. Jordan reminds me of 1989 Rick Steiner, but with the charisma of a way more “with it” Sonny Siaki – in that he has a lot of Rock-like tendencies, but without that over-the-top next-level presence. I mean all of this as a compliment, but I can’t think of anyone other than Siaki to bring up.
I didn’t time it, but it felt like they went 30 minutes, with each fall timed out well (not the usual “two quick falls and a regular one-fall match” style that WWE does often). I don’t know how else to put it, but it really felt like a top-level 80’s top heel tag team wrestling a more athletic and more charismatic Steiner Brothers-type team, but with a few 2016 moves sprinkled in. Jordan & Gable are maybe the most natural and advanced WWE developmental homegrown guys out of developmental (meaning that most homegrown guys out of developmental don’t get this good until they hit the main roster and work with the top guys).
Even on Raw/Smackdown/PPV, most matches feel like someone put them together and they’re often going “step A, step B, step C…”. This didn’t at all, but they also did a lot of dynamic offense and innovative stuff. This was a house show in front of “smart” fans that knew this wasn’t even being taped for a video package for TV, and most of the crowd seemed to be biting on the American Alpha nearfalls. They did such a great job of building the drama. It was the absolute best of every single world with something to make most wrestling fans happy and a really hot crowd.
The short version: Gable pinned Dawson with a small package in the first fall, Dash/Dawson cheat to win the second fall, and then Dawson pinned Gable clean after a series of reversed cradles to win the third fall.
Nia Jax def. Billie Kay
The crowd needed a breather and they got it. This was the only thing on the entire show that felt like a “developmental” match. I feel bad saying this since I know how inexperienced Nia Jax is, but while the in-ring inexperience is obvious to anyone, she doesn’t even have the presence that you’d expect her to have with her look and the WWE presentation machine behind her. This might raise the ire of fans of women’s wrestling who have seen her for years, but Billie Kay looked just as green as Jax, with awful stutter-step kicks and awkward bumping. Even as an obvious breather match, this got way too much time. The crowd didn’t turn on it in unison like an Eva Marie match, but you could hear scattered “TAKE IT HOME” and “STOP THE MATCH” chants among the silence. This would’ve been the worst thing on an OVW or FCW show, let alone a card with all of these top workers and super-indie names.
Sami Zayn def. Baron Corbin and Samoa Joe in a three-way dance
A step above their TV match a few weeks ago, but mostly because they got to do a lot more with the finish here. As much as Bayley and American Alpha felt like huge stars on the NXT level, it felt like the audience saw Sami Zayn as a superstar on the level above everyone else (like when The Rock comes back on Raw and interacts with current roster members). All night, you could hear people all over the building only talking about how excited they were to see him in between the frequent “OLE!” chants, and the only person who could come close to the pre-match audience buzz before their music was Bayley. As great as he was on the indies (and even in NXT during the first chunk of his run), he really carries himself like a top superstar now coming out of the curtain. He has SO much confidence and poise. There were a lot of great wrestlers on this show, but he was the best at being a “star”.
Baron Corbin was a pleasant surprise watching work in-person. He’s not the best wrestler in the world, but the Corbin of a year ago (or even six months ago) wouldn’t have been able to hang on this level. His work was air-tight and he carried himself like a top guy. You can see why the WWE brass has high hopes for him. This is such a small thing, but even the way Corbin grabbed and worked a wristlock early in the match felt like you were watching an experienced good worker and not the bland factory-made developmental guy that everyone dumped on when he debuted. I’m not saying he’s anywhere near him on any level, but he kind of reminds me of a young Undertaker in how he moves and carries himself.
Samoa Joe was the weird one here. It was almost like the TNA house shows of yesteryear, where the audience would react to guys based on past glory and had no clue about the TV show. Despite the crowd knowing every other performer and their characters, Joe felt like they were reacting to the Joe of 10 years ago and not an “NXT Superstar”. It wasn’t good or bad, in that he did get a nice reaction coming to the ring. But it wasn’t overwhelming like you would expect it to be. Joe was moving a lot quicker and seemed more agile than he has in years, so clearly the fire has been lit underneath him.
They did a really creative finish, where everyone hit each other with rapid fire big boots before Joe dodged one from Corbin into the Kokina Clutch. Corbin backed Joe up into a corner for a rope break and Zayn hit them both with the Helluva Kick before covering Corbin for the win. Zayn gave a really nice “rah rah” speech after the match about NXT and definitely used language that felt like he was doing a farewell speech without giving away the big farewell (assumedly for Dallas). It was reminiscent of when they would do the goodbye speeches at the end of early Dragon Gate USA shows.
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The general admission situation was a complete nightmare. GA was standing room only across the back of the room, behind the back row of seats across from the entrance. GA was full enough that there were issues with people trying to get to their seats having to shove through the GA audience because the aisle gap to get to the seating was non-existent, as well as stationed security being in bad spots that blocked off some fans’ views. It didn’t ruin the night, but if NXT ever runs the Egyptian Room again, I hope something is figured out (whether it be bleachers, extra seating, etc.).
In terms of an overall show, it was at least an 8.5/10. Other than the bad seating situation, the NXT live experience is highly recommended. Again, great pacing and timing with a roster full of stars that the audience is invested in, and solid-to-excellent work up-and-down the card. I kind of feel like the show would have benefited from American Alpha/Dash & Dawson going on last, but the crowd probably would have felt ripped off if the biggest star (Zayn) went on in the middle and wouldn’t have reacted as well to the tag match. I just can’t emphasize enough how stellar Dash & Dawson vs. Gable & Jordan was. On a show of top-level wrestlers, they stole the show and ran away with it. I really hope they eventually get to do the 2/3 falls format on TV in some way. Even if they don’t, I’d have no problem seeing them work with each other a hundred times.
Also, this was probably the most well-timed wrestling show I have ever been to. I’ve been to plenty of Raw & Smackdown tapings with the mandatory commercial breaks and running times that didn’t run as smoothly as this. They started at 7:30 on the dot, and crossfaded the show intro music right into Asuka’s song so the high energy stayed up from the start. The main event ended at 10:00 PM on the dot. They gave a lot in two and a half hours, but it wasn’t like an indie show where everyone felt the need to do the biggest match possible and you’re tired after a marathon session.