Okay, first up, I have an apology to make. Back on 3/4 (The W) I said that there was another special named Next Generation coming up. Now, I don't know if I misheard something, or dreamed it up, or if I can just no longer distinguish between reality and fantasy (booking), but it turns out that that is, strictly speaking, not a real thing. So, I'm super sorry if anybody has been using me as a source of information. Actually, read that last sentence back again. If you've been using me of all people as a source of information, I think we've both got problems.
Anyhoo, this show is coming to you 100% not live from the open road! Columbus, OH, home of the Arnold Sports Festival! There's fun, autograph signings, tryouts, and...right, wrestling! We open up with Kalisto and Tyler Breeze, a combination I've actually been wanting to see for some time now. We haven't seen Kalisto in singles action in forever, and the announcers helpfully mention that right off the bat. That's why we like these guys. The match gets off to a slow start in the main-event style tradition (despite this, emphatically, not being tonight's main event), but it's not long before Kalisto starts busting out the flips. Breeze eventually cuts him off with a dropkick counter, but he doesn't stay on offense long. Kalisto mounts a comeback and hits the kneeling hurricanrana that's become one of his signature spots. The crow wants him to go up top, and so he does - hitting a spectacular 450 splash! That should put Breeze away, but he mugs way too long and Breeze kicks out. Kalisto looks to finish with the SDS, but Breeze escapes and nails the Beauty Shot instead to pick up the win. Match Rating: Not Bad, But I Think They Could Do Better
We go to the first video package (out of several) for the evening: A look at Kevin Owens and his dominance of NXT. We get special focus on A-Ry, as the two of them will finally be facing each other tonight.
Backstage Alexa Bliss is happy...to be back home in Columbus. She's looking forward to fighting Sasha Banks tonight.
Another video package. This one highlights the Arnold Sports Festival. Seriously, it looks like it was super fun.
A-Ry has some comments for us. He tells us he is going to humiliate Owens tonight. That seems...improbable.
Video package! This one is actually pretty neat, too. It's about how they're setting up NXT as a touring brand, and HHH is actually on hand to be super proud and excited about all that NXT has accomplished, as well he should be. There's a lot of focus in this package on their first road show, which happened to take place at the historic (which is to say, old) Agora Theater in Cleveland, OH. Here's a fun fact about me - I grew up in Cleveland, and I still have family there. When I heard that there was going to be an NXT show at the old club where my wife used to go catch punk shows, I was super-duper excited to go back and catch it. It sold out IMMEDIATELY, and I am still disappointed and kind of mad that I missed it.
Anyhoo, wrestling. Wesley Blake is going to go toe-to-toe with Big Cass. Enzo's got some good pre-match banter, and I like the way both groups used the unusual entrance set-up to do some different stuff with their entrances. Blake and Murphy came down the stairs, and Enzo's crew came out the front, and I just like the idea of different guys entering in different ways. The match is...not good. Blake has some kicks so ugly that they have to go to a wide shot. The match never really gets much better, either. Eventually, there are some shenanigans on the outside, Carmella gets knocked from the apron to the floor, and Blake catches a pin with a quick roll-up. Match Rating: Woof. Woof.
Video Package! This one's on Dana Brooke, a new acquisition for the women's division. I have no idea who she is! Any help out there?
It's time for hometown girl Alexa Bliss to take on the Boss. I'm 100% certain that Alexa is screwed here. Banks starts off with some shit talking, and moves on to some hard shots. Bliss fires right back, but it's not enough to keep Banks from setting up her double knee spot. She's added a springboard to the setup, and I like it a lot. I super impressed by the way that Banks is *still* improving. If she keeps going at this rate, she's going to be the best wrestler in the entire industry inside of 3 years. Case in point: She's already got the best rest holds. She just cranks on those things in a way that legitimately looks very unpleasant for the person on the receiving end. Bliss recovers and hits her backflip knee drop, which is now called the Bliss Flip (the names of her moves SUCK), and the fight spills outside. Bliss comes off the apron with a tackle, but then things start looking bad for her. Banks takes control, until Bliss shoves her into the ringpost and jumps back in the ring to beat the count. Match Rating: Turns Out, I Am 100% Wrong. Also, Who Wins In Their Home Town Anymore?
Backstage to Kevin Owens, who plans to make Riley sorry he stepped away from the commentary desk tonight. That seems...much more probable.
Alexa Bliss is happy...to have won. The Boss is less happy, though. GM Regal sees only one solution: a title match next week. I love the way they solve problems with violence on this show. This is how wrestling is supposed to work!
It's time for the main event. A-Ry takes on the champ to restore his honor and dignity. A-Ry is fired up; he will accept nothing less than total victory here. Owens immediately crushes him. He's got some great taunts, too. "Rage, Riley, RAAAGE!" He's just mauling A-Ry with punches and headbutts. He hits the corner Cannonball, taunts again, and then Riley is actually able to hit a move and knock Owens out of the ring for a second. Owens comes back in pissed, and Riley hits his only genuine offensive move of the match, a spinebuster. It's not long before Owens recovers, though. He nails a trio of sentons, then tosses Riley out of the ring toward a nasty-looking retaining fence that I suspect all the wrestlers have been eying all night. Riley gets shotted into it a couple times, then tossed back in the ring for the pop-up powerbomb and the merciful finish. Match Rating: Yeah, That Was About Right. Did you think Owens was finished here? Of course not. He's ready to keep going, but Finn Balor comes out to dissuade him. They'll be having their match next week. Owens is still ready to wail on Riley, so Balor gets physical, nailing his knockback dropkick and setting up the Coup de Grace. Owens bails, kicking Riley one more time for good measure on the way out.
This was a much better show than last week's. Much more in line with what I've come to expect. Taking the show on the road proved surprisingly successful, with a super hot crowd far from home. If they can pull houses like this one wherever they go, they've got nothing to worry about. In fact, if the goal actually is to actively compete with ROH, as was mentioned in the Joe to WWE thread, then I'd say ROH is the ones who should be worried. Very Worried.
WWE doesn't run radio ads where you are? They are on all the time here in Chicago. Usually the day of a Raw or Smackdown they have a commercial saying what happened last week, and telling people to tune in this week to find out what happens next.