That's right, everyone thought I was done, but I had to come out of retirement for one last big score! Actually, I had planned to recap the last episode on the Network instead, but I wound up going out of town last week, and my vanity projects can only get so convoluted before even I have to abandon them. Instead, let's check in on the first episode of this New Generation and see how it shook out, in my inimitable and always timely style.
We start with, but of course, HHH. Hey, it's his baby and I'm not going to begrudge him this. He tells us "Don't Blink," something something Dr. Who joke, moving on.
We're starting with the women's 4-way to determine Shayna Baszler's next contender. We get about 2 seconds into Io Shirai's entrance before I already miss editing, not because anything is screwed up, but just because it becomes crystal clear how much more you can do visually when you have the time to reconsider your camera angles and shot matching. It's a transition, but like I said, it's not messed up; they know how to shoot a live show. For reference, I'm keeping the match details a bit brief in this one. I took pretty limited notes, on account of the fact that I really wanted to watch the matches. The highlights here include a requisite Tower of Doom, and a nice sequence where Candace hits a snap German on Io,and then eats an inverted Alabama Slam from Belaire, who in turn is nearly pinned with a Code Blue from Mia. Eventually, everyone hits their finishers, except for Io, who gets dumped allowing Candace to hit the quebrada instead and pick up the win. Match Rating: Too Many Cool Moves Without Cool Names - Mia Gets It!
Seriously, I think her Irish whip has a name. Anyhoo, Baszler and her horsewomen come out to get in Candace's face after the fact, but nothing really happens except some jawing. Candace is actually a surprise for me here, as she was added to the match late and didn't have a lot of momentum going in. Crowd seemed pretty jazzed, though.
Next up, we've got some video packages, and I really, really expected these. It's def. p. important on a "first episode" to get the info out about who your guys are. We get one for Adam Cole, a spotlight on Keith Lee and Dominick Dijakovic, and a recap of Riddle/Damo (their fight's tonight).
Next up is Sean Maluta vs. Hat Enthusiast Cameron Grimes. Grimes appears to be their current project guy, in that they see big things for him and I do not give the slightest shit about him. On the other hand, he has a hat, which is something that you could never really say about Baron Corbin. I've spent more time talking about Cam's hat than this match, because it ended immediately when Cam hit a running chest stomp. Match Rating: More Hats, Please.
Recap package for Dream and Strong, spotlight on Damien Priest, and is it odd that they haven't given a live mic to anyone yet? I understand that they're presenting this as a wrestling show, but they've got some good talkers, and this seems like a wasted opportunity.
We're right into Strong vs. Dream now, and this is the very first I'm hearing that hour two is back on the Network. Did other people know this? Was I just (for some reason,) not paying attention on RAW and Smackdown? Whatevs, man. Dream is going full Rick Rude for this match, both in presentation and in ringwork. Strong is dancing with what brought him, which is thankfully not saying a damn thing. FYI, this is the return of Strong's letterman jacket, and I notice that Roddy Strong has Big Divorced Dad Energy. You can keep that one. For the most part, this is a pretty by-the-numbers match for these guys, which is to say that it is excellent. Highlight for me was probably the absolute slugfest they got into on the top turnbuckle, but towards the end there was also a pretty good bit where Strong tied Dream up in the ropes, hit a barrage of running forearms, then a tiger bomb, and only got a two count. Dream also manages a kickout on the End of Heartache. Eventually, and we all knew this was coming, Cole and the Boys come out, cause a distraction, and superkick Dream, allowing Strong to hit a second End of Heartache and pick up the title. Match Rating: Well, I Guess We Know Who Cole's Next Challenger Is.
True story - I was hoping the whole show that Drew Gulak would lead a cruiserweight invasion of NXT. And while that didn't happen, I feel like the Undisputed Era holding all the titles going into War Games is a great excuse for some other champion to bring a crew of guys to come fight them. I'm going to be so upset when that doesn't happen.
Anyhoo, we're in hour 2 and it's time to head to the Network. I swear that somebody shouted, "Vince isn't watching any more! Do something fun!" because while both matches on USA were Very Good, the rest of the show felt a lot more energized and different to me.
We start with Pete Dunne vs. Arturo Ruas, and man, we're bringing back all the guys we lent to Evolve for this, aren't we. Any time Dunne's out, I always ask who's donating their body for this one, and IT WAS NOT A JOKE this time. Ruas got in some good hits, but he got absolutely wrecked by some of Dunne's stuff here. It was a great match, and absolutely my kind of bullshit with graps and hard strikes. Nigel called it a "technical masterclass" at the exact moment Pete Dunne cracked Ruas across the face. The hardest his was probably when Dunne did the stomp across the bridged arm, and you could see Ruas' arm ben under the force. It was kind of hard to watch. Finish came when Dunne rolled onto Ruas, grabbed his fingers, and bent them apart until Ruas could take the pain no longer. That's his finisher now! Match Rating: Pete Dunne Is An Ugly Little Troll Of A Man Who Takes Pleasure In Causing Suffering And Pain To Others. People Love Him!
Pete Dunne should never lose.
Dakota Kai returns soon. Let's hope it's with a gimmick that doesn't make her look like a coward with no business in professional wrestling!
Xia Lee's up next, and she'll be taking on...no, no, NO, FUCK YOU NXT. I come back for one, ONE(!) show, and it's got fucking Aliyah on it. Come on. COME ON! Anyhoo, I like Xia Lee a lot. She's fun and has a lot of personality and I think she'll do very well for herself. Match Rating: Fucking Aliyah.
Fun bit back there - Nigel points out that Aliyah credits Beth Phoenix as one of the reasons she got into pro wrestling, and Beth did not sound enthusiastic about finding that out.
Some Jobber is out! He's got a fun 90's gimmick, and he's supposed to take on Kushida, but Imperium is out and they kill him dead instead. If you haven't been watching NXT UK (which, I mean, their weekly show is kind of hit and miss), you should definitely go watch their last Takeover event, especially the main event between Walter and Tyler Bate. Walter gets on the mic, but he gets answered by Kushida, who's pretty pissed about not getting his match. Kushida tells them that "Your time belongs to me," which is a pretty boss catchphrase. They trade some physicality, and now I really, really want to watch Kushida fight Walter, which was not a possibility I had previously considered.
Oney Lorcan is taking on a returning Lio Rush for the Cruiserweight #1 contendership in a match (and return for Rush) that was not in any way previously announced. That's okay, though. What were the highlights? This whole match is a highlight. People are going to focus on the first hour, I think, but this was the best match of the night, with two guys whose styles quite unexpectedly matched up really nicely. Rush looks good in his return (and I'm glad he was able to overcome his personal difficulties to make this return). Rush hits the Dragon's Call (FKA the Final Hour) to win the match. Match Rating: 205 4 Life!
Finally, we have Matt Riddle vs, sigh, Killian Dain in a street fight. Damo was the big fat guy in SAnitY, I think I have to accept that he's Killian Dain now. Anyhoo, we call this a streetfight, but it very quickly heads to the back, gets in the faces of Imperium and the Forgotten Sons, and suddently it's everyone in their best approximation of the Royal Rumble Go Home. We close out on Dain doing a big dive from the ring to the floor while everyone brawls, and this is a fine way to get everyone of the big show, but I don't think I would have closed here.
There you have it. Final thoughts? This was NXT. Most of my concerns didn't bear out, although I missed editing, and I liked not having add breaks during matches. Not having anyone talk on this show was a weird choice, but I think I get it, although they may also not have a lot of faith in guys getting on a live mic. I guess we'll see. I'd like to see more 205 and UK guys, and it looks like I'll get that as Worlds seem to be Colliding pretty regularly here.
Basically, like I said, this was NXT. It's still here, it's still good, and it's still a good time, even if pushing up the amount of live wrestling they produce in week by another full hour is a questionable decision.
Aliyah got SQUASHED. Save for a turnbuckle botch that she thankfully walked away from, Lee was a killer kicker.
I was fine with people not talking, especially Lio Rush, whose silence helped separate him from the insufferable RAW Lio Rush. And then he worked like a demon against Lorcan.
WALTER was the most over performer, getting two chants before he even appeared, and then HE talked, and it was decent and good and fine.
Riddle and Dain deserved a better spectacle, even if it does lead to a rematch. On its own, it didn't make me want to come back next week. But the rest of the show was diverse and energetic.
If this was my first NXT viewing, I would say the breakout star was Mauro Ranallo, who is just miles above every other talking head on a wrestling show. As much as I like Beth and Nigel, we don't need another three-person team. The voices collide often.
"To be the man, you gotta beat demands." -- The Lovely Mrs. Tracker
Gateway Championship Wrestling's third anniversary show is on Friday, March 28th at North County Tech High School in Florissant, MO(just outside of St. Louis). The main event will be Jerry Lynn vs. Kid Kash.