Greetings, NXT faithful. This is it. The last episode before the big, giant, potentially game-changing launch of the WWE Network. Signs point to NXT only being available on the Network in the future, but we’ll see what happens with that.

Felt like a short show, didn’t it? To recap, the Ascension *all together now*, squashed some jobbers, Emma beat Summer Rae, Sami Zayn and Antonio Cesaro had words and Adrian Neville beat Tyler Breeze.

Let’s start with the beginning and end with the end. We’ll be linear, for once.

Oh Ascension. You’re so lost the Hipsters now love you.

THE MOST DOMINANT, LONGEST REIGNING NXT TAG CHAMPIONS OF ALL TIME!!!!!

….out of three-ish.

The Ascension still don’t have actual opponents and we’re still missing out on having a fulfilling chunk of a televised wrestling program. As the Ascension sputters, the NXT tag division sputters, which makes their long title reign pretty much meaningless. Right now they’re so locked in place as wrestlers and characters that the live NXT audience has started to ironically chant Conor’s random sound effects. I assume they’re doing this to entertain themselves instead of sitting on their hands for 3 minutes twice a taping.

I wasn’t feeling the women’s match tonight.

I’m thinking maybe this was the last show of the taping and as such the audience was a little tired, especially after multiple matches featuring the same divas earlier on in the night. So the reaction wasn’t quite as big as it usually would be for Emma and Summer Rae, but they also seemed a little slower in the ring, a little less crisp than usual. The energy wasn’t there, which meant the quality pieces they normally put together when they wrestle didn’t quite fit just right.

Don’t get me wrong, the match was fine, but I know they can do better. And in fact, Emma did do better with her delightfully kooky backstage vignette later on in the show.

We’re overcooking our feuds just a bit here.

I have this theory that sometimes the WWE overcooks their feuds, wherein the peak of the fans’ interest level in something happens a week or two before the actual product the WWE is trying to sell is released. Last week’s show had a great confrontation between Cesaro and Sami Zayn, so great that they could have just rolled on into their match at NXT Arrival without skipping a beat. This week’s confrontation, in my opinion of course, did not have the impact their previous segment had, though I noticed it did clear up some of the continuity issues that arose after Cesaro got into the Elimination Chamber. Again, it was good and far from pointless, especially with how desperate Sami came off by the end of the segment, but it didn’t make me any more excited about their match.

On that same note, Adrian Neville and Bo Dallas’s little in-ring dealie tonight actually made me less excited about their upcoming NXT title bout, probably because neither of them came off as particularly capable on the microphone and Bo actually seemed to take a step back from the serious persona he put on a couple weeks ago. It’s a shame, really, because…

Holy crap, that was a good main event.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: enjoyment of wrestling is dependent upon our expectations. Adrian Neville and Tyler Breeze had a good match already a while back but I was not expecting what they pulled off tonight. And I think there are two main reasons I enjoyed it as much as I did.

  1. In subtle ways, Neville and Breeze bent or at least played with the typical structure of the WWE match and the conventions contained within it. By modifying expected sequences, like when Neville faked out Breeze’s dropkick, it threw us off as viewers and left us wide open for something fresh and impactful, in this example Breeze’s nasty superkick. This sort of shuffling of the bits that make up a WWE story is something I’ve been craving a lot lately.
  2. For a good portion of the match, Adrian Neville looked like a kayfabe, extremely competent, multi-dimensional wrestler, a man that had earned his #1 Contender spot and, better yet, like an opponent that could actually take the title away from Bo Dallas. It’s not often that someone as small as Neville gets to appear like a badass, but he had such a confident air about him tonight, like he knew exactly what he needed to do in order to win. It was damn refreshing. The exclamation point to that statement had to be the incredible looking Liger-bomb he planted Breeze with. I had no idea he was even capable of that kind of power! Seriously, if you watch nothing else from this week’s episode, make sure you catch all 190-some pounds of Adrian Neville setting the bar for powerbombs on NXT. It was that damn pretty.

 

So that was this week’s show. What are your predictions for NXT Arrival? I’m gonna be safe here and predict Paige and Bo Dallas to retain and Sami Zayn to beat Cesaro. Anybody willing to toss out something different?

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