Tamina vs Kaitlyn:
It’s odd to see, but Kaitlyn displays some heelish tendencies in this match by wasting a bit of time and concentrating on submissions into order to wear down Tamina. I don’t think Kaitlyn is all that comfortable working as the heel but she does alright here. For the finish to this quick one Tamina powers out of what looks like a grounded octopus hold into a Samoan Drop and ends things with the Superfly Splash. Tamina wins.
Big E Langston Promo:
Langston is a muscular African American man and sometime powerlifter whose promo about an athletic ritual features imagery of weights. Mark Henry immediately comes to mind, though Langston is a lot less bulky. This video package makes him out to be a face, though I guess we’ll see when he wrestles. I really don’t know much about him.
Percy Watson vs Jinder Mahal:
Man, this match did a good job of existing…..and that’s about all I can really say about it. I don’t want to be mean, but this is the same Percy Watson match we see most every time he steps between the ropes. While repetition is part of wrestling it really shouldn’t be as noticeable as it is with Percy. Maybe Jinder Mahal isn’t the best opponent for him but I am biased; I don’t think Mahal is the best opponent for anybody. It’s not that Jinder does anything particularly offensive, it’s just that his character and style of wrestling is about 24 years or so past its expiration date.
Anyway, Jinder Mahal wins after a high knee and a Camel Clutch. Then he reapplies the Camel Clutch after the match is over because he’s a meanie-face.
Richie Steamboat vs Leo Kruger:
Everything I just said about Jinder Mahal could apply to Leo Kruger. He’s every cocky, sophisticated punch-kick bad guy you’ve ever seen with the tiny twist of being from South Africa. Thrilling. He cheats to win the match by putting his feet on the ropes after rolling through Steamboat’s crossbody off the ropes. Leo Kruger wins.
Raquel Diaz vs Paige:
Diaz cuts a promo (with a body mic) on her way to the ring, further cementing her character as an “OMG” spewing judgmental girly girl who’s here to cleanse exfoliate the world of ugliness. Let’s get this out of the way real quick: there are people out there who will think Diaz is hot. I am not one of them. She just looks too much like a younger version of her mother for me to find her attractive. Call me crazy but I’ve spent too many years listening to Vickie scream to think of her daughter that way.
Oh yeah, the match. Paige’s feistiness scares Diaz a bit, which makes it seem like Diaz fights a little girly. That’s kind of the point. When she gets the chance Diaz boots Paige in the gut and hits a gory bomb for the win. Raquel Diaz wins.
Alex Riley and Antonio Cesaro confrontation:
Riley is walking backstage and asks Aksana where catering is. She hits on him a bunch before Antonio Cesaro shows up wondering why such a goofball is talking to his girl. Aksana claims Riley was hitting on her. Cesaro responds with the following: “I turn my back for one second and you start hitting on my woman!? How American of you!” I admit it, I chuckled. This sets up the argument and the fight that sets up a match for next week’s NXT. Riley makes fun of Cesaro’s “murse” to end the vignette.
I hope Cesaro uppercuts Riley’s stupid face off next week.
Justin Gabriel vs Heath Slater:
How frustrating must it be to be Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater? Both men were featured on NXT’s first season and have seen all their comrades from that dark time (except for Michael Tarver, naturally) move ahead of them on the big ol’ WWE ladder. Here they are, still wrestling on NXT in what is essentially its sixth season. It’s kind of sad, especially when you consider that Gabriel and Slater are actually pretty good wrestlers.
Guess what? Tonight was their opportunity to impress, having been given the main event slot, and holy crap do they deliver. Justin Gabriel vs Heath Slater on NXT is way better than it has any right to be. It’s probably the best match I have ever seen out of Heath Slater and it definitely ranks in Gabriel’s top three as well. Easy MOTN.
Gabriel and Slater start out with some solid technical wrestling that, while not in the same league as wrestlers like Daniel Bryan, Tyson Kidd, or Johnny Curtis, is still very much appreciated. Gabriel gets the better of Slater during these exchanges, up until he attempts a springboard off the top rope and the match changes instantly. In quite possibly the sickest bump I’ve seen on NXT since Daniel Bryan flung himself straight into the announce table on the very first episode Slater shoved Gabriel off the top rope and into what looked like a straight trip down to the floor onto his neck. A replay from another angle showed that Gabriel thankfully took a split second pitt-stop when his butt hit the ring apron but OUCH! For the rest of the match Slater targeted Gabriel’s neck with a variety of impactful neckbreakers, until Justin had enough and started throwing his own bombs in order to stay alive. Finally, after a plethora of offensive moves I don’t normally see out of either wrestler, Gabriel and Slater headed up top where I expected a 450 splash and a win for Gabriel. Instead Gabriel fought off Slater and flipped onto him for an AJ Styles style moonsault DDT for the three-count! Justin Gabriel wins.
NXT’s usual formula of several quick matches and a longer main event is a risky venture but so far the main events have been very good. This week especially the final match elevated the show after a couple boring or inconsequential bouts earlier in the episode. I think it was a mistake to have both Mahal and Kruger on the same episode but at least they kept them from wrestling each other. I’m not sure what might happen if two wrestlers that boring crossed paths, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same as whatever happens if you cross the streams. Raquel Diaz’s debut was fine, though she’ll need to carve out a greater identity for herself than “Beautiful People Ripoff” if she’s going to win everyone over. Overall this week’s show gets a 6/10, though I’m not sure what I would have given this episode had Slater and Gabriel not wrestled their asses off.