Good evening, NXT fans. Tonight’s episode is all about expectations, which makes it as good a time as any to admit that I totally read the spoilers for every NXT taping when they show up on Rajah.com. Mostly because I can’t have good things. Now, I routinely forget these spoilers by the time a couple episodes have aired but I still look to see what happens and where storylines are going. I remember reading the spoilers for the last taping and thinking, “Wow, that sounds awesome.” And it was. When I read the spoilers for this current taping……let’s just say “awesome” wasn’t the word that came to mind. Yet by the end of tonight’s show I found myself all sorts of pleasantly surprised.

As for the events of tonight’s episode, the show opened with a tag match between the good gal team of Bayley and Charlotte and the jobber heel duo of Alicia Fox and Aksana. Despite a bit of miscommunication, Bayley picked up the pinfall for her team. Backstage Sylvester Lefort talked strategy with Scott Dawson and Alexander Ruzev. Corey Graves then beat Rick Victor in what felt like a very long match. Summer Rae toyed with Sasha Banks’s mind a bit more in preparation for her match against Paige next week. After the break Paige showed up for an interview with Renee Young, addressing what Summer Rae had just said as if she was watching the vignette along with the audience.

Alexander Rusev woke the crowd up and beat Mason Ryan via camel clutch submission. Awesome. Afterwards we found Leo Kruger behind the NXT arena with a clearly injured Xavier Woods lying at his feet.

In the main event……again, just like the last time Sami Zayn wrestled, you should probably just watch the video. It was really good. Go ahead, I’ll still be here after you finish watching.

…..

…..

….

…..see what I mean! In fact,

I could argue Zayn vs Swagger was better than Zayn vs Cesaro III:

Again, expectations and context play heavily into my opinion here, but in my defense context and expectation always affect a match and how one receives it. Professional wrestling is highly subjective and while I thought Zayn’s 2/3 falls match against Antonio Cesaro was great, it came highly praised (perhaps overly so) and featured two wrestlers expected to have a great match based on their previous bodies of work and the strength of their feud. That they did wasn’t a surprise but if you strip away the amazing spots they pulled off and the excellent falls they created, there’s not actually all that much left to the match. Compare that to tonight’s main event, which had less buzz, better flow, connections to Zayn’s future feud and great spots and I’d have to place this one over the other. Let’s also not forget that Zayn pulled all this off with Jack Swagger, who despite many years in the WWE (and many chances) has never really gotten his in-ring reputation past “solid.”

I wasn’t a giant fan of Swagger beating Zayn on paper, but the way it all went down is going to be great for Sami’s feud against Bo Dallas. And let’s make no mistake here, Zayn vs Dallas is the best feud they can do on NXT right now, featuring the most popular face and most hated heel on the show. The fact that Dallas once against screwed over someone else’s plans is so very Bo.

Other than the main event, there wasn’t too much on tonight’s episode of NXT worth discussing. Bayley and Charlotte had the tiniest of storyline seeds planted when Bayley tagged herself in and got the pin over Charlotte, which I’m sure will lead to shenanigans later. Summer Rae continued to perform well as the devil diva on Sasha Banks’s shoulder and Sasha….well, she’s about to turn heel, so hopefully her acting improves with the change. No, what’d I like to say is that

I’m digging this Alexander Rusev guy:

Rusev had a pretty good episode. He had a little vignette in the back with Sylvestor Lefort and Scott Dawson that kind of expanded on his reason for joining up with Frenchie and the relationship between all three of them. It established that, despite his great power and strength, Rusev would prefer somebody on the outside to help him out and push him over the edge to beat the big name wrestlers he fights against. The scene also established that Lefort and Dawson are kind of afraid of the guy.

Rusev got to wrestle as well, knocking the tar out of Mason Ryan and, after distractions from his buddies, submitted the big Welsh goober with a nice camel clutch. I thought it was the perfect finisher for Rusev, a perfect summation of what Rusev is: wildman strength and ferocity mixed with orderly athletic conditioning. I think he ties together his group of villains well and after the Ascension and Corey Graves finish boring me to tears with their feud I’d love to see the tag champs face off against Rusev and Dawson. And by tag champs I mean Adrian Neville and almost anyone else not named Corey Graves.

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P.S. I'm going to a TNA house show this Saturday. Wish me luck.