NXT kicks off this week with a recap of the Zayn/Neville/Owens situation from the last few weeks. The camera then cuts to William Regal in his office, who makes three huge announcements: The next live NXT special will be held on February 11th, there will be a tournament to crown a number one contender to Sami Zayn's NXT title which will start tonight, and finally as a result of Sasha Banks pinning the Women's champ Charlotte last week, the two will face off tonight with the title on the line.
The in ring action is supposed to start with a Sami Zayn vs. Tye Dillinger match, however Zayn comes out and jumps Dillinger, beating the hell out of him and throwing him out of the ring before calling out Kevin Owens. This brings out Regal who is furious with Zayn, but after a discussion between the two where Zayn tells Regal he needs to face Owens and will do whatever it takes to make that happen, Regal announces Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens in a non-title match as the first match announced for the next NXT Takeover event. Two more matches are announced via graphic for tonight’s show: Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze and Curtis Axel vs. Finn Bálor, both as pat of the #1 Contender's tournament. During the commercial break, Regal also declares backstage that there will be a contract signing next week in the ring between Owens and Zayn.
Balor - Axel
The first actual match of the night is Finn Bálor against Curtis Axel, who has now wrestled KENTA and Prince Devitt in his last two WWE appearances, which is pretty great for a guy who this time last year was stuck in a tag team with Ryback. It's the first match of what is a surprisingly strong #1 contenders bracket, made up of Bálor, Axel, Itami, Breeze, Neville, Tyson Kidd, Baron Corbin & Bull Dempsey, all of whom are realistic challengers for the NXT title. The way it is laid out is perfect for the final match to be Itami vs. Bálor, and how amazing would that be? Especially if it were part of the live special, because that match deserves a bigger platform than just a normal episode of NXT.
Bálor and Axel have a nice open match, similar to Axel's effort against Itami last week, where Axel puts on a good strong showing, gets some offence in, but ultimately gets caught with Bálor’s new match ending sequence, the Pele kick, the Sling Blade and finally the diving double foot stomp, which is now called the Coup de Grace.
This is followed by a quick interview with Sasha Banks, conducted by Devin Taylor who seems to be on a one second delay. Then we get a promo from Bull Dempsey about how he's getting a rematch against Baron Corbin, but it's very difficult to concentrate on the actual content of the promo once you notice that he appears to be living the scene from Talladega Nights where Will Ferrell doesn't know what to do with his hands. Compare and contrast:
Hug her up Bayley, hug her up!
The next match is Charlotte - Sasha Banks, which doesn't last very long because of interference from Becky Lynch. For the short time it lasted, it was a nice technical match, but it was all for naught as Becky attacked Charlotte, drawing the DQ very quickly. The beatdown of Charlotte by Team BAE is cut short when BAYLEY returns to make the save. It's about time Bayley is back, the NXT women's division is very thin as it is without having Bayley out with an injury as well. There are only so many Charlotte/Alexa - Sasha/Becky combinations, and it feels like we've seen them all. Bayley returns with a vengeance, running off Team BAE, and then delivering a Belly To Bayley Hugplex to Charlotte when the latter takes the Women's title off her. William Regal comes out again (he's a busy chap this week) to announce another NXT Takeover match: Charlotte - Bayley - Becky Lynch - Sasha Banks for the NXT Women's Championship, which should be a cracking match and may lead to the end of Team BAE and, hopefully, a much more BOSS champion.
The Vaudevillains are turning into Bray Wyatt
The Vaudevillains have a great character, a very unique entrance, and have captured the attention of the fans. So, now they lose all their matches. They face jobber extraordinaires Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy, who exist solely to be a tag team equivalent of JTG, wandering out during commercials and backstage interviews to take a pin. NOT TODAY. Blake and Murphy wrestle well as a unit and sneak a win, which is presumably a sign that the Vaudevillains are now going to be going on a losing streak. Ah well, at least we got to hear Blake and Murphy's Saints Row IV dubstep theme music. Then after a crappy Rumble hype package, they challenge the Lucha Dragons to a NXT Tag Team championship match next week, which is a new and exciting matchup.
Prince Pretty Useless
Tyler Breeze is great. Let's get that said early. He's a talented wrestler, he's taken what should be a dreadful character and made it amazing, and his ring gear is glorious. The issue is that he's being wasted. He's too good to be stuck losing to all the new "real stars" like Itami, but he's not good enough to be champion. We mentioned last week that Breeze is VAVEL's main pick for an NXT star to enter the Royal Rumble on Sunday, and that will be talked about more in a separate article, but the short version is that he's ready to move up to the main roster, or at least start working on Main Event. He could form a team with Dolph Ziggler based around perfection and showing off, that way he'd have something and the tag division would finally have a fresh team.
He main events this week's NXT against Hideo Itami, and it's an excellent match, as is to be expected. Breeze starts off strong, dominating Itami for a large amount of the match, but Itami turns the tide by hitting a DDT using the ropes. The two trade near falls and counters to moves until Breeze can hit a Supermodel Kick to come so close to getting the three as a short "This is awesome" chant rings out in Full Sail. It really is an awesome match, especially when compared to the earlier Bálor/Axel match, which was good, but short and not very much happened. Breeze comes close again with a beautiful Crucifix Slam into a pin, before Itami hulks up, hits a corner dropkick and a running dropkick and wins. While this match is great, the finish makes Breeze look like a complete goober. He dominates for most of the match, until Itami pulls a Hogan and decides to win, and just does. He gets up, shrugs off some punches, hits two dropkicks and wins. It's also worth noting that Itami really needs a finisher. It seems like he wants the GTS, and the company just aren't sure about whether or not they want to let him use it.
And that's the show! Check back again next week for a show featuring Adrian Neville vs. Tyson Kidd, Baron Corbin vs. Bull Dempsey and an NXT Tag Team Championship match between the Lucha Dragons and Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy.