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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

WWE NXT: “July 29, 2015”

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The most memorable episodes of NXT have a mythic quality about them. They’re episodes that blow off huge feuds or introduce us to new talents. They pay off months and months of storytelling, and the result is something emotional and transcendent. Those episodes are great, of course, but more often than not, NXT thrives by just being a show that focuses on wrestling, plain and simple. Sure, there’s the sports entertainment aspect that’s necessary in getting these developmental talents ready for the main roster, but a lot of the appeal of NXT is the fact that we can watch the mechanics of the matches coming together for a variety of superstars. In other words, sometimes all the show has to do in order to captivate is string a bunch of solid matches together.

That’s tonight’s episode of NXT. There’s nothing crazy or unpredictable, no big feuds being blown up. Rather, the show delivers six very different matches, and it’s the variety that makes it so interesting. It helps that the show ends with one of the best tag matches in some time.

Tonight’s card is filled with the kinds of matches that go over well at Full Sail. The first sees favorites Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady take on Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson. It’s a solid tag match, the first of three on the night. What’s best about the match is that it continues to frame Enzo and Cass in an interesting way, pushing their dynamic beyond the simple “big guy saves little guy” angle. Each week Enzo seems to get more and more offense in. He looks smarter and stronger in the ring, and that’s a welcome change. For too long they’ve been reliant on the Big Cass hot tag, and as great as that is, you can only take it so far. If they want to challenge for the titles they need to adapt, and that’s just what they’re doing. Somewhat surprisingly, Wilder and Dawson look pretty great too. They have no real personality or gimmick to hook the Full Sail crowd, but their in-ring work is not to be shrugged off. “Shatter Machine” is a dumb name for a finisher, but it looks fantastic. I want to see more of those guys, which is exactly what NXT wants you to feel after a match.

While Enzo and Cass can wrestle that perfect Full Sail match, engaging the crowd with comedy and in-ring work, Jason Jordan and Chad Gable are doing something similar, managing to find a certain chemistry that is clearly getting them over with the crowd. Their backstage promo prior to their match against Elias Samson and Levis Valenzuela Jr. is legitimately funny, if a little sloppy at times. Positioning Gable as the guy who has to prove himself, and partnering him with the guy who’s always trying too hard to prove himself, is smart booking at Full Sail. That crowd loves nothing more than an underdog/everyman story (Blue Pants!), and somehow NXT has managed to position two technical wrestlers with great physiques as these weird underdogs in a weird partnership. Sorry Blake and Murphy, this is NXT’s next true bromance.

Offsetting the three great tag matches are three squashes, which is a good way to pace a one-hour show that boasts six contests. Baron Corbin does his thing, demolishing (ie: swinging a guy onto his face) former TNA talent Jesse Sorensen. It’s a Corbin match so of course it’s the worst match of the night, but at least it’s over in about 20 seconds. Charlotte doesn’t exactly squash Dana Brooke, but the term might still apply because of how mismatched these two are. Charlotte is one the best wrestlers in the business of any gender, and Dana Brooke like to shout and talk in the ring while she holds a submission as long as she can so she doesn’t have to do anything else. At the very least it’s gratifying to see Brooke take a massive spear from Charlotte and then get hit with the Natural Selection. Charlotte may be on the main roster now, but that doesn’t mean she’s done owning NXT. The same can be said for Kevin Owens, who’s preparing for his bout with Finn Bálor by essentially having an extended squash match with Martin Stone. It’s not much of a match but it lets Owens get all his stuff in, which is always fun to watch. Plus, he powerbombs Stone onto the apron, and mean, sadistic, pointlessly-violent Kevin Owens is the best Kevin Owens.

Despite the solid matches throughout the night, it’s the main event, a Tag Team Championship match between the Vaudevillains and Blake and Murphy, that really elevates this episode. NXT has really been struggling to find momentum in its tag division ever since the Ascension (remember them?) was sent to the main roster to be buried. The Lucha Dragons and Blake and Murphy have been fine tag team champs, but there’s been no real spark, no lasting feud or tension within the division and its storylines. That all changes tonight when the Vaudevillains lose after Alexa Bliss interferes with the referee’s back turned, allowing Blake and Murphy to get the roll-up win. This is how you create significant momentum and build up real emotion. You have the Vaudevillains looking amazing, hitting all sorts of great offense and getting the crowd behind them, seemingly only moments away from winning the titles. Then Bliss interferes and the champs retain, getting even more heat for having won through nefarious means. On top of that, there’s a great coda to the match which pushes those characteristics even further, establishing the Vaudevillains as true heroes, and Blake and Murphy as cheats. After knocking out Blake and Murphy, the Vaudevillains crowd around Bliss, their anger potentially turning into violence against her. That’s not what these guys are about though, so they stifle those emotions and sit on the second rope, giving Bliss space to get out of the ring while the crowd chants “CHIVALRY.” Bliss, who’s doing her best work ever as a heel, slaps them each in the face and laughs at how they can’t do anything about it. It’s a great ending to the night and reinvigorates a tag division that’s been stagnating for quite some time.


Stray observations

  • Results: Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson defeated Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady; Baron Corbin defeated Jesse Sorensen; Jason Jordan and Chad Gable defeated Elias Samson and Levis Valenzuela Jr.; Charlotte defeated Dana Brooke; Kevin Owens defeated Martin Stone; Blake and Murphy (c) defeated the Vaudevillains (Tag Team Championship match).
  • Blake’s hair was really something else tonight. That’s hours spent with a blowdryer, folks.
  • On the topic of Blake’s hair, the Full Sail crowd was letting him have it for looking like Barbie. “Come on Blakey, let’s go party” they chanted to the tune of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”
  • Gable is kind of the perfect Full Sail wrestler. He’s got that gimmick of being super talented but underappreciated. Full Sail loves that stuff.
  • Where can I buy a pair of Enzo’s “100” pants? I need those in my life.
  • Don’t worry, everyone! Resident NXT expert and all-around great person LaToya Ferguson should be back on the beat next week.