The wife and I took in the NXT house show in Highland Heights, Kentucky (ten minutes from downtown Cincinnati) on Friday night. I had wanted to go to one of these things for a long time and was almost more excited to see this than I was for Takeover: Dallas.
The arena held roughly 10,000 people but it was cut in half and the upper deck was tarped off, leaving only a few thousand seats. The place was just over half full as the floor seats were full but only the back section (as in facing the screen) was anywhere near fall. We were on the first row of our section (maybe three feet above the floor) with our tickets running about $33 each so it’s not like they were overly expensive.
Before the show we saw some WWE Top Ten videos and the fans were allowed to pick a classic NXT match with options of:
Seth Rollins vs. Jinder Mahal
Sami Zayn vs. Neville
Sasha Banks vs. Bayley
The latter won by a landslide though it was only a highlight package, which really did make sense as you don’t want to get the crowd that fired up before the actual show starts.
No Way Jose vs. Hugo Knox
Knox is a very muscular British wrestler, meaning the fans were chanting various British swear words at him. Jose is a lot of fun live and a perfect choice to open the show. He did all of his baseball slide, including running around the ring and touching all of the buckles into a dropkick. A legdrop of all things put Knox away at 8:12 for a really fun opener that did everything it was supposed to. Knox was nothing great but he would be fine as a Chris Masters type midcarder.
Angelo Dawkins vs. Andrade Cien Almas
Dawkins is from Cincinnati, earning himself his only reaction ever. This was the exact same problem that Almas had in the Dillinger matches: putting him in a match where there was no way he was going to be the most over guy and it really dragged things down. Almas really isn’t the most exciting guy in the world though he played a subtle heel here, as was his only option. Dawkins won with a Sky High at 5:26 and they hugged after. This was nothing but the fans reacted to Dawkins for being the hometown guy.
Bayley vs. Billie Kay
This was a change in the card (which was shown on an old school wrestling poster which seems to be a normal thing for NXT house shows and were selling very well) as it was originally going to be Bayley/Asuka vs. Kay/Alexa Bliss. Billie did her closest thing to sexy in NXT stuff to start but Bayley laughed at her and stole some of her gear. Billie begged her not to so Bayley relented, only to point out to the crowd that Billie actually lost to Dana Brooke.
This started off as a comedy match with Bayley promising to hug her and then ambushing the referee with the hug instead. The match was your standard Bayley stuff with her having fun against the less talented Billie to start, getting beaten down and having her ribs worked over for a bit and then hitting the Bayley to Belly for the pin at 10:22. The fans LOVED Bayley and she received the pop of the night, save for maybe one name later. She’s a total superstar down there though and I’m really scared that they’re going to ruin her on the big shows.
Finn Balor vs. Bobby Roode
Roode’s music is really awesome and one of the better songs they’ve done in a good while. Before the match, Roode called all of us fat out of shape losers and said he was going to be the new star of NXT. Even with all this stuff and insulting fans ala Ric Flair, the fans just would not hate him. Balor on the other hand was as revered as you would expect and we got a strong SEE YOU TUESDAY chant to start things off.
This was actually a pretty short match with Balor never being in any real danger. The Sling Blade and Coup de Grace finished Roode in about seven minutes and Balor took a bow before leaving. It’s really clear that he’s going and it’s cool to see him getting a nice sendoff on the house show circuit after a great TV match.
Before we got back to the matches, the female host (who shared hosting duties with Tom Phillips for a very good pairing all night long) had a fan answer a question for a prize. The idea here was pretty simple: we saw a clip of something in WWE history and were given choices of what happened next. The clip was Vince walking down the hallway and getting into his car on Vince McMahon Appreciation Night and the next scene was him being blown up. One problem here: THE KID WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD!
As soon as the clip started you could hear the crowd gasping and almost panicking because an eight year old, as in someone who wasn’t alive when this aired, was playing a game involving attempted murder. Oh and to make matters even better, the fourth option was “The Undertaker takes Vince McMahon to” a very dark and scary place as the host put it, thankfully censoring the actual option.
So yes, since the WWE has NO OTHER CLIPS OF ANYTHING, an eight year old played a game involving seeing Vince McMahon blown up with the other option being Undertaker taking Vince to a place that had to be censored. This was so out of place and really felt like no one actually thought about it, which isn’t something you expect from NXT, or anyone with a brain for that matter.
Hideo Itami vs. Beautiful Blonde Blake
This is Blake’s new gimmick but there’s really nothing different about him. If he hadn’t been introduced under the new name, no one would have really noticed a difference. Blake also had a generic Titantron video with his name spinning around over a blue background, which is the same thing Dawkins and Knox had. They’re not much but it’s better than nothing. Itami got a pretty standard WELCOME BACK chant and is basically the same as when he left.
The match was comedy to start with Blake heading outside because he didn’t like all the kicks and strikes. That didn’t last long though as he called himself Black Belt Blake and tried to throw some kicks with a fairly obvious result. The fans got on Blake for his tasseled boots, saying that Bayley wanted her boots back. We also got a MURPHY’S BETTER/CENA SUCKS chant for a bit of a chuckle. Itami came back with his bunch of kicks and won with the shotgun kick at 10:07. This was longer than necessary and Itami still doesn’t show much fire.
Women’s Title: Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss
Alexa had her hair pulled back here for a new look. This was actually one of the best matches of the night as Bliss has gotten way better in recent months and actually had a good match here. Asuka showed some personality here by dancing a lot when Bliss tried to get too fancy. The Asuka Lock retained the title at 12:14. This might have been the second best match of the night.
NXT Title: Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
I’ll give you two guesses who got the bigger pop than Bayley. Before the match Joe said he hated being here in Highland Heights and didn’t like NXT having to lie about being in Cincinnati because that town sucks too. This wasn’t going to be a title shot though because Nakamura beating Balor wasn’t enough to earn himself a title shot. As he was talking, the Revival ran in for the beatdown but American Alpha came out for the save. Nakamura wanted to make it a six man against Joe and…….Nakamura to Jordan: “What their names?”
Revival/Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura/American Alpha
This was exactly what you would expect with the good guys doing a big, fast paced cleaning of the ring to start with suplexes and strikes to set up a big pose for one of the loudest reactions of the night. Gable played Ricky Morton for a bit before Jordan did the same, setting up the hot tag to Nakamura. Everything broke down and Nakamura pinned Dash with Kinshasa at 14:00. This was a lot of fun but the crowd was starting to get a bit burned out. The winners all did Nakamura’s pose by the ropes to end the show.
Overall this was a very fun night with NXT knowing exactly how to give the fans a fun night. The faces won every match and you got to see every big name (Austin Aries being the biggest name missing and he’s hardly a main eventer) on the roster. With cheap tickets and not a bad seat in the house, this was definitely worth going to and really well organized for a much more fun feeling than a lot of WWE house shows. Check them out if they’re ever near you, in case you actually need that advice.
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