NXT will be a little different this week and next. Instead of the usual episodes, WWE are showing the specials recorded earlier this month. Tonight is the show recorded in Osaka, Japan, and next week the show from Melbourne, Australia. Unfortunately, we’ve already seen (and reviewed) the two title matches from these shows, but the rest of the card should be worth watching. Tonight’s show is two hours long, I assume next week’s will be the same. It’s a bit of an end of year break so there’s no storyline to comment on, we can just sit back and enjoy.
Oney Lorcan def Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
Billie Kay & Peyton Royce def Liv Morgan & Aliyah
#DIY def Tajiri & Akira Tozawa – to retain the NXT Tag Team Championship
Asuka def Nia Jax – to retain the NXT Women’s Championship
Shinsuke Nakamura def Samoa Joe – to regain the NXT Championship
Oney Lorcan vs Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
Almas came to the ring wearing his mask, but removed it before the match started. He kicked away Lorcan’s offered handshake and they locked up. Since his turn, Almas’ character is very well defined. The crowds have a much easier time with hating him than they ever did with liking him. Lorcan, on the other hand, is still less clear to me.
Nevertheless, they’re both really good at what they do, and they had a very good opening match. If it had been a match in the US, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the crowd weren’t into it. But Japanese crowds don’t react the same way to wrestling, there’s less chanting and more ooh’s, aahh’s and polite clapping. I liked it, much less distracting from the action, but I’m sure I’ll miss the chanting by the end of the night.
Oney Lorcan pinned Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas after suplexing him from the top turnbuckle.
Liv Morgan & Aliyah vs Billie Kay & Peyton Royce
So, this match fits in to their storyline after the six-woman tag match, but before Daria Berenato vs Billie Kay. It turned out to be a pretty good showcase for the women as well. They got a good amount of time, and I think it did a decent amount to enhance their characterizations. Aliyah especially is starting to find her character now, which is really good to see.
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce do look like a decent tag-team. It’s almost a shame that there will probably never be enough women in NXT for the to have a clear run as one. Instead they will most likely stick to perpetually interfering in each other’s matches. It annoys me because they’re good enough not to need to, but I guess it’s a heat generator.
Royce and Kay dominated for most of the match, largely as a result of being the more practiced team. Aliyah, as the least experienced, took most of the punishment and spent a considerable amount of time isolated in her opponent’s corner. Everything made sense, and everyone showed off their own personal style.
The finish came as a result of a Peyton Royce and Billie Kay double team move on Liv Morgan, with Royce slamming her face first onto Kay’s knee.
#DIY (C) vs Tajiri & Akira Tozawa – NXT Tag Team Championship match
Ok, it’s weird watching Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa without hearing the Johnny wrestling/Psycho killer chants. This was the first of the matches where the result was a foregone conclusion, but I will happily watch #DIY anytime so I’m not complaining. Essentially it was a showcase match for the Japanese fans to see Tajiri and Tozawa, and to see the NXT tag titles defended.
Commentary said a couple of times during the broadcast that the Japanese fans are more impressed by technical proficiency than by character and story. The fans clearly enjoyed this match a lot, as well they should. In fact, this match was so good it got a ‘This is awesome’ chant from the crowd – the only one I noticed in this show. They got to see everything they could have wanted from flips and flight, to Ciampa and Tozawa trading chops, and all manner of technical tag team brilliance.
#DIY’s superkick, knee to the head combo on Tozawa finished the match. Post-match, Gargano and Ciampa bowed to their opponents. Definitely my favourite match of the night.
Asuka (C) vs Nia Jax – NXT Women’s Championship match
Sadly, this match served as a reminder that no-one in NXT is ready to face Asuka. At TakeOver they had to bring in Mickie James to face her, and for the Japan visit they brought Nia Jax back from RAW. It was another foregone conclusion match, but they told the story of credible competition for Asuka well. Actually, it was nice to see Nia Jax in a match longer than a few minutes. She’s come a long way and looks much more confident in her delivery.
Right at the start of the match Jax picked Asuka up and threw her across the ring, a really simple move that looked brutal. And that’s the perfect pitch for Nia Jax. Her size and strength advantage means she doesn’t need to, and shouldn’t, do the big complex moves, she just needs to make the power based stuff look like it hurts.
I think this might be the best match I’ve seen Jax in. She really did look like a credible opponent, and even had the upper hand for portions of the match. Asuka took more punishment than she’s taken for a long time. But the end was inevitable. Asuka suplexed Jax, Jax screamed in defiance, Asuka kicked her in the head and pinned her.
Three matches announced for the Melbourne special being shown next week. Elias Samson and Bobby Roode vs Buddy Murphy and Tye Dillinger, Liv Morgan vs Ember Moon vs Billie Kay, and #DIY vs TM61.
Samoa Joe vs Shinsuke Nakamura – NXT Championship match.
We all know how this one ended, because NXT showed it a few weeks ago. Even if we didn’t, the chances of Shinsuke Nakamura losing in Japan were so remote it wasn’t worth considering.
To be honest, I was tempted to just copy and paste whatever I wrote about it last time and give it a miss. I haven’t made a secret of the fact this rivalry never clicked for me the way I hoped it would. Anyway, I decided against doing that in case I missed something last time. One thing I hadn’t appreciated before, because I had only seen this match out of the context of the rest of the show, is how invested the crowd were for this one. There were streamers for Nakamura when his introduction was read, and chants broke out several times.
The match itself still didn’t do anything for me. Samoa Joe is very good, Shinsuke Nakamura is very good. Something about the mixture of their styles just doesn’t work for me. That said, the match was technically proficient and they played out the story of taking each other to their limit, with all the skill you’d expect.
In case you’ve forgotten the result, Shinsuke Nakamura pinned Samoa Joe following the Kinshasa.
Good show, but a little odd seeing it out of sequence, and when the main event has already been shown. Next week’s special looks like it will be good as well. Hopefully they’ll come back after this break, with something special to start the new year.