Asuka was, unquestionably, the most dominating superstar in NXT history. She’s also had one of the most successful two year runs in WWE history, and she heads to Raw with an undefeated streak dating back to October 7, 2015 and a never-to-be-broken record of 523 days as NXT Women’s champion. Every other big name superstar that was called up to either Raw or Smackdown went out on their back: Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks; but that was not the case with Asuka. She suffered a legitimate injury during her title defense against Ember Moon at TakeOver Brooklyn III, and relinquished the title a few weeks ago on NXT.
While it may be wrestling tradition to put the next man or women over before you head elsewhere, there was nothing traditional about Asuka. She changed the entire dynamic of NXT, and reinvented what it meant to be a dominant champion. While her in ring work was superb, her entire aura was what drew you towards her. She would dance to the ring with her mask on (which I unashamedly own) and almost lull you to sleep with her calmness. Then she would get in the ring and kick your ass or choke you out. There will never be another superstar like Asuka in NXT, but I’m glad that we’ll get to see the next chapter very soon on Raw.
For now, enjoy this pitch perfect promo that signifies the impending doom that every women’s wrestler on the Raw roster must feel right now.
Welcome to the inaugural WWE NXT review post, which if all goes according to plan, will be here for you every Thursday morning. After watching three hours of Great Ball of Fire and three hours of Raw, a hour one wrestling show is just what the doctor ordered. Let’s get to the review!
Average Nobodies note: make sure to follow us on Twitter – @averagenobodies and like us on Facebook – Facebook.com/AverageNobodies. We love talking pro wrestling, so you can comment on this post or reach out to us on social media if you want to join the discussion. You can also find all of our wrestling content by clicking the ‘wrestling’ tab under the banner on our home page.
Fish out of water
If you’re reading this article, I’m going to assume you follow NXT and aren’t just tuning in to consume my beautiful prose. NXT did have a debut last night though, as former Pro Wrestling NOAH, ROH & NJPW star Bobby Fish wrestled his first match for the brand. Fish has been wrestling back and forth between Japan and the US for over a decade, and had a very impressive debut match against Aleister Black. The only problem I can see NXT running into is something I noticed on commentary, as Mauro Ranallo called Fish ‘Roderick Strong’. It’s tough to blame him, because they might as well be one in the same (add in Johnny Gargano too). While it’s great NXT can bring these veterans from other promotions into the mix, they need to make sure they’re given deep enough characters so they don’t all start meshing together.
One of my favorite parts about Aleister Black’s rise in NXT is that almost each match has showcased a different strength of his. A squash match is a squash match, but his match against Kassius Ohno showed his striking power, while last night’s match against Fish showed his resiliency. I don’t think he underestimated Fish, but he definitely thought it wasn’t going to be as tough a matchup as it turned out to be. Fish had a good game plan working on Black’s legs, which Black utilizes for almost all of his big time moves, but once Black got some momentum going, it was lights out. The Black Mass he hit on Fish was one of his more impressive ones to date, and he continues to climb the NXT ladder. WWE still hasn’t uploaded the match to their YouTube page yet, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
Mae Young Qualifier
The Mae Young Classic tapings begin today, so it made sense to give us a quick qualifying match, even if it was an uneventful match between two women we’ve never seen before. Vanessa Borne defeated Jayme Hachey, and the highlight of the entire segment for me was Vanessa Borne’s entrance theme. I can’t find it anywhere online, so if somebody has the scoop, comment on the post or reach out to me on Twitter.
#1 Contender Battle
After last week’s NXT, fan footage captured Killian Dain & Alexander Wolfe attacking Drew McIntyre in the parking lot. I think my favorite part of the beat down is that this confirms that Killian Dain is always wearing his wrestling clothes, no matter the situation. Now all I can picture is him going to a restaurant dressed in oversized underwear and his leather chain vest and the staff refusing to say anything because he looks like he could eat them whole. McIntyre and Dain are both undefeated in NXT, so that stat combined with this attack prompted GM William Regal to make a #1 contender’s match between the two for next week, with the winner facing Bobby Roode for the NXT title at TakeOver Brooklyn III.
Johnny Wrestling Returns
As perfectly executed as Tommaso Ciampa’s heel turn was, it’s tough luck that he’s actually hurt and out for awhile. This Johnny Gargano promo was passable, but knowing that Ciampa is out hurts the drama surrounding it. Gargano is fantastic inside the ring, but I’m much more interested in seeing him get revenge on Ciampa than I am seeing him move on to something else. He obviously has no choice, but I wish Ciampa and Gargano were going to be doing battle in Brooklyn instead of whatever else they have planned.
Battle of the Heavyweights
Full disclosure: Heavy Machinery are the apples of my eye. I love Dozovic and Knight, and while they weren’t winning the straps tonight under any circumstance, this was still a great showing. Last week’s NXT main event featured Bobby Roode vs. Roderick Strong for the NXT title, and while you knew Roode was going to win the whole time, it was still executed well. The same goes for last night’s main event; the AOP are the undefeated tag champs, so they’re not going to lose on a random NXT to first time challengers. But the match could still be used to make Heavy Machinery look like threats, which is exactly what happened. Dozovic was easily the star of the match, and his clothesline standoff spot at the beginning of the match and hottest of hot tags towards the end were the two highlights. AOP ended up winning with the Last Chapter, and my heart broke just a tiny bit.
After the match Dain, Wolfe & Nikki Cross, representing Sanity, stared down Paul Ellering & the AOP while book pages fell from the ceiling. The announce team seemed to think it was pages from Ellering’s Book of Dominance, and if that’s true, Sanity went through a lot of trouble to do that. They would’ve had to find and steal the book, then find some type of machine to store up in the rafters and disperse the pages throughout Full Sail. Also, that would mean that Paul Ellering wrote an actual book of dominance, which is something I’d like to read immediately.
The floating pages was a nice trick, but I would’ve preferred if Sanity and Heavy Machinery’s roles were reversed here. Dain has a #1 contender’s match next week and Nikki Cross just fought Asuka for the Women’s title, so I don’t know if they also needed to be thrown into the tag title scene. I think feeding Sanity to AOP to setup Heavy Machinery would’ve worked better, but I’m also the world’s biggest Heavy Machinery fan.
— Triple H (@TripleH) April 3, 2017
It’s interesting times for NXT. They just had their biggest show of the year during WrestleMania weekend in Orlando, and within the next few days lost key stars The Revival, Tye Dillinger and Shinsuke Nakamura to the main roster. NXT is no stranger to roster shakeups, and they’re in better shape than year’s past thanks to the new additions of Aleister Black, Kassius Ohno & Drew McIntyre. One thing they’re not used to are TakeOver’s in back to back to months, which makes last night’s tapings more important than a normal post TakeOver taping. The tapings last night will probably go through early May, which only leaves an episode or two before the show in Chicago. The card for TakeOver should start taking shape immediately, and I can’t wait to see the show HHH & company put together.
Kevin Owens is Coming To NXT Next Week, & He May Have The Best Character Motivation of Anyone In Wrestling
So many wrestlers debut the same way: video packages hype their debut, they get entered into a storyline and then take off from there. There usually isn’t any history: their debut in the WWE is a clean slate and a fresh start, and most of the feuds they start are strictly storyline related. Kevin Owens is different. The vignette that aired last night was one of the best debut vignettes WWE has ever done for one reason: history. Kevin Owens, formerly Kevin Steen, has seen all of his foes reach the promised land, while he was stuck clawing and fighting, doing anything he could to inch his way closer to the top. There is such a real, human element to his character and he hasn’t even debuted yet. He did fight Seth Rollins, and now Rollins is in the WWE. He did fight Daniel Bryan, and he’s in the WWE. Same goes for Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville, who are on the cusp of the main roster, and have already cemented themselves as future stars in NXT. This is Kevin Owen’s chance to prove that he shouldn’t have been passed over for so long. He debuts next week at NXT Takeover: R Evolution, and it remains to be seen who he feuds with first. Going solely by these vignettes, I wouldn’t be surprised if he lays waste to everyone and everything in his path. The Kevin Owens era has begun.
Raise your hand if your excited for Kevin Owens to debut. If your hands not raised I HATE YOU. Kevin Owens, formerly Kevin Steen of ROH, is debuting in NXT, following in the footsteps of former ROH stars CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins and Cesaro. Owens is not your prototypical wrestler, as he’s heavier than most of the guys but isn’t particularly tall. While he may not be WWE’s ideal wrestler, he is a great performer. He’s tough, he’s stiff and he’s passionate. He had a great feud with Sami Zayn when he was El Generico in ROH, and as luck would have it, Steen’s debut on the 12/11 NXT live special is the same night Sami Zayn will challenge Adrian Neville for the NXT title with his career on the line. It’s a great time to be an NXT fan.