It’s the first new NXT of 2016 as we had a Best Of episode last week. Time to get hyped! The Full Sail crowd is loud as always and we have Corey Graves and Tom Phillips on commentary. William Regal comes out to kick off the show. He is looking good after neck surgery. He announces that tonight’s main event is a women’s battle royale for a shot at the NXT Women’s Championship. He then introduces Sami Zayn.
It’s the first time Sami Zayn has been at Full Sail in several months and he looks happy to be there. Given the current WWE roster situation his stay might be brief! Big Ole chants for Sami as he hypes the crowd and the NXT roster. He says Full Sail is his home. He also says he came here to make a proclamation: That he will be the first two time NXT Champion. Samoa Joe comes out to respond. He says it is good to have Sami back but he doesn’t deserve a title shot, that the last time Sami fought for the title Joe had to come out and save his life. He tells Sami to walk away as they stare down. Corbin interrupts. He says he agrees with Joe that Sami’s place is at the back of the line. He reminds everyone that he won his match at Takeover: London and that Joe lost his. Dude has a point. Corbin’s mic skills have improved quite a bit. Joe responds by saying Corbin doesn’t even belong in the conversation. As Sami is yelling at Joe, Corbin attacks him from behind but Sami responds with a big Heluva Kick. He and Joe then face off but Joe leaves the ring.
Bayley is interviewed by Rich and she says she’s not even sure how she made it out of London with the belt but she’s ready to take on the winner of the Battle Royale. She ends the interview by giving Rich a hug. Nice.
The NXT year end awards are announced. Enzo & Cass win tag team of the year. Bayley wins Female Competitor of the year. Finn Balor wins Male Competitor of the Year. NXT Takeover Brooklyn wins Takeover of the Year. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks from Takeover Brooklyn is the Match of the Year. Finn Balor wins Overall Competitor of the Year. I liked those awards because they were quick and pretty on point.
Tomasso Ciampa vs. Danny Burch
I don’t think I’ve seen Burch before. It’s great to see Ciampa back in NXT. Remember when all the “insiders” said he wasn’t coming back because he was too stiff with Tyler Breeze? Since I heard that he’s been back at least twice. Silly dirtsheets. Burch hits a pretty good looking missile dropkick. The commentators remind me that Burch has appeared before so I guess I was wrong. Ciampa hits Burch with some fierce forearms followed by a face first slam off the ropes that looked great. Burch gets a near fall off a stiff right hand on Ciampa and then goes for a deadlift suplex but Ciampa gets out of it and hits him with a kick. Burch is looking pretty good here as he goes for a backslide but Ciampa reverses it into an armbar and gets the submission. Both of these guys looked good in this one with some strong strikes from both. Here’s hoping we’ll see more Ciampa in 2016.
Backstage promo with Enzo and Cass as they let Dash & Dawson know they are coming for them after the loss in London. These guys are so great, they don’t need the titles but I’m pretty sure we’ll see them with the straps sooner rather than later.
We get some promos for the Women’s Battle Royale including new gals Billie Kaye and Deonna Purrazzo as well as Emma. Regal is in his office and announces that there will be a match between Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe, and Baron Corbin for the #1 Contender spot in two weeks.
Dash & Dawson vs. The Ascension
The NXT tag champs had a huge last half of 2015. Let’s see if they can take that momentum into 2016. I dig the whole 80’s NWA no-nonsense gimmick. When The Ascension are in Full Sail you kind of forget how much they’ve flopped on the main roster. I’m sure they miss those “Yah” chants as opposed to the crickets they hear normally. Victor is all over Dash to start the match but Dash hits him with a strong clothesline to take control and tags to Dawson. More aggressive offense and strong tag work for the champs. Victor finally hits a power move to create some space and make the tag to Connor. He starts wailing on Dawson as the crowd chants along. Dash manages to distract Connor and Victor gets dumped to outside. Dash and Dawson then hit their finisher on Connor for the victory. This wasn’t anything special but it made the champs look good.
Regal is in the trainer’s room with Nia Jax and Eva Marie. Nia Jax is not medically cleared for the Battle Royale as she suffered a kayfabe injury at the hands of Bayley’s submission at Takeover London. This makes sense as there is no way Nia Jax wouldn’t win that Battle Royale and it seems like they are going to keep her and Bayley apart for awhile to build to a rematch.
Elias Samson vs. Corey Hollis
They are pushing “The Drifter” pretty hard. I’m not really sold on the gimmick yet. He hits a big kick on Hollis and casually goes for the pinfall for a two count. He punches him a bit then shushes him as he gives Hollis his swinging neckbreaker finisher for the win. Nothing too exciting. He then brings his guitar into the ring and tells the crowd “What this place needs is what I am.” OK.
They play some highlights from the great Joe vs. Balor match at Takeover London. Rich then interviews Balor to get his comments on Joe and the triple threat match in two weeks for a shot at his belt. He comments on each challenger and tells us that regardless of their strengths the NXT championship is staying with him. Nicely done.
Cameron is here, you guys. And she’s going to be in the Battle Royale. We also get a promo from the debuting Aliyah who we met on Breaking Ground. The final promo from is from Asuka who has got to be the heavy fave and I am eagerly awaiting her getting a shot at Bayley.
Women’s Battle Royale
Alexa Bliss, Emma, Carmella, Eva Marie, and Asuka all get entrances. Asuka is by far the most popular and shoves Eva Marie out of the way to the great enjoyment of the crowd. “Asuka’s gonna kill you” chants to start and a vicious kick from Asuka to Eva Marie the second the bell rings. Aliyah is the first to be eliminated. Cameron does the honors. Cameron then ducks an attack from Deanna, who goes flying over the top rope. Liv Morgan then tries to powerbomb Cameron out of the ring but Alexa Bliss dumps them both over. I must have missed Eva Marie getting eliminated but that’s not a surprise. Emma eliminates Alex Bliss but is then eliminated by Asuka. Billie Kaye and Peyton Royce attempt to double team Asuka but she manages to slide back in the ring. Asuka then eliminates both of the rookies but Eva, who it turns out was hiding outside the ring, comes from behind to eliminate Asuka. Doh. However, Carmela was also hanging around the outside because she was injured and turns the tables on Eva Marie to win the Battle Royale. Bayley comes out to congratulate Carmela. I think these two friends are going to have a great match as the slow build to Bayley vs. Asuka continues.
There was nothing terribly exciting about this episode of NXT but it was a very solid show, as always. This is episode wrestling television done right, building storylines and wrestlers. We got a little bit of everything this week and the Main Event was entertaining and not too drawn out. We’ll probably get to see Asuka get her revenge on Eva Marie sometime soon and Carmela vs. Bayley for the title is a solid matchup. On the men’s side we saw a heartfelt return to Full Sail by Sami Zayn who will take on Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin in two weeks leading to a big title match. I am definitely looking forward to the coming weeks in NXT as we will hopefully see more new faces.