Welcome to NXT Future Five on Last Word On Sports, where each week we analyze the latest episode of World Wrestling Entertainment Network’s hottest program, NXT and rank the five performers who made the biggest impact.
- Kevin Owens/William Regal/Sami Zayn Promo: Fresh off last week’s show ending brawl, NXT Champion Kevin Owens stormed the ring with one thing on his mind: a match with Sami Zayn. He called out the former champion and demanded retribution for Zayn’s attack. What he got instead was NXT General Manager William Regal who chastised Owens for making demands that he was not entitled to. Despite this,Owens got his wish when a fired up Sami Zayn made his way to ringside, looking to oblige the champion’s request. When Regal tried to make a championship match between the two for the May 20th NXT Takeover special, Owens balked at the idea of defending his title. In an ironic twist, Sami Zayn used Kevin’s own words against him and demanded that Owens give him a title match, or no match at all. The NXT Champion’s pride got the best of him and he agreed to the terms, and Regal made the match official.
- Carmella/Enzo Amore/Big Cass/Murphy/Blake/Alexa Bliss Backstage Segment: The plot continues to thicken in the drama between the NXT Tag Team Champions Blake & Murphy, and the #1 contenders, Big Cass and Enzo Amore. We got more intelligible bickering between Cass, Amore, and their female counterpart Carmella, who sent the Jersey boys packing, insisting that she could take care of herself. Almost on cue the champions showed up to harass the Statin Island Princess and insult their challengers. Carmella would have none of it though, and stood up for her boys, saying that no one insults them but her. It was here that a new wrinkle was added to the fabric of this story when Alexa Bliss showed up to insinuate that Carmella had no class. Carmella didn’t take to kindly to her words and almost pie faced the blue out of her hair. Luckily for her Blake & Murphy were ready to comfort the Disney like diva once Carmella had left the scene.
- William Regal/Sami Zayn/Alex Riley Backstage Segment: Moments after announcing the match to the world, William Regal was backstage having Sami Zayn sign the contract for his contest with Kevin Owens, when a fired up Alex Riley burst in demanding another opportunity against Kevin Owens. At first, Regal rejected the idea, saying that he had no more opportunities to give Alex. When this frustrated Riley, Sami Zayn offered some words of encouragement that fell on deaf ears. When Riley pressed the issue to Regal further, Zayn offered to be Riley’s opponent, if he was so desperate to prove himself. The NXT GM had no issues making the match official, and Riley left with a message. If Zayn didn’t make it to NXT Takeover, he wanted Owens.
- Big Cass & Enzo Amore w/Carmella vs Blake & Murphy: 20 minutes into the program and we get our first match of the evening, which only lasted four minutes. Not particularly impressive if you’re Blake & Murphy, who didn’t fare well against the Bon-a-fide Stud and 7 foot tall baller. While the champs took control of the smaller Enzo early on, it was short lived. Blake & Murphy paid more attention to Carmella during the match than their opponents, and it cost them. Once Big Cass was tagged in, he dominated both men and finished off the tag team champions with a rocket launcher double team to secure the pin fall in this non-title match. At least we know Cass and Amore can beat the champs, but this one felt like filler.
- Becky Lynch Backstage Promo: A quick message from the #1 contender to the NXT Women’s Championship, Lynch talked about her beginnings in a small hole in the wall gym and her travels all over the world. She emphasized her journey having a purpose, which is to be NXT Women’s Champion. Short but sweet, and if WWE is trying to make her more sympathetic heading into her eventual match with NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks, this was a good start.
- Bayley/Emma Backstage Segment: Bayley seemed frazzled here, concerned about her headbands and outfits, and not focused on her match with Dana Brookes. As Bayley was leaving, Emma showed up wearing a plethora of Bayley’s outfits, leading us to assume she was the culprit.
- Baron Corbin Video Package: It was nice to finally hear a voice attached to the menacing look we’ve been getting for months with Baron Corbin. The video was slick and had a dark Sons of Anarchy feel to it, sadly, it’s also the same thing we’ve been seeing from Corbin since day one with no signs of evolution. Let’s hope this package is a sign that the character will start getting interesting again.
- Bayley vs Dana Brooke: These two gals finally kicked the show into over drive half way through with a great back and forth match with a tremendous effort on the part of both women. Despite being overpowered at times by an aggressive Dana Brooke, Bayley rallied a comeback and looked poised to score a victory when she was distracted by her former friend turned foe Emma, adorned in all of Bayley’s missing gear. The distraction allowed the Total (Package) Diva to nail a sit down slam for the pin fall victory.
- William Regal Announcement: Backstage from behind his desk, William Regal made a huge announcement for the NXT Takeover event, stating that a new #1 contender for the NXT Championship would be named. The method used to determine the new #1 contender would be a triple threat match between Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, and Tyler Breeze.
- Hideo Itami vs Adam Rose: It’s strange to see how certain fans react to a particular performer. For example, the usually unpopular Adam Rose received a very favorable response from the NXT Universe, likely due to the fact that it was a homecoming of sorts. It did not last long however as Hideo ITami quickly had the crowd support behind him. Rose put up a good fight, but Itami quickly out shined Rose with a dizzying array of offense culminating with a Shotgun Kick to win by pin fall.
- Bayley Backstage Segment: NXT’s resident hug expert was seen searching backstage for Emma on a quest to get her stuff back. It was quick and pointless.
- Becky Lynch vs Sara Dawson: The plan to turn Becky Lynch baby face continued with a squash match against enhancement talent Sara Dawson. A good showcase for Lynch as she picked apart her opponent and finished her off with a high torque Arm Bar for the submission.
- Rhyno Backstage Promo: The Man Beast was back to goring jobbers last week in a manner similar to NXT original Baron Corbin, and after watching his video package earlier in the night, Rhyno had some choice words for the Lone Wolf. Rhyno claimed he was the past, present, and future of wrestling, and one can only assume this will lead to a showdown between the two unstoppable forces somewhere down the line. I’m hoping this rivalry will add some much needed development to the Baron Corbin character.
- Alex Riley vs Sami Zayn: As an added bonus for the main event, the commentary team was joined by NXT Champion Kevin Owens. Much to my surprise, most of this match was Alex Riley, who looked very impressive against the former NXT Champion. Sami played his underdog role to the hilt and even managed to gain the upper hand before Kevin Owens decided to leave his place at the commentary booth and attack Zayn from behind, laying him out and leaving him unable t help Alex Riley as Owens picked him up and power bombed him on the ring apron, finally achieving what he set out to do last week. The show closed out how it opened up, with the focus on NXT Champion Kevin Owens.
This week’s episode was a little hit or miss. Like last week, it was quantity over quality, with an astounding 14 segments packed into a 60 minute program. This might not have been such a large issue had all those segments been worthwhile or served a purpose, but many of them seemed like unnecessary filler. It seemed like WWE was afraid we had forgotten who these characters are and what was going on in their lives. Very few of the segments did anything to further progress a story or elevate a character, making me feel frustrated at times. The good news is, the segments that did work worked well, but overall it wasn’t enough to save it from miss status with me this week.
The Future Five
5. Enzo Amore & Big Cass (Last Week – Not Ranked): Amore and Big Cass are an odd case this week, because the thing that made their performance perhaps seem unimpressive, was actually one of the most impressive things about them this week. They took out their opponents in quick order, and what made it even more incredible is the fact that their opponents were the NXT Tag Team Champions. Winning a non-title match against the champions might seem pointless given the fact that the boys from the Jersey Shore are already the #1 contenders, but it’s still a win over the champions, and a decisive one at that.
4. Dana Brooke (Last Week – Not Ranked): This was a big test for Dana Brooke, as she was facing one of the most respected women in the division. In my opinion, she passed with flying colors. Dana looked comfortable in the ring with Bayley and managed to look aggressive while getting under the skin of the NXT Universe. If this was a sign of things to come from Dana, then she should do well in the Women’s Division. One can also not over-look the importance of this win so early in her career. Two weeks ago, Dana was making her Network debut with a victory over Blue Pants, and now she is defeating a top contender. The kind of progress she has made in such a short period of time impressive, no matter if you like her or not.
3. Sami Zayn (Last Week – 2): Sami Zayn had a night filled with ups and downs. Things started off great for Sami, as he used Kevin Owens’ own mind games against him to get his rematch for the NXT Championship. The fact that he was able to out smart the man who had fooled him so many times since his debut was a momentous turning point in the Zayn/Owens feud. For a normal competitor, that would’ve been enough for one night, but not Zayn, who boldly accepted the challenge of Alex Riley, was on his way to victory as well, until it was pulled out from underneath him by Kevin Owens. If he hadn’t been one upped by Owens, Zayn would have ranked higher this week.
2. Hideo Itami (Last Week – 4): If I was putting money on the #1 Contender triple threat match at NXt Takeover on May 20th, my bet would be Hideo Itami. To say he’s been on a roll lately would be an understatement. Itami has been non-stop for weeks now and this night was no different as he bested the challenge of a Raw roster member in Adam Rose. He was also decisive and dominant in his victory, and while others might dismiss the challenge of Rose due to his lack of status on Raw, the fact that Itami is beating main roster talent in such a way speaks to his own skill set. If I was Sami Zayn or Kevin Owens, I wouldn’t be looking past each other, but I would keep an eye on Hideo Itami.
1. Kevin Owens (Last Week – 3): At the outset of this episode, I would never have guessed Owens would end up in the #1 spot this week. After all, he was made to look foolish by NXT General Manager William Regal and former friend Sami Zayn. He got played, and sulked off to what we assumed was to lick his wounds. Instead, Kevin Owens formulated a plan. His work on commentary was brilliant, becoming such an overbearing distraction from the main event that I wanted to reach into the TV and gag him myself. When you can pull people’s attention from just your voice, you know you’re doing a fantastic job. Of course, talk is cheap, and in the case of Kevin Owens, he has no money to spare. He definitely let his actions do the talking as not only did he get a small measure of revenge against Sami Zayn for embarrassing him earlier, but he finished what he tried to do last week and power bombed Alex Riley on the ring apron, meaning when the show was over, everyone was talking about Kevin Owens.
While having so many segments on the show gives me more to choose from for the Future Five, the downside is that the impacts made by those performers and performances are watered down. I would have gladly eliminated the tag team match, all the Bayley and Emma backstage stuff, the Becky Lynch squash, and maybe even the Baron Corbin package. Although there are some good talkers in NXT, the personalities of these characters shine best in the ring. Here’s hoping that WWE leaves the rapid fire backstage segments to their main roster program, where they have 3 hours to fill. There’s only 60 minutes in NXT, there’s no need for filler. Amore and Cass continue to be one of the most entertaining dups in NXT and the crowd eats up everything they do. If they continue their winning ways we should see them stay in the Future Five. Despite early criticism, I’m impressed with Dana Brooke and expect she will eventually be accepted by the NXT Universe. There isn’t much to say about Hideo Itami other than he is ready for the next step, whatever that may be. Now that we are heading into another NXT LIVE special, expect both Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens to spend lots of time in the Future Five.