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.
Highlights of the Night:
- Dusty Rhodes Salute: Before the show’s opening video package, we were treated to the entire NXT cast of performers standing on stage behind Triple H, who gave an obviously emotional speech about the late, great, Dusty Rhodes. Truly, Dusty’s impact was felt the most in NXT, where he served as a mentor to the men and women there. Scanning the faces on that stage, it was obvious what Dusty meant to them, and even the Game himself needed a moment to compose himself when talking about how the American Dream saw the NXT talent as his kids. A sad, but touching moment.
- Hideo Itami Address: Hideo Itami came out in a sling to address his current health and if we would see him again in NXT. Hideo confirmed that he indeed would be back and announced that he would be in Japan for the NXT Championship Special on July 4th to challenge the winner of the match between Finn Balor and Kevin Owens for the NXT Championship. Hideo was interrupted by Owens, who demanded that Itami apologize for calling him a bad man. When Hideo refused, Owens threatened him, but instead was ambushed by Finn Balor, who he himself was ambushed by Rhyno, setting up the main event. Controlled chaos that served a purpose for everyone involved.
- Finn Balor Hype Package: This was the second part of a three part series looking at the life and times of Finn Balor. It showed lots of footage of his exploits in the UK as well as with New Japan Pro Wrestling. This is some of the best production work from NXT since their Hideo Itami package from WrestleMania 31. They truly understand the power of a really well done hype video. I was also most impressed with their generous acknowledgement and use of international footage. It made Balor look like a man ready to be champion. If you didn’tknow who Finn Balor was before and why you should for cheer for him, you did after this video.
- Finn Balor vs Rhyno: An incredibly hard hitting main event, the seeds of which were planted weeks ago with these two, and only added fuel to the fire with the opening segment this week. There is certainly a similarity to these two, and it showed during this match as both guys worked a style that would not look out of place on a New Japan show. In the end Balor won by disqualification when Kevin Owens made an unwelcome appearance. Thankfully, his new friend Samoa Joe popped up and evened out the odds. Could a tag team showdown by far off for these far? If this match is any indication, I’m hoping they agree to it sooner rather than later.
The Future Five
5. Kevin Owens (Last Week – 3): Despite not being booked for an official match, Owens still managed to leave his mark this week in a big, big way. First, he stole the thunder of Hideo Itami, putting the spotlight squarely where he wants it – on himself. Then, he showed off his impressive improv skills when he stumbled over his words and then turned it back into an insult against Itami. It might have made him look a little too cool, but I still respect the skills. At the end of the night, he was so infuriating on commentary that even my wife (a non-fan) was heard to remark how much she hates him.
4. Dana Brooke (Last Week – Not Ranked): Brooke continues to improve each week that she gets more TV time. She is far from the level of Charlotte, but working with her will help improve on those shortcomings. In the ring, Brooke is looking better too. She seems more comfortable now and her power repertoire sets her apart from the other Divas in the division. Her win was a foregone conclusion, but she gave her opponent enough hope to make her look good. The NXT Universe is starting to come around on Dana, and having another hot heel in Emma by her side certainly doesn’t hurt.
3. Hype Bros (Last Week – Not Ranked): While I appreciate Aaron Wrotkowski filling in for me last week, I’m glad he didn’t have to review a Mojo Rawley match. He is not a fan. To be honest, Neither am I, but I am a fan of this tag team pairing of Rawley and the Long Island Iced Z, Zack Ryder. While their team name leaves something to be desired, their chemistry is obvious and instantaneous from the moment they walk out. Their straight laced opposition in Angelo Dawkins and Saywer Fulton were the perfect foil for the high energy duo, and made their win all the more satisfying.
2. Enzo Amore (Last Week – 2): Usually, I rank teams together, as their efforts usually reflect that, but much like Aaron last week, I felt like Enzo stood out quite a bit from his partner Big Cass. One of my recent complaints regarding Amore in recent weeks is that he has looked a little weak when compared to his partner and seemed like the weak link of the team. That was not the case this week as Enzo was a house of fire, and made to look like a man on a mission, instead of a fool. His performance was enough to keep him right where he wound up last week, in the number two position.
1. Finn Balor (Last Week – Not Ranked): You could have called this week’s episode the Finn Balor Show, not that I would be complaining. Balor is a star for NXT and the focus on him is welcome heading into the NXT Tokyo event. He started the night off by saving his friend and partner Hideo Itami, then we watched the highlights from his work overseas, which put him in a brand new light, and finally, he capped off the night with a big win over the Man Beast Rhyno in the main event. Not many men could do that all in one night, or look as impressive doing it as Finn Balor did on this week’s episode.
This week’s episode had a good structure to it, with a very hot start, solid action in the middle, a damn good video package to give us something different in the middle, and a hard hitting main event that separated itself from the rest of the matches seen. It was a good mix with good performances from all the talent involved. NXT is balancing right now between keeping their stories going and building for their one match in Tokyo. So far, I would say they are succeeding. This show seemed like a little bit of everything, and when you have only one hour to work as many stories as NXT did this week, I can only hope this trend continues.