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CALDWELL'S WWE NETWORK SPECIAL REPORT 7/4: Complete "virtual-time" coverage of "Beast in the East" - Lesnar's in-ring return, Owens vs. Balor for NXT Title, more

Jul 4, 2015 - 6:30:11 AM


WWE Network Special Report
"Beast in the East"
July 4, 2015
Tokyo, Japan at Ryogoku Kokugikan
Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor

- The Main Card: Brock Lesnar wrestles his first match since WrestleMania on WWE's first live special from Tokyo, Japan airing at 5:30 a.m. EST on WWE Network. Plus, NXT champion Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor (Prince Devitt in New Japan) for the NXT Title.

Live on WWE Network, the special kicked off with Michael Cole welcoming everyone to the show bright and early in the morning in the U.S. and live from Tokyo. Cool shot of the arena before Chris Jericho's music played. Out came Jericho with the light-up jacket. Cole was on commentary with Byron Saxton, while Eden Stiles was in the ring as ring announcer. Neville was out next as Jericho's opponent.


Charles Robinson has made the trip to Japan as the referee for the opening match. "Y2J" chant early on. They went through a feeling-out process, then Jericho used his veteran's advantage to take control on Neville. Meanwhile, Cole and Saxton went through both wrestlers's history in Japan. Jericho came off the top with a cross-body splash for a two count, drawing applause from the crowd.

Jericho teased the Walls of Jericho, but Neville twisted out of Step One. Neville tried a top-rope move, but Jericho cut him off and crotched him on the top turnbuckle. Jericho wanted a superplex, but Neville blocked and punched him down to the mat. Neville wanted the Red Arrow, but Jericho rolled out of the way. So, Neville adjusted mid-air, rolled to his feet, and ran right into the Walls of Jericho. Neville used his crazy ab strength to pull both men toward the bottom rope and he got there for a break. Neville whipped Jericho to the floor, then Neville caught his breath and splashed Jericho on the floor.

Neville slid Jericho back into the ring, then delivered a springboard dropkick. Neville followed with a running Shooting Star Press for a two count. Applause from the crowd. Suddenly, Jericho avoided a follow-up and nailed the Lionsault for a close fall of his own. "Y2J" chant from the crowd. Jericho started disrespecting Neville, though, which drew boos. Neville suddenly got a burst and went for a springboard, but Jericho caught him with a mid-air Codebreaker, RKO-style. Jericho was unable to make an immediate cover, allowing Neville to kick out.

Reset at 15:00. Jericho got upset, pounding on Neville. Suddenly, a dueling chant broke out: "Let's Go Neville / Y-2-J," popping Cole and Saxton on commentary. Neville came back with a standing suplex, then a standing sidekick. Neville hit another sidekick, positioning Jericho in the corner. Neville climbed to the top looking for the Red Arrow, but he missed again, this time with Jericho getting his knees up, wowing the crowd on the counter. Jericho went right to the Liontamer and Neville was forced to tap out.

WINNER: Jericho via submission at 16:20. What a great opening match. The vibe in the building, the engaged crowd, the great story of veteran Jericho vs. up-star Neville, and both men looked really good in the ring. Nice to see Jericho in this setting. (***3/4)

Earlier Today: Big Bad Brock Lesnar walked up to the building in jeans and a black shirt. Cole hyped Lesnar's first match since WrestleMania coming up tonight.

Network plug: Dusty Rhodes Special Monday night after Raw.

In-ring: Next up was a three-way match for the Divas Title. First out was Paige. Tamina Snuka was out next playing heel to the ringside fans. Nikki Bella was out next to silence. No one knows what to make of her character right now.

2 -- Divas champion NIKKI BELLA vs. TAMINA SNUKA vs. PAIGE -- three-way match for the Divas Title

As the bell sounded, Cole talked about the rare occurrence of a WWF/E title changing hands in Japan. Cole cited Bull Nakano taking the Women's Title from Alundra Blayze in Tokyo 20 years ago. Coincidentally, that title change happened on a huge joshi show back in 1994 and WWE is reportedly scouting joshi talent in Japan while overseas.

Back in 2015, Nikki took a cue from Cena audibly calling spots while battling Paige. Tamina, who had been selling on the floor, re-entered the ring for a big Tower of Doom spot in the corner. She could not secure a pin on either competitor, though. Paige then went for the PTO submission on Nikki, but the champ held on long enough for Tamina to superkick Paige. Nikki recovered, then forearm-smashed Tamina. And it was good for the pin and the win. Cole hyped Nikki's title reign continuing.

WINNER: Nikki at 7:03 to retain the Divas Title. It would have been interesting to see a title change in Tokyo, but alas that's why Tamina was in there to take the fall and keep Paige on the chase.

Exterior Shots: Tokyo, Japan, home of the Olympics in five years. And fans dressed up like past WWE characters.

Still to come: Brock Lesnar returns to the ring. WWE identified Lesnar's opponent as Kofi Kingston. Cue up the Lesnar Hype Package.

In-ring: Kofi Kingston was introduced to the ring by himself. Apparently it's Brock Time. Kofi tried to get the crowd on his side, but they weren't buying it. After a pause, Brock Lesnar's music played to a big initial reaction. Everyone wanted a good look at Lesnar, who emerged on-stage to oohs and aahs. Lesnar paced the ringside area as WWE hyped Lesnar's WWE Title change in two weeks on Battleground. Lesnar hit the ring and Kofi slipped out of the ring before the bell sounded. Cole hyped Lesnar as a former IWGP World Hvt. champion in New Japan a decade ago.


Cue the bell and Kofi ran out of the ring trying to run away from Brock. Kofi ran back into the ring, where he was met by knee strikes. Brock intercepted a top-rope turnaround splash, then tried a German Suplex, but Kofi landed on his feet. Kofi dropkicked Brock to the corner, but Brock no-sold and stayed on his feet. Kofi tried more kicks, but Lesnar grabbed Kofi and nailed a German Suplex. "Suplex City" chant from the crowd. Brock paced the ring, then delivered another release German.

Lesnar paced the ring, then delivered another suplex. Lesnar paced the ring, then picked up Kofi and delivered the F5. And it was good for the win. Cole warned WWE World Hvt. champion Seth Rollins that Lesnar is back and he is going after Seth this Monday on Raw in Chicago.

Post-match, Lesnar decided that he was not done. Lesnar shook his hand contemplating a follow-up suplex, then he scooped up Kofi for one more German Suplex for good measure. Lesnar smiled, then heard a "One More Time" chant. So, Lesnar picked up Kofi one more time and this time delivered the F5 in the middle of the ring.

Suddenly, Xavier Woods and Big E. hit the ring. Brock clotheslined them, then hit an F5 on Xavier. And Brock just lifted Big E. into the air like he was nothing to deliver another F5. Lesnar's music played as the announcers hyped Lesnar vs. Seth for the title in two weeks.

WINNER: Lesnar at 2:41. A quick piece of business for Lesnar giving viewers their Suplex City fix and setting up Brock as a dominant force heading into the title match against Rollins. In other words, the opposite of Raw TV booking thus far. Satisfying to cover up the heelish post-match attack on that poor soul Kofi Kingston.

Backstage: NXT champion Kevin Owens was shown backstage preparing for the NXT Title match.

Video Package: Owens vs. Finn Balor, the former Prince Devitt in New Japan.

Arena: Dramatic music. Dramatic lighting. A heartbeat. It could only mean one thing. Finn Balor, the former Prince Devitt, has arrived. WWE cut to the stage, where Balor emerged in red & black bodypaint and a wild headdress. Balor entered the ring and posed for the appreciative fans, then Kevin Owens's music played to bring out the NXT champion. As Owens made his entrance, Cole hyped the next NXT: Takeover special from Brooklyn, New York on August 22, the night before Summerslam.

Before the match, WWE showed Hideo Itami on the front row. A traditional ceremony took place before the title match, but Owens tossed his bouquet of flowers out of the ring, drawing boos. Eden Stiles handled formal ring intros, drawing tons of streamers for Balor returning to Tokyo. Owens angrily demanded the streamers be removed from the ring before the bell.

4 -- NXT champion KEVIN OWENS vs. FINN BALOR -- NXT Title match

As soon as the bell sounded, Balor exploded on Owens with a corner boot, surprising Owens as he hung out in the corner. Balor teased the Coup de Grace, but Owens rolled out of the ring. Balor gave chase, but Owens got the advantage luring him back in the ring. Owens roughed up Balor to boos as Cole hyped Owens challenging John Cena for the U.S. Title at Battleground in two weeks. Cole hyped Balor's New Japan title and tournament success, then Owens bowed to the crowd, drawing boos. Saxton said Owens just has a certain way of getting under everyone's skin.

Owens settled on a reverse chinlock, drawing a rally clap for Balor. But, Owens maintained control, knocked Balor to the floor, and chucked Balor into the ring steps. More boos for Owens when he returned to the ring waiting to see if Balor would be counted out. Balor made it back just before ten, then Owens chucked Balor out of the ring. Owens told the crowd to count along with him, but they booed instead. Balor made it back at eight, then Owens teased a high-impact strike, but went for a dramatic chinlock instead. Owens talked trash while maintaining the hold, then suddenly lost control when Balor nailed a two-foot pumpkick to the face.

Reset at 8:00. Owens responded with shoulder tackles and John Cena's finishing set, drawing boos. Owens then delivered the Five Knuckle Shuffle to more boos. Owens wanted the AA, but Balor slipped out and hit a mini foot stomp. Owens pulling out Cena's offense drew a note from Cole that Cena is in the main event tonight. On-cue, Owens teased the AA again, but Balor blocked and hit the Pele kick. Both men sold on the mat as the crowd rallied behind Balor.

Balor got up and knocked Owens to the floor, then nailed a flip-dive on the outside. Balor rolled the big man back into the ring, then climbed to the top turnbuckle to nail a kick to the head. Balor then scooped up Owens for a reverse Bloody Sunday, calling back to his Prince Devitt days, but Owens kicked out of a pin. Balor followed with the Slingblade, then he climbed to the top turnbuckle looking for the Coup de Grace, but Owens got up and grabbed Balor's leg. Owens with a headbutt. Then he walked into a kick to the head. Balor wanted the big finish again, and this time he connected. Balor covered, but Owens kicked out. Balor could not believe that did not get the job done.

Reset at 15:00. Balor got up throwing rights and lefts in the corner, nearly getting himself DQ'ed. Balor then took Owens to the top turnbuckle, but Owens fought back. Owens teased a big top-rope move, but Balor slipped out and kicked Owens in the thigh. The crowd wanted a big move, but Owens suddenly grabbed Balor and emphatically nailed a top-rope rolling senton for a close two count. Owens tried to figure out his next move, then the big man climbed to the top rope. Owens tried a top-rope Swanton, but Balor got his knees up to block. Balor then scooped up Owens and nailed Bloody Sunday. Balor covered, but Owens kicked out again. Disbelief from Balor.

Reset at 17:30. Owens grabbed Balor and nailed a clutch overhead suplex, but Balor kicked out of a pin. Balor sold being injured as Owens slowly made his way to his feet. Owens contemplated his next move, then stalked Balor. "You can't beat me!" he shouted, then disrespected Balor by slapping him. Balor fought back, then Owens wanted the pop-up powerbomb, but Balor landed on his feet and hit an inside-out clothesline. Balor dropkicked Owens hard into the corner, then hit a running double-foot kick to the corner. Balor scrambled to the top turnbuckle, then hit the Coup de Grace again. Balor covered and this time it was good for the pin and the win. New NXT Champ.

WINNER: Balor at 19:25 to capture the NXT Title. What a match. Big fight feel for Balor returning to Tokyo and pulling off the underdog victory against Owens, who was a terrific heel leading this match. WWE had to pull the title switch after all the hype that went into Balor and this was a nicely-executed title change with the culmination of a journey. Owens appearing on Raw without the NXT Title belt will feel weird, but it's part of the progression of Owens challenging Cena for the U.S. Title at Battleground. (****1/4)

Post-match, Cole celebrated Balor's title victory back in his second home country, then Owens got up selling embarrassment and anger, demanding a re-count. After a replay of high-points from the match, WWE showed Hideo Itami applauding ringside. Cole said Itami wanted to face the winner of this match for the title. 2015 WWE Hall of Famer Tatsumi Fujinami then entered the ring and congratulated Balor. Mutual respect, then Owens approached Balor, who extended his hand. Owens thought it over. Then he flipped off Balor and stormed out of the ring. Back to Balor standing tall in the ring as new NXT champion. Balor bowed to all four sides of the ring as Cole hyped the NXT Title now being held by a respected man. Cole said dreams come true, and for Balor it was from scrubbing floors in the New Japan Dojo to becoming NXT champion.

Tough Enough plug: WWE World Hvt. champion Seth Rollins guest-stars on this week's episode.

Video Package: Fujinami's WWE Hall of Fame induction, Tokyo version, from last night's WWE show.

In-ring: King Barrett's music played to bring out Barrett for the default main event. Kane's music then drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd. It's been a while since a U.S. crowd had that reaction for Kane, who looked like he stayed inside the whole time on his "Hawaii vacation." Or, he has not cashed in Seth Rollins's timeshare yet. For the babyface team, Dolph Ziggler was introduced first. Then, John Cena to a loud reaction. And this is where the non-storyline, house show portion of the show happens. Until Kevin Owens potentially shows up...


"Let's Go Cena / Cena Sucks" chant from the crowd, which Cena smiled at and played along with. Ziggler started against Barrett as Cole and Saxton went through current mid-card WWE storylines, focusing on the Ziggler/Lana-Rusev/Summer Rae business. Kane then tagged in and Dolph tagged in Cena, who slowly entered the ring like a top star. Kane, who was refreshingly presented like a big deal in this match, towered over Cena, who sold being in awe of facing the monster. They did a sequence where Cena tried to run over Kane with shoulder blocks, but Kane shook him off, then uppercut Cena to the mat.

Kane gave way to Barrett, who teed off on Cena, then settled on a headlock. Kane re-entered and uppercut Cena before stomping on him. Cena tried a scoopslam, but he sold like Kane was Andre the Giant and Kane collapsed on top of Cena for a two count. Meanwhile, Cole relayed a tweet from Triple H congratulating Balor on winning the NXT Title. It's a conflict between Hunter's heel Authority personality and Proud Papa NXT personality, as Owens has loosely been affiliated with The Authority on main TV.

Barrett continued to work that chinlock on Cena, who tried to get the tag to Ziggler, but Barrett kept him grounded. Kane tagged in and intimidated Cena. Cole noted that Kane has been a monster through the years, filling in the blank on why The Authority's emasculated henchman is suddenly a giant force. Kane then climbed to the top rope, wowing the crowd, and he landed a flying clothesline for a two count. The crowd tried to rally behind Cena, who kicked Kane in the gut, but Kane dropped him with a sidewalk slam for another two count.

Kane tagged in Barrett, who came off the top with an elbow for another nearfall. Ziggler was really antsy wanting to get in the ring, but the heels continued to isolate Cena in their corner. Barrett got too cocky and missed a second-rope elbow, giving Cena room to finally tag in Ziggler. Ziggler flew at The King with high-impact offense, then stalked him for the Fameasser, but Barrett slid under and nailed a big boot to the face. Kane tagged in and maintained the pressure on Ziggler, knocking him out of the ring to the floor.

Ziggler returned to the ring and took a pounding from the heels as Cena played cheerleader during this segment of the tag match. Ziggler got some room with a crucifix pin countering Winds of Change, but Barrett smashed him with a lariat to bring in Kane. Kane roughed up Dolph, continuing to play a monster. Kane suddenly dropped Dolph with a powerbomb after catching Dolph off the ropes, but Ziggler kicked out. Enter Barrett once again. Barrett smashed Ziggler to the outside with a big boot, then applied more pressure back in the ring.

At 20:00, Ziggler sold fading out to a loosely-applied sleeper, but Ziggler got to his feet and elbowed out. But, Barrett caught Ziggler with Winds of Change for a two count. Enter Kane. The crowd became nervous for Ziggler, wanting to see him make the comeback. But, Ziggler continued to take punishment as Cena tried to encourage his teammate. Kane suddenly caught Ziggler for a chokeslam, but Ziggler slipped out and nailed a desperation DDT.

Hot tag to Cena at 23:00. Barrett also tagged in and the comeback was on. Cena nailed the sit-out slam and Five Knuckle Shuffle, then teased the AA, but Kane entered the ring to block. So, Cena gave Kane the AA. Cena then caught Barrett with an AA following a sidekick from Ziggler. Cena covered Barrett for the win, drawing applause from the crowd.

WINNERS: Cena & Ziggler at 23:50. Standard house show main event with the heels dominating for a while before the faces hit their finisher(s) for the win. Perhaps the biggest take-away from the match was how much Kane has been wasted on main TV for years locked into an Authority storyline that has emasculated him as a monster. Kane was presented like Andre the Giant here, not leaving his feet and being taken seriously as a threat. WWE has to look at this match and re-evaluate their main TV presentation, as so many characters like Kane have become just ordinary guys having the same matches on Raw and Smackdown in the over-exposed, under-hyped main TV environment.

Post-match, Cena and Ziggler celebrated in the ring as the crowd applauded. Cena bowed to the crowd, then held up the U.S. Title belt. Cena and Ziggler took a victory lap, then WWE replayed high points from the main event. WWE cut back to Cena and Ziggler continuing to celebrate, then Cole thanked everyone who helped the broadcast, especially the folks at J Sports. Cena and Ziggler took a victory lap around ringside, including Cena high-fiving a man dressed as Curry Man.

Cena stood tall on the ring steps holding the U.S. Title belt in the air as Cole previewed Owens's reaction to what happened tonight. Cena and Ziggler made it to the stage to complete the victory lap, then both took a final look back at the arena. One last curtain call, then WWE showed Finn Balor's title celebration to close the special. No post-match attack from Owens. And WWE ended the (refreshingly) two-hour special with Cena tributing the U.S. on the Fourth of July.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: Two really good matches, Brock Lesnar took care of business, and they slipped in a mini-Fourth of July celebration at the end. The overall show captured the tug & pull of how to present this event, though, as it started out centered on the NXT Title match, then Main WWE took over to focus on Brock Lesnar without really hyping the NXT Title match. And, without Owens attacking Cena after the main event, it made it feel like Owens-Balor should have gone on last, but they wanted to end with the top star in the company standing tall. It captures where WWE is right now with the Network - the NXT brand is a big selling point, but NXT is still a "department within the main office," not the main office.

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PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.

He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.

He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).

He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)


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