6/17 WWE NXT in Plymouth – Full, Detailed Report on tour-closer, show & roster observations, crowd demos

Shinsuke Nakamura & Finn Balor - June 9, 2016 NXT TV taping (Josh Parry (c) PWTorch.com)


WWE NXT Live Results
June 17, 2016
Plymouth, U.K.
Report by Rob McNichol, podcaster & reporter @RobMcNichol

I attended Friday evening’s NXT house show in Plymouth, England. Before I start, fair to explain that I’m a ‘big event’ NXT fan. I absolutely love the Takeover shows almost every time, but I don’t tend to watch the weekly show. Therefore, I was unfamiliar with some of the talent.

The event, which was held in a small arena that holds approximately 2,000, at an estimate, sold out very quickly a few months ago. The crowd was mainly adult males, probably 25-35, but there were still plenty of females and younger kids.

One of the coolest things about NXT, and a couple of the characters, is the range of ages and genders that wear the shirts. I saw a girl who could not have been more than seven or eight years-old wearing a Shinsuke Nakamura shirt and demon headgear, and numerous men of all ages wearing Bayley ‘hugger’ shirts. Ace.

Before the show began, the screen showed plenty of ‘top ten’ lists from the WWE Network, and similar promo videos. Of note, John Cena popping up gained no reaction; however, Reigns elicited boos. The torch has been passed, in more ways than one.

A strategically placed top ten catchphrases video preceded the show – smart move, as people joined in with ‘We The People,’ ‘SAWFT,’ and similar lines. (Reigns, with his ‘the guy’ mantra, was number one. Cue boos.)

The show began with Hugo Knox (face) versus Blake (heel) (billed as Wesley Blake). In have never seen Knox wrestle before, but know of his story. He was a football (soccer) goalkeeper called Stuart Tomlinson, from Chester, in England’s north-west, before heading to the performance centre.

(1) Hugo Knox beat Blake. I was extremely impressed with Knox. He has a huge upper body, making you expect someone lumbering like Ryback or Mason Ryan. But his athleticism was a joy to watch. Dropkicks, spin-kicks, and headscissors were in the arsenal, and he scored the win. This was short, and all about Hugo.

(2) Alexander Wolfe beat Angelo Dawkins. Wolfe, with Sawyer Fulton, both billed from Dresden, Germany, faced Angelo in the second match. The German duo (heels) had a sort of post-apocalyptic gimmick going on, while Dawkins came across a little like an MVP knock-off, although he ‘stirring the pot’ gesture was fun and feels like something to build on.

Wolfe won – standard heel drill of the outside partner getting thrown out, but returning at an appropriate time to cause a distraction. Wolfe with an eye rake and roll-up for the win. I liked how Dawkins sold the eye all the way to the back. The match was short an unspectacular, but then it was not supposed to be anything else.

Most in the venue seemed a little more familiar with the opening participants than me, but there was certainly an air of ‘who are you?’ from many. What I am interested in though was how swiftly the crowd sided with the (correct) heels and faces, who incidentally were entering from their own sides of the stage area.

Women’s action was next, with Peyton Royce (who really needs to use more ‘schoolgirl’ holds – Royce Rolls, anyone?) and Alexa Bliss against Carmella and Bayley.

(3) Carmella & Bayley beat Peyton Royce & Alexa Bliss. Royce was new to me, and I felt her act (especially her entrance) was rather too ‘sensual’ for me, but I will say that she and especially Bliss had their heel mannerisms dead on – hands on their ears during face chants, disrespecting opponents, etc. Good stuff.

Carmella did some ‘how you doin’ verbiage that the crowd ate up, then Bayley emerged to a huge roar and the usual chants from British crowds, to which her shrt alluded. I enjoyed how Bayley and Carmella looked to be having the time of their lives – it’s great for crowds to see wrestlers really enjoying themselves.

The crowd was mid-way through a rousing ‘stand up if you love Bayley’ chant when she hit the Belly-to-Bayley to score the win, which was a shame as it cut the chant off and meant people missed the finish a little. But, that’s a minor quibble. Decent match, with strong ‘character’ performances from all four women.

Bobby Roode was out next, and judging by the reaction, I’d say over 50 percent of the audience were pleasantly surprised to see him. I don’t think they expected him to be on the tour. He got a strong reaction as he entered in a ‘naitch’ looking robe with Roode on the back. He did his ‘chest off the rope’ posed and looked every inch TNA Bobby Roode – which is a compliment. I have always rated the guy very, very highly.

He entered, though, from stage left – the heel side. His opponent, No Way Jose, entered to chanting and dancing, as this crowd seemed to love him. We had a split in loyalties.

(4) Bobby Roode beat No Way Jose. We then had a match I think you are unlikely to see the like of on TV. Roode has decent comedic timing, and in between bouts of yelling at Jose for dancing, the pair came together for moves that involved some dance moves. Roode seemed to have to shake off the urge to boogie. If done on TV it would seem highly at odds with Roode’s serious character, but in this situation it was fun – and funny.

I’m not all that familiar with NWJ, and was shocked when a simple right hand was sold with a two-and-seven-eights count, I was surprised. My mate Chris, a much more knowledgeable gent when it comes to NXT, indicated it was his finisher. Hm. I have enough problems with Big Show’s knockout blow (Why not just punch them all the time? Don’t goozle, big fella, just punch him…) but a right hand seems a very weak finisher for someone with NWJ’s build and act.

Speaking of which, Roode won with a spinebuster. Like I said, I’m a huge Roode fan, but it hurts him that I have watched literally hundreds of his matches – including probably a dozen or 15 in person – and I don’t know his finisher. Is it the spinebuster? Is it the armbar? Is it the perfect-plex variant?

Generally, though, Roode looked the business, as we say in England. Meaning, he was good, and looked like he belonged. I doubt he’ll be headlining WrestleMania 34, but he deserves a strong run in NXT at the very least. I think he’s too old and possibly too TNA tainted to be given a huge run, but he is perfect for young talent to be facing and learning from.

It should be noted that although the far more well known Roode was cheered in many places, he did enough heel actions to get a lot of the crowd to boo him. I felt they knew what they were doing, too. It wasn’t an ‘I don’t like the character’ boo that someone like Miz would get, or the ‘I’m rejecting you’ boo like for Reigns. It was an ‘I like you, but I know I am supposed to boo you, so I will,’ reaction, which I was very pleased about. I always feel that if you think a wrestler is a great heel – Kevin Owens for example – then you should boo the hell out of him. That is, after all, what he wants you to do – or at least should do.

I wasn’t sold on NWJ. Not my kind of act. He got a strong reaction, though. Just felt a little ‘small-time,’ perhaps. Like Adam Rose, dancing Emma, or Bo Dallas, it just might not be able to transition to the bigger audience and theatre of Monday Night Raw. Maybe the brand split, where more focus could be put on a character, could be used for these sorts of acts (Tyler Breeze, too).

The next match was the only one where the heel and face dynamics struggled a little…

(5) Andrade “Cien” Almas beat Tye Dillinger. Tye Dillinger’s “10” gimmick is totally over with this crowd, and they did not want to boo him, although some persevered. His opponent, Andrade Cien Almas, is not yet established enough as a character for the crowd to embrace him. His wrestling was perfectly fine – in fact it was very good – and his more flashy moves were received very warmly. But, thus far he is just another talented Latino wrestler – and there have been plenty of them. Once he finds a way of connecting, he’ll be off, because he is very good.

Dillinger, though, is onto something, and there is a New Day-like quality about him. He’s just too entertaining to truly boo his antics. He began to cut a ‘thank you so much, this is what we do it for’ babyface promo to the crowd, some of whom bought it, only to explain that he is a ten, and Plymouth is full of threes. People simply laughed and applauded, because it was so well delivered.

He kept it up: during a submission hold he told the ref to ‘ask him’ then said ‘ask him in Spanish – en Espanol.’ Great comic timing – it’s so hard to hate him. Cien won the match with a moonsault that missed, but he landed on his feet, then flipped onto Tye for the pin. Neat move, that we saw at the Takeover show.


After the interval, our ring announcer Dasha Fuentes said it was time for some title matches, so next we got an NXT Tag Titles match. Obviously, you never truly expect to see a title change on a house show, but with the NXT is you just never know. Whenever short-sighted people criticise WWE, for example, for having Samoa Joe beat Finn Balor in a non-televised event, they don’t take into account every person like me who attends a house show and thinks…it could just happen. It didn’t, of course.

(6) American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable) beat NXT tag champions The Revival (Dash & Dawson) via DQ; Revival retained the Tag Titles. American Alpha were prevented from claiming The Revival’s belts when the heels dragged the ref out just as he was about to count the fall from Alpha’s double team finisher. The ref called for the DQ.

All four of these men are really very good indeed, and I think all may benefit from being in tag teams for a very long time. Dash and Dawson are never going to be money. They are never going to be on the marquee, or huge merch sellers, or be anyone’s favourites. But, they are so solid, crisp and in character. Dawson, in particular. To have a top of the card you need a middle, and they will always find work because you need that solid base. One for the soccer fans – not everyone can be a striker scoring the goals. You sometimes need defensive midfielders to do the dirty work. (Adapt your own wide receiver/nose tackle football analogy to suit.)

Alpha just ooze quality, and they have that intangible quality that makes you know they are stars. They are like an upgraded version of Haas and Benjamin, really. If I am ultra-critical – and I’ve never taken a bump in my life so I am pushing my luck here – but Jordan needs to be a bit crisper. A couple of clotheslines were not timed right, and at least one dropkick showed lots of air. But, I am nitpicking. He is generally tremendous, only a quarter step behind the superb Gable, and the pair just click superbly. They are the best natural tag of two individuals (as in, not a package like the Bushwhackers or Nasty Boys or the Ascension, but two guys just teaming and clicking) that I have seen since the Kings of Wrestling and Beer Money.

(7) NXT Women’s champion Asuka beat Nia Jax to retain the NXT Women’s Title. Asuka vs. Nia Jax was essentially similar to their Takeover match, with a notable highlight being just how LOUD Asuka’s shriek was before she hit the final kick to get the win.

Now for the main event. Team New Japan vs. Team TNA, of sorts, in a WWE NXT ring…in my hometown of Plymouth, of all places. It is astonishing that a supposed ‘developmental’ brand could possess four such incredible talents as Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Finn Balor, and Shinsuka Nakamura. It is why, I suppose, that Triple H is trying to steer away from the developmental tag.

(8) Finn Balor & Shinsuke Nakamura beat NXT champion Samoa Joe & Austin Aries. This wasn’t a show-stealer – these men bought and paid for it over the last decade or so. This was not a classic tag match, with moves and exchanges you will remember for decades. It was what it was supposed to be – a 15-minute or so showcase of four incredible wrestlers, with the correct finish – Nakamura and Balor each hitting their finishers on Aries – which was totally appreciated by this knowledgeable – but not pushy – crowd.

Balor oozes not just star power but confidence. He looks totally comfortable in his own skin and his position: a totally safe pair of hands. Nakamura is perhaps the most charismatic man walking (strutting) the earth, and the two blended well. Aries and Joe, old pros, played their part in helping to shine the spotlight on the two babyfaces, while getting enough in for themselves. I miss seeing cool, laid-back babyface Joe on these shows, but he is plenty good enough in the role he is being asked to do.

A satisfying main event to top off a great night. The NXT show delivers partly because fans are in the mindset for it to deliver. They are optimistic and prepared to receive something good with open arms, eyes, hearts and minds. In exchange, they get talented wrestlers and committed performances. What’s not to like?

A couple of final, hopefully interesting notes:

– There were 22 wrestlers on this show, with nine countries represented: England, Ireland, Japan, USA, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Australia. If you want to make a nod towards Joe & Nia’s Samoan heritage, you can make 10, although both were born in the U.S. A truly global feel to this brand.

– I love viewing kids at wrestling shows. You learn so much. A hug from Bayley or a ‘too sweet’ acknowledgement sent different kids into raptures. It’s really heartwarming to see kids meet heroes and not be let down.

I love their interjections, too. My personal favourite shout from an infant came from the young lad in front of me. Nia Jax was raining punches down on Asuka in the corner – ‘you need to calm down,’ shouted the boy. Hilarious. Another from behind me yelled at Nia: ‘You have had too much pudding.’

– I leave you with a final tale of a modern wrestling moment. The Revival, having seen Alpha play to the crowd, had their turn. Dash took off his shirt, and pantomimed throwing it to the crowd. He pointed to a young lad, clad head to toe in John Cena gear, a row in front of me. “How old are you? Five, six?” enquired Dawson. “I’m eight,” he replied. The Revival decided he was worthy of a shirt. Dash shaped to throw, but stopped,and the shirt fell to the floor, in the ring. Dawson learned through the ropes, sang a few bars of Cena’s theme tune, and told the kid ‘you can’t see us.’ The pair laughed uproariously, we all booed.

The kid smiled. He got it. He understood that it was two men playing a role. He realised he had been a stooge for the heel antics of The Revival, and played along. You decide if you think it is a shape that the curtain is so far down that eight-year-olds know the score, or whether it is a good bit of parenting that the product is immersive enough that you have a hero like Cena, but still understand that it is all make-believe. I side with the latter, but would understand if you didn’t.

2 Comments on 6/17 WWE NXT in Plymouth – Full, Detailed Report on tour-closer, show & roster observations, crowd demos

  1. Speaking of Joe, I think his response to a big part of the crowd chanting “Joe wants a pasty” was brilliant a response I have seen. He turned and faced us and said “Give us one then” which got a laugh and then gave that classic chefs kiss which got a huge laugh fro everyone.

    That was an inspired bit of banter and just a small part of what made this such a great event to go to and even more so being my first WWE NXT show, fingers crossed Plymouth is now a place revisiting

  2. Dash & Dawson may not be top draws, but they’re very good and have great heel psychology. They’re the guys who fluster the up and coming face teams and hold the belts occasionally to keep themselves a credible ‘top threat’ for the tag belts. On the main roster, they’ll need at least one brief run so they can be called former tag team champs (and multi-time NXT champs), but otherwise they’ll be the low level heel team.

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