NXT LIVE EVENT REPORT
OCTOBER 21, 2017
GRANITEVILLE, S.C. AT AIKEN CONVOCATION CENTER
REPORT BY JUSTIN JAMES, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
The Aiken Convocation Center was only partially full. I had amazing seats in the front row. The floor had empty spots and the elevated areas were very mostly empty. I’ve been to local promotions at the Shriner’s Temple (basically a “bingo hall” event) with more people. The folks who were there were passionate, and Aiken is only about an hour drive from Columbia, so I do not know why attendance was so light. I drove two hours last year to see NXT in North Charleston, in a bigger venue that was much more full.
I brought my son (10 years old) and his friend from up the street (10 or 11) who subbed in for my 6 year old daughter who decided she didn’t want to go at the last minute. My son is very familiar with WWE and NXT. He watches NXT weekly, although he usually goes to bed after the first half. His friend had never seen any type of pro wrestling at all, 100 percent zero familiarity with WWE or even the concept of wrestling. In fact, we had to give him a crash course on how the rules work!
(1) No Way Jose defeated Fabian Aichner in a fun opener. Jose really knows how to work a crowd pre-match to get them excited to be there.
(2) Lacey Evans defeated Sarah Logan. As an added bonus, Evans’ daughter was in the front row, and after the match got to go backstage with mom. Really touching moment. Good match, and Evans has some real potential. Every time I see Logan, I want to see more of her.
(3) Johnny Gargano defeated Dan Mathas. Mathas did some decent cheap heat work pre-match, but it felt like he really was working it, not just reciting the lines. Gargano did a lap around the ring to slap hands with fans which really made folks (including my son) happy. Mathas was fine in the ring, and really played up his size advantage.
Zelina Vega came out to challenge Drew McIntyre for a fight on behalf of Andrade “Cien” Almas. She did a truly amazing impersonation of McIntyre that had me laughing hard. She knows how to work a mic.
(4) Roderick Strong defeated Hideo Itami. Outstanding match that I would like to see as a TV feud. It was exactly what you would expect from these two, and Itami did a good job with his “I demand your respect” character.
(5) Undisputed Era (Adam Cole & Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) defeated Sanity (Eric Young & Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dane) by way of “chaos in the ring” and a handful of tights. This match had a bit more comedy than I would like, in a manner that made UE look like a bit of a joke, but it’s a house show so I’m probably overreacting to it. Adam Cole got a huge reception from folks. I think that Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly really have an amazing skillset and are being wasted in Undisputed Era, and the booking for UE on the whole is just wrong. They don’t come off as a real threat.
Intermission. During the break, Christy St. Cloud asked my son and his friend if they wanted to do the post-intermission game for some prizes. They managed to win, and got a t-shirt, a program, and a signed poster. St. Cloud was a total class act throughout this. They were so excited and nervous and she gave them a lot of attention to make them feel comfortable. She also did an excellent job working the crowd throughout the night.
(6) Velveteen Dream defeated Kassius Ohno. This was a great match too. They had a touch of comedy, making references to Dream’s time on “Tough Enough,” but it was not distracting from the match in the slightest if you didn’t know he was on it. Ohno’s offense looked brutal in person; my son and his friend were wincing and cringing throughout the match. Having seen this match in person from the front row I have come to two conclusions. First, Dream has everything it takes to be a star. Second, Ohno is being booked totally wrong. He can and should be a centerpiece of the promotion. Like Gargano, Ohno connects well with the audience regardless of his win/loss record. Maybe matching them up as a team is the way to go?
(7) Nikki Cross defeated Sonya Deville. Remember on Wednesday in NXT TV report when I said that the Triple Threat format allowed Deville’s weaknesses to be masked? I was wrong. I am not sure she has enough weaknesses to be masked anymore. The progress she has made since her initial debut is just astounding. This match had a hard-hitting intensity to it, Deville came out with half the crowd liking her, and went to the back with the entire crowd against her, thanks to her heel work against Cross. Her moves were smooth and fluid. She has relaxed into the ring and allowed her natural abilities to show. I am liking Deville a lot. If they can just get some sort of cool factor into her to match the in-ring skill and viciousness, she can become the next Paige.
(8) Drew McIntyre defeated Andrade “Cien” Almas to retain the NXT Championship. After the last Takeover, I did a podcast for the Torch, and one of the topics discussed was that McIntyre wrestles a “WWE Heavyweight Championship Main Event” style. After seeing this match, I can tell you that if he is wrestling this style in NXT, it is due to booking or opponents, not himself. He did not just try to keep up with Almas, he met Almas for agility and speed. Vega truly delivered in the manager role. Thanks to Balor losing his title to Samoa Joe at a house show, I really felt like the title was truly on the line. Both Almas and McIntyre wrestled with passion and intensity here. McIntyre put Almas over well. After landing the Future Shock DDT, he didn’t make a cover; instead he shouted “just to be sure” and hit the Claymore too. That made it look like he considered Almas to be a true threat to the title. I hope to see this pairing again. Adam Cole came out and said he was glad McIntyre won so he could get the title at Takeover. McIntyre said that despite having just had a brutal match, he would be happy to give Cole his shot right now, but Cole declined and left. McIntyre gave a solid “we are NXT” promo to make the fans happy. He also mentioned that this was the first time NXT went to Aiken in 10 years, this was to test the waters, and he made a promise that WWE and/or NXT will return soon. After the match, McIntyre did a lap around the ring, then took a ton of time to take photos with fans. He even went around the barricade to make sure that fans off the barricade could get some time with him.
Overall: I’ve been to more than my fair share of WWE house shows, TV tapings, etc. I was at the first NXT event outside of Florida, in Philly, and I saw NXT last year during that period of time where Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura were both on the roster. So I have a fairly good exposure to WWE live events and NXT non-televised live events. Tonight’s show was absolutely the best in-ring action I have seen at any of these (to make it clear, I have never been to a PPV/special event/WrestleMania, etc.). These folks worked their tails off. You got the feeling that their attitude was: “Small crowd? Great, that makes it easier for us to connect to them as individuals!” instead of phoning it in. All sorts of little things… Gargano pointing to my kid, Ohno giving him a nod, the wrestlers slapping hands at ringside, etc. made it a great night for all of the folks in the crowd who spent their hard-earned money on NXT tickets. When McIntyre came around and my kid slapped his hand he turned to me and said “this is the best night of my life!” My son’s friend was immediately cheering the faces and booing the heels. My son was literally biting his knuckles during the Ohno vs. Dream match. His friend said that the only thing that was more fun was the time he won a go-kart race. The NXT group completely re-convinced me that I absolutely must purchase tickets again the next time they come around, and those tickets must be front row if I can find a way to make that happen. The wrestlers were just so incredibly in-tune with what would put a smile on the fans’ faces, without coming off as cartoony or dropping their characters. It was the first time in a very long time that I found myself really getting into the live product as a “fan” and stepping out of my mindset of being someone who critiques the product. The only disappointment of the night was not seeing Aleister Black.
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