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Smark Hen-XT (12/23/15): The Return of the Comeback

Happy Christmas, Henrinites! Jocs is out on Christmas leave, so it's your boy Stan Sy stepping in to review NXT over the holidays!

Christmas finally came for the NXT faithful in the form of Sami Zayn’s long-awaited return. The yellow brand just hasn’t been the same without the Underdog from the Underground, though we shouldn’t discount Kevin Owens and Finn Balor for doing their very best to make up for his presence. Nonetheless, those seven months left us all waiting and wanting to see ol’ Sami get back into the ring so that we could see him chase after the NXT Championship once again.

It seemed fitting to have him come back on the week of Christmas, as an added treat for the NXT Universe after having witnessed TakeOver: London last week. His return was hyped up through the show, and he was given a matchup with the “Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger. While Dillinger is no more than a jobber around these parts, NXT’s Creative Team made sure that the Perfect 10 didn’t look like such a jabroni compared to Zayn. He was given his own backstage promo before the match, and the match itself lasted at least 15 minutes, which is way more than jobbers on the main roster get. Merry Christmas to you, too, Tye Dillinger!

The story of the match revolved around Sami Zayn’s rehabilitated left shoulder. Corey Graves did a good job of playing up the fact that injuries like that could reduce an athlete to a shell of their former selves. He also added a layer to the story by telling us that Sami’s confidence may not be where it once was, which is something most athletes who recover from a serious injury do experience. Just ask Derrick Rose.


For his part, Dillinger did well in the match by targeting Sami’s left shoulder. For all of the pops he gets whenever he enters an arena, he seemed to know how to make the London crowd boo him in the match. Of course, it helped that he was Sami Zayn’s first opponent back in an NXT ring. As for Sami, he didn’t look like he missed a step, and he legitimately looked like missed being in the ring and performing. It was great seeing him make his comeback during the match highlighted by his Blue Thunder Bomb and the Helluva Kick, which won him the match.

Sami Zayn would go on to win—as he should—and he cut a passionate promo announcing his intention to pick up where he left off, as well as to declare that we can expect more of the same from NXT in the coming new year. Welcome back, Sami. We missed you.

The Rest of the Show

Jason Jordan & Chad Gable def. The Hype Bros, Blake & Murphy, and The Vaudevillains in a Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Match




  • The match was a clusterfuck with the obvious intention of giving all these guys time to perform in front of the London audience. But the good thing is that they were able to get their spots in without making the match a complete mess.
  • There wasn’t much character development going on in the match, which was disappointing because I would have loved to see the Vaudevillains’ direction after rejecting the show of respect from Jordan & Gable a few weeks ago. Then again, when you’re working with eight guys in fifteen minutes, there isn’t that much time. But still, there weren’t even little nuances I could notice that hinted at this new edge from Aiden English and Simon Gotch.
  • Overall, the match was simply an exhibition match showcasing what each team could do. No storylines were really advanced in the match, but it was a great reminder that NXT’s tag team division is the deepest it’s ever been, and it also tells us that Jordan & Gable are ready to keep ascending through the ranks.

Elias Samson def. Bull Dempsey




  • This week also saw the debut of Elias Sampson’s “Drifter” gimmick. We’ve seen this guy before as an unmemorable jobber, but now he’s got this mysterious persona of a brooding country guy with a guitar.
  • His entrance is unique because not everyone can come out to a drawling country tune, which is great. I like how slow he walked and how stoic his face was during his entrance. In fact, he rarely showed any emotion throughout the match, and it was only until he won when he actually broke a smile.
  • I expected him to be more of a brawler, though. The southern country gimmick is mostly associated with brawlers who just beat you to a pulp with their fists. Bradshaw and Dash & Dawson are good examples of that.
  • What I don’t get is why he celebrated by smiling and playing his guitar in the ring after the match. It seemed disjointed from his vignettes and his entrance. If the idea is to let Samson play his guitar and be ominous about it, he should just do that shit backstage or in creepy ass promos if his feuds ever got steam.

The Aftermath of London

  • We got some backstage segments from TakeOver: London, which is something we’ve come to expect after NXT specials.
  • It appears that Corbin vs. Crews isn’t going to end anytime soon, and it shouldn’t. Meanwhile, Asuka continued to play mind games on Dana Brooke and Emma, both of whom don’t appear to be on the same page anymore. 
  • It was pretty strange seeing Dash & Dawson complimenting Enzo & Cass by showing them some respect. Hearing them brag about being the best tag team in the world also sounded something pulled out of the generic heel tag team playbook. I want to know more about Dash & Dawson. I wish they’d taken delight out of shattering Enzo & Cass’ dreams and really played up their southern bully gimmicks.
*****

While the show was obviously meant to be something like a B-side episode, it did give us two solid matches. I honestly wanted to see Sami Zayn return at TakeOver: London, but I was cool with them saving an entire episode for his return just to build it up. That being said, this week’s episode is a solid B.

What did you think? And are you the Grinch who didn’t want to see Sami Zayn back? Hit us up in the comments section below!

*****

Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date.

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