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Smark Hen-XT (2/3/16): The Better Man


On this week’s episode, Apollo Crews tries to prove himself against NXT Champion Finn Bálor. Also on deck, Carmella earns some momentum heading into her title match next week.

Earn Your Keep


In the main event, former number 1 contender Apollo Crews took on champion Finn Bálor in a title-free match, and just as it was in their last encounter, it was a blast.

The champ took control early, keeping the athletic Crews grounded with headlocks and armbars. It was a chess game, as Corey Graves described it, where both guys trying to outthink each other. As the match went on, the pace quickened, turning the tide for Crews. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to take down Bálor who won the match with the Bloody Sunday after the Coup de Grâce.


In a vacuum, this was a perfectly fine match. The main event could be in an episode of RAW or SmackDown and we’d see nothing wrong with it. It was that good. The problem is that this match does not exist in a vacuum. In the greater context of things, it seems like a missed opportunity. This could have been a character-building moment for the largely-bland Crews, but more importantly, this could have been a great start for a much needed Bálor heel turn.

Admit it, a babyface Bálor is boring. His matches are fine, but there isn’t much to him outside of the war paint. The leather jacket, the confident—almost cocky—attitude, the guitar riffs during the intro, all of that would have made more sense if he was heel. And we know he’s a great heel. Just check out his work with the Bullet Club in New Japan. I understand that he has a marketable look that makes him a great face of the brand, but keeping him on the side of angels is like holding him back from his potential. Add the fact that the Number 1 contendership is still in limbo, and will be in for a long time, it leaves him with nothing to do. Turning him heel would have at least given him a story while the Joe-Zayn feud came to a close.

At the end of the day, what’s done is done. We got a good main event, so there isn’t really much to complain about. But at the back of my mind, it’ll be one of those matches that you’ll look back on and say it could have been better.

The rest of the show:


The Vaudevillains def. Hype-Bros



  • Aiden English and Simon Gotch picked up the win after hitting the Whirling Dervish on Zack Ryder.

  • I like seeing the Vaudevillains working heel again. English was particularly great with his taunting (much props to “We ain’t hype. We’re manly!”). What they did during the their feud against the Lucha Dragons was funny, but this meaner, more serious approach to the gimmick is something that resonates to me more. Less focus on being old-timey, more on being manly.

  • The Hype-Bros, me no likey. It’s more because I don’t enjoy seeing Mojo Rawley work. Creative is doing a good job of hiding it by having Ryder do most of the work and play face-in-peril, but I’m not sure Rawley has enough to merit whatever goodwill he gets from the powers that be that keeps him afloat.

Carmella def. Emma



  • Carmella picks up the win with a backslide.

  • There’s something wrong when the person putting you over looks better during the match. That being said, I think I’ve already drilled the point that Emma is one of the best wrestlers from the brand, so looking better than her is near impossible.

  • I’m happy for Carmella, though, for getting her shot at the title. She’s not the best, but she’s put her work in and improved. I’m pretty sure she’s plateaued already. We’re not gonna see her bring out a technically great match—but if anyone can help her work a fun match, it’d be the Women’s Champion, Bayley.


Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady def. two jamokes (Grave’s words, not mine)



  • The Realest Guys in the Room took care of business, and got the win after the Rocket Launcher.

  • Enzo and Big Cass are in that weird pre-call-up phase of their NXT careers. Expect that from this point on, they’re probably not going to be given anything meaningful, but they’ll still show up for random matches to build some hype for their inevitable call-up. Who knows, with their skill on the mic, the New Day might as well find themselves in an entertaining verbal spar.

Asuka def. Santana Garrett



  • The most dangerous woman in the WWE won the match after a series of submissions, ending with the Asuka Lock to make Garrett tap out.

  • There’s something in me that just enjoys seeing Asuka destroy people. She does it so well in so many different ways that it seems unfair for anyone she faces. From kicking her opponents heads off, to chaining beautiful submission holds, and even ramming her posterior into people’s faces, she makes it look easy. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to imagine her gunning for the title soon.

  • Watch out for Garrett. From what I’ve seen online, she could be a solid addition to the revamped women’s division. Even in this match, she didn’t look woefully out of depth with Asuka. Don’t be surprised if she gets picked up soon.

*****

This was a pretty serviceable episode, all things considered. The main event is something you won’t want to miss, and Asuka in the ring is always fun, even if it’s a short match. Still though, the energy wasn’t quite there throughout the night, probably because this was the fourth hour of tapings. Still though, a good hour of NXT is still a good investment. Expect things to kick up a notch next week as the episodes from the University of Central Florida tapings begin. For now, this week’s NXT gets a B-.

Do you think Bálor should turn heel? Excited for the Women's title match next week? Let us know and drop us a comment!

Photos from WWE.com

*****

Jocs Boncodin (@caboncodin) is a Managing Editor of Smark Henry. He answers tweets by day and watches wrestling by night. An aspiring writer, Jocs spends most of his idle time fantasy booking angles and overthinking wrestling storylines. A big fan of the WWE, his introduction to the local online wrestling community Smark Gilas-Pilipinas has opened his eyes to the wonders of puroresu and lucha libre. He currently handles Smark Hen-XT, smarkhenry.ph's weekly NXT review.

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