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Smark Hen-XT (7/13/16): Finn’s Last Hurrah



This week on NXT, Finn Bálor faces off with Shinsuke Nakamura. Also, we hear from NXT Champion Samoa Joe.

Welcome Your Demon-Slaying Emperor


Before we get to the one match on the show, Samoa Joe graced us with his presence with the NXT Championship on one hand and a mic on the other. That tells me we're in for a great segment.

I’ve said it before: Joe has had some of his best work to date down at Florida, but his matches are only part of his career resurgence. His mic work—especially after his heel turn—has been brilliant. His promo to open the show was great. No jokes from the Samoan Submission Machine, just facts. He had slayed the Demon. He was the first to truly bring Strong Style to NXT. He is our glorious emperor. The fact that the main event had title implications didn’t sit well with him, as it’s his title, and he calls the shots.


The only downside from this segment had to be Rhyno. Honestly, I’m not buying him as a legit competitor against a guy like Samoa Joe, and their match next week reeks of a throwaway match for the champ. I understand that a veteran like Rhyno has some value as someone who has credible experience and name recognition, but his time has passed, and this spot could be more useful to another talent. If anything, this just serves as a warm-up for Joe before he goes to dance with his next challenger.

Finn vs Shin


Bálor vs Nakamura is a dream match that could headline a TakeOver special. So it was understandable that NXT would dedicate an entire episode to it. It’s implications were important enough to warrant a whole show just for it. NXT pretty much has a simple formula for great matches locked down: put two of your best guys in the company and give them time to go. This was a big match, but it didn’t quite feel big enough.


Outside of a few gripes, this was a pretty solid match. The former NXT Champion came out banging and pulled out some great grappling that we haven't seen from him during his time at NXT. The guy could go on the mat, and it showed here. He had some pretty inventive holds to punish Nakamura’s leg with. His gameplan was simple: take out the deadliest weapon in his opponent’s arsenal.

Nakamura sold Bálor’s moves quite well. His facial expressions and his howls of pain were on point. However, I thought Swagsuke undersold Finn’s offense as a whole. Bálor worked Nakamura’s left leg for the better part of 15 minutes, and yet now and then, we’ll see Nak using the same leg to destroy his opponent like it was fine. If the whole point of your opponent’s offense was to negate your best weapon, acting like nothing happened is a terrible way to show that. You could try to use adrenaline or will as an excuse, but that’s a flimsy one at best. It was like Finn was telling a story that Shinsuke wanted no part of, and the commentary team was torn between telling both.


As a whole, this was an enjoyable match and it was worth dedicating a whole episode just for it. It just didn’t live up to the hype. It was neither man's best match, though it was still pretty great. It’s ironically similar to Bálor’s whole time down at NXT: it was filled with great moments, but as a whole, just not quite as brilliant as people make it to be. Now he’s on to greener pastures, just in time for the WWE Draft. Nakamura has only one man left in his way before he’s crowned King of NXT; and the inevitable feud with Samoa Joe is going to be fire.

*****

All in all, this was another solid episode in a chain of solid episodes from the yellow brand. It was refreshing to see them dedicate a good amount of time to tell a story, rather than cramming five or six matches in 50 minutes. This is going to be a rarity, but it does feel special when they go back to their pre-TakeOver days where special matches can happen on any given Wednesday. I admit, I’ll probably end up remembering Joe’s promo more than the main event, but it was still a great show. This episode gets an A-.

Thoughts on Bálor-Nakamura? Drop us a comment below!

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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