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Smark Hen-XT (12/28/16): In the Land of the Rising Sun


Greetings and salutations, NXT faithful! Stan Sy here, at your service this week. Your usual NXT reviewer, Jocs, is taking a much-deserved break over the holidays, so I’m filling in with this week’s edition of this column! We don’t have much time until the new year, so let’s get right to it!

NXT aired a special two-hour episode this week, which was essentially a televised version of the Osaka live event they held a few weeks ago where Shinsuke Nakamura reclaimed the NXT Championship from Samoa Joe. If you were wondering why we got a truncated version of the title match back then, go ahead and catch the main event because you get the full match to close the show.


If you already saw the shortened version of the match from the December 7 episode of NXT, then you can actually afford to skip the main event. Then again, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not catching the match in its entirety. What I realized while rewatching the match today was that NXT cut out a lot of the transitions between acts, which resulted in the disjointed feeling you get as you watched the shortened version. Basically, I got the answer to the question, “Okay, how did they get from Point A to Point B? Ohhhh.”

That being said, the other four matches of this week’s show were all solid outings, which we can probably attribute to the fact that each match got enough time as if it was on a TakeOver special.

  • NXT Women’s Champion Asuka def. Nia Jax: Nia Jax’s presence on this card explained why it took her a while to get back on RAW following Survivor Series. During the match, Asuka looked mortal and vulnerable because of the size difference, which was an interesting angle they approached given Asuka’s undefeated streak. Sure, we’ve seen this before, but it was nice to revisit the fact that despite the streak, Nia Jax is still a monster among the women on any roster.

I liked the aggression we saw out of Jax, who didn’t hesitate to throw Asuka around when she had to. As for the champ, seeing her act babyface again was a welcome change of pace. It was also the obviously correct booking move since they were in her hometown of Osaka, which made Nia Jax the perfect foil for the evening. More and more, Asuka’s hard-hitting style and competitive nature make it easier for her character to transcend the face-heel binary. Hopefully, when this women’s division finds a way to catch up to her, Asuka can get to a point where it doesn’t matter what her alignment is. She just is.


  • NXT Tag Team Champions #DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa) def. Tajiri and Akira Tozawa: Undoubtedly the match of the night, all four men put on a showcase that could very well have closed the show. From the get-go, the crowd was already split between their fellow countrymen and the NXT Tag Team Champions, which made for some interesting dueling chants.

Despite being a makeshift team, Tajiri and Tozawa worked well, with their styles complementing one another to surprise #DIY. Tozawa’s athleticism surprisingly blended with Tajiri’s old-man game. Imagine current Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard running circles around their opponents on the court: that’s what we got from Tajiri and Akira Tozawa.

As for Gargano and Ciampa, they wrestled like a team that continues to feel like they have something to prove despite having overcome the “Top Guys” in the Revival. It’s always enjoyable watching them fight from the bottom because their size and backstories make them convincing underdogs. Even though they were the champs, they did seem like underdogs because Tajiri and Tozawa did have home field advantage.

In the end, #DIY took advantage of a misstep by the Japanese Superstars to eventually get the win with their superkick/running knee combo in the middle of the ring. The post-match show of respect was a nice touch, but so is the booking decision to have TM-61 challenge #DIY for the titles at the Melbourne show. At this point, I actually don’t mind seeing hometown guys challenge for the titles at live events because you know that’ll just make these seemingly throwaway house show matches mean more.

  • Billie Kay and Peyton Royce def. Liv Morgan and Aliyah: Not much to say about this one except I’m glad that Liv Morgan and Aliyah are getting less sloppy in the ring. Say what you want about Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, but these two really work together very well as the resident femme fatales of the NXT locker room.

  • Oney Lorcan def. Andrade “Cien” Almas”: Oney Lorcan is a fascinating character. He’s like a Ellsworth in a way since he doesn’t seem to belong in WWE, and yet he deserves to be there because of his actual skill. When you look at him, he looks like such a generic Create-A-Wrestler. A goofy name like “Oney Lorcan” doesn’t help either. And then when you watch him go, you’re mesmerized with how hard this guy can hit. He’s like a poor man’s Daniel Bryan, and at this point, I can live with a Bryan Lite on NXT if it means I’ll get another no-nonsense underdog I can get behind.


Cien’s work throughout the entire match was fun to watch because it was a homecoming of sorts for the former IWGP Intercontinental Champion. He even wore his old La Sombra mask during his entrance to hammer that point home. Now that he’s turned up his cocky pretty boy heel schtick, he’s become more fun to watch, especially because fans can’t hate him ironically anymore. Clearly, Almas is more comfortable in his own skin as a heel now, and it’s also helped him on NXT since he looks bigger than a lot of the guys on the roster.

I was surprised Oney Lorcan actually got the win here because I thought they were going to give Cien the momentum to solidify himself as an upper midcard heel. And then I remembered that this was a house show, so it made sense for the underdog to get the victory.

*****

Interesting move this week by NXT airing the house show in full. I actually wouldn’t be opposed to them doing it, as long as they don’t air the main event way before the rest of the show. I get that they wanted us to immediately see how Nakamura won the title back from Samoa Joe. But that also made the full version of the main event seem redundant since we already saw the important parts earlier this month. That being said, the Tag Team Championship match was still a clear highlight, as was the Women’s Championship match and even Lorcan vs. Almas. B.

Thoughts on this week's episode? Let us know by dropping a comment below!


Photo from WWE.com


*****

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. He dresses up in fancy suits from time to time to book matches as PWR's General Manager.

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