Friday, April 22, 2016

NXT: Live from Lowell, MA

Welp, the NXT crew just rocked my socks off.

I had the privilege of attending the house show last night in Lowell, MA (NXT's first-ever visit to New England) and was treated to one of the most fun nights of live wrestling I've ever seen (Even my wife had a good time watching a wrestling event, and that's saying someting).  Legit, I've been attending wrestling events just shy of 29 years, and this made me feel 12 years old again.  The eight matches were all a breeze to sit through, the crowd ate up every minute of it, and there wasn't a shred of cynicism about this show.  When 2800 jaded, smart wrestling fans buy into every babyface and boo every heel (except Samoa Joe, who's just too awesome to hate), you know you've done something right.  This was such a refreshing experience after years of being forced to question every bonehead decision made by main roster Creative.  NXT's product is so simple and untainted any wrestling fan can appreciate it.  The average episode of RAW is just over three hours and is a chore to sit through.  This show was two hours and forty-five minutes and cruised by at about a hundred miles an hour.  And on top of all this, the show ended with a monumental NXT Title change!  But we'll get to that....

These were balcony seats and our view was still amazing

Even the show opener, pitting Mojo Rawley against Riddick Moss (who got several "Who are you?" chants) was fun to watch, mostly due to Rawley's unparalleled energy.  He's no Kurt Angle between the ropes, but it's impossible not to like the guy.  He just gives off the air of someone who's so happy to be there it becomes infectious.

That goes double for the babyface team in match #2.  Bayley and Carmella faced Dana Brooke and Peyton Royce in a classic old-school undercard-type match, where the babyfaces got the better of the heels almost all the way through and the crowd was tickled pink.  Is there a more likable figure in all of pro wrestling right now than Bayley?  To anyone who thinks traditional babyfaces don't work in 2016, Exhibit fucking A.

The third match nearly stole the show, as Tommaso Ciampa faced the former Biff Busick, Chris Girard in a sick display of technical wrestling that eventually included some brutal chop battles.  Going into this I wasn't very familiar with either guy (aside from their names), but the match was so good they both won me over.

Another technical standout was Austin Aries vs. Manny Andrade (formerly La Sombra).  Andrade was very over here and thus Aries worked as a de facto heel.  Their chemistry was fantastic and I'd love to see more of this pairing.  After a ton of near-falls Aries broke out the Last Chancery for the tap-out win.  Super fun match.

The moment I was most looking forward to was next.  Shinsuke Nakamura, currently my favorite wrestler in the world, made his New England debut against Elias Samson (who had Honky Tonk Man heat in this building).  Nak's entrance felt like a huge moment, even in this small, stripped-down venue.  Aside from the main event finish, Nakamura had the biggest pop of the night.  The match itself was little more than a five-minute showcase (even billed as such on the program), but it was a magical thing to finally see Nakamura in person.  There is no one else in wrestling with that level of charisma.

My god.....LOOK AT HIM

The final three matches were for Championships.  First up was American Alpha facing The Revival in a rematch from Dallas.  This feud is such an invigorating throwback to when tag team wrestling ruled the Earth.  AA are simply phenomenal, taking the best parts of The Steiners, The Hart Foundation, and Haas & Benjamin and melding them into an incredible babyface tandem act as good as any team in the company.  And Dash & Dawson are one of those great no-frills heel teams that just likes to hurt people and have no interest in being loved by the crowd.  They're the 2016 answer to Arn and Tully.  I could watch these four duke it out all day long.

The semi-main was Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss for the Women's strap.  Like Nakamura, Asuka is a marvelously captivating talent with complete ownership of her character, who makes every move and every nuance absolutely riveting without having to say a single word.  Bliss is't quite on her level technique-wise, but she plays a great "better than you" villain and has wonderful facials.  Aside from a miscue or two, this match was splendid.

Asuka is 17 kinds of awesome

As good as this undercard was, it was the main event that blew away everything else.  Finn Balor and Samoa Joe had a restaurant-quality NXT Title match that I was prepared to classify simply as an excellent house show main event.  And then the impossible happened.  Leading to the finish, both men were on the outside.  Balor whipped Joe into the security railing and then hit him with a charging dropkick, which apparently caused him to roll his ankle.  The X sign was thrown up and a doctor came out to check on him, but the match continued until Joe hit the Muscle Buster (his second attempt), and immediately my thought was "Wait, are they really doing this??"  Joe covered Balor and I said, out loud, "No fuckin' way," as the ref counted three and the place went NUCLEAR.  Folks, Samoa Joe is your new NXT Champion.  As for Balor's injury, it's still not clear if that was a work or not.  Balor did finish the match after unlacing his boot, and took the time for a post-match bow to chants of "Thank you Balor."  However as we were leaving there was an ambulance with flashing lights, and a stretcher was being wheeled into the building.  So if this was a work, they were fully committed to it.  Then again, generally wrestlers don't unlace their boots when they're really injured, nor does the match get a finish.  We'll just have to stay tuned.

Two words: Holy fuckin' shit

All in all this was one of the best live wrestling experiences I've ever had.  I've been to see Ring of Honor several times (the two best of which were in Jan. 2007 and Jan. 2008 respectively), I've been to a Saturday Night's Main Event taping (the one where Arn & Tully won the Tag belts from Demolition), and I've been to a couple PPVs (Royal Rumble 2003 was loads of fun, SummerSlam 2006 was not).  But this show might've taken the cake.  All eight matches were gripping on some level, the crowd was incredibly engaged all night, the entire roster seemed delighted to be performing for us, and the atmosphere was that of an old-time wrestling show where you just might get to see something historic, like a new Champion.


No comments:

Post a Comment