2/27 Zim's WWE NXT Review: Bo Dallas vs. Corey Graves vs. Conor O'Brian to become No. 1 contender, Leo Kruger vs. Justin Gabriel, Aksana vs. Emma (the dancing fool), and The Shield get the biggest babyface pop
By Zack Zimmerman
Aired February 27, 2013 NXT on Hulu Plus
Taped January 31 at Full Sail University
The show opened backstage with Dusty Rhodes talking with Bo Dallas, but Corey Graves quickly interrupted. Dusty asked Graves if he had brought what Dusty wanted. Graves said he didn’t want to, but he handed over the stolen NXT Championship and said that the title should be his. Dusty made a case for Bo Dallas being more deserving after earning a spot in the Royal Rumble and defeating IC Champion Wade Barrett. Dusty said that it’s going to be a triple threat for the number one contendership in the main event: Bo Dallas vs. Corey Graves vs. Conor O’Brian. Graves got in the last word by promising to show everyone what he means by "Stay Down" … The opening theme played…
Zim’s Zag: So last week ends with Graves stealing the title, cool. There are places to go with a stolen belt story, especially with a grimy character like Graves. This week opens with him just handing it back over? Weak.
Justin Gabriel made his entrance accompanied by a recovering, crutch-wielding Tyson Kidd. Leo Kruger came out next and crouched in his corner as usual.
1. Justin Gabriel (w/ Tyson Kidd) vs. Leo Kruger. Regal pointed out that both men are South African natives who have virtually grown up together in wrestling. Gabriel hit several chops and quickly settled into a grounded side headlock that he worked for several minutes. Kruger worked his way into the corner and took a brief upper hand when he didn’t break clean. A short time later, Gabriel hit a headscissors that sent Kruger to the outside…[C]
Back from break, Gabriel leapfrogged Kruger, but when he tried a second time, Kruger caught him with a AA-style spinebuster for a two-count. He sent Gabriel shoulder-first into the ringpost and went to work on the arm. Gabriel fought back with some low kicks and a great looking spinning back roundhouse to a kneeling Kruger. Kruger kicked out at two and quickly hit a jumping armbar takedown. He worked a fujiwara and a hammerlock to keep Gabriel grounded, but Gabriel came back when he hit a drop-toe hold which sent Kruger into the ropes.
Gabriel fired up and hit several kicks finished with a rolling elbow. He charged into the corner with a Stinger Splash and got a good near-fall on a springboard crossbody. Gabriel climbed to the top, but Kruger pulled Gabriel’s arm down across the top rope. Kruger wound up and hit a lariat, which Regal called by name rather than a ‘clothesline’. Kruger made the cover, but Gabriel kicked out. Kruger placed Gabriel on the top rope but Gabriel reversed with a sunset-flip powerbomb. He climbed back to the top and nailed the 450 splash to pick up the win.
Justin Gabriel defeated Leo Kruger in 11:00.
Outside the ring, Kruger took one of Kidd’s crutches and as Gabriel went to help Kidd, Kruger struck him in the bad shoulder. "That’s a bad man" Dawson said about Kruger, as he made his way back up the ramp… Scott Stamford hyped the triple threat main event of Graves vs. O’Brian vs. Dallas…[C]
Zim’s Zag: That match dragged up through the first break, side headlock with a little more side headlock. After the break though, it was like a different match. The pace picked up and it got really good. Kruger worked Gabriel’s shoulder convincingly and kept his heat while looking good in defeat. Gabriel played a great babyface and you could tell these two have solid chemistry. I dig Leo Kruger.
Back from break, Aksana was making her ring entrance. Emma was out next doing her, um, dance. She tried to skin-the-cat, but her hands slipped. "Oh dear, that was awkward" Dawson said. "Bless her, she’s trying." Regal added. The camera panned to some Aussie fans in attendance holding a flag, who looked completely ashamed. She tried again and managed to make it into the ring, lacking anything resembling grace. Oh boy.
Zim’s Zag: I REALLY hope they’re making Emma’s character the klutzy bad dancer because that was hilarious for all the wrong reasons. Botchamania, this one’s for you.
2. Aksana vs. Emma. Aksana whipped Emma into the corner and shoved her down face first. Emma rolled to the apron and kicked the ropes out of frustration, but slipped off the apron to the floor. She climbed back up and hung Aksana up on the top rope. Emma whipped Aksana by her hair twice and then mocked her seductive crawl. Aksana dropped Emma face first onto the bottom turnbuckle, hit a bodyslam, and dropped an elbow for a two-count. Emma took Aksana down with a handful of hair and locked in a cravate. Emma set Aksana up for a suplex, but started dancing instead; allowing Aksana hit a good looking AA-style spinebuster and get the pinfall…
Aksana defeated Emma in 4:30.
Zim’s Zag: This was the first time I can recall Aksana looking competent in the ring. Honestly, better than expected match. Between Aksana’s apparent improvement and Emma’s use of a cravat, I think we’re finally seeing signs of Sara Del Rey’s influence. Emma’s antics and slipping off the apron has me convinced that she will play a comedy-fodder heel Diva, otherwise this was a really off night for her.
Backstage, Renee Young (not White, as I mistakenly wrote last week) reported that Bo Dallas had been found unconscious and didn’t appear as though he could compete. The camera stayed too long on the referees and doctor tending to him, and picked up a ref asking "What do you think it is?" Dr. Sampson replied "It could be his head… I dunno." Funny… Scott Stamford hyped the triple threat main event, despite Renee’s backstage update on Bo Dallas…[C]
Corey Graves made his entrance as the commentators updated viewers that this match had indeed become one-on-one. Conor O’Brian was out next with his usual entrance, minus the glowing contact lenses.
3. Corey Graves vs. Conor O’Brian in an NXT Title Number One Contender match. Graves tried to out-quick the larger O’Brian, but O’Brian’s power was too much. O’Brian hit the ropes and took Graves down with consecutive shoulder blocks. He took Graves over with a side headlock takedown, and then hit two more from the ground. Good power-discrepancy visuals. O’Brian kept Graves grounded with a nerve hold as the show went into break…[C]
Back from break, O’Brian sent Graves over the top to the outside and followed him out. O’Brian drove Graves’ head into the apron and hit hangman elbow before bringing it back inside the ring. Graves slid out of the ring again and then back in, dropkicking the knee of O’Brian who was in pursuit. Graves whipped O’Brian’s leg against the ringpost several times and settled into a legbar in the ring. Graves continued to work the leg and his confidence began to swell, eventually settling back into another leglock as the show cut to its final commercial break…[C]
Both competitors were worn-out on the outside and traded fists before reentering the ring. Graves went for a cover but O’Brian kicked out at one. Graves hit a chop block and went back to the same legbar for a third time. O’Brian fought back with a clothesline in the corner and a huge biel across the ring. He followed up with his flapjack and let out a scream of rage. As he did, the lights cut out. When they came back on, The Shield ambushed both men in the ring and the crowd popped huge. Logically, considering this was a heel vs. heel matchup.
Conor O’Brian and Corey Graves fought to a no-contest in 12:00.
Rollins and Ambrose wore down O’Brian with boots in the corner and Reigns stood over Graves. They hit their triple powerbomb on Graves, and then delivered a second to O’Brian. They cleared both victims from the ring as the crowd chanted "Shield! Shield! Shield!"
Ambrose said that "This is just a friendly reminder to keep your guard up, whoever you are, wherever you are. There is no escape. You can’t run from justice…" Rollins said that this was just the beginning and they intend to fix an "industry gone awry." He promised that things had to get much worse before they got better. Reigns said that nobody is beyond the reach of The Shield. "Believe in The Shield!" they all stated, before exiting the ring and leaving the arena, with O’Brian and Graves still down on the outside.
Zim’s Zag: I question the logic of pitting two heels against each other in a number one contender main event, and even further question having both heels attacked by the dominant heel group of WWE. However that reaction was awesome! I don’t know that the writers wanted them to get cheered, but for anyone questioning if they could work as babyfaces, watch the closing angle. Hot finish, but otherwise just a decent match. Graves works consistently and smart, but I’m still not impressed with Conor O’Brian. This was the best match of his I’ve seen yet, but I’m giving credit almost entirely to Graves until I see more from O’Brian.
Overall, a good episode this week. Only three matches, but they all got appropriate time and featured good work. The opener was the best match on the show, featuring some exciting action from Kruger and Gabriel. The Divas match is worth watching for the comedy factor of Emma, watch her and judge for yourself. The main event became weaker and more illogical after Dallas was taken out, but it proved that the smaller Graves can hang in the ring convincingly with a bigger guy. Check out this week’s episode if you can, it’s a pretty entertaining 45 minutes.
Throw any Comments, questions, criticisms, or corrections @zzimm22. Always happy to discuss. Thanks for reading along!
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