Zim's WWE NXT Review: Excellent show featuring Sami Zayn vs. Leo Kruger 2/3 Falls, Kofi Kingston vs. Alexander Rusev, Natalya vs. Emma for a shot at the NXT Women's Championship, Tyler Breeze vs. Mason Ryan, and a must-see singing contest (yes, really)


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Zim's WWE NXT Review: Excellent show featuring Sami Zayn vs. Leo Kruger 2/3 Falls, Kofi Kingston vs. Alexander Rusev, Natalya vs. Emma for a shot at the NXT Women's Championship, Tyler Breeze vs. Mason Ryan, and a must-see singing contest (yes, really)
Jan 5, 2014 - 10:30 AM


By Zack Zimmerman

WWE NXT
Aired January 1, 2014 on Hulu Plus
Taped November 21 at Full Sail University


The opening video played… In the arena, the cameras panned the Full Sail crowd chanting "NXT" before ring announcer Byron Saxton informed everyone that Tyler Breeze had entered the building…

Lana made her way onto the stage and introduced Alexander Rusev, who made his entrance. Kofi Kingston was out next, answering the challenge that Lana presented to him on behalf of Rusev several weeks earlier. As Kofi made his entrance, Alex "Adamle Bad" Riley said "It's factual that Kofi Kingston is a 10x champion in WWE: 4x Intercontinental, 3x U.S., and 2x Tag." Add math to the list of things A-Ry can't do.

1. Alexander Rusev (w/ Lana) vs. Kofi Kingston. The crowd chanted for Kofi but Rusev took control out of the gate and went right to work. Less than a minute in, Rusev hit repeated knee lifts to the ribs and then tossed Kofi overhead and catching him with a Samoan drop. A short time later, Kofi tried to fight back but Rusev crushed him against the ropes for a near-fall. Rusev hit the ropes and went for a jumping headbutt, but Kofi evaded and began a comeback.

Kofi hit several chops, a high dropkick, and connected with the Boom Drop. He went to the corner and set up for trouble in Paradise, but was forced to call an audible and got a near-fall off a double-jump flying crossbody. The crowd chanted "sloppy jalopy" at Rusev; funny they still remember that. Kofi hit the fulcrum kick and went to the top rope but Lana distracted him, allowing Rusev to slam him to the mat and apply the Accolade for the submission win…

Alexander Rusev defeated Kofi Kingston in about 3:50.

Backstage, interviewer Devin Taylor welcomed Sylvester Lefort onto the set and said that he was holding auditions to find a new client. Lefort started by wishing his best to Scott Dawson, who he said suffered a broken leg at the hands of Mojo Rawley (though I believe it was a torn ligament). He then welcomed the first in line, and July-signee Bull Dempsey walked onto set with a chain hung around his neck. Lefort said Dempsey was too fat to work for him, "so bye," and Dempsey left.

Lefort cracked on Dempsey and said he was looking for a larger than life superstar. Just then, Mason Ryan walked on set behind Lefort. He wasn't aware of the auditions and Lefort said he could make Ryan a lot of money. Lefort waved a one-dollar bill in the air but Ryan shoved it in Lefort's mouth and called him an idiot before leaving set. Lefort vented in French without having found a new client as the show went to its first break…

Scott Stanford hyped Sami Zayn vs. Leo Kruger in a two-out-of-three-falls match as the main event. He also hyped Emma vs. Natalya to determine the no.1 contender to NXT Women's Champion Paige, coming up next… [C]

Zim Says: I'm still not sold on Sylvester Lefort, but there's a chance they find someone to pair with him that finally clicks. Scott Dawson has a role on NXT but I don’t think he belonged with Lefort, so I'm optimistic that if booked properly, three guys can ultimately benefit from one unfortunate injury. As for the match, it was a dominant and well-done performance from Rusev. Kofi made him look good and had moments of hope, but losing in four minutes shows where he is right now. Conversely, it also shows how highly they seem to view Rusev; he's one to watch in 2014.

Back in the arena, Natalya made her entrance. Tom Phillips mentioned that two weeks ago, Natalya challenged Emma for her number-one contendership. He also mentioned Nattie's marriage to Tyson Kidd, and William Regal quipped that he'd give it eight months. Yikes. Emma was out next, bubbles and all. She danced her way to ringside and awkwardly skinned the cat into the ring.

2. Natalya vs. Emma to determine the No.1 Contender to the NXT Women's Championship. Good back-and-forth chain wrestling opened things up before Emma got a quick two-count with a rollup. Emma got another two-count on another rollup before applying the DilEmma in the ropes. She charged at Nattie for the low running crossbody, but Nattie moved and connected with a discus clothesline for a two-count of her own. Nattie settled into an abdominal stretch around the three-minute mark, and then transitioned into the hold once known as Pin-Up Strong.

Nattie eventually released the hold and hit a bodyslam, but missed a leg drop. She went for the Sharpshooter, but Emma rolled it into a small package for a good nearfall. Emma then applied the Emma Lock and got the clean submission win.

Emma beat Natalya in about 4:30 to become No.1 Contender to the NXT Women's Title.

Post-match, Nattie was glaring at Emma but eventually raised her hand and the two danced a bit before Nattie left Emma to celebrate in the ring… Scott Stanford hyped the main event once again, and then hyped the first ever NXT Sing-Off between Aiden English and Colin Cassady, coming up next…

Zim Says: Nice match from the ladies, but nothing memorable. Good to see Emma back in the ring after her concussion. I'm really looking forward to the next Paige-Emma clash, as the two always bring it when they compete with each other.

Back in the arena, Renee Young stood in the ring and set the stage for the first ever NXT Sing-Off. She first introduced Aiden English, who received a sizable "Aiden English" chant on his way to the ring. Colin Cassady was out next and got some "Sawft" chants in support as well. Renee said that each man would have the chance to sing a song, and the winner would be determined by the NXT Universe (Full Sail crowd). Aiden English was up first.

He said he would be beginning with a little "Opera Italiano" and proceeded to sing a brief segment of opera, you guessed it, in Italian. Big Cass was up next and he couldn’t seem to find his tone. After a few moments however, he broke out in a well-delivered rendition of Danny Boy that was altered to Aiden Boy and closed with the line "you are S-A-W-F-T: Sawft." The crowd went nuts and gave a standing ovation. English was perturbed. When it came time to determine the winner, the crowd had completely turned on English and were fully behind Big Cass.

Aiden English said the people were wrong and he demanded another opportunity to prove his superiority. Big Cass said "By all means," and round two was underway. English sang about the people having no taste and the crowd booed and yelled "sawft" at him before it was Big Cass' turn.

Cassady's next song was a version of My Girl, which culminated in the chorus: "Well, I think you suck. All these people think you suck… You suck (crowd: you suck, you suck)… We all think you suck," but when the crowd went to give the last big "you suck" reverb, English attacked Cassady from behind and put the boots to him. English took a bow and left the ring as Cassidy was slow to get back up…

Tyler Breeze was shown backstage and was announced to be in action next… Scott Stanford once again hyped the main event two-out-of-three-falls match… [C]

Zim Says: Would it be going too far to call that the best sing-off in wrestling history? Not only was it well-done, easy to watch, and entertaining, but it also did more to get Colin Cassidy over as a babyface and Aiden English over as a heel than any other moment in either's careers to this point. Colin Cassady single-handedly turned the crowd on English, which had yet to be done, and also showed that he's improved tremendously in terms of composure and character. Myself and Darren Gutteridge unintentionally snubbed Cassady as an honorable mention for Comeback/Most Improved in our NXT Year-End Awards, and this segment rubbed our faces in it. By the way, I really wish WWE's comedy skits were as easy to stomach and purposeful as NXT's tend to be.

Tyler Breeze made his full catwalk entrance and selfie'd his way to the ring, to a great reaction as usual. They need someone to do for Breeze what Cassady just did for English. His "seasonal residence" has changed from Milan, Italy to Campo Grande, Brazil. Mason Ryan was out next and Regal said he was "down to 291 lbs., and more agile and athletic than ever."

3. Tyler Breeze vs. Mason Ryan. Sylvester Lefort made his way to ringside, distracting Ryan and allowing Breeze to take control early. The crowd broke out in dueling "Breeze is gorgeous – No he's not" chants as Ryan took control with a hotshot onto the top rope. Ryan slid to ringside and leveled Lefort with a clothesline, but walked right into the Beauty Shot from Breeze back in the ring. Breeze made the cover and scored the win.

Tyler Breeze beat Mason Ryan in about 1:15.

Breeze went right back to his phone and then slowly backed up the ramp looking half-satisfied, half-glad he survived… Scott Stanford hyped the main event coming up next… [C]

Zim Says: I'm interested to see where they go with these three from here. It appears as though Ryan will feud with Lefort through a new client, but it's unclear if that new client will be Breeze or someone else. Logic says that Ryan would want revenge on Breeze as much as Lefort, but there wasn’t any interaction between Breeze and Lefort. Looking down the roster, Breeze is the best fit to be with Lefort unless they bring up someone from the Performance Center. This was a good start, let's see what happens.

Scott Stanford hyped Hunico and Camacho vs. The Ascension in a non-title Tornado Match for next week's show… Back in the arena, ring announcer Byron Saxton informed everyone that Tyler Breeze had left the building…

Leo Kruger made his entrance for the main event and got a decent "Kru" chant going on the ramp. Sami Zayn was out next his usual top ovation and a loud "Ole" chant.

4. Leo Kruger vs. Sami Zayn in a 2-out-of-3-falls match. Kruger went right after Zayn and took the fight to ringside. He continued his attack and got a two-count in the ring shortly after the minute mark, before knocking Zayn to ringside once again. Kruger chopped away at Zayn and slammed him on the outside, before going for another pin attempt in the ring. A short time later however, Zayn hit an exploder suplex into the turnbuckles and connected with the Yakuza Kick to score the first fall of the match. [C]

Sami Zayn pinned Leo Kruger in about 2:50 to go up 1-0.

Back from break, Zayn and Kruger were battling for position on the top turnbuckle when Kruger shoved Zayn down to ringside and Zayn crashed hard. Zayn was just able to get back in the ring before the referee's ten-count, but Kruger was waiting and he planted Zayn with a DDT. He made the cover, but Zayn was able to get the shoulder up.

Kruger continued his attack and attempted to whip Zayn across the ring, but Zayn held the ropes and showed good fire. They repeated the spot several more times with Zayn intensifying each time, before he eventually reversed the whip with two clotheslines and a running calf kick. Zayn waited for Kruger to get back to his feet before connecting with his spinning Blue Thunder Bomb for a good near-fall.

Zayn was heading to the top rope when he was cut-off by Kruger. Kruger pulled Zayn across the top rope and drilled him with a whiplash, but Zayn once again managed to kick out. The commentators put over his heart, resiliency, and durability as the crowd picked up the "Ole" chant. Zayn created separation and went to the top rope, but was once again cut off by Kruger. Kruger went for a superplex, but Zayn shoved him to the mat. Zayn dove off with a high crossbody, but Kruger evaded it and Zayn came down hard.

Kruger got the top-wristlock and applied the GC3. It looked like things were about to tie up, but Zayn crawled his way to the ropes and forced the break. Kruger mocked Zayn and wore him down with punches. Zayn started to fire back, but Kruger caught him running the ropes and planted him with a hard spinebuster. Kruger retreated to the corner where he stalked and then charged with the Slice, but Zayn caught it and hit a reverse STO. He transitioned directly into a Koji Clutch and forced Kruger to tap out.

Sami Zayn beat Leo Kruger 2-0 in about 10:15.

Replays ran through the various high-spots in the match and the commentators continued to put over Zayn's tenacity and ability. Tom Phillips mentioned that Zayn is the first man in NXT to win a 2-out-of-3-falls match with two straight falls, as Zayn celebrated to the back and the show closed…

Zim Says: I have mixed feelings on the match. In-ring, of course the quality was there between two of NXT's strongest workers. It was a nice showcase for Sami Zayn, allowing him to fight from underneath the whole time and show great heart, while still getting much of his exciting offense in. It appeared to be the clean feud-ending win and one would presume that he will take his place back at the front of the line of challengers for the NXT Title after this.

Where my mixed feelings come in are as far as Leo Kruger is concerned. I'm so high on his ability, character, and potential that I hate to see him lose like that. Sure, he was dominant throughout the match, but this was proof that there's no way to come out of a 2-0 loss without taking massive damage. I've read that there is a character change in the works for Kruger, so I'll hold out hope that this loss will lead to that, but I can't say I'm keen on Kruger abandoning this character that he has down so well.

Overall, I really enjoyed this show and would highly recommend it. The match length wasn't necessarily there in any match, but the quality certainly was. In addition, the singing contest (believe it or not) was something that I'd call must-see, as it may be the spark that gets one or both of the guys involved going at a new level. Even if it's not, the entertainment value of the segment makes it well-worth seeking out. No misses coming out of this show; it appears as though the NXT crew really turned things on for the final taping of 2013.

Throw comments, questions, criticisms, or corrections @InVasionZim; always happy to discuss.

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