It was going to be so perfect. NXT was coming to the Boston area again and raise the flag on my old stomping grounds at Boston University. Well, sort of…since Agganis Arena wasn’t there when I was. I took the day off from work too. Then you get a tooth infection, you’re on medication and you desperately try to reach your dentist before seeing him at 4 PM and you schedule a root canal for Monday of Thanksgiving week. Eh, whatever. I was more annoyed about traffic going into Boston, particularly in one rotary/roundabout where cars were moving at 8 different angles.
I must admit I wasn’t too excited about the show on my way in. My cynicism toward WWE and NXT has gone way up since the split in July which led to NXT being decimated. The connection isn’t there with much of the talent. Asuka and Samoa Joe were already stars before they ever got there. The only connection I feel is with Revival since they truly built themselves up in the last 12-18 months.
Last night (Nov. 16) in New York City, they didn’t come close to filling the Felt Forum partly due to there also being a Knicks game but also because asking people to go to a house show on a Wednesday is a bit much. The main roster hasn’t run Wednesday shows in a very long time. Similarly, not long before bell time it was rather empty at Agganis Arena with a bunch of floor seats and many sections in the corners about 98% empty. That is likely a function of pricing because the cheap $20-25 tix were all in the end of the arena, further from the ring. My ticket cost about $55-60 and had I waited, I could have bought a street ticket for far less. I bought in the presale, and my entire row was full, but the row in front of me only had two people in the 24 seats.
My cynicism was also fueled when they had a text vote for which old NXT match you’d like to see highlights of; Sasha-Bayley from Brooklyn in 2015 won. All I could think is, yeah, show us clips of when this was better. Then I resolved to try and just enjoy this show for what it is. I had a good seat and it’ll be fine.
No Way Jose vs. Sanity????
I’m not a small dude, but the people on either side of me were both bigger so I had trouble keeping notes until the intermission. I assumed it would be vs Eric Young since I think that is what I saw on the match card poster they sold at the merch table. I wanted one very bad for NXT Lowell but they sold out quick when I was there, but I wasn’t paying $20 for this one. Sanity kind of circled around Jose a bit, like when Kearney, Dolph and Jimbo trap Ned Flanders on their dirt bikes. Luckily, TM61 made the save and who should appear but William Regal to make it a six man tag.
Tangent on Regal: When I attended Boston University, there was a wrestling fan club formed called the BUWF that we could mainly get away with because it was 1998-2001 and the sport was hot. Along with one of my friends from the group Dave, we became HUGE marks for any and all British heels, Regal being foremost among them. The guy was so good at character work, making me laugh, and also could have good matches. We even liked Dave Taylor for gawd’s sakes!
No Way Jose and TM61 vs. SAnitY (Eric Young, Sawyer Fulton, and Alexander Wolfe)
Fun little match, I was surprised that the crowd was kind of into Eric Young but maybe that is because I have zero understanding of TNA whatsoever. But he got out in time, it seems.
At the risk of sounding like Gorilla Monsoon, I have trouble telling TM61 apart. Maybe I mean Ventura, since he had trouble with the Rougeaus which was much more obvious.
Fulton and Wolfe will need a little work and time to build themselves into the something.
No Way Jose has a much brighter future than I thought when he first appeared. Guys like him can open any card anywhere because he gets the crowd going with the goofy dance and the song. People were chanting for him, and in ring he’s pretty fun to watch. He got the win with the cobra clutch slam. Jose then danced with TM61 and even the referee.
Samson comes out to huge boos which is a good sign in that people remember that he annoyed them. Personally, I love the gimmick and he really did great with it on this night. In the ring, he asks if there are any requests and people shout “Free Bird” so he says he’ll do it if people sing along. He went into it but would stop and start to piss everyone off.
I can’t add anything to how bad the name Oney Lorcan is. It’s the worst of all the weird NXT names. He’s from Boston so I should support him but I’m not a fan of his look either as it’s very generic.
Samson’s offense isn’t too bad, though some guy screams at Samson saying his belt is stupid which cracks a number of people up. He was wearing one of those belts with the studs on them so it does look dumb. Lorcan gets the win after a brief comeback.
Tangent: I’ve come to realize that this crowd kind of stinks and the vibe isn’t as good compared with the show in Lowell from April, which was the perfect sized venue for NXT. Agganis Arena is a bit of overreach, outkicking their coverage, if you will. As a Springsteen fan, I was reminded of his 2005 Devils and Dust Tour which was solo acoustic sets. To start, he was in smaller venues and it had a great feel then he went to arenas and the intimacy was lost. NXT has kind of gone the same way.
Liv Morgan vs. Nikki Cross
In my notes, I legitimately wrote “Sanity Woman” for Cross because I forgot her name. She’s got a good character the upside is that she is so different from the rest of the women’s division. The weakness WWE had is that many of the women are too similar. It is an odd situations where Cross is “the woman” in SAnitY and I don’t know how that might impact her career as a single wrestler. This match itself was fine and I am starting to see potential in Morgan….if they give her time. Her voice really annoys me right now but she is alright in the ring for someone with her experience. Cross picked up the win.
Cedric Alexander vs. Roderick Strong
In a just world, Cedric would probably be the cruiserweight champion. But we don’t like in a just world so here he is. Roderick Strong threw one of the best dropkicks I’ve ever seen during this match, positively Brunzellian. Alexander did a dive to the outside where he went really high in the air. The problem is this: Lorcan did a similar dive earlier so it lessened the impact because we had seen it 15 minutes earlier.
Great back and forth match with guys hitting high impact stuff. Cedric hit a Michinoku Driver #2 but only got two. The Strong would hit a big move. Cedric picked up the win, but this is a classic example of something that could have been booked as a draw, if they believed in that sort of thing.
I ponder two things at the intermission: the psychology of how wrestling fans act, and pricing of items at the merchandise table.
As for the psychology, I was thinking about the group of guys to my right and their insistence on calling out even spot that wasn’t perfectly executed. With all due respect sirs, shut the fuck up. Have fun and all but we don’t need to hear you pipe up because a dropkick only grazed a guy. I got up for the bathroom at the start of intermission and never returned to that row, deciding to sit in the last row of the section giving me the option to stand and walk around. It was a good decision.
Looking at how every shirt was $30 at the merch table, I wonder why there isn’t dynamic pricing there. People are going to pay that for the top guys, but how many shirts will someone further down the card sell at that price. It’s also harder for heels to sell merch, so maybe price it at $25? In any event, I haven’t worn any of my wrestling shirts to the last 3-4 shows I attended.
William Regal comes out to thank the fans in attendance. Never mind that we had to watch HHH before the show on the screen doing the “are you ready” bit. Hey Trips, are you ready to go on RAW an explain the elephant in the room that is your turn on Rollins? Oh wait, that’s right we have to wait for big bad football to end.
Asuka (C) vs. Peyton Royce vs. Ember Moon for the NXT Women’s Championship
Royce’s music is like a mix of the theme from AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire and Emma’s old music. I love Ember Moon and think she should be pushed to the <ahem> moon. I judge triple threat matches mostly by how much they can integrate all three participants and avoid the tired trope of “one person lays around, while the others go one on one”. The no DQ element of these matches are dumb; why doesn’t everyone just bring weapons to the ring or something. Probably overthinking this and am in the minority, but I LIKED the concept of the triangle match because the one on one is established and involves strategy to not let the third guy tag in.
Cool moment when Asuka and Ember Moon squared off. They are going to have great matches at some point down the road. Asuka at one point moved on a pinfall breakup attempt which seems like a good idea if you see it coming.
The finish to this match was fantastic: As Asuka lurks, Ember hits the diving corkscrew stunner off the top on Royce. Asuke strikes and chucks Ember to the floor and puts Peyton in the Asuka lock for the submission win.
Tye Dillinger vs. Bobby Roode
Dillinger is pretty over with crowds because he caught onto a fun concept with the “10” thing. Roode has the entrance, but he’s supposed to be a heel so I don’t know what it accomplishes. That said, I am trying to keep an open mind on Roode and not the let TNA stink prejudge him like I did with Aries (who I still hate). Roode does very good heel work in the match, even jawing with a fan which was pretty old school. Tye attacks Roode because he took too long allowing the match to start. Other fun: Roode selling spit from a water bottle. Not quite Owen Hart and Mick Foley selling bags of popcorn, but still good.
Dillinger gets backdropped over the top and the crowd shouts “10” at the referee every time he does the count for a countout. This is when a fan flips off Roode and they jaw.
Back inside, Roode hits corner mount punches but Dillinger gets an inverted atomic drop which Roode sells magnificently. Must be trait for guys who pronounce their last name “RUDE”. Is Tye a fan of the metric system and is that why he loves 10? He is Canadian after all, perhaps this is a subtle gimmick to get Americans to convert to metric. Good luck with that one, but Fahrenheit will always be better. Also, Tye came along 17 years too late because he would have been great in commercials for collect call carrier 10-10-321.
Roode gets a pin but he had his feet on the ropes which is caught by the ref. Roode goes out and grabs a chair, but the referee takes it away. And Tye …. Hit his finisher! And wins the match? That was eyebrow raising. I didn’t figure Roode would be losing this one.
Shinsuke Nakamura and DIY vs. Samoa Joe and the Revival
Nakamura’s entrance is just so good I had to capture it on video.
Good mat wrestling to start with Ciampa controlling much of it. Crowd is still yelling “10” on every ref count. Joe is in with Nakamura for a bit but tags out to Dash Wilder, who plays to my Karate Kid love by doing the crane kick stance prompting a “sweep the leg” chant. All six guys end up in the ring and DIY do dives to the outside onto Revival, but Nakamura does not do the same. Gotta stay healthy, because this promotion is fucked if Nakamura or Joe get hurt.
Some old guy in the front row challenges Dawson, or at least I think that’s what he did. Was hard to tell but people went thru the whole series of chants for “old guy”, i.e. “Heyyyy we want some old guyyy” and “Old guy rocks!” I sure hope the guy isn’t actually like 46 years old. Joe puts those chants on pause with his enziguri but crowd returns to it when Ciampa is face in peril.
Dawson does the Bret Hart corner turnbuckle bump and at this point I realize that Dawson, Joe and Nakamura are three of my top 5-7 favorite wrestlers right now. All in this match. When Nakamura gets the hot tag, Joe ends up outside the ring allowing Nakamura to hit Kinshasa on Wilder to pick up the win.
At this point, I sprinted for the exit and got to my car. This arena is not near the major highways and I strategically parked for a quick exit so I could get home and sleep. And yet here I am, writing this at 1:10 AM local time. Still, this was a pretty fun show that overachieved. My advice is if you go to these by yourself, try and get some open space around you even if you have to move further back. It worked for me at the ROH show and did here as well.