By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Kevin Owens def. CJ Parker
I was a fan of Steen in his final few months of Ring of Honor and I, much like everyone else, was highly anticipating his arrival in WWE. Boy, did it ever live up to the hype! CJ Parker was the perfect opponent for him since he's not a no-name but they aren't leaving money on the table because it's not a future feud or anything. The Full Sail University crowd was into everything he did and even the casual fans had to be impressed with his offense. This was a hot debut for Owens and a great way to kick off the night. Also, it was smart to have him show up early in the evening so it didn't leave as many people waiting for him to make his initial appearance in the championship main event.
NXT Tag Team Champions The Lucha Dragons def. The Vaudevillians
Both teams always work well together and this was more of the same from them. The action on the whole was enjoyable with a handful of fun spots mixed in. The ending result was never much in doubt and it wasn't the greatest tag team match in NXT history, but it was solid for what it was and I'll take it over an Ascension squash any day of the week. I'm interested in seeing whether this feud continues going forward or if The Lucha Dragons will find new opponents to work with.
Baron Corbin def. Tye Dillinger
Is a sign Dillinger is finally breaking off on his own, or was I reading too much into this? I know NXT's tag division needs all the help it can get, but Dillinger's team with Jason Jordan never clicked for me personally and he has much more potential as a singles competitor. Anyway, this was another simple squash for Corbin. It's obvious he's on a collision course toward a match with Bull Dempsey, who was sitting in the crowd at ringside. I figured they were going to give that away on this show, but I'm glad they're waiting on delivering it.
Hideo Itami and Finn Balor def. The Ascension
I was ecstatic when Balor entered with the body paint. He was famous for it on the independent scene and it was really cool they saved it for the live special to reveal it. The match itself told a great story and I found it more entertaining than the tag title match. The chemistry Itami and Balor is off the charts and I'd have no problem with them sticking together for a while longer in the tag division. It's also time for The Ascension to make their way to the main roster. On a side note, Itami breaking out his old finishing maneuvers (the GTS and running knee) were awesome teases for the insider fans.
NXT Women's Champion Charlotte def. Sasha Banks
I expected a fairly good match from these two going in, but nothing on the level of what we ended up getting. I guess I should have learned my lesson the first three live specials: never underestimate the women! This isn't the main roster after all. Anyway, both Charlotte and Banks were exceptional here and had a lot better of a bout than most people figured they would. I was pleasantly surprised Charlotte retained and I hope Bayley is the one to take the belt off her down the road. I don't know if this means Charlotte isn't being called up immediately, but by this point, it's probably better that way. At least on NXT she'll be able to wrestle!
Sami Zayn def. Adrian Neville to Win the NXT Championship
What can I say about this match other than it was absolutely perfect? Everyone had high hopes going in and these two somehow found a way to supersede them. The electricity in the air was unbelievable and only added to the matchup. I don't care what anyone says: this match wasn't predictable as many thought it was. There was a part of me fearing Zayn would lose and/or turn heel, and they played off those fears in fantastic fashion by teasing it and allowing Zayn to get the big win in the end. Needless to say, the reaction Zayn received when he scored the three count and the title gave me goosebumps. The year and a half he's spent on NXT was worth it for that reaction alone. The post-match celebration in the ring for Zayn certainly felt special and Owens attacking Zayn was awesome in planting the seeds for their pending feud. This was one of WWE's greatest moments this year hands down and it wasn't even on their main roster. The writers of Raw can learn a thing or two from watching this show!
All things considered, I thought this was the strongest special for NXT to date. The first hour wasn't too memorable, but Owen's debut match was historic, the tag team title match was fun for what it was and Corbin squash at least served a purpose. Also, to say the subsequent three matches delivered and then some would be an understatement. The main event was phenomenal and one of the most perfectly booked bouts/finishes all year. In addition to that, they began the build to the next live special with Owens attacking Zayn, and what a hell of a feud that is bound to be. True wrestling fans will enjoy this event as much as I did and realize it was far better than anything we've been seeing on the main roster all year. Pardon the cliche, but NXT is the future, so start taking notice.