By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Finn Balor def. Tyler Breeze in a No. 1 Contender's Match for the NXT Championship
We all knew Hideo Itami was hurt coming into the show, but they did a nice job of explaining his absence in storyline by saying he was attacked in the parking lot. Obviously, Kevin Owens was seen near the scene of the crime, so that's a ready-made feud for him when he gets back. The singles match we got from Balor and Breeze instead was excellent, regardless. The action was every bit as entertaining as you'd expect and although Balor winning was a shoe-in, Breeze had his moments where it looked like he could win, and he came out of this match looking strong. By the way, when was the last time you heard "Holy Shit!" chants during someone's entrance? Absolutely unreal. Balor is a total star, but you don't need me to point out the obvious for you.
Charlotte and Bayley def. Emma and Dana Brooke
This wasn't the show-stealing match we've seen from Charlotte, Bayley and Emma at past live specials (that came later in the night), but it was still a solid bout from the ladies. It didn't have much build behind it, so there wasn't much pressure for it to live up to any lofty expectations. Everyone involved performed well and Dana was thankfully limited for the most part. I would have liked to see the heels get the win, but this loss won't do any damage to them I'm sure. And can this please be Charlotte's final NXT special? Hopefully she puts over Brooke on her way up to the main roster where she belongs at this point.
Baron Corbin def. Rhyno
You didn't honestly expect much from this match, did you? It wasn't bad by any means, but it was just fine for what it was and nothing more. I will say this, though: it was Corbin's best bout to date, and yes, I'm fully aware that's not saying much. It was a competent match and the right person went over, so there really isn't anything to complain about. Rhyno is great in this role of coming in to put over the younger guys, so I'm hoping this isn't the last we see of him in NXT.
NXT Tag Team Champions Blake and Murphy def. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady
The tag team division in NXT isn't anything to write home about, so by NXT standards, this was an above average match. As entertaining as the act of Amore and Cassady is, their matches aren't super special, but this was definitely one of their better outings. Meanwhile, Blake and Murphy held their own, but they still need to do more in my eyes to establish themselves as more than just a pair of generic competitors with an annoying entrance song. Alexa Bliss turning heel was a pleasant surprise and her costing Amore and Cassady the match protected the babyfaces while keeping them in chase mode a little longer.
NXT Women's Champion Sasha Banks def. Becky Lynch
I've literally run out of words to describe how great the women's matches are in NXT. This was just excellent all around. I was fearing early on that it wouldn't be better than some of the other women's matches we've seen on these live specials before, but in time, they proved me wrong. They told a stellar story with Banks working over the arm of Lynch, and speaking of Lynch, who wasn't a beloved babyface going in, won over the audience by the end with her tremendous performance. They instantly clicked in the ring together and created a chemistry that made for a magnificent match. Banks went over decisively, but Becky still looked strong in defeat. The strong streak of the ladies stealing the show at these specials continues.
NXT Champion Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn Ended in a No Contest
I'll start off by saying that while this wasn't the match I hoped it would (and I have no idea what I was expecting considering Zayn is still partially hurt), I thoroughly enjoyed almost everything about it. The crowd was red hot for the brawl they had on the outside of the ring, but the match felt rushed once they got back into the ring. Owens destroying Zayn on the ring apron was brutal as well. I loved the story they told with all the punishment that Zayn endured, but I can't say I was a fan of the non-finish. Zayn could have been pinned and been just fine. It's just the same story we saw at the last live special, so it felt redundant. Of course, all of that was null and void and Samoa Joe came out. What a moment! I had a feeling in the weeks leading up to the event that he could show up, but it completely slipped my mind by the end of the show. Him vs. Owens for the belt while Zayn is out has all the potential in the world to be amazing. His debut was very well received and came off like the major moment it should have been. Welcome to WWE, Joe.
These NXT live specials continue to get better and better and never cease to entertain me. I don't know if I'd call this one my favorite special to date (that's still reserved for the December event), but it was definitely up there. The undercard was enjoyable, the women's match was the best bout on the entire show, the storytelling in the main event was sensational, and Joe's WWE debut was incredible. If you're not already watching NXT, well, what the hell is wrong with you? Start with this show. I'm extremely excited for what the future of the brand holds and what's in the store for the coming weeks and months.