Day 1 of the WWE Experience at the Arnold Sports Festival is coming to a close, and the company certainly delivered. Their first event ran well over eight hours and had thousands of people stop by NXT's oversized boot. At any given time there were well over a thousand people watching along, and it was easily the biggest attraction of the expo.
Corey Graves, JoJo Offerman and Greg Hamilton were hosting the event, which went on all day. These three were out there sporadically for hours asking questions, conducting interviews, interacting with the fans and pumping up the crowd. All three did an exceptional job, with Greg Hamilton eager to get the crowd involved. Corey Graves is adapting to his new role a little bit better with every segment.
The three did a segment on the fly which saw them go around the setup and ask fans for impersonations of WWE legends. A masterful Howard Finkel impersonation easily stole the show.
For Day 2 coverage, click this link.
There were several matches on the show, with several people pulling double duty. In Colin Cassady's case, he pulled triple duty as he also did two hours of autograph signings as well. Full results are below:
Colin Cassady (w/ Enzo Amore) defeated Buddy Murphy via pinfall
The crowd was hot for this match, as Enzo and Cass are over everywhere. It also didn't hurt that this was the first match of the morning, and people got there as soon as the doors opened and started waiting at ringside.
Baron Corbin defeated Tyler Breeze
It's obvious WWE is putting Corbin in longer matches on house shows to help get him experience, and it's working. He's showing improvements with each match he's working on the road, and was working from underneath for almost all of this match.
Sasha Banks defeated Alexa Bliss
Bliss got an awesome reaction as she's a hometown girl and competed at the Arnold Classic previously. Banks had won the crowd over by the end of the match, and looked really impressive in the ring.
Dana Brooke defeated Bayley
This one was a shocker to people in attendance, as almost everyone expected Bayley to go over. Dana Brooke is also another Arnold Classic competitor, and was recognized by many in the crowd for it.
Bayley had her full entrance brought with her and got one of the best reactions of the day. She was over with everyone, not just the kid demographic.
Adrian Neville defeated Kalisto
This match was exceptional. Kalisto looked as good as I've ever seen him, and landed an awesome handstand into a head scissors out of an Irish whip reversal. Neville was over as you would expect and busted out the Red Arrow for the match. He worked heel for a good portion of the match after Kalisto got over with the crowd, but they shook hands after the match.
Kevin Owens defeats Finn Balor
Well, this was awesome. Kevin Owens comes out and cuts an absolutely hilarious promo saying he could win every competition at the Arnold Sports Festival, including the bikini competitions. He makes an open challenge and Finn Balor answers it to an awesome reaction. They have a fantastic match, as is tradition. After Owens wins with a powerbomb, he cuts another hilarious promo saying he's mad that Balor came out ripped with his shirt off. He forces Corey Graves to look him in the eye and say "Kevin Owens, I want you to take your shirt off." Owens goes to do it but says the crowd didn't pay enough to see it. This was gold.
Charlotte defeats Carmella
This match was pretty much one long headlock spot, but the crowd was in to both girls. Charlotte was calling the match, and won with a bridged Figure Four. This, along with the Owens/Balor match were the only two in the second set of live matches.
Baron Corbin defeated Buddy Murphy
This kicked of the third set of live matches, as things started to get a tad off of the WWE's planned schedule. Another match to get Corbin some work in the ring, and I said earlier.
Colin Cassady (w/ Enzo Amore) defeated Simon Gotch
Aiden English wasn't with Gotch, as he was signing autographs at the time, but Enzo was a riot in this match. Enzo and Cass had the entire crowd hanging with every word, so their schtick isn't exclusive to Full Sail University. Big Cass won with an elbow drop.
Hideo Itami defeated Tyler Breeze
This match went 15-20 minutes, and Itami's work comes across much better in person than it does on TV (not that it's bad on TV). The majority of the match was drowned out by loud music, but the crowd was still giving heavy Itami chants to Hideo.
Sasha Banks defeated Charlotte
Another 15-20 minute match, as these two went at it. Charlotte could do jumping jacks in the ring and would find a way to make it look impressive and it would get over in front of this crowd. As quickly as Charlotte caught on, Sasha Banks is as well. Charlotte tapped out, which was unusual to see.
Kevin Owens defeated Adrian Neville
Kevin Owens was the star of the WWE Experience at the Arnold Sports Festival. In between his hilarious ad-libs and his fantastic matches, Owens looks primed to take control of the WWE. This was a fantastic match, which was to be expected.
There were several Q&A's scheduled throughout the afternoon. Guests included Mark Henry, William Regal, Triple H, Hulk Hogan and NXT performers who had previously competed at the Arnold Classic. The fan questions were heavily screened, and were really softball questions. Here are some highlights:
* Mark Henry said that he considers Cesaro to be the strongest pound-for-pound superstar in the WWE today, and wants to see Owen Hart in the Hall of Fame more than anyone else.
* William Regal said his selection for a Hall of Famer would be a collection of British wrestlers who contributed to the business, but weren't appreciated nearly enough.
* Alexa Bliss, Dana Brooke and Braun Stowman all spoke about their experiences in competing at the Arnold Sports Festival.
* Hulk Hogan appeared unadvertised with Jimmy Hart. He immediately drew a crowd, and they ran a video package in honor of him.
* Hogan said that he would most like to take on John Cena at WrestleMania, and was going to take his boots with him this year just in case. Hogan also said Kevin Owens would be a good opponent and put over the NXT Title big time.
* Hulk Hogan claimed Andre The Giant was "between 500 to 700 pounds." I am between 0 and 200.
* Triple H's music hits in the middle of Hogan's Q&A, and the crowd was thrilled to see him. He talked about his hopes and plans for NXT, and says Hogan would have made a good member of DX.
* Hulk Hogan says that since WWE has Vince McMahon, NXT needs a manipulative, cunning, evil, backstabbing person to run things, while looking at Triple H. He then says "Jimmy Hart would be good for that!"
* Hulk Hogan puts over Triple H, saying that he has a great vision for NXT, and believes he has a mind for the future.
There were three big Hall of Famers who weren't advertised for today who showed up, and were huge additions to an already busy show. Hulk Hogan came over from his booth to do the aforementioned Q&A, but Ric Flair was also around to film a segment with his daughter Charlotte. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself appeared to film an interview segment with Triple H for the WWE Network.
There were several other WWE personalities present that weren't on the show. Summer Rae and Emma were both all over the place taking pictures. Neither are scheduled for Q&A's or autograph signings, so it was surprising to see them still around. Former WWE diva Kaitlyn was also there, and reunited with the aforementioned Emma & Summer. Kaitlyn was in incredible shape and promoting her "Celestial Bodiez" products.
Referee Tim White was there and working with the WWE at their autograph lines. White looked extremely happy, and was even happier to talk to fans. He posed for several pictures and seemed to really enjoy being there and recognized. WWE announcer Michael Cole was also backstage, but didn't appear in any official capacity for the show.
This was particulary interesting, because it was Matt Bloom's (A-Train, Tensai, Jason Albert) first work as the new NXT head trainer. There was one guy in the crowd (he wouldn't have survived the tryout) flipping out because they weren't "open tryouts." For the record, open tryouts were never advertised, live tryouts were.
There were two live tryout sessions Saturday, and featured more than a dozen hopefuls from throughout the midwest. The tryouts mainly consisted of conditioning drills, running the ropes, rolls, bumps and things of that nature. This was being touted as NXT's first live tryouts ever.
Robbie Brookside, Carmella, Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy all helped Matt Bloom conduct the sessions. Brookside was very vocal in hustling the hopefuls up, and Bloom seemed really encouraging and helpful during the drills. This was a hot topic among the crowd after DeMott's departure this week.
One of the huge attractions Saturday were the autograph/picture lines. Anywhere between 2-4 NXT talents would be scheduled for two hour blocks throughout the day, a surely tedious task. Everyone there was on their A game, with some going above and beyond. Despite working as a heel, Sasha Banks was particularly popular with kids, as they were with her as well.
Bayley, Sami Zayn, Dana Brooke and Alexa Bliss had one of the longest lines of the entire expo, likely exceeding well over 400-500 during their time. Sami Zayn was as personable to fans as he seems on TV, and Bayley looked to really be enjoying herself. Anytime a fan would cross her she'd high five them and offer a hug with a huge smile on their face. Either she's really that happy, or she had an outstanding dedication to her gimmick.
NXT brought a full set along with them to Ohio, including a video board, and were filming the entire show from start to finish. The only complaints during the show from people is that the ring needed raised and the lights lowered, as some in the stands had issues seeing, but those were minor qualms.
Former NXT Champion Sami Zayn also appeared and said he wasn't medically cleared to compete.
This is just day one of NXT at the Arnold Sports Festival, and Wrestling Inc will have your full, exclusive coverage all weekend!