Friday night guys and ghouls creeped into the MLK Recreation center for an evening of NXT action. It was Devils Night, but instead of tricks or treats, fans were treated to an odd, fun, and most definitely unforgettable night of wrestling.
The evening starts with a spooky Halloween Royal Rumble, standard Rumble format is in place except all competitors are costumed. Sylvester Lefort is out first in his gladiator gear. Aiden English is out next dressed up as Kevin Owens, complete with a toy Intercontinental title belt and nailing even the most subtle mannerisms. English even uses Owens moves, missing a cannonball but hitting Lefort with a Pop-up Powerbomb. As the match wears on and the ring fills the action continues in typical battle royal fashion. Some of the competitors included Elias Sampson as a mustard bottle, Thomas Kingdon in poncho and sombrero with a big mustache, and Axel Tischer as a Viking. Jason Jordan was a monkey while Chad Gable was a giant banana.
Hugo Knox wore a wig and a schoolgirl skirt and at one point danced with a hippy Rich Swann. Biff Busick also competed but was in a ghostly hood, while Noah Kekoa paid homage to The Wild Samoans. Wesley Blake came in dressed as a Florida State Seminoles cheerleader which brought boos from the Gators crowd. The final competitor was a Lego person whose identity became obvious after laying out Blake with a Belly-To-Bayley before tossing him over the top rope to become the winner. Ring announcer Dasha Fuentes comes out and states that as winner of the Rumble, Bayley has won the privilege of being guest general manager for the night. The action was standard battle royal fare, but all the costumes and zaniness made this so much fun. It was also a great way to utilize a lot of underutilized guys from the back.
Next up, Steve Cutler takes on Angelo Dawkins. The match starts with a lot of back and forth grappling and running the ropes until Dawkins takes advantage with a cheap shot. After that Dawkins slows down the pace, grounding Cutler with a front chancery. Eventually, Cutler fires back, gaining momentum culminating with a nice springboard elbow. Dawkins retaliates moments later dropping Cutler onto the ropes and then following with a flapjack for the win. This was a short textbook match, but both men have improved a lot over the last year. After a lot of failed gimmicks, Angelo Dawkins may now be finding traction by pretty much just being Angelo.
In the middle of his tirade he is interrupted by Dawson and Wilder, who surround the ring before entering to beat down Amore. The NXT champion Finn Balor runs down to make the save. Acting manager Bayley comes out and sets up our main event of the evening, which will obviously be Finn and Enzo taking on Dawson and Wilder.
Women's action is next with Marley (formerly Gionna Daddio) taking on Peyton Royce. The match starts very fast paced and back and forth as the two trade armlocks and pin attempts. Peyton takes over after a fierce running knee. She chokes Marley in the corner before grounding her with a chinlock. Marley fights back with some dropkicks and a hip toss, but Peyton comes back with a huge heel kick for a close count by the ref. Moments later Marley uses her speed to her advantage for a last grasp comeback culminating with crossbody off the top rope for the win. This was one of the better matches of the night.
The new less bubbly, more dark and sultry heel persona works well for the talented Peyton, while Marley simply gets better every time I see her.
The night continues with six man tag action as Mojo Rawley, Tucker Knight, and Bull Dempsey take on the team of Solomon Crowe, Sawyer Fulton and Marcus Louis.
After an initial burst of offense the heel team quickly take over controlling Knight. Mostly strikes and kicks as the three tag frequently punishing Tucker. Sawyer Fulton looked strong with an impressive gutwrench suplex to Knight, who is by no means a small man. Eventually, Knight makes the hot tag to Bull who clears house with a series of strikes until another cheap shot behind the referees back allows the bad guys to regain control. Finally though, Dempsey makes the tag to Mojo who comes in as hyped as ever. He goes for a big splash in the corner, but Louis pulls Crowe out of the way. Crowe pounces and finishes Rawley with a twisting suplex neckbreaker for the victory. Fulton gave a standout performance, while Crowe is still one of the more underrated guys in NXT.
Next, is Baron Corbin taking on Levis Valenzuela. Corbin takes control easily in the early goings of the match. Corbin rolls out of the ring and grabs a mic, telling Levis the costume party was at the beginning of the night and that these people paid what little money they had to see real superstars. The match resumes and Levis comes back with a big arm drag and a monkey flip before clotheslining Corbin back to the outside. An angry Corbin climbs back into the ring but a fired up Valenzuela continues with several dropkicks and a suplex. Corbin halts him by taking out his knee. Corbin controls most of the match from this point on, slowing the pace with a series of strikes and punches. Levis mounts a small comeback but Corbin s--ts him down with a big swinging side slam and moments later and End Of Days for the pin. Afterwards, Corbin begins to decimate Levis, but Apollo Crews makes the save. This match looked better in execution than it does on paper. I personally love all the people booing the hell out of Corbin, because he seems to feed off of it, and it makes him better. Plus, he has no problem handling the crowd either.
We continue with more women's action as Nia Jax takes on Billie Kay. Wisely, Billie attempts to stay a step ahead by using her speed to her advantage by dodging Nia, and answering with strikes of her own. Nia misses with a splash in the corner and Billie pounces with a series of kicks, but Nia catches her and drops her with a shoulder breaker. After that she begins to target the arm of Billie for much of the match. Later, Billie mounts a comeback with a series of kicks and a big boot. An angry Nia would fight back and snatch Billie into a Torture Rack for the submission. I enjoyed this match. I could easily see Billie Kay at the top of the division one day.
We continue with Ty Dillinger taking on Tino Sabbatelli. The perfect 10 Ty Dillinger started off strong, outgrappling Tino, taking out his feet and following with a nice springboard splash. The two fight on the outside until Tino sends Dillinger into the pole. Dillinger barely makes the referees 10 count, and Tino tosses hom back to the outside. At this point Sabbatelli takes over, tossing Dillinger to the outside several times over the course of the match, but each time Dillinger would narrowly make the 10 count. Finally, Dillinger mounts a comeback with several chops, a Lou Thez press, and a Russian Leg sweep. He hikes down his kneepad for his knee smash, but Tino rolls out of the ring. He grabs Tino and sends him back to the ring, nails him with a superkick and a knee smash facebreaker for the victory. Dillinger's stock continues to rise in NXT, yet one of his greatest strengths is being able to make anyone look good. Tino did better than I anticipated, yet he has a long way to go.
Dasha Fuentes invites Asuka to the ring for an interview. The international superstar comes out to probably the biggest pop of the night. She talks about how happy she is to be here in NXT before she is interrupted by Emma. Emma says that Dana could not be here tonight and that it is all Asuka's fault, and it is unacceptable. Emma demands a moment of silence for Dana, but the crowd instead answers with Asuka chants. After Emma starts to leave but instead attempts to attack. Asuka is ready and counters with a rolling armbar, but Emma escapes and beats a hasty retreat.
It is time for our tag team main event. Enzo starts for his team very aggressively against Dawson with a series of punches. Inevitably, Amore does what he does best, playing the underdog as Dawson and Wilder decimate him. Dawson and Wilder employ frequent tags while working the leg of Amore. Eventually, Enzo manages to bulldog Dash and make a hot tag. Finn Balor comes in with a series of strikes and chops. He kicks Dawson off the ring apron and follows with a slingblade and hesitation dropkick to Wilder. Balor throws Amore onto Wilder with an assisted splash, but Dawson pulls the ref out of the ring causing a DQ. Dawson and Wilder attempt to leave but are cut off by Bayley and all the still costumed Rumble competitors who back Dawson and Wilder back into the ring for a final Coup De Grace.
I've been to too many NXT shows to count, and I don't think there has ever been a bad one. Yet there are a handful that will always be standouts, this one was one of those shows. "Kevin Owens" alone was worth the price of admission.