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WWE NXT Conquers Madison Square Garden 11/16/16 Review – by Hank McAllen

I had the pleasure of attending the NXT show at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden last night. It was a rare NXT house show in New York and it also marked the first time the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, Roderick Strong and Samoa Joe appeared on legendary grounds of the world’s most famous arena.

The night started off on the right foot when I showed my ticket to the usher to enter the theatre, he told me and my 3 amigos (Mark, JJ and Freddy) to go to a table that was situated off to the side. When we showed our tickets, we were told we were being upgraded. This meant that rather than sitting in the upper tier towards the back we ended up in the 4th row, 2nd level, approximately 30 yards from the ring. I thought it was because I know John Canton, but it turns out that they were upgrading the two sections where the lighting crews were situated and filled in unsold seats that were closer to the ring. Great job WWE, it was much appreciated!!!

The crowd was a typical NXT one. Hot from the word go. You could feel the excitement just walking through the corridors. Everyone was dressed in full wrestling attire, from the guy who was a dead ringer for No Way Jose, (who Jose danced with when he was near ringside on his way to the ring), to a bunch of people wearing Asuka masks, as well as the sea of red Nakamura shirts. After some video packages of previous NXT match highlights were shown, we had the entrance of the one and only Shane-O-Mac and his children walk right by us and take their seats ringside. Shane gave the crowd a wave and a couple of pump fists. The place popped and it was time for the show.

The first match was No Way Jose versus Roderick Strong. This was now the second time No Way Jose was the first wrestler announced at an NXT show that I have been to, which is such a great idea. His entrance is so upbeat and interactive, that it gets the crowd going which is the best way to start a show. This was the first time I had ever seen Strong work as a heel. The crowd still popped for him though as many of them remember him from his ROH days. As I have said many times in the past, the NXT crowd is more of a hardcore wrestling crowd who watches the likes of ROH, New Japan, Lucha, etc and are quite familiar with the talent. It was a very good solid match that only lasted 6 minutes with No Way Jose getting the pin fall. I was hoping for a longer 10-12 minute match, but considering it’s a house show that would include an intermission, I understood. One thing that did catch my eye is the ability No Way Jose has in having a good match. I have now seen him live work against 2 of the best workers in the business in Strong and Austin Aries. The best thing NXT could have done was have him in the ring with the likes of these two as you can see his game continues to improve. By the way, one final thing about this match, when you look at Roderick Strong, you are looking at the modern day Dean Malenko

The second match was a women’s tag bout between the team of Billie Kay and Peyton Royce versus Daria and Liv Morgan (mini Carmella). This was not a good match. Unfortunately, it went downhill quickly as during the entrances, Liv was bringing a pizza to the ring which fell on the floor. She then proceeded to eat the pizza which was pretty gross. Not too much action here. They gave the match 8 minutes, which was about 7 too long, and time that could’ve gone to the first match. I like Billie Kay a lot, and prefer to see her as a singles wrestler although the team of her and Royce are solid. I think it was just a case where everyone was a bit off their game. I do see some potential though in Daria. She’s very athletic with a tough look. The highlight of the match was the NYC crowd chanting “we want pizza!”

The third bout of the night brought us the most heat towards one performer, as Elias Samson’s music hit. Man the crowd gave it to this guy. Chants of “Drift Away”, and “Delete” reined down from the MSG crowd. This guy’s promo didn’t have a chance. He took on Oney Lorcan, who appeared on Smackdown the previous night. The match was so-so, but Samson did pop the crowd and got a ringside standing ovation from Shane McMahon, when he took a running start and jumped on the top rope to perform a suplex from the 2nd rope. Unfortunately, he was littered with “you still stink” chants and ended up losing to Lorcan in a rather 8 uneventful minutes.

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The night started to pick up after these two matches as Sanity showed up. Very impressive entrance to see live. They were without Nikki Cross who was competing later in the night. Sanity’s opponents for the evening were TM61. Looking at TM61 takes me back to the true clean cut baby face teams of the 1980’s. They remind me a bit of the Rougeau Brothers when they first showed up in WWE as faces, back in the day. It was a solid 10 minute old school match with big power moves from the heels and excellent high flying moves from the baby faces. The match was won by TM61, which makes sense to keep them looking strong heading into the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. After the match, Sanity jumped TM61 and Eric Young entered the ring. As the 3 members of Sanity were doing their damage, the beginning of Tye Dillinger’s music hit and he ran to the ring to make the save and clear the ring.

Eric Young grabbed a mic and cut a promo on Dillinger saying he’d take care of him later in the night. By the way, Young’s voice is SO shot, he sounds a bit like Randy Savage with a cold. Dillinger instead challenged Young to have the match at that moment and EY obliged. So boom, just like that the 5th match gets underway. It was pleasure to see two ring veterans apply their craft. Many people may not know that Dillinger is 35 years old, and has quite a long career. There were a lot of stiff bumps, but still both wrestlers got their high spots in. The match lasted about 9 minutes with the Perfect 10 getting the win. A really cool thing that stood out in this match was that any time there was a count (someone out of the ring, a hold break count by the ref, or a pin count), rather than counting 1, 2, etc… it was 10, 10, 10. The funniest ones were after the second 10 was counted by the crowd in a pin fall, to hear the sound fading 10ssssss when the pin attempt failed.

After the intermission we were treated to, hands down, the match of the night. The glorious one, Bobby Roode versus Cedric Alexander. This was a 4 star match! You almost wish they would be fighting again this weekend at Takeover Toronto. Now unfortunately, we just missed Roode’s glorious entrance, after being stuck on a concessions line. No worries though I made sure to tell the cashier who took care of us that she made THE LIST! She told me I was the second person to tell her that. It was hysterical. Anyway, this match was amazing. Both guys brought their working boots and then some. We even saw Shane give a standing O on more than one occasion. This match went 18 minutes and could’ve gone longer and nobody would’ve minded. Both guys were super over with the crowd. Roode, of course, got the W, but not without Cedric making us leave our seats with a suicide dive over the ref and on to Roode outside the ring. After the match, a defeated Alexander received an extended standing ovation from the crowd, with chants of “Thank you Cedric!”

Next up was the most disappointing match of the night. It was a 3 way dance for the NXT Women’s Championship. Asuka defended the strap against Ember Moon and Nikki Cross. Now don’t get me wrong the match was very good, and both Ember and Asuka had their usual great entrances. The two issues I had with this was (a) the match was only 6 minutes and (b) we didn’t get to see Ember Moons’s eclipse finisher. I was hoping she’d have hit Cross with it, then Asuka would come in with the save and eventually get the win. You got a feeling that this match was rushed as it was sandwiched between the Roode vs. Alexander match (that must have run a little long) and the main event. Regardless, the ladies put on a very good match, and I always love seeing Asuka, who to me is the company’s best female wrestler by a large margin.

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The main event of the evening was a 6 man tag featuring The Revival and Samoa Joe versus Team DIY (Gargano and Ciampa) and Shinsuke Nakamura. Not a bad wrestler in the ring. A bunch of pros who know how to go in the ring and give the fans what they want. Thankfully, they didn’t disappoint. You could almost feel the crowd wanting the other performers entrances to quickly be over with in order to get to Nakamura. When the lights went out, the place erupted. He is without a doubt the most captivating wrestler in the business today. The match was so good, and the only reason I had it rated a hair lower than the Roode vs. Alexander match is that I’m not a huge fan of 6 man matches, as it tends to get a bit crowded and confusing to follow at times. There was a scary moment in the match when Joe gave Nakamura a snap scoop slam that looked like it almost decapitated Nakamura. How his head didn’t hit the ring was beyond us all, but that’s what happens when you have two of the best performers in the world squaring off.

As you would expect, the NYC crowd went home happy as Nakamura and Team DIY got the win. All six guys were phenomenal during the match. It was the perfect ending to a really good night.

Most house shows you go to these days are half full or boring. This was not the case. Despite a couple of flat matches, the rest of the card had the crowd fully engaged and responding accordingly at every moment. Also, take into consideration that Hideo Itami and Austin Aries are hurt, while Andrade Almas wasn’t on the card and I still give the show a very solid 7.5 out 10. The show was a nice little appetizer to this weekend’s Takeover Toronto show, which should be excellent. If you ever get a chance to see an NXT house show, especially with the roster the way it is now, make the effort to get there. I highly doubt you will be disappointed.