The Good, the Great and the Awesome from NXT 7/24/14
After weeks of the storyline involving Tyson Kidd and Natalya dominating headlines in NXT, the focus of the July 24 episode was on the budding rivalry between NXT champion Adrian Neville and No. 1 contender Tyler Breeze.
Not only was Breeze put over as a legitimate threat to take the title from Neville, but he also proved to be quite dangerous and calculating. Mojo Rawley found out firsthand in a brief match with Breeze, while Neville was left lying in a heap following a match against Rusev, thanks largely to the well-timed interference of the former runway model.
Neville and Breeze will one day soon tear the roof off the NXT Arena with a thrilling match for the brand's top prize, but for now, fans should be content to watch their story play out each and every week on the WWE Network.
Elsewhere on the show, tag teams took center stage as The Ascension again proved their dominance over two jabronis, while the new team of Sin Cara and Kalisto stunned The Vaudevillains with a huge upset victory.
Could the win put the high-flying luchadores in contention for a tag title shot, or is it simply the first step in bringing legitimacy back to a tag team division that is desperately in need of it?
Thursday's broadcast gave fans a glimpse at the future and some of the stories that will be told in the coming weeks and months.
Relive all of the good, great and awesome that went down Thursday night right now!
Adrian Neville vs. Rusev
The main event of Thursday's show did a tremendous job of putting Rusev over as the unstoppable force and immovable object that he has been booked as on Raw and SmackDown while also portraying NXT champion Adrian Neville as a gutsy, resilient and resourceful champion who never backs down in the face of adversity.
Feeling the brunt of Rusev's power advantage early in the bout, Neville responded with fast-paced and elusive offensive move set that stunned the main roster star and nearly put him away. In fact, had it not been for an interfering Tyler Breeze, Neville may have defeated the Russian defector.
The match was little more than a way to advance the story between champion Neville and No. 1 contender Breeze, but it did so in a manner that made the main event feel important.
Anytime a main roster star appears in NXT, it is a big deal. Rusev, coming off a great week, looked like a conquering star returning to the place where it all started. Conversely, Neville was elevated tremendously in that he was able to keep up with the man who had dominated competition on Raw and SmackDown.
The interference from Breeze brought about the disqualification finish, which was necessary to tell the story and did little to hurt the quality of the contest.
There was some considerable chemistry between the champion and his opponent, and a future bout between them, perhaps on the big stage of World Wrestling Entertainment, could take both Neville and Rusev to new heights.
Charlotte vs. Summer Rae
The NXT Women's Championship match between Charlotte and Summer Rae was nowhere near the quality of previous bouts involving Natalya, Paige and Emma. The fans inside the NXT Arena made that abundantly clear as they chanted "boring" and did the wave.
Still, those watching exclusively on the WWE Network were treated to a highly competitive bout that saw commentators Rich Brennan, Renee Young and Alex Riley effectively tell the story of the match.
Those used to seeing Summer Rae wrestle two-minute contests on Raw and SmackDown that serve as little more than plot devices or angle advancement were surprised to see that she is quite capable between the ropes. Charlotte was also impressive, though some of the young champion's weaknesses were exposed without a more seasoned veteran guiding her through the match.
Charlotte won, continuing her tremendous rise to the top of women's wrestling in NXT and seemingly bringing an end to her vendetta against former mentor Summer.
While it remains to be seen which Diva will step up to challenge the second-generation competitor next, the fact that former partner Sasha Banks is lurking around the corner is something to watch.
Alexa Bliss, the fairy-like rookie who has wowed audience with her impressive agility to this point, is also a prime candidate.
An Edgier, Smarter Tyler Breeze
Behind the model facade lies a dangerous competitor capable of taking the NXT Championship away from Adrian Neville in a blink of an eye, something that was made crystal clear Thursday night.
Breeze dispatched of impressive rookie Mojo Rawley in seconds after leveling him with the Beauty Shot. The way the match went down was completely unexpected, especially since Rawley had been as protected as he has been over the last six months.
The look on Breeze's face after the match told the story of a Superstar tired of being treated as a joke. After having his injured finger targeted by his opponent, he snapped, executed his finisher and won the match. It was a statement win that established the more dangerous side of a character once considered a fine comedy act.
That he set Neville up to suffer at the hands of the "Bulgarian Brute" Rusev only further demonstrates the calculating and cerebral nature of the competitor. By setting the champion up to be brutalized by one of the most dominant competitors in professional wrestling, Breeze ensured that Neville will not be 100 percent when they finally clash for the NXT Championship.
The evolution of the Breeze character was absolutely essential if he is to be perceived as a legitimate challenger to the top prize in NXT. It has, thus far, been incredibly effective. In the coming weeks, it should be interesting to see what else Breeze and management concoct for the character as he prepares for the biggest match of his young career.
Emphasis on Tag Teams
As great as NXT has been over the last year, its one weakness has been its tag team division.
Dominated exclusively by champions The Ascension, it has been home to noncompetitive squash matches designed to get Konnor and Viktor over as an unstoppable force and little else. Those two Superstars have torn through every team put in front of them, which has helped established them but hurt the overall quality of tag wrestling in the brand.
Thursday night, the Vaudevillains and the new team of Sin Cara and Kalisto attempted to bring legitimacy back to the tag teams as they delivered a very competitive bout in hopes of putting themselves in position to challenge The Ascension for the NXT Tag Team Championships.
Kalisto and Sin Cara showed some very impressive chemistry and outclassed Aiden English and Simon Gotch for the most part en route to a huge victory over the newly formed and, until Thursday night, undefeated team.
With a secondary rivalry between Enzo Amore, Colin Cassady and the Legionnaires also unfolding over the last month, it appears as though tag team wrestling has finally received the proverbial shot in the arm it has long needed in NXT.
There is no telling which team will be lucky enough to be chosen to dethrone the seemingly unconquerable Ascension, but after their win over The Vaudevillains Thursday night, Sin Cara and Kalisto appear to be as good a choice as any to take the first shot.
Win or lose, the increase in competition in NXT is good for the tag team division and the overall product. It helps get talented individuals on the show with little else to do and creates intrigue for one of the oldest art forms in sports entertainment.