By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Alexander Rusev def. Kofi Kingston
Rusev may not be the best in-ring worker, but he is very agile for being a big man and is solid enough to the point where he can hold his own against his opponents. Kingston carried him to a good matchup that was given good time but not too much, either. It is rare for a Superstar from the main roster to come down to NXT and do a job for someone else, so props for Kingston to doing so. He is a notable name that can lose to a rookie, give them a big victory, and not lose anything in defeat. It isn't hard to see why officials are high on Rusev and I wouldn't doubt seeing him on the main shows by the end of the year.
Emma def. Natalya to Become the No. 1 Contender to the NXT Women's Championship
The commentators did a nice job of mentioning how both lovely ladies are from the Calgary area and have a lot in common. I expected a great match out of them, and while it was a nice match while it lasted, it definitely could have gone on a lot longer. Thus, I was mildly disappointed with this bout, but they made the most out of the time they were given. This match might not have been a letdown had Natalya not contested an excellent contest with Paige a few weeks ago. Now the official build for the Paige vs. Emma title match begins.
Colin Cassady def. Aiden English in a Sing-Off
I am not usually a fan of sing- or dance-offs, but this one was relatively harmless. English has an entertaining act and Cassady is starting to grown into his own without having Enzo Amore around. The two make a great team, don't get me wrong, but it is important for him to survive alone while Enzo is out with an injury. The post-match attack with English ambushing Cassady indicated that a match between the two is imminent (potentially next week), which is good to see since English was in desperate need of a program.
Tyler Breeze def. Mason Ryan
It is hard to believe that it has almost been three years since Ryan debuted on Monday Night Raw alongside CM Punk. All these years later and he still hasn't improved all that much, which is a shame since he has such an impressive physique. The match was pretty basic, but at least it ended with Breeze picking up the victory. I was surprised not to see Adrian Neville make an appearance and attack Breeze after he cost him the NXT Championship two weeks ago. That being said, Breeze needs credible victories if he will be feuding with Neville in the near future.
Sami Zayn def. Leo Kruger in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match
We have seen a handful of these matches in recent months, and the prior two (Zayn vs. Cesaro and Graves vs. Neville) were noticeably better than this one. These two have had a good feud over the last month, but I don't think it was in need of such a stipulation just yet. Nonetheless, they had a fun matchup that consisted of several cool spots that the Full Sail crowd awoke for, as they didn't buy into many of Kruger's near-falls for some reason. The commentators made mention of how resilient Zayn was and that he wouldn't give up, which was essentially the story told in this bout. Not often do you see this kind of match end in two straight falls, especially with the babyface going over, but it breaks away from the predictable formula and gives Zayn a huge momentum boost. I don't know if this will trigger the character change in Kruger that has been rumored for quite some time now, but only time will tell.
With the last two episodes of NXT being very good, this show was somewhat of a step down. It wasn't bad by any means, but it simply wasn't as spectacular as NXT's 200th episode or its recap show on Christmas. However, this episode was solid as a whole and furthered (or started) a number of programs. It was a nice first show of 2014 and I look forward to what else unfolds in coming weeks.
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