Seth Rollins def. Jiro
When I saw Rollins for the first time, he immediately reminded me of CM Punk with his unorthodox style, just with much more energy. He was able to win over the audience in this brief bout, though I'm sure a number of fans were already familiar with him from his FCW/Ring of Honor days. I also liked the subtle tease of a future feud between Rollins and Mahal, which would come to fruition that summer.
Jinder Mahal def. Jason Jordan
Jim Ross played up Jordan as a "top prospect" before the bout, so I glad he wasn't totally squashed here by Mahal. Whether it's 2012 or 2017, Mahal does absolutely nothing for me. It made sense to bring him back down to developmental when they did because his gimmick just wasn't getting over on the main roster, but why would you do that without tweaking it a bit? He bored fans in Full Sail University as much as he did on SmackDown.
Leo Kruger def. Aiden English
Kruger struggled to find a suitable character for himself, going from this "African royalty" persona to the silent assassin to ultimately Adam Rose. The guy was a good worker, but he just needed a personality transplant. As for his debut match, though, he did well and showed off a different kind of in-ring style than what we're used to seeing. English would largely be used as an enhancement worker before being given a chance to shine on his own the following year.
The Ascension def. The Usos
I understand wanting to give Ascension a meaningful win over an established team such as The Usos, but why do it in their second-ever match? It was weird because it wasn't as if it was a competitive contest at all, nor was it a squash. Ascension beat them like they were any ordinary jobbers and the commentators didn't make a big deal out of it. I would have held off on doing this match at least for another few weeks.
Richie Steamboat def. Rick Victor
Thankfully, Steamboat didn't rely solely on his last name to get over. The crowd sat on their hands when he made his entrance, but he had them cheering him by the time the match was over. He had raw talent and plenty of potential, and it was clear officials had plans for him to be a star down the line. Unfortunately, an injury cut his career short, but his early appearances on NXT were enjoyable and his father Ricky Steamboat applauding him in the crowd was a nice touch.
Antonio Cesaro def. Dante Dash
Similar to Damien Sandow, Cesaro was pulling double duty on NXT and the main roster, but his extended stay in developmental benefited him quite a bit. He has always been an exceptional wrestler, but it was his character that needed an overhaul. Aksana didn't add much to the act, but he was able to showcase his skills in minute-long matches such as this and assert his dominance. On a side note, I know the song Cesaro used here was a production theme, but it was badass.
Derrick Bateman def. Johnny Curtis
These two had history from the previous incarnation of NXT, but they didn't have the same stellar chemistry that Tyson Kidd and Michael McGillicutty did, so they couldn't have a memorable match with just five minutes. It was fine for what it was, but it paled in comparison to the main event from the week prior. Bateman had all the tools to be a star in NXT, as well as Curtis to an extent, but the fact they were constantly being relegated to comedy held them back from being more than they were.
Seven matches on a one hour show isn't ideal and I hope not every edition of NXT has this same formula going forward, but I understand wanting to get over as many newcomers as possible. Rollins was the standout from this show, Ascension picked up a notable albeit anticlimactic win, and Kruger and Steamboat debuted as well. Nothing was advertised for the next week, but the Bray Wyatt vignettes intrigued me and made me want to see his eventual arrival.
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