NXT's recent international tour played host to some tremendous matches along the way, especially during stops in Japan and Australia. After enjoying a two-hour special from Osaka last week, we got the opportunity to get another double dose of NXT Wednesday with two hours from Melbourne -- and it was just as good the second time around.
While we already got to see most of the the NXT championship rematch between Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe on the Dec. 14 episode of NXT, the big story of the evening had to be the tag team wrestling. We got three such matches on this show, including action from The Revival, a return to form from Tye Dillinger and an NXT tag team championship match to remember as TM-61 got their shot in front of a hometown crowd.
But first things first. We got to see the epic conclusion to an NXT feud for the ages as Nakamura and Joe entered a steel cage in Melbourne to do battle. The TakeOver-quality main event was as hard-hitting and intense as the entire rivalry had been to that point -- and despite technical issues with the cage, it turned out to be one of the best matches these two have had during their fruitful rivalry.
The final sequence was particularly memorable. Nakamura had the opportunity to exit the steel cage and win the match easily, but he decided to slam the cage door shut instead and opt for a pinfall victory following multiple Kinshasa knee strikes.
Will this loss be the final time we see Samoa Joe on NXT television? Only time will tell, but if so, Joe put forth one of the best NXT runs in the brand's brief but storied history. He was half of the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winners, alongside Finn Balor; he had fantastic programs with both Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura; and he became the first ever two-time NXT Champion in the process. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I look forward to Joe translating that type of success into a strong career on the main roster.
With the Nakamura-Samoa Joe chapter officially closed, we can now start to eagerly anticipate another rivalry filled with potential as Bobby Roode gets his first shot at the NXT championship in San Antonio. While it's unlikely to match the intensity level of Nakamura-Joe, it's an entirely different kind of story to be told, and both Roode and Nakamura are very good at what they do.
For now, though, the NXT championship takes a back seat to the ridiculously good string of NXT tag team championship matches we've seen over the past couple of months, including the one that aired Wednesday night. NXT tag team champions #DIY just might be the most entertaining tag team to watch in all of professional wrestling. I don't think that's overstating it at this point. It doesn't matter whom Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa are up against -- the matches just continue to shine. Their clashes with The Revival in Brooklyn and Toronto were nothing short of extraordinary, and last week's effort against the pairing of Tajiri and Akira Tozawa was exceptional.
This time around, Shane Thorne and Nick Miller stood across the ring from the champs and, not surprisingly when you consider the four men in the ring, we were treated to another riveting affair. The match provided a little bit of everything, ranging high-flying attacks and striking to an effective ground game and, most important, drama. #DIY held onto the straps in a bout full of close calls, though TM-61 truly shined in their return to their homeland. Next up for the champions? A rematch with The Revival, which airs next week.
The Revival was also back on our screens with a win over Tino Sabbatelli and Riddick Moss. I'm very curious to see the direction The Revival will travel should they fail in their NXT tag team championship rematch next week. Will they stay in NXT? Will they shift over to Raw or SmackDown Live? Wherever they go, they should remain "Top Guys" -- they truly could not have been better in 2016, and there should be big things in their future.
Roode, the new No. 1 contender for the NXT championship, was also involved in tag team action; he teamed with "The Drifter" Elias Samson, who continues to garner more heat than anyone on the NXT roster, and they took on Tye Dillinger and Melbourne's own Buddy Murphy. The Australian crowd was really into it, getting behind its hometown guy in Murphy and fan favorite Dillinger. The crowd modified its notorious "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi" chants into "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, 10, 10, 10," as a way to incorporate Dillinger's popular "Perfect 10" moniker. The crowd reaction combined with some solid in-ring work made for fun viewing, and Dillinger ultimately scored the pinfall over Samson.
It was great to see Dillinger grab a televised win. Even with his recent surge in popularity, it hasn't happened very often. As his popularity grows, so does his tendency to drop matches and put other talent over -- and few can do it better. Based on Wednesday's result, he's perhaps nearing a feud with Samson, and while it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to take two of the most "over" guys on the roster and pair them up (and would probably lead to some rare W's for the "Perfect 10"), I've called for it before and I'm going to continue to push for it -- bring Dillinger up to the main roster. He's not going to be in the NXT championship picture anytime soon, and he's probably reached the peak of his popularity. Capitalize on it. He'd be the perfect surprise entrant in this month's Royal Rumble match.
Hits & Misses
The undefeated Ember Moon, who had been absent from NXT TV for the past couple of weeks, was also in action. She took part in a triple-threat bout against the consistently improving Billie Kay and Liv Morgan. Moon grabbed the win over Kay via her flipping stunner off the top rope, which looks like an incredibly difficult moves to properly execute -- yet she does to perfection each time.
There's no way we aren't headed toward an Asuka vs. Ember Moon showdown for the NXT TakeOver: Orlando event during WrestleMania weekend, right? That has to happen. Moon is spectacular, and pairing her skills with the uniquely gifted champion would be gold. There have been no indications that a potential rivalry is on the horizon yet, though, and in fact, I can't remember seeing the two cross paths once on NXT TV. I'm hoping that's by design, to catch us off guard. Asuka and Moon have the ability to bring the NXT women's division to a level it hasn't seen since the days of the "Four Horsewomen."
I don't hate Liv Morgan, but my God do I hate her theme song. It rivals Brie Bella's "Brie Mode" as one of the worst of this decade.
I miss SAnitY.
I am really into Samson's song-singing nonsense as he enters the ring. What a fantastic way to get under the skin of an audience. It works every time.