By Jeremy Peeples, WrestlingObserver.com
Tonight's show features two title matches, with Alexa Bliss battling Sasha Banks for the women's title and Kevin Owens facing Finn Balor for the NXT Title. The first on the road taping is highlighted to start things off. Breeze's win, the Blake win, and Alexa's countout win are showcased quickly. A more lengthy recap is shown of the Owens-Riley match. The Owens-Balor staredown is shown, but sadly, they don't replay Kevin's cheapshot kick to Riley as he left. They should do this each week, because it makes every match seem like it's important.
We get the standard NXT intro as we return to Orlando with the women's title opening the show. Corey says that Alexa's in the Boss's house tonight, and she needs to bring her A game. The babyface challenger got a tepid reaction, while the champion was given a queen's welcome with the crowd going nuts for her. Sasha comes off like a megastar here. The referee holds the championship high and title time has begun.
NXT Women's Champion: Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss - NXT Women's Championship
Alexa gets a drop thoehold and an Oklahoma roll for 1. More cradles lead to fast 2 counts. Sasha gets a knee to the gut, but an Irish whip hiptoss leads to another Bliss cradle for 2. Bliss goes for a jump in the ropes, but gets kicked in the face. Sasha stands on her hand and talks smack before getting a snapmare and a running basement slap to the face. Corner forearm sets Bliss up for the double knees to the gut for 2.
Straightjacket choke for the champion is transitioned into a backbreaker/ reverse camel clutch variant before being turned into a surfboard. Bliss goes for a cradle, but Sasha grabs the arm, but gets small packaged for 2. Shoulders to the gut for Sasha, but she eats a rana out of the corner. Bliss gets tossed to the floor with the nastiest bump of the evening. Seriously - nothing on Lucha Underground was that nasty.
They tease a countout, but Bliss breaks the count to win the title. Bliss gets a slap and a forearm, a legsweep and the Glitz Flip for 2. That thing just looks awful. Code Red hits out of the corner for 2. A "let's go Bliss" chant breaks out. Bliss goes up top, but gets slammed down and locked into the Banks Statement facelock for the win! This was beneath the usual high standards of the NXT Women's matches on the special, but the best one in quite a while for a regular show.
Kevin Owens is backstage talking about how both he and Finn are world-class competitors and while they've both been in NXT around the same time, he is the champion while Balor is busy painting himself up like a demon. He's looking forward to the fight, and wants to fight the demon too - no one is taking the title away form him or his family. Kevin Owens as a badass character babyface is something else. We get a highlight reel of his debut match against CJ Parker and then the Zayn match. Balor's demonic intro is shown while Owens says it's impressive, but it's not enough. Balor is impressive, but he's no Kevin Owens. Riley match highlights air over more clips of a Kevin Owens speech, and in a few minutes, they sold this as a huge title match worthy of being on a PPV.
Emma tells Bayley that she's been too nice and she told her so. She lost to Becky, and wouldn't have if she was more aggressive. Emma tells her that the NXT crowd will try to fool her, while Baylet says they're different and gets slapped hard for thanking the crowd. Tyler talks about beating Hideous Itami and wanting to get back in the title hunt, while Itami reminds him that he beat him, so they need a 2/3 falls match to determine the better man.
HHH vs. Sting video package airs right before a Dana Brooke hype video and another one for WrestleMania week on the Network. They hype up WM by saying that Roman could be the first NXT alum who wins the WWE Title, while Bray could defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania. Seth is hyped up as the first NXT Champion and he'll face Orton at the show. Rusev vs. Cena is hyped up after that. The divas tag is the last NXT-alum match they go over. This was a fantastic way of selling NXT as a star-making show and adds importance to every NXT show as a result since the idea is that you will really be seeing its stars on WWE's grandest stage. With only Sting vs. HHH not involving an NXT alum in this video, it really did make the main roster look NXT-heavy.
Finn says that tonight, he doesn't need the demon to beat Kevin Owens. We get a head-kicking, double-stomping hype video for him. A slow-motion video for a flip dive really did show off how he has the best-looking flip dive in wrestling. They had a few too many replays of individual voice clips, and probably should have aired this before the interview since it talks about him either being or not being the demon against Owens right after confirming he won't be. Riley-Owens clips are shown once again. Balor vs. Owens is up next.
WM hype video. Team SAWFT promo backstage leads to the tag champs apologizing to Carmella, and giving her a bracelet. Enzo says it's fake and he'll take her to Zales while Cass tells them to go to Jared's, bro. Well, this served its purpose to further that story and basically be used for a future video package. Balor comes down sans the paint, which is a bit odd in theory. He doesn't need it to fight the champion, but needed it against The Ascension? Finn does at least have cool flame laser lights going against him here, so even his basic intro is artistically impressive. Owens comes out while Graves talks about him being dominant. Corey has quickly become one of the best commentators in WWE.
Finn Balor vs. NXT Champion Kevin Owens
The referee holds the title belt high leading to an across the ring staredown before Kevin Owens leaves to stall. Corey says he's followed both men since before they came to NXT, and he's excited for this as a fan. Owen cheapshots Finn and takes him down with a headlock. Finn fires him off and gets shoulderblocked, but gets a big dropkick sending the champion to the floor and an ad break.
We return to a mid-ring armbar from Balor. Owens punches the ribs a few times to escape, but eats a dropkick out of a sunset flip for 2. Finn goes back to the armbar and Owens sends him to the corner and hits shoulders to the stomach. They go to the other side of the ring and tease an outside-in suplex to Owens, but he responds with a neck snap and gets a big lariat. Mounted punches lead to an elbow drop from Kevin. A headbutt sends Finn down before he chokes him with his boot. A chinlock to Balor further wears down the throat area.
Balor fights his way out and gets some forearms to the face. Owens regains control with a running back elbow/clothesline combo for 2. Yet another chinlock from Owens leads to an ad break with a Brock-Roman hype video. We return with Kevin attacking the stomach with a stomp. Rear chinlock from the champion leads to him throwing the champion to the floor. An apron powerbomb is teased, but Balor backdrops him to the floor.
Balor gets forearm shots, but goes for a crucifix that is turned into an Air Raid Crash for 2. Running senton hits for yet another 2 count. Owens lands a hard shot to the chest in the corner before grabbing Finn's head and punching him down while talking smack. Another punch leads to a 2 count and a chinlock. Corey says that he's preventing Balor from making use of his flying offense by doing this. Kevin releases the chinlock to kick the back. A hard whip to the corner sends Balor down immediately.
Owens mocks Balor by going for his pose mid-ring. Overhead belly to belly hits and gets 2.5 for Owens. Owens snapmares him and locks on another chinlock and another ad break. We get a hype video for Itami-Breeze that focuses on Tyler. Balor gets a big forearm strike, but a big knee to the stomach leads to Owens going for an Irish whip and being backdropped to the floor. Gorgeous flip dive hits on the ramp. Balor gets the double stomp to the kneeling back of Owens, but only gets 2! Pele kick hits and the crowd goes crazy for the challenger.
Owens goes to the corner and eats a running chop. He's sent to the opposite corner, but ducks a running chop to land one of his own. Owens runs off the ropes, but eats a Slingblade. A big lariat leads to the inverted Bloody Sunday for 2.5! The crowd chants for a cannonball from Kevin. Balor's corner dropkick is avoided, leading to the left leg being hurt. Owens kicks the bad wheel and attacks it further on the mat before slamming it on the ring apron and ring post.
Balor is in an upkick position, but eats a kick to the side of the knee. Knee-DT hits for Kevin, who then stands on the leg before sentonning it! A half crab is cinched in tight, but Balor makes it to the ropes. The referee asks him if he wants to continue and Kevin goes for the kill before he can respond, but Balor fights back with a double stomp to the chest. Finn goes after him in the corner, but eats a kick right to the kneecap. Finn responds with a leaping kick and sets up a superplex, but Owens cinches him up for a Super Ki Crusher off the top for a 2.9! Well, that was unexpected.
A big "Let's Go Finn" chant breaks out as Kevin attacks the knee with a kick and a chop block. He's in a cannonball position and Owens hits it perfectly. Kevin wraps the knee up in the ropes and makes use of three of his five seconds to do damage. He follows this up with a cannonball to the knee! A third cannonball is avoided by Finn, thus giving him a brief chance to recover. Hesitation dropkick hits and is followed up with the big double stomp, but he can't make it over to cover. He runs into the pop-up powerbomb and the champion retains.
This was a fantastic match and on par with many of the NXT special main events. I'd put it above the fatal 4-way, but beneath Owens-Balor. We get highlights of the match, including the Super Ki Crusher and many of the big moves done to the knee. Corey talked up the powerbomb as being a "lights out" move, and that moniker works as a move name, so I hope they use that for it because "pop-up powerbomb" sounds a bit generic. This was a two-match show and it benefited a lot from that since each match was given plenty of time. The main event in particular was made to feel like a big deal and while I was initially against Balor not using the paint here, it works for the future. He didn't have the demon tonight and thus didn't win, but if he gets a rematch, he can use the demon and finally gain the NXT Championship.