Date: April 8, 2015
Location: San Jose Convention Center, San Jose, California
Commentators: Rich Brennan, Corey Graves
Reviewed by Tommy Hall
We're on the road again with some matches taped for this year's Wrestlemania Axxess weekend. For at least the last two years, there has been a ring set up on the Axxess floor for live matches, including some title defenses. Tonight we're going to see some of those matches and maybe some from the well received house show the same weekend. Let's get to it.
The main story tonight is a tournament for a spot in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania XXXI. Here are the brackets.
Video of Wrestlemania's impact on the area, which I believe was shown on both Raw and Smackdown.
We get a quick recap of the first round to give us the final four.
Balor rolled up Corbin to advance, Breeze beat Dempsey with a Beauty Shot, Itami's running kick to the face knocked Jordan out and the Red Arrow advanced Neville.
Here are the updated brackets.
Battle Royal Qualifying Tournament Semi-Finals: Hideo Itami vs. Adrian Neville
Neither guy gets an entrance. The crowd is very small, maybe about 200, as the ring is just tucked away in a corner of the convention center. They fight over a wristlock to start with Neville taking him down to the mat but Itami counters into an arm crank for a near fall of his own. The fans boo something off camera as the guys have a staredown and Neville teases going after whoever it was.
We hit the dueling chants as Neville grabs a headlock. That goes nowhere so Hideo hits a running kick to the chest and clotheslines Neville out to the floor. Neville makes it back in at nine and the fans don't seem thrilled with him. Some shots to the chest and a big back elbow get two on Hideo but he comes back with his three clotheslines (of course) and the tornado neck snap across the top rope.
The top rope clothesline gets two and Itami follows up with a sleeper (Fans: “GO TO SLEEP!”) before switching off to a dragon sleeper. The GTS is countered and Neville blasts him with a superkick for two. Neville has to bail out of a shooting star and gets caught by the running dropkick in the corner. The Shotgun Kick sends Itami to the finals at 11:16.
Rating: C+. Good enough but Itami really needs to open up the offense. First it was nothing but kicks and now it's primarily clotheslines. Star throwing in some more submissions or throws or whatever, but stop using one or two moves over and over. Neville was working heel here and it was kind of odd to see. Not bad or anything but just a sharp change from his usual style.
Battle Royal Qualifying Tournament Semi-Finals: Finn Balor vs. Tyler Breeze
Balor gets an entrance. Breeze poses on the corner to start so Balor dropkicks him in the face and poses exactly the same. More kicks to the chest get two on Breeze but he takes Balor down and puts on a chinlock (Tyler: “ASK HIM PLEASE!”). Balor quickly rolls through and hits a basement dropkick, followed by even more kicks to the face and chest for two. We definitely have a theme in this match. Breeze finally mixes it up with some forearms but charges into the Sling Blade. The Coup de Grace ends Breeze at 5:22.
Rating: C+. It's very telling how much more of a presence Balor has in half the time that Itami had. The guy is just awesome in the ring and has the full package. Even though the match was nothing special and Breeze was basically getting squashed for five minutes, it felt more entertaining than the previous match.
Dana Brooke debuts next week and calls herself the Total Diva.
Video package on the NXT house show from Wrestlemania weekend and it looks like a big Ring of Honor show, just with HHH in the ring. It really is amazing that WWE basically has their own in house indy company. This show looks like a blast.
Sami Zayn vs. Rhyno next week.
Battle Royal Qualifying Tournament Final: Hideo Itami vs. Finn Balor
We get a wide shot of the arena to show several hundred more people on the hard camera side. The fans are behind Balor as the guys do a wrestling sequence, ending with a standoff. Balor takes him down and cranks on the arm before a dropkick gets two. Itami comes back with some kicks to the chest and puts on a chinlock. That goes as far as a chinlock can take you and Finn rolls out for another basement dropkick.
An enziguri in the corner knocks Hideo off the top for two but he comes back with the top rope clothesline. The GTS is teased again but Balor escapes into the Pele to put both guys down again. Back up and Hideo wins a strike off, followed by a running basement dropkick in the corner. The Sling Blade out of nowhere drops Itami but he crotches Finn to break up the Coup de Grace. Yet another GTS attempt is countered and the Shotgun Kick sends Hideo to Wrestlemania at 8:15.
Rating: C. I wasn't feeling this one as much as they built up the GTS through the match but they still didn't let it hit. I'm glad Hideo won though as having Balor in his spot at Wrestlemania would have been a waste of him. All the kicks are getting annoying too and it's really hard to care when it's the same stuff all show long. Good enough match but it didn't have the time to get anywhere.
They shake hands post match.
We get a cool video on Hideo Itami, dating back to his press conference in Osaka, announcing his signing with WWE. Then he debuted in NXT, then he beat Balor in the match from earlier on this show. We see Itami going through the curtain to be greeted by the contingent of HHH, Tatsumi Fujinami and......Hillbilly Jim?
Itami introduces us to his family and again, his English is fine. His language skills really aren't an excuse for his lack of promos. You can keep them short and get the point across well enough. Also included is a clip of Itami hitting the GTS on Breeze at the house show and how people freaked out online. Naturally, Stephanie is RIGHT THERE to comment on the impact on social media.
Itami is in the battle royal. We see him warming up backstage and all his friends praising him for making it this far this fast. He comes out to the crowd, Cole gives him a special introduction, he knocks out Dallas, and then Big Show treats him like any given jobber as Cole says “welcome to the big leagues.” I'm SO glad we got to see him beaten down that fast. It just wouldn't have been complete without seeing Big Show looking dominant. Hideo cries once he gets backstage and a bunch of people congratulate him. Even Big Show says he looks forward to working with Itami again. His kids hug him to end the show.
Overall Rating: C+. This is a hard one to grade as it's mainly a theme show with some wrestling included. The stuff on Itami is a really cool feature (Big Show dominance aside) and made him look like a big deal. Above all else though, I want to focus on that house show. On the Rise and Fall of ECW, Paul Heyman talks about wanting to make his shows into a big party where the fans say “WOW! I want to go there! I want to buy my ticket and be right there in the middle of all that.”
That's the feeling I got watching that house show. It looked like a blast and something I'd love to get to see. It's the feeling you don't get on Raw because NXT feels far more fan friendly and built on excitement. Like I said, it's basically an in house indy company with very little connection to the main roster. This is a special promotion and it's going to keep going for a long time at this pace.
Hideo Itami b. Adrian Neville – Shotgun Kick
Finn Balor b. Tyler Breeze – Coup de Grace
Hideo Itami b. Finn Balor – Shotgun Kick
Remember to check out my website at kbwrestlingreviews.com and head over to my Amazon author page with wrestling books for under $4 at: