As you read this, I’m watching the Royal Rumble…trapped in my ‘UK time difference/9-5 job and family routine’ bubble, I’m a day behind everyone. Hence why my NXT thoughts are so late! Expect some late Rumble thoughts at some point too….

I was really excited for this show – I’m a big NXT fan and usually enjoy it’s specials more than the main roster pay per views. A day of building IKEA cabinets and sorting Lego bricks into colours (don’t ask…it’s part of being a parent) hasn’t diminished my enthusiasm either…thought I know that 1) my ridiculously high expectations for this show are probably unrealistic and 2) Nigel McGuinness being off the commentary team due to illness might be a bad omen….anyway, let’s get into the show. My rating system is out of 5, with the overall show rating coming from ‘match ratings/number of matches’.

The opening tag match pitting The Undisputed Era vs The Authors of Pain (3.5/5) was a solid match. I thought the match was good without ever threatening to build to the level of NXT’s other classic tag team matches. Dare I say it, I found myself wishing that Undisputed Era were around to face Team DIY and The Revival eighteen months/a year ago during this match. They seem to have dropped their ‘Chasing The Dragon’ combo move too, which makes me sad..

Velveteen Dream vs Kassius Ohno (3.5/5) was another good match that had me thinking about a better match, in this case Velveteen Dream vs Aleister Black from NXT Wargames. There were a few untidy moments in this one (namely Dream’s first two attempts at his finishers) and it was nowhere near the spectacle Dream vs Black was, but I really liked the striking and how the crowd was into Velveteen Dream.

Ember Moon vs Shayna Baszler (3.5/5) felt like more of a storyline than a match, but I thought it was really well done. I thought they really made Ember look like a fighting champion and gave her an out if she loses/forfeits the title. They made Baszler look like a bad ass and set up another potential match too. I’ve really enjoyed Bazsler on NXT TV recently and am interested to see where they go next. Also, Baszler is my early nominee for ‘2018’s best leather jacket wearer’, if such an award does exist.

I had high hopes for Aleister Black vs Adam Cole (3.5/5) and am willing to admit my disappointment may be my own fault. I think I’m a bit jaded on hardcore brawling and spots (you think WWE would store the tables somewhere else by now, right?) I’m also struggling to ‘get’ Adam Cole too – I think he’s decent, but his matches and promos don’t grab me…I don’t think the Undisputed Era faction helps much either as Cole and Co aren’t really involved with the NXT Title so they (mainly Cole) feel like an afterthought sometimes. Nevertheless, this was a fine effort, with some painful looking moments (the fireman carry slam across the set up chairs…ouch!)

The NXT Title match between Andrade “Cien” Almas and Johnny Gargano (4.5/5) was a superb match. Some of the crazy moments in this one, like a missed somersault plancha from Gargano that hit the floor, had me gasping. I really liked Zelina Vega’s and Candice La Rae’s involvement too. Vega in particular is brilliant – she does so much more than get physically involved. The match didn’t quite reach 5/5 for me, however I think both Almas and Gargano are fantastic and their matches against each other are getting better and better. I’m definitely looking forward to another match between these two, even though it might be a while….

Overall…the maths adds up to 3.7/5. I’m aware that my rating system favours shorter shows with fewer matches on…but truthfully, that’s how I like my wrestling. I’d rather have a good two and a half hour show (like this one) than a six hour ‘supershow’ designed to get every one on the card. I think NXT is great at producing these quarterly specials and that’s because they focus on a few important matches. Lots of talented wrestlers (Roderick Strong, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Kari Sane, Lars Sullivan) missed out on NXT Philadelphia, but the show was better for not shoehorning them in somewhere. Overall, a fine NXT show and a good start to 2018 for WWE.