Episode: NXT #204
Recorded: 24 June 2016
Aired: 13 July 2016
Duration: 18:29 minutes (plus two commercial breaks)
Finn Bálor was the first to enter the ring in 2:48 minutes while Shinsuke Nakamura needed 2:08 minutes for his entrance. And because this probably was already too much for the NXT crowd and fans at home, we went to the first commercial break.
We came back to “This is awesome” chants from the NXT crowd and got the formal introduction to both competitors. Because this was Finn Bálor’s farewell match to NXT, this seemed appropriate even though it wasn’t a championship match. Drake Wuertz was the referee.
Finn Bálor and Shinsuke Nakamura needed about half a minute to connect with each other for the first time. Apart from a great promo by NXT Champion Samo Joe at the beginning, they had the most part of this NXT show for their match, so they started slowly to feel each other out, trying to wear down their respective opponent for the first time to create a psychological advantage.
And it was Finn Bálor who took Shinsuke Nakamura down first, trying to hold him there and weaken his breathing and general power. Several times, Shinsuke Nakamura tried to escape the hold which ended in his head-to-chest routine on Finn Bálor about three minutes into the match. As an instant counter, Finn Bálor mocked Shinsuke Nakamura with the “Too sweet” hand gesture to the forehead. That brought a little more action to the match, since Shinsuke Nakamura now went furious against Finn Bálor. But the man from Bray was able to avoid most of those attacks. Instead, Finn Bálor landed a flying dropkick to Shinsuke Nakamura’s head for a first pin.
Shinsuke Nakamura kicked out and Finn Bálor went back to the old game of wearing Shinsuke Nakamura down with an arm hold. Now, the man from Kyoto freed himself with punches to the side of Finn Bálor and tried to finally get the upper hand with shoving Finn Bálor into a ring corner. Finn Bálor was still able to block several attempts but couldn’t avoid a scissor kick to his head. Now in slight control, Shinsuke Nakamura put Finn Bálor into another corner to give his opponent some Good Vibrations (twice) – something I don’t really enjoy. I can’t help it. The way I see it, this spot mocks epilepsy. So, I don’t find that funny.
Following that, Shinsuke Nakamura placed Finn Bálor into the right position to hit him with a knee from outside the ring just to climb onto the apron to hit Finn Bálor with two knees to his neck. I can almost see William Regal cringing at that move. Both competitors needed a bit of time to recover, so we went to the first commercial break during that match.
Back from the intermission, Shinsuke Nakamura was in complete control over Finn Bálor inside the ring, just dropping another two knees to Finn Bálor’s head. But Finn Bálor was able to hit back with a vicious drop kick to the kneecap of his opponent that made Shinsuke Nakamura flying. Now, Shinsuke Nakamura appeared to be in enormous pain, and that could have been the story of this match. Unfortunately, Shinsuke Nakamura only sold the knee for the next couple of minutes. But it didn’t seem to trouble him any more, the further this match went. Apparently, Shinsuke Nakamura is one supernatural superman, so he doesn’t need me caring for him. And I stopped being invested in this match the moment it was rather obvious that nothing had happened to the knee and it wouldn’t trouble Shinsuke Nakamura for the rest of the match.
If someone wins a match despite having to overcome an injury (in kayfabe, of course) that makes me invested. If someone appears like Superman, I don’t care.
So, despite all the terror Finn Bálor did to Shinsuke Nakamura’s knee, the moment he let loose, Shinsuke Nakamura’s knee was totally fine again. It would have been more believable if Shinsuke Nakamura would have won with mostly using his arms and hands. But he used his kicks without selling the knee anymore and that’s just not believable. At some point, after a lot of vicious knee strikes and kicks by Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Bálor got the upper hand again and he scissor kicked Shinsuke Nakamura out of the ring for the second commercial break in this match.
After the break, Finn Bálor was still in control, and just about to hit a double stomp to Shinsuke Nakamura’s back from the top rope. And even though Shinsuke Nakamura seemed to have forgotten about his left knee, Finn Bálor had not when he went for a hold that must have troubled the knee. And apparently it did – for a tiny moment. But free again, Shinsuke Nakamura hit Finn Bálor with a scissor kick to the head and an armbar out of nowhere. Now it was on Finn Bálor to no-sell an apparent faint and after a few more attacks from Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Bálor was able to hit the reversed 1916 on Shinsuke Nakamura. But the man kicked out of Finn Bálor’s finisher.
A few slightly stupid looking moments of disbelief and fear on Finn Bálor’s face later, the man was furious now and after Shinsuke Nakamura made it back to his feet, Finn Bálor hit him with a slingshot but Shinsuke Nakamura was able to avoid another kick. Instead he countered himself and finally hit Finn Bálor with a Kinshasa out of nowhere (I’m so glad that with Corey Graves now being drafted to the RAW commentary table, I probably won’t have to listen to his Kinshaaasaaa scream ever again; it will be interesting who’s going to replace him – can’t William Regal do this again?).
But since Shinsuke Nakamura kicked out of Finn Bálor’s finisher, of course the opposite had to take place here. So, Finn Bálor kicked out of the Kinshasa for Shinsuke Nakamura being in a state of disbelief now. But him going for another attack only ended with a double stomp to his chest by Finn Bálor that made Shinsuke Nakamura kick out once again. And disbelief never vanished from the face of Finn Bálor for the remaining time of this match.
Now, Finn Bálor went for another 1916 but Shinsuke Nakamura didn’t let this happen. He hit back with punches to his opponent’s chest and side and a few kicks. The obligatory fist fight in the middle of the ring – like an encore at a rock concert – only happened now. Somehow, Finn Bálor got back the upper hand and wanted to finish off Shinsuke Nakamura – this time for good. He hit another slingshot, a double dropkick to the chest that basically blew Shinsuke Nakamura right into a ring corner and was about to hit the Coup de Grâce from the top rope. But Shinsuke Nakamura rolled to the corner, so Finn Bálor missed. Instead it was Shinsuke Nakamura who was able to hit a second Kinshasa to finally win this match.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
People – probably all over the world – had every right to be excited about the setting of this match: Finn Bálor vs Shinsuke Nakamura, a match made in heaven most people will say. And consequently, it was hyped in the appropriate manner, like you would imagine.
Maybe it was too much hyped and thrown way over cloud nine to strike me in a similar way. I came back to watching wrestling with CM Punk being my favourite wrestler at the time. Then, Dean Ambrose made the transition from FCW to WWE and when CM Punk was still with WWE, Dean Ambrose took over from him. The two matches they had on WWE television (and the one from FCW we are lucky enough to have a recording from by a generous wrestling fan) belong to my personal list of favourite wrestling matches ever. Of course, William Regal and Cesaro have got a special place in my heart. So, I’m keen for wrestlers who learned their craft all over the world on the independent circuit.
Sure, I can see and acknowledge the talent that both, Finn Bálor and Shinsuke Nakamura, clearly have. But for some reason I’m not able to connect with any of them two. I think, it’s the missing backstory that could make me more connected with them. I don’t mean personal stuff, I mean the kayfabe history of a wrestler. To really connect with a wrestler, I need to see some kind of struggle in their eyes, I need to see determination and the love for this business. I need to see a path with obstacles they needed to pass to make it in this business and basically leave a path of destruction. I need to see why they do what they do. I need to see wounds and healed wounds and the still visible scars.
With Finn Bálor and Shinsuke Nakamura, I only see entertainers. They are good at entertaining the audience. And I can lean back and enjoy the show. Sometimes I can do that. But to actually be a fan, follow their path, be connected, look forward to their next match or feud or hopefully a belt around their waist, I need a believable story that is honest and full of personal tasks, falls and achievements.
I had that with CM Punk; I’ve got that with Dean Ambrose and William Regal. Cesaro is a special case, I guess. Maybe it’s the fact that he won’t ever be the huge star in WWE he should be because Vince McMahon can’t see something special in him. So, I feel for Cesaro and wish for him to somehow, some day get something special in his WWE career. It’s not a kayfabe story but the unfair treatment story in real life that makes me connected to Cesaro.
But I don’t have that with Finn Bálor and Shinsuke Nakamura. With both of them I also miss this special talent on the microphone. And it’s no accident that all of my favourite wrestlers are great in that department. Cesaro isn’t an exclusion here because he’s actually good on the mic – not great but he should talk more because he can do this. Finn Bálor and Shinsuke Nakamura can’t and they shouldn’t talk much.
So, to come to a conclusion to this little essay: those are just my personal feelings. I didn’t really feel the need to include this match into my list of Best Matches of NXT in 2016 at all costs. But I did it because I saw the opportunity to write about my disregard for Finn Bálor and Shinsuke Nakamura. Most likely you won’t agree. But with writing about my very own reasons about my relative coldness for those two, you can still write me why you like them – right into the commentary section. Feel free to spam me with your enjoyment for Finn Bálor and / or Shinsuke Nakamura. Because I love to connect with the readers of my blog. I know there are some.