Episode: NXT #213
Recorded: 25 August 2016
Aired: 14 September 2016
Match duration: 4:55 minutes
Drew Gulak wanted to leave a lasting impression of himself even before the match started. I’m still not entirely sure why the man carries with him the wrongly written name of a Russian penal camp; maybe because he appears like a ratty supervisor. Like I said, I’m still on the fence. But he certainly got my attention with his attitude when he confronted Hideo Itami before the bell rang.
After the bell rang, Drew Gulak aggressively stalked Hideo Itami for a moment until be brought him down to the mat. But the man from Tokio, Japan, didn’t stay down for too long. Both men finally tied up in the middle of the ring, trying to wear the other man down. Hideo Itami ended up being dragged to the ring ropes, so the referee demanded Drew Gulak to break up the physical contact.
He did so but a little stare-down ended with a heavy slap by Drew Gulak to Hideo Itami’s face. Something changed inside Hideo Itami and shortly after he returned the favour. But not as impressively as Drew Gulak did to him, so Hideo Itami hit a knee to the mid section of Drew Gulak to make his intentions known. And Drew Gulak ended up sitting on the mat. And because the audience seemed to like it, Hideo Itami did it again.
A kick to the back extended the punishment for Drew Gulak, followed up by a kick to his chest. Then Hideo Itami did his already a little old mocking move to his opponent with dragging down the knee pad from his right leg, teasing a head stomp but jumping over the head and simulating the use of a door scraper. I liked this move when he did it the first time after his return from injury. But he shouldn’t do it in every single match. Because it only really works when it’s new and not already well-known.
Pulling back up his knee pad gave Drew Gulak a moment of time to get a bit of rest. So, when Hideo Itami went for him again, he was prepared to counter. A little game of meeting and countering each others strikes and kicks appeared all over the ring until Drew Gulak connected with a well placed dropkick to Hideo Itami’s head.
Drew Gulak gained further momentum when he got up Hideo Itami to throw him into the bottom rope which culminated into the first cover of the match. But Hideo Itami kicked out. Then Drew Gulak used the bottom rope again to gain some height for a stomp to the head of Hideo Itami. And because he seemed to like it, he did it again. The next body part that Drew Gulak worked on was Hideo Itami’s left ankle. Hideo Itami let his opponent bend the ankle for quite some time until he freed himself with a kick to Drew Gulak with his right foot.
But Drew Gulak wasn’t finished yet with his punishment. Now he was going for both shoulders of Hideo Itami, especially the surgical repaired left one. And Hideo Itami was in much pain. But he also got more intense from the punishment that finished with a backdrop and another cover on Hideo Itami.
He kicked out again and Drew Gulak showed his vicious side with lazy kicks and slaps to Hideo Itami’s head. This treatment finally brought full intensity to Hideo Itami, for him demanding more slaps and roaring at Drew Gulak. With a flying lariat Hideo Itami brought Drew Gulak down to the mat and two kicks to his chest kept his opponent down. A few further kicks and slaps to his body made Drew Gulak fall into a ring corner and Hideo Itami basically finished his opponent with another dropkick.
The audience demanded for the GTS and Hideo Itami gave in. He brought Drew Gulak to sleep and himself the victory.
Winner: Hideo Itami
Usually this would have been just one of those mid-card matches where one competitor (Hideo Itami) is the known winner, even before the match because he needs to be made strong for his upcoming match at the next NXT TakeOver show (against Austin Aries). While the other guy is just some one-timer or jobber who needs to make the chosen boy look strong. And we’ll probably never see the jobber again – or don’t remember him when he appears again next year.
But something was different with this match, mostly because Drew Gulak did make his first appearance in NXT but he also had been a participant of the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic, so he wasn’t some newbie who wouldn’t get hurt by defeat but got some TV time to learn from.
So, ever since the hard slap by Drew Gulak to Hideo Itami’s face, this match got my attention. It grew more and more personal and Hideo Itami was way more intense and interesting since his comeback from injury. During his time off TV, Hideo Itami saw a lot of new talent enter into NXT. There are a lot more already made stars there than before. When Hideo Itami came to NXT, he was a big star. But when he came back, he was a little lost. He lacked charisma and intensity. But with this little match he got back a big amount of both of it. Let’s see if he’s able to grow further. I’m already pretty sure that he’ll win against Austin Aries if he’s got other matches like this little gem.