Date: February 21, 2017
Location: Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, California
Commentators: Mauro Ranallo, Corey Graves, Austin Aries
We’re less than two weeks away from Fastlane and that means it’s time for some of the more basic build towards the Cruiserweight Title match. There are three matches announced for tonight, all of which suggest that this is going to be a much more wrestling heavy show than one built around angles. Let’s get to it.
We open with a long recap of last night’s contract signing.
The announcers chat for a bit.
Akira Tozawa vs. Brian Kendrick
This almost took place on Raw but Kendrick laid him out instead. Tozawa goes off on him with forearms and a running kick to the chest. Some mounted right hands have Kendrick in even more trouble and Tozawa shouts that he doesn’t need him. Tozawa chokes with the boot in the corner as this is completely one sided so far.
Kendrick finally manages to post him to take over and it’s time to work on Tozawa’s neck. A big boot sets up the Captain’s Hook but Tozawa gets a hand between the arms for the block. Tozawa sends him outside for a suicide dive and the crowd is getting into this. With nothing else working, Kendrick sends him into the apron and ties Tozawa’s foot into the cables underneath the ring for the countout at 5:42.
Rating: C+. This was a way to set up something else down the line and there’s nothing wrong with that. Tozawa has the potential to be a big star in the division and I can actually get behind the idea of Kendrick as a gatekeeper. He isn’t exactly great as a top heel but this role is fitting him a bit better. I’m still not sure why he carries that flag but whatever.
Kendrick says that was another lesson for Tozawa. More lessons are coming.
Noam Dar didn’t like Rich Swann dedicating a match to Alicia Foooooox last week so tonight, Dar is going to do the same thing. Fox is a bit under the weather this week but worry not because she would NEVER leave him.
Noam Dar vs. Mustafa Ali
They trade wristlocks to start until Ali backflips away and dropkicks him to the floor. That means a big flip dive (Aries: “MAMA BELLOMO!”) with Ali jumping over the referee for a nice touch. Dar kicks him in the leg on the way back in though and things slow down again. Back in and Dar starts working on the arm for a change, only to eat a dropkick to the face.
Dar uppercuts him into the corner but gets caught in a tornado DDT to put both guys down. It’s Ali up first though and he takes Dar over to the corner, only to have Noam get to the apron before the reverse 450 can launch. That’s enough to have Ali go head first into the post, setting up a running knee to the head for the pin at 7:34.
Rating: C. Dar continues to be fine in the ring but he’s still missing a certain fire that would carry him up towards the top of the division. I’m curious to see who Fox could leave him for (it’s pretty clear that’s where they’re going) and where Dar can go from there so it’s far from hopeless. Ali should be higher up on the food chain than he is too but for some reason he’s cooled off a lot in recent weeks.
Austin Aries introduces a video on…himself, as he’s getting back in the ring soon. That would have been better as a surprise attack but Neville vs. Aries for the title at Wrestlemania would have me drooling.
Neville wasn’t pleased with the attack during the contract signing and has his sights focused on Gallagher.
Jack calls tonight’s match a preview for Fastlane.
Jack Gallagher vs. Tony Nese
The idea here is that Nese is the most comparable person to Neville on the roster. Nese throws him down to start and we hit the pose. That earns him a takedown into a SICK looking armbar with Gallagher tweaking the mustache and making sure his hair stays straight. Back up (thankfully without a torn pectoral), Nese elbows him in the face and tosses Jack over the top for a breather. One heck of a superkick drops Gallagher again and we hit a bodyscissors.
A legdrop gets two but also seems to start Jack’s comeback. Gallagher gets two off a crossbody and a sunset flip before headbutting the heck out of Nese. It’s too early for the running dropkick but Jack puts him in the Tree of Woe. That’s fine with Nese though as he pulls himself up into a super German suplex. Nese goes up top again, allowing Gallagher to catch him in a top rope belly to back superplex. The running corner dropkick puts Nese away at 10:05.
Rating: C+. This was a very simple idea and it worked as well as it was going to be able to. Gallagher was in trouble but used his technique and footwork (which he talked about earlier) to come back and win, which is what they’ll be aiming for at Fastlane. Then again I don’t buy Neville as being in any real danger but at least they’re getting the story right.
Overall Rating: C+. They basically took a week off for a filler show here but it was still entertaining enough to work. Gallagher is being built up as the best possible challenger for a nothing pay per view and they’re already setting up a few things for the future, including Aries’ in ring return. You didn’t need to see this show but it did exactly what it was supposed to do.
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