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There’s a minor list of wrestling related things I want to do before I die. Watching certain wrestlers like Sasha Banks and Brock Lesnar is one of them. Seeing certain match types is another one of them. I can tell myself that I’ll eventually enjoy a Royal Rumble or another WrestleMania but when you end up at a house show for NXT and their first ever show in Houston as part of their NXT Texas Tour, you sort of cross that off your list too.

We’ve been over what NXT is and how its a glorious, fully realized version of what wrestling should be. That may sound like preaching or downplaying what the WWE actually does but its rather true. The WWE is a universe, a universe where the divas and actual women’s wrestlers are at a crossroads on meshing together and changing how women’s wrestling has been viewed for the past two decades. A universe where heels aren’t really heels and the faces are cheered for doing dickish, vindictive and childish things. Where the authority figures don’t straddle the lines of doing great things for the good of the company or punishing pure and happy faces for challenging the status quo and the chosen champion. NXT is the inverse of that universe, where character motivations are played out, gimmicks are far more developed and a fan base who buys in to almost everyone whether they be a green NXT rookie or an independent star finally getting a chance to shine on “the big stage”.

NXT is starting to leave its Full Sail University roots and begun touring, spending the latter part of this week in Houston, Austin & San Antonio. You could probably infer that they’re going to save a Dallas show for WrestleMania weekend considering how they tore down San Jose before WrestleMania this year and arguably had a stronger show than SummerSlam when they took over the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn last month. Plus, NXT and live shows in general employ far more easier tactics to bend fan belief. The bad guys do dirty things and convey an audience without necessarily having to speak. Duck your opponent and treat him like he’s nothing? Heel tactic. Try to choke your foe out with the ropes or kick and punch while ignoring the referee’s commands? Heel tactics. NXT Houston allowed for far simpler times to live inside the Revention Music Center, shades of Paul Bosch and to an extent what Booker T is putting on with Reality of Wrestling in Clear Lake.

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Matches told stories inside of the old Bayou Music Center Thursday night. If you could compare it to the circus, Dasha Fuentes and Greg Hamilton alternated between promoting the product, the tour and being spot on ring announcers. Bull Dempsey continued to get over his “BULL FIT” gimmick while giving fans fodder to curse and chant a ton of different things during his matches. Tye Dillinger plays a great narcissist, using something as simple as a crowd throwing their hands up to display “TEN” to follow him. Samoa Joe is no nonsense, Dana Brooke think she’s superior than every other woman on the roster. From the opening bell where Enzo & Cass wrestled a perfectly acceptable tag match with Jason Jordan and Chad Gable to the solid main event of Tyler Breeze versus Finn Bálor for the NXT Title, the live NXT event delivered on what can make wrestling great.

If not for Bálor and his cosmic blend of Japanese theatrics and hybrid rush of high flying and impact, the most over member of the NXT roster would be be a woman. There were chants for Sasha Banks but there’s no force in women’s wrestling quite like Bayley. If her super babyface persona translated into a ton of merchandise sales and young girls and boys wearing “I’M A HUGGER” T-shirts, it was evident when fans sung her theme song, almost after every big move she hit in the ring.

Slo-Mo Coup de Grāce. #finnbalor #wwe #tylerbreeze #nxt #nxthouston

A video posted by Brandon Caldwell (@brandoc) on

So what did NXT learn from touring Texas? That here’s just as universal a brand as the WWE main roster is. Fans have already connected with the scrappers on the roster who they hope and beg and plead don’t change when it comes to be their time to reach the big stage. Kids want to buy Apollo Crews gear because he’s an athletic freak of nature and looks like a star in the ring. The heels act like heels, pretentious and at times overly aggressive. And just for a gauge on how over Dana Brooke may be as the most disliked heel on the women’s roster? She’s the one who garnered the most heat but was the most logical choice for a heel to go over Thursday night. Again, NXT is a beautiful thing because it gets the simple things about appealing to wrestling fans new and old right. They may not return to the Lone Star State until another seven months from now but by then, there will be even more characters and athletes whom we’ll connect with. It’s the name of the game.

NXT Houston Results
Enzo/Cass def. Jordan/Gable – Hot opener with the crowd literally running with Enzo & Cass’ opening speech and Gable/Jordan doing their best to beat the hell out of Enzo until Cass made the save. Air Enzo finished the match for the Realest Guys in the room.

Bull Dempsey def. Tye Dillinger – Bull won with a top rope Sumo Drop.

Apollo Crews def. Solomon Crowe – A far more aggressive take on their NXT match from Wednesday’s show. Crews won with his “Too Easy” gorilla press into a standing moonsault.

Samoa Joe def. Baron Corbin – A hoss fight throughout with Corbin showing his improvement in lasting in longer matches. Joe choked him out with the Coquina Clutch.

Dana Brooke def. Carmella – Despite Carmella’s heat being residual from the Realest Guys in the Room, she was no match for the supernova amount of boo’s Dana Brooke got. Brooke (and her Chucks) ended things with a Michinoku Driver.

The Vaudevillians def. Blake & Murphy; retain the NXT Tag Team Titles – the early Test of Strength spot was literally audibled thanks to the hot crowd who were behind Aiden English & Simon Gotch. Alexa Bliss continues to be the best valet in NXT and the Vaudevillians continued to show how they’ve learned to be smarter than the Dubstep Cowboys. Vaudevillians win with a Whirling Dervish.

Bayley def. Emma; retained the NXT Women’s Championship – Tight contest that saw Emma look like a legit threat to the title with several near finishes and the Aussie even breaking out an Indian Surfboard. Bayley won after a reversal into a Belly to Bayley.

Finn Bálor def. Tyler Breeze< ; retained the NXT Championship/strong> – Definite four star match to close out the night. Two over guys, lots of stiff shots & near falls. Breeze literally hitting the hardest Supermodel Kick he’s ever thrown and Bálor still kicking out. Bálor won with a Coup de Grace.

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