Cleat Geeks

WWE’s Beast in the East Review

US fans were able to empathize with their European comrades as we set our alarms and woke up to the familiar WWE pre show intro.

With coffees (and possibly hair-of-the-dogs) in our hands, Michael Cole and Byron Saxton welcomed us to the Sumo Hall in Tokyo Japan.  The atmosphere inside the arena was indescribable; the look and feel of this live event was so different from all the other US-hosted shows. The lack of light shows and pyrotechnics gave the sense of a purer product.  To me, this felt like a stripped down product; more about the sport and less about the theatrics.  And the WWE Universe loved it.

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The opening match was the perfect choice to kick off the Tokyo event: Chris Jericho vs Neville.  This wasn’t just a return home trip for the NXT championship challenger, Finn Balor, but also one for Jericho who made an awesome career in Japan as well.  Chants of “Y2J” filled the arena, yet Neville had his fair share of support from the crowd.  It was classic Jericho and the audience around the world saw moves we haven’t seen in quite some time: Lionsaults, Code Breakers, Lion Tamer, and of course the Walls of Jericho.

After three attempts at executing the Red Arrow, Neville fell victim to a reversal into the Lion Tamer, giving Jericho the victory.

A great follow-up match was the Triple Threat Divas Championship battle between Paige, Tamina Snuka, and current champion Nikki Bella.  It was not made clear about why Naomi was replaced, but word on the Twitter-sphere is that there was a death in the family.  While Tamina’s presence was felt, clearly this was an opportunity for Paige and Nikki to battle it out.  The divas were far more physical and aggressive in this match.  At one point, Nikki was going for a suplex off the top rope, but was countered when Tamina picked up Nikki for a slam, which in turn completed the suplex on Paige; always a spectacle to behold.

Ultimately, Paige would be knocked out of the ring, leaving the Divas champion on the receiving end of a Samoan Drop, but had the presence of mind to avoid a Super Fly Smash from the top rope.

With a strong forearm to the head, Nikki Bella retained her championship status with a pin on Tamina.

I think I speak for most fans when I say I was surprised to see  that the next match on the card was Kofi Kingston vs. Brock Lesnar, especially because this live event has been marketed as “The Beast in the East.”  At least we knew that the NXT Championship match would be the headliner.

Regardless of the order the matches, one thing that was for certain, this trip to #SuplexCity for Kofi would be one that he would not return from the same.  I believe this best sums up what we saw here:

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And just so that you thought Kofi took one for the team:

Main Event:

No, no.  I’m not talking about the NXT Championship Match.  The headlining match was the Cena/Ziggler vs King Barrett/Kane match.  It was the finale match, which was a let down after the incredible display of athleticism, attitude, and heart that was the NXT Championship battle.  It was definitely misplaced on the card, but I am going to remedy that as best as I can by leaving the highlights until the end of this article.

The tag match, in summary, had a handful of highs and lows.

Highs:

  • Ziggler’s never-give-up attitude and tenacity in the ring were a reliable element to this match.
  • John Cena received a series of “Let’s Go Cena”/”Cena Sucks” chants, which was an enjoyable surprise from the Japanese audience.
  • Cena is just as hot in the East as he is in the US.

Lows:

  • Nothing new or unexpected from this match.
    • Same “five moves of doom” from Cena
    • Ziggler was the major worker of the match
    • Wade Barrett continues to be made to appear weak post winning the King of the Ring tournament

  • Kane

Winners via a series of shoulder tackles and Attitude Adjustment: John Cena/Dolph Ziggler.

NXT Championship

Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens (c)

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Before the match began, a video package aired adding another layer of intrigue and suspense to the championship bout.  The history that Balor shares with the Japanese wrestling industry was emphasized even more when he stated, “If I could choose one place for an NXT championship match, it would be the Sumo Arena in Tokyo Japan.”  Balor talked about the force that is Kevin Owens and his ability to destroy his opponents, but even though he has a win over Balor, Owens has not destroyed him.  In typical Owens’ style, little-to-no respect was given to the esteem that is granted to Finn Balor or the atmosphere he creates through body paint and demon-summoning.  Owens notes that his son likes Balor, but then again, his son also loves John Cena and we all know what Owens did to the US champ.

Second only to the actual match, the most anticipated portion of the night was Finn Balor’s entrance, and it did not disappoint.

It was as eerie and captivating as ever.  A darkened arena was illuminated only by a syncopated red light and heartbeat that quickened as the excitement grew.  Balor entered with his trademark full-body paint and slither to the ring.  The champ’s entrance was less of a spectacle, but then again, his general attitude is one of apathy and disinterest.

Once both competitors were in the ring, a traditional Japanese presentation of flowers and thrown streamers marked the special occasion of a championship match.

As obstinate and disrespectful as ever, Owens tossed the bouquet out of the ring, perhaps symbolically curses himself.

Balor attempted to put Owens away quickly with a running drop kick and ascension to the top rope for a Coup de Grace, but Owens rolled out of ring, although unable to avoid a splash from onto the floor from Balor.  The action continued outside of the ring, Balor catching Owens with a running drop kick on a much less padded and secure arena floor.

Once back inside the ring, a series of reversals put Owens back in charge.

Ensuring that everyone knew what little respect Owens had for the calibre of wrestling that Balor was and the high stakes of the match, Owens appeared playful in the ring.

He continued to mock the crowd, taking a bow and yelling “this is why I’m the champ!” and “Oh, you’re not impressed? I don’t care.  I hate this stupid country and everybody in it.”

The match continued and displays of athleticism that would impress the most cynical of fans were produced by both Owens and Balor.  Close calls after high-impact maneuvers found Owens frustrated after a 2.5 count following a Super Running Senton from the top rope.  After a slap in the face and a shout of “You can’t beat me,” Owens was hit by a clothesline that spun him around and a running drop kick in the corner would set Balor and a Coup de Grace.

Winner and new NXT Champion: Finn Balor

Hall-of-Famer, Tatsumi Fujinami came out to congratulate and raise the hand of the newly crowned champion, Finn Balor.  A familar stare-down between Owens and Balor left the crowd wondering what would happen next and silently praying that Balor would not extend his hand, knowing the consequences that befell Cena and Shot Gun Kelly.  Perhaps as a sign of respect, in his own way, Owens merely slapped away Balor’s extended hand and scoffed away.  Regardless of hurt feelings, crushed egos, and future WWE US championships matches, there is a new NXT champion by the name of Finn Balor.

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He truly did morph from the Prince to the Demon to the champion!

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