‘WWE Breaking Ground’ Season 1, Episode 9 recap: Countdown
With the historic TakeOver: Respect event looming, the members of the NXT locker room — from Chad Gable and Jason Jordan to Dana Brooke and the card’s co-main eventer, Bayley — anxiously await their moment to shine in this week’s episode of WWE Breaking Ground. The anticipation isn’t limited to TakeOver, either, as Sami Zayn, recuperating from shoulder surgery, ponders what his future holds.
Nia Jax, meanwhile, concentrates on quashing her jitters ahead of her heavily promoted TV debut. Helping matters is the presence of her mom, who flew in for the big day, and her friend Tom. The debut has been a long time coming, and Nia has endured hardships along the way, most notably when she and her aunt (The Rock's mother), returning home from an event, were struck by a drunk driver. The accident broke Nia’s collarbone and caused numerous injuries to her aunt. Thinking about her daughter’s sacrifices and triumphs, Nia’s mother is moved to tears.
Once Nia arrives at the building, the pressure mounts even more. Baron Corbin and Rhyno unnerve her with stories of failed first impressions; Corbin once tripped over the ropes upon entering the ring, and Rhyno once jumped his own ring music, mistakenly entering during a commercial break. Despite the high emotions of the evening, Nia’s match goes off without a hitch. She makes short work of her competition, and her proud mother offers her loving congratulations afterward.
Star recruit TIno Sabbatelli, in contrast, hasn’t received many congratulations lately. Recently demoted to beginner’s class after a less-than-stellar live event performance, Sabbatelli turns his attention to studying film, which he likens to his days in the NFL. Head Coach Matt Bloom and coach Adam Pearce help him break down the tape, and they don’t hold back in their critiques, finding fault with Sabbatelli’s body control in the ring. The goal-minded athlete appreciates his mentors’ candor and recommits himself to mastering the basics, with visions of WWE Superstardom always in the back of his head.
That same end game is shared by Sami Zayn. While he awaits medical clearance, the former NXT Champion resumes his ring training under the watchful eye of WWE Performance Center’s head athletic director. Working out with Tye Dillinger, the Zayn feels the ring rust, not to mention lingering pain in his shoulder. The uncertainty doesn’t end there, as Zayn wonders where WWE management will place him once he’s ready to return, NXT or WWE. The popular Superstar explains that he doesn’t know whether his Raw debut against John Cena in May, the event where his injury occurred, was intended as his ultimate WWE call-up.
Though Zayn is not cleared in time for NXT TakeOver, Dana Brooke is, even after hurting her upper body during in-ring practice. The self-proclaimed “Total Diva” may be less than 100% physically, but she won’t let that stop her from competing at the live TakeOver special against Asuka. Hours before the card gets underway, she and Jason Jordan sit in the bleachers and reflect on how far they’ve come. Both are excited, but anxious. Dana is readying to face her biggest test yet, while Jordan is stressed that he and partner Chad Gable might not get their custom track suits delivered in time for their TakeOver debut. (Spoiler, they don’t.)
Perhaps nobody feels more pressure heading into TakeOver than Bayley, who is set to face nemesis Sasha Banks in a 30-Minute WWE Iron Man Match. The importance of the match is evident weeks earlier at WWE Night of Champions, where Bayley is backstage to film promotional video building up the fight. There, WWE Diva Natalya chats with Bayley about the evolution of NXT’s women’s division and Bayley’s leadership role. The growth of the NXT brand and ever-expanding popularity of its female athletes becomes even more crystalized when Bayley is later presented with her first Mattel action figure.
The doors open, the NXT Universe floods into the arena, and NXT TakeOver: Respect is almost upon us. How will a hurt Dana Brooke perform on a live stage against a world-class opponent? Will Jordan & Gable continue to shine as a team? What will the response be to the first women’s main event in the history of WWE Network live specials? All roads lead to TakeOver when the season finale of WWE Breaking Ground airs next Monday on WWE Network, immediately following Raw.