The marquee atop the Tower Theater in Upper Darby read "Sold out," as a long line of fans stood outside the venue, patiently awaiting the doors to open so that they could get inside to see WWE NXT's live event Thursday.
The line of fans, which stretched as far back as the movie theater on 69th street, braved the cold temperatures despite not knowing for certain whether the face of NXT, NXT champion Finn Balor, would even be on the card.
Balor's status was unknown heading into the show after he suffered an ankle injury earlier this month that rendered him to crutches.
About halfway through the show, fans got good news: Balor was returning to the ring in the main event.
Balor teamed up with NXT's most recent talent acquisition, Austin Aries, to take on Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin in a tag team match. Aries, who made his NXT live event debut, carried the bulk of the workload, but Balor did get a good amount of work in the ring, showing no real ill effects of his injury.
Balor did not perform his finishing move — a double-foot stomp from the top rope — but he did do a double-foot stomp from inside the ring. Upon hitting the move, he grabbed his ankle as if he was in pain, but looked fine moments later in time to hit Corbin with the bloody Sunday brain buster to pick up the win.
Fans gave a rousing ovation for Balor and gave out many more throughout the show, including ones for Aries and Joe, who made names for themselves wrestling in Philadelphia for promotions outside of WWE, including Ring of Honor.
The same can be said for Sami Zayn, who earned a victory over Alex Riley in the first match after intermission.
Bayley, Asuka and the team of Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady also got massive reactions in winning efforts Thursday.
On the flip side, there were a couple of NXT talents the Philadelphia fans simply did not like at all, and it wasn't just about booing a character. These jeers felt personal.
The first to feel Philly's wrath was Elias Sampson, who attempted to sing a song with the help of his guitar before his match. Unfortunately, the sounds of boos drowned out his singing attempt.
The song ended abruptly when Apollo Crews made his entrance for his match against Sampson. The fans liked Crews a lot more. They liked him even more when he posed with Sampson's guitar after defeating him.
Next up was Riley, who wasn't helped by the fact that he was going up against one of the darlings of NXT in Zayn. But again, the jeers he received felt like it went beyond bashing a character.
And finally, the boos intensified even more for Eva Marie, who attempted to speak on the microphone before her match against Asuka, but the jeers from the fans did not allow her to get a word in edgewise.
Overall, it was good outing for NXT, especially considering it didn't have its full crew at its disposal. Teams like American Alpha, Blake and Murphy, and Dash and Dawson would have been nice additions to the show in Philadelphia, but they were used on one of NXT's Florida shows on the same night.
The vibe was different from last year's pair of shows at the Tower Theater because those shows were a bit of a milestone for NXT. Those were NXT's first shows in Philadelphia and among the first shows the promotion had put on outside of Florida.
Those shows were a much bigger deal for NXT. Not to mention, those shows had Kevin Owens, Charlotte, Tyler Breeze, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch — all of which are on WWE's main roster today.
There were also special appearances from Triple H, Mick Foley, Joey Styles, Tommy Dreamer, William Regal and Rhyno.
As far as Thursday night, it was just another night on NXT's current tour of the northeastern United States. Surely, the special feel was missing, but it didn't takeaway from the fact that it was a good show.
With that said, here are the full match results:
- Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady def. The Vaudevillains
- Carmella def. Peyton Royce
- Apollo Crews def. Elias Sampson
- NXT Women's championship – Bayley def. Alexa Bliss
- Sami Zayn def. Alex Riley
- Asuka def. Eva Marie