12/9 NXT in St. Paul, Minn.: Keller’s report on Baszler vs. Sane and Ciampa vs. Velveteen Dream title matches, Heavy Machinery shine, localized vignettes including Paisley Park and MOA

Velveteen Dream arrested again
Velveteen Dream (art credit Joel Tesch © PWTorch)


DECEMBER 9, 2018

If you attend a live event, please send results in the format of the following report to pwtorch@pwtorch.com. Thanks!

The show opened with Triple H welcoming fans from St. Paul to the show and saying NXT is great because of the fans who support it. Triple H definitely isn’t shy about connecting this brand to him, but under the guise of saying it’s because of the fans that NXT is what it is.

Greg Hamilton handled ring announcing duties all night.

(1) Matt Riddle pinned Kassius Ohno. The crowd was into Riddle from the start with loud “Bro!” chants. Riddle had a charisma and a connection with the crowd and a contagious joy to his performance.

A video aired on the big screen of Velveteen Dream at Paisley Park, the home and studio of the late musician Prince. This is the type of visit that should make it onto NXT TV, not just a custom video for the local house show. It cemented Dream’s popularity with the fans and made this house show, which fans understand is likely “just another stop on a road trip,” feel customized for them. Jeremy Borash, like he was when he was at Impact Wrestling for many years, is really involved in the production touches that make these house shows stand out and make fans feel they’re seeing something “for them” and not a Xerox of every show. He’s also from Minnesota and visited family in the crowd, so the personal touches throughout the show to give it a local touch were no surprise.

(2) Jessamyn Duke (w/Marina Shafir) beat Candice LaRae. The crowd popped for Candice during her ring intro. Not the smoothest of matches you’ll see. A little clunky at times, but a good effort. Shafir interfered at the end to give Duke the win.

(3) Bobby Fish pinned Humbeto Carillo. Carillo had a good comfortable likable presence to him and a good marketable look. On a few spots the timing was noticeably off, but a good match for it’s spot on the card.

-A video aired with Kona Reeves visiting Mall of America in the adjacent Bloomington, Minn. going on amusement park rides, but only the finest, of course. (He apparently tried to get ahead in line and not wait behind a bunch of kids, but unlike “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, couldn’t buy anyone off to move ahead.) He also took a dig at the Minnesota Vikings to assure heel heat in the next match.

(4) Dominik Dijakovic beat Kona Reeves (w/Dan Matha). Matha provided distraction at ringside a few times including once on the ring apron. He also knocked Dijakovic off balance on the top rope to set up a superplex by Dijakovic. When Reeves tried to use a chair, the ref grabbed it. Dijakovic landed a superkick on Kona and an interfering Matha. Dijakovic then landed a sitout slam which got a pop. He then landed a flip dive onto the stage. Back in the ring and hit his torture rack into a knee finisher for the pin. Hard work from both guys with good crowd heat. This was a hot crowd in general, really familiar with the NXT product and reacting to everything at this point.

(5) Aleister Black beat Johnny Gargano. Good match. The crowd was into both guys, aligning with their character. I thought it was a “best hits” types of performance where they seemed to have a lot of cool sequences worked out that were their go-so spots, and it worked. That said, they seemed a little off of some of the timing and some of the spots weren’t as tight.

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-A vignette aired with Heavy Machinery saying they were in a building that once featured Wally Karbo (former AWA promoter partner with Verne Gagne based out of Minneapolis). Then Otis said they needed a partner against Undisputed Era later and said they were looking for Mad Dog Vachon or The Crusher. (I’m not sure how many NXT fans who were in attendance knew who they were, unfortunately, but they were great local references for those who did that endeared HM to the local fans who know St. Paul’s rich history.) Otis pulled a curtain and no one was there. Then he pulled another aside and there stood Ricochet, their scheduled partner.

(5) Heavy Machinery & Ricochet beat Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong. This was the highlight of the night as the heel trio are just pros and the babyface team had a really good contrasting dynamic that kept the match fresh. Otis Dozovic was tremendous, both in terms of projecting his large personality and his work in the ring. He got a hot tag at one point and Undisputed Era fed him brilliantly one after another, and his energy in attacking them one after another was just tremendous. It was one of the best hot-tag sequences I’ve seen and the crowd ate it up. It was similar to when the Four Horsemen would feed Dusty one after another and he’s take them down with bionic elbows, but but better as Otis was just a bundle of energy. The crowd loved Ricochet and popped for him like he was a star. Heavy Machinery looked like they belonged in there with Undisputed Era, who are just fantastic at what they do.

(7) Kairi Sane beat Shayna Baszler via DQ so Baszler retained the NXT Women’s Championship on a technicality. Kairi came out first with her elaborate ring entrance routine which is a bit over the top but it also works because she’s so believable doing her salutes to the crowd. Baszler has a really good presence to her. The match itself started with some action at ringside that I couldn’t quite see from my floor seats, and by the time they returned to the ring and Shayne settled into some mat work on Kairi, the crowd seemed disengaged. So they lost the crowd early and then hard to earn them back. They had a tough match to follow. In the end, Kairi landed her flying elbow and went for the pin, but Duke and Shafir ran out and broke up the pin to save the title. The ref called for the DQ. Candice LaRae ran out for the save.

(8) Tomasso Ciampa defeated Velveteen Dream to retain the NXT Championship. Dream was over as a main event star with this crowd as he did his extended entrance routine. Ciampa, though, was the biggest star of the show in terms of just eyes glued on him from the second his music started until his post-match speech bragging about being the reason attendance was up 600 from last time. Nobody left until he stopped talking. This wasn’t a great match, and I’ve seen Dream have better matches, but it was still good and got the crowd back into it. Ciampa pinned Ream after a hanging DDT. Clean win for the heel

FINAL THOUGHTS: Better than the other local NXT show I saw in the same venue that included Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura in the main event tag match that just felt like they were going through the motions and uninspired rather than trying to build a following at a grassroots level. Takeover specials set the bar so high and this was nowhere near that, but the mix of guys gaining experience and the top level indy guys worked well and made for a really good experience. In retrospect, I probably would have put the Women’s Title match on right before intermission when the crowd was hotter and they wouldn’t have had to follow the six-man tag match and saved Gargano vs. Black for later (since fans really saw that as a top three match, it seemed), and come out of intermission with the Fish vs. Humberto match to ease the crowd back before turning things up again with the Gargano-Black, the six-man tag, and finally the NXT Title match. But that’s subjective and the order of things was just fine. The crowd walked away having felt they saw a hard effort and a star-filled show and I think the percentage who will make a point to “return next time and bring a friend” is higher than the prior show here.

If you attend a live event, please send results in the format of the following report to pwtorch@pwtorch.com. Thanks!

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