KELLER INTERVIEWS ROB VAN DAM FOR FIRST TIME...
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Damien Priest vs. Boa – HIT: But just barely. Where this was a relatively lackluster match, it was nearly a miss for me. It was match to advance Priest’s winning streak, nothing more and nothing less. I’m all about building a heel with a decent winning streak before reaching that upper mid-card to main event level. For that reason alone, it was a hit for me since it is another stepping stone to advance Priest’s story.
Video Package for Velveteen Dream vs. Adam Cole live on USA – HIT: I’m not the first to say it, and I surely won’t be the last. NXT has something special in The Velveteen Dream. His charisma is next level and clearly the machine is behind him if they continue to produce video packages like this. I say none of that to discredit Roderick Strong, as he is fantastic in his own right. However, I was left with a strong pro-Dream vibe coming out of that hype video potentially foreshadowing a victory over Strong live on USA next week. I won’t complain, that North American championship title belt looks even classier over Dream’s shoulder. Also, I won’t ever get used to calling another wrestler “Dream”.
Johnny Gargano Segment – HIT: Now THAT’s what you call “over”! Two minutes and twenty-six seconds of this NXT broadcast was devoted to the crowd chanting for Johnny Wrestling before Gargano uttered a word. As much as I hate to steal this from Michael Cole, I can only describe the crowd as “Electric.. They want Johnny to stay put in NXT, and they sure expressed that sentiment. With a crowd reaction like that, it’s clear that the best home for Gargano is on the Black and Gold brand. Shane Thorne’s interruption was okay, though I’m not sure if Thorne was necessarily the best person for that spot. I won’t pass judgment on it, however, until I see how the story plays out!
Pete Dunne vs. Angel Garza – HIT: Pete Dunne may have come out victorious, but Garza still looked strong even in defeat. He looked believable and credible against the more established “Bruiserweight” and had the upper hand over Dunne for nearly half of the bout. Besides, if I was to rip off my pants in front of a live audience, I’m sure I’d wind up on a few government lists. Garza turns those tear-away tights into a brilliant, cocky heat magnet. Pete Dunne is always a treat to watch, and this match was no exception. It was no “barn burner” by any stretch of the imagination, but a very solid TV matchup.
Raul Mendoza vs. Cameron Grimes – MISS: However, it wasn’t due to either Mendoza or Grimes performances in the match. There was already a monster-building quasi-squash match earlier in the evening with Priest vs. Boa, leaving this match’s story feeling a bit too similar for my liking. The match itself wasn’t bad for what it was, but the similarities with the better squash match earlier in the night did not allow this to shine.
Rhea Ripley vs. Shayna Baszler – HIT: I’ve been waiting to see these two square-off since Rhea Ripley’s second year in the Mae Young Classic where she debuted the current iteration of her character. Going into the match, I sort of expected a non-finish. This match-up is too large for the Full Sail stage and a decisive finish should take place at a Takeover like it deserves. Rhea is probably Shayna’s most credible opponent yet, and this ending was a great way to end the NXT on WWE Network era and user in the new era of NXT Live on USA!