NXT HITS & MISSES 9/18: Riddle vs. Dane, return of Lio Rush, Four-way opener, Cameron Grimes squash win, Strong vs. Dream, Switchover from USA to WWE Network

By Nate Lindberg, PWTorch contributor

Matt Riddle (photo credit Wade Keller © PWTorch)

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Opening video segment – HIT: Goosebumps. That video package was an incredible way to introduce the USA Network audience to NXT. The music and visuals accompanied by Hunter’s commentary was very well done. If you had just finished watching program before NXT had aired and the giant NXT Countdown timer intrigued you, I’d be willing to bet that this video may have hooked you to stick around.

Io Shirai vs. Bianca Belair vs. Mia Yim vs. Candice LaRae (NXT Women’s Championship #1 Contender) – HIT:Before there was Seth and Becky, there was Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Wrestling. Candace LaRae was my pick going into the match, and I’m very excited to see her join the NXT main event scene at the same time her husband, Johnny Gargano, is also in the main event spotlight. Generally, I’m not a fan of Fatal Four Way matches since usually half of the match there will be two wrestlers taking a nap outside the ring, but these four women put on a great show.  Whoever’s decision it was to kick off the inaugural NXT on USA with this match was, they made the right call. The match was fast-paced, intense and something that may catch the casual channel-surfer’s eye. Having Shayna and the Horsewomen come out and confront Shayna’s new number one contender also built up hype for their upcoming bout and was a great addition to the finish.

Sean Maluta vs. Cameron Grimes – HIT:If you’re going to book a squash match, you can always win me over with an insta-K.O. and 1-2-3. The crowd was into the insanely quick win as well and I think with the proper booking Grimes could be a solid mid-carder for a stretch.

Roderick Strong vs. Velveteen Dream – HIT:I think the choice to put this match on during the first hour, still on the USA broadcast was the right call. It introduced a much larger audience to two of the best talents that NXT has to offer. Plus, it made the North American Championship look like the prize that it is (I’m in love with that belt design) to the casual audience that may be watching for the first time on network television. The Undisputed Era’s interference, while expected, wasn’t over the top and added juuuusta little spice during the climax of the bout. The false finish towards the end after Strong’s End of Heartache had me just about jump out my chair, and the crowd went bonkers with me when Dream kicked out. Adam Cole’s super-kick causing Dream’s loss is also presumably the set up to a Cole vs. Dream “Dream Match” (pun ABSOLUTELY intended) for the NXT title.

Switching from USA to WWE Network – MISS:Not only did I have difficulties logging into the WWE Network, but from the look of Twitter it looks like quite a few other people did as well. I called into the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Post Show after this broadcast aired and both Wade and co-host Harley had difficulties as well. Harley said that he missed an entire 30 minutes of the second hour! I realize that USA Network’s prior obligations forced the second hour of the show to the WWE’s own platform for this and next weeks broadcasts. It’s not ideal, but at least they have their own platform to air the second hour, right? One would hope that the WWE expanded their WWE Network infrastructure to accommodate for an influx of people logging in at the same time as well as new members signing up for the first time, and that this was just growing pains.

Pete Dunne vs. Arturo Ruas – HIT:I missed most of this match due to the technical difficulties described above, but the portion of the match that I saw was exactly what you’ve come to expect from a Pete Dunne match. A hard-hitting, brutal looking contest. Ruas got in quite a bit of offense and looked credible against Dunne even in defeat. I’d love to see them get Dunne involved in the North American or NXT Title scene sometime soon. With his incredible NXT UK Title reign, one can only wonder what an NXT or North American title reign would look like for Dunne.

Xia Li vs Aliyah (w/Vanessa Borne) – HIT:I have a feeling that the response may be mixed on this match, but personally, I liked it. I had the opportunity to write the result reports for the Mae Young Classic last year for PWTorch.com, where I was introduced to Xia Li for the first time and I’ve been high on her ever since. This was a short but hard-hitting showcase for Xia Li, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in her future.

The Beat-down Danzel Dejournette, the rise of Imperium and Kushida’s challenge – HIT:A lot to unpack in this segment. Admittedly, I fell off the NXT UK bandwagon a few months after it’s debut. There just isn’t enough time in the day to keep up with all the wrestling produced today like I’d like to be able to do. So, this was the first time I was introduced to the Imperium stable, Alexander Wolfe notwithstanding. I wasn’t very impressed during Danzel’s butt-whooping. But when WALTER’s music hit and he strolled down the ramp, it was clear that he commanded the arena. I changed my pre-emptive MISS to a HIT when he began speaking. He captivated the crowd, and instantly hooked me as a fan. Kushida interfering, taking down the other members of Imperium and his subsequent challenge to WALTER was the icing on the cake for the segment. That is a match I’m already looking forward to.

Lio Rush vs. Oney Lorcan (WWE Cruiserweight Championship #1 Contender) – HIT:Oney Lorcan is one of my favorite hidden gems of the WWE and NXT system. From his hilariously amazing tweets to his brutal and insane in-ring style, he plays the perfect “crazy bloke”. He’s not British and neither am I. But I digress. Watching him beat the hell out of Lio “LAAAAAAASSSHLEEYY” Rush during most of the match just had me grinning from ear to ear. I wanted to see my fellow Boston boy compete for the Cruiserweight title, but Lio Rush admittedly put on a great comeback performance and I think will be a great contender for Drew Gulak’s Cruiserweight Championship. Oh, by the way. If by some weird reason you’re reading this, John Cena have Oney show you how to properly apply an STF.

Matt Riddle vs. Killian Dain (Street Fight) – MISS:This might be a controversial one, but this segment didn’t really do it for me. I was getting into the match when Riddle and Dain fought their way backstage, but when Walter, the Street Proffits, the Forgotten Son and every other member of the roster began brawling, the segment turned into one chaotic mess. Yes, it was entertaining and I’m sure a lot of people really enjoyed it. But ending the show on a chaotic note didn’t necessarily set a hook to come back next week, though I guess one could argue that chaos itself could be that hook. And can we talk about those security guards for a minute? Why on earth would security be trying to break up the two legal men in the fight while the rest of the roster runs rampant around the arena? Shouldn’t security be trying to reign in the chaos and let the originally appointed referee contain the two legal men in a no-disqualification setting? It was a confusing, though action packed ending. An okay yet somewhat disappointing conclusion to an otherwise incredible show.

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