NXT HITS & MISSES 9/25: Tale of the Tape, Riddle vs. Killian, Ripley vs. Carter, Kushida’s mystery partners, Grimes vs. Mendoza, Keith Lee vs. Dijakovic

By Nate Lindberg, PWTorch contributor

Imperium and Raquel Gonzalez make their main roster debut in WWE


Opening Segment – HIT:Seeing the undisputed era holding all four NXT title belts while standing high above the crowd was such a cool visual and a refreshing way to start the night. It kicked off the show with high energy and made the stable look like stars. I loved the short length of the segment as well. Unlike your typical Raw or Smackdown where you have a 15-minute promo, this lasted maybe a minute before we jumped straight into the action.

Keith Lee vs. Dominick Dijakovic – HIT: Holy production changes, Batman! I absolutely loved the “real” sports feel presented here. Showcasing each wrestlers’ stats and strengths via on-screen graphics gives the casual viewer a quick insight to what they can expect and gives the more seasoned fans more trivia to memorize! From the way the lights dimmed to the way the ref started the match by having both men stand in the center of the ring, it felt fresh. I felt like I was watching a legitimate fight with the chemistry that the two of them have. I continue to be nothing but impressed with how agile Keith Lee is for somebody of his size. That is not to discredit the incredible agility of Dijakovic either, he is outstanding in his own right. But there’s just something about seeing a large man do a moonsault so flawlessly that just sticks out in my mind (RIP Vader). I still can’t believe Lee kicked out of that Canadian Destroyer either, I was convinced that Dominick was about to go 2-0.

Dakota Kai vs Taynara Conti – MISS:The long-awaited return of the beloved Dakota Kai was a little bit underwhelming for me. Yes, it was great to see her back and the Full Sail crowd certainly shared that sentiment. But I know that I, for one, wanted to see another 3-5 minutes of these two do battle. I understand that this was most likely to put Kai over strong upon her return, but I was really starting to get into this match before Kai’s G.T.K. put Conti down for three. Judging by the looks I saw on some of the fans in the crowd, I don’t think I’m alone in this thought. They were cheering and clapping, but the overwhelming reaction they gave her upon her entrance and throughout the match seemed to have cooled off after her win.

Matt Riddle vs. Killian Dain in a Street Fight for the #1 Contendership – HIT:I’m generally not a fan of gimmick matches to determine a #1 contender for a championship. If you are competing to see who should face the champion, the best wrestler in the company, why determine who that person is by not having a traditional match? But, hey. That’s just me. At least THIS street fight stayed in the ring for the first several minutes of this fight, unlike last week’s chaotic mess. I really enjoyed the styles clash between the MMA background of Riddle and the wrestling powerhouse in Dain. Time and time again it seemed that Dain’s power may have been able to take Riddle down, but ultimately Riddle’s technical prowess scored him the victory. Tapping not only Dain out, but tapping Cole out after the match really solidified that Riddle is the ultimate threat to Cole’s title reign. I’m very excited to see where that match may lead.

The Switch from USA to WWE Network – HIT: Big miss last week with quite a few reports of login issues to the WWE Network after the USA broadcast’s conclusion, and I was no different. This week, however, I had more issues with my TV Streaming service trying to watch the USA Network broadcast than I did with the WWE Network. In fact, it was flawless. No buffering, no login issues, just as seamless of a transition from one platform to another as I could have had.

Rhea Ripley vs. Kayden Carter – HIT: Rhea Ripley may just be my favorite in the NXT women’s division. Brutal, hard hitting and shows such conviction with this character, I love it. Going into the match I assumed this would be an easy win for Ripley, but I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of offense that Carter got in. She really fought back hard against the larger Ripley and even if it was only for a few moments, had me believing that she may pull out an upset victory.

Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch vs. Ever-Rise (Chase Parker & Matt Martell) – MISS: I give this match a miss with a heavy heart. Not only did I enjoy the match, but all four of these guys are some of my favorite hidden gems in wrestling. Team 3.0 won me over any time I’d go to a Chikara show and I’ve been waiting for them to properly debut on NXT since they signed earlier this year. I may have personally been excited for their second NXT TV match, but it really took the wind out of the sails of the otherwise rowdy Full Sail crowd. After seeing so many fast-paced and action-packed matches, the plodding pace and old school tag team wrestling vibe felt out of place. If this match took place next week, I could absolutely see the typical fan in this demographic flipping over to TNT to see what kind of shenanigans Cody and the Bucks are up to. I lived through the Monday Night Wars and was a die-hard WWF fan. But I found myself checking out the WCW competition on more than one occasion due to questionable WWF booking. If NXT doesn’t want channel flippers, they can’t let a relatively stale match go on for as long as this one did.

Cameron Grimes vs. Raul Mendoza – HIT: Another great showing by both Mendoza and Grimes tonight. Grimes continues to rack up the wins and Mendoza put up quite an admirable fight and still came out looking strong in defeat. I’m really looking forward to what the future brings for both men, though I am thoroughly intrigued to see where Trevor Lee as Cameron Grimes will land on the card in the coming months. Will he be a solid mid-carder? Upper mid-card? Main event? I can’t really decide, but I’m excited to see where his story leads.

Kushida & two mystery opponents vs. Imperium (Alexander Wolfe & Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner) – HIT: When their music first hit, I was half expecting to hear “HOLLA IF YOU HEAR ME!” and be treated to the silhouette of Big Poppa Pump on the NXT stage. I knew we would inevitably be seeing Breezango in this new era of NXT, but I was not expecting to see them be the team to fight alongside Kushida. It caught me by (a very pleasant) surprise. This is the first match I’ve seen Imperium wrestle and I was impressed with all three. I’m hoping that Imperium is the big break for Wolfe (and, off topic, but also a break for Killian Dain in his feud with Riddle for that matter) after Sanity’s failed run. I loved that they worked like a real tag team with quick tags and by splitting the ring down the middle to keep their opponent cornered. Tactics that you only see with acts like The Revival in the WWE bubble. I also enjoy Tyler Breeze and Fandango back in NXT, reinventing themselves. They both seem to be really having a blast with this new lease on their careers. I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without talking about Kushida! He looked like a star throughout the entire match, especially in keeping his undefeated streak intact. Kushida vs. WALTER is such an intriguing match with the not just the size difference, but their styles as well. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

RECOMMENDED: 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

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