SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Before we get into this week’s Hits and Misses, I invite all of you to check out this week’s episode of PWT Talks NXT! Alongside Kelly Wells and Tom Stoup, I made my PWTorch Dailycast Debut! We recorded the longest episode in the history of the podcast and had some fantastic dialogue about the show.
Opening Video Package – HIT: Oct. 2 has been circled on our calendars for quite awhile and I can 100 percent definitively tell you that in the lead-up to tonight, I would have never guessed that Corey Taylor from Slipknot would open the show. Odd choice of voiceover host aside, I think this was a powerful package to open what could arguably be one of the most important nights in NXT history.
Adam Cole vs. Matt Riddle for the NXT Championship – HIT: I think this was absolutely the right call to open the show. NXT diehards have wanted to see this match for quite some time, and I think there is enough hype around it where a certain percentage of people may DVR AEW’s Dynamite to check this match out live. I was on the edge of my seat nearly the entire bout. Now, I do have to slip in the fact that I worry a bit about diminishing returns on executing so many “finishing move level” moves in such rapid succession without selling. It makes the impactful moves seem less powerful and special overall. BUT! Given the circumstances of the night, I don’t blame them for going all out. Cole going over was where I figured they would go considering UE holds all of the NXT gold, but Riddle had me convinced he may upset Cole towards the end. Balor’s return to the black and gold brand was unexpected and a very welcome addition to the roster as far as I’m concerned. Cole vs Balor should be off the charts.
Velveteen Dream Promo challenging Strong for North American Championship – HIT: A promo! Finally! Personally, I loved his entrance on the super-comfortable looking sofa surrounded by women. Maybe I’m a little bit old school, but would Arthur Fonzerelli have been the same if the women didn’t swoon over him at the snap of a finger? At the high risk of sounding misogynistic, I’m okay with a little bit of sexualization in the product as long as it is done tastefully and without bra and panties matches. The promo itself really highlighted Dream as the attraction he can be, and really psyched me up for the Strong vs. Dream rematch.
Io Shirai vs. Mia Yim – HIT: I absolutely love the intensity of both of these outstanding performers. Shirai and Yim DE-LIVERED in a hard-hitting match that screamed “our female talent is just as incredible as the men”. They both put in so much credible offense, I genuinely could not predict the winner. Shirai as a heel has to be one of my favorite things that NXT has to offer right now… she’s just SO GOOD! I am also a sucker for a well-timed, well-placed and well-executed moonsault and Shirai has one of the best going. There is also an immense upside in Mia Yim as well. I was first introduced to her during the inaugural Mae Young Classic, granted she didn’t really catch my eye until the 2nd Classic. Ever since, at least for me, she’s been one of my favorites to watch in the women’s division. Mauro had a call worth pointing out: “More fun than playing games on your phone, We Are NXT!” To me, that says, “Hey, if you have nothing better to do, we’re slightly more entertaining than Angry Birds.” I don’t know if that’s the message that they want to parlay.
Johnny Gargano vs. Shane Thorne – HIT: A fantastic technical match between two incredible athletes. Thorne has had a chip on his shoulder after being excluded from the Break-Out tournament, and I’m very impressed with what we saw from him in this match. He wrestled with an intensity and viciousness that I don’t recall seeing out of him in prior bouts. Gargano going over was probably the right call, especially to give the NXT audience a warm and fuzzy feeling on a very important night. However, I hope that this loss doesn’t hinder this recent push for Thorne, I’ve been digging it.
Shayna Baszler vs. Candice LaRae for the NXT Women’s Championship – HIT: I made my case on PWT Talks NXT that I thought this match should have closed the show. However, in retrospect, it makes sense that the tag team match went on last to set up Cole and Ciampa. That said, this is a match that I’ve been looking forward to since it was first teased. Like her husband, Gargano, Candice is that scrappy underdog who we are to believe may dethrone the Queen of Spades, making for a great story if told well. That spot where Baszler put LaRae’s hand in the stairs was brutal looking and pretty unique, I loved it. LaRae got a bit more offense in towards the beginning of the match than I expected but Shayna still looked like the beast that she is as the match went on. She tried fighting back over and over again, but ultimately LaRae was no match for Baszler. Even so, I think that Candace put up one hell of a fight and should surely help cement her (though, let’s be honest… she’s already there) at the top of the division for as long as she remains on the NXT roster.
Pete Dunne vs Danny Birch – HIT: If you’ve been reading past issues of NXT’s Hits & Misses, you’ll know that I’m high Danny Birch and I’m VERY high on Pete Dunne. Danny Birch is such a great wrestler, but he really needs to find a way to connect with the audience a bit more than he has. His win/loss record is most likely to blame for the lukewarm reactions, but even so, I would love to see so much more out of Birch. His past few appearances have been some of the quietest of the show. That’s not to say that the crowd wasn’t into this match, but for how good Birch is technically, I’d love to see him get the Full Sail arena to really pop. Priest’s interference after Dunne’s win was a nice touch and I can’t wait to see what the two of them will bring to the table when they do finally clash.
Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Riley) vs. Street Profits for the NXT Tag Championships – HIT: Maybe I’m weird, but The Street Profits entrance really reminded me of Sandman’s entrance at One Night Stand. Not nearly as extreme, of course. But coming out through the crowd to a sea of red solo cups was so wonderfully reminiscent of the mob of crazed ECW diehards surrounding Sandman. Dawkins really stood out to me in this match. I’ve always liked his body of work, but he really looked like a credible powerhouse after a hot tag from Ford. Granted, all four men in this bout are absolute workhorses in their own right. I had a feeling we’d see some interference from Undisputed Era, so that was expected. What was a little less expected (though I had hoped it would happen and had read rumors that it may) was the return of Ciampa. Undisputed Era may hold all of the NXT Gold, but for how long? Ciampa wants his NXT Championship and the look in his eyes showed that he’d plow through Cole to take it back. I know that this is a feud that I’ve been dying to see and judging by the reaction of the Full Sail crowd, they have been too.