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KELLER’S NXT ON USA REPORT
OCTOBER 9, 2019
WINTER PARK, FLA. AT FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, Beth Phoenix
-They opened with clips from last week’s program including The Velveteen Dream Experience, the arrival of Finn Balor, Undisputed Era retaining the NXT Tag Titles, and finally the return of Tomasso Ciampa.
-Mauro was on camera and introduced the show by saying they are lighting the fuse and kicking off the show with a Cruiserweight Title match.
(1) DREW GULACK vs. LIO RUSH – NXT Cruiserweight Title match
Phoenix said Rush is no stranger to adversity because he lost his little brother at a young age and he knows what it takes to build himself back up. He said tonight he wants to be a role model for his family, friends, “and the entire WWE Universe.” (That counts as a babyface turn in today’s pro wrestling world.) Nigel gave some of Drew’s background. They did formal ring introductions with the house lights off and a spotlight in the ring. Gulak looked giant compared to Rush.
Rush avoided an early flying dropkick, then landed a quick Spanish Fly for a quick soft two count. Drew regrouped at ringside. Rush dove out of the ring at him. The pace was great early on, with Rush displaying a sense of urgency. Phoenix asked how you can counter offense so fast you can’t even see it coming. Drew overpowered Rush and took over with a hard corner clothesline for a two count. Fans chanted “Let’s Go Lio / Let’s Go Gulak.” The Lio chants were louder. Drew then twisted and torqued Rush on the mat.
A few minutes later, when Rush climbed to the top rope, Drew knocked hi off balance with a kick Rush dropped onto two guys sitting on chairs at ringside. The ref checked on him and they cut to a break. They stayed with action on split-screen. [c]
Drew dominated during the break. Back live, Lio round kicked Drew from a kneeling position. A couple minutes later, Gulak came back with a Philadelphia Stretcher submission mid-ring. Rush escaped and applied a Dragon Sleeper. Gulak gave Rush the Cyclone Crash, but Rush put his foot on the bottom rope to stop the count. Rush came back with a frog splash. Mauro said it would have been Eddie Guerrero’s 52nd birthday. Rush then hit a bottom rope springboard jaw-jacker Come Up. Next he the Final Hour top rope frog splash for the clean win. The crowd popped and stood for Rush as he celebrated.
WINNER: Rush in 12:00 to capture the NXT Cruiserweight Title.
-Afterward, G.M. William Regal entered the ring and was going to wrap the belt around Lio’s waste, but Gulak interrupted. He looked threatening, but instead congratulated him and shook his hand before leaving. Mauro went from outraged to appreciating the show of respect. Regal finishing putting the belt on Rush’s waist.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match start to finish. Rush wrestled like a babyface you’d want to root for. It’ll be tough to completely wipe away the memory of him obnoxiously chanting “Lashley! Lashley!” He’s so talented, so if he has matured enough to keep management’s faith, he could be a great Cruiserweight Champ. If they’re going to keep this title in NXT, they need wrestlers smaller than their core group to hold that belt, and Lio is smaller than their core group fighting over the other singles titles, so that’s good.)
-They showed Kushida warming up backstage with Tyler Breeze and Fandango. They showed Walter warming up with other teammates. They showed the graphic advertising the Walter vs. Kushida main event.
-They went to the announcers on camera at their desk. Mauro said they’re still recovering last week’s shocking turn of events including the return of Balor. He threw to a video package on Balor.
-Highlights aired of Balor’s run in NXT. They showed him beating Kevin Owens to become NXT Champion. [c]
-They showed a video package on Tegan Nox’s comeback journey after her knee injury.
(2) RHEA RIPLEY vs. ALIYA (w/Venessa Borne)
Ripley overpowered Aliya at the start. Aliya came back with a back scratch, but Ripley no sold it. Fans chanted “Rhea’s going to kill you!” Ripley lifted Aliya by her legs in a figure-four type hold, then swung her around and slammed her face-first down and torqued the hold. She tapped.
WINNER: Ripley in 1:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Awesome finishing sequence.)
-Ripley grabbed the mic afterward. Mauro: “Rhea is holding that microphone like a grudge” Ripley said Shayna Baszler is a dominant champion, and she’s tapped, napped, or snapped every one of her competitors, “but not me!” She said she’s coming for her.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good, right-to-the-point interview.)
-They went back to the announcers on camera. Mauro hyped the announcement of the press conference featuring Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, Tyson Fury, and Braun Strowman with Triple H. It will stream live at 3 ET on WWE Network and WWE social media. He said it will be huge. Nigel said he can only imagine what the announcement will be. They shifted to hyping the Kushida vs. Walter match in the main event.
-A commercial aired for the WWE Draft. They focused on Fox and USA Network battling for brand supremacy. [c]
-Breezango made their ring entrance dressed as construction workers. Phoenix said she heard they have great hidden talents, such as being great at hammering things and they’re good plumbers. She said they gave her free advice on how to get her pipes cleaned.
Ryker carried Ever-Rise onto the stage. Mauro said Ever-Rise were the scheduled opponents. Ryker dragged one of them by his arm. They were knocked out. The Forgotten Sons then walked to the ring. Mauro said it was an unscheduled entrance.
(3) BREEZANGO (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) vs. THE FORGOTTEN SONS (Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake w/Ryker)
(Keller’s Analysis: This was just stupid. So if you beat up a scheduled opponent, you just replace them, and the ring announcer just rolls with it? Eye-roll.)
They beat up Breeze for a couple minutes until he hot-tagged in Fandango. He took it to Blake, landing a Falcon Arrow for a two count. Breeze tagged back in Mauro wondered if it was too soon to tag him back in. Blake countered Breeze and catapulted him into the Breezango corner. Breeze escaped and then Fandango gave Blake a sunset bomb off the top rope. Ryker threw Breeze into the ringpost at ringside. Fandango flip dove onto Ryder on the floor. Blake then dove through the ropes and tackled Fandango. Then Forgotten Sons finished them with their double-team finisher.
WINNERS: Forgotten Sons in 4:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: This is a better role for Breezango than getting an actual main event push. They have been defined down by WWE as a novelty act, and it diminished NXT if the return to NXT and started beating NXT’s established acts. The Forgotten Sons looked good here.)
-A video package aired on Keith Lee who talked about how he sees himself in a battle of wills and battle of hunger and battle for the future with Dominic Dijakovic. He said they meet next week, and Dijakovic will have no choice but to bask in his glory. [c]
(4) CAMERON GRIMES vs. BOA
Grimes strutted to the ring. The announcers talked about his NXT track record. Boa looked super-eager to at Grimes. As soon as the bell rang, Killian Dane walked to the ring. The ref and Boa were both distracted briefly, so Grimes caught Boa with his double stomp finisher right away. The ref counted the pin.
WINNER: Grimes in a few seconds.
-Mauro wondered what Dane was doing there. Grimes hopped out of the ring and took his hat off the ringpost and left with it. Dane then attacked Boa. He gave him two Vader Bombs, then dragged him out of the ring and to the announce desk. He dropped Boa on it without removing any of the monitors. Is that allowed?He then walked away. Mauro said, “The evil has landed in the form of Killian Dane.” Nigel said if this is just the beginning, he’d hate to see the middle and the end.
(Keller’s Analysis: Grimes keeps getting a big push, but his real strength comes from longer matches where he can showcase how good he is at actual wrestling matches. He’s got good promos in him, too. But this is a good way to send a signal that NXT management see him as a rising star.)
-A video package aired on Damien Priest. He talked about making a name for himself at the expense of Pete Dunne, and then his name will live forever.
(Keller’s Analysis: Priest’s voice was stolen from Low Ki. Well produced video package that framed Priest as thirsty for fame while living a flashy lifestyle. It’s good to see NXT doing some video packages to set up future matches and to establish personalities besides just in-ring work.) [c]
-They showed the exterior of the Full Sail Live studio.
(5) RODERICK STRONG vs. ISIAH “SWERVE” SCOTT
Mauro said Strong’s Ring IQ level is MENSA level. Phoenix said Swerve sited Edge as one of his biggest influences. Nigel said she just made that up. “Come on, I gotta get out of the dog house somehow.” Mauro said, “The N in NXT doesn’t stand for Nepotism.” Nigel said Scott served in the Army Reserves for eight years and learned a defensive hand-to-hand combat style which he utilizes in the ring.
Strong and Scott engaged in some mat wrestling exchanges at the start. Scott landed a cartwheel splash for an early two count after a nice flurry. They cut to a break at 5:00, but stayed with the action on split-screen. [c]
As Scott rallied after the break, Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish walked out. Scott landed an implant DDT for a near fall. Scott gave Strong a released German suplex and then flatliner followed by a leaping sidekick to the head for a near fall. Undisputed Era looked disstressed on the ramp. Scott kicked Strong out of the ring and Strong’s feet hooked on the bottom rope. He hung upside down. Scott slingshot double-stomped Strong. Undisputed Era distracted Scott. That magically made Strong suddenly recover enough to hit a jumping knee and a running Psycho Knee followed by End of Heartache and the Strong Hold. Scott tapped out.
WINNER: Strong in 11:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Tremendous athleticism. Just a joy to watch those two execute their craft with such crisp and innovative exchanges. Scott really shined in that loss. My only critique is that Strong’s sudden comeback at the end was a little too strong and sudden.)
-Afteward, Undisputed Era entered the ring. Cole said Scott was impressive, but “not near the level of Roddy Strong.” He said he loves NXT because it’s where the best of the best come to se if they measure up to Undisputed Era. He said that’s why Balor and Ciampa retuned. He said they want to try to fulfill an unrealistic dream that they can dethrone them. “Guess what? That is never going to happen!” he said. Velveteen Dream showed up on the big screen and asked if someone said “dream.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Okay, not to be too picky here, but does Velveteen just hang out waiting for someone to say “dream” so he can interrupted instantly?)
Dream showed up on top of the entrance tunnel in the circular stage area. He asked them to allow him to show them what his reality is. He showed a picture of a naked Strong lying on his side with only the North American Title belt covering his groin area. Dream said in two weeks, Strong “gets to experience the Dream once again” in a North American Championship match. He said when he strips him of his title, the world will see why he just doesn’t measure up. He snapped his fingers nd the belt was suddenly gone and there was a tiny circle with a line through it indicating Strong’s genitalia was super tiny. The crowd laughed. Undisputed Era threw a fit. They had to hold Strong back. Then they were interrupted by Ciampa’s music.
Ciampa walked onto the stage and toward the ring. He dragged a crutch behind him. He looked like someone you’d stumble upon in the Walking Dead who had survived the Zombie Apocalypse. When he slowly entered the ring, Undisputed Era left, but of course chattering the whole time. Ciampa sat mid-ring as fans chanted “Ciampa! Ciampa!” He said, “Goldy, daddy’s home.” He threw the mic down. Undisputed Era teased entering the ring, but despite four-on-one odds, they retreated. Fans chanted, “Daddy’s home!” Mauro said Ciampa wants his belt back.
(Keller’s Analysis: In Strong’s defense, I think Dream *might* have photoshopped that picture. Good segment. O’Reilly still steals every scene with his facial reactions to everything going on. Good segment to set up two different feuds. Everyone was in their character’s zone.) [c]
-Mauro threw to a clip from “during the commercial.” Cathy Kelly was backstage and getting ready to interview Ciampa coming through the curtain. Angel Garza seemed to be hitting on her. She said she’d like to interview him some day, but she’s got to go. She walked up to Ciampa. Garza asked if she seriously walked away from him to interview Ciampa. Garza said something to Ciampa in Spanish. Ciampa nailed him with an elbow to the side of his head. Kelly asked Ciampa what Garza said to him. He shrugged and said, “I have no idea.” Some fans laughed and clapped.
(6) DAKOTA KAI vs. BIANCA BELAIR
Belair dominated the early minutes. Kai surprised her with a small package a couple minutes in. Belair gave Kai a gut-buster, but it didn’t land on her knee at all. They cut to a break. No split-screen. [c]
Belair grew frustrated with her inability to finish Kai, but eventually did with her KOD finisher.
WINNER: Belair in 10:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Kai’s offense showed a lot of light and some bumps just looked off. Understandable, but it wasn’t hard to see the rust.)
-Belair afterward said, in her inimitable tone, that Rhea Ripley is mistaken if she thinks she’s going to be the one to beat Shayna Baszler.
-A vignette aired hyping next week’s Keith Lee vs. Dijakovic rematch. This one was focused on Dijakovic. He said they test each other’s limits and bring out the best in each other, but he knows the secrets to Lee. He said he doesn’t intend on losing.
(Keller’s Analysis: Really good demeanor there. He came across as all-business stud athlete, not a hokey character, there.)
-The announcers hyped the Friday press conference again.
-Another video package aired on Balor, showing highlights. They appear to building this brand in great part around him as a centerpiece star.
(Keller’s Analysis: These features on Balor or what I thought AEW would be doing on Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley in their first two weeks.)
-A commercial aired for the WWE Draft this Friday and Monday.
-Nigel said he can’t wait to see who ends up where. They didn’t explicitly say whether NXT wrestlers would be involved.
-A segment aired on Pete Dunne. He said Triple H told him when he arrived in NXT to make a name for himself, and that’s exactly what he did. He said he won’t let Damien Priest make a name for himself on his back. He said he knew in NXT he’d have to go through some people. He asked how Priest will shoot a bow and arrow with broken fingers. He said he won’t make it through next week.
-Nigel hyped that Priest faces Dunne next week on NXT on USA. Then the announcers talked about Lio Rush’s Cruiserweight Title victory. They showed him backstage being congratulated by various wrestlers.
(7) KUSHIDA vs. WALTER
As Kushida made his ring entrance, she talked about his background in Japan. She said his idols include Finn Balor, Jushin Liger, and Eddie Guerrero. When Walter came out, Mauro said: “In the words of M.F. Doom, just remember all caps when you spell his name.” (No thanks.) Mauro said it’s a David vs. Goliath match-up and he’s not sure Walter will give Kushida time to load his slingshot. Fans chanted “Walter!” Before the bell. Walter tossed Kushida aside early and avoided some early leg kicks. Walter taunted Kushida by patting him on the head after lifting him over the top rope onto the ring apron. Walter grounded Kushida, but Kushida wrestled out form under Walter and then swarmed him from above. Then he patted Walter on his head. When Walter jumped up, Kushida slapped him and then ducked his charge and dropkicked him off the ring apron. Kushida dropkicked him again when he tried to reenter. They cut to a break as Walter threw a tantrum at ringside. [c]
Walter took over right after the break by shoving Kushida into the middle turnbuckle hard. Kushida slipped on a top rope springboard attempt. Walter capitalized and gave him a big boot to the chest. Kushida was out with his head hanging backwards off the ring apron. Mauro said it was 32 years ago today that Walter’s late Austrian compatriot Otto Wanz lost the AWA Title to Nick Bockwinkel, and he’s hoping to avoid the same fate. (I love that reference.) Mauro said Walter is as precise as a jeweler and as tough as a diamond. Walter pounded on Kushida’s chest. Some fans chanted “One more time!” Walter methodically overpowered Kushida.
Mauro reset the match and said they’d stay with the match until its conclusion. Kushida soaked up some hard chops on the ring apron, then dropped down when Walter charged. Walter hit the ringpost. Kushida kicked his legs out from under him and then DDT’d him off apron to the mat. Both were down and slow to get up. Fans chanted “NXT! NXT!” Back in the ring Kushida applied a Hoverboard Lock. Walter escaped and applied a sleeper mid-ring. Kushida faded, but then stood and reached the top rope to force a break. He rolled up Walter with the Okada roll into a bridge for a near fall. They went back and forth with reversals and Kushida settled into a cross arm breaker. He’s lifted into a small package for a near fall. Mauro asked who will remain undefeated.
Kushida landed a hook kick to the head. Walter came back with a high kick to the face and a German and then a pump handle slam into a bridge for a two count. Kushida knocked Walter off balance when he climbed to the top rope. Nigel said he won the UK Title hitting a frog splash off the top rope, so maybe he was going for that again. Kushida attempted a Hoverboard lock and then suplexed Walter off the top rope to the mat and locked on the Hoverboard lock. Walter fought it, and it appeared he tapped once, but the ref didn’t see it. Walter’s foot reached the bottom rope. The ref forced a break. Fans chanted “NXT! NXT!” Kushida hit a running dropkick. Then he threw rapid-fire front kicks to Walter’s face. Walter landed a shotgun dropkick in response, then a powerbomb for a convincing near fall. Fans chanted, “This is awesome!” Walter stood and slapped Kushida and then gave him a ripcord lariat for the win. Walter’s Imperium teammates stood on the stage to salute his win.
WINNER: Walter in 17:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Really good execution of a match between wrestlers with such a big size differential. The final five minutes were especially dramatic. The crowd helped elevate it by being into everything as the match built.)
-The announcers plugged Priest vs. Dunne and Dijakovic vs. Lee.
-They cut to Cathy Kelley who said Angel Garza would face Tomasso Ciampa. She confirmed Roderick Strong would face Velveteen Dream for the North American Title in two weeks.
FINAL THOUGHTS:A really satisfying two-plus hour of wrestling. Like the previous three weeks of the USA era, low on promos. The wrestling was mostly very good, but some sloppiness and clunkiness too. Overall, a higher quantity of high-level action than AEW provided on their show. The shows each have their own vibe. Where NXT improved this week was really building up matches for next week and even the week after. The vignettes to set up future matches is, to me, a no-brainer every show should be doing a better job of. NXT is pacing themselves and putting on a thoroughly enjoyable fundamentally sound product. Those fearing heavy interference from WWE have been proven wrong at this point. Even if viewership drops, I don’t have any sense that Vince McMahon interference is likely to happen.