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If you’re looking for even more in-depth analysis of this episode of NXT, be sure to check out PWTorch Dailycast’s “PWT Talks NXT” recorded last night right after the show concluded. Kelly Wells, Tom Stoup (reporting from Full Sail), and I discussed this action-packed episode for over two hours.
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Drew Gulak vs. Lio Rush for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship – HIT: I’m still wondering what is happening with 205 Live. As of this writing, there isn’t much news and seeing the Cruiserweight Championship rebranded as the NXT Cruiserweight championship does not seem like a good sign for the brand. The announcers played up Lio’s story, how he had a rough upbringing, and how he has a lot to prove, clearly positioning him as the face. The crowd was also solidly behind him as well. The match started off fast-paced, but Gulak quickly took Rush down to the mat to work Lio’s arms and neck. Normally, I’d be all for the mat wrestling and working a body part. But, after seeing Riddle vs. Cole last week, this was a bit of a lackluster start to the match in comparison. After the first commercial, with the match aired on split screen, they kicked it back into gear and Lio turned the match around taking it to Gulak. With all of the dirty laundry aired about Lio Rush months ago and his annoying “LAAASHHHLEEEYYY” chants, I wasn’t very high on Rush. But this match sold me on him. His frog splash is absolutely beautiful and I was solidly behind him as Regal stapped the belt around Lio’s waist. I just hope that Rush still has a brand to be the champion of.
Finn Balor Hype Video – HIT: I, for one, am very excited to see Balor back in NXT. Since he signed with the WWE, I feel like his NXT run was his best body of work. This minute-long video package certainly delivered in terms of a quick re-introduction of said body of work to a newer NXT audience.
Teagan Nox Return Video – HIT: I covered the Mae Young Classic for the Torch last year and I don’t think there was a bigger downer than Nox’s injury. They did a great job quickly recapping the injury and her road to recovery. I’m excited to see her return and where she lands among the NXT Women’s division.
Rhea Ripley vs. Aliyah – HIT: I continue to be impressed by Rhea Ripley, and this squash against Aliyah was no different. So brutal, intense and hard hitting. She called Shayna out after her quick win, and that should be one hell of a battle when it happens. I have to give Aliyah credit too. I remember when she first debuted on the brand and how green she was. Even in this very short outing, it was clear to me how much she has improved.
Breezango vs. Forgotten Sons – HIT: I have a soft spot in my heart for Breezango, even if I am still bitter about them not calling their tag team Fa-breeze. Or because their entrance tonight made me want to hit the mute button. That jackhammer noise was awful jarring. The match was supposed to be Breezango vs. Ever-Rise, but Jaxson Ryker from the Forgotten Sons dragged both members of Ever-Rise from the back, lifeless as their music hit. I thought it was a little odd that the Sons just took their place without any sort of explanation, but at the same time I’m happy to see the Sons get some air time. This was a pretty short but action packed match and a dominant victory for the Forgotten Sons.
Boa vs. Cameron Grimes – MISS: A very quick squash victory for Grimes, which was slightly disappointing to me because I wanted to see the styles clash between Boa’s martial arts and Grimes’ brawling. I’m not sure why Killian Dain ran down to the ring and then laid waste to Boa. Neither Grimes nor Boa had anything to do with his loss to Riddle a couple weeks ago, so it seemed rather arbitrary that he just chose to take his frustrations out on Boa.
Roderick Strong vs. Isiah “Swerve” Scott – HIT: Surprisingly, I have only seen the former Shane Strickland in action since debuting as Isiah Scott in NXT. After this match, I think I’m going to be going down a Strickland rabbit hole on YouTube later tonight. Roderick Strong is one of the best and most polished on the NXT roster and Isiah Scott looked like he absolutely belonged in the ring with a wrestler of Strong’s caliber. Over the past couple months there has been a lot of chatter about the lack of racial diversity at the top of the card across not only all the WWE’s rosters but AEW’s as well. Of course, this topic gained quite a bit more fuel after Kofi’s loss to Lesnar last week. Again, I’m new to Isiah Scott’s body of work. But judging by his performance tonight and how he was able to get the crowd behind him as the match went on, dare I say that perhaps Isiah Scott could be an athlete that could make his way to one of the main event scenes in WWE in the near future?
Undisputed Era, Velveteen Dream, and Ciampa – HIT : We haven’t seen many story-developing promos over since NXT’s jump to USA. It’s almost strange to say that this was refreshing after an hour plus of intense wrestling. On RAW an SD, how often do we just want the promos to end? This segment was gold all around. The Undisputed Era came off as the smarmy heels that they are as they touted how great they are, even though we all know that they take a page out of Eddie Guerrero’s book and cheat to win (RIP and Happy Birthday, Eddie!). Dream pulling out that photo of Roderick Strong channeling his inner 1997 Shawn Michaels was pretty funny, though possibly a little bit too low-brow for how classy Dream always comes off as. Ciampa only said a few words, but that’s all he needed to say. “Goldie, I’m back.”
Dakota Kai vs. Bianca Belair – HIT: You know, I love the visual of Belair’s incredibly long ponytail whipping around the two competitors throughout the match. It’s a constant reminder that she always has a near-legal weapon on her. The match itself was alright, but compared to some of the other matches on the card it wasn’t quite the barnburner that it may have looked to be on paper. Regardless, the two women did a fair job. I think if you look at this match in a bubble, on it’s own, it would have stood out more than it did. I still think it was hit-worthy, even if it may have been one of the lower points of the night. Belair calling out Ripley, saying that she won’t be the one to put down Baszler put Belair right in the title hunt. Well deserved.
Kushida vs. Walter – HIT: As I’ve said in prior editions of NXT Hits and Misses, I have yet to see Walter in action and I’m a little bit mixed on the big man. He absolutely has a presence about him, but I feel like he was pretty gassed about halfway through the match and looked to be struggling to catch his breath. However, I did have some issues with Playstation Vue and USA’s feed, so a lot of this match was watched in a pixelated glory. The styles clash between the big man style of Walter and the martial art/high flying style of Kushida didn’t work quite as well as I had hoped when the match was announced. There were a few sloppy looking spots including a small package attempt by Kushida that planted Walter on the back of his head. All that said, overall I still think this was hit-worthy. The David vs. Goliath-esque story told in the ring was done well and the action never stopped. Sure, there was room for improvement. But it was a decent way to close an action packed two hours.