WADE KELLER PODCAST - Royal Rumble preview with Sam Roberts
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Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair: HIT – What a way to kick off the show! Each competitor played their roles very well. Belair, the smaller underdog who kept outsmarting the stronger and larger Ripley. I was somewhat surprised to see how much offense Belair got in towards the middle of the match and first commercial break. Not that I’d expect her to be weak, but I’m a huge proponent of making Ripley look as strong as possible. Shortly after the break, Ripley began her comeback. Once she regained the upper hand, she continued to look strong especially in kicking out after Shirai’s interference. The addition of Candace and Shirai interfering lent itself well to the over-arching story of determining the #1 contender. Not often do I encounter a four-way feud where I legitimately cannot decide which grappler is my favorite. I’m leaning towards Ripley coming out on top to face Shayna, but it’s anyone’s guess at this point.
Hype Video for Ciampa: HIT – In a way, I wish that the cameras didn’t follow his recovery. Keeping in line with his character before getting injured. But it happened and there isn’t any changing it. They took something I wasn’t a fan of and turned it into a well-done video that just absolutely psyched me up to see Ciampa back on the black and gold brand.
Matt Riddle vs Cameron Grimes: MOSTLY HIT – I absolutely loved how powerful Riddle looked in this match and the very blatant nods to the Riddle/Goldberg (worked? shoot?) rivalry. Last week, we saw Riddle begin to re-establish himself with a win over Bronson Reed. This week, he pretty much dominated his opponent for nearly the entire match. Unfortunately, his opponent was Cameron Grimes. Grimes has been getting victory after victory, most in mere seconds, since losing the breakout tournament. Tonight, nearly all his offense was immediately countered by the Ultimate Bro. Then just when I think he’s about to get some credibility back, Tyler Bate who was sitting ringside, takes him out. I’m breaking the rules here by saying it mostly hit since Riddle needed a dominant win. I just really wish it didn’t come at Grimes’ expense. It just wasn’t enough of a downer to push me over the edge to a miss.
Breezango & Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. Forgotten Sons (Jaxson Ryker & Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake): HIT – I’m glad that Swerve was given this opportunity after KUSHIDA was taken out of the match last minute. My first instinct was to worry that he’ll be relegated to a comedy act after rubbing elbows with Breezango. Even though Vince doesn’t have his fingerprints all over NXT, it does still fall under the WWE umbrella, so there is always that fear in the back of my head. But when this was all said and done, it was clear that Swerve was the star of the match. What I was really impressed with wasn’t his incredible offense. It was how well he gets his butt kicked. The brutal looking beatings that the Sons took to Swerve would not have looked half as good if he didn’t sell the way that he does.
Angel Garza vs. Jack Gallagher: HIT – Lio Rush joined commentary to scout his cruiserweight competition. For someone that is known as a talker, he seemed relatively awkward on commentary to me. Call me optimistic, but I’ll give him a pass, commentary is not as easy as it looks. I really forget how small Gallaher is. Last week, Garza looked small compared to Ciampa. This week, Garza looked like a giant against the 167-pounder. The weight difference lent itself well to the story of the match. Garza was able to throw him around with ease, which made Gallaher’s stalling vertical suplex look just THAT much more impressive. With Garza’s trajectory as of late and his heel persona to Lio Rush’s babyface, telegraphed his win. That said, every second of this match was enjoyable.
Dakota Kai & Teagan Nox vs. Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir: HIT – A couple of weeks ago on PWTorch’s Dailycast, PWT Talks NXT, I speculated that we might see the WWE Women’s Tag Titles make their way to NXT. This match being announced as a #1 Contender’s match on twitter a few hours before showtime was a pleasant surprise! We have heard speculation of Asuka making her return to NXT and this was confirmed tonight with the announced return of the Kabuki Warriors to NXT next week! As for the match this was the first time I saw either Shafir or Duke in action, wrestling or otherwise. They aren’t quite as polished as their fellow two horsewomen, Baszler and Rowsey, but I was impressed with what I saw. Watching Teagan Nox take both women out with chokeslams, given their MMA fighting credentials was relatively comical. I will say, I was rather shocked that Shafir and Duke took a loss like this to Kai and Nox. I would have liked to see them remain stronger and maintain that female “Undisputed Era” vibe they have had going on. Regardless, I’m very high on Kai and especially Nox. I could see them with a short run with the Women’s tag belts, but my gut says that Asuka and Kairi Sane come out victorious next week. Who do you guys think walks out with the straps next week? Leave your predictions down in the comments!
Roderick Strong (C) vs. Dominik Dijakovic vs. Keith Lee for the NXT North American Championship: HIT – Roddy isn’t a tiny guy by any stretch of the imagination, but you wouldn’t know it when he stood next to Lee or Dijakovic. If you’ve read or listened to my coverage of NXT in the past, you’ll know that I’m generally not a fan of multi-man matches. But I really like what they did here. Strong kept almost outsmarting his opponents into fighting one another so he could come back and get the upper hand. Both Lee and Dijakovic equally looked like massive threats to Roddy’s gold and if I wasn’t such a jaded fan, I wouldn’t think that Strong had a chance at retaining. Which is all the more reason that I stuck by my prediction from last week’s episode of PWT Talks NXT with Roddy’s victory this week. I can’t be the only one who thought the Tower of Doom spot looked like it was about to end at least one of these three careers. Whether that was how it was supposed to look or if it was a botch was unclear. But what is clear is that if I never saw another Tower of Doom spot again, I’d be okay with it. That’s a spot you should bust out every couple/few years. WWE and NXT seem to break this spot out in one form or another seemingly every week or two. They look far too contrived and, in my opinion, requires the viewer to suspend their disbelief just a bit too much (Though, my favorite gimmick of all time is the Undertaker. Hypocrite much?). Towards the end of the match, Lee and Dijakovic knocked Roddy out by the entrance ramp. They respectfully looked at each other and jumped back into the ring to continue their singles match from last week. This was my favorite part of the match, seeing these two behemoths continue to beat the hell out of one another. LEE PULLED OFF A TOPE CON HILO! How in the physics defying heck does this man move the way that he does?!
The Undisputed Balor Club?: HIT – After UE took out Roddy’s two opponents, Ciampa, Gargano came down to the ring to confront them. Balor came out to seemingly stand beside the former DIY, but ultimately lead UE in a brutal beatdown to Ciampa and Gargano. The show went off the air with the for members of UE standing in the ring over a battered Ciampa as Balor walked up the ramp after laying Gargano to waste. Is this an alliance between the UE and Balor? Has Balor joined the UE? Or did Balor just take advantage of the situation to try and eliminate two contenders for the NXT Championship? Either way, I didn’t expect this heel turn from Finn and I am very excited to see where this angle leads.
NOTE: For a round-table breakdown of this week’s episode of NXT, be sure to check out the PWTorch Dailycast’s PWT Talks NXT! Kelly Wells, Tom Stoup and I spent roughly two hours analyzing the action in the NXT Arena.