KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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Lio Rush vs. Angel Garza – HIT: Talk about a match where both competitors walked away from with more credibility than they began with! Angel Garza continues to impress week after week and plays that tweener character so well. On his way to the ring he was slapping more hands than usual, so I assumed he might lean more face. I thought we were about to see a match where sportsmanship outweighs the individual personalities. Boy, was I wrong. As the match went on Garza’s true colors shone through, especially in taunting Lio’s family. The more that Lio Rush fought back, the more Garza would take it to him. I was pretty convinced that Garza might actually win the gold in more than one spot, but the Rush win makes sense considering the narrative they’ve been selling with him. The screwy finish, whether it was botched or planned, will most likely set up a TakeOver rematch where Garza can say that he was robbed of his first title shot. Overall, one of the most entertaining openers of the NXT on USA era as far as I am concerned.
Teagan Nox and Rhea Ripley Get Attacked – HIT: Presuming that this plays into the main event, I figured it was worth noting. This was a very short backstage segment after Rush-Garza, but it really delivered. NXT does a great job in producing these backstage angles to make them look realistic, chaotic and continues the kayfabe narrative without seeming contrived. Something that RAW and Smackdown have trouble doing.
Xia Li vs. Aliyah – MISS: I was first introduced to Xia Li during the Mae Young Classic and at one point I thought she had the potential to win that tournament. Li is just such a pleasure to watch perform her craft. Aliyah has certainly come a long way in recent years, but I feel like she’s still missing something in her performance. It seems a bit too rehearsed for my liking. Aliyah looked to have been kicked in the face by Li and began to bleed the hard way which did add to the otherwise okay match. The match itself was okay, but I don’t think it was up to the caliber of the match that we expect to see out of NXT talent.
Finn Balor’s Promo, Riddle’s Attack, and the Rest of the WarGames Men’s teams – HIT: Where has this Finn Balor been during his run on the main roster? Cocky, smarmy and he has this cool factor to him that was seemingly left behind in NXT when he moved up. Assuming this will build to a Gargano match at TakeOver if Gargano is cleared. I do think he went a little bit over the top with dressing down the current NXT product, but overall it worked and really got the crowd against him. After Riddle threw Balor out of the arena, UE came out to attack Riddle. Before they could, Lee and Ciampa came out to make the save. There was some verbal exchange between the two teams and Lee challenged one of the members of UE to a match. Roddy obliged. There was a lot to digest in this segment, but it worked very well to advance the WarGames story between the two teams. Not only that, but it set up a possible feud between Riddle and Balor if Gargano isn’t medically cleared for the Balor feud. I’m growing a bit weary of team warfare between Survivor Series and WarGames, but at least they’re doing a decent job of telling this story.
Keith Lee vs. Roderick Strong – HIT: How could a match between these two guys be anything but a hit? If you have listened to me talk about Lee on PWT Talks NXT or read my opinion of him here, he is quickly becoming one of my favorites in all of WWE. He can talk, he can wrestle and he has the look to be a big name in whichever brand he’s on. I’ve also said before that Roddy could be one of the best overall workers in NXT. I have a feeling the North American title scene (Or IC/US title if he makes his way to Raw or SD eventually) might be his ceiling, but that is not a bad thing whatsoever. Not everybody can be on top. Roddy reminds me of someone like Al Snow. Completely different gimmicks of course, but Snow is a guy who can go out there and put on a clinic with just about anybody he steps through the ropes with. That’s how I see Roddy, but with more polish and shine. After the match, UE predictably attacked Lee. Dijakovic ran down to make the save and cleared out UE. Looks like Double D is going to be the fourth man on the babyface side for WarGames, though they didn’t really acknowledge it officially. We’ll see what happens as the week progresses!
Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. Bronson Reed – HIT: I might be eating my words after the women’s ladder match later on, but so far this was easily the match of the night. Seemingly every week, we get a match between two competitors that we can’t predict, and this week is no different. Initially I figured that Reed would go over considering his push in recent weeks and his new ring attire. On top of that, Swerve has been staring at the lights for his past few outings so I wouldn’t have been surprised if he took another loss, as tragic as that would be for a talent like Swerve. As the match progressed, I genuinely could not predict who would come out victorious. I think I would have been happy with either competitor coming out on top, as I’ve been very high on both the past few weeks. But, Swerve deserved this win. Nothing against Reed, but Swerve has all of the tools ready and damn near fully polished to be a top guy in the company.
Pete Dunn vs. Killian Dain – HIT: Damian Priest came out and attacked Dain on the ramp before Dunn joined the fray. No triple threat announcement just yet, but it’s pretty clear that’s where this is headed. I’m barely giving this segment a hit because I think it could have been done a bit better rather than using the tired trope of attacking on the ramp. But, overall it was entertaining and added to their story.
Io Shirai vs. Mia Yim in a Ladder Match, Winner’s team gets WarGames Advantage and the Aftermath – HIT: This was a TakeOver quality level match on NXT TV. I wound up so engrossed in the match, I completely forgot to take notes for this column. The two women fought all over the Full Sail arena in a well fought, hard hitting match. I think they may have gone a bit overboard, especially with the spot towards the end that caused Yim to begin bleeding from the face. They absolutely pulled the stops out for this. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, this match or Reed/Swerve. Gun to my head, I’d probably be shot before I could choose.
For a couple weeks now, I along with the rest of the gang on PWT Talks NXT have expected Dakota Kai to turn on the babyface team to become the fourth woman on the heel WarGames team. Where that seemed so obvious, of course that’s not what we got! The woefully underrated Kay Lee Ray’s interference causing Yim’s loss was an option that hadn’t even crossed my mind. I think this addition to the WarGames team was a brilliant, though risky one. Kay Lee Ray may be the NXT UK Women’s champion, but I would be willing to bet that a fair number of people in the Full Sail arena or watching at home are not familiar with Kay Lee. She’ll find a way to shine and get herself over, I’m sure. I really don’t have any doubt about that. It was also really cool to see a heel Bayley back “home” in NXT, even if it was just for a quick run in to take out Bazsler. Where this show primarily focused on TakeOver, this was a nice reminder that Survivor Series is also in the cards. As I’ve said continually over the last few weeks, I hate November due to this fabricated brand war, but I think all three WWE shows have done a great job putting NXT over and making them look like a credible threat in this nonsense “war”. If they are going to continue with these brand supremacy angles, NXT seems to be doing their best to make chicken salad out of chicken giblets.