PWTorch editor Wade Keller presents a special Thursday Flagship edition of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast featuring a WrestleMania 36 Preview with ex-WWE Creative Team member and professional stand-up comedian Matt McCarthy.
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Mauro Returns: HIT- I was so glad to see Mauro Ranallo back in the booth tonight. His announcing style may not be for everybody, but as far as I’m concerned there isn’t a better announcer employed the company. I have nothing but respect for the man as I personally have ties to bipolar disorder and know just how debilitating it can really be. Saying that it is a challenge to spring back is an understatement. Being such a fan of his, I always worry more than a fan probably should about his wellbeing during times like this and I’m always very grateful when he returns.
Killian Dain kicks off the show with an open challenge, Dunne Accepts: HIT – I thought this was odd, because earlier in the day they were promoting Killian Dain vs Damian Priest. Dain kicked off the show proper basically saying that he was looking for a fight and wasn’t leaving the ring until somebody came out to do just that. Pete Dunne’s music hit, and these two rivals were under way within moments. Dain had the upper hand for most of the beginning of the match. Dunne’s injured left knee kept coming into play and allowed Dain to get the upper hand. Storytelling like this is what I live for in wrestling. Small details that carry over from week to week and actually mean something. About 8 minutes into the match, Dunne pulled off a picture-perfect German suplex on the significantly larger Dain. Though we rarely see Dunne lose, I was okay with it here. Dain is being built as a monster heel and I’m intrigued to see where it goes. I felt like he needed a decisive, clean victory over somebody as established as Dunne to have a bit more credibility with me, at least.
Dakota Kai speaks about WarGames: HIT – It may not be entirely fair to draw comparisons between Kai and Bayley’s heel turns, but it is near impossible not to. I have to admit, I think Kai is doing a much better job at embracing her turn. Maybe Bayley is being instructed not to come off quite as intense as Kai seems to be, but she has seemed like almost a whiney sidekick to Sasha in recent weeks, not the Smackdown Women’s champion. Dakota Kai wrestled last week with an intensity that we have not seen out of her in NXT and her promos are on point. She legitimately sounds like she has a beef with Nox, Yim and Ripley. Which, of course, in this business is exactly what you strive for.
Undisputed Era addresses the Crowd: – Minus Bobby Fish, injured last week, Undisputed Era hit the ring. Cole has such a command of the ring and the audience when he has a mic in hand. There is a reason that he wears that NXT title, he is undisputedly (I have no shame, I know) one of the best in the business. Speaking of bad “dad” jokes, KOR with the dad joke of the night when he called Keith Lee “The Moment maker, Keith Momentar-i-Lee”. I don’t know why, but every time KOR speaks I always forget just how talented he is on the mic in his own right. Keith Lee joined them in the ring when the thought hit me. All four of the men in the ring are better promos than more than half of the “main” Raw or SD roster. The alliance between Ciampa and Lee continues where Ciampa came out to help Lee once the inevitable brawl broke out. While I think I like the odd pairing of Lee and Riddle better, I surely have no complaints about that alliance.
Kushida video package: HIT – I knew that we hadn’t seen Kushida on NXT TV for quite some time, but I wasn’t aware that he had broken his wrist in his match against Walter. This was a cool video package that addressed the injury and humanized him to the audience with the strong focus on his family.
Xia Li vs. Shayna Baszler: HIT – I hope that they revisit this match one day, hopefully for bigger stakes than a TV win. Li’s wrestling style is so strike heavy and even though Baszler is a mixed martial arts “specialist”, I always think of her as more of a brawler and a technical mastermind than a striker. So immediately going into the match, I was instantly intrigued to see what we were about to witness. This was still a joy to watch, don’t get me wrong. I just would really like to see what these two could do with 15 minutes and a good build to the blow off. Unless shenanigans came into play, there was little chance Li would go over the NXT Women’s Champion, so no surprise there. Overall, I was disappointed that this match didn’t go a little bit longer but I enjoyed every second of it.
Forgotten Sons vs. Evolve’s Adrian Alanis & Leon Ruff: MISS – While it’s cool to see the partnership with Evolve rear it’s head on NXT TV every once in a while, I knew this was going to be nothing more than a squash match when Adrian and Leon didn’t even get an entrance. I’ve talked about it here and on PWT Talks NXT before, and try as I might, I just can’t seem to get myself invested in the Forgotten Sons. Steve Cutler and Wesley Blake have been on the NXT roster for so long and I applaud them for trying to reinvent themselves. I just can’t put my finger on what isn’t making them click with me. Which I find funny because I feel like the 10-year-old me would probably love these guys.
Dakota Kai vs. Rhea Ripley… Kinda: HIT– Okay, I’m modifying my “heel Io is the best Io” into “Heel Dakota is the best Dakota”. Her entrance video is nothing but her beat down of Nox at WarGames, complete with Nox’s screams in the background of her new music. She marched to the ring, once again, with Nox’s knee brace as well. Heat magnet! Rhea Ripley, mark my words, is going to be a major player in the WWE for years to come. She has the look, the chops on the mic and the skillset between the ropes. We may not have gotten the match where Ripley brought Mia Yim out to get revenge on Kai, but I’m fine with that. Kai vs. Ripley is a money match, Takeover is where it belongs. Once Yim and Kai fought through the crowd, Shayna and the horsegirls made their way to the ring to attack Ripley, 3 on 1. Ripley took on all three women and fought out of Shayna’s submission finish (I won’t embarrass myself and try to spell it) twice before finally succumbing to it on Shayna’s third attempt. December 18, two weeks from now, we get Rhea and Bazsler for the NXT Women’s title. Cannot wait for this match!
Isaiah “Swerve” Scott Video Package: HIT – About time Swerve gets some love like this! He’s been on the cusp of a push for a while now, and I can only imagine what the former Strickland will bring to the mix.
Kassius Ohno vs. Matt Riddle: MISS – To promote Worlds Collide, Ohno showed up in a video segment earlier in the night saying that he was coming “across the pond” to give NXT a preview of NXT vs NXT UK at Worlds Collide. He issued an open challenge in that video, and later in the night stormed to the ring. Riddle answered the call, and the match was underway. Ohno had made his way to NXT UK by the time I started watching NXT regularly again. Ohno has never been a body guy, but after not seeing him in action for quite some time, I feel like the extra weight has slowed him down a step or two. He was very visibly huffing and puffing towards the end of the bout. Thankfully, he’s Chris-freaking-Hero and can work like the best of them making up for those shortcomings. I also thought it was odd that they used an American to represent the NXT UK brand, even if he is on their roster. Especially where Ohno was such a staple on the NXT brand for so long. All that said, it was a good match with decent action, but I don’t feel like it ever kicked into high gear. If they stuck with the same formula, including the Riddle win, but shaved about 4 or 5 minutes off the match, I think it would have been much better. I just feel like Riddle had to wrestle down a notch to keep up with a much slower Ohno.
Kushida vs. Raul Mendoza… Or not: HIT – During Mendoza’s entrance, Cameron Grimes attacked Mendoza with a brutal looking double stomp to the back. Though I’m sure Mendoza would have given Kushida a great first match back, I was happy to see a bigger name wind up facing the high-flying Kushida. If they want to push Kushida as a main eventer, they need to give him main-event level opponents. Grimes may not be a main eventer just yet, but his trajectory is might higher than Mendoza’s has been. As the match progressed, it became clear to me that Grimes was the correct opponent for Kushida. The two had great chemistry and put on an action-packed, albeit short, match.
Undisputed Era (Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong) vs. Tommaso Ciampa & Keith Lee & Dominik Dijakovic: HIT- Earlier in the night, Ciampa and Lee named Dijakovic their partner in this match in a backstage segment and I’d be willing to bet they’re glad they did! Dijakovic was the lowkey MVP in this match as far as I’m concerned. Undisputed Era spent the latter half of the match keeping Dijakovic segregated from his team, though Dijakovic repeatedly fought them off. It took a bit, but he finally managed to make it to his corner to hot tag Ciampa. Every single man in this match played a specific role and they each played them very well. Balor interfered mid match and took out Cole then Ciampa, showing allegiance to nobody. Lee forcefully Spirit Bombed Balor back to the main roster before getting the win. All seven men in involved in this match, Balor included, all looked like they belonged in the main event. That is saying something, considering I don’t feel like Raw or Smackdown has done a great job at building stars. NXT arguably has made a star out of each of these men. Though the case can be made that Cole, Lee, Ciampa, Dijakovic and Balor may outshine KOR and Roderick Strong due to booking alone.