SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Broserweights celebrate their victory – HIT : I continue to love every second that we see this pair on our screens. From their brilliant back and forth banter to their “Bro-mobile”, they are pure gold. One of the age old questions was asked after Bobby Fish said that he had bigger fish to fry. “Bobby Fish said ‘Fish!’” said riddle, sending him into a frenzied “How much fish could Bobby Fish fry if Bobby Fish could fry Fish.” That was not as easy to type as I thought it would be. Yet another fun spot for the Broserweights, continued heat building from Undisputed Era, and a funny yet strong open to the show.
Angel Garza vs. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott : HIT – Way to go Garza, making his debut on Monday Night Raw this week! A strong debut alongside Zelina Vega taking Rey Mysterio out in the process. I think the opening couple of sequences in this match, while absolutely impressive, looked a bit more choreographed than a series of reversal. But that’s about all I can nitpick about this match. As you would imagine at seeing these two names on paper, this was a hard-hitting and fast-paced matchup. Though Garza may have been the one to debut on Monday night, neither man looked lesser than. Swerve may have lost, but he still looked like a million bucks. Not to mention, watching Garza plead with Swerve not to “hurt” his signature tear-away pants made me chuckle. Excellent chemistry, great ring psychology and an all around fun match to watch. Immediately after the match, Garza declared that he wants a rematch for “his” NXT Cruiserweight title.
Be Very, Very Quiet. They’re Hunting Ciampas – HIT : Backstage, Undisputed Era were shown walking the halls looking for their most recent nemesis, Tommaso Ciampa. Everybody and anybody in their path was asked if they had seen the Blackheart. Nice and quick segment to keep this thread of the story flowing. But my biggest question was this: Why exactly was some guy getting a haircut backstage? Sure, it was so Roddy could shave it off. But… Is NXT also in the barber business? Marty Jannetty and Brutus Beefcake to challenge the winners of Broserweights vs KOR & Fish, calling it now!
Dominik Dijakovic vs. Killian Dain – MISS : About time we saw Dain back on TV! It must have been at least three or four weeks since we’ve seen him. Earlier in the day at the Performance Center, the two had a social media scuffle, sparking this feud. Really strong start by Dain going into the commercial break, explosive offense from the ring of the bell. After that break, the offense was more back and forth. While a good match in it’s own right, I think that after seeing Garza and Swerve in the opener, the crowd may not have been as hot for this matchup. Though, Dijakovic did get a nice pop as when he hit Feast Your Eyes for the win. As the announce team was hyping Lee vs. Dijakovic for the North American Title at Takeover Portland, in a show of respect and showmanship, Keith Lee, met Dijakovic on the stage to shake the hand of the #1 contender.
Undisputed Era Take Out The Trash – HIT : When we last left out heroes, Undisputed Era were on a hunt for Ciampa. That hunt continued as they encountered Kushida. They asked where Ciampa was, but the language barrier didn’t do them any favors. Kushida attacked them, presumably out of self defense, and was quickly thrown in a nearby garbage can. Bronson Reed tried to make the save and was taken out for his troubles. While I liked the segment, I think it defined Kushida down even more, and I’m not in favor of that.
Johnny Gargano and Balor Interview – HIT : I don’t know how well this segment will be received by the masses, but I loved it. In a way, it seemed a little too contrived. But at the same time, both men cut excellent promos here. Again, a nice way to get both men on the show, continue their story and move to the next segment quickly and effectively. Worked for me.
Kacy Catanzaro vs. Mercedes Martinez – HIT : I was so glad to see Kacy return a couple of weeks ago. Almost as glad as I was to see Martinez finally get the time in the spotlight she deserves. This was a quick showcase match for Martinez, but still a great showing for Kacy. She got a couple of her spots in, and made Martinez look like the badass she is. The match was short and sweet, but there’s always a place for short and sweet when done correctly.
Clock strikes 9, Ciampa Attacks – HIT : Almost as if Ciampa knew the top of the hour was upon us, Ciampa finally attacked the Undisputed Era as they were looking for him outside the arena. Ciampa took it to all four members and led them into the building, and to the ring. The Broserweights came out to assist Ciampa after U.E. got the upper hand. Regal then put all of them in a match later in the night. The refs couldn’t contain the men, and they brawled for another 5 or so minutes around the ring and stage area. A fun and chaotic spot, really selling the fact that this is an important feud. I just hope they don’t over use this trope, we just saw a similar chaotic fray not that long ago if memory serves.
Jordan Devlin vs. Tyler Breeze – HIT : I am so glad to see Jordan Devlin outside the NXT UK brand. Not that there is anything wrong with NXT UK, quite the contrary. But he is so good, he should be on the bigger stage. Of course, I won’t complain any time I get to see Breeze in action either. Breeze, in my opinion anyway, looks better than he has at just about any point in his career. Even though Breeze’s gimmick kind of relegates him to the midcard, I’ve always thought he has the untapped potential to be something even greater. He was an good opponent for the rising Devlin, whose NXT/WWE journey is just beginning.
EST addresses NXT. The Queen Returns to Her Queendom – HIT:One of the things that I didn’t like about the Toni Storm / Rhea Ripley feud was that they named Bianca the #1 contender before the match took place. Even though Ripley just won the belt and we knew she wasn’t going to lose, that decision really drove home the fact that Storm didn’t have a chance. Now, we are in the same boat. Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte is clearly the match that’s happening at Wrestlemania, but Rhea still has Bianca at Portland. While I did like the segment and thought it was fun and interesting, I get the same feeling… Kinda. Knowing that Charlotte and Ripley are going to WM, Bianca had been looking like an afterthought. And after her Royal Rumble performance, that is the last feeling I want to have about Belair. I must admit, her interjecting herself into the “conversation for champions” made her feel less so. I actually really like the way they brought Charlotte into the mix tonight after really not being high on the idea of her returning to NXT. Charlotte felt like a star, and Ripley & Bianca looked like they belonged right next to her. This segment was head and shoulders above their RAW spot earlier in the week. I thought the whole RAW segment came off as overly scripted and somewhat forced, I didn’t really like it. This segment? This is how it’s done. And for how well this came off, I think this could have closed the show. Well, if the closing segment wasn’t as good as….
The Undisputed Era (sans Roderick Strong) vs. Broserweights & Tommaso Ciampa – HIT : During UE’s entrance, the brawl continued when their opponents attacked. Eventually, the action spilled back into the ring and the match proper was underway. The intensity didn’t stop, however. As you would expect, all six men went out there and did what they do best. Put on a damn good wrestling match.
I know the Attitude Era is looked upon through rose-tinted lenses a lot of the time. But one of my favorite things about that time was how one story would usually have multiple segments throughout an episode of RAW or Smackdown. Usually it would be the main event story, as it was here tonight. I like that NXT goes back to that trope like they did tonight. It helps to set a hook at the beginning of the show, makes you want to stay-tuned so you don’t happen to miss their next segment and keeps that butt in the seat for the main event. I think if that trope was used less during the Attitude Era, I wouldn’t have connected with some of the lesser main event and mid to uppercard guys, like Mick Foley, the APA, or Edge & Christian. Plus, it made the top guys, like Austin, Rock, Angle and HHH seem like even bigger stars. “Hey look! These guys make 5 appearances throughout the night! They must mean something!” That’s what I took away here tonight. Dunne, Riddle, Ciampa and all four UE members seem like the biggest things on NXT right now, though the argument can be made for Rhea/Flair. But these intertwining feuds are so hot and well executed that it’s hard to deny that they aren’t the focal points of the show.
Before the show closed, the three rings with the numbers 2 5 20 inside of them appeared on the screen and Velveteen Dream returned with a vengeance! He took out all of the members of U.E., spending a little extra time on his former rival, Roderick Strong. Really looking forward to seeing what Dream’s return brings to these already wonderful stories.