SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Roderick Strong calls out Velveteen Dream – HIT: Last week, Dream returned to NXT after a few months away after an injury. When he returned, he came back with Strong’s family painted onto his trunks with Dream in place of Roddy. Strong took exception to this and called Dream out. Bronson Reed was the one to answer that call, looking to get revenge on any member of Undisputed Era after their attack on him last week. Reed immediately challenged him to a match right… NOW! Decent and short opening segment, though I wish Strong would have demanded more than an apology from Dream.
•Bronson Reed vs. Roderick Strong – HIT: I was really glad to see the former Jonah Rock actually storm the ring and look for retribution after getting attacked last week. They could have just had Roddy take him out last week and leave it at that. Nope, not NXT. They logically started a feud from a relatively small backstage spot and used it to spotlight a rising star. I firmly believe that Roderick Strong can have no less than a “3-star match” with anybody and I think he was the perfect opponent to begin to elevate Reed to the next level. Sure, Reed didn’t end up victorious. But he absolutely held his own against one of NXT’s top stars. At the end of the match, Dream’s lights distracted Strong, but that didn’t deter Strong from victory. Dream’s promo on the video screen was brilliantly executed, as you’d expect from the star. I’m a little leery at this whole “I’m coming for your family, Roddy” angle that they’re introducing here. It was recently done on the main roster with both AJ Styles and Samoa Joe as the “stalkers”. I trust NXT to make this feel different. But at first glance, it feels like they reached into that infamous “Box of gimmicks” and pulled out this recycled storyline.
A trophy, two Bros and a Convertible. You know what that means? ROAD TRIP! – HIT : Just when you don’t think that Dunne and Riddle can get more ridiculous, they out-do themselves again. I love this type of comedy and the segment felt like it was something out of a 00s comedy flick. If they keep producing gold like this forever, please never split them up.
•Candace LaRae vs. Dakota Kai – HIT: This is a matchup I’ve been waiting for since Wargames. LaRae looking to get some retribution for not just herself, but Teagan Nox. Early on, Kai nailed LaRae in the nose, giving her a pretty nasty nosebleed. I couldn’t tell if it looked broken or not, but let’s hope that’s not the case. Accidents happen, especially when two competitors kick into high gear like this. Since her heel turn, Kai hasn’t been booked quite as strong as I think we may have expected. Though it didn’t kill the segment for me, I don’t like the fact that she won the match after spending a couple minutes in a submission and then just rolled Nox up. That wasn’t a very decisive victory, which I feel like Kai needed. What really surprised me though, was the crowd’s reaction when Nox ran in to save LaRae. For a feud that has been so hot, the crowd barely popped for Nox, or at least that’s how it came across on TV. Regardless, I’m still anticipating the Nox vs. Kai street fight this weekend!
•Johnny Gargano vs. Cameron Grimes – HIT: About time we get to see Grimes back on TV, part of me just wishes it was against another opponent. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t anything wrong with this match if you look at it bell to bell! I very much enjoyed it. But Grimes was on TV every week being built up to be a credible heel. He tangled with three of the top stars in a Fatal Four Way about a month ago and then he’s been in dark matches ever since. I hadn’t forgotten about him, but I’m sure a certain segment of the audience may have. I would have liked to see him get a strong win after not seeing him for so long. “Ramblin’” Nate’s thought’s aside, I really enjoyed watching these two get in the ring and do what they do best. If Grimes wasn’t going to get the decisive win that I would have liked to see, this was still a decent way to get him back on TV. No, he didn’t squash anybody like we’re used to seeing. But Gargano is one of the major players in NXT and Grimes went toe to toe with him in a long and heated bout. Heck, I guess you could even make the argument that this loss to Gargano may have even elevated him more than a strong win over a mid to upper card act.
•Pete, Don’t be a silly goose – HIT: After Dunne and Riddle had their car towed in this last epic segment, we saw them in a goose paddle boat with the Dusty Cup attempting to get to Portland. Again, just keep these coming, please.
•Robert Stone Brand Resurgence – MISS: A quick vignette for Robert Stone and Chelsea Green where they said they were going to make a resurgence in NXT. How can you make a resurgence when you still haven’t surged in the first place?
•Angel Garza vs. Lio Rush – HIT: Monday Night Raw’s Andrade Stand-in, Angel Garza and the gravity defying Lio Rush stepped into the ring and magic happened. Okay, maybe that’s overstating it a bit. However, I really got into this match. Since I’ve been writing this column, I’ve sang Garza’s praises and that will continue indefinitely. He’s looked just as good on the main roster as he does in NXT. If this is his call-up, I’m certainly going to miss writing about him each week. Rush winning and becoming the #1 contender in place of Garza for the cruiserweight title makes me believe that Garza’s call up could be coming.
I don’t always call out individual spots and these two were relatively subtle, though I loved the psychology. Not often does Lio miss the “Come Up”. I don’t ever think I’ve seen him miss two consecutively. Maybe he has, but bear with me here. Both times, they were so well scouted by Garza. It really sold the idea, to me anyway, that Garza is truly a master technician inside the squared circle.
•Mark Henry breaks down the Lee-Dijakovic Feud – HIT: What a video package! This was a fantastic use of a beloved big man putting two rising behemoths over. When I think of great talkers, Mark Henry isn’t the first that comes to mind, though he did kill it in his Hall Of Pain run if I remember correctly. But he really delivered his lines here in a way that still may have felt scripted, but still very natural. Loved everything about this segment.
•Bianca Belair vs. Santana Garrett – HIT: This match was over faster than it took both women to walk to the ring. Belair looked like an absolute beast just laying waste to Garrett. As she should have walking into Takeover Portland to face the NXT Women’s Champion. Speaking of the champ, Ripley made her way to the ring after Bianca’s victory, and Belair left her laying on the mat. In a matter of 5 minutes, Bianca elevated herself from badass to super badass.
•Ciampa Cuts Impressive Go-Home Promo -HIT: In yet another brilliantly done backstage segment, Ciampa was shown in an auditorium at Full Sail watching footage from one year ago of him relinquishing the NXT Title in that very room. He cut an emotional, crazed and well put together promo recapping his road to recovery and his quest to reclaim his NXT Title. I was blown away by this promo, frankly. I knew Ciampa was a great talker. For me, this promo was approaching the same level as some of Mick Foley’s best.
•Kushida vs. Adam Cole – 60% HIT: Like Bronson Reed earlier in the night, Kushida was looking for revenge on Undisputed Era for taking Kushida out last week as well. From the get-go, I anticipated a Kushida loss, but any time I get to see him wrestle I won’t complain. There wasn’t a whole lot of heat going into the match other than knowing that these two would put on an entertaining 10-15 minutes and last week’s attack. An entertaining match, indeed. As you would expect with these two talents, they put on a great main event. Ciampa emerged after Cole’s victory and very slowly made his way down the ramp and into the ring. The two stared each other down and the crowd chanted “Psycho Killer” as the show went off the air. It was a little bit of a lackluster end to the go-home show, but I can’t give it a miss. The match was too good.