In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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WELLS’S NXT TV REPORT
FEBRUARY 26, 2020
LIVE IN ORLANDO, FLA. AT FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, Beth Phoenix
-Mauro said we’d witness more fallout from TakeOver: Portland tonight over shots from the show and last week’s NXT episode, closing with Undisputed Era laying waste to Velveteen Dream.
-Charlotte Flair arrived in an SUV. William Regal opened the door for her. She smiled, but motioned for Regal’s security guys to get her bags.
(1) DOMINIK DIJAKOVIC vs. CAMERON GRIMES
Dijakovic entered first to get the crowd hyped. Grimes, who hasn’t been on TV enough recently, still commanded some decent heat. “Let’s get grimy”/”Feast Your Eyes” chant, 70-30 in favor of Dijakovic.
Headlock by Dijakovic. Grimes tried to get Dijakovic to run the ropes but he put on the brakes and held on. Grimes hit a knee to the breadbasket to break, but Dijakovic laid him out with a shoulder tackle. A few reversals later, Grimes hit a dropkick and another knee. He drove a knee into Dijakovic in the corner. Grimes ran into a discus kick and Dijakovic covered for two.
Dijakovic threw forearms and hit a hard back elbow in the corner. Backbreaker by Dijakovic. Splash from the second rope for two. Chops and elbows in the corner. Grimes slipped out of a suplex, hit some forearms and then a huracanrana. My feed blipped, or maybe theirs did, and the next thing I know Grimes was out of the ring and there was an “NXT” chant. Grimes hit a PK from the apron to go to split-screen commercial.
Back to full screen, Grimes had Dijakovic in an armbar and wrenched Dijakovic’s neck around with the other hand. The two traded blows in the center of the ring until Dijakovic woke up and threw a series of forearms. Dijakovic released Grimes after a big suplex and followed up with a kneelift. Roundhouse kick by Dijakovic. Superkick by Dijakovic for two. Waistlock by Grimes, then a superkick and a German with a bridge for two. Grimes was on the apron and got tossed, and Dijakovic hit a moonsault. Damian Priest rushed to Dijakovic and struck him in the back of the knee with…something, then escaped unseen into the crowd. Dijakovic fought his way to the ring just in time, but Grimes capitalized with The Cave In.
WINNER: Cameron Grimes in 13:00.
(Wells’s Analysis: Dijakovic and Priest have been working house shows – they opened the show in St. Paul that I attended this Wednesday. Apparently the feud will roll on. This did something good for their feud, which will stand in the way of Dijakovic getting to Lee, all while elevating Grimes with a sneaky win. A good match and segment, already with more surprise than recent weeks of NXT)
-The unnamed backstage guy who replaced Cathy Kelley chatted with William Regal. Regal announced that starting next week, there would be a series of qualifying matches for the women. The winners would go on to a #1 Contender’s match at NXT TakeOver: Tampa, and it would be a ladder match.
-Finn Balor walked to the ring to the usual mixed reaction. Finn said he’s not an online guy or a politicking guy, but when the bell rings, he’s the guy. He builds brands. Japan, done it. Mexico, done it. Intercontinental Championship, done it. Universal Championship, done it. NXT Championship, done it. It’s WrestleMania season and everyone’s trying to peak. He says he’s been at his peak for twenty years. So what’s the next move for the Prince? Who’s gonna get that Finn rub? As Finn rattled off names of guys he’s beaten, Imperium’s music played to bring Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel. Barthel said NXT belongs to the ring general Walter, who sends his regards. Balor hit a dropkick to the outside and started stomping both guys. Eventually the pair was too much for Balor, and they stood over him near the ring steps as their music played.
-Mauro threw to an Austin Theory vignette. Basic but colorless stuff, kept pretty short.
(Wells’s Analysis: Walter. Of course. With no obvious next move for Finn, the next move was made for him. Walter’s been having great match after great match as NXT UK Champion and this should be a new type of opponent for him)
-An apocalypse teaser played. No hint as to what act it might be promoting.
-Earlier today, the nameless interviewer caught up with Bianca Belair outside to ask her about Charlotte Flair. “Tonight, it’s on sight.”
(2) XIA LI vs. MIA YIM
Mauro mentioned that Xia Li’s televised NXT debut was against Yim.
Handshake. Mia held on to threaten Li, who backed up Mia with roundhouse kicks. Mia hit a dropkick of her own. Rope run and a basement dropkick by Mia for two. Yim hit a face wash in the corner and then leaned on Li in the corner. Rolling senton by Yim missed. Lariat by Li. Another, and a few kicks. A jumping kick missed and Mia looked to take control, but Dakota Kai’s music played and she and Raquel Gonzalez walked the ramp. Kai asked Mia if she remembered when she stole her spot in WarGames. Kai said this is the perfect time to talk about it. Li rolled up Yim for the win.
WINNER: Xia Li at 2:42.
After the match, Raquel laid out Xia Li and Mia Yim as Dakota looked on from the ramp approvingly. Mauro mentioned next week’s cage match between Kai and Tegan Nox.
-Backstage, Tommaso Ciampa prepared for his match with Austin Theory.
(Wells’s Analysis: That’s two upsets in two matches, both serving bigger stories and setting up feuds past feuds. This show had really started to stagnate and become predictable, and I like how these moments are creating doubt for future matches and angles. As long as they don’t go too far in that direction, it’ll make for a much more vibrant TV experience)
-Somewhere backstage, Velveteen Dream preened in a mirror and threatened Roderick Strong. He addressed William Regal and said he wanted Roderick Strong next week…and why don’t you leave that cage down?
(3) TOMMASO CIAMPA vs. AUSTIN THEORY
Theory, who still really doesn’t have much of a character direction, got a slightly better reaction than in previous appearances. Strong reaction for Ciampa.
Fists thrown followed by some reversals. Theory took down Ciampa with a block and threw lefts to a grounded Ciampa. Ciampa put on the brakes during a rope run and hit a big boot and an ax-handle. Snap mare takedown by Ciampa, who held on to a headlock. Theory went for a rollup to break. Theory missed a dropkick but Ciampa tossed him from the ring. Action went outside and Theory avoided the barricade throw from Ciampa, having learned from last week.
Back inside. Dropkick by Theory. There was a Super Showdown graphic in the corner. The announcers haven’t been mentioning the show at all on this show, and they didn’t talk about it with the graphic on the screen either, so it seems it’s an intentional soft sell on NXT. Ciampa threw Theory from the ring and did the clapping spot heading to commercial.
Back to TV, Theory was in control. Standing moonsault to the back, and Theory rolled over Ciampa for two. Armbar. Ciampa threw shots and Theory threw back. Ciampa exploded out of a corner with a lariat. He ran the ropes to throw some more. German suplex by Ciampa. Big boot. Ciampa wanted Fairytale Ending but Theory snuck out. Theory wanted Rolling Thunder but Ciampa threw up a knee. Cover for two.
Ciampa went for Air Raid Crash from the top, but Theory cut it off. Back to the mat, the two traded strikes. Rolling Thunder Blockbuster by Theory. Bucklebomb. Ushigoroshi by Theory; Theory’s is called “Ataxia.” It got two. Another strike exchange. Ciampa once again went for Fairytale Ending, but Theory escaped. Theory slammed Ciampa’s face to the mat for two. Ciampa bailed and Theory followed. Theory returned Ciampa’s barricaded tosses from last week. Theory put Ciampa back in the ring and followed, but got hit by Willow’s Bell. Third attempt of Fairytale Ending was the charm.
WINNER: Tommaso Ciampa at 12:41.
Mauro called out Theory, just 22, gave Ciampa all he could handle.
(Wells’s Analysis: Get a character on Theory, and we’ve got something. Good action here, though obviously this wasn’t a third straight upset)
-Johnny Gargano hit the ring in a pastel blue suit coat over a t-shirt and attacked Ciampa. Ciampa got control, but Theory got involved long enough for Gargano to hit a superkick. “Johnny sucks” chant. Johnny hit a hard knee on a kneeling Ciampa and stalked him as he looked to escape. Johnny sat next to a laid-out Ciampa on the apron and mocked the clapping spot by doing it slowly. Gargano tossed Ciampa to the outside. The camera went to a wide shot so Gargano could walk around a TakeOver: Tampa Bay sign as well as Ciampa just in case there was any doubt.
(Wells’s Analysis: Still no verbal explanation from Gargano. Yes, we can connect all the dots, but I’d still expect Gargano to address the turn directly at some point. Also continuing to be conspicuous by her absence is Candice LeRae; creative had a tough time knowing what to do with her during Gargano’s last heel run and this is starting to look like the same)
-Backstage Undisputed Era segment. Roddy said a cage match with Dream was just fine by him. Fish and O’Reilly said they weren’t done with the Broserweights. Adam Cole said the prophecy would continue when Roddy and the former tag champs won their respective titles back.
(4) BRONSON REED vs. KILLIAN DAIN
Looks like the on-again off-again Dain push is going to be on again. Mauro said Dain felt overlooked in the North American Title picture.
Collar and elbow to start. Dain backed up Reed to a corner and threw shoulder tackles. Reed tried to lift Dain but couldn’t and Dain hit a big boot. Reed returned the favor. Dain bailed and Reed hit a tope. Back in, Dain cut off Reed with kicks as he entered the ring. Guillotine legdrop by Dain with a cover for two. Dain threw shots and sent Reed with an Irish whip. Cover for one. Reed got to his feet but Dain continued to strike. Dain tied up Reed with a seated abdominal stretch. “Shave your back hair”/”let it grow” dueling chant.
In the center of the ring, both guys went for a cross-body and ended up selling on the mat. They met at their feet and threw rights. Forearms and elbows. Headbutt by Dain, who asked for Reed to do one, so he did. Lariat by Reed. Body slam. Back suplex by Reed followed by a hip attack in the corner. Dain caught Reed with a Samoan Drop, then went up for a Vader bomb but Reed got a knee up. Diving DDT by Reed. Death Valley Bomb by Reed got two. Reed went up but Dain popped up and went up the corner as well. Superplex by Dain from the second turnbuckle.
Senton by Dain, and a second and a third. Dain went up and hit a Vader bomb.
WINNER: Killian Dain at 6:14.
(Wells’s Analysis: Decent power match that didn’t wear out its welcome. The crowd was a little muted, as Dain is a reclamation project again and Reed is still sort of shiftless. The Vader bomb looks to be the finisher for Dain now)
-Last week, The Forgotten Sons made some eye-rolling jingoistic comments in response to the Grizzled Young Veterans. Beth said up next, the Forgotten Sons defend America. I laughed out loud.
-Broserweights spot. Just a bit to get them on the show without burning out their hot streak.
(5) THE FORGOTTEN SONS (Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler) vs. GRIZZLED YOUNG VETERANS (Zack Gibson & James Drake)
GYV was first out. Zack said the Sons were typical Yanks. They epitomize the red, white and blue, since they’re redneck trash. Now it was apparently too much and the Sons’ music played to run them to the ring in new gear that I wouldn’t call better, but it’s different.
Zack and Blake started. Headlock by Gibson, then a rope run and a headlock by Blake. Hip toss and a couple of dropkicks by Blake, who fired up and tagged Cutler. Tandem drop headbutt and Cutler covered for two. Cutler threw legs in the corner, but Gibson cameback with a lariat. Tag to Drake. Gibson splashed Drake on Cutler for one. Headlock by Drake. Drake tossed Cutler to the GYV corner and tagged. Tandem strike and Gibson covered for one. Small “USA” chant. Another quick tag and Drake drove a knee to Cutler’s back. Blind tag to Blake, who hit a powerslam for two. Drake tried to run away outside the ring, but Jaxson Ryker got in his face and Cutler controlled.
Drake ran to the ring and made a tag, but the Sons stayed in control as all four guys got involved. Gibson got tossed to the outside, and the Sons threw Drake onto Gibson leading into commercial. The reaction to the Sons was still shaky and unsure, and quite a few fans were booing their big spots.
Back from commercial, GYV were in control with a heat segment on Blake. Drake made a tag to Gibson who leaned on Blake with a headlock. The fans went after Drake with an “Arseface” chant, as the UK fans often do. Jumping neckbreaker by Blake to escape, but Drake tags in and cuts it off. Back bodydrop by Blake and he makes the slightly warm tag to Cutler, who beats down his opponents and puts a Boston Crab on Drake. Gibson breaks it up by distracting Cutler, but Cutler hits a big bucklebomb and a Fisherman Buster for two. Gibson kept trying to get involved, and Ryker ran him off. Drake hit a tope on Ryker and GYV laid him out on the steps. Chaos ensued. Drake was set up for a finishing move by the Sons but Gibson broke it up. More chaos. Blake and Drake were legal and Blake hit a dropkick but Blake fell into a tag. Ticket to Mayhem finished.
WINNERS: Grizzled Young Veterans at 13:02.
After the match, Nigel celebrated like this was a huge win for the UK and Beth sold the loss as huge for the US.
(Wells’s Analysis: A really enjoyable tag match, marred by the tempered response for the quick face turn for the Sons, which will be a turnoff to many; others just aren’t likely to get into them at this point after a couple of years of unfocused presentation. Foreign menace storylines are lazy and dull, but I’ll give them this: given that they decided to do it, the announcers are doing a hell of a job selling it.)
-An unnamed female interviewer was with Tegan Nox. She asked how Nox mentally prepares for a cage match. Nox said she’s prepared for Kai, but she wasn’t prepared for Raquel. But next week, Raquel isn’t a factor. Kai started this in a cage, and Nox said next week she’ll finish it in a cage.
-Outside, Damian Priest – flanked by women – said it wasn’t personal – Dominik Dijakovic was just in the way of something he wants. And now, Keith Lee knows exactly what Priest wants.
(6) BIANCA BELAIR vs. CHARLOTTE FLAIR
Flair naturally entered last. The crowd gave her a mix of respect and disdain. Charlotte made referee D.A. Brewer remove her robe before they got things started. “You don’t go here” chant. Belair ate it up.
Charlotte backed up Belair to a corner. Dueling chant slightly favored Belair. Charlotte wrote a line on the mat and dared Belair to cross. She did. Headscissors by Belair, escaped. Quick reversals. Charlotte yelled “Kiss my ass” to someone in the crowd who said she sucks. They tried to chant for her, and she waved them off. Front chancery by Charlotte, followed by shots to the back. Dropkick by Belair, who did the kiss-spank spot. Belair tackled Flair into the corner. Snap mare. Chops by Flair. Split-screen commercial.
Back from commercial, action spilled outside. Belair shoved Flair into a ringpost and went inside. Flair followed. Small package by Belair for two. Flair hit a slam. Neckbreaker by Flair. Dragon sleeper by Flair, and Belair walked up the post and flipped over to escape. Belair took down Flair by her hair. Double chickenwing and a slam by Belair for two. Belair wanted a handspring something, but Flair cut it off with a knee. Abdominal stretch by Flair, who wrapped up Belair’s extensions to boos, but Belair reversed the abdominal stretch. Back bodydrop from Flair to escape. Missed senton by Flair. Belair hit a handspring moonsault for two.
Flair hit a flatliner on Bianca into the turnbuckle, then stepped on her on her way up the post. Moonsault attempt. Belair put up her legs but Flair hit a Boston crab. Escape. Stretch muffler by Flair, escaped. Sitout powerbomb and a matchbook cover got two. Action spilled out. Belair put Flair into the post, then went back inside. Spear by Belair. One by Flair, who hit a kind of snap Natural Selection to finish.
WINNER: Charlotte Flair at 12:02.
Rhea Ripley’s music played as Flair hit Belair with a chair and then hit Figure Eight. Rhea finally left the top of the ramp after all that damage and Charlotte bailed. They stared each other down as the show went dark.
(Wells’s Analysis: Very good match between these two, but it seemed to indicate that Bianca’s position in the feud is probably over, despite her owning every segment she’s appeared in. Rhea standing on the ramp waiting for timing was weird given that Charlotte was using a chair at the time. At any rate, another good step toward the Charlotte-Rhea match at WrestleMania.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: A big step up over the last couple of weeks, which were good in every technical sense but didn’t have a lot of surprise or sizzle. Last week there were hints of it at times, but this week went all the way with a couple of upsets and interferences to further storylines and keep them burning. It’ll be very interesting to see what NXT does with The Forgotten Sons now; they’re pretty damaged at this point and haven’t worked babyface, and outside of the segment of the audience that’ll do the USA chant, they don’t have a lot that’s connecting them to crowds as babyfaces. That said, they really do work a good tag team match, though some fans don’t even want to see them. Finn-Walter got started and we got a look at Dakota Kai’s next feud after next week’s cage match, which will be with Mia Yim. I assume both will end up in the TakeOver ladder match; I’m assuming six women for that one, though no number was explicitly stated. Killian Dain is being built up again, but for what? And get Austin Theory a persona, stat.