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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Dominic Dijakovic vs. Cameron Grimes – HIT: I continue to be impressed with both men week after week. I’ve been critical of Dijakovic’s character and persona, but his in-ring work is on point. Cameron Grimes, on the other hand, I’m completely on board with all around. I was glad to see Grimes get the win, even if it was after some interference from Damian Priest. Grimes hasn’t had a significant win on TV in awhile if I’m remembering correctly so it’s nice to see him get the win. Dijakovic performed a moonsault to Grimes who was standing on the outside and landed very awkwardly. This was right before the Priest interference and looked like it could have been part of that angle. But I rewound and watched the landing again, and I’m hoping he didn’t legitimately injure himself. Drake Muertz was talking to another official in the ring post-match and you saw him hand gesture in a flipping motion while mouthing “when he did the moonsault”. After the commercial break he was shown being helped out of the arena by officials. Fingers crossed for Dijak!
Regal Announces Women’s #1 Contender Tournament – HIT: Regal was interviewed backstage and announced that starting next week there will be a number of qualifying matches leading to a ladder match at Takeover Tampa to name the new #1 contender to the NXT Women’s Championship. All for it since they’re blowing through Bianca and Rhea at Tampa before Ripley faces Charlotte at WrestleMania.
Finn Balor Addresses The Crowd – HIT: For the first time since defeating Gargano at Takeover Portland, Finn Balor stood in the center of the ring and spoke his mind. I’m not always impressed with Balor’s promos, and tonight I was actually drawn into his mic work and intensity tonight. Imperium, Fabian Aichner and Martel Barthel interrupted and told Finn that NXT UK Champion Walter sends his regards. They all fought ringside and Imperium overtook Balor, leaving him laying next to the steel steps they bashed his skull into. This is absolutely a feud I can get behind. Walter could be one of the only grapplers to put a cocky Balor in his place.
Austin Theory Video Package – HIT: This wasn’t as good as some of the recent video packages lately, but I’m still glad they spent some time to introduce Theory to the NXT crowd a little bit by showing some clips and highlights of him in Evolve and prior NXT appearances. Theory voiced over a little snippet about himself, and that was that. Nothing over the top, but this was a step in the right direction to building Theory up. The bigger step came later when he faced Ciampa.
Xia Li vs. Mia Yim – HIT: What a treat! We haven’t really seen Mia Yim much since War Games, and I can’t even remember the last time we saw Xia Li on TV. Two incredibly talented women and I’m always glued to the screen when either is on my screen. The two were putting on a competitive contest when Dakota Kai and Raquelle Gonzales emerged on the stage. Kai ordered Gonzales to the ring where she attacked Yim. Xia Li, ever the sportswoman, came to Yim’s defense but was leveled by the behemoth Gonzales as well. Meanwhile, Kai just stood at the stage with this look of glee and delight as her “Diesel” bodyguard took out her competition. I’ve been waiting for them to decide which direction to go with Kai. Strong heel or Chicken Crap heel. I’m glad they picked a direction and are rolling with it. The paranoid and cowardly heel might be overdone in wrestling, but when done well it can make for some very entertaining TV. Really looking forward to see where Kai and Gonzales take this opportunity, and wish them nothing but the best.
Austin Theory vs. Tommaso Ciampa -HIT : Last week, Theory was attacked in ring by Ciampa and this week he’s looking for revenge. I wasn’t sure what we were going to get going into this match. I was half expecting it to be a quick squash victory for Ciampa, and half expecting Theory to surprise us all and take it to Ciampa, but inevitably lose after a well fought battle. Though, the thought of Gargano interfering to give Theory an unclean victory also crossed my mind. Considering that’s how Dijakovic lost earlier in the night, I doubted that was the direction they were going to go. I was so very impressed with Theory here. The rising star looked like he could hang with and deserved to be in the ring with the veteran, Ciampa. He got a surprising amount of offense considering how low on the card Theory is, and Ciampa is arguably the top star in NXT. Clearly the NXT brass sees something in Austin Theory to give him this spotlight. And deservedly so. At 22 years old, Theory wrestles like a grizzled young veteran (no relation to Zach Gibson and James Drake). After the match, we got the Gargano run in, and he laid waste to Ciampa on the Take Over logo at the base of the entrance ramp. Looking forward to seeing these two finally blow off their rivalry after injury left the conclusion of their 2018 rivalry a bit lackluster.
Bronson Reed vs. Killian Dain – ½ HIT: Going into this match, I felt like they booked themselves into a corner. Killian Dain has been cooled off and is being built back up as a monster heel, and Bronson Reed seems to be getting a spotlight push lately. They both needed a win here. Seeing these two side by side, it was striking how similar they are. Similar height and build, similar move set and style. Where I’m high on both guys, I wasn’t overly into this match. It wasn’t bad by any stretch, but it was a little slow and plodding at times. The crowd popped for some of the high spots but seemed to be largely quiet otherwise. Not much heat for the false finishes either. I’m giving this match a ½ hit. It was okay, it was there. It helped cement Dain as that monster. But it never seemed to kick into high gear.
Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Forgotten Sons – HIT : Looks like the Forgotten Sons are beginning to portray a “Go America!” gimmick, as their match graphics and ring attire are now red, white and blue. GYV cut a promo cutting down America and portrayed the Sons as America’s Savior (not to be confused with the Monday Night Messiah). Oddly enough, the Forgotten Sons were in the heel corner and GYV were in the face corner, though they played opposite gimmicks. This was probably the best match I’ve seen that involved the Forgotten Sons. Admittedly, they did seem to have a bit of a fire lit under their butts tonight, but I do attest a lot of the match quality to GYV. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them have a bad match. Very glad that they are sticking around NXT US as the tag division can really use the talent boost.
Bianca Belair vs. Charlotte Flair – HIT : The match we’ve all been waiting for! The EST of NXT vs. The Queen. Charlotte may not “go here” any more, but after four years she’s returned to the Full Sail arena! Chants of “You Don’t Go Here!” echoed through the Full Sail arena as the match was underway. The first thing that I noticed was that Charlotte was wearing reddish attire. Any time her father wore red, he lost. Knowing that Charlotte keeps these things in mind, that just pulled me into this story even more. Will Charlotte actually lose before WrestleMania? Charlotte looked like the star that she is, but Bianca was the standout as far as I’m concerned. She had the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand, she was dialed up to 11 and came across looking like THE star of the match. She clearly showed that she could hang with the most decorated women’s wrestler in WWE history and that she deserves the spot she’s currently in, even in a loss. Rhea Ripley’s music hit while Charlotte was beating down Belair with Belair pleading for her to stop. Rhea, for some reason, proceeded to do her entire stage entrance, slowly, before power walking to the ring for the assist. Then NXT awkwardly went off the air as Nigel was mid-sentence. A bit of a strange ending to an otherwise excellent match.