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Better late than never, my Hits and Misses for last week’s NXT on USA program…
NXT from the Performance Center – HIT: I had to re-write the column this week after a technical mishap combined with my own stupidity caused me to lose the entirety of the column I wrote while watching NXT. When I initially watched the show on Wednesday, I was really torn on whether I liked or disliked using the Performance Center in lieu of the Full Sail Arena. Part of me thought it was really cool to see a show emanate from that building. Even though the PC is a relatively new building (well, at least to the WWE. I don’t know if the building was already there and they moved in, or if they built it) it already has a lot of history. A lot of current NXT and WWE wrestlers came through the Performance Center by now, and one of the greatest performers of our time, Shawn Michaels, teaches there — to name a little bit of said history. So it was cool in that respect to see a show emanate from the PC and even get a small “tour” of the building during the Gargano / Ciampa main event segment. At the same time, I didn’t like how small the venue looked. Granted, from the perspective of the hard cam, it looked relatively similar to Full Sail. But whenever they showed an angle from one of the camera men standing ringside, looking up at the performers in the ring, that’s when it felt like a smaller venue. Especially with all different national flags hanging near the ceiling, it looked like something you’d see in a high school or community college gymnasium.
With all that’s happened in the world since this particular show, and the time I’m re-writing this column (Tuesday, 3/17 early afternoon), it makes the most sense that all WWE programming will emanate from the PC until the virus outbreak is contained. This show was the last WWE televised event to go on with a live crowd before the COVID-19 outbreak shut down parts of the country. With that knowledge, in hindsight I really liked how the utilized the PC for this show. However, if it was business as usual and RAW, SD and NXT aired this week as they usually would with a live crowd, I think I would give the venue a thumbs down overall. WWE visits cities all over the country and they are always hesitant to name a smaller city or arena to keep the illusion that they are this massive touring brand. This show, remembering that it was “business as usual” at the time, screamed to me “We couldn’t book another venue for the show, nobody wants us. So, we’ll convert our training facility! For a company who is embarrassed by being at smaller towns, I was kind of surprised they didn’t try to book a larger venue for this particular episode.
Cameron Grimes vs. Keith Lee for the North American Championship – HIT : A fun and explosive match for these two. Going in, I didn’t think Grimes had a chance due to Lee’s meteoric rise as of late. Granted, there were plenty of spots throughout this match where I almost felt my younger days coming back, days where kayfabe was still strong. Grimes had me convinced on more than one occasion that he might just pull this off. I liked the angle with Priest and Dijakovic at the end. It advances this triple threat angle between Lee and the two of them, perhaps making this a four-way for the North American belt if Grimes is added to the mix. I think he should be! Grimes is one of the best heel acts in NXT right now.
Mia Yim vs. Dakota Kai – HIT : Sweet karmic relief! I’m always a huge proponent of seeing the heels eat crow and watch their dastardly plans backfire. Gonzales didn’t interfere in this match at all until the very end where she tried interfering on Kai’s behalf, allowing for Yim to get the distracted win. From a story perspective, this match made sense considering the background feud that Yim and Kai have been kind of off-and-on returning to since WarGames. But, both of these women should be in the #1 contender ladder match at Takeover – if Takeover even happens at this rate with COVID-19 running rampant. I’d like to see Gonzales get herself involved in that ladder match as a participant to continue the Nox / Kai feud, considering that Nox won her match later in the night, securing her spot in that Takeover ladder match.
Kushida vs. Raul Mendoza – HIT : I saw Mendoza hit the entrance ramp and said to myself “Well, this will be a nice easy win for Kushida!”. Boy, was I wrong. Sure Kushida still went over, but this was probably my favorite match of the night, even taking into account the fact that it was barely four minutes long. I was expecting a 30ish second squash, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a competitive and explosive match out of these two, albeit for a few minutes. Mendoza hasn’t been on NXT TV for a long time and he is such a talent it’s near criminal that he hasn’t been. This was clearly a way to build him up a bit and re-introduce him to the crowd, as one of the next segments also featured Mendoza in a big way.
A Man Has Been Kidnapped! Mannapped? WRESTLERNAPPED! – HIT : Mia Yim was shown outside the Performance Center, talking about her victory tonight and how she vowed revenge on Gonzales for beating her down after her win over Kai. Just then, the Camera cut to Raul Mendoza packing his car up with his gear. An unmarked van swooped in out of nowhere and two masked luchadores rushed him, beat him down, and threw him in the back of the van before speeding off. As far as I’m concerned, Mia Yim, the unnamed interviewer and the camera guy are an accessory to kidnapping. They witnessed this heinous act, yet they didn’t lift a finger to call the police! On a more serious note, I’m really happy to see Mendoza in a meaningful spot, even if we aren’t sure what to make of it yet. My speculation is that the former King Cuerno/El Hijo del Fantasma, Jorge Bolly, is going to debut in a major way. Potentially with a group of luchadores in a stable. According to one of my co-hosts on PWT Talks NXT, Bolly and Mendoza have been teaming in dark matches for awhile now, so we’ll see where this may lead! I’m excited about it, one way or another.
Ripley and Flair Clash Before WrestleMania – HIT : If you’ve been reading this column for awhile now, or listen to me on PWT Talks NXT, you’ll know that I was NOT high on Charlotte vs. Rhea Ripley for WrestleMania. I wanted to see a more deserving NXT talent get the spotlight. Since then, each week, they’ve won me over and I’m really looking forward to this match in a couple weeks. That said, I came away from this segment with some mixed feelings. Now, there was nothing wrong with this segment on the whole. It was executed well, sure. But there was nothing wrong with the way the two women pulled the segment off whatsoever. But why did this segment exist in the first place? Sure, I know they need to build to and hype WrestleMania. But nothing was said in this segment that hadn’t been before, nor was the story advanced. It was basically just having them clash to have them clash. Maybe I would have felt differently if there was a live crowd in attendance, I don’t know. I just couldn’t really get too invested in the segment because I just felt like it was there to be there. Overall, I’ll give it a hit because it was entertaining and Charlotte and Ripley played their parts well.
Tegan Nox vs. Deonna Purazzo – HIT : Any chance I get to see Purazzo perform, I’m all over it. As far as I’m concerned, she is such an underutilized and underrated talent in the NXT system and I sincerely hope that she gets the spotlight that I feel she deserves sooner rather than later. I was very underwhelmed at the crowd reaction for Tegan Nox during her entrance and her subsequent victory. We still don’t have a clear picture of who Nox really is, similar to how for nearly a year we would hear names like Wade Keller or Stone Cold Steve Austin ask “Who exactly is Seth Rollins?”. We know that she fought back from two catastrophic and back to back knee injuries, that she’s Welsh and formerly best friends with Dakota Kai. But that’s pretty much it. Without having more of her backstory and seeing more character development, it’s hard for the average fan to get behind her. Personally, I’m a big fan of what Nox brings to the table as a performer, even though I wish she would stop using the chokeslam as a relatively smaller female wrestler. I was torn who to root for during this match, because I like these two performers so much. Inevitably, Nox got her win to enter her into the #1 Contender ladder match. As I mentioned earlier in the column, I’m hoping that Raquel Gonzales somehow finds her way into the ladder match at Takeover to continue the Nox/Kai feud.
Broserweights vs. Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) for the NXT Tag Team Championship – HIT : A little underwhelmed at Velveteen Dream’s reveal before this match took place. After U.E. made it to the ring, Dream’s music hit and he appeared on the platform above commentary. He said that he didn’t care about Roddy or his family, even saying that “These are just tights!” and that Roddy shouldn’t have thought too much about it. Dream said that he targeted Roddy simply as a way to get at Adam Cole and his NXT Championship. The whole thing was just so convoluted. Sure, Dream is known for mind games, but these were weird mindgames to play on Roddy and his family, just for the end goal to be Cole and his belt. I’m not going to complain too much, as I’m really looking forward to seeing Dream vs. Cole when it happens, I’m just not super sold on the build getting there.
As far as this match goes, it was a solid Tag Team bout. Pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of these two teams. KOR easily stood out from the rest as far as I’m concerned. He just had this fire about him that made him seem like he was dialed to 11 when everyone else was sitting at a 9 or 10. It wasn’t a 5-star classic, but provided some great in-ring action. The Grizzled Young Vets attacked after the Broserweight victory, taking out both UE and Broserweights and laying claim to their deserved shot at the NXT Tag Titles. Where both teams should have a beef with GYV, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this turn into a triple threat match. That is as long as Takeover goes on as intended with the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent travel ban to the UK, Europe and other countries. I’d assume that GYV live in the UK, so they may not even be able to travel over here for the match.
Ciampa & Gargano Fight Forever – HIT : As the participants of the last segment, GYV included, made their way up the ramp, Ciampa’s music hit and he stormed to the ring demanding answers that we didn’t get from Gargano’s sit-down interview with Mauro Ranallo last week. It’s obvious to all of us why Gargano turned on Ciampa, he’s basically getting back at Ciampa for what Ciampa did to him in 2018. But, Ciampa still needed it spelled out for him, I guess. Gargano appeared on screen in a backstage conference room and began to spell things out for Ciampa. Ciampa, realizing he knew exactly where that conference room, and subsequently Gargano, physically was in the building. He stormed out of the ring and rushed Gargano, which began a very well executed backstage brawl between the two. They tore the backstage of the PC up, breaking mirrors, putting holes in walls and causing carnage everywhere they went. It ended on the platform above the announce team when Ciampa dove off the platform, delivering an Air Raid Crash to Gargano through the announce desk.
Backstage brawls can be hit or miss. Sometimes, they seem way too contrived and don’t come across well to an audience. I think they knocked this out of the park! On no fewer than 3 occasions, I thought to myself “Oh wow, they aren’t getting up from that! That must have been the final blow!” only to have this segment continue on. Which isn’t a knock on the segment whatsoever, it’s a huge compliment. I was glued to my screen during this brawl and it certainly added hype and intrigue to their match at Takeover… again, assuming Takeover even happens at this point.