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
MARCH 25, 2020
TAPED IN ORLANDO, FLA. AT FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton
Tonight after NXT, join me live with cohosts Nate Lindberg and Tom Stoup to break down the show with live callers and mailbag.
•STREAM LIVE HERE ABOUT 30 MINUTES AFTER NXT
•CALL: (515) 605-9345
•EMAIL COMMENTS/QUESTIONS: firstname.lastname@example.org
•IF YOU DON’T LISTEN LIVE, SEARCH “PWTORCH” ON YOUR PODCAST APP TO SUBSCRIBE AND THEN DOWNLOAD OR STREAM THE FULL SHOW AN HOUR OR SO AFTER NXT
-Last week, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa destroyed the Performance Center. Tonight, they answer to Triple H. Phillips laid out the fact for those who haven’t heard that the planned TakeOver matches will take place next week and the week after.
(1) TYLER BREEZE vs. AUSTIN THEORY
This match was set up as part of a backstage segment two weeks ago. Theory brought a phone to the ring to mock Breeze’s selfie schtick.
Irritatingly, my computer crashed when I had the majority of this match written. The early going saw chinlock reversals and some semi-clean breaks, with the odd dropkick by Breeze and blockbuster by Theory. There was no split-screen when commercial hit, which should be obvious given that this was taped and edited previously.
Well into the match, Theory picked up Tyler’s phone and sent him a message for later. He picked up Breeze and continued to jaw at the phone. He lifted Breeze for his finisher, but Breeze wriggled free, hit the Beauty Shot and got the surprise victory.
WINNER: Tyler Breeze at 13:23, including commercial. It was probably shorter in reality.
(Wells’s Analysis: This seems like a big step back for Theory, but he’s got plenty of time to rise the ranks, and there’s no value in Breeze if he doesn’t grab a few wins here and there. I suspect a rematch will happen as soon as possible, but with Florida declaring shelter in place, “as soon as possible” may not be all that soon.)
(2) TEHUTI MILES vs. KILLIAN DAIN
Interesting time to make a TV debut. Miles has actually worked a couple of Raw matches as Elijah King. He’s got military-inspired gear from his real life history; he served in Afghanistan.
Miles backed Dain into a corner and hit some shoulderblocks, then took Dain to the corner again, but Dain dumped him from the apron with a pump kick. Dain followed Miles out and tossed him to the steps. The ref reached five before Dain tossed Miles back in and followed. Miles threw fists from a kneeling position but Dain took down Miles, then leaned on him in the corner. Belly to back suplex by Dain; he covered while pushing down Miles’s face for two.
Miles rolled through a suplex (kind of; he landed badly) and got back in it with some strikes and forearms. Superkick and dropkick by Miles, who didn’t go down. Dain blocked and then took down Miles, hit a senton, and finished with a Vaderbomb.
WINNER: Killian Dain at 3:42.
(Wells’s Analysis: In what’s essentially a go-home show for TakeOver, it’s surprising that the first quarter of the show has been eaten up on wins for gatekeepers. Then again, much of “TakeOver” may have been shot on the same day, so pulling double duty on those days isn’t overly realistic.)
(3) TONY NESE vs. CAMERON GRIMES
Interesting pairing here; probably works better with no crowd given heel-heel(?) dynamic.
Nese backed Grimes to a corner, and Grimes ducked out to back Nese off. Waistlock takedown by Nese, who countered with a headlock and grinded Nese’s head down to take control. Wristlock by Grimes, reversed, arm drag by Nese into an armbar. Cradle by Nese for two. He went to an armlock and Grimes battled out with a couple of knees. Nese hit a pump kick but got hung on the top rope by Grimes, who covered for two. Grimes wrenched Nese’s chin and neck and went into an armbar, then twisted Nese’s ear. Nese battled out and hit a couple of chops but Grimes hit a lariat on a charging Nese for two.
Grimes wanted a powerbomb and Nese rolled through, then hit a thrustkick to a seated Grimes. Reset and the two exchanged strikes. Kneelift by Nese, and an enzuigiri. Grimes ducked a lariat, but got hung on the top rope. Springboard moonsault by Nese got a long two as the announcers sold this as what would be a big victory for Nese, even with him being a former Cruiserweight champion. After a few reversals, a big forearm by Grimes and a superkick by Nese. Another superman forearm by Grimes, and the Cave In finished.
WINNER: Cameron Grimes at 5:39.
(Wells’s Analysis: Real good stuff here, which should come as no surprise. Not sure how this match would have played to a live crowd, but given the backdrop of this show, it was just fine action)
-Byron promoted the two upcoming qualifying matches for the women’s ladder match. There should be three more total, so either there’s an angle coming, or the ladder match is in two weeks and another (Dakota Kai?) will qualify next week.
-The match from four months ago featuring Xia Li vs. Aliyah was shown; this is where Xia broke Aliyah’s nose. Now Aliyah’s back for a grudge match with stakes.
(4) XIA LI vs. ALIYAH – Qualifier for women’s ladder match
Aliyah waited for Xia with her usual cocky expression. Xia’s video played but she didn’t appear, and Aliyah wanted to know what was up.
The show went backstage, where a crying Xia Li had been attacked in the hall and was holding her knee. The ring announcer said Xia Li wasn’t medically cleared, but someone else was available.
(4) IO SHIRAI vs. ALIYAH
Welcome back, Io! Dang, it would have been nice to hear that pop.
Quick dropkick by Shirai. To the corner, Io leaned on Aliyah and hit swinging double knees on a grounded Aliyah. Aliyah used Shirai’s hair to take her down, then went to a corner and hit some quick kicks. Rope run, armdrag reversal, big right fist by Shirai. Backbreaker by Shirai, moonsault, that’s that.
WINNER: Io Shirai at 1:21.
(Wells’s Analysis: I thought the injury angle might have something to do with Dakota Kai weaseling her way into the ladder match, but it could be just about anything now. Shirai looked great and picked up right where she left off)
-Keith Lee walked to the ring in street clothes, carrying his North American championship belt. He was interviewed in the ring by one of the new guys. He says he had a competitive match with Cameron Grimes, he won, and he was struck from behind. He didn’t know it was Damian Priest, so when he came to, he made a mistake when he attacked Dominik Dijakovic, and he owes him an apology.
Dijakovic’s music played to bring him striding to the ring, looking fairly serious. He said he doesn’t give a damn about the apology; he only gives a damn about the championship. He says he respects Lee too much to attack him from behind like that. But apology or not, he did attack him.
Damian Priest’s music played. He went to the ramp. He said this is how it’s going to go: his eyes are on that prize. Not because it’s his dream, but because he’ll get more money, more women, a bigger legacy. To do that, he needs that championship.
Lee said Priest wants to live forever, but because of who he attacked, he won’t. He said the champ is standing right here. Priest ripped out his nightstick and charged, but Dijakovic tossed Lee out of the way and took a shot. Lee went at it with Priest near the ring, and Dijakovic hit both from the top turnbuckle. Dijakovic’s music played to end the segment, and Saxton sold how much they all want to be champion.
-Adam Cole cut a promo from…his backyard, most likely. He said Velveteen Dream had done nothing to earn a match with him, but Dream could face Bobby Fish for the privilege.
(5) ONEY LORCAN & DANNY BURCH vs. SHANE THORNE & BRENDAN VINK
Thorne & Vink wrestled the Street Profits on Raw this past week. I’m going to be honest – I’d kind of forgotten about Thorne, despite how strong he had been in his gatekeeper role.
Burch and Vink to start. Collar and elbow. Vink shoved down Burch and smirked at his work. He pushed Burch to a corner and chuckled again. Burch grabbed a headlock on the very tall Vink but Vink escaped and made the tag. Thorne and Burch exchanged some holds and Lorcan tagged in. Tandem chop. Another chop by Lorcan. Thorne tagged and Vink hit a huge uranage in the corner. Wow, the hangtime.
Another tag and the heels cut the ring in half. Rope run and each guy hit elbows. Big lariat by Oney and both tagged. Burch threw a European uppercut on Vink, then hit a nice cutter. Burch hit the second turnbuckle for a missile dropkick. Burch grounded Vink for the crossface while Lorcan held off Thorne. Vink tapped, and Thorne did a tap as well from Lorcan’s hold.
WINNERS: Burch & Lorcan at 3:41.
(Wells’s Analysis: I don’t know a lot about Vink, but I like his smugness and he’s a genuine giant in there. It was nice to see Thorne again, even in an empty arena match on an in-ring heavy show featuring a lot of rarely seen talent)
(6) CANDICE LERAE vs. KAYDEN CARTER – Qualifier for women’s ladder match
This is the first appearance of Candice since Johnny’s turn. Their relationship wasn’t mentioned as the match was getting started.
Collar and elbow. Headlock takedown by Candice. Kayden snuck back and hit a waistlock. Candice powered to her feet and blocked Carter for a cover for one. Rope run and an armdrag by Candice. Carter hits one of her own. Carter swept the leg and covered for one. Candice rolled up Carter for one.
Reset and the two circled each other. Single-leg takedown by Carter. Carter rolled up Candice for one, then trapped her for two. Another rollup for two, then a dropkick for two. Kayden Irish whipped Candice, who ducked out of the way and hit an elbow. Snap mare by Candice and a rollup for two.Front chancery by Candice, who missed a step-up senton. Chops and a thrustkick by Kayden, who stalked Candice and hit a running boot. Cover for two. Both hit their feet, and Candice won a striking exchange and hit a snap mare. She hit a Gargano Escape, and Carter escaped. Senton to the back by Candice. Senton missed. Shining wizard missed by Kayden. Gargano Escape finished.
WINNER: Candice LeRae at 4:30.
A graphic showed that Chelsea Green, Mia Yim, Tegan Nox, Io Shirai and Candice LeRae have qualified, with one spot open. The ladder match was called out for two weeks from now.
(Wells’s Analysis: Nice enough action, though some of Carter’s offense looked soft and rehearsed. Maybe a product of no crowd being present? Not sure, but it didn’t really get into gear.)
(7) MATT RIDDLE vs. RODERICK STRONG
This was called out at the main event, though the Triple H conversation with Gargano and Ciampa is, in reality. The announcers said Dunne isn’t able to be here tonight, so Riddle is riding solo. That could make any planned tag team championship match a problem. Strong was alone as well.
The two grappled on the ground, reversing frequently. Reset after 30 seconds. Riddle shot for a takedown and leaned for a leverage pin for one. Riddle took down Strong with an armdrag but the two continued to reverse on the ground until they reached the ropes for a break. Reset again. Strong went for a leg and the reversals started again. Rope break at their feet and yet another reset.
Riddle grabbed a leg and hit a gut-wrench suplex. Strong bailed through the ropes to back Riddle off. Strong wanted an Olympic Slam but Riddle blocked and reached the ropes. Strong put a knee to Riddle. Chop exchange. Forearm exchange. Enzuigiri by Strong, and Strong hung Riddle on the top rope and taunted as the show went to commercial.
Back to action, the two were exchanging strikes in the center of the ring. Pele kick by Riddle. Riddle wanted a PK, but Strong rolled through to a Boston Crab. Riddle rolled over and kicked his way out. Bro to Sleep, German suplex with a bridge for two. Deadlift for Bro Derek, but Strong escaped and hit a step-up knee in the corner. Olympic Slam got two. Rising knee missed, although Strong slapped the knee so it looked a bit silly. Riddle hit Bro Derek to finish.
WINNER: Matt Riddle at 10:50, including commercials.
After the match, Riddle was attacked by two large, long-haired, bearded middle eastern men. Phillips said Riddle was trying to fight off “these two superstars” in a horrible, corporate-sounding usage given these are unknown wrestlers. Malcolm Bivens FINALLY made his TV debut, and said he was going to introduce Matt Riddle to the future of the NXT tag team division. He didn’t name the two beefcakes standing on each side of him, but they’re Rinku Singh and Saurav Gurjar, who’ve been working as a team for a couple of years. The movie Million Dollar Arm is about Singh. He’s the Million Dollar Arm.
(Wells’s Analysis: Good match, of course. Riddle and Dunne likely aren’t able to defend their championships, so something else will have to go on in its place. It’s awesome to finally see Bivens on TV, with a team that’s likely going to put him near the top of his division, rather than just barely treading water like Robert Stone)
-Next week, Velveteen Dream faces Bobby Fish. Additionally, Xia Li, Deonna Purrazzo, Dakota Kai, Aliyah, Kayden Carter and Shotzi Blackheart do battle in a Second Chance Gauntlet Match for the final spot in the ladder match. And there’s Dakota’s way in. Also next week, Keith Lee defends his NXT North American Championship in a triple threat match against Dominik Dijakovic and Damian Priest.
-In the ring, Triple H said there was no rivalry more personal than Gargano vs. Ciampa. He was just getting going when Ciampa’s music played to bring him to the ring. Triple H said there would be no physicality tonight. He called out Gargano, who hit the ramp with his own mic. He asked if Triple H was crazy. Why was he being fined if Ciampa was the one who destroyed the Performance Center? And he’s not getting into the ring.
Triple H asked, so nothing is your fault, right? If it was up to Regal, he would’ve fired both of them. He’s not asking Johnny – he’s telling him – get in the ring. He told both men not to lay hands on the other. Triple H was talking about bigger things going on in the world, and Ciampa says bigger things have been going on in his world for a year. He broke his damned neck. This needs to end.
Triple H said they deserve a big stage. Gargano said he doesn’t need that. They just need a ring and a referee. Ciampa said this was about one thing – who’s the heart and soul of this company? Gargano says it’s him. Triple H said they don’t need a crowd…they don’t need an arena…he’ll give them that when they want it. Gargano said not now. Give him two weeks, and then they finish it. Triple H will put a referee in there just to say it’s over. They both walk in, one walks out, and then it’s done. Triple H said if it continues after that, then neither of them will be here anymore. In two weeks, he’ll send the two a message with a location, and they’ll go there and settle it. Gargano said Ciampa will have to deal with the fact that he’s the better man, he’s the better wrestler, he’s the better everything.
The apocalyptic video from the last few weeks played on the tron, grabbing the attention of all three in the ring. They watched it and the video played in full screen, ending the show. The wrestler was shown briefly, and yes, it was Killer Kross.
(Wells’s Analysis: This wasn’t the hottest of the many recent hot segments between the two, but it laid out the end of the years-long feud nicely. Killer Kross getting involved in this way, ending on a cliffhanger, is a hell of a thing. Obviously, it’s wild to see him apparently figured into the main event scene already; it’s very rare for a debuting wrestler to start up so high. And, of course, it’ll be interesting to see just how he fits into a feud that has seen more than its share of visiting players)
FINAL THOUGHTS: The show was heavy on the number of matches, but light on in-ring minutes with 42 (about eight of which are just assumed minutes during commercial breaks in the first and last matches). It was refreshing to see some rarely or never-seen faces on TV, and a handful of debuts, which is usually something that happens after WrestleMania weekend. Brendan Vink looks like he could be a great addition as an upper-card giant gatekeeper, if he can talk a little.
Next week, we get the women’s gauntlet as well as the North American Championship triple threat. In two weeks, the women’s ladder match and the Gargano-Ciampa match go off. Beyond that is anyone’s guess in these weird times. Stay safe out there. Follow me all over social media @spookymilk, and check out the PWT Talks NXT podcast tonight or tomorrow for analysis with Tom Stoup and Nate Lindberg.