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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Austin Theory vs. Tyler Breeze – HIT : Back at a crowdless Full Sail, NXT kicked off with a wrestling match for the first time in two weeks when Breeze looked for a little payback after his backstage interaction with Theory a few weeks prior. Maybe I’ve just been jonesing for some NXT wrestling after not getting a single match last week, but I really liked what they did here. Without a crowd, you had both men sort of trash talking one another which added a different feel to the match, something we can’t normally hear over a rowdy crowd. For not being able to perform with an audience, they were able to have a hard hitting and intense match that kept me entertained throughout. Theory seemed to be leaning heel, and that was very apparent here tonight. But his inexperience ended up costing him after he stole Breezy’s phone and began taking selfies. He was distracted long enough for Theory to pick up the win.
Killian Dain vs. Tahuti Miles – HIT : Tahuti who? His entrance reminded me of a bargain bin Velveteen Dream, but at least he looked confident. Confident that he was about to get his butt whooped by the Beast from Belfast. Miles definitely looks like a great talent, but I was put off by the entrance and his one strap undone overalls. Though Dain had most of the offense here, Miles really looked like the scrappy underdog who might survive the punishment long enough to squeak out a win here. Where this wasn’t a quick squash win and the announce team were hyping Miles throughout the match, I’d be willing to bet this is a launching point for him, even in a loss.
Cameron Grimes vs. Tony Nese – HIT : A dream match-up I didn’t know I wanted to see! When Tony Nese is such an underrated and underutilized talent and Cameron Grimes is one of my favorite up and comers for both his character work as well as his in ring style. Parts of this match were a little on the slower side which I think would have came across better in front of a crowd. But, what a technical performance between these two. Nese’s springboard moonsault onto Grimes was a thing of beauty, I thought that was going to be the finish, though I had Grimes pegged to win from the beginning. Three matches less than an hour into the show, all three winners.
Aliyah vs. Xia Li. Winner, Io Shirai – HIT : The moment I saw this match announced, I was looking forward to seeing a Li victory. Though a monkey wrench was thrown into the mix after realizing that we haven’t seen Aliyah on TV since her orbital bone was broken earlier last year by Xia herself. That gave me a bit of uncertainty as to who the winner would be. A further monkey wrench was thrown in after we saw that Li was beat down backstage right before this match. Aliyah was looking all happy that she was about to get a bye into the Number One Contender Ladder Match, when Regal made an announcement through the ring announcer that the match would still happen with a new opponent. Shirai made her return after months away due to injury. A short and fast paced match later, Shirai emerged victorious. It was a little contrived that Shirai was in the building with nothing to do considering the state of the world at the moment, but I’m glad to see her back and in a prominent spot once again!
Lee, Dijakovic and Priest Meet – HIT : The three met in the middle of the ring to talk about who was going to lay claim to Lee’s belt. I really like this feud between Dijak and Lee, where Dijak is like “Let me be your friend!” and Lee is all like “Nah, man. I’m good.” I’m watering it down for chuckles, but it’s an entertaining story especially with Priest interjecting himself right in the middle of it.
Oney Lorcan & Danny Birch vs. Shane Thorn & Brendan Vink – HIT : I was impressed with the new team of Thorne and Vink on Raw this past Monday, and that continued into this match against the Brit-Am Brawlers. For a new team, they seem to have great chemistry with one another. If you’ve been a reader of this column, you’ll know just how much I love Birch and Lorcan. Any time I get to see them perform I’m a happy camper, even if I know they’ll be staring at the lights. So you’ll understand why I almost jumped out of my chair when I saw Lorcan and Birch get the quick win here. Just an exhibition match, no stakes here.
Kayden Karter vs. Candice LaRae – HIT : The second match to determine the entrants to the Number One Contender ladder match for the NXT Women’s Title in a couple weeks. I don’t know exactly what it was about this match, but I think the two of them had trouble performing without a crowd. A lot of the moves seemed a bit sloppy and “slowed down”, so to speak. It wasn’t a bad match, but this looked like a dance more than a fight to me. Glad to see LaRae get the win, since we haven’t seen much direction for her since hubby Gargano turned heel.
Matt Riddle vs. Roderick Strong – HIT : The Original Bro continues his feud with The Undisputed Era in a match against Strong. Riddle came to the ring by himself, and the announcers mentioned that due to “prevailing circumstances” his tag team partner, Pete Dunne, could not be here tonight. I wonder if Dunne is trapped in the UK and what that means for the NXT Tag Titles? The announcers almost planted that seed tonight too, acknowledging that Undisputed Era would love to reclaim the tag titles and their verbiage lead me to believe they were sowing the seeds for something, though I don’t know exactly what. After Riddle’s win, two huge dudes in skirts came out and obliterated Riddle. They gave me “Headshrinkers” vibes. Malcolm Bevins finally made his NXT debut after, emerging from backstage to the future of the Tag Division. We don’t know who these two monsters are, but damn am I intrigued.
Triple H Addresses Ciampa & Gargano Rivalry – HIT : Hunter hit the ring and began talking about how there hasn’t been a bigger rivalry than Ciampa and Gargano. Ciampa came out and they called Gargano out to the ring as well. This was a really well done segment where Hunter compared their rivalry to he and Shawn Michaels. Oh, how Hunter has grown. After spending his career being the guy who would do anything to get a win. And here he is telling them that he can’t have them causing chaos. They said they don’t need a crowd or anyone around in the arena to fight. In two weeks we’ll see these to finish this match in an empty building with a ring and a ref, nothing else. This way they can tear the place apart and not harm a soul. They were abruptly interrupted by a creepy vignette showing explosions, clocks and that the end is near. Similar vignettes have showed up, albeit much more brief, in other segments for the last few weeks but this is the first time that the performers have acknowledged them. Before it was blink and you’d miss them. Now, it’s a part of the story. Curious to see who they are hyping and who has the audacity to interrupt the COO! I’d Kill to know who thinks they can Kross him and get away with it! *wink wink*.