SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Six-Women Ladder Match to crown #1 Contender to the NXT Women’s Championship – HIT: Io Shirai, Teagan Nox, Chelsea Green, Dakota Kai, Mia Yim and Candice LaRae kicked off this week’s episode of NXT! Even though this wasn’t a Takeover, Takeover graphics adorned the Performance Center, giving this match a little more of a high profile feel, all things considered. One of the reasons that I dislike a lot of multi-person matches is that most of the time only two or three competitors will be fighting, while the rest “take a nap” after getting hit with a few moves. This match had a lot of this. It didn’t seem like all of the women were involved at the same time, leaving the match feeling somewhat segmented.
I haven’t been too high on Chelsea Green and the “Robert Stone Brand”. But I have to admit, they are certainly paying attention to detail. Stone pulled out a playbook ringside, went over the book with Chelsea before sending her into the ring to clean house.
I was expecting to see Kai win to go on and challenge Ripley. But with Ripley unexpectedly dropping the title at WrestleMania, I wasn’t quite sure how that would affect this match. Shirai returned to action recently, and I think a Charlotte vs Shirai feud is just what the doctor ordered.
NXT UK Replay – Finn Balor vs. Alexander Wolfe – MISS: About a month ago, Imperium called Finn Balor out and that feud escalated on the NXT UK brand. Finn is gunning for Walter’s NXT UK Championship and Imperium has had their defenses on high alert. They showed about 5 minutes of the end of the match, leading into Balor’s victory. I understand why they are showing this matchup from a different brand during these times. But it hasn’t really been talked about on NXT US and seemed kind of arbitrary to show this feud all of a sudden. They only showed a snippet of the match,making it harder to get invested.
Rinku & Saurav vs. Ever Rise – HIT: I am so high on Bivens and his two Monsters. I’ve always been a major fan of monster tag teams, and these two are no exception. I was surprised how much offense Ever Rise actually brought to these two big men to kick the match off, but it did not take long for Bivens’ Enterprise’s Enforcers to brutalize Ever Rise. I was really expecting to see a quick squash match, but I really enjoyed how long this took to play out. Rinku & Saurav seemed like two cats, toying with their prey before dinner.
New NXT Women’s Champion Interviewed – HIT: Seemingly after the WrestleMania match, as Charlotte looked like she was just done fighting, she said that the woman makes the title and Rhea just didn’t have what it took. She spoke like and looked like a champion with that title over her shoulder. Rhea was shown in another part of the arena looking absolutely dejected after her loss.
Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa, One Final Match – HIT: In a cinematic styling, similar to the Boneyard and Funhouse WrestleMania matches, Gargano was shown showing up to the building. Inside was a ring with Ciampa and Triple H sitting inside. Triple H said Drake was there to tell them when its over. He doesn’t care what they do to one another, he just wants this to finally end. Like the two cinematic matches I mentioned previously, this was shot without any announcers calling the match. The lack of announcers and crowd worked in an atmosphere like a graveyard or in Wyatt’s Funhouse. But inside of a building with a wrestling ring, it seemed like something was missing. There weren’t any stage lights or set to look at. It almost looked like I was watching a dress rehearsal in a lot of ways.
The more advanced cinematography and the use of 24fps filming gives it a movie-like feel. Where a lot of this match was shot in and around a ring, the camera angles used were vastly different than we see week to week on any WWE programming, which was refreshing. But most importantly, Gargano, Ciampa and Drake Muertz did a fantastic job telling this story. If a crowd was ringside, the roof would have been blown off of the building ten times over.
Once they were outside of the building, I still couldn’t shake that nagging feeling of something missing. The Funhouse and Boneyard matches didn’t need announcers, the wrestlers did a wonderful job telling the respective stories both verbally and physically. I feel like if this match had Mauro and Nigel or Beth assisting in telling the narrative here, I would have gotten so much more invested. Where this was shot at night in Florida, you could hear crickets as the match unfolded. Assuming they were not added in post, to some that chirping may have added a layer to the story. But to me it just served as a stark reminder that nobody was there. When the wrestlers were selling, you could literally hear nothing but crickets.
Once back in the building that’s when it got weirder. Without a crowd or the announcers there to add electricity to the match there were extended periods of time where there was hardly any noise other than heavy breathing from the two recovering participants.
Though there was a lot that I didn’t like, it was all worth it once we got to Candice LaRae’s involvement. Everything that I didn’t like, not having a crowd or announcers for example, lent itself to what was unfolding before my eyes. We haven’t had much direction for LaRae for awhile now and I’m hoping this heel turn treats her better than her first quasi-heel turn the first time hubby turned.