4/22 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s report on Dream & Lee vs. Cole & Strong, three Cruiserweight tournament matches

By Kelly Wells, PWTorch contributor


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

WELLS’S NXT TV REPORT
APRIL 22, 2020
LIVE 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
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[HOUR ONE]

-Replays from last week focused most heavily on Finn Balor and Velveteen Dream, as well as the reveal of Timothy Thatcher, and finally beatdown of Tommaso Ciampa by the man apparently soon to be known as Karrion Kross.

-Moments ago, there was a backstage incident and Finn Balor’s status for the main event is “unknown” and he’s been removed from the main event tonight.

-Velveteen Dream was introduced, and he did a stylized version of Finn’s arm-raising moment to his own music. “New levels, new devils,” he said, three times. He said sometimes, though, you’re dealing with the same demons. Tonight he finds himself stood up…

Undisputed Era’s music played to interrupt Dream, and Adam Cole walked out to the ramp. Cole said it was a little convenient for Dream that Finn Balor was removed from the equation, and now Dream is the de facto #1 contender. He said he has no idea what happened to Finn Balor, but he knows what’s going to happen to Dream. With that, Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong jumped Dream, and Cole joined in. Keith Lee made the save and cleared out UE, commencing with a huge pounce on Cole. Lee helped Dream up, Dream slapped Lee’s chest in appreciation, and Lee’s music played. I assume we just set up a new tag team main event, though this wasn’t stated.

-Tonight, three Cruiserweight tournament matches will happen, as well as Johnny Gargano & Candice LeRae appearing live.

(1) SHOTZI BLACKHEART & TEGAN NOX vs. DAKOTA KAI & RAQUEL GONZALEZ

Heels entered second; this is a blowoff from a mini-feud set up last week. Gonzalez and NOx to open. Nox used her speed to avoid big trouble and made a blind tag. She kicked Raquel’s knee on the way out, and Shotzi made some quick hits as well. Kai tagged herself in, annoying Raquel a bit, and Shotzi continued on offense with armdrags and hip-tosses. Senton against the ropes, and Nox tagged in. Senton in the corner and another tag. Nox launched Shotzi to the outside, where she landed on both heels. She howled leading into the break.

(Note on live vs. taped: last week seemed to have a few reasons to believe it was taped, but alas, Tom Stoup drove over to Full Sail and confirmed that the satellite was up and the show had been done live. This is a strange situation since Drake Maverick has been released, but apparently he still gets to do these three matches anyway)

Raquel had Shotzi in a torture rack, and she planted her stomach-first into the corner and tagged. Kai leaned into a cover for two. Irish whip, and a face wash missed but Kai cut off the tag. Shotzi struck back and both tagged. Nox continued to use speed to strike quickly, peppering Raquel with body shots. A lariat wouldn’t take her down. She stomped the foot then hit a thrust kick. To the corner, huge kick and Raquel went down to a knee. Nox went up but Gonzalez caught her for a fall-away slam. She landed in the face corner and Shotzi tagged for a seated senton off the top for two. Kai interfered on Nox and Shotzi went for a bulldog on Gonzalez, who caught Shotzi and hit a powerbomb to finish.

WINNERS: Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez at 7:42.

(Wells’s Analysis: Half or more was during commercial, but the action shown was strong and lively. Gonzalez continues to be protected and shown to be the perfect insurance policy for Kai.)

-Drake Maverick was shown: first his emotional twitter post reacting to his release, and then a hype segment saying he wasn’t anyone special, but he was going to give his all to the tournament because it might be his last three matches. He said he wasn’t done in WWE, he wasn’t done in life and he was going to do everything he could to win these matches. Up next, Maverick faces Jake Atlas.

(Wells’s Analysis: As straightforward as that was, it was the single most effective babyface hype segment I’ve seen for a while, and certainly the high point for Maverick. It was real and emotional, and if Maverick really is on the way out, I find it strange that he’d be given this segment at all. Color me intrigued)

(2) DRAKE MAVERICK vs. JAKE ATLAS – Cruiserweight Championship Group A tournament match

Atlas was introduced first, and he gave a meat and potatoes babyface promo in a backstage segment. Maverick looked intensely into the ring, then at the belt, at ringside sitting on a table. The announcers wondered whether Drake could focus.

Collar and elbow. Atlas powered Maverick back. Drake with a headlock. Rope run, waistlock, Atlas got away. Atlas evaded a few quick moves and gave a bow and a flourish to Drake. Drake shot in at the leg and took down Atlas, then grabbed another headlock. He wanted Tequila Sunrise but Atlas escaped. Hard left kick by Maverick. Atlas caught Drake and put him on the apron, but Maverick avoided trouble. To the other side, Maverick did a headscissor to take Atlas over the ropes and out. He rolled Atlas in the ring, but Atlas caught him for a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Hard Irish whip by Atlas, who then grabbed Maverick for a waistlock takedown. Maverick tried to elbow out, and eventually resorted to running Atlas into the turnbuckle. Atlas charged and ate post.

Another hard kick by Maverick. Uppercuts followed. Irish whip, reverse, and a Russian leg sweep into the turnbuckle by Maverick. Dropkick from the second rope by Maverick. Tequila Sunrise but Atlas escaped again. Tope by Maverick, back into the ring, Maverick went up and hit a Macho elbow for a long two. Sliced Bread, Atlas blocked and took down Maverick with a superkick. Atlas went up and Maverick chased and struck, then followed. Huracanrana, blocked, and Atlas hit a Cartwheel DDT from the top to finish.

WINNER: Jake Atlas at 6:28.

(Wells’s Analysis: It’s a dirty trick to tug at our heartstrings with that Maverick segment, then have him immediately lose. I still can’t think of a great reason for that segment. Maverick certainly isn’t going over Kushida in this tournament so I don’t see what this is all about)

-On the ramp, Atlas cut a promo saying he would find his way to the championship, although he felt bad for Drake, who gave him a hell of a fight. This isn’t something they’ve done before, but this particular release is starting to genuinely look like a work, and it’s going to be a disappointment if it isn’t, though if it is, there will be questions over whether it should be done. Later, Kushida faces Tony Nese in the other Group A match for the night.

-A Damian Priest promo played, interspersed with Keith Lee’s real-life story. He said he didn’t care about Lee’s life story. He said Lee picked opponents he knew he could beat, and he only dealt with him in a triple-threat and didn’t beat Priest. He said he’s going to have his biggest moment when he beats Keith Lee for the North American championship, and lives forever.

(3) KUSHIDA vs. TONY NESE – Cruiserweight tournament Group A tournament match

A Kushida promo played, subtitled. It was basic babyface stuff. Nese got his own backstage bit and he talked about his win at WrestleMania. He acknowledges that Kushida has been in round robin tournaments and won before, but he’s never faced him in those tournaments.

Nese shoved Kushida back. He said he didn’t care how many tournaments Kushida has won. Headlock takedown by Nese, reversed. He tried to escape and Kushida floated over, then danced over Nese and made a clean break (and loudly said “clean break”). Nese took down Kushida but again there was a quick reversal, and they hit their feet at the ropes. Not-so-clean break by Nese and Kushida put the fists to Nese. Rope run and Nese hung Kushida, then yanked Kushida out and to the barricade. Whip to the barricade again. Back into the ring for a one-count.

Kushida threw forearms. To the top, ax-handle took down Nese. Rope run, and Nese yanked Kushida out after evading the springboard back elbow. The match went to commercial.

Nese had Kushida wrapped in a bodyscissors, and both threw hands and Kushida got the better of it and escaped. To the ropes, Nese hung Kushida again. Springboard moonsault by Nese missed. Forearms by Kushida, handspring back elbow hit this time. Cartwheel and a basement dropkick by Kushida. Wind-up right, and a hard kick to set up the Sakuraba lock. Kushida kept up the kicks. Nese lifted up Kushida but Kushida put on the Sakuraba Lock. Nese hit a fisherman suplex, more or less, for two in order to break. Nese went up, but Kushida hit a handspring. He got thrown off and Nese hit a 450 splash for a long two.

Nese ran into a palm strike, and Phillips mentioned Jushin Liger in a nice tip of the cap. To the corner, both guys went up. Fireman’s carry by Nese on the second turnbuckle, but Kushida fought his way into another Sakuraba Lock and hit a sort of Spanish Fly, not letting go, and Nese tapped on the mat.

WINNER: Kushida at 11:07.

(Wells’s Analysis: This tournament struck me as the next big moment for either Isaiah Scott or Kushida, with El Hijo del Fantasma a dark horse. I just don’t see Kushida losing any group matches, though I wouldn’t have been surprised by a first-match upset here. The match was a very strong mat-based affair, as you’d expect)

-McKenzie Mitchell caught up with the tag team champions. “Timothy, every time I look into your beautiful blue eyes, I think of Pete.” “Matt…my eyes are brown.” “I know, bro.” Riddle said he had something big in mind for next week. Thatcher was a little worried about that.

-Scarlett Bordeaux spoke over a hype segment for herself and Karrion Kross. Apparently she’s just going to be “Scarlett,” as far as the announcers are saying.

-Johnny Gargano spoke from his dinner table at home. Underneath some slow jazz piano, he said he had a perfect life. He said they feel great together. Candice LeRae (now with hair dyed purple and dark lipstick again) set the table. The picture went black and white and he said the real fairy tale was believing that being a good guy would take him to the top. He said it was a cookie cutter world where people took advantage of his kindness.  Candice sat down and said she was unappreciated since she stepped foot in the place. She said she ate seconds so they could eat first. Once again it went to foreboding black and white and different music and she said when she needed people, they were nowhere to be found. She said it was enlightening and she wasn’t going to eat seconds anymore. Back to nice jazz piano. He said they’d been the good soldiers and they got walked all over. They were given nothing. Table scraps. He said they were stabbed in the back time and time again. The only people they trust are each other. He said the sun would shine in NXT when they were the first married couple to reign as champions in NXT. And then the good guys…win. In a beautiful touch, the nut cup that figured into the finish for the Gargano-Ciampa match was the centerpiece at their dinner table.

(Wells’s Analysis: Fantastic delivery by both, and once again, Jeremy Borash knocks one of these segments out of the park)

-Io Shirai segment, subtitled. She said she would destroy the beautiful castle the queen lives in.

-Backstage, McKenzie Mitchell asked Drake Maverick what he was thinking. He said Jake Atlas is great, but he’s out there fighting his opponent, and fighting himself. He said maybe everyone was right about him. He was done talking. Byron said it was an uphill battle, but he still had a chance.

(Wells’s Analysis: This is the most bizarre story on NXT TV in a very long time)

(4) MIA YIM vs. JESSIE KAMEA

Kamea, announced second, was seemingly framed as a heel. Her music felt like a thin backing track of Smells Like Teen Spirit or something.

Takedown by Yim, and a shoulderblock. Kip-up by Kamea and a block by Kamea, then a kip-up by Yim. Rope run and another block by Yim, then a kick to the upper back of the neck to Kamea, and a cover for two. Irish whip, standing switch, and a spinning heel kick by Kamea. Ground and pound. Kamea threw some shots on a kneeling Yim, then hit a hip toss. Backspring elbow for two. Kamea went for a dropkick from the top, which Yim evaded. Neckbreaker by Yim. STO by Yim into Protect Ya Neck.

WINNER: Mia Yim at 3:11.

After the match, Charlotte Flair hit the ramp and she was all smiles heading out to Yim, mic in hand. She said she was sure Mia had heard, but she wanted a match with her. Yim said she watched Charlotte become a queen, and Yim became an HBIC. Charlotte thanked her for helping make her a star, and that Yim had always been a good hand. She said next week she’d make her a star too. Yim stared up the ramp as Charlotte walked away.

(Wells’s Analysis: another great backhand by Charlotte. A match with Mia is a foregone conclusion, but a big opportunity for Yim nonetheless. Okay action in the match. The top-rope dropkick attempt by Kamea looked a little off, but everything else worked)

-Gentleman Jack Gallagher promo. He said his new tattoos were proof of the pain he could take, and in this tournament you’d see things from him you never expected.

(Wells’s Analysis: I’m always in favor of these hype segments when tournaments come around)

-Robert Stone and Chelsea Green were at poolside. Stone said he and Green would reload and move forward. He directed Chelsea’s photo shoot from across the pool. He told Green she was the face of the women’s division. He invoked many of the women in the division and said they weren’t on her level. She said she was the total package, and Stone agreed. A drone shot went up over the two of them lounging at poolside.

(5) JACK GALLAGHER vs. EL HIJO DEL FANTASMA

Really generic rock riffs for Fantasma. Yikes.

Collar and elbow. To the ropes, reversals, and a clean(ish) break. Waistlock takedown by Fantasma, reversal, and Gallagher yanked at the mask and referee Drake Wuertz warned against it. To their feet, headlock by Gallagher, escape and a dropkick by Fantasma for a one count. Headlock by Gallagher, rope run, slam by Gallagher for two, and he tried three different covers with the same result. Forearms by Fantasma, and a hard one staggered Gallagher. Gallagher dumped Fantasma, then threw him into the barricade. Gallagher smiled at his handiwork and yanked around Fantasma by the mask again. Gallagher broke the ten count and went after Fantasma again, then finally relented and went back in. Fantasma yanked Gallagher out with a crucifix, then hit a plancha on Gallagher into commercial.

Gallagher was covering for two as the announcers said the Cruiserweight Championship has evaded Gallagher for years. Armbar by Gallagher. Fantasma finally powered out and hit a palm strike, and then a few forearms in the corner. Gallagher threw body shots and backed Fantasma into the corner. Fantasma ducked a big forearm and hit a superkick to send Gallagher out. Fantasma hit one of the better-looking topes you’ll ever see to ground Gallagher. Back into the ring, to the corner, and Fantasma hit a running elbow. Rollup by Fantasma for two. Fireman’s carry, Gallagher yanked the mask and escaped. Rollup for two. Headbutt for a very long two by Gallagher, who glared at Wuertz. Gallagher weighed his options and charged the corner and missed. Fireman’s carry, Gallagher went for the mask again, but Fantasma shook him off and hit a Samoan Driver to finish.

WINNER: El Hijo del Fantasma at 11:38.

Fantasma spoke with Mitchell at the top of the ramp. It was all in Spanish, but based on the Spanish I remember, he said something about he and the people going to the top…together? It’s been too long.

(Wells’s Analysis: Gallagher has been so good in this division for so long, but he definitely wasn’t about to beat one of the new faces of the division. Fantasma joins Akira Tozawa at the top of the group for now. I had Fantasma figured to be the one who was kidnapping other cruiserweights, but this face act certainly doesn’t make it look likely. Then again, it could be a reveal at the end of the tournament. The match itself got into a decent gear by the end, and told a good story with Gallagher using the mask to gain an advantage, but Fantasma overcoming those shenanigans)

-The Flair-Yim match was made official for next week, as well as Keith Lee defending against Damian Priest.

-During commercial, El Hijo del Fantasma was attacked by the luchadors who have been abducting wrestlers. He fought off the conquistadors and they took off. Hmm. Maybe he’s involved after all.

-The main event tag match is next, though it was never made official up to now. Little has been said about the Balor situation other than “an incident happened and we don’t know where he is.”

(6) VELVETEEN DREAM & KEITH LEE vs. ADAM COLE & RODERICK STRONG

Bobby Fish tagged along as the heels were introduced second. The heels were introduced at ten to the hour, so assuming no overrun, as there hasn’t really been lately, this is going to be brief.

UE charged at the bell and Dream was jawing with Fish outside the ring. Fish was tossed out. Damian Priest charged in out of nowhere and hit Lee in the throat with his nightstick. The ref (D.A. Brewer) checked on Lee as chaos reigned heading to commercial.

Back to action, Dream was alone in the match. Strong was legal and the heels had things in hand. Dream backed Strong into what had been the face corner and threw forearms. Irish whip by Strong, who tagged Cole. Dream fought off the heels for a moment but Strong hit an Olympic Slam and Cole covered for a long two. Another tag and Strong hit one of his backbreakers. Dream fought off a cover but Strong hit another backbreaker. Headlock by Strong, and in the face corner, Dexter Lumis appeared out of nowhere and stood and stared. Dream fought off a backbreaker and hit Dream Valley Driver, then looked at his corner, where Dexter Lumis reached for a tag. The official allowed the hot tag, and Lumis started taking out Undisputed Era. He destroyed Strong with forearms, then hit a Lou Thesz press on Cole. Spinebuster for Roddy. Uranage for Cole. Tope by Lumis to a returning Fish and Strong on the outside. Blind tag by Dream, Purple Rainmaker and he pinned Cole.

WINNERS: Velveteen Dream & Dexter Lumis at 9:44.

-Dream looked out of the ring and shared a weird moment with Lumis as Undisputed Era complained up the ramp.

(Wells’s Analysis: Wow. These Undisputed Era main events have gotten pretty formulaic, but this match went through a couple of changes and had a very interesting surprise, and furthermore, didn’t go overlong as many of these main event tags do. The next phase of Dream-Cole is in place, and it looks like Lumis is figured into a key role in NXT in the short-term. Nice enough action, though it was clearly more about the story here)


FINAL THOUGHTS: Though I generally like NXT, my biggest gripe is usually with its lack of surprise. That certainly wasn’t an issue this week, with the sagas of Dexter Lumis and Drake Maverick taking shape, as well as another luchador abduction attempt. The Cruiserweight matches all delivered, as did the various non-wrestling segments throughout the night, particularly Johnny-Candice. Furthermore, something is up with Finn Balor, who was never onscreen this week so he simply may not have been available for some reason, though it could just be the next step in his own feud with Imperium.

Good wrestling tonight and some great storytelling. The best episode in a while, probably. Check out tonight’s episode of PWT Talks NXT live using the call-in info at the top of the post, or listen later, or email us at pwtorchnxt@gmail.com with questions if you can’t listen live.

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