NXT HITS & MISSES 4/22: Balor vs. Velveteen Dream, Drake Maverick angle, Damien Priest, Gallagher vs. Fantasma, Dream & Lee vs. Undisputed Era

By Nate Lindberg, PWTorch contributor

Adam Cole (photo credit Wade Keller © 2020)

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•Finn Balor, Velveteen Dream Get Attacked – MISS: Last week, Finn Balor interrupted Velveteen Dream on stage setting up a match for this week. The show opened to the backstage area where referees were in a locker room looking confused while holding Finn Balor shirts. The announce team told us he was attacked backstage. Dream enters the ring and shortly thereafter, Adam Cole and the rest of the Undisputed Era followed suit. As they were laying waste to Dream, Keith Lee ran to the ring. Curious as to why they started this angle just to write Balor out of it the following week. Unless there were COVID concerns surrounding Balor, I’d think they would continue with something they started. Not that the WWE has ever been known for dropping an angle all of a sudden or anything.

•Shotzi Blackheart & Tegan Nox vs. Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzales – HIT: Last week on PWT Talks NXT, part of the PW Torch Dailycast podcast line up, I said that I was in a wait and see pattern for this angle after the addition of Shotzi to the mix. Even though Shotzi had a bit of a sub-feud going with Kai, there hasn’t ever really been an alliance with Shotzi and Nox, making it seem a little out of place. This may have been a shorter match, but action packed nonetheless. I’m thinking with Shotzi taking the loss tonight, it’s a way to allow Kai and Gonzales to pick up the W and also allow Nox to lose without actually getting pinned. Even though I enjoyed them together, I still feel like Nox and Shotzi are an odd pairing, but overall this segment worked for me and I’m hoping to see Shotzi and Nox give the heelish Kai and Gonzales their comeuppance.

•NXT Interim Championship Tournament – Drake Maverick vs. Jake Atlas – HIT: I am so utterly confused at this Drake Maverick situation. Before the match, they showed videos for both competitors. Maverick’s showed his heartfelt Twitter goodbye to the WWE audience after he was released as part of that slew of wrestlers let go last week. They painted him as the biggest underdog going into this tournament where he has three matches left to prove himself, become NXT Cruiserweight Champion, and possibly save his job? I’m 100% invested in this, don’t get me wrong. But this situation where Maverick has been released, yet he’s involved in this tournament with an amazing underdog story, is incredibly bizarre.

I hate speculating this, but it almost makes me wonder if Maverick’s release was worked. Perhaps Maverick gave that Twitter announcement the best acting performance of his life, and Maverick is slated to win this entire tournament as a feel good underdog story? With people legitimately losing their jobs, I hope they wouldn’t work an angle into it.

I certainly got behind Drake 110% during this match and opening video package, I can’t be the only one. I genuinely don’t remember the last time I went from only mildly caring about a wrestler, to being 100% invested, so quickly.

•Damian Priest Wants The NXT N.A. Championship – HIT: The best heels are the ones who serve up the truth that fans don’t want to hear. In a video package, Priest highlighted all of Lee’s recent feuds, saying that his opponents were all hand picked by Lee because he knew he would be able to beat them. He didn’t pick Priest for the Triple Threat match a couple weeks ago, Regal inserted Priest in it. I really liked this segment, it painted Priest in a badass light and poked some holes in the heroic story of Keith Lee, a perfect way to start a feud hot.

•NXT Interim Championship Tournament – Kushida vs. Tony Nese – HIT: When the blocks were announced, Kushida and Swerve were my two picks to win the tournament. That may have been wishful thinking after seeing El Hijo del Fantasma’s vignettes last week. That original prediction was also kind of challenged with all of this drama surrounding Drake Maverick. Even so, I expect Kushida to make it relatively far in the tournament even if he doesn’t go all the way. But let’s also take a second to recognize how good Nese is as well. What a 450 splash!

•Mr & Mrs. Wrestling Speak – HIT: I loved the duality of this vignette. When you see Johnny and Candace in color, sitting around the table, they portrayed a perfect happy couple. Black and white and the craziness came out. LaRae, sporting greyish blue hair and dark blue lipstick barely even looked like the same person. My brain made the weirdest comparison here, but if you took Rated-R Lita and paired her with a completely deranged Kerwin White, you would get this new incarnation of Mr. & Mrs. Johnny Wrestling. I dig this new direction and I can’t wait to see which competitors that this power couple target first.

•Drake Maverick Backstage Interview: NotCharly Caruso went up to a forlorn Drake Maverick sitting in a stair well. He gave an emotionally charged promo where he questions himself as a competitor and that “Maybe everybody was right about me…” Saxon then took pity on Maverick and said “He’s not out of this yet, he’s still in it! He still has a chance to win!” This is such a bizarre angle, mixing a man’s real life source of income with a kayfabe angle.

•Mia Yim vs. Jessi Kamea – HIT: I can’t say that I’ve ever seen Jessi Kamea wrestle before, perhaps other than the massive women’s battle royal a few months prior. Not overly impressed with her performance but I do think she showed promise, technically. This was Mia Yim’s match to win, going into a relatively cold feud with Charlotte for the NXT Women’s Championship. Last week, Charlotte “awarded” the first shot to Yim, kind of out of the blue. I’m completely fine with the match, as I think Yim deserves the spotlight. But I do wish there was more of a build to this feud other than “Yim was Charlottes first NXT Opponent, so lets give her a shot.”

•NXT Interim Championship Tournament – Gentleman Jack Gallagher vs. El Hijo del Fantasma – HIT: The long awaited debut of the former King Cuerno, El Hijo del Fantasma had a fantastic showing against the criminally underrated Jack Gallagher. There was no way was Fantasma going to lose during his debut match, so his victory tonight was beyond predictable. Still, this was a great match to debut with, and I am absolutely looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Fantasma in the NXT system.

•Velveteen Dream & Keith Lee vs. Undisputed Era (Adam Cole & Roderick Strong w/Bobby Fish) – HIT: I may not have been overly impressed with the opening segment tonight with these gentlemen, but I was invested in this match the second that the bell rang. The match started with an explosion of energy from Lee and Dream, taking UE down rather quickly. Shortly after the match started, Damian Priest hopped the barricade and attacked Keith Lee in the throat with a nightstick, taking him out of the action. The match continued, rather than being postponed due to Velveteen Dream’s second partner of the night getting injured. Dream took on Cole and Strong on his own in what turned into a 2 on 1 handicapped match. As Dream continued to get his butt kicked by UE, Dexter Lumis of all people, hopped onto the apron in Dream’s corner. The ref allowed this impromptu partner, and Lumis assisted in the win.

I was invested in the match, for sure. But there were so many bizarre things that took place with this angle. The advertised Balor match was squashed. The ref didn’t call for interference after Priest’s attack. Dexter Lumis just injected himself into a babyface role for some reason, the match continued after Lee’s ‘injury’ – just to name a few.

I was entertained, sure. It just felt overbooked to me. I think it was fine, it worked in the grand scheme of things, and I applaud them for trying new things right now. But NXT is typically known for their relatively basic, yet effective, story telling. This was an amalgamation of a few angles mashed together, almost seemingly just to mash them together in the main event. At least that’s how I saw things.


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

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