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WELLS’S NXT TV REPORT
JUNE 3, 2020
LIVE(?) IN ORLANDO, FLA. AT FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Mauro Ranallo, Beth Phoenix, Tom Phillips
Tonight after NXT, join me live with cohosts Nate Lindberg and Tom Stoup to break down the show with live callers and mailbag.
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-Tomorrow at 12:30 Central, I’ll be representing PWTorch on the Paul Levesque conference call for TakeOver: In Your House. Watch here on on twitter @spookymilk in case there are any interesting tidbits from that call.
(1) MIA YIM vs. CANDICE LERAE
For the second week in a row, the show decided to forgo the recaps from last week; I could go either way on that, but given Riddle’s call-up I think showcasing Thatcher’s win would be worth seeing again.
LeRae’s tron still uses both “Pint-Sized Poison” and “Poison Pixie.” Pick one! Candice jumped Mia to start and the ref broke them up and called for the bell. Candice charged and Mia tossed her toward a corner. Snap mare and a PK by Mia. Wrestlers were in the crowd to provide reactions like last week. Mia grabbed a full nelson but Candice kicked Mia in the head to break as the wrestlers poured on the boos really, really thick. Candice covered for two. Candice stepped up on a kneeling Mia’s back and jumped up into a senton. Again and again. Two count.
Candice mounted Mia’s back and Mia stood up and backed Candice into a turnbuckle. Cannonball in the corner for two. Mia brought Candice to her feet and Candice went at Mia with chops and backed her to a corner, then lit up Mia until the ref broke. To the corner, Mia put Candice on the apron and then the floor with a back elbow. The ref started to count and Mia wheelbarrowed Candice into the barricade. The two continued to brawl and it was pretty clear this wasn’t heading back to the ring.
DOUBLE COUNT-OUT at 3:49.
Candice and Mia fought to the ramp. Tegan Nox appeared and broke it up. Dakota Kai, Reina Gonzalez and Shotzi Blackheart got involved. The riffraff cleared out and took it to the back until it was just Candice beating down as an arriving Johnny Gargano cheered her on. Keith Lee appeared run the heels back into the ring, and then the faces stormed the ring to send them off. The ring announcer said that per William Regal, this was now a mixed tag team match…next.
(Wells’s Analysis: The mixed tag was more compelling than either singles match and I was hoping it might make it to TakeOver, but it’s looking like a North American Championship match and potentially a six-woman match for that show, and I have no complaints there either, and this makes for a good hook during the first break)
(2) MIA YIM & KEITH LEE vs. CANDICE LERAE & JOHNNY GARGANO
Upon return, Gargano (who was in street clothes) complained. He and LeRae went up the ramp. Lee gave chase and gorilla-pressed Gargano. LeRae jumped on Lee’s back and he simply carried her to the ring as well. Phillips said Gargano would have to wrestle in the jeans he found at Baby Gap.
Women started. Yim jumped LeRae this time and tossed Candice around. Candice reached for a tag, saw it was Lee standing there and freaked out. Seoul Food got a long two. Gargano jawed at Yim, providing a distraction for LeRae to wrench her leg. She went for a cover but the ref refreshingly pointed out the shoulder wasn’t down. Yim launched LeRae off of her, put her in a corner and face washed her. Yim booted LeRae in the corner and she jawed with Gargano for a while again. Gargano broke up a Yim cover with a kick and all hell broke loose. The men ended up in the ring as the women fought outside. Lee had Gargano up for a power bomb and Gargano went at Lee’s eyes with his car keys as the ref was preoccupied with the women. The women ended up in the ring and LeRae rolled up Yim for the win. After the match, Gargano went at Lee again, then grabbed his North American championship belt, kissed it, and laid it outside the ring on the In Your House logo as Mauro promoted a meeting at that show.
WINNERS: Candice LeRae & Johnny Gargano at 3:43.
(Wells’s Analysis: So much for the mixed tag. Hopefully they can revisit this in a longer setting down the road. More of an angle than a match)
-Vignette: Tommaso Ciampa hyped his match at In Your House with Karrion Kross.
-McKenzie Mitchell was backstage with…Dexter Lumis. She asked what the odds were that Velveteen Dream could beat Adam Cole to become new champion. Lumis stepped out of frame, then back in with an easel and a set of markers. We’ll apparently see the payoff of this later.
-Earlier today, McKenzie caught up with an arriving Drake Maverick. She asked how he was feeling. He said today was the day: either the best or the worst day of his life. He said there was no pressure for this reason. He said he doesn’t know what’s going to happen, and he’s excited. He drove this idea home with some high energy and ran off. Not sure how it’s supposed to work that there’s no pressure because the stakes have never been higher, but Drake came off well anyway.
-Prime Target: Adam Cole vs. Velveteen Dream. Adam Cole started to talk, and a limousine pulled up. Kyle O’Reilly put his head out the window and invited Cole in, where Undisputed Era started to get psyched for the upcoming championship match. Mauro Ranallo was the voice-over throughout the segment to transition between heels and face.
Elsewhere, Velveteen Dream rollerbladed around town. He spoke in voice-over about how this is where it all started, and he hoped Adam Cole liked pain, because there would be a lot of it.
Undisputed Era went to a small fancy wine bar and Cole toasted to the longest championship reign ever and a beautiful victory at TakeOver. Someone called for more bread as the camera focused on Cole’s belt on the table.
Dream hearkened back to when he pinned Adam Cole. He asked his mirror who would be the greatest champion of them all. A Prince lookalike showed up in the reflection and assured him it would be he – the Velveteen Dream.
The segment moved to soundbytes. Sam Roberts said Dream had to be unbeatable. Peter Rosenberg hyped the clash of personalities. Drew McIntyre said Dream was unpredictable. Pat McAfee said Dream reminded him of Dennis Rodman, who was flamboyant but always got the job done. Mauro hyped the backlot brawl for the NXT Championship match at TakeOver.
(Wells’s Analysis: Whether because of Dream being a special attraction, the online issues he had a few weeks ago, or both, he hasn’t been on TV a whole lot of late. This segment did more to promote the match than probably everything that came before it combined. I thought Dream would win in his first challenge. That didn’t happen for perhaps multiple reasons, but after this segment I think I’d almost put money on it)
-We returned to Dexter Lumis. He had completed his masterpiece, which was himself driving a truck with Undisputed Era (minus Kyle) tied up in the back, above a TakeOver: In Your House logo. He silently walked away from the easel.
(3) ISAIAH “SWERVE” SCOTT vs. TONY NESE
This is the payoff to a mini-feud at the end of the Cruiserweight Championship for the two. Quick start and Nese bailed. Swerve followed and beat Nese around the ring as he crawled away. Swerve tried to put Nese into the steps but Nese wrenched at Swerve’s face and entered the ring. Swerve followed but Nese caught him and went on the offensive. Nese kicked Swerve down and covered for two. More kicks. Swerve went to the apron and the ref broke it up. Nese ran Swerve into the turnbuckle, flexed, and covered for two. Nese worked a bodyscissors as the audience clapped to get the babyface into it. The two exchanged chops and Swerve mounted Nese, but got caught in a guillotine. Swerve got to his feet and turned it into a brainbuster to break.
Swerve lit up Nese, but Nese ran the ropes and hit a drop toe hold. Swerve dumped Nese and ran the apron to hit a boot to Nese’s face. Swerve thought about putting Nese back into the ring, but tossed him to the steps again. The ref’s count hit eight when the two went back in. Swerve went at Nese, who wrapped him up in the ropes to break. Throat chop by Nese but Swerve hit a kick and a running European Uppercut. Swerve went up the ropes but Jack Gallagher hit the ramp for a distraction. Nese took advantage and went for a Sunset Driver, but Swerve rolled through to a sunset flip to win. Nese yelled out at Swerve on the ramp as Gallagher took it all in.
WINNER: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott at 5:34.
(Wells’s Analysis: Lots of sports entertainment finishes tonight, as the show gradually works in a few of them in a way that could turn off some purists but may draw others. Fine enough action, but as the matches before, it was a match to get to another match and not meant as any kind of ending)
-A spot promoted the triple threat women’s match, Finn Balor vs. Damian Priest and Adam Cole vs. Velveteen Dream at TakeOver.
(4) ONEY LORCAN & DANNY BURCH vs. BREEZANGO (Fandango & Tyler Breeze) vs. THE UNDISPUTED ERA (Roderick Strong & Bobby Fish) – #1 Contender’s match for the NXT Tag Team Championships
Breezango was a surprise team, back from Fandango’s injury. They did an astronaut-inspired entrance and Beth said someone needs to call Dr. Tom Prichard because some heavenly bodies are in the house. Indus Sher remains off TV and not mentioned whatsoever after their initial appearances.
Burch, Breeze and Fish started in the ring, as each team will have a legal man. Faces teamed up on Fish until each one wanted to cover, and a disagreement ensued. Fish tagged Roddy as the faces stared one another down. Quick roll-ups and breaks were too frequent to cover in real time and the match went to commercial at the 90-second mark with all six wrestlers facing off.
Burch, Breeze and Roddy were legal. The faces stomped Roddy in the corner, but Roddy escaped and threw elbows and shots to each before Burch reverse. Breeze superkicked Roddy and Burch hit a missile dropkick on Breeze. Burch knocked Fish off the apron to avoid a UE tag but Roddy took control, dumped Burch and hit a high backbreaker on Breeze. Fish cleared out Burch on the floor and tagged in. He put a knee to Burch when he tried to reenter the ring and UE lit up Breeze in their corner. Roddy covered Breeze for two and transitioned into a wristlock. Breeze escaped but Roddy transitioned to a headlock. Burch finally made it back into the ring and fought off Roddy as well as an interfering Fish. Fandango tagged in and laid waste to UE. He hit a side suplex on Roddy and covered for two, broken up by Fish. Lorcan tagged in and destroyed everyone. Double blockbuster for UE. He ran at Fandango, who caught him and dumped him to the outside onto everyone there. Burch tossed Fandango onto the pile as well. Complete breakdown as UE hit the ring to team up on Fandango, and the camera caught Dexter Lumis at ringside, and his presence distracted UE. Breeze hit his Beauty Shot on Fish, followed by Fandango hitting his finisher to end the chaos.
After the match, Imperium hit the ramp to stare into the ring at the new #1 Contenders. Immediately after, Indus Sher and Malcolm Bivens also hit the ramp and Imperium looked into the ring at Breezango, out at Indus Sher, and back again as the segment ended.
WINNERS: Breezango at 9:45.
(Wells’s Analysis: The match was a typical triple threat tag, with a lot of chaos that was hard to keep up with. Burch and Lorcan were red herrings as now we have Breezango in the position where we thought we’d see them. Meanwhile, Indus Sher finally shows up. It would have been nice if there was an explanation for their complete exit from TV and their pursuit of Thatcher and Riddle, but in any case, it’s nice to see an actual growing tag division again after some extremely lean times of late in NXT)
-Quick recap of Chelsea Green teaming with Charlotte last week. In a WWE.com exclusive, Chelsea Green broke away from Robert Stone and exited his brand because she was hotter now than she’s ever been. Reports of Green heading up to Raw or SmackDown started circulating earlier today.
(5) SANTANA GARRETT vs. ALIYAH
Santana, who recently did a job as a heel, is in full face mode for tonight’s entrance. Neckbreaker by Aliyah and a cover for two. A disheveled Robert Stone clapped and cheered on Aliyah as he strode to the ring. He said “You HAVE to win this match.” Aliyah hit a rising knee in the corner and covered for two. Aliyah trapped Santana’s arms and Santana drove Aliyah back into a corner a couple of times to break. Aliyah went up and Garrett hit a Frankensteiner from the top. Springboard moonsault finished. Robert Stone looked a mess as he backed away from the ring and Aliyah tried to go after him.
WINNER: Santana Garrett at 2:00.
(Wells’s Analysis: It wasn’t acknowledged by the announcers because this was again just an angle to further a story, but in Santana’s long stay in NXT occasionally on and off TV, this is her first televised win. I’m not sure if it suggests anything further or if a warm body was simply needed to move Aliyah and Robert Stone further in this direction. As for Chelsea Green reportedly moving up, her recent matches don’t at all suggest she’s ready for that spot, so it’ll be very interesting to see how she’s figured in)
-Tom Phillips threw to Prime Target once again to promote the women’s triple threat match.
Io Shirai was first up. The camera showed shots of her underwater as she spoke in voice-over in Japanese until she hit “Charlotte Flair should be afraid of me. Io Shirai is the next NXT Champion.)
Rhea Ripley was in her kitchen, waking up at 5:30, getting set to work out early and get her feeling good early in the day. She said she finished 2019 as high as she’s ever been and it’s all been downhill since. She said now, she just wants to win.
Charlotte worked out at the Performance Center. She said she was nervous – she hasn’t been on TakeOver in a long time. She said when the crowd chanted “You don’t go here,” she said, excuse me? Natalya supplied a soundbyte that Charlotte had gone full circle. Peter Rosenberg said Charlotte has to show she’s as hungry as she ever was.
Rhea Ripley entered a gym. When she works out, she thinks about a lot of things. She works to get better and better to get back what she wants. She teed up her challenge of Charlotte on Raw. Rosenberg said Ripley had everything going for her, and she ran into a mountain named Charlotte Flair. Rhea said she had only scratched the surface of what she can do as a champion. She said it’ll be so much sweeter when she takes it back.
Sam Roberts said any time Io Shirai walks into an arena, every set of eyes is locked on her. We got shots of a young Shirai winning tournaments all over Japan as Beth Phoenix and Rosenberg put her over. Nattie said she was one of the best wrestlers in the world and when Io is on TV, she wants to see what she’s going to do. Pat McAfee said she was like a wolverine. She’ll rip your face off. He predicted her to win the championship at TakeOver. Mauro put over the match one more time for this Sunday’s event.
(Wells’s Analysis: I don’t know how these “Prime Target” segments do in the ratings, but I hope it’s pretty good, because they’re so much better as go-home show fodder than the usual “momentum building” wacky tag matches that Raw and SmackDown have told us are the way to go. I found it very interesting that Shirai’s bits both started and ended the segment. If there’s a nitpick here, it’s that Shirai was presented entirely in kayfabe, Charlotte somewhat stepped into real-life Charlotte and Rhea seemed somewhere in between.)
(6) BRONSON REED vs. CAMERON GRIMES
Nice to see Reed back in the ring. In a nice bit of continuity, Reed hit his pose but was careful to keep one eye on Grimes, who’s quick to hit the Cave In out of nowhere. Reed shrugged off a chop and hit a bionic elbow, which Beth called out as a tribute to Dusty Rhodes. Military press slam by Reed and a huge running senton. Cover for two. Grimes ran the ropes but got caught. He wriggled free, hit a forearm but got caught by a Lou Thesz press. Hip attack in the corner by Reed, and Grimes bailed. Reed tossed Grimes back into the ring and went up to the top. Frog splash missed and the Cave In finished.
WINNER: Cameron Grimes at 2:39.
(Wells’s Analysis: Grimes is wonderful but I was surprised to see Reed lose so quickly in his return. These match times are really something – normally we get three matches north of ten minutes, and so far the second longest didn’t even reach six.)
-As Grimes postured, he freaked out at something offscreen and ran off. Karrion Kross and Scarlett were at ringside. Kross charged the ring and Grimes ran off. Saito suplex for Reed. Kross got in the face of the camera and said “This Sunday…something special. Tick…tock.”
-A graphic made official the assumed six-woman tag for this Sunday: Tegan Nox, Mia Yim and Shotzi Blackheart vs. Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez, with names in that order on the screen for the two teams.
(7) DRAKE MAVERICK vs. EL HIJO DEL FANTASMA – Cruiserweight Championship match
The match started at 19 to the hour. No Alicia for formal introductions.
Handshake to start, but Fantasma immediately transitioned to roll up Maverick for two. Maverick rolled to the corner, confirmed the two, and looked to Fantasma and asked “Really?”
Mat work with some quick reversals. Reset and Fantasma backed Maverick to a corner to break. Fantasma put down Maverick with an armdrag takedown and held an armbar. Monkey flip and a crucifix by Fantasma for two. Maverick headed to a corner to regroup again, clearly psyched out by the moment.
Rope run. Flying headscissors by Drake sent Fantasma to the outside. Fantasma ducked a dropkick and Drake slid out over him, but he hit a rolling senton from the apron and the show went to commercial.
Drake was throwing shots in the corner. Irish whip, reversal, and Maverick dropped Fantasma on a turnbuckle. Missile dropkick by Maverick and Fantasma bailed again. It’s still on the subtle side, but Fantasma is leaning heel here. Fantasma hit a sitout powerbomb on the outside and Maverick yelped in agony. Fantasma rolled him inside for two. He targeted the back with a couple of shots. Romero Special by Fantasma, and Drake yelled out repeatedly. Maverick was able to reach out and grab a rope to break, but Fantasma hit a backdrop driver for two. The wrestlers in the crowd were trying to will Drake into it, in case anyone is missing the point of the story here. Maverick fought off a charging Fantasma in the corner and came off the second rope but got caught in a Boston Crab. He yelled out again as he struggled to finally break by grabbing a rope. He said “I’m not gonna quit” over and over.
Fantasma stood and shook his head at a grounded Maverick. Fantasma swatted away Drake and hit a sitout powerbomb for a long two. Mauro said Drake’s career flashed before his eyes, and the weight of the world was on his injured back. The crowd pumped up Drake as he went back to a corner. Fantasma told him to quit and he slapped Fantasma, who returned fire with forearms to the back. Drake drove Fantasma to a corner, then lost his mind and threw fists until the ref broke it up. Big bulldog by Drake, who went up and hit a flying elbow for two. Jawbreaker by Fantasma. Spinebuster followed. Fantasma went up but Maverick stopped his momentum by charging the corner and joined him on the second rope. The two exchanged headbutts, and a simultaneous headbutt sent Fantasma to the floor and Maverick to the apron.
The masked luchadors went to the ring and stood near Fantasma. Drake fought them off, then went back into the ring, where Fantasma hit Drake with a Phantom Driver to win.
WINNER: El Hijo del Fantasma at 15:01.
The announcers said the dream has ended for Drake Maverick. Beth said it was an unbelievably heartbreaking ending to an incredible tournament. Fantasma went up to the ramp and posed with his new belt, then went off. Drake got a big ovation as the announcers said it was over for him. Drake faced the camera and thanked everyone for their support. “Thank you Drake” chant. As he walked past the barricades, the wrestlers slapped at them like hockey fans. Drake went up the ramp, emotionally selling the loss. Triple H met him on the ramp and shook his hand. He opened a folder and revealed an NXT contract, and Drake broke down and then signed it. Triple H left the folder with Maverick and headed to the back, allowing Drake to soak in the moment and hold it up as the emotion of the moment took over.
(Wells’s Analysis: I was going to complain about the announcers unbelievably ignoring the obvious fact that the masked luchadors have been with Fantasma all along, but after the post-match played out, it’s clear that to do so would have only stolen focus from this incredibly satisfying payoff to the storyline. Maverick burst with honest emotion here, and while I find it hard to believe that he didn’t know before today how it would all go down, it still went off beautifully no matter the means. This story started from a very uncomfortable place, but Drake found a very good brand new niche and he’ll have something to sink his teeth into when Fantasma is outed as the evil luchador he’s always been. The match itself was a very good David vs. Goliath affair, with Fantasma unrelentingly working heel even though we won’t get the full turn tonight. The fact that all six matches before this were fairly (or very) brief sports entertainment affairs made this one come off as a little more epic as a result. This was a very different episode of NXT, but this ending was simply wonderful)
FINAL THOUGHTS: So, that said…there are some who aren’t going to love this payoff, just because of how emotionally manipulative the whole setup had to be. I think Maverick was genuinely slated to be cut, but whether I believe that or not, I have to acknowledge it continues to be an uncomfortable optic that this emotion all came about because such a large number of wrestlers did in truth lose their jobs.
On the whole, this was the best kind of go-home show. NXT has a checkered past with go-home shows to say the absolute least, as often they’ve already booked all the matches and would use most of their minutes to push rising talent and occasionally promote TakeOver. This episode made some use of the vast majority of the current televised roster, and TakeOver will benefit as a result.
Listen in to PWT Talks NXT tonight at about half past the hour, and again after TakeOver on Sunday (though, if there’s another Triple H conference call that night, PWT Talks NXT may go on without me). See you then.