NXT HITS & MISSES 6/24: Lee vs. Balor vs. Gargano for North American Title, Priest vs. Grimes, Thatcher’s Wrestling Academy, Roddy returns to Therapy, Strong vs. Lumis, Bronson vs. Kross, more

By Nate Lindberg, PWTorch contributor


Cameron Grimes vs. Damian Priest – HIT : Before the match started, we were shown a back stage spot where Priest was attacked. This was a high energy match between these two up and comers. Priest, finally cemented as a babyface, played into the injury angle well and was able to get a lot of sympathy from the live crowd. With the Grimes win, it keeps this midcard feud alive. Definitely the right call.

Rhea Rejects The Robert Stone Brand, Aliyah Signs – HIT : Robert Stone approached Rhea Ripley out in the parking lot asking her once again if she would want to join the Robert Stone brand. Rhea, as she did a few weeks ago, threw Stone into a dumpster. Aliyah then approached Ripley and attacked her for her actions, setting up their match for later in the night. I was going to give this a 50/50 at first, but I got thinking about it. Aliyah certainly seems like a step down for Rhea Ripley, the former NXT Women’s champion. However, Aliyah has also been impressing me over the last few TV appearances and she has been in the NXT system for years. Perhaps she has earned her spot here, especially if they want to build her and the Robert Stone brand up to be more than the butt of a joke.

Thatcher’s Wrestling Academy – HIT : Third week in a row we’ve seen Thatcher teaching submission wrestling to a class. I am a huge fan of these vignettes. They’re eerie and paint Thatcher in an even crazier light than we saw him in during his feud with Riddle. Really hoping this turns into something big for him.

Santo Escobar (w/Joaquin Wilde) & Raul Mendoza vs. Jake Atlas – HIT : During Drake Maverick’s rise to becoming the star of the NXT Cruiserweight tournament, Atlas played an instrumental role in Maverick’s story. Here, he looked to get some revenge for Maverick’s brutal beatdown last week. Escobar and his henchmen have a great act and this is the most excited I’ve been for the NXT Cruiserweight champion in a long time. Jake Atlas is also an amazing talent and I think he’s a great addition to the roster. The match itself was energetic, told a story where I thought that maybe Atlas might have a glimmer of hope to win, and further cemented Santos Escobar, in my mind any way, as somebody that could be a top heel in NXT before long.

Roddy Returns To Therapy, Finally Recognized Kyle O’Reilly– HIT : Yes, this is stupid. This is really stupid humor and much more “sports entertainment” then we are used to in NXT. But you know what? I don’t care. I have a circle of friends that would shoot these god-awful ‘movies’ years ago and this is more or less the style of humor and production we used. So, I’m biased. This segment isn’t for everybody, I fully realize that. Plus, I think it was refreshing to see some relatively wholesome comedy between four friends amidst all of the horrifying news surrounding this industry right now.

I Think Malcolm Bivens Is Mad – HIT : Bivens cut a promo on the backstage interviewer, whose name I have still yet to catch, where he exclaimed that he was “Pissed to the highest level of pisstivity” after what happened in the NXT Tag Title scene last week. With the two monsterous wrestlers towering over him, Bivens came across as someone that I would not want to cross. Loved the presentation of this backstage interview, Bivens promo style & his overall energy, and the intimidating presence that Indus Sher has brought to the Tag Division.

Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzales – HIT : For weeks, we’ve seen some iteration of these four women clash. It’s seemingly been leading up to this tag team match which I frankly thought we would see on a bigger show with how much time they’ve given it. As much as I love Kai and Gonzales, my eyes have been on the newbie team of Kacy and Karter. Kayden Karter has been somebody that I’ve been impressed with since she was “Lacey Lane” in the Mae Young Classic, and I’ve been a fan of Kacy Catanzaro since seeing her on American Ninja Warrior. Their styles are similar enough where I think this pairing works so well. I wish we had a better backstory for why they are suddenly partners, but hey I’ll take it if they continue to impress me week after week. No, Kacy and Karter weren’t flawless in their match, even with the post-produced taped episode this week. But their charisma and heart won me over. They have lost two weeks in a row to Kai and Gonzales, so it would have been nice to see them get a win here if they are going to be a tag team going forward. Still, I enjoyed this for what it was – even if it was used as a launching pad for Kai to look into the camera and call out the NXT Women’s Champion, Io Shirai.

Bronson Reed vs Karrion Kross – HIT : Kross decimated Reed in his debut match, and last week Reed called Kross out for revenge. That grudge match took place tonight. Accompanied by Scarlett, Kross did exactly what we all expected and made short work of Reed. What I really liked about this was that the harder Reed tried to fight, the harder Reed hit, the more powerful Kross became. Almost like he was feeding on all of the offense Reed tried to bring. Is that just how this match was built? My guess is no, this is how Kross is going to be presented. If that propels him to the top and into the main event, I’m all for it. I think he’s going to thrive in this environment. I also think he isn’t long for NXT and will make his way to RAW or Smackdown sometime between after Summer Slam and WrestleMania 2021. If we make it to 2021 at this rate.

Rhea Ripley vs. Aliyah – HIT : Culminating from the parking lot interaction earlier in the night, we saw the newest signee to the Robert Stone Brand, Aliyah take on a client he’s been clamoring over, Rhea Ripley. Rhea certainly has cooled off since her NXT Women’s Title run, but she came across to me as a gatekeeper this week. Somebody that Aliyah needed to get through to advance her career. Aliyah had a lot to gain if she was to gain a victory over a former champion, and that was the story told throughout the match. Ripley took it to Aliyah, who kept looking to Stone for advice. Rather than give advice, Stone took his shoe off and threw it at Ripley. I appreciated Beth Phoenix’s “Who throws a shoe?!” comment, a nod to my favorite line in the Austin Powers franchise. Seriously. Anytime I hear the word “Honestly”, I always follow it up, either in my head or verbally by saying “Who throws a shoe?!”.  I continue to hate-watch this Robert Stone angle while secretly loving it, though I’d never admit it. Wait. Whoops.

Dexter Lumis vs. Roderick Strong – HIT : After overcoming his fear of the trunk of the car earlier in the night, the Undisputed Era told Roddy that he would face his other fear, Lumis, later tonight in a match. Roddy did not want to get in the ring and needed a lot of coaxing to get into his corner. Lumis just stood at his, playing the mental game. He just stared a hole through Roddy and stood stoically for minutes while Roddy freaked out. Loved the character work by everybody involved, Cole and Fish included. Roddy wouldn’t get into the ring after the bell rang and was counted out. Lumis attacked Fish and narrowly escaped. Lumis continues to entertain me and I love this torment that he’s putting the Undisputed Era through, even though it’s creepy and messed up. Does that make me a bad person?

Johnny Gargano vs. Finn Balor vs. Keith Lee – NXT North American Championship – HIT : Winner of this match goes on to face Adam Cole in a “Winner Takes All Match” with both the North American and NXT Championships on the line. Going into this match, I really wasn’t sure who would walk away with the title. I could make the case that Keith Lee should retain, given how much of star he has become, and go on to become the first NXT and North American Dual Champion. Balor has been hot coming back to NXT from the main roster, and I could see him getting the chance to rub elbows with the NXT champion, but I don’t see him becoming a duel champion at this time, Cole would retain. Gargano is a former North American and former NXT Champion, he’s certainly credible to become a dual champion.

So yeah, needless to say it was tough to try and predict this. My call was Lee going over tonight just because of how much I like what he’s doing lately. Ultimately, I was right and the way that this was booked really made Keith Lee look like the monster badass he really is. Granted, I probably put way too much thought into it considering the Winner Takes All match is most likely going to end up in a DQ finish or something of the sort.

CATCH UP… NXT HITS & MISSES 6/18: Bayley & Sasha vs. Shotzi & Nox for tag titles, Imperium vs. Breezango, Phillips interviews Dream, Thatcher’s Thatch Style Wrestling, Santos Escobar, more

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