NXT HITS & MISSES 7/29: Adam Cole-Pat McAfee, Gagano vs. Strong, O’Reilly pumps up Undisputed Era, Swerve-Atlas, Balor vs. Lumis vs. Thatcher

By Joel Dehnel, PWTorch contributor

Dexter Lumis Finn Balor Timothy Thatcher


Dijakovic, Lee, Karrion Kross Video Package –  HIT : Great video package to start the show that showcased the friendship/rivalry between Lee and Dijakovic, leading up to Karrion Kross’s beat down of Dijak last week. I think this was a very well-produced, brief segment that highlighted the biggest angle coming out of last week.

Candice LaRae & Dakota Kai v. Tegan Nox & Io Shirai – HIT : Shirai didn’t even make it down the ramp before Kai attacked her. This lead to all the women scrambling to the ring, brawling until the ref finally got control. A chaotic start, which did play up the heated rivalries involved in this match. But it also strayed away from NXT’s usual formula of “less chaos now means more impact later”. They’ve been going to more chaotic stories and matches as of late during this no-crowd era. I think they’ve been doing alright with that new initiative, but if they over-do it I could see the audience comparing it to RAW and Smackdown. And that’s not a good thing.

What was a good thing, was the wrestling in this match! What an energetic, action packed tag team contest that these four ring veterans put on for us tonight! The match, though explosive throughout, still built a story throughout and advanced both rivalries along.

Adam Cole goes BOOM on the Pat McAfee show – HIT : I must admit, I was one of the people who got worked last week when this happened. I saw a clip of Adam Cole’s outburst only, and it seemed real enough to me. It only took an hour or so before it dawned on me that Cole and McAfee had been bantering back and forth for quite some time now on WWE programming. Really curious to see where this leads. Possibly a Pat McAfee NXT Debut? Maybe? I doubt it, but knowing his fandom, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened either.

Johnny Gargano vs. Roderick Strong – HIT : After they both lost to Bronson Reed last week, Strong and Gargano took to Twitter to do what you do on Twitter. Complain and attack people! Regal made this rare heel vs. heel match official. Roddy was positioned as a face here, as the “crowd” in attendance was clearly instructed to boo Gargano back to next week, and cheer meekly for Roderick Strong.

This was certainly a match that was right up my alley. A lot of mat wrestling mixed with the explosiveness that both Roddy and Gargano are known for. What a violent streak for Gargano here, as he really took it to Roddy. Proving that he is the better grappler.

Rhea Ripley wants Io Shirai, but has to go through Kai first – HIT : Dakota Kai was being interviewed backstage saying that she’s the number one contender for Shirai’s title and that she’s worked her way into Shirai’s head. Rhea Ripley walked into frame and laid her claim as the number one contender. I think this is a great way to extend Shirai’s time as champion and give Ripley something more meaningful to do than feud with the Robert Stone Brand.

How Many Thatches can Thatch-cann Catch if Thatcher… okay, I’m trying too hard – HIT : After commercial, Thatcher was being interviewed about his match tonight against Balor and  Dexter Lumis, leading into the Ladder match at Takeover 30 for the North American championship. Generic promo, but Lumis was looking over Thatcher’s shoulder the entire promo, adding his weirdness to the vibe of the interview. I’ll give it a hit, but it wasn’t anything to write home about.

Kyle O’Reilly Pumps up Undisputed Era – HIT : Since COVID, we’ve only seen KOR in pre-recorded segments outside of Full Sail. Today, we saw him backstage trying to pump up the rest of UE, dejected after repeated losses. Glad to see KOR back, but hope that he is taking the precautions necessary to stay safe!

Shotzi Blackheart vs. Mercedes Martinez – HIT : Mercedes first match under the Robert Stone Brand. On social media this week, Robert Stone and Shotzi went at one another, leading to this bout.  This was the first time that I gave Shotzi 0% chance of winning since she’s debuted. Mercedes is still brand new, there was no way she was going to lose yet. She went out there and gave Shotzi the “Brock Lesnar” or “Shayna Bazsler” treatment. Sorta. This wasn’t a 30 second squash match, Shotzi actually put up a fight. But Martinez got a very dominant win in the same vein as Lesnar or Baszler.

Ridge Holland Lays Claim to North American Championship – HIT : Quick vignette for Holland, previewing his debut next week in the North American Championship tournament. Well produced and made me look forward to seeing him, as I am only vaguely familiar with his NXT UK work.

Keith Lee Addresses the Audience – HIT : Keith Lee hit the ring and cut a very sullen and serious promo on Karrion Kross after Kross’ beat down on Dijakovic last week. He even went so far as to call curse twice, to make this blood feud seem bloodier. He called out Kross, but Cameron Grimes answered the call, proclaiming he is going to take the NXT title and go straight to the moon! Lee took Grimes out very short order, taking out his frustrations. Scarlett, stunning as always, appeared in a red gown on the stage, a message from Karrion Kross that he is near. Kross appeared on screen and called him a coward for watching by while his friend suffered last week. I don’t know why we needed to sacrifice Cameron Grimes here, but otherwise, I loved this segment as a platform to build this monster vs monster match of Kross vs. Lee.

Imperium (Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel) vs. Ever-Rise – HIT : Glad to see Ever-Rise for two weeks in a row! Similar to their role last week, this week they did their jobs perfectly. They made Imperium look like a million bucks. After the match. All four members of Undisputed Era came out and put the beat down on Imperium, seemingly laying claim to the NXT Tag Gold that they’ve held for so long.

Bronson Reed Video Package – HIT : Jeremy Borash with yet another amazing in-depth look at another up-and-comer. Keep these coming any time a new wrestler gets the spotlight!

Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. Jake Atlas – HIT : What a treat! Jake Atlas may need to work on his promo skills. But for now, he can get by with his in-ring acumen. This was a great cruiserweight style match, clearly set up for Swerve to win, but for Atlas to still look very strong. Workrate match of the night!

Finn Balor vs Dexter Lumis vs. Timothy Thatcher – HIT: This is a tough one to call considering that all three of these men have received major pushes in recent months. It was also a treat to watch where so many different wrestling styles were on display. I was surprised at just how much this match was built around Thatcher and Lumis, where Balor is technically the big draw here. However, that isn’t a bad thing as they clearly see big things in store down the line for both Lumis and Thatcher.

I was not expecting to see Lumis win, but the more I think about it the more it makes sense. Balor doesn’t need a title and Thatcher has his whole Thatch-cann shtick. Lumis isn’t doing anything else right now and he was the one most recently in the main event scene. Still need to see who else will wind up in the North American Title Triple Threat ladder match before I can predict a winner, but I did not expect to see Lumis in the conversation.

RECOMMENDED: 7/29 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s report on Lumis vs. Balor vs. Thatcher to qualify for TakeOver Ladder Match, Shotzi vs. Mercedes Martinez

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