NXT HITS & MISSES 8/5: Pat McAfee, Ripley vs. Kai, Keith Lee vs. Grimes, Priest vs. Lorcan vs. Holland to advance to ladder match for title, Fandango kidnapped

By Nate Lindberg, PWTorch contributor

Pat McAfee (photo WWE)

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

•Rhea Ripley vs. Dakota Kai – Number One Contender for NXT Womens Championship – HIT

We haven’t seen a whole heck of a lot from Ripley after WrestleMania, sans for one Robert Stone feud. So, it seemed like a treat to kick off the night with not just a Rhea Ripley match but a Ripley vs. Kai match. Let’s take a moment to give Beth Phoenix and Mauro Ranallo credit for reminding the audience just who Rhea Ripley is, talking her up greatly during the beginning of the bout.

Ripley certainly brought the fire to the ring tonight, giving a little extra oomph to everything she was doing. Not to knock Kai whatsoever, as it takes two to tango. There was a spot outside the ring where Ripley delivered an electric chair drop to Kai on the apron that looked absolutely brutal, very well done. A near PPV-level match to kick off the night. What a treat!

Speaking of Robert Stone, the newest member of the Robert Stone brand interfered, taking Ripley out and allowing Kai to get the win. Mercedes Martinez seems to be continuing Stones beef with Ripley, and frankly, if this is the first major rivalry for Martinez – I am all for it. These two are tailor made for one another! Very similar gimmicks. But it’s the young blood vs. the grizzled vet who is just finally getting her shot. The Yin vs. Yang, if you will. This is a dream match that I know that I’ve brought up at least once on PWT Talks NXT in the past.

My biggest question coming out of this match… what happened to Raquel Gonzales? She was tied at the hip to Kai. This is the second week in a row where we haven’t seen them together. I guess that it makes sense in a way, this allows for Kai to fend for herself against the larger Ripley, or even Martinez if it came to it, without the imposing Gonzales losing too much of her momentum.

•Shane Thorne vs. Bronson Reed – HIT:

Well, well, well. Who invoked the name of Shane Thorne last week on PWT Talks NXT, after months of not seeing him on NXT TV? That’s right. Me.

Tonight, we saw the two Aussies go head to head. I wanted to see him in the North American Championship Tournament in one of the upcoming triple threat matches. If he beat Reed tonight, perhaps he had a claim to enter that tournament himself. Unfortunately, it looks like he was just here to give Reed some momentum going into Takeover 30. Plus, the way for the last entrants into the match were revealed tonight anyway, competitors and all. So, I may have invoked the name and gotten him on TV. But, my wish of him entering the Takeover Ladder Match just wasn’t meant to be.

•Fandango: KIDNAPPED! Escobar: WANTED! (No, not that Escobar. The new Escobar.)– HIT:

HELP! THE FASHION POLICE NEED THE ACTUAL POLICE! Well, then again, the actual police have taken to kidnapping people lately too, haven’t they. Hmm. Well. Maybe Tyler Breeze needs to take matters into his own hands after Fandango was kidnapped by Legado Del Fantasma. Last week, Breezy and Dango were making fun of Lucha Libre. This week, they regretted it.

…hopefully not any more than they regret naming him Santos freaking Escobar. Ugh.

•Oney Lorcan vs. Damian Priest vs. Ridge Holland – Winner Advances to North American Championship Match at Takeover 30 – HIT: Wow, have you noticed how many commercials there are on TV lately?! Other than wrestling, I never turn on network TV so I rarely see ads any more. Man, this is just brutal. Although I suddenly have a craving for Sonic…  And that’s a sneak peak behind the curtain, folks.

Anyway, Lets talk about the NXT US Debut of Ridge Holland, Damian Priest and my main man Oney!

Oney Lorcan was the one person in the match with zero percent of winning, but gosh darn it I was behind him 100%. I know he’ll never advance above where he is now on the card, which is disappointing as hell. But I just love me some Oney Lorcan. Us Bostonians have to watch each other’s backs, you know? *insert one finger emoji here*

I really wasn’t sure what to expect going into this triple threat. Damian Priest and Oney Lorcan have vastly different grappling styles and I was completely new to Holland. Holland has just made a huge fan out of me here. He reminds me of Dexter Lumis meets Pete Dunne, Kane meets Regal. Something like that. A bit of a brooding badass with some amazing technical ability.

All three men looked like incredible badasses in this match, I must admit. They all got time to shine and look like they were the dominant force. Try as he might, my man Lorcan just couldn’t keep anyone down for the three, after at least a half dozen pin attempts. However, that’s why he was in this match, to take the pin. You don’t want the rising Priest eating the loss, nor the debuting Holland. Lorcan was destined to stare at the lights, it was just a question of who would be covering him. We finally got the answer when Priest covered Lorcan for the win. I think the right man won, story wise. But I’m still raising my one finger in the air in support of my man Oney.

•Keith Lee vs. Cameron Grimes – HIT:

In this non-title matchup, Keith Lee took on the loudmouth Cameron Grimes. Can I just say, Grimes is a national treasure. Amazing character work, amazing heel work and fantastic between the ropes. His cowardice in this contest was straight out of Ric Flair’s textbooks, dragged through the storied history of Memphis heels and then tweaked for Grimes. He got quite a bit of offense in on Lee, which surprised me considering how quickly Lee disposed of Grimes a couple weeks back during that in-ring segment. Grimes really put forth a fighting effort, but there was no way he was going to overcome the Limitless one in the end.

Speaking of Lee, Ho-Lee smokes! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)

That stoic glare throughout the night. The tenacity and fire, the extra oomph that he added to every single offensive move tonight. All to sell his displeasure with Karrion Kross and to send a message to him. That message being, “Tick Tock, Krossy boy! The NXT Champ is about to spirit bomb you so hard that you’ll think your inside of that hourglass of yours.” Or something like that. Probably worded a thousand times better than that.

Lord, I would hope so.

After the match, the lights went out and Karrion Kross appeared on screen telling Lee that he needed to make the match for the NXT title happen, and that “this is on him”. We saw Oney Lorcan and another wrestler who was on screen so briefly, I couldn’t make him out, laid out backstage. There were also a bunch of other workers laid out as well. Kross is hellbent on getting the NXT Championship.

•Legado Del Fantasma Addresses Kidnapping – HIT: 

Dragging Fandango into the building, Legado del Fantasma came out and touted yet again why Lucha Libre means so much to them. Unfortunately, people like Fandango exist who do not believe what he believes. So, they decided to take matters into their own hands and take him out for disrespecting them. Breezy came out to help his partner, but quickly joined his partner in getting beat down. Escobar then called out Swerve, telling him never to speak Escobar’s name ever again or this will happen to him. I absolutely love everything about this new faction and I think the sky is the limit for Escobar.

•Reed & Priest Butt Heads – HIT:

Priest was getting interviewed in the parking lot when Bronson Reed came outta nowhere to congratulate Priest on his win. Priest told Reed that he basically had no chance, leading into a tense conversation and a challenge for next week. Looking forward to this.

•Indi Hartwell vs. Tegan Nox – 50/50:

Indi hasn’t really impressed me so far in her last couple of showings, and Tegan Nox hasn’t really wowed me lately either, so I must admit I was a little lackluster for this match. A few sloppy spots, like Indi with a Big Boot and Tegan falling in the wrong direction. I always seem to notice mistimed moves with Indi Hartwell. I think she has a great look, but she has a lot of work to do before she’ll be in the conversation for an NXT mainstay like Nox, Kai or Ripley for example.

•NXT Tag Team Championship – Imperium (Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel) vs Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly –  90% HIT:

For the first time since the pandemic, Kyle O’Reilly has graced the squared circle on NXT TV. Being diabetic, he has been keeping away for his own safety, I’m sure. I’m glad to see him back, as he is undisputedly (heh) one of the most entertaining characters in NXT for me. But I do hope that this isn’t premature and that he is keeping himself safe.

Pat McAfee came out to do commentary for Indi vs. Nox and hung around for this match, constantly talking about the angle on his show. We’ve seen Imperium and various incarnations of Undisputed Era many times over the last few months, and this was pretty much exactly what I expected out of the two teams. Great tag psychology, great in-ring work. However, the tag titles took a backseat to the Cole/McAfee angle. I could barely pay attention to the match during certain segments with just how much they talked about it throughout.

McAfee kept “playfully” trash talking Cole, going so far as calling him an “Angry elf” making Cole flip out once again. HBK and HHH made their way out from backstage to keep them a part causing a distraction for Imperium, allowing them to retain their titles. After the match, McAfee broke free from the refs and punted Cole in the face causing HHH to push their guest hard and ordered Drake Muertz to escort him from the building as we went off air. I’m intrigued as to where they go with this… but… does anyone actually care about Pat McAfee? Why does anyone care about Pat McAfee if they do? Especially against one of the top talents in NXT.

I very rarely talk ratings, as I know both AEW and NXT don’t necessarily look towards the ratings as the be-all, end-all for their success in 2020. However, with AEW being the consistently more popular show I question having your main event feud involve someone of Coles caliber and… Pat McAfee. What investment is there? Why should I be invested in Pat McAfee? I like Pat McAfee, don’t get me wrong. He’s not necessarily my favorite guy on the pre-shows. But his presence is undeniable. I don’t know what level, if any, of training McAfee has in the squared circle. What training he may have had certainly can’t be much. How exactly is he going to have a physical feud with Cole?

I’m being cautiously optimistic here. I usually trust the NXT booking to entertain me, so I don’t have real reason to think this is going to be a total flop. McAfee is a massive wrestling fan. He must want to make this angle look as great as possible, right?

Plus, I can’t blame him for jumping at this opportunity either. I mean, in a totally fictional world that I’m concocting in my mind as we speak, let’s say that Papa H rang me up. Hunter asks me if I wanted to start a feud against both members Indus Sher tomorrow… Now, I may have only ever worked one wrestling show in my life. As a security guy. Whose sole purpose was to stand there and look as menacing as my pudgy, 18-year-old self could probably have looked. And I wasn’t allowed to do anything physical either — I just happened to know one of the wrestlers and they needed a body in a security T-shirt. But you’d better bet your butt that I’d gleefully say to him:

“Sign me up, sir.”


RECOMMENDED: 8/5 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s report on Rhea Ripley vs. Dakota Kai #1 Contender’s Match, Imperium vs. Undisputed Era, Keith Lee vs. Cameron Grimes

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