SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Guest Commentator, Wade Barrett
Now, I have nothing against Vic Joseph even if sometimes I can barely tell his voice from Tom Philips.
But once Mauro returns to NXT, I would love nothing more than to see Wade Barrett, Mauro Ranallo, and Beth Phoenix in the booth. Not only does Barrett bring a wealth of wrestling knowledge to the announce desk, but he brings commentary experience as well after spending time in various commentary booths in NWA and other indie promotions. On top of this, he has a fantastic voice for that role. The tone of his voice, the accent, his cadence and the veracity in which he speaks was seriously refreshing. I’m looking forward to having him back next Tuesday for the special “Super Tuesday” edition of NXT.
•The NXT Champion Falls & Prays for Speedy Recovery
Unfortunately, at Takeover 30, Karrion Kross suffered a separated shoulder during his match with then champion Keith Lee. This is not an injury that he can come back from in a timely manner, so the title forfeiture was something that I had kind of expected after looking into recovery time from that injury. I certainly hope that, unlike Finn Balor after his injury after during his Universal Title win, that this does not define Kross down on the card. Clearly, he is a star and he has a lot more to prove as NXT Champion.
The promo was delivered well, and he showed a clear desire to get back to business. He was able to walk away from the NXT title while still looking relatively strong. Though injured, he spoke with a fire that left me clamoring for his return. I felt like this promo could also have set him up for a tweener-leaning-babyface return once he is healed up. I’m thinking we may see Ciampa win the NXT title next week, continue as a heel champion until Kross comes back. Then, that feud continues where it left off a few months ago.
•NXT Tag Team Championship – Imperium vs. Breezango
What in the heck is this?! Another Breezango vs. Imperium match, but no return of the amazing “Emporium” entrance?! That’s worthy of a miss in and of itself. However, I’ll try not to let that get in the way of an otherwise fantastic tag match.
On a serious note, I understand why they didn’t do a comical entrance. Breezango carried that fire from Takeover across to their match tonight. That extra fire and no-nonsense helped to sell the story of Breezango wanting to be taken a bit more seriously, which obviously paid off. It was refreshing to see a side of Breezango that we rarely see. Both Breeze and Fandango are great wrestlers who are bound by the glass ceiling that is their zany gimmick. By taking themselves more seriously, they not only proved themselves to the NXT audience, but to the locker room as well.
However, I don’t want to celebrate too early. I can see this being another transitional championship reign, similar to Imperium’s. Legado del Fantasma is on a roll right now, and Wilde & Mendoza hold the tag gold while Escobar hold the Cruiserweight title would be a huge hit for me.
•Thatcher Wants Priest’s Shiny New Toy
Ohhh, I called it! Last week on the VIP Roundtable following Takeover 30, I said that I had a feeling Thatcher would be the next opponent for Damian Priest’s new North American title. He seemed like the logical choice, as he was a strong contender going into the North American Tournament even though he lost his match. When you look at the roster and subtract everyone in the Takeover ladder match, he seemed to make the most sense. Looking forward to this feud, as these are two guys who I have very high hopes for.
•Jake Atlas vs. Tommaso Ciampa
No one will survive! That’s not just some of the lyrics to Ciampa’s entrance music, as I’m not entirely sure that Jake Atlas survived Ciampa’s first appearance on NXT TV since losing to Karrion Cross at Takeover In Your House. Not only did Ciampa win in less than a minute, he destroyed Atlas, tossing him around ringside until Drake Muertz and the Zebra Squad (wow, that just came to me. I apologize for that terrible name for the referees) came out to stop him. But he didn’t stop. He stuck Atlas under the ring, headfirst, and then grabbed his legs and sling shot him into the underside of the ring. Then he attacked him on the EMT gurney. Atlas has been a white meat babyface, especially after his support of Drake Maverick in the Cruiserweight Tournament. No, not a white hot, popular face. But certainly someone in the good graces of the audience. This solidified Ciampa as a major heel as he returns. Of course, he can’t take out his frustration on Kross until Kross returns from injury, so there is a possibility that this was just Ciampa “snapping”, and not a full turn.
•LaRae / Nox Video Package
I feel like we finally might be getting a bit more knowledge of who Tegan Nox is here. LaRae did the talking in this video, but it was a look into their friendship over the last five years where she reminisced on a lot of great memories that she shared with Nox. It wasn’t much in terms of character development for Nox, but I have a feeling this may be some seeds getting planted for more story for her. At least I hope so.
•Bronson Reed Also Wants Priest’s New Toy
Backstage, McKenzie interviewed Reed. She said that Thatcher said he wants the first shot at Priest’s title and asked Reed’s thoughts. Reed said that he has actually beaten Priest and it should be his opportunity. Austin Theory, who has been absent from WWE since his RAW run a few months ago, showed up to talk trash to Reed’s face. Reed slapped Theory into next Wednesday before cutting to the next segment. Glad to see Theory back, and I’d like to see him join Reed and Thatcher on the quest for the North American Title.
•Mia Yim vs. Mercedes Mart… errr no… Shotzi Blackheart
The match was scheduled to be Yim vs. Martinez. However, as Martinez was set to enter the arena, Robert Stone emerged and said that he wouldn’t allow Martinez to waste her time on Yim. He said he found a suitable replacement, as he then started screaming and fell to the floor. The tank came into frame as Shotzi ran Stone down for a third time! The bell rang, and the match was official! It was a bit confusing to see Shotzi do Stone’s dirty work, especially against her friend Mia Yim. Shotzi picked up a very strong win over Yim here, and I hope this means big things for the curator of the Ball Pit.
•Regal Is In The Building!
For the first time since the COVID pandemic, William Regal was actually in the arena at Full Sail tonight to address the now vacated NXT Championship. Standing in the middle of the ring with the title, he announced that next week on the Tuesday edition of NXT (as they are preempted by a sportsball game next Wednesday) there will be a Fatal Four Way match to crown the next champion. We will see Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Finn Balor and Adam Cole will square offin a 60-minute iron man match! While I’m very disappointed to see Kross injured and having to relinquish his title, this angle now makes things very interesting. My guess is that Ciampa will walk away as champion. Considering he was slotted to return tonight before Kross was injured, my thought was that he was going to be feuding with Kross for the belt. Ciampa lost to Kross at Takeover In Your House, and has not been heard from since. With Kross out for the foreseeable future, I’d put money on Ciampa holding the title until Kross returns from injury and that feud will reignite. They will still feud over the title, but the challenger and champion will just be flopped. That’s my guess. Let’s see if I’m right in a few months’ time.
•NXT Cruiserweight Championship – Santos Escobar vs. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
I’ve been waiting for this singles rematch ever since Swerve beat Escobar, then El Hijo del Fantasma, in the Cruiserweight tournament a few months ago. Escobar has not been pinned by any other competitor in NXT or on 205 Live, a story that they have mentioned quite a few times in the lead to this match. This was Swerve’s match to shine tonight. Escobar may have gotten some more offense in throughout the match, but Swerve fought, and fought, and fought. Even interference from Legado del Fantasma couldn’t keep him down. Escobar pulled a luchador mask out from under the ring and headbutted Swerve with it, immediately knocking Swerve out. A loaded lucha mask? It took dirty tactic after dirty tactic to keep Swerve down. Finally, it looks like our man Swerve might be getting the push he deserves. Or, is he the sacrificial lamb to Escobar and Legado del Fantasma? I haven’t quite decided yet, but I’m about 45% on Swerve getting a push, 55% on him being the sacrifice to Escobar.
•Kyle O’Reilly vs. Drake Maverick
A few weeks ago, Undisputed Era interfered during Killian Dain vs. Drake Maverick, taking Maverick out and prompting this match tonight. Maverick came guns a-blazin’ as the bell rang. Within the first 60 seconds, he had control over O’Reilly and took out Fish and Strong ringside.
While that fire didn’t last, and I didn’t expect it to with Maverick, the flame attempted to reignite on more than one occasion during the bout. Ultimately, Maverick tapped to an Achilles lock and Undisputed Era sans Adam Cole brought the beatdown to Maverick. Killian Dain, with an apparent face turn, came barreling out from the back to save Maverick from the UE attack. Oh wait, I spoke too soon. As it looked like Dain and Maverick might team up to face a bigger enemy in the UE, Dain sucker punched Maverick before walking out of the ring.
This angle is still building, so I don’t want to pass judgement on it yet. But it’s a bit confusing. Cole is being positioned as a babyface when his teammates were clearly leaning heel. Speculation of a UE breakup has been running rampant since before Strong joined the group 3-ish years ago. However, this is the first time that I can remember where the defacto leader of UE, Adam Cole, is being positioned differently than the rest of his team. At least this blatant anyway.
Verdict: Mostly HIT
•Rhea Ripley & Io Shirai vs. Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzales
The women’s main event scene continues to shape up, as friendly rivals Ripley and Shirai needed to work together to take on the team of Kai and Gonzales. Shirai and Ripley played into this well, as they seemingly were not on the same page. Shirai tagged herself in when Ripley wasn’t nearly ready for the tag near the start, for example.
Gonzales looked really strong here tonight as well. It isn’t often we see someone manhandle Ripley the way that Gonzales did a few times during this match. I’m still really high on the Gonzales/Kai duo, especially if they continue to have the chemistry together that we’ve seen thus far.
I had a feeling we would see Martinez show up at some point during this match, as she did show up to knock Ripley off the apron. Her interference ultimately cost Ripley and Shirai the match, which will most likely continue their feud as Kai/Gonzales focus on Shirai. Unless, of course, they include all four women in the NXT Title scene. I don’t usually advocate for multi-person matches; however, I think this might be an exception.