SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•(NXT Championship) Finn Balor vs Adam Cole
With Rhea Ripley & Mercedes Martinez in a steel cage also on the card, I was wondering which match would get the coveted “Main Event” slot at the end of the show. Pleasantly pleased to see the women get this spot, though the argument could be made that since their feud isn’t for a title, that this match should have been last. Regardless, either decision would have been an action packed way to start the night!
This match came about after the predictable tie finish to the Fatal Four Way Iron Man match last week between Balor, Cole, Gargano & Ciampa. One thing that I didn’t predict was that Ciampa wasn’t in the NXT Title scene at this point. I figured with his return, he’d get right back on the hunt for “Goldie”, the NXT Championship.
Balor vs. Cole is a dream match on paper for many. Balor was the leader of the Bullet Club, Cole is the current leader of Undisputed Era. Both men have similar styles and physiques. So every time they clash in the squared circle, they complement each other so well that they can’t help but make magic.
Quite a few false finishes, which frankly I felt was a little too much. According to commentary, nobody had ever kicked out of the Coup de Gras until tonight when Adam Cole was able to kick out before three. Well, if this move is so devastating, why was Cole back on his feet and fighting seemingly near 100%?
A few nitpicks aside, this was a fantastic opener to Super Tuesday II. Finn Balor was certainly not my first pick for Champion in the build to this match. But at the same time, he needed a big win like this. He hadn’t been the top guy in years at this point. This puts the shine back in Balor and could rejuvenate his character
•The Locker Room Congratulates Balor
Let’s hope NXT’s COVID testing is better than I assume it is. That was a lot of people crammed into the gorilla position to congratulate Balor. Triple H, Regal, Fandango, Bronson Reed, and most of the rest of the face roster. Even Adam Cole gave “Too Sweet” to the new champ, in a sign of respect.
Balor faced the camera and declared this is why he returned to NXT. To prove he was the best and become the champ.
This is the cockiness and self-assurance we need to see out of a strong face champion. He seems to be getting positioned as a face, so this direction makes sense.
•Robert Stone, Shotzi’s Tank, Shirai Knocked Down – Backstage Chaos Ensues.
What a brilliant segment. Robert Stone is getting interviewed and he reveals that he’s about to destroy Shotzi’s tank with a pipe. She shows up and takes out Stone. Aliyah takes out Shotzi, and as she does, they fall through a nearby curtain. Which just so happened to be where NXT Champion, Io Shirai, was shooting a champion photoshoot. This lead to Shirai attacking Aliyah, spilling out to the ring. Shirai & Shotzi took out both Aliyah and Robert Stone in swift fashion.
This was just a backstage segment that became an in-ring segment, albeit not an official match. It took three storylines and converged them together in a clever way, all to build to Shotzi declaring she wants a shot at Shirai’s title.
•Dinner With The Garganos & Tegan Nox
In a backstage Dinner With The Garganos segment, Nox showed up at the “Gargano Household” to talk with her former best friend Candace LaRae in an attempt to make nice. Awkwardness ensued as LaRae and Gargano welcomed her into their home with this dose of “fake nice” so high, I swore I was back in catholic school.
Cut to a commercial, and when we returned, the show continued on for another few segments and commercial breaks. When we returned, the trio was halfway through an uncomfortable dinner when Gargano says that he thinks he’s the reason things were weird, and went upstairs to finish eating.
LaRae & Nox went back and forth about the changes LaRae has made in her life since embracing the “Gargano Way”, and how Nox doesn’t approve of this new Candace. LaRae seemed to convince Nox to try out the Gargano way, perhaps giving Nox some personality for the first time in her career.
They returned to this segment again before the main event, with LaRae and Nox enjoying a glass of wine. LaRae toasted to herself, the next NXT Women’s Champion. Nox took offense to this, leading to the bitterness in LaRae to grow. Until, surprise surprise, food fight. When there is food on screen in the WWE, it will be thrown. The other Dinner with the Garganos segment did not follow this trope and here it finally was.
Verdict: HIT, only if it leads to a change for Nox.
•Thatcher’s Motivational Speech
Another vignette of Thatcher’s Wrestling Academy. I don’t know where these are going to lead, but with his win over Reed last week, it looks like they have things in store for Thatcher. I’m giving this a hit, even though there isn’t much to it. Yet.
•Ashante Adonis Lost, But Looked Great in Defeat
Okay, this is an opinion piece. And my opinion? The allegations against Velveteen Dream seem to be strong enough, and the deflections at any attempt of an explanation from the WWE as to why they feel has been exonerated have done nothing to extinguish the situation.
For this reason, I’m not commenting on anything other than Adonis, who looked fantastic here tonight. His job was to lose, but he shows a lot of promise that he could be a much bigger star in the future.
After the match, Kushida emerged from the back and attacked Adonis’s opponent, who I would rather not name at the moment. We haven’t seen Kushida in months, and it’s a shame that he returns against an opponent that, frankly, has lost nearly all its appeal for me.
Verdict: MISS. Except Adonis. He was most certainly a HIT.
•The NXT Tag Titles Smell Like Success, Apparently.
Tyler Breeze and Fandango, the new NXT Tag Champs, were shown in a pre-taped segment sitting in the ring for an interview. They kept sniffing the titles and making other loving remarks at the belts. It was actually a lot funnier than I make it sound.
It looks like they are building up towards a rematch for Imperium, which I am all for. They are one of my favorite duos. However, I don’t think Imperium has a chance, as they will probably return to Walter’s side in the UK. But next week, this rematch becomes reality.
•Austin Theory vs. Bronson Reed
Last week, Theory interfered in Reed’s match costing him a victory over Thatcher. Tonight, Reed looked for his revenge. Reed plays the immovable object well, while Theory plays the cocky 22 year old perfectly. You just wanted to see Reed put Theory in his place any time he would flex or otherwise show how cocky he really is.
That was the story of the match, his cockiness and headstrong nature caused Theory to make mistakes while Theory tried to pound respect into him. Admittedly, Theory was able to kick out of every pinfall attempt throughout the match. That is, until the final pin.
From this story and how well Reed has been booked lately, I’d say this is going to be a staple feud for a little while. Theory has some main roster credibility after being Seth Rollin’s disciple, and why not capitalize on what little rub he may have by using that to build Reed up. Theory looked good enough where he could easily recover from this loss.
•Adam Cole Concedes to Balor
Adam Cole was interviewed backstage and showed nothing but respect for the man who beat him tonight, showing a side of Cole that we haven’t seen in recent memory. He was calm, cool and collected. Nothing like the hothead we saw in the build to Cole/McAfee.
•Roderick Strong (w/Fish) vs. Killian Dain
I don’t know what happened. Months ago, I was really high on Killian Dain when he was feuding with Priest. But for some reason, now, I just can’t get behind him as a monster heel. He seems slow, bumbling and just a step behind his opponent the last few times I’ve seen him. His punches and other strikes look fake and sometimes he bumps in the wrong direction. For instance, if I punched you with a right hook, I would expect you to fall to your right. Physics and all that, yeah? Tonight, he fell to his left just so he could follow the match layout and stumble between the ropes and out to the floor.
After Dain’s loss, Drake Maverick emerged from the back to try and help Dain who helped him a few weeks ago. Instead, Maverick had his butt handed to him until Dain ran everyone off. Maverick tried saying thanks, but was laid out by Dain for his efforts.
Verdict: The angle is a hit, Dain was a miss.
•Rhea Ripley vs. Mercedes Martinez in a Steel Cage
This has been a 1 v 1 bout that I’ve wanted to see since Martinez showed up in that Women’s Battle Royal late last year. Inside a steel cage is just a plus. The match started as energetic as you would expect, with Ripley attacking Martinez before she finished her entrance.
This felt like a fight in an MMA cage in a lot of ways. Martinez makes everything she does look as brutal as possible, couple that with the raw power of the ever increasingly jacked Ripley. Inside of a cage?! You wind up with an explosive and brutal looking contest, between two of the industry’s most badass women.
One thing that really made this match special, for me at least, was just how well they sold for one another. It’s one thing to make your offense look good. It’s another thing to make somebody else’s offense look good. Both of them sold like this match was the most important of their career, really driving home the intensity and physicality of this contest.
Rhea Ripley seemed like the likely victor going into the match, being the younger up and comer. Martinez is new to NXT but her reputation precedes her. This was a monumental win for Ripley and I hope it leads to bigger things for both women. Even if that means a continuation of this feud first.