NXT HITS & MISSES 9/16: Priest vs. Thatcher, Shotzi vs. Shirai, Ciampa, Balor speaks, Kushida vs. Theory, At Home with Garganos, Fish & Strong vs. Dain & Maverick

By Nate Lindberg, PWTorch contributor


Shotzi Blackheart vs. Io Shirai

While this may not be a dream match for everybody, it certainly was for me. Ever since Shotzi has emerged onto the roster, she’s won me over time and time again. The gimmick, while over the top, is a lot of fun and I think relatable to a lot of younger fans. Shirai is arguably one of the best wrestlers in the world, I had high expectations for this contest.

Shirai played the heel showcasing her ability to effectively play a tweener, a skill that is not easy to learn. But learn she has, and she can adapt to the face or heel role seemlessly. But perhaps the most important take away from this match was that Shotzi looked like she could hang with the NXT Women’s Champion. She even seemed to have Shirai’s number in this non-title match a few times throughout.

Predictably, Shirai walked away with the win after a rather sloppy moonsault where Shotzi was positioned way too far away. Only Shirai’s legs made contact with Shotzi, but it was enough for the three count. Shotzi may have lost, but she certainly did not go down with out a fight. In my mind, her stock was raised tonight. She showed drive and determination to win, and almost pulled it off.

Bit of a sloppy finish aside, these two women put on a hell of a show and put their bodies on the line to ensure the night was kicked off properly.

Verdict: HIT

Desmond Troy brutalized by Tommaso Ciampa

Desmond Troy, jobber extraordinaire, stood across the ring from Ciampa before the bell rang with a look of viciousness in his eye. Unfortunately, that look was about the most vicious thing that Troy was able to showcase in this short match tonight. While he did get two or three moves against Ciampa, they were very quickly met with a physical rebuttal from the former NXT Champion.

Before I could even commit this guys name to memory, Ciampa had laid him out with a Willow’s Bell for the three.

Ciampa brought a chair into the ring to presumably beat Troy some more when Jake Atlas appeared on the stage, challenging Ciampa to a match next week. Atlas, looking to get revenge after Ciampa’s brutal beatdown a few weeks ago, showed no fear as he made the challenge.

If we assume that Ciampa was meant to feud with Kross before Kross was injured, it explains why Ciampa seems a bit directionless right now. A feud with Jake Atlas, while I expect will be entertaining, is not exactly a feud that I think would move the needle and increase ratings. I won’t pass judgement yet, we’ll see what happens next week.

Verdict: HIT

First Finn Balor Interview as Champion

They billed this as an interview, but this was really just a vignette of Balor explaining how this championship reign will be different from the first. Most of Balor’s vignettes lately have been in black and white, and this was no different. While this was nothing groundbreaking, it was a decent way to showcase the champion. I feel like this could have been a whole lot more than it turned out to be.

Verdict: I’ll give it a “Meh”. It was simply there, nothing more and nothing less.

Austin Theory vs. Kushida

Before the match, Theory grabbed a mic and cut a promo saying that he was a future hall of famer. I have my doubts. While he seemed to be a promising talent, I think that some of the allegations surrounding him may cause more damage than good.

He challenged anyone in the batch to a match, and Kushida answered the challenge making a bee-line to the ring without any entrance fanfare. Kushida had a fire about him tonight very similar to last week. No nonsense, looking for a fight.

I want to love this match. Kushida was probably the best version of Kushida I’ve seen in NXT. But the lack of accountability for Theory certainly takes away from that enjoyment.

Verdict: Love this new version of Kushida. Don’t love Theory on my screen. MISS

Selfie Promo with The Garganos

Candace LaRae & Johnny Gargano gave a selfie style promo voicing their displeasure with Tegan Nox’s actions last week, including forcing LaRae to throw the remote and break the TV. Give me more of these two at home, these skits are absolutely hilarious.

Verdict: HIT

NXT Tag Team Championship: Breezango vs. Imperium

Imperium looked to regain their recently lost Tag Titles against Breezango. We’ve seen this match, or a version of this match, quite a few times at this point. However, I’m still entertained by these four men. Tyler Breeze and Fandango are incredible wrestlers and obviously the wrestling purists, Fabian Aichner & Martel Barthel are one of the better tag teams in the company. You expect a high level out of these two teams, and I feel like they delivered tonight. This may have been my favorite match of theirs thus far, as I really enjoyed watching Breezango buckle down, get serious and out-wrestle the wrestling machines known as Imperium once again.

This title reign for Breezango, while more than deserved in my eyes, is really seen as nothing more than a transitional reign before Legado del Fantasma get their first taste of NXT Tag Gold. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts though, because Breezango is certainly a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine.

Verdict: HIT

Xia Li & Jessie Kamea vs. Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Karter

Interesting that Kamea didn’t get an entrance, or come out with Xia Li but both Karter & Catanzaro did. It just shone the light on the fact that Li and Kamea were thrown together where Karter & Catanzaro are an established team. Which was probably the purpose, it just seemed weird to me. You’d think they’d let her at least come out with Li.

Catanzaro & Karter felt like a well-oiled machine too, though Li & Kamea showed some great chemistry for a thrown together team. But this was really Kayden Karter’s match to shine in. She was made to look like a completely dominant force, a one-woman-wrecking-crew, allowing the smaller Catanzaro to come in, get the big move and finish off the opponents. That formula, while done a zillion times in wrestling, is done so often for a reason. It works, and is incredibly effective when done well.

After the match, Li refused to shake hands with the other three women. I hope this leads towards something big for Xia Li. She’s one of my favorite women on the roster, yet we rarely see her.

Verdict: HIT

Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Roderick Strong) vs. Drake Maverick & Killian Dain

Before the match, Maverick was shown walking to the ring and walked past Dain. Dain said he wasn’t coming out and that Maverick was on his own. So, we didn’t know if Dain would actually show in the match.

Maverick made his way to the ring, and pointed to the stage… but nobody came out. The look on his face when he realized he may need to face two of NXT’s dirtiest players on his own was pure gold. Great acting by Maverick, per usual.

Drake Maverick is the ultimate underdog and won over the hearts of the NXT audience during the Cruiserweight Tournament earlier this year. He has such a great way of letting me buy in to all of the punishment he absorbs, and then is able to usually use his or his opponents momentum against them to get the upper hand, if only for a moment.

Maverick actually held his own a lot better than I expected, and I really enjoyed them cutting to the back to Dain watching the match on a monitor, laughing at Maverick’s misfortune. Maverick is a sympathy magnet, and this just added to that magnetism. Regal then walked up to Dain after the third time they cut to him, and scolded him for letting Maverick get assaulted in the ring. “Are you honestly going to let that happen to him?” he said. Maverick showed some remorse, and marched ringside. He helped Maverick back into the ring, told him to lose like a man, and walked away. Until Undisputed Era essentially called him a chicken. The Beast from Belfast needed to be stopped with a steel chair, disqualifying Undisputed Era. But that didn’t stop Dain, he kept the assault coming.

After the match, Maverick called them the best tag team ever. That love was reciprocated with a fierce fist from Dain to Maverick’s face.

I love this, and for every gripe I had about Dain last week, he stepped it up this week.

Verdict: HIT

Ciampa attacks Atlas

Atlas was in the parking lot being interviewed about his match with Ciampa next week. He said he had a fire lit under him after the beating from Ciampa weeks ago and he wanted to show Ciampa… something. We may never find out, because Ciampa attacked from behind.

Oddly enough, Kyle O’Reilly broke up the fight, telling Ciampa that he has the match already next week. Save it for the ring.

The Undisputed Era is all over the place. KOR and Cole leaning face, Fish and Strong heel. Dissention in the ranks, perhaps?

Verdict: HIT

The Gauntlet Eliminator Announcement to determine the #1 Contender for the NXT Championship

Well, 2020 seems to be a time for new match types. First the Fight Pit, now this?! It looks like most of the male roster is involved in this tournament.


NXT North American Championship: Damian Priest vs. Timothy Thatcher

Hey, Kelly Wells! Guess what?! I finally remembered: catch-as-catch-can! For some reason, I kept calling it “Thatcher’s Thatch Can” which, even as I was saying it, I knew it was wrong.

Regardless, let’s get into this gem of a match. Priest has more of a traditional big man style, mixed with some high-flying moves where Thatcher is a master of submission. A styles clash is certainly an understatement.

“Opposites Attract”, they say, as this match was a great showcase for both Thatcher & Priest. Priest’s new white attire helped to paint him as a babyface, and this was the first time that I’ve really bought him as a potential top star. I’ve seen the potential and I’ve seen him as a midcard/upper midcard star. But this is the first time I’ve thought of him as a potential main eventer.

That says something about Thatcher as well, as a good babyface is only as good as the the evil that they need to vanquish. The snaggle-toothed Thatcher not just looks like the ultimate heel, he acts and wrestles like it too. Both men raised each other’s stock and made one another look like a million bucks.

Thatcher’s loss was predictable, as Priest only just won the belt. I didn’t think he’d lose it just yet. However even though I was almost certain of the outcome, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this contest.

Verdict: HIT

RECOMMENDED: NXT HITS & MISSES 9/8: Balor vs. Cole for the NXT Title, Ripley vs. Martinez in a cage, Dinner with the Garganos, Theory vs. Reed, Dain vs. Strong, more

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