SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
-Shotzi Blackheart vs. Dakota Kai w/Raquel Gonzales
Raquel Gonzales accompanied Kai to the ring, adding that extra level of security for Kai. Which, in the realm of kayfabe, she certainly looked to need at the onset of this match. Shotzi spent the better part of the first few minutes in control of the bout. Kai turned the tides after she was put in a lengthy submission that focused on wrenching both her arms and legs, barely selling the sixty seconds that she was in the hold. It’s a nitpick, but it’s something that certainly took me out of the match. With how well she sold the move while it was applied to her, I was expecting it to play more into the overall story.
The only part of the match that wasn’t particularly heated was the commercial break, which was played picture-in-picture. Kai had the upper hand with Shotzi in a plethora of submission holds. However as soon as the commercial break was over, Shotzi immediately reversed the hold and took control.
Shotzi took a nasty bump on the ring apron, landing quite literally face first on the hardest part of the ring. The match was allowed to continue. However, it seemed like they immediately went to the finish where Gonzales was about to interfere and Rhea Ripley came out of nowhere to make sure that didn’t happen. Shotzi then got a quick roll up for the win.
While the rest of the matchup was as good as I had hoped, the lack of selling during the spots that I had mentioned took me out of the moment. It’s not enough to warrant a MISS by a long shot, but it was disappointing. Here’s also hoping that Shotzi is okay after breaking that fall with her face.
-Cruiserweight Interview: Escobar & Swerve
Tom Phillips interviewed both men in a split screen format with Swerve on the right and Escobar on the left. Swerve said he was the better competitor and said that he’s the only talent in all of WWE that has a victory over Escobar. Escobar then called him a parasite and said that he’s a loose end that needed to be tied up. The two went back and forth arguing, a la the first Presidential Debate, with Swerve calling out all of Escobar’s shenanegans in their former matches where the Cruiserweight title was on the line.
While Escobar is maybe a notch above Swerve on the mic, both men cut great promos on one another and continued to build the division up to be a prestigious one. I’ve said it for months now, this is the best the Cruiserweight division has been since PAC’s (then known as Neville) final run.
-Mysterious Green Hue Vignette
For a couple weeks now, we’ve gotten these weird vignettes with this green hue where someone with a disguised voice lays claim to coming back for NXT Title. Apparently, this Sunday we will find out who is behind these videos as 10.04.20 appeared on screen.
-A Look At Kyle O’Reilly
Think of the quality video packages that NXT has put out over the last year or so. This one was no different. A wonderful and extremely well edited video showcasing the most babyface of babyface, Kyle O’Reilly and his quest for NXT Gold.
I absolutely love it when they produce these videos for wrestlers who could use a little extra added to their story. For those of us who know about KOR’s past, we know just how great he really is. For those who only know his NXT work may only think of him as a tag performer. This video package really helped to frame him as someone worthy at a title shot. Though, there was no doubt in my mind of that worthiness.
-The Gargano’s Address Tegan Nox ACL Tear
For the first time on TV, Nox’s legitimate ACL injury was reported by Tom Phillips after a commercial break. After the announcement, Sarah Schreiber, asked Johnny Gargano & Candice LaRae what their thoughts on the injury were and if LaRae regretted what she did. “She broke my TV, you tore her ACL!” exclaimed Gargano. What a heel duo, playing up this injury to get heat. Love it, this is the best version of the Gargano’s yet.
They went on to say that they will be victorious in their match against Shirai & Priest
-Cameron Grimes Addresses an Empty Arena, Gets Booed Out of the Building
Grimes came out to address his loss last week, and was loudly booed by a non-existent audience. The audio was super, super loud and obvious as they were also showing where the crowd would be.
He said since the gauntlet eliminator match was so stupid, he created the Cameron Grimes Stepping Stone Invitational to the Moon Match. He introduced a handful of jobbers to beat up, when Ridge Holland came down to the ring. Holland pretty much laid waste to a cowering Grimes and the ref rang the bell for this “match” of the invitational.
Holland spent the next 30 seconds assaulting Grimes until the ref rang the bell to stop the match from such a vicious beating.
Usually when they do something like this, it looks awful. Holland made the beat down look super legitimate. Great character work by Grimes here, showing his range as a sniveling heel. Holland looked like a million bucks and a legitimate threat to the midcard.
-Austin Theory Requests Interview
Theory requested an interview and said that he should have been in the Gauntlet Eliminator match. Theory said that he’s only 23 and already wrestled at Wrestlemania. KOR needs to catch up to Theory, not the other way around.
While I liked the way Theory delivered the promo, I can’t buy him as any sort of threat whatsoever to the NXT Title. Whether it be his past still haunting him, subconsciously making me not want to cheer him. I’d rather see him work his way up the midcard than get thrust into a main event spotlight if that’s what they have planned for him.
-A Look At Kushida
Before Kushida’s match, a video package on a new “vicious” Kushida aired that was almost as good as the KOR video earlier in the night. It was a lot shorter and focused on his recent injuries, but the fact that they are giving him a spotlight to showcase a new side to this character is very promising for those of us who can’t wait to see Kushida wreak havoc in the ring.
-Kushida vs. Tony Nese
Wearing ring attire with colors and designs straight out of 1994, Kushida went up against Tony Nese, jobber to the stars. I had completely forgotten that Nese was a former Cruiserweight champion as Philips mentioned it on commentary during his entrance. Sidebar, that’s a testament to just how great Escobar has been for that title.
Kushida held the offensive for the nearly all of the bout, mostly playing a game of cat and mouse with Nese. Kushida probably could have gone for the win at just about any time, but he basically just toyed with him and inflicted as much damage as he could before going for the Hoverboard Lock.
After the match, Kushida’s opponent for Takeover appeared on screen. I still refuse to name him for now. It was basically par for the course with that character, playing mindgames.
-Dexter Lumis Returns
Cameron Grimes was licking his wounds backstage, looking for Regal. He ran into Dexter Lumis who just menacingly stared back at him. Grimes asked him where Regal was and he continued to stare. Grimes called him a weirdo and walked away, with the camera focusing in on Lumis’ face staring into the distance.
Glad to see him back, and hoping that they give him a little more direction than he had before getting injured
-Adam Cole Addresses The Audience, Impromptu Cole vs. Theory
Cole came to the ring and said that the Undisputed Era has been the most dominant force in NXT for three years. He said that the group is as strong as ever even though there are rumors of dissention in the ranks. Cole called Theory out saying that if he could bad mouth Kyle O’Reilly, he could come to the ring and say it to his face. Theory came out to the ramp but wouldn’t enter the ring. Cole said he had two options. Bring his stupid face into the ring and fight him, or don’t move so he and the rest of the UE can kick his ass.
Theory chose option 1, and the impromptu match was underway.
The match was mostly Cole on the offensive, but Theory did manage to get a few pinfall attempts in there. Frankly, I was very impressed by Theory and his technical ability here. I am every time I see him in the ring.
I loved this, it advanced the story of Undisputed Era and their eventual split and continued to build Theory. While I’m no longer as high on Theory as I once was (maybe that’s unfair as they are due to the allegations against him), it’s clear that the WWE brass are. He may have gotten his butt whooped, but the simple fact that last week he faced Ciampa and this week he faced Cole certainly says something in Theory’s favor. They wouldn’t give him that opportunity unless they saw something in him.
Oh, and the fact that Cole was touting Undisputed Era unity while being out there solo for the entirety of the segment was not lost on me. The Undisputed Era’s days as a faction are numbered, and that my friends, is Undisputed.
-Shirai & Priest Speak on Their Match Tonight
Sarah Schreiber asked Priest and Shirai if they were worried about their match against The Garganos later on tonight. Priest gave a rather generic babyface promo, nothing bad but nothing spectacular either. Shirai spoke mostly Japanese, but seemed very subdued. Neither felt like they were going into a “battle”
-Kayden Karter w/Kacy Catanzaro vs. Xia Li
A few weeks ago, after a tag match with these three women involved, Xia Li snubbed a post-match handshake from Karter and Catanzaro. That lead into this match tonight. Xia Li showed some aggression tonight, moreso than we’ve seen out of her in the past. She showed signs of it after that tag match, but not during the Battle Royal last week.
This is super promising for all women involved here, even Catanzaro who was sitting ringside. These women are starting to come into their own and I’m looking forward to a bright future from all of them.
Xia Li may have lost once again, but in her refusal to shake Karter’s hand is fueling the fire for that character.
-Shawn Michaels Moderates Balor / O’Reilly Debate
Shot cinematic style, Balor & O’Reilly met in the ring with Shawn Michaels moderating. The two competitors shook hands and Balor said congrats on winning the Gauntlet Eliminator. This started out as respectful as possible between the two. Balor put KOR over super strongly, saying that KOR proved himself all over the world as a singles. KOR returned the respect, calling him a fighting champion. Though, he turned that respect quickly into saying that Balor has no chance.
Balor questioned the unity of Undisputed Era and if KOR would be on his own this Sunday. Shawn Michaels addressed the elephant in the room saying that Cole may show some jealousy if KOR wins the title. But KOR held firm that they were unified.
Let’s put it this way. For a conversation between two fighters, kayfabe or not, they were one thousand times more respectful of one another than the two “Master Debators” we witnessed during the first presidential debate. Yet this was a gripping segment that cemented the fact, for me, that this has the potential to be one of my favorite matches of the year.
-Johnny Gargano & Candice LaRae vs. Damian Priest & Io Shirai
Intergender tag matches in the WWE environment are not always easy to pull off. Only women can fight women, and men can fight men. So that means that momentum can shift drastically when one person tags out where both competitors need to let their tag partners enter.
That wasn’t something that happened in this contest, however. It never felt like the match really shifted gears due to that gender stipulation. Though it did feel like two separate matches that kept getting put on hold so the other match could re-enter the ring. That may be something that is unavoidable in this type of a contest, as I feel like that’s how most intergender matches in WWE come across.
The nitpicking of the gender stipulations out of the way, I really liked the rest of the way the match was built. The Gargano’s continued to show their true colors, interfering on each other’s behalf on at least a half dozen occasions. Initially, I figured since they won, they may not wind up their respective matches at Takeover 31. But, where Takeover 31 hasn’t really been built properly, I think my money is on one of the two of them winning, if not both. Heck, they looked great with the titles around their waist to close the show.