SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Shotzi Blackheart vs. Candice LaRae w/Indi Hartwell
I continue to love the direction of Candice LaRae and The Way overall. Indi Hartwell has felt like the weakest link in the foursome but something about her swagger during the entrance started to sway me. I kept my eye on her during the match and she was reacting to everything going on between LaRae and Shotzi. While Indi may not have been in the match, I did feel like I saw character improvements tonight.
Shotzi & LaRae have great chemistry together, and I think LaRae is the perfect opponent for Shotzi’s first real high profile feud. Yes, this has been going on for quite some time. However Shotzi is newer to the business. When the two of them work together, those are typically Shotzi’s best performances.
While I generally dislike distracted finishes, I gave this a pass as it looked plausible. Indi didn’t interfere to a major extent, just long enough for LaRae to stand up and regain control. It worked, and their heat continues to grow.
The Prince Is Here
Finn Balor was standing the ring after a commercial break and cut a promo on Kyle O’Reilly and his worked jaw injury after their match last week. He said the red X on his chest symbolizes that he knows he’s a target and asked for someone to step up. Pete Dunne and the NXT Tag Champs, Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch answered Balor’s call. Dunne, as expected after their little backstage interaction last week, cut Balor down and laid his stake to the NXT title. Balor took out both champs but eventually Dunne was able to take the champ down. KOR came out and tried to make the save. It wasn’t until the rest of the Undisputed Era came out, sans Bobby Fish, that McAfee’s goons went running.
Finn wasn’t sure how to react to Undisputed Era, and just rolled out of the ring. He looked grateful to a point, yet skeptical.
While I think this kind of made the NXT Tag Champs look weak, at least it was the NXT champion that took them out. Other than that, I like this segment. It not only brought Dunne into the title picture, but it is keeping the feud between Balor and KOR/Undisputed Era fresh. For some, maybe it’s getting stale. For me, I could watch KOR gun for the title a little longer.
Dusty Classic First Round: Grizzled Young Vets vs. Ever Rise
There’s not much to say about this match. It was great tag wrestling from two great teams. Ever-Rise was clearly cannon fodder for GYV. However, I do have to applaud them for their energy and snarkiness. They dialed it up to 11 tonight, and the match actually went a lot longer than I expected. They even pulled off their tag finish! While they may not be everybody’s cup of tea, they were a team that I followed on the indies. I’ll always have a soft spot for Ever-Rise.
GYV are potentially the odds on favorites to win the tournament, at least between the three of us on PWT Talks NXT.
Dexter Lumis vs. Johnny Gargano w/Austin Theory
In the build to this non-title matchup, Gargano seemed terrified of Lumis. However, throughout the matchup, Gargano was able to overcome that fear and actually take the offensive to the much larger Lumis. As LaRae did earlier in the night, Gargano relied on interference from Austin Theory for the opportunity for some of that offensive. As well as the finish.
I was a little underwhelmed with another distracted finish for The Way, hoping they wouldn’t go to that trope twice for the same team on the same night. Kushida came out after Gargano’s win to save Lumis from a “The Way” beatdown and held the North American championship high in the air. Kushida as the next contender for the North American Title? Yes please!
Verdict: MISS (While entertaining, this did not hook me at all)
Dusty Classic First Round: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott & Jake Atlas vs. MSK
Wes Lee & Nash Carter, known as MSK, debuted tonight in this Dusty Classic first round. These two Rascalz (hint, hint) arrives to quite a bit of fanfare from the commentary team. Clearly looking to position MSK as a high profile tag team from the get go.
Atlas and Swerve, rivals turned partners, worked well together against the newcomers. However, this match was unfortunately not about Atlas nor Swerve. This was to show off these two incredible high flyers.
Again, not a whole heck of a lot to say about this match either. It was a solid tag match without any backstory. They told the story in the ring and put on an exciting performance. It wasn’t over the top amazing, but not lackluster enough to warrant a miss either.
Xia Li w/ BOA vs. Valentina Feroz
I literally missed this match. I walked out of the room to get a soda out of the fridge, which is not 5 feet from the TV. Xia Li just absolutely destroyed Feroz. We knew this was going to be a squash, as that seems like it is how they are presenting Xia Li as of now. But wow, this was a massacre.
Dusty Classic First Round: Undisputed Era (Cole/Strong) vs. Breezango
Breezango might be an undercard tag team, however I always love seeing them in action. I actually felt like they could hang with the top team on the brand. Undisputed Era almost seemed like they were getting worked by Breezango for a little while during the bout. While it was a little unbelievable to see Breezango take it to them, it was selfishly nice to see one of my favorite tag teams get a main event spot like this.
When KOR accompanied his team to the ring, you knew that Lorcan, Burch and Dunne would find their way into the segment, and they sure did. However, their interference just hyped Cole up in seeing his friend getting jumped that he almost immediately beat Fandango.
Again, a decent tag match but it doesn’t seem like it really mattered. Nothing on the show did.
Sure, I gave almost everything a HIT tonight on what I consider to be a lackluster show. While the segments in and of themselves weren’t bad if you look at them on their own merit, they didn’t form a cohesive show that gripped me like NXT usually does week after week. I know this is a rebuilding period, but making the main focus of the show a tag team tournament really doesn’t seem like must see TV to me.
Overall Verdict: MISS