SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NXT ON USA
FEBRUARY 10, 2021, 8PM EST
LIVE IN ORLANDO, FLA., AT CAPITOL WRESTLING CENTER
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Commentary: Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, Beth Phoenix
Join the “PWT Talks NXT” Dailycast with me & Nate Lindberg to break down the episode:
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(1) MSK (Nash Carter & Wes Lee) vs. LEGADO DEL FANTASMA (Joaquin Wilde & Raul Mendoza) – Semifinal match – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
More new gear for LdF, I think. We’re a long way from Wilde’s horrific rave gear. Wilde and Lee started and Wilde shoved Lee away. Test of strength quickly turned into a arm and wristlock by Wilde to ground Lee. Lee got to his feet but Wilde hit an armdrag and posed to boos. Wile worked a brief leglock and Lee escaped and hit an armdrag. Tag to Carter, who hit a bronco buster in the face corner and covered for just one. Carter and Wilde exchanged holds and Wilde was tossed into his corner, where he made a tag to Mendoza.
The two reset and exchanged waistlocks. Headlock by Mendoza. Both went for armdrags and took a look at each other as they reached a stalemate. Lee tagged in and the two hit Mendoza with a flurry of kicks and then a double stomp. Lee covered, again for just one. Mendoza escaped trouble and made a tag. He and Wilde made frequent tags and took turns splashing Lee in the heel corner. LdF hit a double suplex and Mendoza assisted Wilde on a springboard legdrop for two. Lee made a tag and Carter hit Mendoza with quick knees. Mendoza fought off a German suplex but Carter hit a PK for two. Rope run and Mendoza put a boot to Carter, then tagged Wilde, who dumped Carter to the outside. Legado del Fantasma posed as the match went to commercial.
Upon return, Mendoza missed a spinning heel kick, allowing Carter to make the hot tag to Lee. Lee struck quickly and sent Mendoza outside with a back kick, then dumped Wilde as well. Lee threw Carter to the outside for a moonsault on both heels, then Lee followed with a tope. Lee covered Mendoza inside for two, and Wilde broke it up. Mendoza hit Lee with a stiff kick then followed with a missile dropkick. Tag to Mendoza, who hit a poison rana and hit a suplex for a convincing near-fall, broken up by Carter. LdF hit a tandem top-rope move and Carter just barely broke that one up as well. Wilde held Lee and Mendoza ran the ropes, but Carter tripped him and Wilde was distracted and got hit with a superkick. Tag was made to Carter and MSK hit their finisher on Wilde to win. The reaction was mixed throughout the waning minutes as LdF has understandably won a lot of fans during their time in NXT.
WINNERS: MSK at 12:57.
(Wells’s Analysis: Grizzled Young Veterans face Ciampa & Thatcher later tonight. It seems like Ciampa and Thatcher have all the momentum in the world, but putting them against MSK would be a bit strange, as it works from a character standpoint but would ruin MSK’s chances of being the underdog favorites among the small crowd they’ll be in front of. Strong, lively match here that was mostly a spotfest, but a well-worked spotfest)
-Xia Li got a brief hype segment for her match after the break.
-Mercedes Martinez put over her chances of winning the NXT Women’s Championship this Sunday. She said Toni Storm was just a little girl and Io Shirai’s championship had an expiration date. “Bet. On. That.”
(2) CORA JADE vs. XIA LI (w/Boa & Mei Ying)
Cora Jade is the wrestler formerly known as Elayna Black. Xia once again got full, cinematic intro with her stable. After her introduction, Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter were at ringside, apparently to pick the worst time possible to confront her about how this wasn’t her. Li put down Jade quickly with a series of kicks.
WINNER: Xia Li at 0:45.
After the match, Kayden Carter went up the ramp and confronted Mei Ying, who showed no emotion. Xia threw Carter from the ramp and apologized to Ying for letting Carter get too close (it was in her native language, but it was clear through body language). Ying briefly choked Boa and Li attacked Catanzaro.
(Wells’s Analysis: I doubt highly that Li is going to lose to either Carter or Catanzaro after this much energy was put into her refresh, so it’s back down the ladder Carter & Catanzaro go after a brief tease at a deep run in the Women’s Dusty Classic)
-William Regal went to his office, where Scarlett was sitting in his chair in sultry clothing. She said that next week, Santos Escobar’s time was up. Regal made the match and Scarlett rubbed his chest and left as he stared off at her.
-The official song of TakeOver: Vengeance Day is “Obey” by Bring Me the Horizon, which sounds like 80% of songs used for TakeOver.
-The Way made their way to the ring. Johnny Gargano was overselling a legit(?) injury; the group led him down the ramp in a wheelchair, then Austin Theory carried him over the ropes and then back to the wheelchair in the center of the ring. Theory handed Gargano the mic. “Johnny Wheelchair” chant. He said what you see is the result of a vicious and cowardly attack by Kushida last week. “You deserve it” chant. Gargano said he was minding his own business when Kushida attacked him for no good reason and broke his arm. He threw to video on the tron that framed Gargano’s injury as the result of a running kick to the arm by Kushida (which may be true; I’m not sure where the injury came from). He said it hurt his ability to be a power walker, because he swings his arms. Gargano again waited out a “Johnny Wheelchair” chant with a grimace. He said it sucks that he can’t defend against Kushida this Sunday because he really wanted to have that match. He said William Regal should indefinitely suspend Kushida. One fan loudly cheered among the boos.
William Regal hit the ramp and said that Gargano knew that the NXT doctors had cleared him yesterday. He threw to the tron and said he had his own doctors, and showed a picture of a broken arm on an x-ray. Regal knew it was a fake x-ray because it was clearly from a right arm, which wasn’t Gargano’s injury. Gargano said the R stands for “Real,” not “Right.” Regal said Gargano has two options: either tonight Austin Theory wrestles to defend the championship, or Gargano forfeits the title. Gargano told him to take a couple weeks or a few months. Regal asked Kushida what he thought. Kushida had appeared behind The Way, and he yanked the belt from Gargano. Gargano pulled it away with his supposedly injured arm, proving his injury wasn’t serious. Gargano ran off and Ember Moon’s music played to bring Moon and Shotzi Blackheart to the ring for their semifinal match after the break.
(Wells’s Analysis: WWE made this seem like a legitimate injury to set up this segment, but at the moment I assume the TakeOver match is on. It was a fun, interesting way to take a final step toward the match on Sunday. Gargano’s act continues to be silly, and it continues to work with the exception of a couple of weeks that crossed the line into total unbelievability)
(3) EMBER MOON & SHOTZI BLACKHEART vs. CANDICE LERAE & INDI HARTWELL – Semifinal match for the Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
The match was already underway upon return from commercial. Blackheart and Moon hit some tandem moves and a basement dropkick on LeRae. Blackheart covered for two. Knee by Blackheart, who tagged Moon. The two hit a couple of quick moves and Blackheart ended up in again. LeRae got to Hartwell and tagged. Sidewalk slam got two for Hartwell. Hartwell whipped Blackheart and covered for one. Tag to LeRae, who threw a kick, then whipped Blackheart to the mat by her hair and covered for two. LeRae worked a brief double wristlock, then hit a Mr. Perfect neckbreaker for two. Tag to Hartwell. Rope run and a back elbow by Hartwell for two. Tag to LeRae, who hit her fully extended boot on Blackheart as she dropped to the mat. Blackheart fought off a wristlock with forearms but LeRae hit a big forearm to cut off the flurry and she covered for two, then got frustrated it wasn’t over.
Tag to Moon, who took down LeRae with a clothesline, then hit some combo shots and an enzuigiri, then a shotgun dropkick. Tag to Hartwell, who ran right into a palm strike. Tag to Shotzi. Quick flurry of impact moves and Hartwell covered for two. Hartwell trapped Hartwell in the ropes and Moon charged her, then covered for two. Hartwell and LeRae ended up brawling outside briefly and the heels took control. LeRae hit a rana off the top rope on Hartwell into Moon, who was on the floor. The match went to split-screen commercial.
The action returned with Moon dumping Hartwell. Hartwell made the tag but Moon made the hot tag and hit an F5-neckbreaker onto her own knee (has she named that one?) for two. Tag to Moon. Tag team move ended up with a two count and Hartwell breaking it up. Pump kick by Moon to Hartwell, but LeRae used the opening to put Moon down and make the tag. Hartwell draped Moon and LeRae splashed her. LeRae went for a tope but partially tripped on the ropes in a scary spot; Blackheart repositioned and was able to protect LeRae. Whew.
Moon crawled for a tag and once again made a hot tag. Hartwell ran the ropes but LeRae hit her with a back kick and a pump kick. Tag to Hartwell. Wicked stepsister by LeRae. Hartwell hit a long elbow drop from the top rope and Moon broke it up at the very last moment. Blackheart hit a knee in the corner to Hartwell, then a DDT from the second rope. LeRae ran into a kick and Moon hit The Eclipse to take her out. Blackheart hit a senton from the top onto both heels and covered Hartwell for the win.
WINNERS: Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon at 14:14-plus (opening bell not aired).
After the match, the winners met up with Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez at the top of the ramp. They jawed at one another and William Regal joined them and said the winners would also get a future shot at the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships.
(Wells’s Analysis: An extremely fast-paced affair with a tiny helping of old-school heat segments. The women all did a great job here and Hartwell didn’t stand out at all as too green for the spot; she had a couple of rough singles matches early on but she’s long past those at this point.)
-Backstage sit-down segment with Timothy Thatcher & Tommaso Ciampa. Thatcher said last week’s match was brutal and painful, just like they like it. Ciampa said Grizzled Young Veterans can call themselves whatever they want, but they know better. He said “Class dismissed” and threw his chair away as he walked off. Thatcher smiled big for the camera and the crowd ate it up.
-Sasha Banks spoke a quote from Rosa Parks as part of Black History Month.
-Santos Escobar spoke to McKenzie Mitchell. His cronies tried to apologize; Escobar told him not to do it because it made them look weak. He said what they could do is pay someone a little visit so he doesn’t make it to next week.
-Hype for Finn Balor vs. Pete Dunne this Sunday. The two spit a few barbs into the camera, interspersed with some of the TV steps that got us to this point. Balor said that Edge said it best: he’s operating on an entirely different level. He said it wasn’t a passing of the torch – it was a burning of the bridges, and Dunne will find that he can’t swim. Dunne said he was the threat to Balor’s entire legacy and this is where the Prince’s kingdom falls.
(4) KUSHIDA vs. AUSTIN THEORY
Neither guy got an intro; they were across from one another in the ring immediately after the Balor-Dunne segment. Gargano provided a distraction and Theory hit a dropkick. Kushida blocked a suplex so Theory threw forearms. Whip by Theory, who ran into a boot. Fists by Kushida. Kushida blocked a hip toss so Kushida hit a palm strike and went with a judo toss. Quick reversals ended up with Kushida splashing onto Theory’s arm. Kushida stomped Theory while holding his legs. Kushida threw a stiff kick to Theory, who grabbed Kushida’s hair and then hit a knee. Lefts by Theory. Kushida tied up Theory’s arms and grounded him, then slammed down on the worked arm again. Kushida yanked the left arm. Quick reversals again. The two ended up in the ropes and Theory threw a cheap knee, but Kushida returned with two of his own. Kushida wrenched Theory’s left arm over his own shoulder, then threw another stiff kick at it. Kushida wanted a springboard move, but he missed the top rope. Luckily he held on. Theory was supposed to dump him in that moment anyway, so it worked out and Theory just shoved him to the floor as the match went to commercial.
Theory had control as the match returned live. Kushida was grounded and Theory brought him to his feet and threw some lefts at Kushida’s back. Kushida went for a cross-body but Theory caught him for a fallaway slam. Theory flexed and covered with one boot and Kushida kicked out. Ground & pound by Theory. Theory chopped Kushida, who started to fire up. Theory threw a combination of punches and shots to Kushida. He missed a stomp and Kushida rolled him up for two. Inverted atomic drop by Kushida. Springboard back elbow by Kushida, who then hit a flatliner into the corner. Suplex and a stomp of the digits. Kushida rolled up Theory for two. Kushida tossed his shirt, then wrenched Theory’s arm again, three times over his shoulder. Theory bailed to where Gargano stood outside. Gargano missed a PK and Theory blocked Kushida to the floor as Gargano cheered him on. Theory wanted a powerbomb into the corner but Kushida reversed into a cross-armbreaker on the apron. Gargano hit a superkick for the immediate DQ.
WINNER: Kushida by 11:58 by disqualification.
The two heels beat down Kushida on the foot of the ramp to boos. Theory rolled Kushida into the ring, but then an unseen person below the ring yanked Theory under. Gargano tried to grab Theory to bring him to safety, but instead it was Dexter Lumis who showed up. Gargano ran off and Theory bailed into the ring, where Kushida hit the Hoverboard Lock. Gargano made the save just for Gargano to get caught in the Hoverboard Lock as well. Theory tried to break it up but Lumis held him off. There was a clearly piped-in “Dexter Lumis” chant. Kushida’s music played as he posed with the belt.
(Wells’s Analysis: The match was quickly paced and yet felt like a breather compared to the tag matches tonight. This show has been strong in recent weeks as it backs off of the mandated super-speed and into a more sustainable rate with highs and lows, but this week we’re largely back to go-go-go. The technical work in the match, of course, was very strong)
-Toni Storm promoted the women’s triple threat. She said the only thing Io Shirai had said about her is that she didn’t like her. She said if she was Io, she wouldn’t like her either because she’s a threat to the championship.
-Imperium hype segment. To them, the mat is sacred. Walter’s return to the states is starting to sound like it’ll be soon.
-Karrion Kross got into the camera’s face backstage and said next week, he was going to do exactly to Santos Escobar what he just did to his cronies. Legado del Fantasma were laid out.
-The announcers tried to talk and they could hear honking outside. They said someone was arriving and went to a nice car pulling up to the door. Outside, a reveal from the feet up showed Cameron Grimes in a new suit. He tossed money at some security guys and told them to park his car. He handed out some money to PC wrestlers on his way to the ring, then handed some to the camera guy, who reached out and took it.
Grimes said there was a nice reward for everyone who got on their feet. “Sit down, Barrett!” Vic yelled. Grimes said two months ago, that no-good Timothy Thatcher left him laying. He said he went home and did what every man would do: sit around and think of how to Cave In Timothy Thatcher. He said in his downtime, he found out there were things called video games. It turns out they’re pretty frickin’ cool, and he wondered why he wrestled instead of playing them. So he ran out of games and he went to GameStop. He said the doors opened and he knew to put his money into it, and it went toooooo theeeee mooooooon! He said now, he’s got so much money he doesn’t know what to do with it. He said they got this thing called dog-coins, so he invested in dog-coins and now he’s even richer. He went ballistic in the ring about how rich he was. He said he was richer than Elon Musk, the guy who makes the rocket ships. Give it up for Cameron Grimes, the richest guy in NXT. He said if Mr. Regal wants to tell him something, he can kiss his grits. You think he’s going to wrestle Dexter Lumis or zombies? You can kiss his grits. He said that money is power, and now he’s got so much money…it isn’t even funny. It’s hilarious! Grimes tossed a pile of money into the ring and splashed around in it.
(Wells’s Analysis: Grimes as a loser with money sounds like a pretty good use of his specific humor. The crowd was very happy to see Grimes when he was revealed)
-Johnny Gargano talked to McKenzie Mitchell briefly and said that when the bright lights of TakeOver were on, Kushida would be in real trouble.
(Wells’s Analysis: I know we’re not supposed to notice, but Gargano nearly always loses at TakeOver)
-Io Shirai spoke her cinematic hype segment in Japanese with subtitles. She said Toni Storm wasn’t made for the championship yet, and Shirai’s lost to her in the Mae Young Classic was three years ago. She said Mercedes Martinez was on a 20-year journey, but the journey would never end. She said at TakeOver: Vengeance Day, she remains champion. At the end of the segment, the three women walked into the frame together and stared each other down.
(Wells’s Analysis: The three of them walking into frame together was a bit stagey, but that’s a nitpick as all three had good segments and are all somewhat believable to walk out with the championship)
(5) TOMMASO CIAMPA & TIMOTHY THATCHER vs. GRIZZLED YOUNG VETERANS (Zack Gibson & James Drake)
Gibson did his usual mic work on the way to the ring and took a lot of shots at the faces, who jumped GYV from the ring and stomped them into the barricades. Darryl Sharma finally got enough control to call for the bell. Thatcher and Gibson were legal. Thatcher worked the left leg and tagged Ciampa, who stomped it and wrenched Gibson’s left arm and tagged again. Thatcher took Gibson to a corner for a European uppercut. He went to the opposite corner, where Drake blocked an Irish whip. Tag to Drake, who went on the offensive with fists and a short-arm clothesline. Thatcher hit a European uppercut and Drake made the tag just for Thatcher to throw more uppercuts. Thatcher wanted a tag but Drake yanked Ciampa to the floor. Gibson rolled up Thatcher for two. Blind tag to Drake, and the two took turns taking corner shots at Thatcher. They laid him out and then went to the outside and teamed up for a powerbomb onto the apron leading into split-screen commercial.
The heels were working over Thatcher and Gibson covered for two after a corner uppercut. He tried covering again for another two. Gibson worked a headlock on the mat. Back to their feet and Gibson hit an uppercut. Tag to Drake, and GYV wanted the Doomsday Device but Thatcher wriggled free and grounded both guys. Thatcher crawled to his corner but Ciampa wasn’t there. Ciampa finally laid out Gibson outside and hit the corner for the hot tag. He unloaded on Drake, then Gibson. Flying clothesline for both guys. German suplex for each guy. Air Raid Crash to Drake onto Gibson. He covered Drake for two.
Chops by Ciampa. Drake blocked the Fairytale Ending and took Ciampa to the heel corner, where Gibson tagged in. Ciampa blocked a move and two ended up in a slugfest. Jumping knee by Ciampa. Double chop by Gibson and a cutter. Gibson made the tag and Drake hopped off of Ciampa’s back and dropkicked Thatcher to the floor as Ciampa crawled for the tag. GYV hit the Doomsday Device and Thatcher broke up the cover. Gibson dumped Thatcher to the floor and Drake hit a tope on Thatcher. Drake went up and almost got hit by Willow’s Bell but Gibson held on so Ciampa couldn’t finish. GYV hit Ticket to Mayhem and Drake held off Thatcher for the win.
WINNERS: Grizzled Young Veterans at 11:38.
After the match, GYV and MSK met up near the Dusty Cup and jawed. The announcers put over that match, but then promoted all of the matches at Vengeance Day. Between their announcements of each match, the camera went to the top of the ramp, where the wrestlers in each match argued. Overly cute stuff here as each group had to be shuffled off quickly to make room for the others. Balor and Dunne were last, and instead of showing up at the top of the ramp, they met face-to-face in the ring.
(Wells’s Analysis: I could cut and paste my thoughts on four of the five matches tonight, all of which were extremely fast-paced with very little in the way of a breather, other than segments during commercials. All of the matches delivered, but the mandated lightning pace is making it hard for wrestlers to do a lot of psychology (Kushida working Theory’s arm was an exception tonight). This match was a great deal of fun to watch as it really did seem up in the air. While the face-face dynamic of Thatcher and Ciampa against MSK doesn’t make sense, it’s still hard to ever bet against Ciampa, so GYV felt like they got one of their biggest wins ever tonight. Their match with MSK at TakeOver is hugely in doubt, though if the winner gets a championship match shortly afterward, one would assume that MSK will take the tournament and face the rarely-seen Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan)
FINAL THOUGHTS: I don’t have any new ways to say “I wish they’d occasionally slow down,” so I’ll refrain. Theoretically I do like that there were just five matches and much of the time went to promoting Vengeance Day, which is still a highly regrettable name for what looks like it’ll be an interesting show with a lot of doubt on match outcomes. I found the storytelling with Johnny Gargano and Kushida to be novel and a fitting way to get a heel like Gargano a final bit of heat going into a big match. Xia Li got herself into something of a feud, and it’ll be very interesting to see how committed the company is to moving her up the chain when there’s a very strong bunch of women that have long been ahead of her in the pecking order.
In all, a decent episode if one doesn’t mind the constant breakneck pace, and if one overlooks the fact that the three semifinal matches didn’t have a whole lot of doubt for those who watch every week. Tom Stoup is off of tonight’s PWT Talks NXT so Nate Lindberg and I will be going at it as a duo, and you can stream us live or check it out tomorrow.