NXT HITS & MISSES 2/17: Undisputed Breakup Turned Six Man Main Event, Moon & Shotzi vs. LaRae & Hartwell, McAfee Appearance, Ruff vs. Swerve, Kacy & Kayden vs. Aliyah & Kamea, Zoey Stark Debut, Kushida vs. Rust, more.

By: Nate Lindberg - PWTorch Contributor


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

KOR INTERRUPTS THE SHOW

To kick off the show, Kyle O’Reilly came down to the ring cutting off the announce team from congratulating the Dusty Classic winners. He essentially pleaded with Adam Cole to come to the ring and explain why he betrayed Undisputed Era. Roddy came out in defense of Adam Cole to try and diffuse the situation and keep the peace. KOR wanted nothing to do with it and emotionally yelled at Roddy to go back stage and not to get in the ring. He even dropped an “s-bomb” saying that he didn’t need to hear “s**t” from Roddy and demanded Cole come to the ring. Balor came out, looking for KOR. He said to get in line behind him, he wanted Cole first. Roddy, Balor and KOR started to bicker as Dunne, Lorcan & Burch came out and attacked.

All the while, Cole was absent. While there was a lot going on here and quite a few angles coming together at the same time, it didn’t feel disjointed. It felt anything but, it felt exciting. Undisputed Era has ruled this brand for years, and seeing this dissention finally come to a head like this has the fan in me jumping up and down.

Verdict: HIT

EMBER MOON & SHOTZI BLACKHEART vs. CANDICE LARAE & INDI HARTWELL

The Way came to the ring, sans Austin Theory, with posters looking for their missing member. Lumis kidnapped him right before Gargano’s match at Takeover and he apparently hasn’t been seen since. Shawn Michaels tweeted about this, asking where the heck Theory is. I told him that they employ two detectives in Breezango – get them on the case!

I kind of hate kidnap angles like this. Lumis did it with Roddy and KOR earlier this year as well. We’re supposed to believe that they have just been missing for days without any sort of involvement from the family and friends of the missing?

During the match, an unmarked van was shown approaching the building which distracted Indi, Candice & Gargano in the arena. Gargano went to investigate and off screen, found Theory inside bringing him ringside. Indi was so excited to see him, she wound up losing the match.

I actually kind of liked the way this played out. Indi and Candice looked to get some revenge on Ember and Shotzi for eliminating them from the tournament. But the bigger overarching angle of “Where is our team mate??” was what swayed the outcome.

Verdict: HIT

PAT MCAFEE SPEAKS

We haven’t seen or heard from Pat McAfee since WarGames but he appeared in a video tonight sitting on a private jet. He said that he was right, Cole was a scumbag and he’s ready for the IWC to flood his twitter with apologies.

The best heels speak truths, and frankly he’s speaking a truth. He said that Cole was a scumbag from the beginning of his tenure with NXT and Cole finally did show his true colors on Sunday.

Verdict: HIT

ISAIAH “SWERVE” SCOTT vs. LEON RUFF

This was a bit of a comedy match, with Ruff appearing not to know what he’s doing on more than one occasion. That’s been Ruff’s MO for the last handful of months, but it seemed dialed up in this match.

Swerve basically dominated Ruff for the entirety of the matchup. Any time Ruff would get some offense in, it would either be no-sold or dodged by Swerve until Ruff was able to pull of his middle rope cutter for a two count. Even then, Swerve easily fought back and seemed barely fazed by Ruff’s offense.

I’m torn on this booking of Ruff, pretending to be a scrappy up and comer who keeps making mistakes. But then he keeps squeaking out wins, almost like his gimmick is just getting lucky. I just wish it wasn’t opposite Swerve right now. Swerve has lost more matches than I can count in recent memory. Losing to a kayfabe goof like Ruff, what does that say about Swerve?

When Ruff can’t go a four moves without making a mistake against Swerve, how did he go 15+ with Gargano at Takeover a few months ago? It’s a minor inconsistency, but Leon Ruff’s North American title reign was such a unique angle that the fans aren’t going to forget it just yet. It makes it hard to invest into Ruff’s matches knowing that he has the ability to go toe to toe with one of the greatest wrestlers of our generation, Gargano, for a long period of time and look halfway decent. But when he faces a lesser opponent, he can barely get out of his own way.

Verdict: MISS

KACY CATANZARO & KAYDEN KARTER vs. ALIYAH & JESSI KAMEA

Last week, Kacy and Kayden came to the ring during Xia Li’s match to try and “save” her from Mai Ling, the spooky leader of Xia’s new faction. Before the match, they said that they know some weird stuff is going on with Xia and they want their friend back.

During the match, Boa appeared at the top of the ramp in a red glowy haze, standing and watching the matchup. Letting the competitors know that Xia Li and Mai Ling aren’t far away. That didn’t stop Kacy and Kayden from winning like a lot of mid match distractions, however. After their win, Xia Li angerily approached the ring with Boa in tow. Kacy said that she just wanted to help Xia, when Xia grabbed her by the arm and “marked” her hand with black paint, saying she’ll hurt Kacy next week.

The match itself was nothing to write home about, but the strong victory for Kacy and Kayden was refreshing. They have been being built as a legitimate team and I’m glad to see them get the win. The angle with Xia is about to come full circle, as this whole transformation came after she couldn’t beat Kacy or Kayden in singles action. My money is on her squashing Kacy and then Kayden a week or so later.

Verdict: HIT

DUSTY WINNERS

Beth Phoenix welcomed MSK to the ring first where they were able to finally show us a little bit of who they are with an in-ring promo. They goofed around, celebrating and declaring themselves the next tag champions. Phoenix introduced Kai & Gonzalez next and they were a little too happy for their current gimmicks. I almost didn’t recognize Raquel with a giant smile on her face. I thought that was a little odd until Shayna Baszler’s music hit and she and Nia Jax entered the arena. The current WWE Women’s Tag Champs are obvious heels on the main roster, so it looks like Kai and Gonzalez might attempt at playing a tweener role here?

Jax, Bazsler, Kai & Gonzalez verbally went back and forth at one another, recalling Kai & Bazsler’s epic NXT feud. All the while, MSK and Phoenix were eating popcorn in the corner – AMAZING.

I don’t think I like this version of Kai & Gonzalez. They came across as annoying faces. Not the badass, take no prisoners team that won the Classic. While I’m looking forward to this matchup on paper, mostly to see Kai and Baszler go at it again, I am not a fan of this build so far. The back and forth between the four women just seemed way too scripted and forced. Very main rostery.

Verdict: MSK – HIT, Women’s Angle – MISS

KUSHIDA vs. TYLER RUST

Earlier in the night, Kushida was interviewed backstage when Bronson Reed came up to him and congratulated him on his Takeover performance. Malcolm Bivens, Rust’s manager, then stepped up and said it would be impressive if he competed again tonight and went to Regal to make this matchup happen.

The story of the match was that Kushida’s arm and leg were not at 100% after the Gargano match, which allowed Rust to capitalize on the situation multiple times. The last time we saw Rust in the ring was against Reed and he heartily lost. Bivens didn’t want to see Rust lose again, but saw an opportunity to take out someone with the name value of Kushida while they weren’t at 100%.

As I expected, this was a better match than it had any business being. Kushida is just such an amazing talent, watching him is a pure delight. Tyler Rust has also impressed the hell out of me. Putting the two of them together, they had one hell of a TV matchup.

Verdict: HIT

ZOEY STARK DEBUT

Stark technically debuted with Marina Sheffir in the Women’s Dusty Classic, but this was her official singles debut. Stark started wrestling in 2013, but according to cagematch.net it looks like she took a hiatus between 2014 and 2018 and signed with NXT just this past January.

This was a dominant squash match against Valentina Furoz, who was barely named on TV.

I will say, Stark needs some gear that is a little less generic. Furoz’s gear was much flashier and my eyes kept watching Furoz when there was movement. If you just looked at the two women in the ring, you would have assumed Stark was the jobber based on her gear. Other than that nitpick, I’m looking forward to seeing what else she can bring to the mix. Brutal offense and, gear aside, a main event level look. Given some time to develop here in NXT, she could be a player in times to come.

Verdict: HIT

ONEY LORCAN, DANNY BURCH & PETE DUNNE vs. FINN BALOR, KYLE O’REILLY & RODERICK STRONG

Could Balor, KOR and Strong co-exist after the implosion of the Undisputed Era and Cole’s betrayal on Sunday? That was the question asked over and over throughout the night. The heels all came out together, unified. Finn Balor came out by himself and then UE’s music hit. Roddy started doing his entrance, stopping to make the UE symbol. KOR just rushed right past him and beelined for the ring. The face team? Anything but unified.

This dissention was also made a little more clear when the heels worked in the “face” corner, and the faces worked the “heel” corner. That rarely happens and I think was done as a subconscious reminder to the audience that “something isn’t quite right” with KOR and Strong in particular.

Cole wasn’t on TV at all tonight until interfering in the match after Drake Muertz was knocked down. He attacked Kyle O’Reilly again and delivered a suplex to the steel steps, effectively taking KOR out for the rest of the match. Roderick Strong went to help Balor up and Balor attacked him, not realizing it was his partner. Dunne capitalized and got the win right after that. After everyone else left the ring, Balor stood tall with his NXT title and was swiftly superkicked by Cole out of nowhere. The show went off the air as Adam Cole held the NXT championship over Balor, hungry to reclaim his prize.

Balor, KOR and Strong weren’t able to stay on the same page. Between that and Cole’s interference, it was a disastrous night for the main event babyfaces and I’m really looking forward to seeing how this all plays out. Part of me thinks that KOR might wind up with an NXT Title reign during his NXT run after all.

Verdict: HIT

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