NXT HITS & MISSES 2/24: Escobar vs Kross in No DQ, Shirai vs. Stark, Gargano vs. Lumis, Xia Li vs. Catanzaro, GYV vs. Dain & Maverick, Ruff vs. Rust, more.

By: Nate Lindberg - PWTorch Contributor


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

TICK TOCK, THE SHOW IS STARTING

To kick off the show, rather than recap last week’s like they usually will, they played a video package to hype Kross vs. Escobar later in the night. Scarlett was used very effectively as the narrator and storyteller in the segment, likening Escobar to the Hierophant card in a deck of tarot cards. I wasn’t expecting this type of a segment to start the show so it hooked me right in. This was a great way to kick off the show and set the vibe for the night.

Verdict: HIT

JOHNNY GARGANO VS. DEXTER LUMIS 

Two weeks ago, Lumis kidnapped Austin Theory after months of stalking The Way’s prodigal son. Last week, Gargano found Theory in the back of a van and was given this match to extract revenge. Oh, yes. Lumis is the face in this story, by the way.

Theory has been playing a “dumb jock” type character for a little while now, but boy did it jump the shark tonight. At one point in the match, Lumis crawled under the ring. LaRae and Hartwell looked under there for him but couldn’t find him. The two ladies and Gargano started screaming “Where is he? Where is he?” when Theory piped up, “I FOUND HIM!”, like an excited 5 year old who found Waldo. “He’s behind you!” Theory excitedly said, happy that he won the game. Aaaaand that’s when Lumis attacked Gargano from behind. Way too ridiculous for me. Theory was just kidnapped and held hostage for an entire week by this guy. Now he’s excited to “find him” when Lumis “disappeared” under the ring? Gimme a break.

Admittedly, I had a rough day. Maybe that has something to do with my perception of this matchup, but I really couldn’t care less about it. We’re supposed to be cheering for a creepy kidnapper, while all four of his victims spent the entire match terrified of him? Why?

Well, all we had to do was wait until later in the night to find out. Theory started defending Lumis. Stockholm Syndrome. Now, Gargano is forcing him to go to therapy. You know what, if it leads to a Dr. Shelby cameo then I’m in. Otherwise…

Verdict: MISS

WHO ARE MSK?

Finally, a long form video package to explain to the audience who Wes Lee & Nash Carter are. They told the story of how they met, how they came up together and how the death of Carter’s father pushed the team even harder to make it big. This was exactly the type of introduction I’ve been asking them to give us for weeks. Right after the video and a commercial break, MSK was attacked back stage by one of the teams they ousted from the Dusty Classic, Grizzled Young Vets.

Verdict: HIT

LEON RUFF VS. TYLER RUST

A backstage segment was shown where Malcolm Bivens approached Ruff and picked a fight with him on behalf of Rust until Ruff demanded a matchup. Bivens has been trying to book easy wins for his “client”, Rust, and assumed that Ruff would be an easy win. Before the match could even take place, Isaiah “Swerve” Scott ambushed Ruff.

This was actually a rather effective segment. It got more heat for Swerve who has been cooled down as of late. It advanced the cocky manager/up-and-comer storyline for Bivens and Rust, and it furthered the story between Ruff and Swerve. All within a matter of a few minutes of precious TV time.

Verdict: HIT

CAMERON GRIMES PICKS A FIGHT WITH… THE MILLION DOLLAR MAN?

A quick backstage segment with Cameron Grimes showed him watching the infamous video of he and Virgil challenging a young boy to dribble a basketball 10 times and he’d get $1000. The boy ultimately couldn’t do it. Grimes, in his infinite wisdom walked up to a worker backstage and gave him the same challenge. The worker easily did it, winning the $1000 and sending Grimes into a Tirade exclaiming something to the effect of, “DiBiase think’s he’s smarter than Cameron Grimes? This isn’t over!”

He tried this later in the night on a group of people sitting outside. He chose one of the women, who turned out to be a tall basketball fiend and won her $1000 prompting him to curse the name of DiBiase once again.

A third time, he walked up to a guy in the parking lot and made the same offer. When the guy went to dribble, Grimes just punched him in the face and cackled in delight. “KISS MY GRITS, DIBIASE! MONEY CAN BUY HAPPINESS!”

I want more. Give me all of the Billionaire Grimes skits. All of them.

Verdict: HIT

ZOEY STARK VS. IO SHIRAI

The NXT brass must see something in Zoey Stark to put her in a non-title match against a strong NXT Women’s Champion. She’s impressed me thus far, but I haven’t seen enough of her work to make a prediction as to whether she can live up to the hype or not. William Regal just handed her this matchup during a backstage segment where he simply asked her if she would like to go one on one in a non-title match with the champ. A little strange considering not every newcomer gets a high-profile spot like this. Especially one who feels like such a newer talent compared to an established act like Karrion Kross, for example, who received a major push from the get go.

Stark did lose the match, but she put up quite the fight. At a few points, it looked to me like Stark looked like a she was a notch below Shirai in her technical ability. Not by much, but there were a more than a few spots where I felt like her movements were clunky and forced looking. Mostly a nitpick, but something that I hope not to notice in the future. She looks like she has an incredible opportunity, and I’ll always root for someone to succeed.

After the match, the two hugged and Toni Storm emerged from the back, antagonizing the NXT Champion. Shirai has never beaten Storm and she really laid that on thick. She asked for an NXT title match and Shirai shouted, “YOU’RE ON! YOU’RE ON!”

I’m hoping that it’s not Storm to finally dethrone Io Shirai, as I think there are better women on the roster to lead the division. However, that’s personal preference. I think the majority of regular viewers, not necessarily those who would be reading an article like this, are more behind Toni Storm than I. She has a great look and she’s decent in the ring. Decent (compared to the majority of the roster, of course). Not great. That’s my issue.

Verdict: HIT

KACY CATENZARO w/ KAYDEN KARTER VS. XIA LI w/ BOA & MEI YING

Kacy and Kayden have been trying to snap Xia Li out of this new persona and get their friend back. Xia Li challenged Kacy to this matchup saying that she would hurt Kacy. This was probably my most anticipated match of the night, as I’ve bought into the Xia Li saga hook, line and sinker. I’ve also been incredibly high on Kacy and Kayden, so seeing two of my favorites clash in a midcard feud was enticing.

I feel like they absolutely delivered. Kacy hasn’t always been booked to look strong and Xia Li is in the middle of the push of her lifetime. Kacy held her own in the matchup until the point where Xia attacked her leg using the steel steps. The ref stopped the matchup due to that attack. Xia Li technically gets the victory because it wasn’t a DQ, Kacy couldn’t continue, and Kacy wasn’t technically beaten.

Where Karter rushed Boa & Mei Ying and  Li continued the post-match assault on Kacy, my guess is that Kayden Karter faces Li next and loses. But, I’m not sure where this goes from there though I’m highly intrigued.

Verdict: HIT

WOMEN’S DUSTY CUP HYPE VIDEO

While I don’t dislike this feud as a whole, I absolutely hate the fact that they are pushing Kai and Gonzalez as the faces, smiling and happy to win the first women’s Dusty Cup. The better part of the last 6 months, Gonzalez has been built up to be a massive monster. Now? She’s a smiling “I’m just glad to be here!” generic babyface?

Verdict: Video gets a HIT. Feud? Not sure yet, leaning MISS.

KILLIAN DAIN & DRAKE MAVERICK VS. GRIZZLED YOUNG VETS

Wow, I never thought that Drake Maverick and Killian Dain would still be going as a tag team, let alone a tag team to work together well enough to give GYV a run for their money. GYV did just barely squeak out a win, but I feel like this was the best case scenario for both teams. Drake and Dain looked strong, and GYV got their cheap, heelish win.

Of course, maybe I spoke too soon? As soon as we came back from commercial break Killian Dain was shown carrying Maverick backstage, as typically happens after one of their matches. Dain’s former Sanity partner turned Imperium Member, Alexander Wolfe approached Dain and shook his head. “You used to be a monster…” and walked off leaving Dain looking a little more annoyed with Maverick than usual.

Verdict: HIT

KARRION KROSS vs. SANTOS ESCOBAR – NO DQ

All throughout the night, William Regal kept popping his head into the parking lot looking for Escobar. Finally towards the end of the night he showed up with the rest of Legado del Fantasma in tow. However he just sat in his car. When the match started, Kross’ music hit and it looked like he was about to hit the arena when he was shown attacking Mendoza and Wilde outside of Escobar’s car. Not exactly the start I had in mind, but totally fine by me!

This NO-DQ match turned into a Street Fight, with the two brawling in the parking lot and Mendoza and Wilde assisting their leader. Eventually the action spilled back into the building. Kross started to fight off all three members of Legado del Fantasma until they focused on his recently repaired shoulder.

While I liked this match on the surface for its entertainment value, that’s about where it ended. When you start looking deeper, a lot of questions arise. Karrion Kross is supposed to be a “killer”, right? Why did he have so much trouble taking out the Cruiserweight champion? Sure, there were two other goons there helping Escobar. But I feel like any other night if they just met backstage, Kross would have wiped the floor with Mendoza and Wilde. I feel like even though Escobar is a star on the brand, the cruiserweight label is seen as lesser than the rest of the roster. Always has. Now I’m supposed to believe Kross can easily take out any of the main event talent?

For a team that touts purity in lucha libre, there was more pomp and circumstance than wrestling from Legado del Fantasma in this matchup.

Neither man stayed true to their character here.

Verdict: MISS

ADAM COLE SPEAKS AFTER UNDISPUTED BREAKUP

Adam Cole came out and said that he had every intention of coming out and explaining why he did what he did. But he doesn’t like the guy who he has become, a pissed off partner whose friend got a shot at “his” title. He said he was ashamed of his actions and looked into the camera, knowing Kyle O’Reilly is home watching, injured.

He said that he was dead wrong to do what he did, and he hates himself for it. He looked incredibly remorseful as he paced the ring and said that he’d do everything in his power to fix this.

Roddy came out and challenged him. “For 10 days, you didn’t feel bad. You didn’t let us know what was going on?” He said that UE was built on trust, and he shattered that trust. Roddy said that he’s not sure if he can save Cole from what KOR will do to him once he’s heeled. Balor came out and attacked Cole, Roddy tried to break it up but was pushed aside by Cole. When Cole went to try and explain things to Roddy, Roddy gave him a lariat. “I just want things to go back to normal, this is all my fault.” Cole kept repeating.

Cole broke down crying in the ring, and Roddy felt bad. They hugged it out, before Cole double-crossed him with a low-blow. “Roddy, you’re dead to me!” before a superkick to the face.

While this isn’t the angle I wanted to see, Cole pretending to feel remorse, it still worked. I think that they could have been a bit more unique with the angle, as we’ve seen attackers play the same card countless times during wrestling angles. However, I’m going to give it a pass and see where this goes. This is the biggest angle on NXT TV right now, I’ll give them a few more weeks to fully win me over before I turn sour on it.

Verdict: HIT

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