SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NXT ON USA
MARCH 3, 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 Tom Stoup & Nate Lindberg to break down the episode:
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-Vacation destroyed my sleep schedule; here’s hoping for a strong show tonight to keep me in the fight.
-The recap skipped the undercard from last week’s show and got right to the main event angle featuring Adam Cole’s continued turn against his Undisputed Era brothers. After that there was brief hype for the women’s tag team championship match tonight.
(1) TOMMASO CIAMPA & TIMOTHY THATCHER vs. DANNY BURCH & ONEY LORCAN
Non-title. A video played that showed Ciampa getting himself this tag match while MSK listened in. Burch said it would be non-title and Ciampa said “Of course, because a title match would require you to have a set of, uh…” and Nash Carter finished “Bollocks.”
Fist bump by the faces and they strode down the ring, no nonsense. Thatcher dominated Burch on the mat to open. Burch got to a rope to break. Quick reversals and Thatcher dropped an elbow on Burch’s left arm. The two got to their feet and exchanged European uppercuts. Reset. Collar and elbow. Another uppercut exchange. Ciampa tagged in and attempted a cravat but Burch got to the heel corner to tag. Lorcan took Ciampa to a corner and hit a stiff chop rather than a clean break. Ciampa returned with two of his own. Shot exchange. Headlock takeover by Lorcan. A second was blocked and Ciampa elbowed out of trouble. Ciampa put Lorcan outside with a knee. Burch attempted to interfere but ran into a European uppercut outside by Thatcher.
Back inside, Lorcan ran into a clothesline. Thatcher tagged in and the two collaborated on a Thatcher uppercut for a two count. Thatcher put some knees to Lorcan’s back and got another two count. Headlock by Thatcher. Lorcan fishhooked to get out. Burch tagged in and Thatcher tossed Lorcan but Burch hit a lariat and Thatcher rolled to the outside and called the ref over in what I assume is a worked injury heading into commercial.
Lorcan had Thatcher grounded in the ring with a single-leg crab when the match returned from break. Thatcher shoved Lorcan away but he made the tag. He shoved Burch away and Ciampa made the hot tag and beat the tag champs with repeated corner lariats. Ciampa fired up and put in several forearms on Burch in the face corner. Thatcher tagged in for some uppercuts. Ciampa tagged in for chops. Thatcher tagged in for some forearms. Takedown by Thatcher, followed by a sleeper. Lorcan kicked Thatcher to try to break but Thatcher smiled at him. Ciampa joined the fun and the faces beat the champs in tandem. “NXT” chant.
Thatcher tried a German suplex on Burch but Lorcan held on from the outside. The heels made a couple of tags and got some shots in, then double-teamed Thatcher. Lorcan hit a half-and-half suplex on Thatcher and the faces destroyed him with chops and palm strikes right after. All four guys collapsed to the mat and sold the effects of the flurry. Thatcher moved in for a tag but got distracted as he saw Imperium (minus Walter) on the top of the ramp. He and Ciampa both remained distracted and the champs hit their finisher on Thatcher.
WINNERS: Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan at 13:08.
(Wells’s Analysis: I prefer the champs winning even in non-title matches, but Ciampa and Thatcher looked pretty stupid here in their first tag match since losing in the tag team tournament. There were some okay spots, but it was more of a greatest hits crowd-pleaser than a match with any particular narrative flow)
-Roderick Strong walked backstage as the announcers hyped his segment next. After commercial, Strong demonstratively tossed a bottle and demanded that Adam Cole come to the ring. He had a haircut that somehow made him look ten years younger. Finn Balor’s music played to bring him out to mock Strong thinking that Cole was going to give him the time of day. Strong blamed the implosion of UE on Balor and said this wasn’t happening until Balor showed up. Balor said the title was the problem, and he said he knew how to bring Cole out – he got into the face of the camera and said “Next week…Finn Balor vs. Adam Cole for the NXT Championship.” He told Roddy he’d always be a follower until he got a little more greedy. Strong took some shots at Balor and a gaggle of refs broke them up.
-The Way were at a psychiatric center. Austin Theory said “This doesn’t look like Chuck E. Cheese.” Gargano explained to the psychiatrist that Theory had Stockholm Syndrome. Gargano said that being locked in a room with a guy for a week was no vacation. Indi Hartwell absently said “With the right guy, it could be.” She was doodling “Mrs. Indi Wrestling Lumis” on a note pad and Gargano freaked out, then lost him mind on the psychiatrist, who kicked him out of the room. To be continued…
-Cameron Grimes sat with some production guys and said they needed a change to the venue name – how about Cameron Grimes Arena? William Regal showed up and said last week, Grimes hit a crew member and now he had to avoid a lawsuit. Grimes tried to bribe his way out of it and Regal said tonight, he had to face Bronson Reed. Grimes cursed Ted DiBiase for making him believe that everybody had a price.
-A screen graphic confirmed Balor vs. Cole for next week, as well as Balor vs. Strong later tonight.
(2) EMBER MOON (w/Shotzi Blackheart) vs. ALIYAH (w/Robert Stone, Jessi Kamea)
Robert Stone freaked out at the sight of Shotzi’s tank. Collar and elbow. Arm wringer by Moon. To a corner, Aliyah tried an armdrag but got blocked. Moon hit two of them instead. Headlock by Moon, reversed. Rope run and a shoulder block by Aliyah. Aliyah hit a big forearm and laughed. Moon begged for another shot. She baited Aliyah and planted her. Forearm and a spear by Moon. The two collapsed together in a really awkward way and spilled outside. Moon and Blackheart jawed with Stone and Kamea. Aliyah tried to intervene and Moon caught her with a PK off the apron. Back in and Moon covered for two (one, really, but the ref counted two). Aliyah got some shots in and Stone clapped rapidly and loudly. Rear chokehold by Aliyah. Moon hit a headscissors and a lariat. Another lariat. Rope run and a shotgun dropkick by Moon. Spinebuster got two for Moon. Moon went up and Aliyah cut her off and went up with her. Moon planted her from the top and Stone and Kamea tried to get involved, and Blackheart hit them with lariats from the steps. Eclipse finished for Moon.
WINNER: Ember Moon at 4:54.
(Wells’s Analysis: Outside of a picture perfect Eclipse, this was all kinds of messy.)
-Backstage, McKenzie Mitchell caught up with Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa. Thatcher said with Imperium, his past was catching up with him. Ciampa interrupted and said Thatcher’s past was the past, more as a demand than a statement.
-The women’s tag championship was hyped for the next spot, so the Balor-Strong match and some Cole business will likely end the show.
-Hype for Io Shirai vs. Toni Storm for the Championship next week. Strange that they’re loading up the card so much next week when there’s apparently a TakeOver coming on WrestleMania weekend already.
(3) DAKOTA KAI & RAQUEL GONZALEZ vs. SHAYNA BASZLER & NIA JAX (c) – NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship match
Beth predicted Kai and Gonzalez would take the championships and bring them to the greatest women’s division in the entire world. Alicia Taylor handled formal introductions. Kai exhaled big and shared an elbow bump with Gonzalez as they sold the moment.
Baszler and Kai to open. Baszler chuckled and tagged Jax, who grounded Kai early, then tossed her with a snap mare. Tag to Baszler, who threw a couple of shots, then mocked Kai in a corner with a head pat. Takedown by Baszler, who manipulated Kai’s arm and set up the stomp that took Kai out in kayfabe so long ago. Kai moved to avoid it and slapped Baszler, then hit a couple of armdrags. Running PK attempt and Baszler caught Kai and dumped her on the near side. Gonzalez went to check on her and all four women met outside as the match went to split-screen commercial.
Back to full-screen, the challengers were in control as Kai dumped Baszler. Kai went for a PK but Baszler tripped her on the apron and yanked her to the floor. Back inside the ring, Baszler stomped Kai’s leg and Jax tagged in and worked a stretch muffler. Kai rolled through and went for a sunset flip but Jax caught her and slammed her, and hit the stretch muffler again, then offhandedly tossed her into the buckle, then casually covered for two. Kai tried to come off the ropes but got caught again. Baszler tagged in. Jax press-slammed Kai awkwardly and Baszler covered for two. Kai ducked a kick from Baszler then hit a couple of her own, though she sold the pain to her own leg. She crawled over for the hot tag.
Gonzalez hit a dropkick and a fallaway slam on Baszler. Another fallaway slam. Corner splash and a spinning slam by Gonzalez for two. Baszler blocked a powerbomb and tagged Jax and they attempted to soak up the reaction to the monster battle. Gonzalez got the early advantage until Baszler interfered and then tagged in. Baszler hit a sleeper but Gonzalez tossed her off and hit a big boot and tagged Kai. Kai hit a kick and covered for two. The monsters went at it and spilled out of the ring. Kai wanted a fireman’s carry but sold the pain. Kirifuda Clutch by Baszler. Kai tried to roll back to break. Another Kirifuda Clutch. Kai got over for the tag and Gonzalez took out Jax from the apron. Ref bump. The two monsters spilled over the announce table and crashed behind it; not sure if they were supposed to break it there.
In the ring, Baszler hit a Kirifuda Clutch on Kai and on the ramp, Adam Pearce showed up and motioned for a ref to hit the ring. A Raw ref went to the ring and counted the submission despite Kai not being legal, and the announcers put over the whole thing as dirty pool by Pearce and Raw.
(Wells’s Analysis: An okay match with some problems meshing at times. It was all an angle to get either to a rematch or a bigger story of Raw being the establishment and NXT the plucky underdog. This was a very main roster way to finish a match, but if there’s a rematch coming, I guess it worked in that I’m more eager to see it now)
-Back to The Way in the Psychological center. Indi was still thirsty. Candace was getting texts from Gargano on what to say. The doc opened the door and Gargano was right outside it. She kicked out Hartwell and LeRae now. She told Theory it was a safe space and asked what really happened with Dexter Lumis. The music got dark and foreboding. To be continued…
-Isaiah “Swerve” Scott was in his music studio with an attractive woman, to whom he was bragging about his talent. She took off and Swerve talked to the camera, with a hip-hop backbeat, about Leon Ruff getting opportunities while he had to claw and scratch for everything. He told Ruff he didn’t want to go to war with someone who wants it more than he does. He said things were different and he just didn’t care anymore.
(Wells’s Analysis: Really good stuff from Swerve. I hope this is the push that moves him farther up the card)
-LA Knight was introduced and made his first appearance in the NXT ring. Some guys chanted his name for a while. Let him be a heel at least for a few minutes, guys. Knight said he had waited a long time to get into this spot and address the crowd. He said he wasn’t going to talk about childhood dreams. It wasn’t a dream, it was his business. He said TakeOver changed the game. He said like Tom Brady, he didn’t come in as the first round draft pick, and didn’t come in with fanfare, but he’d break all the records just the same. He ran down the top guys in the company and said everyone’s got their kicks and flips and dives, and he wouldn’t come at them with flash or pizzazz, he’d just beat the hell out of them. He said he was the last of a dying breed, and people were out there already saying he was the best NXT wrestler ever. He said if people want to call him one thing, just call him LA Knight. He said the game was his, and that’s just a fact of life. Bronson Reed was announced for his match with Cameron Grimes and Knight stayed in the ring for a while and the two exchanged some glances.
(Wells’s Analysis: As Eli Drake, LA Knight was a fixture on NWA Powerrr before the hiatus. He was a babyface for most of the run and, ironically, he was all flash and pizzazz and was more about sports entertainment than anyone on the roster; I’m interested to see if they really intend to portray him as no-nonsense or if it’s just a troll job. This was a pretty good promo and I think Knight is benefitting from being in a more controlled environment where his act can be dialed to the right volume)
(4) BRONSON REED vs. CAMERON GRIMES
Grimes was introduced to his new hip-hop theme from TakeOver. Grimes carried money and danced around with them, and threw some on the mat. He tried to bribe Reed by counting some bills and Reed flattened him with a punch. Grimes tried a sunset flip but Reed dropped on him for a two count as the match went to commercial.
Grimes was in control and had Reed grounded upon return. Headlock on the mat. Reed tried to power out and Grimes but a knee to his head, then stomped his fingers. Grimes threw a kick to Reed’s chest and another. Reed blocked the next one and took down Grimes with a chop. Rope run and a Thesz press by Reed. Corner splash by Reed. Grimes blocked a chokeslam but ran into a lariat. To a corner, where Grimes put on his hat and tried to sneak off. Reed exploded on him with a tope. “Holy sh*t” chant.
LA Knight interfered with Reed just long enough for Grimes to take control and hit the Cave In. Grimes went out of the ring and flopped on the NXT logo and smiled like he had done all the work.
WINNER: Cameron Grimes at 8:27.
(Wells’s Analysis: Simple stuff to get LA Knight into his first feud. Reed looked poised to make it to the main event scene not that long ago, but it looks like that’s not in the cards right now. Decent wrestling when they got to it, and good character work all around)
-McKenzie talked to Kayden Carter about Kacy Catanzaro’s storyline injury at the hands of Xia Li. Carter was pissed off that Li took her girl out, and she’s pushed her buttons way too far. She said next week, she can come get it.
(Wells’s Analysis: Straightforward but effective work by Carter. There’s a lot of talent in NXT’s women’s division, but hopefully she gets a real shot at moving up sometime)
-Shots of last week’s no-DQ match between Santos Escobar and Karrion Kross. Amazing how the Cole-Balor-Strong angle last week made that match feel like a long time ago.
-Back to Austin Theory talking to the psychiatrist. Theory said it was great. He watched cartoons and ate cereal the whole time. The psychologist asked why Dexter Lumis brought him back. The psychiatrist said she talked to Lumis and he dropped him off because he was the most annoying person he’d met, he had terrible taste, and he kept cutting all his shirts to show off his mediocre abdominal section. Theory ran off crying. Gargano entered again and said the psychiatrist had done great work. He tipped her a bunch of hundred dollar bills. Gargano walked off and she said “What a bunch of idiots.”
-Ever-Rise entered the ring for a match with Breezango. Breezango hit the ramp and Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde of Legado del Fantasma laid them out. Ever-Rise slipped out to avoid trouble but were blindsided by Santos Escobar, who put them in the steel steps. Escobar entered the ring and joined his cronies. He said not to mistake last week’s event for weakness. He said if you do, this is what awaits you.
(Wells’s Analysis: It was a funny touch that Breezango were doing astronaut-themed gear, so Fandango was laying there like an idiot with his helmet on. Escobar needed a strong statement out of the loss last week, and this worked for me. He didn’t bother to mention Karrion Kross directly, which is more fuel to the fire that he’s done on NXT)
-Hype for next week’s suddenly big card.
-Hype for Kay Lee Ray’s defense against Meiko Satamura on NXT: UK.
-McKenzie Mitchell was speaking with William Regal. Regal said because of what happened in the women’s tag team match tonight, next week he was going to make an announcement that would change the landscape of NXT. NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships? The size of the roster can probably justify them, though six championships is a lot for a weekly two-hour show.
(5) FINN BALOR vs. RODERICK STRONG
Non-title. Finn, introduced first, finished his entrance at nine to the hour. We’re heading for a lengthy overrun or an angle. Strong had new arena metal theme music and totally different gear.
Mat grappling to open; the two traded brief control for the first minute and Strong tried to work into the Stronghold and Balor reversed. Wade Barrett pointed out that Roderick Strong had done nothing throughout this whole ordeal but show loyalty and somehow he’s the one everyone wants to get their hands on. Balor worked a headlock on the mat and Strong finally managed to reverse and hit a backbreaker as the match went to split-screen commercial.
Strong put the knees to Balor in a corner. Forearms by Strong. Balor wrenched Strong’s arm and put him on the mat, then ran and kicked Strong’s arm and followed with a few stomps. Balor trapped one of Strong’s arms with his legs and dropped back for some torque as Strong wailed. Balor grounded Strong with an armbar. Strong turned it into a powerslam to create separation. Strong took some shots at the small of Balor’s back, then threw forearms on a grounded Balor.
Backbreaker and a two count by Strong. Another backbreaker. Running knee missed by Strong in the corner and Balor worked a submission on the mat. Strong fought his way to a corner to break. Chop in the corner by Balor. Irish whip to the opposite corner and another chop. Back to the first corner for another. Balor went for it again but Strong came off the buckle with a clothesline. Shots and chops by Strong. Strong planted Balor and did his forearm rope run , then hit a double underhook powerbomb for two. Sling blade by Balor got him back in it. Balor went for a shotgun dropkick but Strong caught him and worked to get Balor into the Stronghold. Balor tried to counter and Strong rolled him up cleverly for two. Strong wanted a lungblower but Balor turned it into double knees in a cool spot.
The two exchanged shots. Pele kick by Balor. Shotgun dropkick to set up Coup de Grace. It hit. 1916 finished.
WINNER: Finn Balor at 13:46.
After the match, Adam Cole was at the top of the ramp. He stared into the ring at Balor. Balor pointed finger guns at Cole, and Cole did the “boom” as Vic put over next week’s show as can’t-miss.
(Wells’s Analysis: The way things have been progressing on NXT, a full match with a clean finish and no shenanigans was about the last thing I was expecting tonight. They kept it simple ahead of the big Balor-Cole match next week that I would’ve bet would happen at TakeOver (and more than likely, I think it still will again, unless Kyle O’Reilly is also going to be getting involved sooner than later). Strong work by both as expected, though Strong isn’t going to win a match like this so there wasn’t a lot of drama)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Kind of an odd show, with a couple of matches that were forgettable at best and a very awkward one in Ember Moon vs. Aliyah. I expected to get into this segment tonight bemoaning how many TakeOvers there are now, which waters down the importance of each, but it turns out it’s a bit worse than that as we’re loading up the show next week because six weeks of build is just too much between major shows. With the rumors flying that NXT is changing nights coming in the next month or so, it was strange to see this hard sell, though maybe it’s one last shot at trying to gain back in the ratings war on Wednesdays.
The three segments of The Way were…something. I thought one of them would’ve been enough, and each of the three got increasingly ridiculous until the third just looked completely out of place on NXT (and why did a kayfabe real psychiatrist allow these cameras?). Some will still love this stuff, no doubt, but they’re really testing the limits of what people will accept. All that said, the first one had a few pretty good lines and fun moments, so it’s not like they can’t dial it back a little when need be.
All in all, there’s not much to say other than as ever, we are on a march toward a big show that’s too soon to get the proper build. Such is life in modern day NXT. Check out Nate Lindberg and Tom Stoup on PWT Talks NXT tonight, and I’ll be back with them next week. Cheers.