3/24 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s report on Shirai & Stark vs. Kai & Gonzalez, Bronson Reed vs. LA Knight, more “big announcements,” more

by Kelly Wells, PWTorch Contributor


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NXT ON USA
MARCH 24, 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


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[HOUR ONE]

-Adam Cole arrived.

(1) IO SHIRAI & ZOEY STARK vs. DAKOTA KAI & RAQUEL GONZALEZ

The heel women were mid-entrance when the show went to the ring. Stark, and then Shirai, got separate entrances. Kai loosened up in the ring as Gonzalez stared out intensely in wait. A graphic promoted Shirai vs. Gonzalez as the main event of night one of TakeOver: Stand and Deliver.

Gonzalez backed up Stark to a corner to open. Gonzalez jawed and Stark smiled it off. Gonzalez put Stark in the same corner and jawed at her again, saying she couldn’t overpower her. Stark charged in and Gonzalez trapped her in an armbar. Stark reversed and yanked the arm, then added some kicks. Gonzalez used a hair pull, but Stark ran the ropes and hit a rana. The two went to a neutral corner and Stark hit a couple of rising knees. Rope run and a lariat by Gonzalez. Kai tagged in and Gonzalez lifted Kai for a double stomp, followed by a two count.

Kai mocked Stark and Stark hit a palm strike and took Kai down with a Thesz press. Shirai tagged in and hit some chops.Kai evaded a body slam and Shirai evaded a kick, then Shirai hit a basement dropkick. Shirai stomped Kai in a neutral corner and hit her swinging double knees. Gonzalez distracted Shirai and Kai rolled her up for two. The two exchanged a couple of rollup near-falls. Shirai hit a back elbow in the face corner and tagged Stark, who hit a corner uppercut and a basement lariat for two. Kai yanked down Stark by her hair and made the tag.

Gonzalez took Stark to a corner where Stark hit a rana. Knee by Stark. Stark missed an enzuigiri and then got caught in a cross-body attempt. Tag to Kai and a tandem kick got a two count leading to split-screen commercial, which was entirely a heat segment on Stark.

Stark hit an enzuigiri at the return to full-screen and made the hot tag to Shirai controlled Kai and Gonzalez made the hot tag, but Shirai caught her with a double stomp and used Kai’s foot to kick Gonzalez. 619 for Gonzalez. Shirai went up and hit a missile dropkick while Stark tagged and hit a springboard dropkick. Gonzalez bailed but Stark hit her with a plancha. Kai missed an interference and Stark tossed her, then Gonzalez, into the corner post. Shirai went high and hit a moonsault to Gonzalez on the outside. Back inside, Stark missed a 450 but hit her feet. Gonzalez hit Stark with a chokeslam just after to boos, seemingly mostly piped in as the crowd tonight isn’t very animated. Gonzalez lifted Stark, kicked Shirai off the apron while she had Stark up, and hit another chokeslam to finish.

After the match, Shirai and Gonzalez argued in the ring. Kai provided a distraction that allowed Gonzalez an opening. She booted Shirai outside, then slammed her on the announce table, which didn’t break. Shirai wailed in agony that was likely fairly real, as it was a rough-looking landing on both her back and potentially her head.

WINNERS: Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez at 11:52.

(Wells’s Analysis: Good if by-the-numbers opener to continue building Gonzalez as a threat ahead of TakeOver. Stark is very talented but is still early enough into things that a few eaten pins won’t hurt her too much; I expect her real push not to be overly far away but at a crowded table, it’ll be tough for her to eat)

-Yesterday, “security camera footage” found Adam Cole barging in on Kyle O’Reilly at a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training facility. Back to tonight, McKenzie Mitchell caught up with O’Reilly, whose hair looked like Cameron Diaz’s in There’s Something About Mary. Roderick Strong stepped in and wished Kyle well, but O’Reilly said there was no more “us” and Strong eventually said both Cole and O’Reilly could both go to hell.

-L.A. Knight stepped into frame and got all hyped up about his match with Bronson Reed tonight. He was already leaning harder into his catchphrases, which was the opposite of what I was hoping would happen with him, but whatever. It’ll probably get him over with the live crowd and he’ll be a babyface before summer is out.

-Jordan Devlin gave a sit-down interview where he put over Kushida, even saying he liked him (no more shades of gray here; Devlin is a face now even if he’s still remaining a prick). He said he’d make an example of him ahead of his match with Santos Escobar, however.

(2) BRONSON REED vs. L.A. KNIGHT

Knight’s music is somehow managing to be both different from the norm and generic. It’s a start. Knight got in Reed’s face and jawed at him, poking his finger in his forehead. Reed hit a few chops and a backdrop. Reed charged a turnbuckle, ate a boot, but quickly lifted Knight for a belly-to-belly. Reed worked a headlock and took Knight down to the mat. Knight escaped but ran right into a back elbow. A Reed headbutt put Knight down. Big chop against the ropes by Reed. Reed trapped Knight’s arms in a submission hold, then transitioned to a waistlock on the mat. Reed clubbed Knight and hit a back elbow that put Knight on the apron. Knight hooked Reed’s neck on the top rope and then hit a springboard tackle. Knight with some ground and pound. Knight dropped a knee and then clubbed Reed heading into a commercial.

Knight was working an abdominal stretch upon return. Reed got to his feet and Knight clubbed him once, then took him to a corner and hit repeated tackles, then smirked around at the fans. Dropkick and a running knee by Knight. Knight hit the Bossman leg thing against the rope and took Reed to a corner. Reed missed a chop and Knight kept up the kicks. Uppercut by Knight. Forearms to a grounded Reed. Reed caught Knight and took him to a corner. He whipped Knight to the other corner but Knight caught him with a neckbreaker for two. Knight sold frustration.

Knight charged the corner for a wicked back elbow by Reed. Reed fired up and took down Knight with some forearms. Thesz press by Reed. Reed stalked Knight and hit a corner splash. Knight countered a chokeslam and both guys reversed a few times, then Reed finally it the chokeslam. Reed went high for Tsunami but Knight cut him off and threw rights from the mat, then went up also. Knight wanted a superplex but Reed knocked him down with a headbutt. Reed tossed Knight off the top and hit the Tsunami for the mildly surprising win.

WINNER: Bronson Reed at 12:08.

(Wells’s Analysis: I’m a fan in general of new acts losing an early match so they don’t have the dreaded undefeated tag that hangs over their entire act. I like that Knight tangled with an upper-midcarder out of the gate, and in all, I like the act as he’s a more methodical heel who doesn’t rely on breakneck workrate like a large percentage of the roster. He’s different, and that can only be a good thing.)

-The announcers mentioned Danny Burch’s unfortunate separated shoulder and it was announced that the new tag team champions would be the winner of a triple threat on night one of TakeOver pitting MSK vs. Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Legado del Fantasma. Would you have guessed that Burch and Lorcan held the championships for five months and two days? They did!

-Brought to you by Cricket, Walter is awesome.

(2) KARRION KROSS (w/Scarlett) vs. ONEY LORCAN

Kross got full entrance with regrettable Scarlett lip-synching. Lorcan, annoyed about Burch’s injury, strode to the ring ready for a fight.

Lorcan threw rights early. Kross took Lorcan to a corner but Lorcan hit more rights. Kross tossed Lorcan over the top rope and put Lorcan into the barricade. Kross threw a forearm outside and rolled Lorcan inside as the ref reached the seven count. Kross punted Lorcan out of the other side of the ring and went outside and suplexed Lorcan on the floor. The ref reached eight this time as action got back inside. Corner tackles by Kross. Lorcan threw a chop to get a bit of a break. Lorcan went outside and Kross followed. Lorcan blocked Kross into the apron, tand both went inside again. Lorcan hit a corner uppercut but then ran into a shot and Kross covered for two heading into a commercial that was unannounced, just like the one in the Reed-Knight match. Is someone not giving Vic his cues?

Back to action, Kross blocked Lorcan in a corner, then leaned on him with a boot. Snap suplex got a two count for Kross. Kross snapped on an armbar and Lorcan quickly got to a rope to break. Corner back elbows and forearms by Kross. Kross held Lorcan in a headlock and bragged that he loved injuring his boy. Kross charged a corner but Lorcan moved. Lorcan dropped an elbow on Kross’s arm, stunning him, and then threw some bigchops and palm strikes. He chopeed down Kross behind a knee, then took him down a couple of times with uppercuts. Lorcan missed a rolling blockbuster and Kross hit a Saito suplex and put down Lorcan with a forearm to the back of the neck.

WINNER: Karrion Kross at 9:16.

(Wells’s Analysis: Is Kross supposed to be a face or not? He certainly didn’t come off as one tonight, as Lorcan was the sympathetic character for having to vacate his titles because Kross injured his partner. Lorcan worked hard here to get something out of Kross)

[HOUR TWO]

After the match, Kross took the mic and said he had to address the actions of “Mr. Balor” from last week. He said Balor’s actions had malice and intention. He appreciates that because he was giving respect to a man who didn’t appreciate or deserve it. He said despite the fact that Balor is a champion, when he held his neck in his hand, it felt just like everybody else’s. When the fuse is lit, there’s no stopping what’s coming next.

Finn Balor’s music played to bring him to the ramp with his own mic. He said Kross took his best shot last week and the Prince was still standing. He said last week, Kross showed him his weakness. When a man’s young, he fights with uncontrollable emotion. He said it wasn’t until he learned to overcome his emotion and become cold that he was able to own the ring. He said Kross still fights with emotion, and in those moments, he’s sloppy. He said at TakeOver, he’s going to push him to having only two options: surprise everyone and master his emotions, or let his emotions master him. And when they do, Balor’s going to drag him into the cold, deep water, and with no emotion, he’s going to drown him. The two stood face to face as the TakeOver graphic showed on the tron. Kross had welts on his neck from Lorcan’s strikes.

(Wells’s Analysis: It seemed like Kross was going to work face in this feud with Balor as recently as last week, but not anymore. Good stuff here from Balor)

-William Regal announced that next week, there would be a 12-man battle royal, and the top six in the battle royal would advance to a Gauntlet Eliminator at TakeOver for #1 Contendership to Johnny Gargano’s North American Championship; the Championship math will be on night two. The order of elimination in the top six will also determine the order of entry into the Gauntlet Eliminator, where two will begin and another man will enter every three minutes. Competitors are Kushida, Leon Ruff, Austin Theory, LA Knight, Tyler Rust, Jake Atlas, Bronson Reed, Dexter Lumis, Cameron Grimes, Roderick Strong, Isaiah Scott and Pete Dunne.

-Kushida cut a promo about Devlin being in trouble because Kushida a great technical wrestler. He’s headed for Pete Dunne at TakeOver, most likely, though they’ve been subtle about it to this point.

-Drake Maverick stormed into the Imperium locker room earlier to set up this match.

(4) DRAKE MAVERICK vs. WALTER (w/Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner)

Non-title, of course. Maverick charged but Walter took him down immediately. Power bomb by Walter. Leg submission and the ref called it off due to Maverick passing out from the pain.

WINNER: Walter at 0:25.

Tommaso Ciampa’s music played to bring him to the ramp. Ciampa was wearing a Timothy Thatcher tanktop. He had a mic. “A couple of weeks ago, I said that you intrigue me. I misspoke. THAT [the NXT: UK Championship] intrigues me. You know what I want. They [the fans] know what I want. So what do you say?” He suggested a match for the championship at TakeOver. Walter tried to walk past him and Ciampa struck. Walter, Aichner and Barthel triple-teamed Ciampa before long and grounded him. Ciampa tried to fight back and Walter said “I’ll see you at TakeOver.”

(Wells’s Analysis: I wasn’t expecting the title to be on the line in this one. I don’t think Ciampa is the one to end it after all this time, but it adds another layer of sizzle to this one)

-Pete Dunne gave a selfie interview. Two weeks ago he said he was the best wrestler in NXT and asked anyone to challenge him. Nobody did, so he’s going to run through next week’s battle royal and become next North American Champion. I can see his double-elimination schmoz with Kushida already.

-In a segment earlier today, Robert Stone and Aliyah had to replace the injured Jessie Kamea for the Tag Team Championship match tonight. He gave Mercedes Martinez, former Stone Brand member, a manila envelope full of money. She said “New deal: this is half. I get the other half after the match.” Aliyah celebrated her new teammate while Stone told her that he didn’t have any more money.

-Brought to you by Cricket, Shotzi Blackheart is proud of doing wrestler things.

-Johnny Gargano rolled into William Regal’s office and ran down the rules of finding his #1 contender, and asked if Regal is cuckoo bananas. Regal told him to study the competitors. “That’s like a million guys,” Gargano said.

(5) EMBER MOON & SHOTZI BLACKHEART (c) vs. MERCEDES MARTINEZ & ALIYAH (w/Robert Stone) – Women’s Tag Team Championship match

Moon dominated Martinez early and tagged Blackheart. The two combined to ground Martinez and Blackheart hit an imperfect Thesz press from the top. Robert Stone threw his shoe to distract Shotzi and Beth quoted “Who throws a shoe?” Martinez hit a backdrop and tagged Aliyah, who hit a neckbreaker for two. Aliyah hammered Blackheart in the heel corner and Blackheart looked to fight toward a tag. Aliyah cleared Moon from the apron and dragged Blackheart to the heel corner and tagged. Tandem bulldog and Martinez covered for two. Aliyah tagged again and tried to hold Blackheart in place, but she made the tag to Moon, who dominated with kicks and a step-up enzuigiri. Moon fired up and hit a corner backsplash. Powerbomb got two, broken up by Martinez. Blackheart got involved to hit Martinez with a DDT. Moon hit Aliyah with an Eclipse.

WINNERS: Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart at 4:01.

(Wells’s Analysis: Aliyah still moves around the ring at half-speed sometimes. It’s bizarre. Otherwise, decent action here)

-Cameron Grimes found Roderick Strong in the locker room and tried to be all enterprising with him, saying it was sad that the Undisputed Era merch was all out there unsold. He started suggesting them as a new faction and Roddy got tired of listening and laid Grimes out with a punch. Grimes wailed and yelled as Strong walked out of frame.

-Ember and Shotzi celebrated their win backstage. An unseen interviewer asked how they were feeling. Indi Hartwell and Candice LeRae happened upon them and said they need real competition. Blackheart laughed loudly at that. LeRae flipped her hair and the two Way members walked off. Moon yelled at them not to be “jelly.” These babyfaces could stand to be more likable.

-Hype for Night 1 of TakeOver: Io Shirai vs. Raquel Gonzalez, Tommaso Ciampa vs. Walter, tag team triple threat, the Gauntlet Eliminator. Night 2: Balor vs. Kross, Escobar vs. Devlin, and Gargano vs. the winner of the Gauntlet Eliminator.

(6) KUSHIDA vs. JORDAN DEVLIN

Non-title. Quick mat stuff early. Kushida worked a brief leglock. Escape and reset. Uranage by Devlin and a standing moonsault for two. Kushida hit a dropkick after some more reversals. Kushida wrenched Devlin’s arm with his legs and took him to a corner for some kicks. Kushida wrenched Devlin’s arm over his shoulder and sent him to the apron. Kushida missed a sliding dropkick and Devlin hit a quick moonsault to the outside to head into split-screen commercial.

Devlin worked a rear chinlock. Kushida elbowed out and hit a step-up enzuigiri. A corner graphic hyped Roderick Strong vs. Cameron Grimes for next week. Springboard back elbow by Kushida. Running kick. He ran and slammed down on Devlin’s left arm. Kushida wanted the Hoverboard Lock but Devlin reached a rope. Kushida snapped on a submission but Devlin rolled him up to break. Devlin hit a springboard cutter for two; the crowd bought the near-fall as some may not know Devlin’s finisher. Devlin wanted DevlinSide but Kushida pulled free. Both men went up a corner and Devlin was distracted by Legado del Fantasma on the ramp. Kushida hit a superplex into a Hoverboard Lock. Devlin reached the rope on the ramp side and Escobar’s goons pulled him outside. They caught him in a pincer attack but Devlin made it back into the ring. Devlin trapped Kushida with a pinning combination and Kushida was furious about it and soared over the ropes to take out Legado, nearly hitting his head on the apron. Kushida destroyed the goons and Escobar entered the ring to have a staredown with Devlin. Both were jawing and Shawn Michaels’s music played. At this point, everyone should see what’s coming next.

Shawn pulled a ladder out from under the ring. Escobar sold it with fear. No need to overexplain here – Michaels just rolled the ladder between the two men and pointed at them, then left. Very effective.

WINNER: Jordan Devlin at 9:26.

After that bit, HBK’s music was still playing as he passed by Adam Cole backstage and the two had a moment before Michaels continued off. Huh.

(Wells’s Analysis: If Legado was going to interfere here, why not just have Kushida win? Otherwise, there isn’t much to criticize here, as it’s fortunate that they had HBK on hand to set up a ladder match that called back to the exact same situation with the Intercontinental Title situation with Razor Ramon. Good action in the ring, as you’d expect, though I’d love a longer match between the two, uncut by commercials)

[OVERRUN]

-William Regal was mediating a sit-down with Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly. Regal got fired up at the two getting the police involved. I want to burn Kyle’s fauxhawk to the ground. He said he has a contract here for the two to be the co-main event of night one of Stand and Deliver. Cole took the contract first, then grabbed the mic. He told Regal to imagine he was born blind, but woke up one day with sight. It would be a revelation. He woke up and found that Undisputed Era was holding him back. He said it was Kyle who made him realize that. He said it was never about brotherhood. He sat back and watched O’Reilly try and fail not once, but twice to become champion. He was incredulous that Kyle tried to get Balor to join Undisputed Era. He realized O’Reilly is a lapdog, but Cole is nothing like him and won’t sit on the sidelines. He said Kyle lost sight of what Undisputed Era was. It was never about friendship or brotherhood – it was about being the best. He said O’Reilly never would have been successful without him. He said he was the one who main evented and had the title run. He said O’Reilly was nothing without him. He said he didn’t really want to face him at TakeOver because he already knows who wins. The whole world knows who wins. Cole signed the contract and Regal moved it over.

O’Reilly said that they’ve known each other a long time, or he thought they did. Four hungry pit bulls that wanted to be on top. He said now they’ll forever have heat with the general manager, as well as the entire locker room. He said it was time to grow up. No more sneak attacks, no more 4-on-1 beatdowns, no more BS. He said they became better wrestlers, and champions, and stars, but only one became a better person. He said Adam Cole was the same asshole who walked into this place three years ago. Kyle said he’ll do what’s necessary to put Cole down for good. He sold his soul for the Undisputed Era and wants it back. He said Cole was an insecure prick who sold out his friends and he wasn’t surprised. He said not one single person would be surprised when Kyle beats him to a pulp, and for the first time in near four years, he sleeps like a baby.

Kyle signed. Cole said go ahead: sign your death warrant. Kyle threw the table away and the two got face to face and the gaggle of security guys held them apart as the show went off the air at the now-usual eight minutes past the hour.

(Wells’s Analysis: There was nothing in this segment that was a revelation or anything, but all the same, both guys laid out all their reasoning for what’s happened between them and it worked as a final(?) sale for the match in two weeks between the two. I’m going to try real hard not to comment on Kyle’s hair, because everything else here was good)


FINAL THOUGHTS: After some messy, unfocused shows of late, I thought this one was a significant step up and clearer in its objectives. It’s unfortunate that almost every episode of NXT is a hype show for another TakeOver or “special episode,” and it can’t just be a good weekly show with occasional blow-off matches and more typical elevation of stars. The pacing in the ring seemed to have more variance this week again and that alone can make for a more memorable week. I’m not sure how much TakeOver will feel like a TakeOver yet and how much it’ll feel like a special episode yet (and they feel very different to me) but at the moment, I’m optimistic. Join me, Tom Stoup and Nate Lindberg tonight on PWT Talks NXT or stream later. Cheers.

1 Comment on 3/24 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s report on Shirai & Stark vs. Kai & Gonzalez, Bronson Reed vs. LA Knight, more “big announcements,” more

  1. LA Knight has all of the tools needed to become one of the greatest superstars in the history of WWE. Shocked they had him doing the job on his first night in. They missed on him before, and as history shows they came within a hair of missing on The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. I hope they get it right this time, but I really wish Knight had signed with AEW.

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