SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
CAMERON GRIMES vs. RODERICK STRONG
Grimes is a national treasure. Starting this segment, Grimes made his entrance with a mic in hand. He said that without his help, Undisputed Era might be done for and offered to “Grimes The System” with Roddy. He even introduced a shirt for their team and new music! What an awesome way to play up the delusional brain of Cameron Grimes. Everything that he does, from his mic work to the facials while selling, he’s consistently one of my favorite things on NXT.
Without Undisputed Era behind him, it’s unclear where Roderick Strong will fall on the card. My gut says mid-upper mid card. He was never the focal point of UE, he and Bobby Fish essentially filled out the group. That’s not a knock on their talent, they just aren’t on the same level as Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly. Roddy is a solid hand in the ring and will give just about anyone a great match so having him be a reliable talent to bolster that roster tier isn’t a bad idea.
The match itself was really good. Grimes seeming to always almost luck his way into not losing throughout the match and Roddy trying to keep him down. Not even one of the most impactful superplexes that I’ve seen in recent memory could keep the GameStop Billionaire down. It wasn’t until Grimes reached into his trunks and pulled out an Undisputed Era arm band to distract Roddy for the win until I had something to complain about. Why would this distract someone to the point of losing the match? Its an armband, it shouldn’t invoke that much of an emotional response.
Considering that this is wrestling and I shouldn’t put that much thought into it, I’ll give the dumb finish a pass. The rest of the segment was very entertaining.
ESCOBAR ISSUES OPEN CHALLENGE
Santos Escobar, accompanied by Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde were in the ring after commercial saying that he was going to issue an open challenge to show that he is the best cruiserweight in the history of NXT. Essentially this was to show that he is more of a champion than the other NXT Cruiserweight champion, Jordan Devlin.
Tyler Breeze accepted the challenge to my delight, and the match was underway. Breezy is such an underrated talent and I’ll never complain when they need to slot him in, as long as it makes sense (mostly). No, he’ll never be WWE or NXT champion. But he’s a fantastic talent who makes his opponent look like a million bucks.
Since the Devlin/Escobar showdown has been booked for Takeover already, Breezy had no chance of winning this match. But, it was a pleasant surprise to get this contest nonetheless.
After the match, the focus switched to the Tag division as MSK ambushed Mendoza and Wilde and Grizzled Young Vets appeared on the screen moments later.
INDI HARTWELL & CANDICE LARAE vs. THE JOB SQUAD
Okay, no. There isn’t a female NXT remake of the attitude era stable, The J.O.B. Squad. But the two women that went up against LaRae and Hartwell were NXT rookies Gigi Dolan and the former Angela Quentina Arnold in Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling Promotion, Zayda Ramier. Both women showed promise, though certainly looked greener than their opponents.
This was a quick squash match to put the girls from The Way over and continue their feud with Shotzi and Ember, the NXT Tag Champions. After the match, LaRae and Hartwell said they deserve a shot at the titles and the champions came out. The champs, for some reason, challenged them to a match before launching a Vortex football out of their tank at LaRae. Yes. I just wrote that sentence. Wrestling is so weird. I love it.
RAQUEL GONZALEZ vs. ZOEY STARK
Before the match, Io Shirai attacked Gonzalez. Gonzalez and Dakota Kai turned the tides though and left Shirai laying on the ground backstage as officials broke up the action. This gave Io Shirai incentive to make an appearance later during the match segment proper.
Stark looked like a million bucks to start the matchup. She got a ton of offense in on the larger Raquel for the first few minutes. And when Gonzalez started making a comeback, Stark always seemed to be one step ahead of her. She even ate a punch to the face from Kai while the Ref was distracted, and took Kai out before the ref had time to turn around. She even debuted a new finisher. Stark looked like a complete star in this match, and fell at the very end to a powerful chokeslam from Gonzalez. I have extremely high hopes for her and wish her the best.
After the match ended, Shirai made a bee-line for Gonzalez and ultimately was taken out once again. This being the go-home show before next week’s two day Takeover, this makes me wonder if Shirai will wind up retaining. Usually whoever gets the upper hand on the go-home loses the match at the big show. Errr excuse me. He’s no longer employed by the company. I meant to say loses the match at the Paul Wight. (No, I’m not going to apologize for that bad joke.)
Overall, exciting segment that got me pumped for not just the newcomer Stark, but the NXT Women’s Championship match as well.
KAYDEN CARTER & KACY CATANZARO FACE OFF AGAINST TIEN SHA
For months, Xia Li and Boa have been wrapped up in this story of them finding themselves and becoming warriors under Mai Ling, a mysterious woman who sits ringside for their matches. Kacy and Kayden felt that Xia Li was brainwashed and tried to free their friend from her clutches. This was supposed to be a tag team match, but wound up a handicapped match with Xia Li facing her two former friends alone.
Li continued to show how focused and devastating her new character is, dominating her two competitors for the majority of the bout. Kayden Carter stormed Mai Ling, telling her to get in the ring and face her. Mai Ling just choked her out and then vaped in her face, leaving Kacy alone against Li for a quick defeat.
When will we see Mai Ling in action? This is the first time she’s had any sort of physicality as far as I can remember. Overall, this was a well pieced together segment to advance this story and hype the inevitable blowoff.
GAUNTLET ELIMINATOR BATTLE ROYAL
Eleven entrants in this Battle Royal, the last six will be in the gauntlet match for the North American title. The order of their elimination will determine the order in the gauntlet. While this is a bit confusing, I like it. It’s different and intriguing.
LA Knight, Bronson Reed, Dexter Lumis and Kushida were really the only ones in this match that made sense to win. The rest were heels or not on the level of a Takeover North American Championship matchup. The final two were Lumis and LA Knight with Knight winning this match. That means he comes in last for the Gauntlet Eliminator. He and Gargano had a bit of an interaction at the end of the segment, perhaps teasing an LA Knight win? While he seems to be positioned as a heel, I don’t think he’ll face Gargano. However, Lumis doesn’t feel like a great opponent either, even though the story is there. Overall, great segment and I appreciate them trying something new with this whole somewhat confusing, yet intriguing, match stip.