SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NXT CHAMPION KARRION KROSS SPEAKS
For the first time since winning his NXT Championship, Karrion Kross addressed the crowd. He delivered a great promo listing all the reasons why he’s the champion and the lengths he’ll go to hold on to it. Scarlett, all the while over-acting to the tone of his words. I say over-acting, but I don’t mean that as a bad thing in this context. It works for the overall act, but you’re also not supposed to be focusing on her anyway. You’re focused on Kross, yet her over-acting allows your periphery to pick up her mannerisms more than if she wasn’t hyping it up.
Solid promo and overall performance, yet no clear defined path for the champion as of this writing.
NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP – MSK vs. KILLIAN DAIN & DRAKE MAVERICK
MSK defending their titles, less than a week after winning them at Takeover: Stand & Deliver. Curiously, Maverick & Dain have not been a focus on NXT TV, despite being two of the most entertaining on the show. That’s why I found it a bit strange, at first, that they were given a title shot right away when they are probably the least likely to be the next in line.
Then after the finish, it occurred to me that they probably wanted MSK to secure a title defense against an established team right off the bat. They easily beat the comedic duo, and retained their titles in a very entertaining contest.
After the match, Alexander Wolfe approached Dain in the ring. The two old Sanity members stared each other down as Fabian Aichner and Martel Barthel attacked Dain from behind, continuing the Imperium/Maverick & Dain feud. I’m hoping that Maverick & Dain finally get their moment to shine and their rivals will get their comeuppance.
MERCEDES MARTINEZ vs. JESSI KAMEA
A few weeks ago, Aliyah needed a tag team partner and Robert Stone hired Mercedes Martinez to fill that spot. Stone couldn’t pay her back, and we saw an altercation between Martinez, Aliyah & Stone. Kamea stepped up to Martinez, prompting this match.
Kamea actually got a decent amount of offense in on Martinez, yet it didn’t take much for the veteran to put the newbie Kamea away.
After the match, Martinez went after Robert Stone and a screaming Aliyah, stealing all of his pocket change. She looked Vic Joseph, on commentary, in the eye and congratulated Gonzalez on her NXT Women’s title win before saying that she’s coming for her title. I think this is a perfect first feud for Gonzalez. She’s still a relatively new performer and can learn a lot from the seasoned Martinez. That feud should be a complete slugfest.
NXT CRUISERWEIGHT OPEN CHALLENGE – SANTOS ESCOBAR vs. KUSHIDA
At Takeover, Escobar became the Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion after he pinned Jordan Devlin. He cut a promo with Wilde and Mendoza at his side, saying that he is a champion like his father was and his son will be. He laid out an open challenge, immediately accepted by Kushida.
This was certainly not a match I planned on seeing tonight, but was pleasantly surprised to see booked last minute. Kushida ditched his jeans for Time Splitters trunks and boots for a bit of a changed look. Then moments later, Wilde & Mendoza were banished to the back after they attempted to interfere. Were they about to finally pull the trigger on Kushida?! A new look, and the odds now in his favor with a less than 100% Escobar after Takeover.
And yes. Yes they did. They pulled the trigger on the NEW Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion, Kushida.
It’s about damn time.
Verdict: Mega HIT
GONZALEZ SPEAKS FOR FIRST TIME AS CHAMPION, FRANKY MONET DEBUTS, SURPRISE RETURNS!
Gonzalez and Dakota Kai made their way to the ring and Gonzalez cut a very natural feeling and heartfelt promo about her rise to the top. While clearly leaning babyface, she felt like she figured out exactly who Raquel Gonzalez is overnight. Her promo delivery was on point, her facials and interactions with the other performers all came across like a star. She thanked Kai for believing in her, and the lights cut out. The former Taya Valkyrie, Franky Monet and her dog made their way to the ring.
Monet cut a promo about how now this is the best division in the world, and that the champ will be seeing a lot more of her. Between the vignettes, her charisma and the adorable little pooch, she came across as a bonafide star to me, as well as a threat to the champion. As she left the ring, Rhea Ripley’s music hit. The newly crowned RAW Women’s Champion made her way to the ring and congratulated her former in-ring rival, and real life great friend.
Just as this moment couldn’t get any sweeter, we heard the hair whip of the EST of NXT, the newly crowned Smackdown Women’s Champion, Bianca Belair. All three women, stood tall in the middle of the NXT ring, holding all four major womens titles in the company. It was a great moment not just for NXT, but for women’s wrestling as whole. This felt like such a big moment and if you’d followed the journey of all four women, it was a moment of pride to see them real the pinnacle of their careers at the biggest events of the year.
Verdict: Mega Mega HIT (I won’t do this often. But if Kushida winning the Cruiserweight title deserved that Mega HIT, as it absolutely did, this deserved something bigger.)
LEON RUFF vs. ISAIAH “SWERVE” SCOTT
Speaking of finally finding their character, Swerve also seems to have found his spot as a heel on the card. At first, I wasn’t buying the fun-loving Swerve as a heel. It was a weak turn, and he just didn’t seem like he was comfortable in the role. Now, he’s got a swagger about him as he walks to the ring. His promos have improved and his in-ring work is just as crisp as it’s always been.
While this is a lower card angle for him, and I think we all want to see him further up the card, I think this feud with Ruff is a proving ground. A trial run, a potential launching pad. Nothing against Ruff, but he’s still at a point in his career where he’s at the spot he should be on the card. The Swerve character has finally found it’s mark and I think there’s a chance we could see something bigger for him before long.
A strong win for Swerve, but Ruff still got his stuff in. This was an extremely entertaining TV match, more so than I expected going into it.
LEON RUFF IMMEDIATELY PROVES ME WRONG
Well, as I’ve said before, I write these as I watch the show. I was just saying that Leon Ruff is still working on finding his character when he brutally attacked Swerve after the match backstage. He ran him over with a storage cart and began pummeling him before officials dragged him away.
A side we have never seen before, and it completely took me by surprise. It was so surprising, that I don’t think I realized definitively that it was Ruff who attacked until I saw a clear shot of his face when the refs pulled him away. Bravo, Leon. Bravo.
MIXED TAG – EMBER MOON, SHOTZI BLACKHEART, BRONSON REED, DEXTER LUMIS vs. THE WAY
“What an overbooked main event”.
That was my thought seconds before the bell rang. This match took the feuds between Reed/Gargano, Lumis/Theory and Shotzi & Ember/LaRae & Hartwell and mashed them together in a mixed tag.
Surprisingly, this actually had me completely hooked. Indi Hartwell did everything she could to get “injured” so she could play damzel in distress for Lumis to save her. Shotzi screamed two words at Bronson Reed that she probably should have not screamed in retrospect, prompting him to use her like a weapon to take out the members of The Way. And Austin Theory ate the pin.
They wove all of the stories together in such a way that they all played a role in the match, they all seemed important and they all seemed entertaining. Not to mention, the wrestling itself was great. It was a light-hearted, fun way to end the first show of Tuesday Night NXT.