SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NXT ON USA
APRIL 20, 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 me, Tom Stoup & Nate Lindberg to break down the episode:
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-Opening theme. It’s a Poppy song now.
-Kyle O’Reilly’s music played to bring him back from selling injuries from TakeOver. He played a little air guitar and was in kind of a hipster getup. He grabbed a mic. He said at TakeOver he faced the greatest challenge of his life and he was in a great mood because he was nowhere near Adam Cole. He did “I like it a lot” in the style of Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber. He said with Adam Cole behind him, it’s time to move on. He said to succeed here he has to have killer instinct, and he found it. He said you have to be willing to go to extremes and pay the ultimate sacrifice to achieve your goals. He asked what his next challenge should be. Does he challenge for the workhorse title, the North American Championship, or does he chase down the most dominant force NXT has ever seen? He started to talk directly to Karrion Kross via the camera, but Cameron Grimes’s music played.
Grimes hit the ring with his own mic and said he made a killing on DraftKings betting on O’Reilly. He said he sees Kyle as a top dog, and if he needs someone to watch his back and invest in him, they could do a lot. He said he likes this new “cool Kyle” and they should market it. He offered the idea of KO Coins. He said the two of them could go TO THE MOON! Kyle said “to the moon” with him. He said Grimes is killing it right now and he should celebrate their newfound arrangement. He said he was now clear to compete and he just saw his first opponent. He pretended to look around and said “Don’t worry, it’s not you, we’re business associates!” He put on his shades, looked at Grimes again and said “Oh, wait, it is you” and he knocked down Grimes with a punch. Mixed reaction there, as people dig this version of Grimes.
(Wells’s Analysis: Perhaps the best thing about NXT being unopposed is that they now have the discipline to slow things down and open the show with a segment to set up a match rather than start with a match with little or no build just to throw action out there. I’m sure O’Reilly’s act will grow and change as he finds this version of himself; hopefully the intentionally ripped jeans and jean jacket style won’t prove to be a necessary piece, but maybe I’m just old)
-Earlier today, Sarray arrived outside and ran into William Regal. Zoey Stark walked up and said she was sure Regal already had an opponent for her, but she’d love to challenge her. Regal said he’d like to see that and asked Sarray if she was interested. Sarray said yes and the two women shook hands.
-LA Knight cut a quick backstage promo on Dexter Lumis. It was fast and full of fire as always.
(1) DEXTER LUMIS vs. LA KNIGHT
Knight’s entrance was right after commercial. During Lumis’s entrance, we were reminded of the bizarre step in the Lumis-Indi Hartwell saga where she tricked Lumis into carrying her out of the ring by feigning injury.
Knight backed Lumis into a corner. Quick rope run and a block and rollup by Knight for two. A dueling chant was close to 50-50. Short clothesline by Lumis. Big boot by Knight. Knight jawed down at Lumis, who yanked him into the Silencer, but Knight quickly reached the rope and then bailed. He draped Lumis’s neck over the top rope and hit a slingshot shoulder tackle. Rope run and a very high back bodydrop by Lumis, who slunk toward Knight, who backed up until he crotched himself against a post. Back inside, Lumis missed in the corner and Knight hit a backbreaker. Knight chucked Lumis over the top rope and the match went to split-screen commercial.
Lumis got back into it when the show came back. Corner lariat and a bulldog by Lumis. Belly-to-back suplex and a legdrop by Lumis. Slingshot suplex for two. Lumis reached down for Knight, who chopped his neck. Lumis tossed Knight to the outside on the ramp side, and Lumis followed but got yanked back into the Plexiglass. Both guys sold a bit and threw fists. Lumis got up next to the Plexiglass and Indi Hartwell was on the other side. They touched hands through the Plexiglass and walked a few feet to the opening. Indi did a pratfall and then got up and fixed her hair. Lumis, who seemed as smitten with her as she with him, was left open to walk into Knight’s finisher as he reentered the ring.
WINNER: LA Knight at 9:44.
After the decision, Knight left and Indi got face to face with Lumis from the apron. She leaned in for a kiss. Lumis went in seemingly to meet her lips, but Indi was yanked to the floor by her stablemates from The Way to boos. Lumis didn’t look happy.
(Wells’s Analysis: Knight’s heel act continues to be a huge breath of fresh air as he offers a different style and pace from the norm. Lumis remains embroiled in by far his most interesting storyline in NXT (though Cameron Grimes did some pretty great things in their feud) and I’m genuinely looking forward to his segments as a result, which wasn’t necessarily the case before. A decent enough match that accomplished something for both guys)
-Beth Phoenix sat down with Io Shirai in a classroom at Full Sail (I think?) and a TV was there. Phoenix talked about some of Shirai’s most important NXT matches and Shirai smiled as she watched, and showed genuine response to a couple of painful spots, then sold the agony of defeat to Raquel Gonzalez. She said Gonzalez was her toughest challenge, but when the time is right, she’ll take her rematch. She started to talk about that match but Franky Monet’s dog popped onto the table, and Monet herself barged in and introduced herself. She said if Shirai wants to take time off, Monet could fill her shoes on the top of NXT. Shirai got pissed and said some things in Japanese. Monet said she didn’t understand, and Shirai looked at the dog and said “I like cats” and stormed off.
(Wells’s Analysis: Monet is a little cloying on the mic, but she’ll get there in time, I’m sure. I assume Shirai will put over Monet on the way out)
(2) BREEZANGO (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) vs. GRIZZLED YOUNG VETERANS (Zack Gibson & James Drake)
Breezango did a British royal guard entrance. Gibson did a little of the usual stuff on the mic on the way to the ring. The four threw hands before the bell and the ref got control to get started. Quick tags and rollups to start. Fandango and Gibson were legal and Gibson hit a suplex and floated over for two. Chinlock by Gibson, who then threw a knee and made the tag. Fandango fought off a double-team attempt and tagged Breeze. The two draped Drake over the top and hit a tandem dropkick. GYV were dumped and Fandango hit a tope on both and did his grinding taunt as the match went to commercial.
Back from break, Fandango put Drake into a corner. Drake landed strangely (kayfabe, I think) after an attempt from the top and the ref took a moment with him. Gibson used the moment to put a thumb in Fandango’s eye and Drake stopped faking it and took control. Tandem move from the top after a tag and Gibson covered for two. Chinlock by Gibson. Fandango tried to elbow out of a waistlock and finally took down Gibson with a lariat. Tag to Drake. Hot tag to Breeze. The illegal men got dumped and Breeze stomped Drake in a corner. Action spilled outside and Breeze destroyed both guys. Back inside, Russian leg sweep and a quick count by Breeze, who saw Gibson looking to break it up and he got up and dumped Gibson in a refreshing take on the broken cover. However, it was enough for Drake to wriggle away and make the tag so GYV could hit Ticket to Mayhem for the win.
WINNERS: Grizzled Young Veterans at 9:00.
(Wells’s Analysis: GYV cheats to get an advantage. Novel! The implication is that they have their sights set on the tag team championship, this time in a standard tag match. Given the rough reaction to MSK so far, I’m as certain as ever that GYV should have won the titles in the first place to give MSK a journey and a single heel team to overcome. Decent enough tag action, though half was on commercial)
-Indi Hartwell had asked for time with McKenzie Mitchell backstage. The Way broke it up. Bronson Reed showed up and asked what’s wrong, Johnny – don’t you love love? He said Lumis would be a beautiful addition to the Gargano family. Austin Theory got involved and said the only way Reed gets another shot at the North American Championship is if he beats Theory. He said he talked to Regal about it. Reed said that was fine and he left. Gargano lost his mind at Theory for making this deal.
(3) SARRAY vs. ZOEY STARK
Stark got her entrance leading into commercial and the show hyped Sarray’s debut up next.
Back from break, Cameron Grimes was with McKenzie Mitchell. He was bragging about a letter where he made a strong bid for a Ja Morant NFT, but unfortunately after time expired, a significantly higher offer was made by…a Mister Ted DiBiase. Grimes lost it and stormed off. As the manager of a card shop, I ate this up.
Sarray made her entrance and the two shook hands. Sarray’s music makes it very clear she’s working babyface. Test of strength to begin, won by Stark. A few leverage pin attempts. Rope run and a dropkick and a primal scream by Sarray. Double stomp against the ropes by Sarray. Sarray worked a leg submission, got the crowd into it, and added a bridge. Stark reached the ropes. Corner run and Stark hit a back elbow. Basement clothesline by Stark. The announcers stressed it would be an upset if Stark won. Snap suplex by Stark got two. Headlock into a cover by Stark for two. Stark put Sarray into a corner for some stomps. “Sarray” chant got a little traction. Stark stomped Sarray and hit a snap mare into an armlock. Sarray backed Stark into a corner, and again, but Stark fought it off. Sarray dropkicked Stark to the outside for a breather. Stark reentered and the two exchanged forearms. Sarray ran the ropes but Stark followed for a knee. Stark ran the ropes but Sarray followed for a dropkick, then a basement dropkick. Fisherman suplex by Sarray got two. Both sold on the mat.
Stark hit a big sliding knee to get two in a convincing nearfall. Stark missed from the top and Sarray rolled her up for two. Stark hit a dropkick for two. The crowd was amped for this (so am I). Sarray rolled through a suplex attempt, softened Stark and hit a Saito suplex to finish.
WINNER: Sarray at 7:09.
Stark and Sarray shook hands again afterward. Stark exited the ring and Toni Storm attacked her from the ramp. Sarray checked on her and Storm, her work done, took off.
(Wells’s Analysis: As often, Stark is in perhaps the best match of the night. Excellent action and Stark got something out of this as well as she continues her feud with Storm.)
-McKenzie Mitchell talked with Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai. Kai did the heavy lifting as Gonzalez is still…kind of okay on the mic. About Io Shirai’s rematch, Kai said “She wants a rematch, and I want to study Witchcraft and Wizardry at Hogwarts. We don’t always get what we want.” Kai was subtly(?) planting seeds of getting too big for her britches as she hinted that “they” were the champions rather than Gonzalez herself.
-Candice LeRae lectured Indi Hartwell in the back. LeRae continued on to meet up with Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon and she said they were a family, and Shotzi and Ember weren’t. Ember told LeRae to look for Indi, and she did, and the “babyfaces” attacked her from behind after some aggressively annoying taunts and started beating her down in their dressing room. I genuinely don’t understand how the booking of Shotzi and Ember is supposed to make them likable.
-Kushida hype segment. There were some twitter responses to his Cruiserweight Championship win leading into his open challenge. I don’t know if the Cruiserweight Championship is going to be synonymous with the open challenge concept for a while, but if so, I approve, as the reigns have been fine but the division is sorely lacking in obvious challengers. Kushida took the mic and said he won the belt in an open challenge and tonight he was giving the same opportunity. Who wants a title shot?
(4) KUSHIDA (c) vs. ONEY LORCAN – Cruiserweight Championship match
Without words, Lorcan’s music played and the match was on. Quick takedowns and reversals to start. Armdrag takedown by Lorcan, reversed by Kushida into a bow and arrow. Quick reversal from that as well into an armbar. The two got to their feet and Kushida missed a running boot and Lorcan put on a headlock. Rope run and Kushida caught Lorcan in a cross armbreaker but Lorcan reached a rope. To a corner, Lorcan went up and Kushida kicked him to the floor heading into a commercial.
Back from break, Lorcan had Kushida in an arm submission. Kushida broke and threw some kicks. Rope run and a European uppercut by Lorcan for two. Rope run and a knee by Lorcan for two. Lorcan covered again for two. Lorcan worked an abdominal stretch briefly and Kushida elbowed out, but Lorcan hit an uppercut in the corner. Kushida exploded out with one of his own, then charged the corner and hit some combo shots. Back elbow by Kushida, who went up and stomped on Lorcan’s elbow. Lorcan blocked an armbar and hit an uppercut and a blockbuster for two.
Chops by Lorcan. Kushida absorbed them and threw a right. Cartwheel dropkick and some kicks to Lorcan’s bad arm. Hoverboard Lock finished.
WINNER: Kushida at 9:22.
As Kushida celebrated, Legado del Fantasma’s music played and Santos Escobar showed up on the ramp for the distraction. It quickly turned into a three-on-three as MSK showed up to even the odds. The crowd still booed for MSK, but not like the last couple of weeks.
(Wells’s Analysis: I wish Lorcan was treated as important enough to be hyped into an important match like this, but I’ll enjoy his appearance in the match at all, I suppose. I thought it was possible MSK would be kept off of this show entirely as NXT may want to figure out how to save them as a babyface act given the live response, but this kept them relevant in a story while being brief, so I suppose that’s close enough)
-Mercedes Martinez did a backstage segment. She asked Raquel Gonzalez if she was ducking her. She said Gonzalez was silent, and Dakota Kai did all the talking. She said she’d do Gonzalez a solid and take Kai out so nothing stood in the way of their match.
(Wells’s Analysis: As usual, the women’s division is just loaded with realistic challengers and multiple storylines at the top.)
-We went backstage to The Way again. Candice was selling her beatdown from the tag champions and Indi Hartwell showed up and said she’d gotten a tag championship match for herself and LeRae. Hartwell and the men cheered and LeRae kept selling her injury.
(5) EVER-RISE (Matt Martel & Chase Parker) vs. IMPERIUM (Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner) (w/Alexander Wolfe)
Aichner exploded with a lariat on Martel to start. Corner elbow and a backdrop by Aichner. Jawbreaker by Martel and a tag. Parker tagged in and got caught in a fallaway slam. Tag to Barthel. Killian Dain strode down the ramp and Parker rolled up Aichner for a near-fall. Drake Maverick tried to attack Alexander Wolfe and Dain held him back. In the ring, Imperium hit their finisher.
WINNERS: Imperium at 1:54.
-Kyle O’Reilly walked to the ring. At Gorilla, he passed Karrion Kross and Scarlett. He walked out to the ring as the show went to commercial.
-Next week: Dakota Kai vs. Mercedes Martinez, Kushida & MSK vs. Legado del Fantasma, and Austin Theory vs. Bronson Reed in a match where if Reed wins, he gets a North American Championship title match with Johnny Gargano.
(6) KYLE O’REILLY vs. CAMERON GRIMES
O’Reilly sat in the center of the ring, trying to bait Grimes in. He got to his feet and the two exchanged some grapples. Quick mat reversals and O’Reilly worked a submission. More reversals and O’Reilly hit a headlock takedown. Reversal and Grimes did the same. Rope run and a tackle by Grimes. Another rope run and O’Reilly tripped Grimes. Grimes threw a couple of uppercuts but O’Reilly caught him with a knee. O’Reilly tripped Grimes to land on his feet and the match got a second “NXT” chant, randomly. It’s good, but these chants are out of nowhere.
Rope run and O’Reilly turned trouble into an armbar. Grimes quickly somersaulted to the ropes to break. O’Reilly grabbed the leg but Grimes rolled back and hit a snap suplex. O’Reilly spilled outside heading into split-screen commercial.
Back to action, Grimes was in control and he hit a lariat for two. “This is awesome” chant. Stiff kicks by Grimes, who leaned on O’Reilly in a corner with a boot. Stiff Irish whip and a cover by Grimes for two. Grimes worked a sort of cobra clutch and O’Reilly fought to his feet. Rope run and Grimes hit a block. Rope run again and O’Reilly hit a knee to get back in it. Combo knees and strikes by O’Reilly. Corner forearm by O’Reilly. Suplex into a leg submission but Grimes reached a rope.
Reset and a few reversals. O’Reilly softened Grimes with a chancery and hit a knee. Grimes caught O’Reilly for a slam for two. Grimes fought off a leg submission with a rollup for two. The two exchanged knees and kicks. Grimes hit his cross-body slam for two. O’Reilly countered the Cave In and the two reversed a few times. Kicks by O’Reilly into a brainbuster. O’Reilly went up and hit a knee to the back, which is apparently his new finisher (he beat Cole that way as well). After Vic put over O’Reilly with some scripted copy, the show abruptly went off the air without overrun.
WINNER: Kyle O’Reilly at 13:29.
(Wells’s Analysis: No surprise that this would be a good one, but Grimes is so good in the ring it’s a shame he’s so many notches below O’Reilly that there’s literally no doubt in a match like this, even for the sake of storyline. O’Reilly seems destined for Karrion Kross sooner than later here, so it could be that Kross is a transitional champion before his inevitable callup, or it could be that Adam Cole will return abruptly to show the O’Reilly-Kross story to be a red herring. Either way, I think NXT has some intriguing options.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: After last week was the best weekly show in a while thanks to NXT taking more time with storylines to give the actual matches more weight, this was an even better offering, with a lot promised for next week and beyond with no perfunctory hard sell for TakeOver in sight. NXT and AEW can both tell better stories if they slow down, and so far, it looks like we’re heeding that advice. Great news for wrestling fans all around. Check out PWT Talks NXT with Tom Stoup and me tonight or stream tomorrow. Cheers.