SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NXT ON USA
MAY 4, 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 and Nate Lindberg to break down the episode:
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-A short video promoting tonight’s Ruff-Swerve match aired. For two guys mired in the lower midcard, this match has been given a lot of sizzle. The women’s tag team championship street fight match was also promoted.
(1) LEON RUFF vs. ISAIAH “SWERVE” SCOTT – Falls Count Anywhere
The ref had to hold Ruff back during Swerve’s entrance. Swerve soaked up his time with a big smirk on his face.
Ruff charged quickly and Swerve lifted a knee to take him down hard in a wild opening. Swerve took Ruff to a corner for some forearms. Ruff reversed for some of his own. Ruff did his corner evasions and Swerve caught him, but Ruff flipped out of a suplex attempt. Swerve tried a cutter but Swerve caught him and shoved him to a corner. Ruff dumped Swerve and went for a tope but Swerve caught him and hit a Death Valley Driver onto the apron in a scary but fairly controlled spot. Action stayed outside and Swerve hit another DVD into the Plexiglass. Swerve slammed Ruff onto the ramp for a two count. Swerve tossed Ruff back into the ring.
Swerve dropped a knee on Ruff, then stepped on the back of his leg and mocked Ruff to boos. Swerve put Ruff up in a corner and hit a stiff chop. Swerve hit a beauty of a delayed superplex for two. Swerve jawed into the camera that this is Swerve’s house. Ruff spilled outside and Swerve went for a PK from the apron, but Ruff ducked and Swerve got caught in the ropes. Ruff took some shots and took down Swerve with a dropkick. He then charged in but got swatted down by Swerve. Swerve grabbed a tool box from under the ring and tossed it hard near Ruff, who evaded it with a stunned look on his face as the match went to split-screen commercial.
Back to full screen, Swerve had Ruff dominated at the head of the ramp after fighting to the back near the lockers during the break. As Swerve posed, Ruff shoved him off the ramp into the steel structure, then charged him into the wall and covered for two. The two went back to the ring, where the tool box still sat ominously. Swerve wanted another delayed suplex but Ruff reversed to a crucifix bomb for a long two. The two fought across the ropes and Swerve took a shot on the apron, and Ruff hit a poison rana from the apron to the floor in a spot wild enough to be shown three times. Two count. Ruff charged and Swerve hit a slam assisted with some momentum from the Plexiglass for a believable near-fall. Swerve missed near the steps and Ruff hit him with the tool box twice. Inside, frog splash by Ruff for two. Ruff put on a leglock to Swerve’s bad leg for two. Cutter by Ruff. Outside, another cutter by Ruff. Ruff tossed Swerve over a barricade, teased a shot, then decided to climb up to the perch. A large man identified as AJ Francis, a member of Swerve’s entourage, caught Ruff and slammed him hard. Swerve picked the bones by rolling Ruff inside for JML to finish. Swerve celebrated with the rest of his entourage after the win. Perhaps we should’ve had them named on NXT TV before now?
WINNER: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott at 15:19.
(Wells’s Analysis: Extremely enjoyable feud match with a lot of unique spots. Both guys came out of it just fine, but Swerve’s act is seemingly heating up and primed for a run up the card to some degree, so hopefully this will get him there. Ruff has been good at spots for a while now, but his ability in chaining spots together is improving as well, giving his act some much-needed credibility despite his stature)
-Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory stormed into William Regal’s office, where he was already in a meeting with Scarlett. Gargano jawed at Regal about his championship while Scarlett stared on in disdain. Theory said “Those are the biggest things I’ve ever seen. Are those real?” as he looked at Scarlett. She glared and he said “seriously…are those nails real?” and he was entranced by her fake nails. Gargano rushed him away.
(2) ASHER HALE vs. CAMERON GRIMES
Grimes threw some early shots. Hale caught hold of a headlock, reversed by Grimes to one of his own. Rope run and a dropkick by Hale. Hale threw a couple of kicks but got caught with a kick from Grimes. European uppercut and some corner kicks and boots by Grimes. The two exchanged kicks and another Grimes uppercut took Hale down. Hale hit another dropkick, then caught Grimes for a sort of dragon screw assisted with the top rope. Missile dropkick by Hale for two. Grimes tried to bolt, but Hale caught him. Whip by Hale but Grimes caught Hale with a kick, then a big side slam. Cave In finished.
WINNER: Cameron Grimes at 3:04.
(Wells’s Analysis: Grimes has been defined as a middle guy for some time, so a few squash wins make sense as his push gets going again. Hale has a ton of raw talent and took some great bumps and has some intriguing offense. Hale is a signee who previously worked all over the indies as Anthony Henry)
-McKenzie Mitchell was with Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter. They made some comments about Tian Sha, but also said they were focused on the tag team titles. Franky Monet popped in with her dog and said their fighting spirit was adorable. She talked down to them and Catanzaro had to hold Carter back.
-Backstage, Grimes was celebrating. Ever-Rise showed up and tried to get in on it. Grimes apologized and said he only had room for three –
me, myself and I. He said excuse me, but I’m going TO – THE – VIP room.
(3) TOMMASO CIAMPA & TIMOTHY THATCHER vs. GRIZZLED YOUNG VETERANS (Zack Gibson & James Blake)
Ciampa’s music interrupted Gibson’s schtick just as he got to the catchphrase. Ciampa and Drake opened the match. Collar and elbow. Drake took Ciampa to a corner. Ciampa grabbed a quick headlock, then ran the ropes and hid a shoulder block. Head scissors by Ciampa, quickly transitioned to an arm wringer and a chop for a cover. Thatcher tagged in and took a shot to Blake’s midsection, then grounded him with an armbar/headlock combo. Blake was able to avoid a shot as he got to his feet and he tagged Gibson.
Collar and elbow. Gibson tried a waistlock but Thatcher wrenched his arm back, then ran the ropes and took Gibson down. Gibson worked another armbar and added a knee to the back of Gibson’s arm. Gibson tried to punch his way out and Thatcher put stiff knees to Gibson’s back. Gibson was able to reverse and work a leglock, but Thatcher countered and put on a sleeper. Gibson called for help and Blake charged in with a big boot, but Thatcher didn’t go down. Ciampa charged in and the faces beat down GYV heading into commercial.
Thatcher and Drake were legal. Thatcher put Drake to a corner, and Drake tried to tag Gibson from the apron and much was made of the illegal tag. Thatcher grabbed Drake, who grabbed Thatcher by the ear and put his neck on a rope. Tag to Gibson, and GYV hit a tandem dropkick and Gibson covered for two. He tried another cover, then another. Gibson worked a chinlock, then a cravat. Snap mare to escape by Thatcher. Thatcher reached for a tag but Gibson held him, then tagged Drake. Thatcher put the boots to Drake and then made the hot tag. Ciampa destroyed GYV with shots and a double clothesline. He whipped Drake into the face corner and Thatcher amusingly held the tag rope so it was out of the way, then accepted a tag. The faces hit tandem palm strikes and Ciampa hit a running knee strike, and tagged in and covered for two. Ciampa bit Drake’s hand and tagged Thatcher again. Barrett called out the cheating and Beth called it an eye for an eye, a thumb for a thumb.
Thatcher tried for a delayed German but Drake made the tag. Thatcher hit a belly-to-belly on Gibson but Drake made the save. All four got involved. The illegal men got dumped and Gibson threw a flurry of chops and palm strikes. Thatcher hit a big palm strike to get back into it and then hit a double-underhook suplex for two. Thatcher worked a submission and Ciampa got put into the announce table by Drake. The heels double-teamed for a moment, and then Drake hit a tope on Ciampa on the announce table. Gibson hit a scoop slam for a long two. Barrett lost his shoe in the scuffle, and as Ciampa distracted the ref, Thatcher used the shoe on Gibson, then worked an armbar for the submission. Barrett was incredulous that the faces won using his shoe. Vic said that since Barrett’s shoe was off, he must hate Gibson.
WINNERS: Timothy Thatcher & Tommaso Ciampa at 14:23.
(Wells’s Analysis: There’s so much talent in this match, but the tag matches in NXT are so high-octane and formulaic without a lot of psychology, it can just be thrown on the pile with a lot of good but unmemorable matches. GYV is pretty close to dead in the water at this point; they’re the runners-up in the Dusty Classic two years running, but it doesn’t seem like they’re much of a threat to the top)
-The men from The Way said they were going to bust William Regal’s door down. Theory politely knocked instead. Regal, who wasn’t in his office, popped into frame and said Gargano wasn’t going to get out of his match with Bronson Reed. Regal added that Scarlett made sure that next week, Theory would get a match with Karrion Kross.
-An unseen interviewer caught up with Isaiah “Swerve” Scott and his entourage. Swerve simply said he said he’d win tonight, and he did. The four exited the building and AJ Francis slammed the door in the interviewer’s face.
-There was a brief hype segment for the two newest members of NXT’s women’s division – Sarray and Zayda Rameer. They’ll go later tonight.
-Karrion Kross and Scarlett’s music played them to the ring. Kross was business casual. Scarlett handed Kross a mic after the introduction. He said three weeks ago, he made things crystal clear: all you have to do is step up and roll the dice. He said people weren’t afraid of him? He’s not afraid of them either. He said let’s give these people what they want. Let’s give them a fight. He said he doesn’t need to prove anyone wrong – they need to prove it to him. He said next week he’d dive-bomb Austin Theory on his head, and for anyone else –
Kyle O’Reilly’s music played. He was laying it on slightly less thick with the hipster getup, and thankfully the ridiculous fauxhawk was gone. Surprisingly, he was wearing an Eazy-E shirt. Wow. He said he gets why Kross thinks everyone should be afraid. Sheer dominance. He said he came out here because he wants this match. So let’s give the NXT Universe –
Pete Dunne’s music played to keep the streak of interruptions alive. Dunne asked from the ramp if the other two were having a laugh. He said he doesn’t care who wants to see the match. He said he doesn’t care about the new Kyle O’Reilly or that Karrion Kross stands there as champion. He said he was the baddest man in NXT and he dared them –
Finn Balor’s music played to bring him to the ramp. He said “Pete Dunne – been there, done that. Kyle O’Reilly – been there, done that – twice.” The four came to blows quickly after as the championship picture started to take shape. “Security” showed up to break things up and at the end of the scuffle, the champion stood alone in the ring. A security guy took a Saito suplex in the ring and Kross posed with his belt as he stared out at Balor, the last one on the ramp. As Kross stared out, Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory attacked in a double-team. Kross fought them off for a moment, but they got the better of him with the numbers eventually and Gargano used the North American Championship belt to take Kross down.
(Wells’s Analysis: I tend to be a sucker for multi-man scuffles to establish the guys who want to be at the top, so this was a welcome scene, though as usual, I’m not sure whether Karrion Kross is supposed to be a face or a heel, and I’m not sure I’m supposed to even care. The Way are undeniably heels, and Balor is a tweener who’s largely cheered. Kross was booed upon entrance but The Way were booed when they attacked him. Despite the mess, Theory’s chickenshit character is definitely the type that should have a fun match with the overwhelming, cruel Kross)
(4) SARRAY vs. ZAYDA RAMEER
The two shook hands. Collar and elbow. Headlock takeover by Rameer, escape. Quick trips and covers. A kick from Sarray led into a brief headlock, reversed, rope run and a dropkick by Sarray. Sarray closed in on a corner and the ref broke it up for a reset. Rope run and a counter by Rameer into a trip and a submission. Sarray reached a rope fairly quickly to break. Sarray threw a few kicks and rolled up Rameer for two. Slam by Sarray into a cloverleaf with a bridge. Rameer hit the ropes to break. Sarray ran the ropes for a wicked dropkick. Fisherman suplex for two. Missile dropkick by Sarray. The two exchanged some shots. Rope run and another dropkick by Sarray. Rameer got hung up on the bottom rope and Sarray charged and hit the ropes as Rameer moved. Rameer rolled up Sarray for tw. Rope run and a sling blade for two by Rameer. Back kick by Sarray and a beautiful snap German suplex. Another to finish.
WINNER: Sarray at 4:36.
(Wells’s Analysis: We got to see a little bit of Sarray’s offense, but there’s still a lot more out there to see as she works her way up the card. Rameer is really putting it together and is making a case for more TV time in a crowded field)
-Backstage, Imperium was in a Zoom call (Walter is still outside the US). He spoke to the others primarily in German. Barthel nodded and the group all agreed on…something.
-Backstage, Sarray caught up with Rameer for another handshake. Toni Storm tried to ruin the fun, but Zoey Stark cut her off and Storm thought better of the numbers and took off. The three faces sat together.
(5) JAKE ATLAS vs. LA KNIGHT
Knight did a little mic time on the way down and said “I know the incels are gonna say my name as I head to the ring…” and I’ve called people who cheer entirely for heels incels before, so clearly, Knight is a fan.
The two got to it quickly. Rope run and Atlas dumped Knight with a kick. Atlas charged into an uppercut and Knight hit a boot from the apron. Back inside and Knight hit a snap mare, then missed a knee drop. Atlas threw a few shots and a knee. German suplex by Atlas for two. Atlas went in near a corner and Knight yanked him back into a buckle. Knight threw a few shots and then put up Atlas on top and followed. Atlas slipped away from a charge and the two exchanged a few near-misses on finishers, and Knight hit his out of relative nowhere.
WINNER: LA Knight at 3:03.
(Wells’s Analysis: Atlas seems like he could be utilized better, particularly in the Cruiserweight picture for now, but there doesn’t seem to be any time for that. A simple squash to keep Knight in front of mind)
-The women of The Way were in a dressing room. LeRae told Hartwell not to focus on Dexter Lumis because they had business tonight. The camera heavily suggested that Lumis was in a locker, though we didn’t see him.
-I don’t normally mention commercials, but one of the CarShield commercials starring Ric Flair played, and he chopped LA Knight once in the spot and Knight sold it like death. Interesting placement of this commercial.
-Toni Storm said Zoey Stark was once the flavor of the month but she’s losing her flavor pretty damn quick. She said she was a former women’s champion and a huge superstar, but Stark is a nobody. She said she brought Stark into the business and when she’s ready, she’ll take her right back out of it.
-Legado del Fantasma were in the ring in suits. Santos Escobar said he had talked about blood, tradition, heritage, legacy. He said you all saw him become Cruiserweight champion and the undisputed emperor of lucha libre. He said last week everyone saw an iconic moment – a premonition. He said he’d recover what was rightfully his – the NXT Cruiserweight championship. Joaquin Wilde said that they hadn’t forgotten about MSK. In the triple threat match, MSK didn’t beat them, but last week, they DID beat MSK. Raul Mendoza said they want a tag team championship match. Escobar said the measure of a man is not what he can do for himself, but what he does for his brothers.
On the tron, Kushida appeared. He said last week, Escobar crossed a line, and it was a mistake. Next week, it’ll be the two of them for the Cruiserweight championship. Let’s do it. Escobar agreed.
-The announcers teed up that next week, we would also see Raquel Gonzalez vs. Mercedes Martinez. Beth met up with both women via video and asked about the match. Martinez interrupted Gonzalez and Martinez came at her with fire. She said she gets it with people saying she’s never gotten it done, but she’s hungry. Gonzalez tried to get into it but Martinez talked about how she set the bar and paved the way. Gonzalez said Martinez set the bar, but she set the bar low and Gonzalez raised it up. Martinez said in one night she’d end the reign. Gonzalez said Martinez was the first challenger, but she wouldn’t be the last.
(Wells’s Analysis: I’d love more tense back-and-forth scenes like this to promote TV matches. Martinez utterly dominated Gonzalez on the mic here, which was expected, but at least Gonzalez was given some good money lines to save her side of it)
-The women’s tag champs were in back talking and walking. They got to their tank and Shotzi Blackheart went off about the cute dog (Franky Monet’s dog) who was in their tank. She sent off the dog, talking about how cute she was, and Moon said “NOT cute” and referenced an unseen large bowel movement by the dog in the tank. Oooookay.
-Cameron Grimes was trying to enter a party bar. A very tall bouncer said he wasn’t on the list. A limo showed up and the bouncer allowed Ted DiBiase through. DiBiase gave Grimes advice – never rent out a room when you can buy the whole place! He hit his catchphrase, then laughed, as Grimes lost his mind.
(6) SHOTZI BLACKHEART & EMBER MOON (c) vs. CANDICE LERAE & INDI HARTWELL – Street Fight for the Women’s Tag Team Championship
Entrances got going just ten minutes from the top of the hour. Alicia Taylor handled formal introductions for about one second and the women attacked each other immediately and the bell sounded. Thanks for coming, Alicia. Action went outside immediately and a table was brought out from underneath the ring. LeRae also got a bunch of chairs. Blackheart, in a Freddy Kreuger striped shirt, cut her off and beat her into the apron. Blackheart also put Hartwell’s head into the table set up outside the ring. Finally action went inside and the faces double-teamed Hartwell as LeRae was still outside. Tandem trip/dropkick and a senton by Blackheart. Moon put a trash can over Hartwell’s head and the faces dropkicked her. Cover for two.
LeRae got back inside and was able to dump both faces and regroup. Candice tried a sliding dropkick on the faces but both moved away and smashed trash can lids on LeRae from either side. The faces brought out another table and set it in the ring. Hartwell showed up and put Moon into the Plexiglass, then hung up Blackheart on the apron. Hartwell chucked Moon over the barricade and then set up four chairs in 2×2 formation outside. The faces got the better of her and Moon put her into the chairs. They set up a fifth chair atop the other four, set up Hartwell on it, and set up a tope. As Moon charged in, LeRae showed up out of nowhere with a fire extinguisher to cut off the interesting, potentially dangerous spot to boos heading into split-screen commercial.
The faces took down Hartwell with a chair upon return to full-screen. Tandem slam by the faces on LeRae for two as Hartwell broke it up. The faces fired up as they laid out the heels. LeRae was set up on a ladder that was set up across the ring to the barricade. Blackheart hit a senton that likely took both out of the match’s finish. In the ring, Moon slammed Hartwell into a table set up in the corner. Moon covered for two. Outside, Blackheart recovered and got a mini-ladder and she and Moon went at Hartwell, who dropkicked the two of them with it. LeRae also recovered and the heels combined for a springboard moonsault on a table and covered, but Moon broke it up. Moon hit a big boot on Hartwell, but then walked into a sick-looking spinebuster on a table. Moon sold it, perhaps legitimately, like intense pain. Cover and broken up. Hartwell took Blackheart outside and Blackheart used Barrett’s coffee mug to take out Hartwell and set her up on the announce table. Blackheart went up the structure and splashed Hartwell through it. A “this is awesome” chant was piped in, and the spots are okay, but there is zero flow or psychology to this.
In the ring, LeRae rolled up Moon for two. Moon hit a powerbomb for two. Moon tried to set up the Eclipse, but LeRae fought her off. Blackheart charged in and LeRae used one as a weapon on the other. Hartwell put Moon through a table with an elbow drop outside. Inside, LeRae set up Blackheart on a chair and hit Wicked Stepsister. The Way celebrated with their belts and the show went off at eight past the hour.
WINNERS: Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell at 15:30.
(Wells’s Analysis: I had The Way pegged as winning the titles here, though there’s a fine line between championships being elevated by showing everyone wants them and devalued by hopping around constantly. The Way works best when they’re cheating, so it seems like a hugely missed opportunity to have them win the titles in a match where cheating isn’t even a possibility. There were some rapid recoveries from spots that historically took people entirely out of matches, and what’s worse was Blackheart not even selling the effects of the spot when she reentered the fray. While it’s better to have The Way as champions as I think it serves their group to have the belts to thumb at other people, this match was a messy combination of spots that could have been so, so much more)
FINAL THOUGHTS: While the main event left me cold, the show itself was another pretty strong outing that yet again wasn’t handcuffed by requiring a hard sell for a too-soon TakeOver show. We’ve got new talent to stock the shelves, new and continuing feuds, a lot of non-wrestling segments to put over acts and upcoming matches, and the continued confusing but welcome presence of Ted DiBiase. I remain cautiously optimistic about the show’s direction that was increasingly depressing during the head-to-head with AEW.
Check out PWT Talks NXT at half past the hour live tonight or stream tomorrow. Cheers!