SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Having just played an older version of Street Fighter earlier in the day, this edition of NXT Hits and Misses will take on some SF undertones – FIGHT!!
AUSTIN THEORY vs. KARRION KROSS
Austin Theory got the First Strike following a duck-under of a Kross advance. This attack was for naught, as Kross took and maintained offensive control for the first 3-5 minutes of the match. Action moved outside and following a Johnny Gargano distraction, Theory took control of the action. Once back inside, action was back and forth, as Theory attempted his comeback. Following two side suplexes and some ground-and-pound, Kross retained his title with his rear naked choke finisher. Outside of some flourishes from Theory, this match was rather close to a squash. The action made Kross look like a monster, but did not do much for Theory (although that doesn’t seem to alter fan perception of him at the moment). Following the match, Finn Balor appeared in the ring with Kross and delivered a masterful one-liner, ‘I don’t wait in line…’ As it relates to the build, action and development of the match, I would score this a HIT for Karrion Kross, a MISS for Austin Theory and a HIT for Finn (because let’s be honest, everything is better with Finn).
BREEZANGO vs. MSK
Tyler Breeze earned first-strike honor in a show of aggression to start off the match. Breeze started the match against Wes Lee and both traded acrobatics in the opening segment of the match. Following some offense by Lee, both partners were tagged in, which led to an even exchange of offense between Fandango and Nash Carter. Eventually, Carter gained the offensive control. Following a full ring of partners running, jumping and bumping, the moment of the night went to referee Darryl Sharma, who executed his own hurdle over Fandango in the midst of the action. Once Fandango got laid out, the crowd started chanting for Sharma, who, in his own referee way, ate up the attention 😀 This chanting took us to a commercial break – coming out of that break, Fandango had offensive control. Following an exchange of offense, MSK used their combo Lee-aided backflip push on Breeze, which brought on a near fall broken up by Fandango. After another exchange of action, Carter backflipped out of the ring onto an awaiting Breezango. Once back in the ring, Carter hulked up and got the crowd pumped! After one more exchange of action, MSK landed their combo neck-breaker finisher to retain the belts. After the match, Breezango extended a handshake to MSK as a show of respect. I thought this was a very solid and athletic match. While the conclusion was never in doubt, I thought both teams told a good story, with the cagey veterans putting over the new guys as a means of adding to MSK’s credibility. I think this match was a HIT, as the action was crisp, made sense and crescendoed when necessary.
PETE DUNNE PROMO SEGMENT
Pete Dunne came to the ring with Oney Lorcan in tow. He cut a promo calling out Karrion Kross, as he looked to establish his status as the best technical wrestler in the business. In the middle of the promo, Leon Ruff jumped Dunne from behind to answer the open challenge, despite GM William Regal’s earlier reluctance to include Ruff in action this night. Ruff earned first-strike points once the match-proper began. After some quick acrobatic offense from Ruff, Dunne took control of the match through some brutal ground-and-pound. The next segment of the match saw Dunne use some very abusive offense. After a small break in the action, Ruff countered Dunne’s action with a fast offensive flurry. In the midst of the flurry, a top-rope miscue by Ruff led to a Dunne blow to the face followed by a modified triangle choke with elbows to the head for the finish. As Ruff writhed in pain on the mat, Dunne approached him post-match and did his finger-splitting spot for some extra oomph. I think this match was a MISS in the big picture. While Dunne looked every bit the dominant performer, the promo spot never got legs, the competition was a clear mismatch and Ruff looked like the undersized athlete that he is.
NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP – RAQUEL GONZALEZ (C) vs. MERCEDES MARTINEZ
Leading up to the match, Raquel performed several back/lat poses that the camera very clearly wanted to draw your attention to – in fairness, at least one of those poses missed its effect, as the angle did not allow for any definition to be seen. Martinez landed the first strike and immediately took the action outside of the ring. Once they returned to the ring, Raquel took control and then traded some blows with Martinez. After gaining the upper hand, Raquel scored the first near fall on Martinez. Raquel maintained control going into and coming out of the commercial break with lots of powerful and high-impact moves. Once Martinez got control of the match, she performed a DDT on Gonzalez from the ropes, which led to a 2.5 count near fall. Once the ladies got back to their feet, Martinez gave Gonzalez an apron spear. Once recovered from the spear, Gonzalez wrested control back and scored another near fall. Following some additional back-and-forth action, Raquel retained her championship by way of her one-arm choke slam. This match was a HIT for me, as the match was well-balanced with the established veteran putting over the rising star. The flow of the match, the balance of action and the outcome had a similar feel to the Tag Team Championship match earlier in the night.
IN RING INTRODUCTION OF “HIT ROW”, SWERVE’S NEW FACTION
This segment saw all four members getting mic time – the group issued their mission statement and it will now be interested to see who they set their sights on first. As the other major factions are either outright heels or heel-leaning heels, a first target is up for speculation. My initial sense is that they might go after one of Swerve’s fellow Breakout Tournament competitors, as that groups has been intermixing on and off for the last few months. This segment was a HIT, as some fresh blood in NXT is a good thing and anything helping Swerve to build his status should be good for the upper midcard.
VIDEO PACKAGE OF CAMERON GRIMES AT A HOUSE AUCTION
Package opened with an auctioneer setting the stage for the upcoming action. Grimes interrupted and told the auctioneer to just hand him the deed, as he brought his cash and was ready to own a house. As the bidding began, a ‘secret’ bidder continued to out-bid Grimes. Grimes complained and then made a large raise to $8M dollars for the house. The auctioneer began the standard ‘going once…going twice…,’ to which the mystery bidder in a very distinct voice exclaimed a bid of $20M dollars, followed by an iconic and menacing laugh – cue the Million Dollar Man. Following a MDM one-liner, and a childlike outburst from Grimes, the scene ended. This segment was neutral for me. While I love seeing the MDM on my screen, this clearly is not leading to a match and as the MDM continues to repeat his ‘everyone has a price’ line, I can’t help but think the conclusion to this storyline will be less than satisfying.
ONEY LORCAN vs. KYLE O’REILLY
Match began with frenzy of catch-wrestling holds which saw no clear upper-hand. Once separated, Lorcan delivered the first strike with a submission hold. After the hold was broken, Lorcan and KOR exchanged offense for the next 3-4 minutes. Lorcan then attacked KOR outside of the ring as they went to commercial break and maintained offensive control coming out of the break. Once back in the ring, Lorcan (vicious chops) and KOR (forearm blows) exchanged strikes for the next 1-2 minutes. Out of that exchange, KOR began his comeback with his martial arts combo and followed that with a running elbow string into the corner and an awaiting Oney Lorcan. After a kick to the midsection and a flying knee from the top rope, KOR emerged victorious. As soon as the match ended, Dunne entered the ring to beat up KOR, during which time Lorcan joined in the fun. After a few moments of action, Bobby Fish ran in for the save and helped KOR to clear the ring of Lorcan and Dunne. The crowd was very clearly hoping for a reconciliation, but received a cautious truce with each combatant telling the other that they would see each other down the road. As one might expect, this was a very snug and technical match. Both performers are very talented in-ring and they told a good story. I thought this match was a HIT with a Bobby Fish cherry on top.
2/3 FALLS, NXT CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP – KUSHIDA (C) vs. SANTOS ESCOBAR
Upon his entrance to the ring, the blue side logos for Legado de Fantasma were very striking and would make a great shirt. Upon Kushida’s entrance, I found it very interesting that they actually listed the accolade of him being a 6 time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion – I’m not sure I have seen that done in the WWE before. Escobar scored first-strike points outside of the ring, which prompted Mendoza and Wilde to get involved. As soon as they closed in on Kushida, MSK emerged from the crowd for the save. Following that scuffle, both teams were sent away from ringside leading to a commercial break with Escobar outside of the ring and Kushida inside the ring. Returning from the break, Kushida had control of the action. Escobar quickly took control of the action, which took place both inside and outside of the ring. Escobar maintained that offensive control for the next 5-7 minutes, at which point, Kushida sprung back into the offensive driver’s seat. Escobar then reversed the momentum by delivering a Tiger Driver for the first fall (Escobar 1 – Kushida 0). After the restart, Escobar attempted a double-knee which was revered by Kushida into an arm bar for an almost-immediate second fall (Escobar 1 – Kushida 1). After the second restart, Kushida maintained control heading into the split-screen break. Escobar took over control coming out of the break. After some back-and-forth offense, Kushida took control as the action went outside of the ring. Once the action returned to the ring, Kushida and Escobar exchanged near-falls. Following another flurry of back-and-forth near falls, the crowd erupted into a ‘This is Awesome’ chant. Once the competitors got back to their feet, Kushida was able to lock in several Hover Board locks that got broken up in one way or another. After the final attempt was broken up, Kushida delivered a modified fisherman’s suplex for the win. This match was a definite HIT and came with lots of move variety, changes in pace and great non-verbal communication.
Overall, this was a very strong show that showcased the chosen divisions quite nicely. Now that NXT is on Tuesday nights, it’s refreshing to not see the entire roster on TV in some way every week. Building anticipation is a good thing and I think the promotion is in a good place as they build to In Your House. Feel free to tweet comments or rebuttal to @kpcattani – YOU WIN (in the Street Fighter narrator voice)!!