NXT HITS & MISSES 6/1: MSK vs. Legado del Fantasma, O’Reilly vs. Gargano vs. Dunne, rapid TakeOver booking, more

by Kelly Wells, PWTorch Contributor

PHOTO CREDIT: NXT

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

This week, Nate Lindberg and I swapped the recap and Hits & Misses due to my schedule. Let’s see what we’ve got.

KYLE O’REILLY vs. JOHNNY GARGANO vs. PETE DUNNE – #1 Contender Triple Threat match

This match encapsulates the rushed feel of NXT in an era of more TakeOvers and way more special episodes. O’Reilly has had some big wins. while Dunne has beaten some lower-level competition, and Gargano is coming off of a high-profile championship loss. I’d love to see some longer-form storytelling for getting a title shot, because it generally feels pretty arbitrary. The match, of course, somewhat justified everything as the three pulled off some great spots involving all of them, and there were few spots where someone was over-selling on the outside. It all led to Adam Cole making his return and ruining the match by laying out all three men, adding intrigue to the championship situation while getting him back into the mix. Certainly a disappointing match outcome, which was the point, and it’s made me much more interested to see what’s next than I was for this specific match.

Verdict: Hit

Ember Moon calls out Raquel Gonzalez

Moon, defending the honor of her kayfabe injured running buddy Shotzi Blackheart, called out Gonzalez only to be blindsided by Dakota Kai, continuing the tag feud that seemingly only ends by transitioning to a singles feud or two. Basic stuff.

Verdict: Minor Hit

Drake Maverick, Killian Dain, Ever-Rise and Hit Row in the parking lot

Maverick and Ever-Rise ran afoul of Hit Row, and Dain came to the rescue of his diminutive mate and got in Swerve’s face. Like every Hit Row segment thus far, it had a lot of fire. Looks like Maverick and Dain will continue to enhance others for a while.

Verdict: Hit

JAKE ATLAS vs. LA KNIGHT

Knight, fresh off his assumed endorsement by Ted DiBiase, faced Atlas, who didn’t get a televised entrance as the Hit Row segment was being aired. DiBiase came out to scout a couple of minutes into the match, and Knight – desperate to impress – got himself further distracted when Cameron Grimes made an appearance and Atlas got the upset. This was a fairly obvious next step in the Knight-Grimes-DiBiase saga, and I can’t tell if the storyline is still heating up or already overstaying its welcome. Meanwhile, Atlas got the win but was a total afterthought, as his music played while the camera focused on everyone but him. Follow-up for him would be nice, but it comes off as a Pride Month gift win that may be forgotten all too soon. DiBiase gave a very brief interview with McKenzie Mitchell afterward that was interrupted by Adam Cole walking through the frame, and DiBiase got himself a bit lost waiting for the interruption.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Adam Cole/Karrion Kross segment

Cole grabbed a mic and proclaimed himself #1 contender after taking out all the guys on top. Kross and Scarlett showed up and got in his face and, undermining his strong heel act, Cole gave a pretty strong babyface promo running down the heel monster Kross (who they probably view as a tweener, but whatever). Kross said he wanted a fatal five-way with Cole and all the competitors from tonight’s triple threat, which for some reason I didn’t see coming. While it’s an intriguing outcome that creates a way to move the belt away from Kross without jobbing him, Adam Cole getting in his face and getting himself cheered seems counterintuitive given how great he’s been in this heel role lately. Major upside: Cole used the term “pro wrestling” in this segment.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Carmelo Hayes talk segment

Hayes, under a new name after some time in NXT mostly off of TV, had a brief segment where he talked himself up and declared himself the next NXT Cruiserweight champion. I’ll be waiting patiently for the next time Hayes gets on the mic, because he was very stagey, exaggerated and unconvincing in this outing.

Verdict: Miss

KUSHIDA vs. CARMELO HAYES – Cruiserweight championship match

Kushida running an on-again, off-again Open Challenge justifies this debut Hayes match being for the championship. While Hayes strikes me as a work in progress on the mic, he’s certainly got it in the ring, as he’s a great mix of flying and mat-based, much like Kushida himself. Hayes seemed like a natural heel in his mic time as well as in some of his ring work, so the post-match handshake was a bit odd, but that’s the cruiserweight division for you. This potentially was an extended audition for Hayes to get more screen time, and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.

Verdict: Hit

ZOEY STARK & ZAYDA RAMEER vs. CANDICE LERAE & INDI HARTWELL

The curious case of Zoey Stark grows more curious by the week. A handful of weeks ago I thought she might be near the top of the division by now, but instead she’s been on the losing side of almost every match, with the exception of a TakeOver pre-show match seen by far fewer people. Nothing wrong with the action here and I’m always fine with champions winning a non-title match now and then, but outside of Indi Hartwell’s love story with Dexter Lumis, all of these talents seem directionless.

Verdict: 50-50

Mercedes Martinez segment

Martinez cut a promo on Xia Li, her next big opponent based on the previous week’s happenings. Martinez continues to kill it on the mic and make the most of what little time she’s given. It doesn’t seem like a title run is in the cards for her, which is a crying shame given the consistent level of her work.

Verdict: Hit

MSK vs. LEGADO DEL FANTASMA – NXT Tag Team Championship match

Santos Escobar sat near commentary and Wade Barrett gushed over him, which was a fun touch. Grizzled Young Veterans tried to get involved and were quickly run off by Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa to further what’s likely to be a TakeOver match for them. Notably, Vic Joseph was excellent during this match, adding a lot to the near-falls without giving away non-finishes like many of his colleagues. Bronson Reed showed up to equalize when Escobar got involved, and MSK retained in front of a crowd which is slowly and reluctantly warming up to them. I’m not sure TakeOver needs a four-way tag team championship match, but unless the championships aren’t defended on the show, I’m not seeing another obvious direction. Legado continue to be the arguable biggest highlight of the tag division on a regular basis, but after a few high-profile losses for or near the championships, it sure doesn’t seem like they’re in line for the belts anytime soon.

Verdict: Minor Hit

All in all, I enjoyed the show despite some very accelerated booking for TakeOver: In Your House, which had no matches signed before this show and now could probably be almost entirely predicted by anyone paying attention.

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