SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
DAKOTA KAI (w/ Raquel Gonzalez) vs. EMBER MOON
Although these two women have been feuding for months, they’ve been feuding as two halves of two separate teams. Dakota Kai with Raquel Gonzalez and Ember Moon with Shotzi Blackheart respectively. With Shotzi’s apparent exit from the black and gold brand, this felt more like an exhibition matchup rather than a match between two rivals. The match itself was a perfectly good match, but it served no purpose for Ember Moon. The entire match served as a platform to get Gonzalez ringside so Xia Li could challenge for her title afterwards.
While it wasn’t a poor way to introduce a new challenger, I didn’t really like the fact that Kai and Moon were used as a platform for a third wrestler. Maybe it’s because I still think of Raquel as Kai’s heater when they are paired together? It makes her feel less important than she should be.
BUTLER GRIMES TO THE BROOM
The vignette between LA Knight and Cameron Grimes was absolutely fantastic. From the makeover, to the penguin suit, to Grimes actually liking both the new look and said tuxedo. These two continue to be some of the best things about NXT each Tuesday.
BOBBY FISH vs. TYLER RUST
Backstage earlier in the night, Diamond Mine said they were open for business and accepting challengers. Bobby Fish stepped into frame and looked to be challenging his Undisputed Era brother, Roderick Strong. Instead, Malcolm Bivens said that Tyler Rust would be his opponent instead. Rust made quick work of Fish after a distraction from Strong. Kushida made the save, as Strong has been feuding with him as well.
While I can’t say I remember a good reason for Strong and Fish to dislike one another this much after UE imploded (I’m sure there is, and I just can’t think of it at the moment), it was only a matter of time before we saw these two men opposite one another a la KOR and Cole. They may have been the ugly stepchildren of the UE, but I’m on board to watch these two clash. Add Kushida and Tyler Rust to the mix — that’s gonna make for some good TV.
GIGI DOLAN vs. SARRAY
In a match set up via a WWE.com exclusive, Gigi Dolan made her “unofficial” debut on NXT TV opposite Sarray. I say unofficial, as we’ve seen Dolan on TV before but in a jobbing capacity. I’m not entirely sure what to make of Gigi Dolan’s gimmick. It reminds me of a Dominatrix cosplaying as Becky Lynch with that fire red hair and her choice of attire. No judgement from me yet, I need to see more from the gimmick to really dissect it.
Mandy Rose returned to NXT during this match, overlooking both women as they continued their matchup. But she didn’t do anything other than show up, leaving us wondering why she’s here.
The match was okay, better than Sarray’s other NXT matches thus far. I think Sarray could be a star in NXT but there just seems to be something missing that connects with the audience.
DEXTER LUMIS vs. SANTOS ESCOBAR (w/ Legado del Fantasma)
Escobar really looked like a million bucks here, as far as I’m concerned. His athleticism is off the charts and he’s so genuine while in character that you start to really buy in. He seemed angrier and more focused tonight than in recent months against the stoic Lumis.
Hit Row ambushing Legado after the match was also great, setting up a new feud for the two stables. I was expecting Indi Hartwell to come out after the match to Lumis’ aid, but that would come later during the commercial break when she tried carrying him out back. I’m actually starting to get oddly fond of the InDex angle, and I can’t quite figure out why. I just got divorced, a love angle should disgust me!
BREAKOUT TOURNAMENT: DUKE HUDSON vs. IKEMAN JIRO
I think I found my new favorite undercard weirdo, Ikeman Jiro. Bizarre, whacky and insanely fun to watch. Trained by Tajiri, he used the Tarantula which is one of my favorite moves from the Attitude era.
Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing much of him in the tournament after he lost to Duke Hudson. Duke, however, is probably going to be the one most talked about from this particular match. He looked like a powerhouse, had the charisma and worked solidly between the ropes. A short match, as I expected. However it was a great introduction to the tournament and had enough intrigue to coerce someone to who may not have cared about the tournament to give it a second look.
KACY CATENZARO & KAYDEN CARTER vs. ALIYAH & JESSI KAMEA
First off, I’m glad to see all four of these women getting TV time as each one of them is more than deserving. KC & KC always deliver, even when their greenness shines through. They manage to entertain and recover each time they go out there.
Aliyah and Kamea barely win under the tutelage of Robert Stone and Aliyah finally snapped after their loss tonight. She called Kamea a loser and attacked Stone. The crowd went nuts and chanted for Aliyah, undoubtedly for the first time in her TV career. Frankie Monet came out and escorted Kamea out of the ring, leaving Stone alone.
I have a feeling that this may lead to a Frankie Monet/Kamea team looking for retribution on Aliyah with Robert Stone just trying to interject and make himself relevent.
JOHNNY GARGANO vs. KARRION KROSS – NXT CHAMPIONSHIP, SPECIAL GUEST REFEREE – SAMOA JOE
Tensions between Samoa Joe and the two combatants had been high all night with neither man trusting Joe to play fair. The match played into this, with Joe interjecting himself every so often and making you wonder “Will he?”. Karrion Kross tried to get himself disqualified by not breaking a hold after a rope break. Instead, Joe stopped counting at four and pushed Kross off of Gargano. Kross then tried using the stairs on Gargano and was stopped by Joe once again.
The match was one of the better Karrion Kross matches, though it’s hard for any Gargano match to be bad. I thought we may see Gargano win tonight, as a Kross call up seems imminent. This would have been a good way to get the belt off of Kross for that call up.
Instead, one wonders if Kross and Samoa Joe will start feuding after Kross choked Joe out to close the show. If so, I would be on board to see Joe win the NXT Championship for a third time.