8/17 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s Report on MSK vs. Imperium, Kross and Joe face to face, Carmelo Hayes vs. Duke Hudson, more

by Kelly Wells, PWTorch Contributor


AUGUST 17, 2021

Commentary: Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, Beth Phoenix


-Hype for TakeOver.

-Malcolm Bivens and Diamond Mine kicked things off. Tyler Rust’s absence loomed large with the group being so small. Kushida isn’t cleared tonight, but Roderick Strong wanted a match and Bivens wanted a payday, so it was open challenge season. Ilja Dragunov’s music hit.

(1) ILJA DRAGUNOV vs. RODERICK STRONG (w/Malcom Bivens & Hachiman)

Takedown by Dragunov, and quick reversals followed. The two reversed holds on the mat and then from a standing position before Dragunov escaped and they reset. Strong took Dragunov to a rope for a huge chop. The two exchanged stiff chops until Roddy choked Dragunov by pulling him to a rope. Strong put some knees to Dragunov, who hit a chop that took Strong down, followed by a standing senton. Cover for one.

Headlock by Dragunov and they went to the mat, then up quickly for some more chops by Roddy in the corner. Hard Irish whip by Dragunov, who charged in with a knee and suplexed Strong out of the corner. Jumping knee by Dragunov. The two exchanged a few reversals again until Dragunov hit a kneelift, then tried the Konstantin Special but was dropkicked to the floor. The two fought on the floor and Hachiman caused a distraction and Dragunov got put into the steps. [c]

Back to full-screen, Dragunov was getting back into it with some hard elbows. The crowd went for a “Dragunov” chant although the crowd is extremely muted tonight. I missed just one or two shots and Dragunov was bleeding profusely from the nose or forehead. He very quickly had a huge red streak down the middle of his face. Suplex by Dragunov. Roddy got a shot in but Torpedo Moscow finished.

During replays, Dragunov was cleaned up as well as could be managed. Dragunov screamed up the ramp for Dragunov to appear, but he didn’t.

WINNER: Ilja Dragunov at 12:07.

(Wells’s Analysis: That’s the largest amount of blood I can ever remember seeing in an NXT ring, and it was SO sudden. A perfectly acceptable match though I’d have to assume the two have a better match in them with no commercials and without the bloody spot potentially getting in the way. Wisely, Dragunov’s loss last week wasn’t mentioned)

PRIME TARGET: Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly

We got a quick recap of the first two matches, with the screen displaying that the feud was now at one win apiece. We were then shown the setup for the best of three falls match, with the possibility of a steel cage match in the third fall. O’Reilly spoke to the camera and said no matter what happens, he walks away with closure. Cole, also alone and talking to the camera, said that Undisputed Era accomplished so much, but without him, Kyle was nothing. He said he was baffled how Kyle could compare himself to a once in a lifetime talent. The two got a few parting shots in as the segment closed. Prime Target was at one point a very exciting segment that blurred the line between wrestling and reality, but now it’s simply a longer hype segment for an upcoming match.

-Hit Row’s music played. Breanna Brandi took the mic first and said if Santos Escobar thinks he can get away with ripping Swerve’s grill out, he has another thing coming. Ashante Thee Adonis had a few words but quickly, Santos Escobar appeared on the screen and said he understood after they burned his mask that he had disrespected Swerve’s culture. He didn’t trust Hit Row, though, so he invited Swerve outside. Swerve took the bait despite Hit Row’s complaints. Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde tried to blindside Swerve, but he wasn’t fooled and he got in some good shots on them before the numbers caught up. Hit Row went outside and fairly quickly and easily got the better of Legado. There were a lot of boos in the crowd, which is fairly unpredictable in which of these factions they’re going to cheer on a week to week basis.

-LA Knight was lifting weights and talking to Cameron Grimes. Knight (without Grimes) went to a different part of the gym and offered Josh Briggs a bounty if he took out Cameron Grimes tonight. Briggs said he’s been getting paid to beat up people for a long time, so it was a deal. Grimes popped into frame and Knight introduced him to his opponent tonight. Grimes looked up worriedly at Briggs. [c]

-Imperium (including Walter) talked to the camera. They said they’d be making an example of MSK and showing them how to respect and honor this great sport.

-Ted DiBiase joined the announce team for the next match. Vic pointed out that DiBiase wrestled at the very first SummerSlam. Beth called out DiBiase as a significant upgrade over Wade Barrett. LA Knight also joined the announce team, uninvited.


Is this the first time we’ve seen someone from the first Breakout Tournament against someone in the second? Grimes was again wrestling in his tuxedo. Briggs quickly jumped out with some shots and hit a lariat and covered for two. Grimes tried a cross-body but got caught. He wriggled free and hit some body shots, and then a running elbow. Another. He tried a third, had to break free of a chokeslam attempt, and hit his twisting cross-body. Cave In finished.

WINNER: Cameron Grimes at 2:07.

Afterward, Knight threw a fit and took a shot at DiBiase. He hit his finisher on Grimes outside the ring when Grimes tried to intervene. A censor didn’t like something that was being said and there was a long silence.

(Wells’s Analysis: Grimes was unquestionably going over here, but I’m a bit surprised it was a lightning-quick squash. Many of the competitors from the first Breakout Tournament got started this way, though, and it didn’t derail them at all)

-Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae were conversing, and Indi Hartwell showed up. She ran through all the things she was doing with Dexter Lumis, and Johnny said “yuck” after all of them, other than going up in a hot air balloon, which he admitted was cool. Lumis showed up and Gargano said he was a creep. He asked Lumis how the kiss was last week. Hartwell said Lumis loved it, and even had room for pie. As the audience reacted, Gargano said to LeRae “I read that menu front and back and I don’t remember pie.”

(Wells’s Analysis: Wow. That low-hanging fruit walked in from the Attitude Era. It was harmless by my own standards though it felt wildly out of place in today’s WWE. I suspect it’s a one-off and not part of a bigger philosophical change)

-McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Zoey Stark and Io Shirai. Stark said she was attempting to learn Japanese and Rome wasn’t built in a day, so their friendship is coming along. Shirai reminded Stark that she didn’t like her, but she liked their championships. She walked off. Stark said to McKenzie that there was clearly more work to do.


In-Dex entered to a decent pop by tonight’s quiet standards. Hartwell slinked around with Lumis as he did his intense pre-match routine, trying to look intense but clearly having a (kayfabe) hard time. The audience chanted “Happy Birthday” at Hartwell and Vic acknowledged it was indeed her birthday. Hartwell looked out at Beth Phoenix, who reminded her to just breathe. Wade was scandalized at their interaction.

The men started the match. Stone was wearing a ridiculous tiger-accented workout suit and Vic said it was a tribute to Steven Seagal. Stone got nowhere with Lumis and quickly, things broke down. Franky Monet got herself involved and was claiming she was a good person as the match went to a quick commercial. [c]

CarShield’s Ric Flair commercials are still playing during NXT. Timing!

The women were in the ring upon return and Kamea had Hartwell tied up. Hartwell fought to her feet but Kamea yanked her to the mat by the hair. Stone was kind of accidentally tagged in as Kamea ran into him (ugh) and Lumis tagged in and casually destroyed him. Stone begged for mercy. Spinebuster by Lumis. Kamea tagged in and so did Hartwell, who dumped Stone and then hit a Thesz press for two. Stone broke it up and Kamea hit a body slam. Kamea worked a single-leg crab and Hartwell gained the strength to fight it as she and Lumis locked eyes. Hartwell made it to the ropes. Lumis went to the floor and Stone threatened a plancha. He flew over the ropes and fell several feet short of the unmoving Lumis in a pretty funny spot. Lumis snapped on The Silencer outside, and Hartwell snapped it on Kamea inside for the tap.


Hartwell went over to Phoenix and they spoke privately. Hartwell went into the ring, dropped to one knee and presented a ring to Lumis, who quickly nodded. She put the ring on him, which was accented by a huge eyeball. They kissed to a huge pop. [c]

WINNERS: In-Dex at 9:16.

(Wells’s Analysis: There’s a pretty low cap on a match that involves the hapless Robert Stone trying to harm Dexter Lumis. As such, this was completely reliant on a few contrived spots and lots of stalling and running. I suppose it worked as a little something different, and the post-match angle was a genuine surprise and it’ll be very interesting to see how it all gets derailed eventually)

-McKenzie caught up with Diamond Mine and asked Roderick Strong for his thoughts on his loss today. Malcolm Bivens stormed in and said you talk to him, not Roddy. He said since Ilja is a heavyweight and not a cruiserweight, as far as he was concerned, this match never happened. Too bad Diamond Mine doesn’t have a wildly underused heavyweight around anymore, eh?

-In a split-screen conversation, Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai took swipes at one another ahead of their championship match this Sunday. Raquel said she’s no longer a star in the making, she’s a super estrella. Dakota said she taught Raquel everything she knows, but not everything Dakota knows. Dakota said she’d be taking the championship this Sunday, and Raquel asked how – was she going to find another Raquel Gonzalez to have her back? She said Dakota uses people and then gets angry when they become bigger than she is.

(Wells’s Analysis: A decent recap of how we got here. A fine enough segment, though Gonzalez continues to sound more scripted than most)

(4) CARMELO HAYES vs. DUKE HUDSON – Breakout Tournament semifinal match

We got a brief look at the wins that brought these guys here. “You suck” chant for Hudson. That’s not accurate. “Carmelo” chant. Hudson shoved off Hayes and mocked their height difference. Hudson blocked Hayes to the mat. Hayes tried to fight a battle of strength and Hudson shoved him to the mat again. Hayes tried a headlock and Hudson shoved him off and blocked him again. Hayes got back in it quickly and put on another headlock. Hudson raised him up easily and tossed him outside to the floor in front of the announce table. [c]

Hudson worked an abdominal stretch. He tossed Hayes to a corner and charged but Hayes moved. Step-up enzuigiri by Hayes. Hudson tried to whip Hudson but couldn’t move him, and he looked defeated in a funny sell. Hudson hit an overhead belly-to-belly. “You still suck” chant (for the second time). Hudson spilled outside and Hayes hit a scissor kick as he tried to reenter. Hayes booted Hudson several times, then slingshotted over the top rope and “hit” a DDT on the apron; Hayes went much too far and it was a very ugly landing.

Back inside, Hayes went to the top but Hudson grabbed him. Small package got two for Hayes. Lungblower by Hayes. Hayes hit his finisher from the top.

WINNER: Carmelo Hayes at 8:57.

-Samantha Irvin interviewed Hayes on the top of the ramp. He said two weeks ago he called his shot and he’s keeping his word. He said he was facing guys two or three times his size, and next week is about the final boss. He said Odyssey Jones – plot twist – HAYES is the final boss. Jones hit the ramp to talk himself up ahead of their match.

(Wells’s Analysis: Hayes has really got this audience, so I wish I could see what they’re seeing because I still don’t see what sets him apart in the ring. I did really like his plot twist line, however, and he’ll likely win me over)

-Jacy Jayne, in sort of an emo meets Debbie Gibson getup, meandered about being held down in a vignette. It was…very bad. If NXT is to become a true developmental brand again, this is proof, because that promo was absolutely not ready for TV.

-Cameron Grimes was icing his neck. Ted DiBiase stepped in and said perhaps they bit off more than they could chew. He apologized. Grimes said it was all his own fault for being in this mess. He said when he dropped the ball, the Million Dollar Man was there to pick him up. He said Ted was a million dollar champion, and so was he. Together they’ll go TOOOOO THEEEEE MOOOOOOON! DiBiase did his signature laugh and said “That’s my Cameron!” afterward. DiBiase seemed truly giddy to be part of this as he grinned ear to ear during Grimes’s catchphrase.

(5) MSK (Wes Lee & Nash Carter) (c) vs. IMPERIUM (Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner) – NXT Tag Team Championship match

Alicia Taylor handled formal introductions. Carter hopped around excitedly to annoy Imperium. Imperium was booed and MSK got their usual mixed reaction, but perhaps better than usual. A few incels chanted “you suck” for a second but it didn’t catch fire.

Lee and Aichner started the match. Waistlock, reversal, beale by Aichner but Lee landed on his feet and said “you’re strong.” Lee head faked Aichner and grabbed a headlock, then hit a crucifix for two. Body shots by Lee. Tag to Carter, and the two combined on a bronco buster. Tag to Barthel, who took down Carter and worked an armbar. He took the two of them to their feet and Carter escaped and hit a couple of body shots. Rope run and a back elbow by Barthel. Beautiful uppercut by Barthel. To a corner, shot exchange. Double underhook suplex (called “clothesline” by Vic in a strange moment) by Barthel. Tag to Aichner. Carter shoved him off for the tag to Lee. Double team by MSK, who dumped Aichner to the floor. They went for tandem topes, but both members of Imperium caught a member of MSK and slammed them to the floor heading to split-screen commercial. These teams are meshing beautifully. [c]

Aichner laid out Lee with a huge lariat for two. Tag to Barthel, who snapped on a headlock. Enzuigiri by Lee was ducked. Anklelock by Barthel. Lee worked out of it but Barthel hit another after clearing Carter from the corner. Barthel draped Lee over a rope for a tandem dropkick by Imperium. Cover got two. A chant went out that seemed half “MSK” and half “NXT.” Both guys tagged. Carter dominated Aichner. Knee in the corner. PK by Carter. Tag to Lee and they did their team splash. Walter caused a distraction that allowed Imperium to set up an Imperium Bomb, but Imperium was distracted as Ilja Dragunov charged and attacked Walter. MSK broke up the Imperium Bomb and hit their own finisher to win. The two sides fought and eventually it turned into Dragunov attempting to fight all of Imperium. Of course, Imperium got the better of him. Dragunov had a big, bloody bandage over his right eye that displayed where he got hit in the opener.

WINNERS: MSK at 10:57.

(Wells’s Analysis: Very good tag match, which as always was marred by the bizarre grudge against MSK held by a portion of the vocal males in the audience at the CWC. This was essentially a TakeOver title defense since MSK won’t actually be making one, and the teams both totally delivered. Also announced during this was the inevitable six-man next week between Hit Row and Legado del Fantasma.)

-Pete Dunne and Ridge Holland cut a promo on Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa. Ridge said next week, he’ll make a name for himself at Thatcher’s expense.

-Rundown of the TakeOver card.


-Samoa Joe hit the ring to cheers. He said he had one more chance to eviscerate Karrion Kross verbally in front of the world, but he wasn’t here to hurt Kross’s feelings…he was here to hurt Kross. So tuck your clock in your back pocket and stroll your ass down here, young champion.

Kross hit the ramp. “You still don’t get it, Joe.” Uh-oh, it’s a network drama now. He sent a bunch of security guys to the ring and said it wasn’t protection for Kross – it was protection for Joe. We got a good quick look at the five security guys, coming next year to a Breakout Tournament near you, maybe. Joe exploded as Kross finished his mic time and tonight’s relatively quiet crowd finally became unglued as the two brawled. Kross put Joe into the steps and went for a Doomsday Saito on the table, but got blocked. Joe controlled the brawl as he took it out past the barricade, and then broke through a gimmicked part of it for a big destructive visual to end the show five past the hour.

(Wells’s Analysis: There’s been some good build for this, which makes it all the more frustrating that Kross had to start his 50-50 main roster run a couple months ago and not a couple of weeks from now)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Weird thing I noticed: all babyface winners tonight, which is strange for a go-home show (or any show, really). The build for all of the matches for TakeOver has been pretty good, and it was set to be a very hot show until the mass firings cast a pall over the entire brand and have seemingly had a significant effect on the audience. While I look forward to Sunday’s show, it’s the weekly show coming out of TakeOver that’s much more interesting, as we’ll all be waiting to see how this show changes given the rumblings about NXT’s return to being a developmental brand in a stricter sense.

Tonight, Tom Stoup and Nate Lindberg handle PWT Talks NXT as I get together with a few people to celebrate the life of our wonderful friend Peter. Rest in peace, man.

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