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CARMELO HAYES vs. RODERICK STRONG – NORTH AMERICAN / CRUISERWEIGHT UNIFICATION
The Cruiserweight title tried to get over, but alas it was not meant to be. With a promising start in 2016, it was finally put to rest. The rivalry between Strong and Hayes led us to this unification match, begging the question: Who will be the undisputed North American Champion?
Originally, I figured that 205 Live would be rebranded and that this title would also be rebranded as the title for that show. However, that didn’t come to fruition. Going into the match, I was leaning 60% Hayes win and 40% for Strong. Both men have been built up quite a bit as of late. Diamond Mine has been built around Strong, and Hayes is one of the shining stars of the 2.0 class. Ideally, neither man would take a loss. But with a unification stipulation, a finish to the match had to happen. We couldn’t see a non-finish and try to unify the titles once again down the road. The only reason I gave Hayes higher odds to win is simply because he is a 2.0 guy and seems to have a higher ceiling than Strong, who has been an upper mid-carder at best for his NXT career.
The two men put on an energetic contest to kick the night off and showed great chemistry together. Malcolm Bivens standing on the outside, barking orders and advice to Strong added to the atmosphere of the match as well.
Hayes did wind up with the win, which seems like the correct move given the direction of NXT 2.0. I’m curious to see what this means for Strong. Unless he demands a rematch for the North American title, I can’t see him challenging for the NXT title. Where does Strong go from here?
IMPERIUM vs. MSK & RIDDLE
Walter has returned looking leaner and meaner than ever to team up with Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel to take on their rivals, MSK and their shaman, Matt Riddle. Imperium used to be a force to be reckoned with in NXT and NXT UK, relegated to jobbers without their leader, Walter. Now NXT Tag Champs, Imperium is being positioned to be an imposing force once again, though the damage to the team has been done. I’m not sure if the audience will see Imperium the same way they used to, even with great booking.
MSK also doesn’t seem to be resonating with me, nor the general crowd. They have great charisma and are fantastic workers, but something hasn’t clicked. The addition of Riddle to this team did give them a main roster rub, but I don’t think it was that “it factor” that MSK is lacking.
The match itself was an energetic six-man tag with Imperium keeping MSK off their game as much as possible, building sympathy for the babyface team. Riddle eventually got the win using the RKO, his RAW Tag Team partner’s finish. These three had great chemistry together, and I almost wish that this match wasn’t just a one off for MSK and Riddle.
ROSE vs. JADE vs. GONZALEZ – NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
Great to see Cora Jade in this spot, as she is probably the greatest standout from the 2.0 women’s division as far as I’m concerned. Sharing the ring with a former NXT Women’s champ and someone who has spent the majority of their career on the main roster was a great rub for Jade.
Say what you will about Mandy Rose, I’m not her biggest fan myself, but she has impressed me in her current role. No, she’s not perfect, but she is handling herself much better than I expected through her mic and in-ring work.
Raquel Gonzalez lost the title to Rose a few months ago, and it makes sense to have her in this match trying to reclaim the belt. Partly to protect any of Jade’s shortcomings by adding another competitor, and partly because it makes sense in the story.
Jade spent a good chunk of the match as a punching bag, continuing her underdog story. Mandy Rose wound up retaining, as I expected, after rolling Jade up for a quick pin. Overall a fun match to watch, with a bit of a predictable and lackluster finish.
TOMMASO CIAMPA vs BRON BREAKKER – NXT CHAMPIONSHIP
Two K’s mean more power, right? Ugh, man I don’t think I’ll ever get over how bad Bron Breakker’s name really is.
Since recapturing the NXT title, Ciampa has been mixed up with Bron Breakker who wants to dethrone him. Months of buildup all lead here to this match. Breakker entered and broke through the old NXT logo, signaling that this is the end for the Black and Gold brand.
Ciampa may be my favorite wrestler in the industry at the moment, so I will always be in his corner rooting for him no matter the odds. And the odds were stacked against him tonight. Ciampa is the epitome of Black and Gold, and this match was a passing of the torch to the Big Bad Booty Nephew himself, Bron Breakker.
He may be new on the roster, but out of everyone that the 2.0 class has debuted, Bron Breakker seems to be the most polished. He can easily hang with the likes of Ciampa or any other ring general. Signs of greenness shine through every so often, but give him another six months and he’ll be a finished product. And this first title win will certainly help him get there.
Ciampa and Breakker threw everything they had at one another, including Ciampa getting busted open the hard way. Ultimately, Ciampa fell to the Steiner Recliner and a new champion was crowned.