3/15 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s Report on Cameron Grimes vs. Santos Escobar in a ladder match qualifier, A-Kid vs. Kushida, Indi Hartwell vs. Persia Pirotta, more

by Kelly Wells, PWTorch Contributor

PHOTO CREDIT: WWE

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

NXT ON USA
MARCH 15, 2022, 8PM EST
LIVE IN ORLANDO, FLA., AT CAPITOL WRESTLING CENTER
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Commentary: Vic Joseph & Wade Barrett


Join the “PWT Talks NXT” Dailycast with Tom Stoup and Nate Lindberg to break down the episode:

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[HOUR ONE]

-Clips from last week focused on Dolph Ziggler capturing the NXT Championship.

-MizTV kicked off the show to boos. He invoked Logan Paul’s name to boos and got a pop for mentioning Rey and Dominik Mysterio. He introduced Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode to boos. Dolph razzed the crowd about how “We are NXT.” They threw to Bron Breakker trying to chase down Dolph Ziggler as he drove away after their match. Dolph said he was a sore loser and Roode (correctly) stated that Bron made the mistake himself and everyone knows that there are no rules in a triple threat match. Dolph started going off about how much money he makes and LA Knight’s music played to interrupt the heel love-fest.

Knight skipped “Yeah” and immediately went to “Let me talk to ya,” a welcome break from the norm. Knight said if Bron Breakker isn’t here tonight to challenge for that title, he was more than willing to take his place. Dolph said he was a fighting champion, but he only fights superstars. Knight removed his jacket and went on. He said he wasn’t a superstar, he was a megastar. He said this was LA Knight’s show, and Dolph had something that belonged to him. Dolph said he only wrestles in the main event, and when Knight figures out where that is, he’ll be waiting. Miz announced the match officially for the main event.

(Wells’s Analysis: On a show that’s suffering from significant airtime for talents that aren’t ready – even on the level NXT needs – this was a nice bone thrown to those of us that have been sticking with it)

-Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams were introduced ahead of the Grimes-Escobar qualifier for the ladder match. [c]

-McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Cora Jade, who said she sent a message that last week that Toxic Attraction had hell to pay, since Raquel Gonzalez was out 4-6 weeks. Cora said Toxic Attraction cared about nothing more than their three belts, which were inexplicably hanging on a rack a couple of feet away. She stole the belts and said “They’re gonna be pissed.” (Perhaps the insinuation is that Jade had already stolen them before this scene? Eh.)

(1) CAMERON GRIMES vs. SANTOS ESCOBAR (w/Legado del Fantasma) – Qualifying match for the North American Championship ladder match

Hayes said that he sent Pete Dunne packing and made him change his name. Well, it’s nice to hear “Pete Dunne” one more time. Escobar dominated with basic offense to open. The loudest fan contest was clearly in play as a long, irritating dueling chant ensued. Grimes took over with some knees in a corner but Escobar took control again with a kick, then a basement dropkick. Hayes called out the cockiness in the ring and said he couldn’t stand it.

Grimes hit a rana off of a rope run, then went for his PK from the apron but got hung up by Legado, and then tripped by Escobar on the apron as the match went to split-screen. [c]

Escobar hit a splash from the top for two. Hayes said Grimes must be allergic to success since every time he’s in a big match, he loses, which would be a stronger line if it wasn’t so far from the truth, as Grimes has won nearly every feud he’s been in as a babyface. Grimes dumped Escobar, then leaped over Legado to clear out Escobar. Grimes rolled Escobar into the ring and flew off the top into a jawbreaker, and Escobar rolled up Grimes for two. The always-Legado-friendly crowd chanted “That was three.” Grimes pulled off his twisting powerslam for a long two. Another “That was three” chant ensued.

Escobar wanted the Phantom Driver, but Grimes wriggled free and hit a superkick. Hayes couldn’t believe these two were fighting over him. Grimes got distracted for just a moment by Hayes, and his attempt at the Cave In turned into a Phantom Driver.

WINNER: Santos Escobar at 11:30.

(Wells’s Analysis: The budding story between Grimes and Hayes suggests that Grimes will get into this match via a “last chance” match or something. This match was strong, as you’d expect.)

-Kay Lee Ray and Io Shirai cut a brief badass promo ahead of their Dusty Classic final.

-In a locker room, Dakota Kai and Wendy Choo spoke ahead of their match with KLR and Shirai. Toxic Attraction barged in and wanted to know where Cora Jade had taken their titles, but Kai and Choo didn’t know. Mandy Rose told Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne that they should split up, and whoever finds Jade should leave something for the others. The heels left. Choo told Kai they were kinda hot, but weird. [c]

(2) KUSHIDA (w/Ikemen Jiro) vs. A-KID

A-Kid got no introduction, which was a bizarre development given that the announcers were calling it a much-anticipated debut. Technical opening led to some quick reversals. Kushida wrestled A-Kid into an attempt at his finisher but Kid powered out. More very quick reversals that made for good viewing but difficult recapping. Kushida reached a rope to break a submission attempt, and Kushida threw some chops. Kushida worked a Boston Crab and Kid made the ropes fairly quickly. Kushida threw a chop and Kid returned fire, but got hit with a dropkick and a two count from Kushida.

Belly-to-back suplex, then a Northern Lights suplex by Kid for two. Kid took Kushida to a corner, where Kushida caught him with a kick. Kushida wrenched Kid’s arm over his shoulder, but Kid hit a Pele kick and Vic casually tossed in that the winner would go on to face Grayson Waller in a Qualifying Match next week. Kid caught Kushida with his finisher to win.

WINNER: A-Kid at 4:56.

(Wells’s Analysis: Okay, Kushida is officially the most underutilized guy on NXT now. Here’s genuinely hoping he’s leaving for the greener pastures of New Japan, or barring that, the WWE main roster. Okay debut for Kid, though the decision to give him no entrance in that context is baffling)

-Legado del Fantasma talked with McKenzie Mitchell until Rey and Dominik Mysterio showed up. Legado fawned over Rey, but couldn’t resist laughing off Dominik. Of course, neither of the Mysterios took that very well, so a match was made between Raul Mendoza and Dominik. [c]

-Recap: Two weeks ago, Tiffany Stratton went ballistic on Sarray for a minor slight. Last week, Sarray cost Stratton a match with Fallon Henley.

Sarray went into her backstage pre-change routine and beat her into the ring, and the ref just said what the hell and started the match.

(3) SARRAY vs. TIFFANY STRATTON

Stratton took advantage of the early attack and defeated the non-super version of Sarray with her finisher.

WINNER: Tiffany Stratton at 0:49.

(Wells’s Analysis: Is this an “out” for Sarray since she lost as schoolgirl Sarray? Whatever. Good enough segment to advance something for both.)

-Gunther jawed with LA Knight and called him an embarrassment ahead of Knight’s match tonight. Yes, I still have to delete “Walter” after typing it the first time I see him every single week. [c]

-Jacy Jayne searched backstage for Cora Jade. She found one of Toxic Attraction’s belts hanging from a cable, but when she pulled it down, it triggered a trap that encased her in a cage. Cora Jade flew into frame and locked the cage, then mocked Jayne.

-Tommaso Ciampa headed to the ring. A fan had an “RIP Scott Hall” sign and Ciampa acknowledged it and did the Hall taunt where he slides on one foot into a standing position for the fan. A nice little moment.

[HOUR TWO]

Ciampa sat on a turnbuckle and said he wanted to talk about gratitude. He said this place has been his life. “Ciampa” chant. He said he’s been doing this for 17 years and his entire time on the independents, he wanted a place to call home and an opportunity to be “the guy.” He said luckily that opportunity came in NXT, through WWE, the largest freakin’ company on the planet. He said success didn’t come immediately and sure wasn’t easy, but he’s been there since 2015. “Thank you Ciampa”/”Please don’t go” chant. He ran through the segments of his NXT run and said he’d love to call it a “Do it yourself” thing but he never had to do it himself because he always had the fans with him to acknowledge him and boo him when he deserved it. He said they all created something special together. “You’re that guy” chant almost broke Ciampa. He said it’s been a crazy run of highs and lows and injuries and surgeries, but he never left and neither did the fans, and that right there is gratitude. Ciampa said if this chapter was ever to close, he’d know, and in the last few months, he’s been thinking of his Fairytale Ending. He said last week he had the opportunity to right that wrong by winning the title and he lost. He said for seven days he’s been thinking about what’s next, and what’s the best way to close this out. “One more match” chant. He said he doesn’t have the answer, but he wishes he did. He said it’s not often you get to say thank you before it’s too late. He said from the bottom of his heart, thank you, to everyone in attendance and everyone at home.

From behind Ciampa, Tony D’Angelo appeared carrying a crowbar. He set it down and stepped away. D’Angelo said he could’ve hit Ciampa from behind with a crowbar, but he respected him. He said he’d been wondering who he has to beat to get into the history books, and here he stands in front of that guy. He said Ciampa was the guy for a long time, and it would be an honor to throw hands at Stand and Deliver. The audience chanted “yes” as if this is the best possible match for Ciampa to go out on. Ciampa shook D’s hand and D kneed him with a low blow, then jawed at him to boos. “Ciampa’s gonna kill you” chant.

(Wells’s Analysis: It should be no surprise whatsoever that Ciampa absolutely had the crowd enthralled and hanging on his every word as he gave a strong promo that had some kayfabe roots but certainly stepped well into real life. A genuine must-see promo here as Ciampa bore his soul ahead of D’Angelo stealing his moment to promote a match at Stand & Deliver. At some point Ciampa said “Guys, please don’t do that” to a fan or fans in the middle of a thought, but if you stopped here hoping I heard what the fan said or did to make Ciampa interject, unfortunately I don’t have that answer)

-Indi Hartwell and Persia Pirotta walked (separately) ahead of their match later. [c]

(4) INDI HARTWELL vs. PERSIA PIROTTA

The two entered together and Wade said he couldn’t remember friends falling out like this since Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton. Vic said MySpace would be aflutter at Wade’s reference. The two shook hands but Pirotta held on hard and tossed Indi’s hand away. Pirotta dominated with some power early and jawed at Hartwell. Hartwell took over on offense and set Pirotta up for something but Duke Hudson showed up and distracted her. Then Dexter Lumis popped up from under the ring and scared the hell out of Hudson, and Pirotta was rolled up for three. Hartwell and Lumis made out in front of the heels, and Pirotta and Hudson tried to outdo them. Hartwell ripped off Lumis’s shirt to a huge pop and threw him down and made out with him, so the heels did the same to boos. Lumis held up a thumb. As dumb as this was, I sort of liked it.

WINNER: Indi Hartwell at 2:23.

-Gigi Dolin got baited into a dumpster with another title. She went in and Cora Jade covered the dumpster with a loader. (Or maybe something other than a loader – I’m not a construction guy). Two down, one to go, Jade said. Cute scenes, but Jade’s acting still needs to become much more natural. [c]

(5) DOMINIK MYSTERIO (w/Rey Mysterio) vs. RAUL MENDOZA (w/Joaquin Wilde)

Dominik seemed tickled by his huge reaction and “Dominik” chant. Early reversals to start. A few Legado fans went with a “You don’t go here” chant, a once-fun chant that turned into gatekeeping way too quickly. Dominik went up but Mendoza yanked him to his back. Mysterio hit a springboard splash and then hit a rana. To the corner, Dominik went up again, but Elektra Lopez distracted him and Wilde booted Dominik from the top. Fallon Henley few into the scene and yanked Lopez from the apron. Soon Briggs, Jensen and Rey Mysterio all got into the act. Dominik hit the 619 and frog splash to win. After the win, the Mysterios, Briggs, Jensen and Henley all held up their arms on the ramp.

WINNER: Dominik Mysterio at 3:04.

(Wells’s Analysis: A mess of activity with probably too many moving parts)

-Vic and Wade threw to a Scott Hall video and said Hall’s impact will be felt “4 life.” This led into the video tribute to Hall that also played on Raw. “Razor” chant from the NXT crowd. As always, a wonderful tribute from the WWE production team. [c]

-Cora Jade found Mandy’s Range Rover outside and was going to spray paint it, but decided to go for a ride instead. She went into Mandy’s car and Mandy popped up in the back seat and attacked Jade. She threw Jade’s head against the hood of another car and said Jade would never be on her level. She spray-painted Jade’s back (perhaps another Scott Hall tribute?) and Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne appeared at Rose’s side. But…when did they get free? I like the way the scene worked on paper, though Mandy and Cora aren’t the best actors on the brand.

-The Creed Brothers called out whoever jumped them last week. MSK’s music played. They were wearing nWo shirts. They said it wasn’t them, but they were cost the NXT Championships by the Creeds. Malcolm Bivens said no, MSK jumped the line, so they weren’t leaving until they got the championship match that they deserve.

Imperium’s music played and they were on the perch. Marcel Barthel said it was hilarious that they were arguing over something neither of them were good enough to get. All three teams jawed for a minute and Fabian Aichner said he wanted to see both teams fail. He announced a triple threat match for Stand & Deliver, which actually got a mixed reaction at best from the crowd that just wants to see the Creeds steamroll Imperium for the championships.

-McKenzie Mitchell talked to Cameron Grimes, who said he was going to be stuck on the couch watching Stand & Deliver. He said the last thing he ever got to tell his father was that he signed with NXT and he was going to be a champion, but all he does is keep disappointing him. If this doesn’t end with Grimes winning the ladder match, I’ll be stunned.

-Next week, A-Kid faces Grayson Waller and Solo Sikoa faces Roderick Strong in qualifying matches for the ladder match. [c]

-Backstage, Malcolm Bivens talked to Malik and Edris as well as Grizzled Young Veterans trying to get info about who attacked the Creed Brothers. Both teams laid out their alibis and the Creeds flew in and said it was GYV. Bivens called for a rematch next week. Zach Gibson said they’d be there if it gets them closer to the top, but lightning doesn’t strike twice.

-Rundown of the Stand & Deliver top matches.

(6) LA KNIGHT vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER (c) (w/Robert Roode) – NXT Championship match

Alicia Taylor handled formal intros. The match started at five minutes to the hour. Knight hit a hard shoulder block to open. Collar and elbow led to Ziggler shooting in and some grappling for position. Rope break and a cheap shot by Ziggler. Snap mare by Ziggler into a headlock. Basic offense and reversals and Knight hit a powerslam and Ziggler bailed heading into split-screen. [c]

Dolph dominated in a corner and hit a dropkick for a two count. He worked a headlock while trapping Knight’s body with his legs, then added a nose yank while the ref wasn’t in position to see it. Knight got to his feet and broke by walking Ziggler back into a corner. Ziggler wanted the Fameasser but Knight put Ziggler on his back, then threw rights and stomped a mudhole in the corner. Running knee in the corner. Knight ran the ropes and hit an elbow drop for two. Vic threw to the parking lot where Bron Breakker was arriving, though he was sent home. Trying for the fashionably late Steve Austin credibility, eh?

Knight put Ziggler up in the corner and the two fought for position. Ziggler put Knight on the mat with a shot to the ribs, but Knight flew in and hit a superplex. Cover for two. Knight hit a Burning Hammer but Ziggler got a leg on the rope. Roode caused a distraction and Ziggler hit a superkick to finish.

WINNER: Dolph Ziggler at 11:50.

After the decision was rendered, Bron Breakker hit the ring to his music. Cool that it was ready even though he was kind of barred from the building. Bron screamed all his lines, saying he wanted his rematch at Stand & Deliver. He easily laid out Robert Roode and asked Ziggler again. Ziggler said anytime, anyplace, so there we are. Breakker’s music played again as the show ended.

(Wells’s Analysis: Poor Knight was a lame duck challenger just to get to this, but I suspect Knight’s stay in NXT is just about over anyway. If Breakker wins at Stand & Deliver I’m not sure what any of this was for, though at present I think he’ll be losing as he continues a fast track to the main roster. The match wasn’t anything special, though wasn’t actively bad in any particular way either; it may have been harmed by there being no doubt over how it was going to go)


FINAL THOUGHTS: Perhaps the most noteworthy thing to come out of this show was the near-total lack of use of NXT talents whose readiness for TV is in serious question. Perhaps NXT has taken a step back and realized that they simply can’t do that kind of disservice both to the fans and to the talents themselves who get dragged by fans when they really shouldn’t be put in a position to fail so hugely anyway. Some novices like Persia Pirotta did appear, but their participation was kept brief and was used to promote an angle most likely leading to a mixed tag (where, again, she’ll be protected). Nikkita Lyons and Lash Legend weren’t even mentioned this week, and that could just be an anomaly with no time to give them for now, but I’m hopeful that NXT will pump the brakes when necessary and assess who should be getting time and who should be getting ready to be featured at that level. Slowly, I can see NXT making the same sort of improvements that were necessary all those years back; hopefully this time around, the company will be able to strike a balance and not find themselves in a situation where they have to burn it down for NXT 3.0 in five or six years. Check out PWT Talks NXT tonight or stream tomorrow. Cheers.

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