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KIANA JAMES vs. NIKKITA LYONS
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Now that Zoey Stark and Nikkita Lyons are going to be part of the WWE Women’s Tag Tournament, what does that mean for their time in NXT? It’s been clear that Lyons is a “chosen one” in the eyes of the NXT brass and that a main roster call up is imminent. Her partner, Stark, could use a little work on her character but otherwise she’s ready for prime time. If I was a betting man, I’d say that both of them are going to wind up on the main roster and departing from NXT sooner rather than later.
Back to the match. I was astounded at how much offense James was able to lay in against Lyons. Classic booking, have the heel get the majority of the offense to build sympathy on the face. The booking wasn’t the curious part, but James has not been positioned as a major credible threat in the women’s division yet. Seeing her take it to Lyons seemed like it was defining Lyons down. That is, until after the match she attacked Lyons with her leather bag full of… smart people things? I’m not sure what she keeps in it, but it was heavy enough to knock Lyons out.
All for it. James has been trying to get over as a heel for awhile now with the intellectual gimmick. This more sinister turn could bring more out of her in terms of her acting ability and connection to her character, and we could have a new heel main eventer.
TRICK WILLIAMS vs. WES LEE – ROUNDS MATCH
Trick Williams has been touting his boxing skills during his feud with Wes Lee, leading to Lee challenging him to a Rounds match. Basically, it was some weird hybrid between the Brawl For All and actual professional wrestling.
There were six minute rounds with a 20 second break in between each. Falls by pinfall, submission or countout. The match ends when someone is KO’d or has the majority of falls. Donning boxing gloves and mouth guards, NXT presented this as a boxing match. Lee and Williams presented it like a boxing match, albeit with the modified rules.
Here’s the problem. Everyone has seen footage of boxing matches before, even if you aren’t a fan. Who hasn’t seen Tyson bite Holyfield’s ear off, or clips of the iconic Muhammad Ali matches? They actually punch the living daylights out of one another. That’s tough to work and make look legitimate, and neither Lee nor Williams were able to pull it off credibly.
Thankfully, the “boxing” only lasted for the first round, as the gloves came off and wrestling took over again. In the fourth round, Williams put one glove back on his left hand seemingly in an attempt to recapture his mojo. Lee did the same thing in the last round, putting one glove on and using it to KO Williams for the win.
I give NXT credit for trying something different, but I’m not sure if this really was a match type that got over. It was essentially a re-skinned 2 out of 3 falls match with some added flair. Booking it as a boxing match is great for Williams’ gimmick, but wrestling fans aren’t tuning in to watch boxing. I feel like this segment may have been on the more boring side for some viewers.
Verdict: Lukewarm HIT
THEA HAIL vs. ARIANNA GRACE
Earlier in the night, Arianna Grace was backstage talking to Andre Chase about how Thea Hail gave her a black eye while throwing a ball around at Chase U. Thea Hail came into the frame and profusely apologized, but Grace wasn’t having any of it. Andre Chase told them to settle it in the ring.
This was Thea Hail’s first match in NXT, and that was sort of obvious. Neither she nor Grace have a lot of experience, so you had two relative newbies out there. No, this was not a WrestleMania caliber match, but for what it was — it wasn’t terrible. Thea Hail has more charisma in her little finger than some of the women in NXT have in their bodies, and she’s still very young. With some more time and training, I think Hail is going to have a great career in this business.
Grace managed to pick up the win over Hail after Hail got, as Mojo Rowley used to say, a little too hype, costing her the match. Grace is still a work in progress, but I’m glad to see that NXT is giving some of the newer women some more time on TV. You can’t build stars without giving them a chance.
Verdict: Lukewarm HIT
APOLLO CREWS vs. RODERICK STRONG
Earlier in the night, Apollo Crews was hanging out backstage with the Creeds when Strong walked into the room and started beef with Crews leading to this match. Diamond Mine did not accompany Strong to the ring, furthering the story of an imploding Diamond Mine.
On paper, you look at these two names and say “Okay, that’s gonna be a hell of a match”. Once they got inside the ring? They had a great match. What did you expect, I was gonna say it was terrible?
The story of the match was Crews trying to claw his way to the NXT championship by taking out player after player, and Strong trying to defend the very faction that he’s causing to fracture. Crews wound up getting the W, leaving Strong to presumably have to answer to the rest of Diamond Mine later.
PRETTY DEADLY vs. MALIK BLADE & EDRIS ENOFE
Backstage, Lash Legend happened to pull Enofe and Blade aside and talked their ears off for over an hour when Pretty Deadly came into the frame to cause trouble with their opponents later in the night. Once in the ring, Enofe and Blade seemed to have a little extra pep in their steps after getting embarrassed by Pretty Deadly and determined to win. Though they barely got in 40% of the overall offense.
Pretty Deadly started mocking the NXT UK Tag Champions, Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen, causing them to come ringside. This threw Pretty Deadly off their game, allowing Enofe and Blade to come within inches of winning. But after some accidental interference by Briggs and Jensen, Pretty Deadly squeaked out the win. This whole match really just served to further the storylines for the UK Tag titles.
Verdict: Lukewarm HIT
CORA JADE vs. ZOEY STARK
NXT Women’s Champion, Mandy Rose sat ringside for this match as both Stark and Jade are on the hunt for the NXT Women’s title, which played into things later on.
After betraying her best friend, Roxanne Perez, Cora Jade has basically transformed from an unfinished developmental project to a slightly less unfinished developmental project. Her promo skills as a heel are much better, but she still needs work in the ring before I’m going to buy her as a credible challenger for a main event title.
I don’t mean that to disrespect Jade whatsoever, but at this point in her career she’s not on the same level technically as someone like Zoey Stark. Her offense isn’t quite as crisp as it could be, and she needs to either learn to time her leg slaps better, or stop using them altogether.
Jade brought a kendo stick to ringside, and right before the finish, Roxanne Perez was seen outside the ring holding that kendo stick. Jade got distracted, allowing Stark to pick up the victory as she heads into her match alongside Nikkita Lyons this Monday on Raw.