SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
CARMELO HAYES vs. GIOVANNI VINCI – NXT North American Championship
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think the former Fabian Aichner had a singles run in him as a member of Imperium, his character blended into the background though his wrestling was always on point. As Giovanni Vinci, he challenges for his first singles title in WWE. Vinci has impressed since his re-debut, and the new gimmick does have more to latch on to than his former.
Carmelo Hayes has been a fantastic “A” Champion, and though he’s technically a heel, he’s the cool heel. He’s such a cool heel, played the babyface in this match. The crowd was solidly behind Hayes in this explosive title defense.
Both Hayes and Vinci are great between the ropes, and that absolutely shown through during this matchup. Opening the show with this match was a great idea, as it absolutely delivered.
Hayes retained after Trick Williams interfered on his behalf. Vinci delivered a massive powerbomb to Williams, distracting him just enough so that when he tried powerbombing Hayes, Hayes was able to reverse into a hurricanrana rollup for the win.
Verdict: HIT (roooooowwwwww…. No, I’m not making a comment on Hayes joining Hit Row in place of Swerve, though it could happen. I’m just pumped Hit Row is back in WWE!)
CORA JADE vs. ROXANNE PEREZ
Finally, Roxanne Perez was able to get her hands on her former best friend, Cora Jade. Weeks ago, the two won the NXT Women’s Tag Titles before Jade turned on Perez moments later forcing them to relinquish the titles.
Since her heel turn, Cora Jade has stepped up her game as far as I’m concerned. She seems more comfortable in a heel persona than she did in her original gimmick, more so on the mic than in the ring. There are still some rookie mistakes being made, such as falling in the completely wrong direction after getting dropkicked, but there is a lot of promise overall.
Perez needs to flesh out her character a bit more after this match, whether she won or lost. She’s the stereotypical white meat babyface and she needs more for the fans to sink their teeth into than “my best friend betrayed me”.
Jade picked up the win, which means this feud isn’t over. If they’re going to push Perez, they’ll need to have her give Jade her comeuppance at some point.
SANTOS ESCOBAR vs. TONY D’ANGELO – Street Fight
Personally, the Escobar/D’Angelo feud has been one of my favorite things about NXT over the past four months. Prior to the match, a recap of the entire feud aired reminding me of just how well done this has been. Everybody involved has done their part to tell cohesive, long term story (well, except you, Two Dimes). Sure, some of the details of this story have been a bit weird… like the supposed murder of Two Dimes. But overall, it’s been one of the most entertaining things on the show.
If Escobar wins tonight, Legado del Fantasma is free and no longer part of the D’Angelo family. If D’Angelo wins, Escobar leaves NXT. Coming into this match, I was so torn on who would wind up winning. Somewhat selfishly I want to see Legado del Fantasma, including Escobar, stay in NXT. However, I knew that the right move was to have Escobar go up to the main roster, with or without the rest of the faction – signaling he may lose tonight.
Besides. If all four members of Legado del Fantasma left The Family… How can you have a “Family” with only two members? After Two Dimes exit from the company, the only two actual members of The Family are Stacks and D’Angelo himself. (Oh, Hello Roderick Strong…)
This match started off just as explosive as it should have with Escobar firing on all cylinders to free his faction from the grips of Tony D. For the first couple/few minutes, Tony D’Angelo didn’t get a single bit of offense in against Escobar. That is until weapons finally made an appearance in the match, and then the tides turned in the favor of D’Angelo handily.
Where the story behind this feud is ultimately two street gangs waging war against one another, a Street Fight certainly felt like the right stipulation. What surprised me is how much of the match took place inside the confines of the ring. Yes, pinfalls do need to still take place inside the ring during a Street Fight. But, I figured they’d wind up backstage or outside of the Capitol Wrestling Center.
The finish to the match was also rather weak, with brass knuckles being tossed to Escobar at the same time a crowbar was tossed to D’Angelo. They both swung at the same time, but D’Angelo connected first and covered for the win.
Santos Escobar is leaving NXT. Let’s see how the first major NXT call up to the main roster fairs under new management.
Verdict: Lukewarm HIT
MANDY ROSE vs. ZOEY STARK – NXT Women’s Championship
Since winning the NXT Women’s title, Mandy Rose has plowed through the competition. To the point that we weren’t really sure who on the roster felt like they could even be a credible threat to Rose. That is, until Zoey Stark returned from injury. Since then, she’s been on the hunt for the NXT Women’s title.
Rose immediately targeted the recently repaired knee of Stark, and continued to work that knee for the rest of the match. A massive amount of credit to Stark, as she sold that knee beautifully. They allowed the knee to be the story of the match, making it look like the champion had a massive advantage against arguably her most challenging competitor yet.
When Toxic Attraction started to get involved in the match, Nikkita Lyons came out and threw a bunch of punches and kicks in the general direction of Toxic Attraction, and chased them off to the back. Lyons needs to tighten up her offense and slow down in the ring. She exposes herself time and time again. If she’s going to be associated with someone like Zoey Stark, than she can’t afford to expose those weaknesses.
Mandy Rose wound up retaining after she took Zoey Stark’s knee brace off and put it on her own knee. She then used it to deliver a knee to the face for the creative win.
This now brings us full circle. With Zoey Stark now in the dust… who’s the next challenger for Rose?
BRON BREAKKER vs. JD MCDONAUGH – NXT Championship
And now, for the least anticipated match on the card…
I don’t mean that to disparage either Breakker or McDonaugh. But the booking of this feud hasn’t been the greatest and it hasn’t gotten a heck of a lot of TV time. Even last week during the contract signing, the atmosphere surrounding the signing didn’t feel like it was main event level.
Breakker also got the most lukewarm reaction for a Babyface on the entire card, the crowd seems like they are losing interest in him. Glancing around the audience, you saw a lot of people on their phones or talking amongst themselves throughout the match. I think Nikkita Lyons may have even gotten a bigger reaction from the crowd in the ten seconds she was in the arena.
The match was actually halfway decent. But I think that the lack of focus on Bron Breakker and the NXT title for the last handful of weeks really hurt this match. That, and they did wrestle more of a slow, plodding match than the rest of the matches on the card.
Shocker, Breakker retained.
After the match, the seeming invasion of NXT UK Continued, as The newly crowned NXT UK Champion, Tyler Bate emerged and entered the ring. He stood toe to toe with Breakker as they both raised their titles high overhead to end the show.
Verdict: Lukewarm HIT