We all know what is going on with WWE at the moment with all the talent getting released. I won’t touch much on the subject, but I will say that it always sucks when someone loses their job. Who knows who may be able to come back, but these are difficult times where companies everywhere are letting people go. I am not condoning what WWE did, I am only asking people to remember that WWE isn’t the only company doing this sort of thing. With that out of the way, let us focus on what NXT brought this week. This week was the start of the interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship tournament and we would find out what was going to happen with the NXT Tag Titles. Let’s see what NXT had for us this week.
Finn Balor vs Fabian Aichner
This was an interesting match to see because both men are heels. It did feel like Finn was acting like the default face in this match considering the odds he was facing. Marcel Barthel of Imperium accompanied Aichner so you knew he would try to use the numbers to help his stablemate out. Fun back and forth in this match and I always forget how smooth Aichner is in the ring for being his size. He isn’t huge like Keith Lee, but he has quite the build on him. Both men took turns being in control of the match and Barthel would help Aichner regain control when Finn would reclaim it. You could see Finn work a bit stiffer too because of how Aichner wrestles and it wasn’t a bad thing at all. It really added to the physicality of the match and that this isn’t a random match and one being done because of a feud. Finn really wore the match on his body too as he had marks across his chest and back. Finn would eventually take care of Barthel on the outside and it would allow him to pick up the win against Aichner. No idea where this leaves this story because of all the travel restrictions but if this is it for the time being, it is a good bookmark to leave it on.
Charlotte Flair Promo
Was this more of Charlotte boasting about her win and the need to humble the NXT roster? Just about but they added enough to keep my interest. Charlotte spoke about being the greatest ever and each stage of her career so far. She spoke about her time on NXT, the early days of being on the main roster and what is going on now. She listed who she has beaten, a whose who really, and the things she has done since starting in WWE. You cannot deny what she has done so far, and you really can make the claim about her being one of the best women to do it. She is certainly my pick for best women’s wrestler on the planet right now. She spoke a bit about how she will humble Io Shirai when the time comes but she then shifted to who she wants to face next. She said she wants to face Mia Yim and she spoke a bit about their history. I absolutely love that, and it gives them time to delay her match with Io by having her take on talent in NXT besides the number one contender. This promo felt a better than the ones she has been giving recently and makes me hopeful that we will get plenty of fresh matchups for Charlotte in NXT.
Aliyah vs Xia Li
This was honestly probably the weakest point of NXT this week. I enjoy that NXT will try to give feuds at various levels of their talent, but this is one, even with the crowd there, with little to no heat to it. It feels like Xia is in a never-ending series of matches with Aliyah even though she comes out on top every time. This was more of what you have seen with these two from their previous matches and Xia won once again. Would love to see Xia move on from Aliyah because she is someone that has tremendous upside in my opinion.
Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs Akira Tozawa
This was a fun match and another reason why the cruiserweights are a perfect fit for NXT. This match featured two of my favorites of the division in Akira and Swerve and I really thought Swerve would take it here. Plenty of nice back and forth action in this match and I am glad there was no idiotic comments during this match like Jerry Lawler said on Raw. I will say that Akira really made Swerve look huge and I had no idea the size difference was as big as it was. Both men are just so good, and they made each other look like a million bucks in there. I loved when they were exchanging chops and Akira fooled him by giving him a jab instead of a chop. I thought Swerve had it when he hit his kick right to the back of the neck/head area of Akira, but Akira found a way to kick out. Swerve looked to add more damage for another pin attempt, but Akira knocked him off and hit him with his beautiful senton for the win. Akira secured the first win in group B and he is the early leader for that group in this tournament.
Eli Hijo Del Fantasma Vignette
I am totally surprised that Fantasma is able to use his lucha name in NXT. Most of the time the lucha companies in Mexico keep the names when talent leaves for the US. I guess he, WWE or a combination of the two found a way to work it out so he is able to use the name. He is also back under the mask and that surprised me as well. In order for a luchador to regain the usage of his mask, he needs to appear in front of a council for approval because losing your mask is taken very seriously in lucha libre. He obviously was granted the okay and he is now under the mask once again. This vignette did a great job in hyping up Fantasma and showing you a bit of who he is. The man is insanely talented and could become another big Latin star for the company. He will make his official NXT debut next week and it will be interesting to see how he is made to look.
Tegan Nox vs Raquel Gonzales
It is sad to say that this match was very so, so and it is mainly because of how it was booked. Raquel was booked to use her size and dominate Tegan and that can work but it didn’t here. Something about Raquel’s ring work just didn’t look right and it may be the fact that her greenness showed a bit here. Tegan did her best to make Raquel look good, but I feel like she isn’t up to par with the women in NXT right now. Not to say she cannot work up to their level, I am just not seeing much from her right now. It may be why the match was booked the way it was because they know she may have a limited skill set. Dakota would try to get involved in this match against her former best friend and it would work when Raquel needed help. Shotzi Blackheart, my favorite woman in WWE right now, came out to even the odds and even provided a distraction that allowed Tegan to get the win via rollup. It would be announced later in the night that Dakota and Raquel will take on Tegan and Shotzi in a tag match next week and I am not as excited about that match as I would a Dakota/Shotzi rematch from the gauntlet match.
Keith Lee Video Package
Video packages are so hard to grade because of the factors involved. You have to take in production and what the content is in order to grade it. I am giving this all the crowns because it gave you a great look into who Keith Lee is. He spoke about how he became a wrestling fan and would defy his father to become a wrestler. He spoke about how he was kicked out of his house and was homeless for a bit too. He mentioned wrestling at his first indie show that Mick Foley performed at and I loved that they showed a clip of Lee and Foley backstage at a WWE event and Foley gave Lee nothing but praise. Lee spoke about his journey in wrestling and how he was able to make it to NXT. He moved on to speak about how he became a star during the build to Survivor Series and everything that came after it. This was such a well-done video package and I actually wouldn’t mind if they did a Keith Lee special on the WWE Network because it feels like they have potential with his story.
Dexter Lumis vs Tehuti Miles
Dexter Lumis is creepy as heck and I love every minute of it. He doesn’t say anything, but he says everything with his eyes. His theme works perfectly with him and the contrast between Miles and Lumis in this match worked perfectly. Of course, this was a squash match and Lumis is being built as a monster in NXT. I am interested to see what they do with him because I have no idea what he direction of his character could end up. Lumis would win here with his submission and maybe we are looking at a future challenger for Keith Lee.
Adam Cole & Velveteen Dream Faceoff?
This was supposed to be a faceoff between Dream and Cole, but Cole had no intention of participating in this. Cole was poolside once again and spoke about how Dream, and the rest of the roster in NXT, doesn’t deserve a shot at him. I love how Cole comes off here and how dismissive he is of any challenger in NXT. Cole truly understands what his character is all about and it owns it on every level. Speaking of owning you character on every level, Dream came out to the stage to address what Cole just said. He spoke about how Cole is busy with video games and such and that he still wants the NXT Championship. He gave Cole props on possibly being the greatest champion in the history of NXT and that would bring out the Prince Finn Balor to the stage. He got in Dream’s face and told him that he was the greatest champion in NXT’s history, not Adam Cole. I loved their back and forth and Dream would accept Balor’s challenge for a match, and he wants it next week. I am guessing that the winner of that match will get Adam Cole or maybe we end up with a triple threat because Cole gets involved.
Malcolm Bivens & Indus Sher
Malcolm Bivens and Indus Sher appeared somewhere backstage and had some words about the NXT Tag Title situation. Bivens spoke about how Riddle will defend the titles with a mystery partner against the Undisputed Era and that they want next. I liked Bivens here, but I feel like the members of Indus Sher should really talk much. Take a page of what made AOP so great in NXT and have Bivens lead the way with his mic work. Seems like they will probably get the winner of the tag title match and it does intrigue me a bit.
Undisputed Era vs Matt Riddle & Mystery Partner
Matt Riddle was shown earlier in the night on his phone with Pete Dunne because he wanted to know who his partner would be. Dunne was reassuring him that it was a perfect choice and Riddle went along with him. The UE made their way out, Strong and Fish being the representatives, and Riddle would then make his entrance. Dunne would appear on the screen to announce who his partner would be, and it was the toughest s.o.b., Timothy Thatcher. This is Thatcher’s NXT debut and I was interested to see what he could do. WWE has apparently been trying their hardest to get him and they finally did. I was worried about the chemistry he would have with not only Riddle, but every man in the match and you could see he was finding his bearings a bit throughout the match. The match was solid, but you can tell it suffered because Thatcher hasn’t had many reps with either man involved. I did like what I saw from him and he certainly found a better groove as the match progressed. Dexter Lumis would appear in the distance too to take in the match and I wonder what that is all about. He reminded me of Michael Myers in the original Halloween when he is stalking Laurie Strode and she sees him outside at the school. The match picked up in the latter half and Thatcher would be the one to pick up the win via tap out. I love how he didn’t want to partake in Riddle’s antics but maybe he will get worn down like Pete Dunne was.
Tommaso Ciampa Promo
You bet your butts this is getting all the crown because this was executed beautifully. Time was dwindling on this episode of NXT, so I was wondering what they were going to do here. Ciampa was simple and straight to the point in saying that Gargano won, and he is over Johnny and Candice. He talked a bit about the match, and it looked like he was ready to say what was next for him when he was attacked by a man from behind. The camera fell to the floor and we could hear the attack happening off screen. Ciampa would be thrown to the floor and that is when we saw who attacked him. Killer Kross, who has since been rebranded as Karrion Kross, was the one and he told Ciampa “tick tock” and I loved how Scarlett Bordeaux’s boot was in the foreground as well. They didn’t show her face, but it is obvious that was her. It looks like we are getting a Kross/Ciampa feud and I am all for that one.
After a week with Mauro, this week was called by Phillips and Saxton and I will have to say that I did miss Mauro. Mauro is the clear voice of NXT and it sucks that he isn’t there calling the action week in and week out. That aside, this was a solid episode of NXT this week with plenty of good stuff. The closing segment was well executed, and the Cole/Dream/Balor stuff was great as well. The video packages for Keith Lee and El Hijo Del Fantasma were great as well and told good stories about each man respectively. The first match of the interim Cruiserweight title tournament was a ton of fun and so was the Aichner/Balor match. The only real downers were the women’s matches because they were just kind of meh. All in all, solid episode of NXT and storylines are really starting to take shape. I am Sovereign S.A.M. and I will see you all around the WRC. Stay safe, wear masks and wash your hands!