The Thrill Of The Hunt (NXT Review)

This week’s NXT episode had plenty to look forward to. The Interim Cruiserweight Championship Tournament had its final slate of matches and we would find out who won each group. Rhea Ripley was set to have her first match since Wrestlemania against Io Shirai. Dexter Lumis is also slated to take on Roderick Strong and that should be a good test to see how Lumis will do in the company. Karrion Kross is also set to be on NXT and it should be interesting to see what he and Scarlett have set for this week. Let us see what NXT had for us this week.

 

Karrion Kross vs Liam Gray

I just absolutely love Kross’ entrance and he completely owns it along with Scarlett. That entrance is already amazing, and it will be even more amazing once fans are allowed to witness it in person. This was another squash match and Kross made quick work of Gray. The real important part of this opener was made clear as Scarlett celebrated with Kross when an all too familiar theme hit. Tommaso Ciampa made his return and had some words for Kross and Scarlett. He talked about how Kross is a big deal and how impressive he has been. He didn’t knock him for attacking him because you go after the top names if you want to make it. This all led to him challenging Kross to a match at TakeOver: In Your House and that match would be made official later in the night. Kross is getting thrown right into the deep end of the pool like it was rumored he would be, and this is a true test to see if he can deliver.

 

El Hijo del Fantasma vs Akira Tozawa

The best part of this tournament has to be how great many of the matches have been. Akira was trying to run the table in Group B and Fantasma needed the win in order to steal the group from Akira. This was a great back and forth match and both men looked great here. Fantasma ditched the tights and went with the trunks in this match and he looked great. Again, really solid back and forth action and I loved Mauro’s line of Fantasma seeking the thrill of the hunt because that is an obvious call back to Fantasma’s days in Lucha Underground as King Cuerno. Akira looked like he had the match won after hitting Fantasma with his senton off the top rope but Fantasma smartly rolled to the outside. Fantasma would end up getting the advantage and hit Akira with his finisher for the win. Fantasma won the group and awaits the winner of group A.

 

Timothy Thatcher Backstage

I said last week in the DD that I thought I would like Thatcher as a heel and it is clear that he is much more comfortable in that role. This promo from Thatcher was quick and to the point and he wants Riddle in another match. He spoke about Riddle and made it clear he wants another match with him but under certain rules. He said he wants the winner to be decided by either knockout or tap out and I like the sound of that. He gave Riddle the option of deciding where it will take place and we will hear Riddle’s response later in the night. Solid work from Thatcher here and he feels much more natural as a heel.

 

Shotzi Blackheart Vignette

Shotzi has become my absolute favorite female wrestler right now and she totally has what it takes to be a star. She was atop a tank and cut a promo on herself. She spoke about herself and her upbringing and why she is the way she is. Back when fans were allowed, she was getting so over with the crowd and she just has charisma for days. I really enjoyed this promo/vignette from her, and she even rode around in it while the tank went over some crushed cars. She named each car after a female superstar in NXT and it was a joy to watch. I really think had the pandemic not hit, Shotzi would definitely end up in the title scene in NXT before the year is over. I still think she can because I feel like she is someone that can connect with fans and people will want to root for.

 

Mia Yim vs Santana Garrett

Mia took on Santana here and it was a rather short match that you knew Mia would come out on top of. Solid back and forth in the match and Santana looked good out there. Mia would end up being too much for Santana and she won after hitting her with Protect Ya Neck. That is when things got interesting as Johnny Gargano came out singing along to Mia’s theme and Candice LeRae would follow him. They talked some trash to Mia and mentioned how she couldn’t beat Charlotte a few weeks ago. Candice talked about how Mia is getting chances and wasting them because she panders to the fans too much. Candice said she deserves all those chances and Mia does not. This would lead to Candice getting in the ring and having a scuffle with Mia. Candice would throw Mia into the ropes and Johnny pulled down the middle rope and Mia would fall to the floor. Johnny looked shocked but then he and Candice laughed at Mia. They looked to do more damage when Keith Lee would come out to save his girlfriend Mia. I am liking the way this feud is being built so far and we will see where it goes later in the night.

 

Cameron Grimes Promo

This was a rather short and sweet promo by Grimes here. He gloated about his victory over Finn Balor and even mentioned that Finn was an idol of his before he got into NXT. Really not much else to it other than it looks like Grimes is looking to build on that momentum because he seems to have all the confidence in the world now.

 

Drake Maverick Interview

I have no idea why the audio was so low for this backstage interview because I had to turn the volume up on my tv in order to hear what Drake was saying. Drake spoke about his upcoming match with KUSHIDA and had nothing but praise for him. He spoke about how KUSHIDA is one of the best in the world right now and he knows he has an uphill battle. He said he needs to stop doubting himself and win because that is what he must do. I would grade this higher, but the audio issues really bring it down for me.

 

Roderick Strong vs Dexter Lumis

Lumis showed a lot in this match and really made me an even bigger fan of his. Strong is a good test for talent in NXT to see how they are in the ring and Lumis was able to hang with someone as good as Strong. I love how Lumis does not say a word and speaks only through his eyes and body language. He has seemingly mastered the art of nonverbal communication and that is a refreshing sight. Many wrestlers try to do that but fail at it. Really fun back and forth action and they were a bit stiff with each other at times as well. Strong does tend to work a stronger style and I love that Lumis was up for the task of that style. I liked how Lumis looked to be enjoying some of the stiff shots from Strong and Roderick did a good job in selling his confusion over that. Strong would end up winning with a quick roll up and I was surprised by that. It would all make sense after the match as Lumis put Strong in his arm triangle finisher and would not let go. He choked out Strong and Cole would come down with Fish to try and break it up. They were failing and Cole prepared to hit Lumis with a kick when Velveteen Dream would show up to take out the UE. He took out Fish and then hit Cole with the Purple Rainmaker on the outside. I loved that Dream was in UE gear to further taunt them during this. He posed on the ring steps as Lumis cradled a choked out Strong in his lap. That was quite the sight and the pair of Lumis and Dream make for an odd yet somewhat normal team.

 

Akira Tozawa Parking Lot

Akira was walking in the parking lot when El Hijo del Fantasma would roll up next to him in his car. He gave Akira props for their match and gave Akira props on his talent as well. It seemed like a fairly cordial thing when the masked men rolled up and attacked Akira. I am not sure if they were trying to kidnap him, but they laid a beating on him. Fantasma was unable to get out of his car at first but eventually was able to and he chased the men off. I still think this leads to the reveal of Fantasma being behind this and I like that they are not rushing into it. They are letting this build over time and keep trying to place seeds of doubt as to whether Fantasma is in on this or not.

 

Lorcan & Burch vs Ever-Rise

Not much to talk about here as this was a fairly short match with a predictable outcome. Burch and Lorcan took it to Ever-Rise right from the start and never let off the gas pedal. This match was clearly done to probably build Lorcan and Burch as the challengers to Imperium. There aren’t many tag teams in NXT that make sense to be Imperium’s next challengers but Lorcan and Burch are the most logical choice given the circumstances.

 

Keith Lee Interview

The low audio again and Lee is not a soft speaker either so the fact the audio was this bad is not a good thing. Lee spoke about what happened earlier in the night and he mentioned how he does not think highly of Gargano’s new philosophy. This led to him saying he will show Gargano what he is about, and he wants to do that at TakeOver. That match has all the potential in the world to be amazing and I definitely want to see it.

 

Matt Riddle Backstage

I know Riddle is not for everybody, but it is hard to deny that the man has future top star of the company vibes to him. He plays the laid-back persona very well but knows when to get serious. This was one of those moments and he wasn’t the chill Riddle we have come to see in NXT. He was serious and talked about how Thatcher wasn’t the guy Pete Dunne made him out to be. He accepted Thatcher’s challenge and then said in what location it would be in. He suggested a cage and the match would be made official later in the night. Riddle and Thatcher inside of a cage and the only way to win is by knockout or tap out? Sign me up for that any day of the week and this has the potential to be just as good as their match last week or even better.

 

KUSHIDA vs Drake Maverick

I mentioned in the DD how it was odd to see KUSHIDA be the bigger man and that really goes to show how small Drake is. That doesn’t stop his work because Drake is darn good in the ring. This was my match of the night and had every bit of what you want in a match. It had great storytelling, great ring work and the commentary was on point as well. Drake has played the underdog role perfectly throughout this story with him trying to win and I liked how KUSHIDA felt reluctant at times to do things to Drake because of how nice of a guy Drake is. Jake Atlas would come out at one point and I thought he would get involved in the match, but he did not. I am glad he didn’t because I think that would have taken away from the story being told with Drake. Again, really fun match and there was great storytelling in this match by both men. Drake would end up getting the upset win and causing a three-way tie in Group A. This led Byron Saxton to show up and announce that a triple threat match will take place to determine the winner of the group and that has all the makings to be an amazing match.

 

Damian Priest Promo

Damian Priest was at the top of the entrance ramp to deliver a promo explaining why he attacked Finn. His motive was simple, and he just said he needs to take out a top guy to be a top guy. He talked about how Finn was one of people that built NXT into what it is, and he respects him for that. That also doesn’t mean that Finn is immune to him going after him and that is why he did what he did. He issued a challenge for TakeOver, a running theme of tonight, and we will wait to see if Finn accepts. Solid promo work from Priest and I think his promos are actually getting better with each passing week.

 

Io Shirai vs Rhea Ripley

This was a really fun match that is slightly hampered by the fact we all pretty much knew how it would end. No surprise though that this was a fun match as both women are among the best in the world in the women’s division. Actually, they are just two of the best workers in general in the world right now. I know Io is supposed to be the heel, but Rhea felt a bit more like the heel here. I guess it is because she is the bigger woman by far and that gave Io a bit of an underdog role in the match. Really fun back and forth and Charlotte Flair would make her way out to take in the festivities. Contact would eventually be made with Charlotte that knocked her down and we all know where this is heading. Rhea and Io made their way back into the ring and Charlotte would eventually recover and attack both women. The match was thrown out and Charlotte stood tall with the NXT Women’s Championship in the ring as NXT came to a close. This is clearly setting up a triple threat that will most likely happen at TakeOver. That match should be a banger but I feel like Io will be in the match so she can eat the loss, so Rhea or Charlotte don’t have to be the one to take it.

 

MAMMA MIA!!!

This was a really fun episode of NXT from start to finish. The Cruiserweight stuff was great, and that KUSHIDA/Drake match had everything that makes for a great match. The Lumis/Strong match was good stuff as well and seems like Dream isn’t done with the UE quite yet. I loved that Shotzi vignette/promo and I truly feel like she can be a huge star for NXT. The main event was fun too even though the outcome was predictable. Overall, a really fun episode of NXT this week. I will also say that WWE did pay tribute to the late Shad Gaspard at the beginning and I am hoping they can come up with a video tribute to him for Smackdown and Raw. I would venture to guess they may not have done it today because they didn’t have enough time to put one together that is worthy of a tribute. It is truly sad that Shad has passed away, but he gave up his life to save his son and that is commendable on every level. His family is now able to put his body to rest and my heart goes out to all of them. I am Sovereign S.A.M. and I will see you all around the WRC.