There was plenty to look forward to with this week’s episode of NXT. There was a women’s tag team match set to take place and the triple threat qualifier match for the ladder match at TakeOver XXX. There was also a grudge match between Johnny Gargano and Roderick Strong based on the triple threat from last week. We also had the fallout from the main event to look forward to as well. With all that in mind, let us see what the black and gold brand had for us this week.
Main Event Recap
I normally do not cover recaps from the previous week in my review of NXT, but I felt the need to do so this week. The opening recap was all about the Rocky 4 style ending to the Dominik Dijakovic/Karrion Kross match and I loved it. It was very well made and really highlighted how Keith Lee was steaming at Kross because of what he did to his very good friend. Very well-done recap and definitely made me more invested in the Lee/Kross program.
Shirai & Nox vs Kai & LeRae
This was a really fun tag team opener for NXT this week. Io was the first to make her way out and before she could get into her entrance, Dakota Kai came from behind and attacked her. Tegan Nox would come in to help out her tag partner and Candice LeRae would come out to join the pre-match scuffle as well. Things would eventually settle in and the match would get underway. Fun back and forth in this match and you could see that Kai wanted to send a message to Io about being her next challenger. Tegan and Candice played good support for their partners, but it was clear what the story of the match was. I will add that Io did a tribute to Kairi Sane during the match when she had Dakota in the corner. She rose up and gave the same salute that Kairi would do in the corner before dropping the double foot stomp onto Kai. Little things like that always go a long way and we all know how close Io and Kairi are. Io really showed out in this match because she was always a house of fire when she was in the ring. Tegan would hit Candice with the Shiniest Wizard and Io would follow up with her Moonsault for the win. Dakote walked out on Candice allowing the faces to pick up the win. We will hear more about Dakota later in the episode.
Pat McAfee/Adam Cole Recap
No grade for this because all I wanted to say on this is that if there was any doubt as to whether the stuff between them was a work or a shoot, this settles that.
Johnny Gargano vs Roderick Strong
It is always a wonderful sight to see two technicians work the ring and this is what we were blessed with this week. This was a great match and the rare heel versus heel as well. I like that neither man tried to be the default babyface as well and both worked the ring as heels. I can imagine that the PC trainees in the crowd were taking this all in because the two veterans gave them a masterclass on how to work the ring. Great counters, submissions, strikes and everything in between were had in this match. I had no idea who would come out on top in this match and both men looked to have the possible win at various points in the match. This was a fantastic match and I wouldn’t mind seeing these two go for 20-30 minutes. Once again, great match and Gargano would end up getting the advantage late and picking up the win.
Dakota Kai Backstage
Remember how I said we would get to Dakota Kai later, well here it is. Dakota was interviewed about the tag match and how she left Candice all by herself. Dakota showed no remorse for it and said she is only looking out for herself. She said she wants to be the next challenger for Io Shirai, and she feels like she is the rightful person for that role. It seemed like that was that until a familiar person walked into frame. Rhea Ripley returned, with freshly bleached blonde hair, and took issue with Dakota declaring herself to be the number one contender. Rhea said she should be next, and Dakota did not like hearing that. Dakota would tell Rhea she would be taking this up with William Regal and Rhea was fine with that. It would be revealed later in the episode that the two will square off next week in a number one contender’s match and that should be a good one.
Timothy Thatcher Backstage
Thatcher is really coming along nicely, and he is showing more of his personality with each passing week. He gave his thoughts on the upcoming triple threat match and what he plans to do to Finn Balor and Dexter Lumis. During the interview, Lumis would appear in the background and seemed to be okay with Thatcher saying he would inflict pain onto him. Thatcher is confident he will win and bring pain to his opponents as well. Lumis looks ready as well and I cannot wait to see how the main event plays out.
The Undisputed Era Backstage
This may have been my favorite segment of the night and it really is for one reason. Kyle O’Reilly has made his return and he came to whip the boys back into shape. He doesn’t like what has become of the Undisputed Era in his absence and he wants them all to remember who they were. They are the stable that was running NXT and it is time for them to remind everybody of this. Kyle is what the Undisputed Era has been missing and I love to see him back. Adam Cole is great as the leader by Kyle adds so much because he has charisma that is nearly on par with Cole. We shall see what they do to remind people of who they are.
Shotzi Blackheart vs Mercedes Martinez
I have not been shy in saying how much I love Shotzi because I think she is absolutely a future star. She can work the ring, has charisma for days and has a gimmick that can easily connect with the audience. I knew she would probably be fed to Mercedes here and that is what happened. Shotzi did put up a fight but Mercedes would end up being too much for her at the end of the day. I also wouldn’t say this made Shotzi look bad at all because Mercedes is clearly being built as the new “big bad” in the women’s division of NXT so she will be laying some of the women to the wayside in her build. I will say that it does wonders for the Robert Stone Brand and adds some legitimacy to the brand and Stone himself because he is a good comedy manager but adding a bruiser like Mercedes adds wrinkles to him as a manager. Solid work from both women and Mercedes would win here and I wonder if this is the only match we will see from these two against each other.
Ridge Holland Hype Package
I will fully admit that I am not familiar with Ridge Holland because I have not watched much of NXT UK. I have seen their TakeOvers but not the regular programming. He seems to have a good look about him and it is interesting he is coming over from NXT UK and he will be coming for the vacant North American Championship.
Keith Lee In-Ring
This segment totally deserves the high marks because Keith Lee was phenomenal here. He came out as serious as I have ever seen him, and he simply had one thing on his mind. He wants Karrion Kross because of what he did to Dominik Dijakovic. Lee did mention how Dijak is his own man and he chose to have that happen, but it still doesn’t mean he is okay with it. He wants to beat down Kross and he wants only him. I gave a very simplified version of what Lee said because it is so darn good and showed he can turn it up just like that. Cameron Grimes would end up coming out and kind of made fun of Dominik and made a claim to take the title off Lee. That didn’t sit well with Lee and he would beat him down for a bit until Scarlett would show up on the stage. Scarlett would direct Lee to the screen where Kross appeared. Kross said it was Lee’s fault for not intervening when he should have and that he wants the NXT Championship. He said Lee could make it easy and give him the match or he can make it hard which would cause harm to others in NXT. Grimes tried to sneak attack Lee and Lee would destroy him with a Spirit Bomb. Lee would then say he will take on Kross anywhere, anytime because he wants a piece of him. William Regal would appear later on to say that Kross and Lee do not make the match and Kross will have to earn a match against Lee. This program is building nicely, and I am loving it.
Imperium vs Ever-Rise
I knew Imperium was going to win this match easy when I saw they were facing Ever-Rise. Nothing against Ever-Rise but they are the jobber team of NXT. It isn’t the worst position to be in, but it makes it hard to take you seriously. Ever-Rise does have a good set of moves but none of them were a match for Imperium. Imperium would end up winning rather easily and would take to the mic after the match. They didn’t say anything though as the Undisputed Era would hit the ring and annihilate both Aichner and Barthel in the ring. They clearly want their gold back and will start with the NXT Tag Team Championship. They will have a match with Imperium next week for the titles and that should be a great match. It will also be Kyle O’Reilly’s first match in quite a bit since the pandemic started so I will be interested to see how he looks in the ring. The beat down at the end is really why the grade is as high as it is because the match certainly doesn’t get it.
Bronson Reed Vignette
Like with what NXT did with Swerve, they gave us some backstory on Reed this week. I like this because it gives us a reason to care about the superstars they are building and creates that relatability for them. Reed spoke about his journey as a wrestler and how he was able to make it to NXT. Good stuff here and I am really pulling for Bronson to be something in NXT.
Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs Jake Atlas
This was a really solid match and a nice showcase for the cruiserweights. I have been a fan of Swerve for a minute now, so it is good to see him get to work more in NXT. Atlas is someone that I was not familiar with, but he won me over during the tournament and I could see him developing into a nice talent if they invest in him. Both men are great workers, so it was no surprise that this was a good match. I love the swagger that Swerve carries around in the ring because it just oozes all over the place in the best of ways. Atlas held his own here, but this was Swerve’s house tonight as he would end up picking up the win. They are building Swerve nicely and I am thinking we will see a match between him and Santos Escobar for the title down the line.
Damian Priest Backstage
Solid interview segment from Priest here as he learned who his opponents are for the triple threat match next week. He will be in a match with Oney Lorcan and the debuting Ridge Holland and I liked that Priest’s said he isn’t taking them lightly. He knows what they bring to the table and he won’t overlook them. That doesn’t mean that he will not be doing everything he can to win because that is what he plans on doing. He is ready for that match next week and to win the ladder match to become the new North American Championship. I think Ridge will win the match, but Priest should be the favorite for the triple threat next week.
Lumis vs Thatcher vs Balor
One thing I noticed during Lumis’ entrance is that he seems to have new theme music. I was a huge fan of his previous one and I am not quite sure how to feel about this one. This was a fun match and did a great job in highlighting the strengths of each man. Lumis used his power and surprising agility throughout the match and hit a dive over the top rope in the same way that Ricochet did. It did look like there was an edit there but that didn’t detract for how impressive it looked. Balor picked his spots and tried to use that veteran mindset to get the advantage whenever he could. I was a bit worried that Thatcher’s ground game would feel out of place here, but they found a way to make it work and work very well I may add. Thatcher used his submission skills to neutralize each man at various points and that was nice to see. It looked like Thatcher was going to make Balor tap when Lumis would come in and put Thatcher to sleep with his own submission. I had no idea who would win this match and I was glad to see it was Lumis. I really hope the ladder match at TakeOver will be used for the up and coming talents and give them the platform to show what they can do. It will be a perfect showcase and I hope the trend continues with the triple threat qualifiers.
Overall, really fun episode of NXT with not much to complain about. I guess my only real complaint is the Imperium/Ever-Rise match because it was pretty much a squash, but I enjoyed the Undisputed Era coming down to beat them down after. The Lee promo was straight fire and I am loving the build between Lee and Kross. The opening tag match was a lot of fun and so was the main event. The match of the night had to be Strong/Gargano because that was a showcase of two of the best in NXT showing what they can do in the ring. All in all, good episode of NXT and they are doing a solid build to TakeOver XXX. I am Sovereign S.A.M. and I will see you all around the WRC.