By John Moore
Drew McIntyre: This was the promo I was waiting for McIntyre to cut since he joined NXT. It was almost exactly the same as the promo he gave several times in TNA (the highlight from the TNA one was when he pointed out a dude in the crowd, he was shocked to find a man named “Ashley”). I’ve heard this promo a ton of times from him where at first it took time to digest due to how sappy he can get. Once you get used to how emotional he gets, you find out that his sappy promos add to his charm. Where he improved this time in executing this promo is adding a defense to his “Chosen One” past and not living up to the name. McIntyre may be the best babyface wrestler in the world. He’s a guy who can cut one hell of a face promo, he’s great at working from behind even though he towers over most of his opponents, and he has great matches with everyone.
Velveteen Dream vs. Cezar Bononi: Again, I’m not giving this a Hit solely on “Bononi” being my favorite name to pronounce in NXT. This might be Bononi’s best showing in NXT to date with him getting to show a bit of big-man fire. Patrick Clark continues to impress me in the ring when he shows off his mean streak as Velveteen Dream. He executes his punches like he’s trying to damage his opponent rather than putting on a show. Clark also seems to be making progressions towards a weakness I pointed out with him before where he’s starting to alter his voice to fit the character (Similar to Cody Rhodes in how he makes subtle tweaks to his voice when heel or babyface). The huge looming negative still lies within the Velveteen Dream gimmick. I still don’t think it has staying power given how he still comes off as a Prince cosplayer rather than being inspired by Prince. It doesn’t help that Percy Watson is looming around on commentary and Nigel McGuinness legitimately pointed out in past weeks that the two characters are similar. Watson was simply much better at playing that flamboyant character than Clark is. Clark’s finisher “Purple Rainmaker” is a bit clever, but in sounding like New Japan Pro Wrestling star Kazuchika Okada’s move it’s also eye-rolling.
Ember Moon vs. Lei’D Tapa: This was the type of squash match that Moon needed after coming back from her injury. It’s much better than putting her back in a never ending feud against Peyton Royce and Billie Kay. Tapa got to show off her power on the onset, which kept the match credible. Tapa may be improved in the ring, but she still has work to do from a character standpoint. Tapa was just too cartoony in her mannerisms. Moon’s post-match promo was better than the ones she’s been giving at the Performance Center. She was less mopey and more mystic this time around. The only problem is she used too much wordage. She actually would have said a lot more and told a better story if she only said “I want Asuka!” and subtracted all the other stuff. I still think Moon should try to emulate Gail Kim’s 2015-16 character, which focused less on talking and more on ass kicking.
Aleister Black: This is a minor Hit that goes to NXT for giving a post-debut vignette. It was essentially his debut vignette with clips from his squash matches spliced in. It showed a sense of progression with his character. It also helped Black build character by establishing that he has a gothic background. This is a simple technique that I’ve seen used well in Lucha Underground and something that NXT/WWE can use to help build/rebuild established characters.
Kassius Ohno vs. Hideo Itami: Ohno is similar to McIntyre in that he can have a great match against anyone. Hideo Itami is one of NXT’s most improved talents coming off of those two huge injuries where we were questioning Itami’s future in NXT. Itami finally found a way to differentiate himself in the ring and is showing glimpses of the KENTA of old. I loved the execution of the heel turn in this match because of the story they told. Itami’s frustration built up so much that he just said F This and went with the ball kick. Itami went on to perform a merciless and excessive beatdown that helped position Ohno as a sympathetic figure. Itami isn’t a tall dude, yet he came off as a huge monster! This monster status was also helped by him lifting up the heavyweight Ohno.
Authors of Pain and Sanity: This was the strangest feud that NXT has decided to go with heading into a Takeover because it makes no damn sense with two heel teams. Authors of Pain are the hotter team right now so I guess they are the de facto babyface? Maybe? Alexander was beat up a lot and Dain is a cool monster so I can find an argument that they are babyface too. The angle they did with Sanity beating up the jobbers was fine, this feud is just too odd to get behind yet. This seems to be a trend with Sanity feuds since they were created.