By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
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NXT TV Hits
Johnny Gargano Promo: They set this promo up as a “new era” of NXT, similar to what they did last year after WrestleMania. While they didn’t do the full-on reboot of the show like they did last year, they set this episode up with Johnny Gargano establishing himself as the face of NXT while also concluding his feuds with Tommaso Ciampa and Andrade Almas. The theme of this episode seemed to be NXT tying up loose ends. Gargano wasn’t the most eloquent in this promo, but he comes off like he’s speaking from the heart which resonates with the crowd well.
Lars Sullivan vs. Killian Dain in a No DQ match: This match was much better than their last encounter, which wasn’t even truly a match and more so a setup for a pre-takeover staredown. This was an old school hardcore match with the bloody face of Dain adding to the hardcore visual. It wasn’t just hardcore stuff as both men came to play with their strengths. Dain is a 300-plus pound dude but he flies around like guys at 250 pounds. He provided the right amount of movement for the more powerhouse Sullivan, who is a great monster. Mauro Ranallo goes a bit overboard with the nicknames, but most of those nicknames are good comparisons to Sullivan, who hasn’t had a bad match to my recollection. He squashes guys who you expect to be squashed and he has great wars with the high work rate guys. A lot of big men like him either get lost or winded in the position he’s in. Sullivan is focused and has great cardio when they put him in the longer matches. Let’s not forget, Sullivan had no pro wrestling experience before NXT so it’s amazing to see his progression.
Candice LeRae vs. Zelina Vega: This wasn’t your women’s Takeover classic as it only clocked in at about three and a half minutes. That said, this was a fun little match that tied up a loose end nicely with LeRae finally getting her hands on Vega. This seemed like a match that should have been at the last Takeover, but I understand not splitting the crowd between two Gargano storylines with Vega and Almas on one side and Tommaso Ciampa on the other. It also seemed like this was the swan song for Vega and Andrade Almas before they go to the main roster, as Gargano moved on to Aleister Black. Not to mention, they didn’t have Almas say anything about a rematch.
Ricochet vs. Fabian Aichner: NXT does meaningful squashes really well. Ricochet utilized the time allotted to him very well by showing off a few of his signature moves. Aichner is a good opponent for Ricochet to show off all he can do because Aichner is a high-flying heavyweight, which allows Ricochet to fly and show is ability to sell power moves. Aichner is someone who NXT needs to get out of the enhancement part of the card. The guy’s just too talented. Kona Reeves is fine, but Aichner would have been better to showcase first because he’s further along in being TV ready.
Ricochet: A minor hit for his post match promo. His mic work is going to be put under a microscope by those familiar with his work outside of WWE. Ricochet was so not-great outside of WWE to the point that Lucha Underground made him a silent protagonist with Konnan doing all of his mic work. Once Konnan’s character was killed on the show, Ricochet’s Prince Puma started cutting promos and they weren’t great. This post-match promo wasn’t a mind-blowing promo but it was decent. Ricochet has had more soundbites in NXT than I would have expected and he’s improved immensely on the mic. Is it simply confidence? So far so good with his talking and hopefully he keeps this string of decent talking up because that’s the one aspect of his game that everyone saw as a weakness.
The War Raiders vs. JC and Chris: Credit to the Deuce and Domino cosplay crew for bumping well for the team formerly known as War Machine. Other than that, this was your standard squash. Standard squashes are effective. Not everyone watches Ring of Honor or New Japan Pro Wrestling so establishing what the Raiders can do is important. Man. Did I just call them “The Raiders”? That makes me think of the NFL team that plays 15 miles south of where I’m currently living.
Shayna Baszler: How great is Shayna Baszler at being an antagonist? Her backstage segment was effective in establishing her as the big dog of the women’s locker room and essentially set up all of her upcoming possible feuds in one segment. Dakota Kai seems to be the person established as her long-term adversary due to their past history and interaction here. Based off of the last few months of vignettes, if they want to go there, they can set up a Baszler vs. Sereena Deeb feud down the road based off all the TV time Deeb has been getting via these Shayna Baszler backstage segments. The explanation for the camera being in the women’s locker room was a nice attention to detail. Shayna bullied the cameraman to document her intimidation ploy. NXT usually does a good job of explaining the purpose for the roaming camera.
NXT TV Misses
“The Finest” Kona Reeves: Maybe this gimmick will grow on me down the road but so far it seems a bit lame. I liked what I saw from Kona Reeves when he was enhancing people. He had good size and good moves. This gimmick? Well… It seems like Tyler Breeze 2.0 and a redundancy to the flamboyant Velveteen Dream character. While I do like his hairstyle, the hair and overall look makes him look like a taller Hiromu Takahashi. At least it was only a vignette and we’ll see what this gimmick can do in two weeks.