By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
NXT TV Hits
Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano: A bit of a bait and switch with the cancelling the presumably huge Aleister Black vs. Johnny Gargano match in favor of Ciampa beating the hell out of Gargano. Forget that, this was a great beatdown with Ciampa getting any heat he lost right back to him. Ciampa is so great at soaking up the good heel heat from the crowd. That Super Celtic Cross off the stage was sick in a good and disgusting (yet safe) way. The best part of this segment was the stretcher job where NXT did that thing where they end up building up a storyline universe rather than the WWE main roster method of coming off as a play with skits. To have the NXT roster look in awe and worry at the stretchered Gargano was a nice touch. To have Kassius Ohno walk in to comfort LeRae, helps make this NXT environment seem interconnected while making Ohno out to be a good guy. The sadistic wave on top of the production truck was another added touch. They even covered their bases with Aleister Black not running out for the save because he was on his way to the ring and the first he saw of Gargano was Gargano on a stretcher (why Black was walking so slow and so far is another issue, but that might just be picking nits).
Adam Cole vs. Oney Lorcan: Lorcan’s matches are consistently Hits. Lorcan is in an interesting situation where he has great matches and looks good in such matches, but he always loses. I did call him teflon around a year ago when he was at least beating Andrade Almas in an underrated feud, but he’s accumulated a ton of loses since then and I think the only person he’s ever beat since then was Danny Burch. That said, it was short, sweet, hard hitting as usual, and it enhanced the other guy in Adam Cole. The pre-match promo was well done as each Undisputed Era got a chance to shine and Roderick Strong got to cut a decent heel promo that explained his actions. The promo also made Strong come off as irrational, which is what a heel should come off as. Cole continues to strive at his wormish ways by joking about how everybody beats Lorcan without help, only to beat Lorcan with the help of Roderick Strong. Lots of good stuff contained in the promo and match segment.
Kyle O’Reilly: At one point, I was a huge proponent of Kyle O’Reilly playing the role of the MMA machine babyface, Jason Powell repeatedly brought up to me and the other staffers that Kyle O’Reilly reminds him of actor Matthew Lillard and that would lead to him being a next level heel of sorts. I didn’t see it at first because I thought he played the Davey Richards type babyface fine enough, but after looking at this guy’s work closely over the past half year or so, O’Reilly as become one of the most hilarious heel acts in all of WWE. He’s like a walking Easter Egg where you really have to pay attention to what he’s doing and it leads to a funny payoff. Of course, he did his signature championship air guitar again. The highlight of O’Reilly’s night was the creative distraction sequence where he runs out to the ring with a medic to cause the distraction on Lorcan. For some added touch, O’Reilly goes over-the-top hammy in doing the non-kayfabe injury “X sign” in exaggerated fashion despite the medic not confirming the severity. Even more O’Reilly hilarity ensued when Roderick Strong confirmed the cheap shot was done to Lorcan, O’Reilly sold Adam Cole being fine like a miracle just happened by yelling “he’s ok? Yeah! He’s ok!!!” with the crowd reacting like a miracle just happened too. My recommendation would be to keep one eye on O’Reilly during Undisputed Era segments and be rewarded.
Heavy Machinery vs. Tino Sabbatelli and Riddick Moss: It’s always good to see the feel-good team of Heavy Machinery wrestle. Does Otis Dozovic even bend his legs when he walks? The guy is an extreme ball of energy that you can’t help but smile at. I’ve said it in the past month or so, but Sabbatelli and Moss have been improving at all points in their act and might be ready to take the next step. More on them in a bit. Back to HM, I liked their challenge to War Raiders as a direct response to War Raiders debuting in the middle of their last match. The promo was campy as hell but it was the fun kind of camp. As for Sabbatelli and Moss, I hope this is more of a step in their evolution and not a true breakup based on the way Mauro Ranallo sold it as Sabbatelli returning the favor to a misstep made by Moss in the past. These two really could use each other to cover the other’s weakness even though they are getting better at mitigating those weaknesses.
Women’s Division Video Packages: With the call-ups of the Iconic Duo (now called IIconics), Ember Moon, Absolution, and the Riott Squad, the NXT women’s division is in need of a reset. NXT ran a series of video packages on this episode which gave each woman a quote on how they are approaching handling the division and heel champion. The best part of this division reset is that they are building the entire division around Shayna Baszler as the leader and final evil boss that someone is going to have to overcome. We also found out that at least for now, Nikki Cross is still in the division and probably settled as the de facto top babyface. I’m going to assume Nikki Cross isn’t going to be the person who will topple Baszler and she’s there more so to give Baszler a formidable equal while they groom someone like Dakota Kai or Kairi Sane to overcome the bully overlord of the division. They might even swing Candice LeRae into that spot as well given how she was spotlighted during the video packages.
Dakota Kai and Shayna Baszler: This segment was extremely well done and is setting up Dakota Kai for a really big push down the road. Kai played the bully victim not only really well, but really realistic. What made the Johnny Gargano build so great was when they would tackle issues like mental health or depression. Bullying victims getting anxiety is a real thing in this world and Dakota Kai sold that very well by not wanting to be in the same locker room as Shayna Baszler or even talking about her. The segment escalated even further by having Shayna Baszler walk in and crush Kai’s heart by telling her how Kai traveled from overseas to chase her dreams only to find out that the dream is actually a nightmare because Shayna is inhabiting it. This was some really deep stuff and the moment is going to be great when Dakota Kai finally topples the evil overlord of NXT. Baszler has hit home runs in every segment she is involved in. Believe it or not, I think Baszler can be a huge babyface down the road too because Xavier Woods recently did a two-part interview with her on his YouTube page where she comes off as the Dakota Kai there.
NXT TV Misses
Aleister Black vs. Eric Young: The match was pretty decent but it lacked any sort of drama due to Young not having much in-ring credibility in NXT. I’ve seen EY be credible, but that was in TNA. Young also cut this really strange and transcendental promo before the match which Black also sold with a “what the hell?” look. This was also completely random. I liked that Black was calling out Tommaso Ciampa, but Sanity coming out was completely random. They’ll probably say that Sanity is just trying to create chaos but even that is a pull. Chaos is just such a vague word and I think the word they might want to actually use is “entropy” instead of “chaos”. Entropy better explains the Sanity modus operandi in my opinion. The match was also too short, which hurts the “Bobby Roode style” of match where it starts off very slow. Sanity is gone after this I assume because after the match Black kicked them all with Black Masses to literally kick them out of NXT. WWE did the Adrade Almas and Zelina Vega sendoff better last week.