By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
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NXT TV Hits
Pete Dunne vs. Roderick Strong: It’s tough to remember a match where these two haven’t delivered (the one that got close to not delivering was when they teamed up against Sanity that one time). Strong is an instant spark plug with his backbreakers and Dunne has maintained his brutal nature. Both men have acclimated well to being on the other side of the heel-babyface fence with Strong still looking credible and Dunne staying true to what brought him to the dance in the ring. Because of this seeming rushed at first, because this was non-title, because Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly were lingering around, because of last week’s Cole vs. Oney Lorcan match, amongst other factors, you had to know that this wasn’t going to be a full on match and we are about to see more between these two. They did set up an odd faction war between Undisputed Era vs. Dunne, Lorcan, and Danny Burch. With Mustache Mountain around, it would have made sense to unite the British Strong Style faction (from Progress Wrestling).
Bianca Belair vs. Candice LeRae: A good credible win for Belair with the announcers doing a solid job going above and beyond in giving Candice LeRae the excuse of her not having her head in the game. LeRae had a solid night in emoting her concern for Johnny Gargano and she took that emotion to the ring. Looking at the spoilers after this episode aired, I think this was taped out of order with the Gargano beatdown angle happening after this match so extra props to LeRae for selling an angle that didn’t happen yet. Back to Belair, I continue be impressed by her Herculean strength and that deadlift Snake Eyes was a good showcase of it. I would like to see her pick a new finisher because the Reverse Power Bomb looks like it should hurt her more than her opponent. Not to mention, all of her other moves are moves other wrestlers would use as finishers.
Dakota Kai: This was a very intriguing press conference segment because Kai showed a good amount of emotional range in a short amount of time. She started off as excited and optimistic. When the “journalist” brought up Shayna Baszler, her optimism turned to fear and anxiety. When Vanessa Bourne showed up, Kai went to cocky and confident. That’s three distinct emotional states that could have come off as unfocused but all three shifts made total sense given the effort NXT has put into defining Dakota Kai in recent weeks.
Kona Reeves vs. Patrick Scott: My expectations were low for this match given the goofy ass vignette that we saw for three weeks for Kona. Thankfully, Reeves looked really good in the short amount of time he had in the ring with a nice amount of striking and aggression. Props to the enhancement guy for selling well for the larger Kona Reeves.
Street Profits vs. TM-61: The possible heel turn was unexpected but a nice twist for an act that never has gotten any traction despite Nick Miller and Shane Thorne having a lot of hype behind them. I see this heel turn as a good way to develop a personality for Nick Miller, who has been lacking in that department on-air. Making TM-61 heels will also give the tag team division a nice complement to the top heel Undisputed Era faction. I can see TM-61 getting better heat if done right because Undisputed Era can play the “cool heel” card a bit too much sometimes. Another benefit of TM-61 turning is this turn can lead to a logical program with Street Profits due to TM61 screwing them over. The Street Profits are one of those teams on the roster who are still developing but sooner of later they have to be put in a real program. The Profits bounced back after an ugly outing in the Dusty Classic (I believe Montez Ford was injured). Ford continues to develop in the ring nicely and showed off some good offense in this match.
Lacey Evans: A minor Hit for the change in look and hair style. Evans is a work in progress and the 1920s pinup gimmick lost a lot of steam really quick. The “Rosie the Riveter” persona was a bit strange as a heel. The closer she invokes her military background the better. There’s a bit of hope in this Hit in that I hope this leads to an actual feud with Kairi Sane and not just a one-off match which has been the story of Lacey’s NXT Career, a series of one-off match feuds. A feud with Sane will also allow Sane to develop and get her used to the United States style.
Percy Watson: Another minor Hit, but he started to show a bit more personality. This is probably due to Nigel McGuinness missing the tapings and Percy was required to be less passive, but it was in this episode where Percy tried to deliver exposition rather than just nod and agree with Mauro Ranallo. His call of the Kona Reeves match stood out to me where we got to hear a throwback to his “Showtime” Percy Watson persona. If Watson wants to differentiate himself, he needs to start invoking that “Showtime” character because he was good at playing it.
NXT TV Misses
“The Finest” Kona Reeves: The match and the aggression was solid. This character is the opposite of solid. Right now it sucks. No shot against Kona. From Shinsuke Nakamura to TJ Perkins, I’m always rooting for fellow Asian and Pacific Islanders to make it big. I respect him trying to make this oddball thing work, but it looks like someone assigned him this character and he’s just trying his best to play it. This is a bootleg version of John Morrison or Tyler Breeze in that it’s a flamboyant heel persona. It doesn’t help that Patrick Clark is doing a much better job at playing the flamboyant heel, which makes this “Finest” character both inferior and redundant. If they really want to be stubborn with this I can see a way to make it work. Rather than keep course with this goofy character, maybe they should tweak it by incorporating some of that aggression he showed off in the ring. Instead of “quirky and flamboyant” maybe he should try out “delusional and psychotic”. I thought that with the positive aspects shown in the ring, he should go to the back and watch some of the work Cody Rhodes did as the “Undashing” character back in the day when Rey Mysterio broke his nose. Of course, Cody Rhodes is a a bit more eloquent, but Kona has the benefit of being in a developmental system where he his allowed to experiment.