By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
NXT TV Hits
The Undisputed Era vs. Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan, and Danny Burch: This match had high expectations given all of the talent concentrated in it. It lived up to expectations and stood out as a Takeover-worthy match, not a Takeover main event, but a Takeover undercard match given how this is a grudge match. The match wasn’t long but it didn’t have to be. Everyone got to stand out in a good way. Burch and Lorcan were hard hitting. Dunne was his usual bruiserweight self. Cole was a worm. Strong was the spark plug. Kyle O’Reilly is just great. Credit to O’Reilly for the MMA ground game he pulled on Burch. Credit to Strong for integrating heel mannerisms into his in-ring work. Everything fell into place here. It wasn’t the greatest thing ever by any means. It was just fun trios madness.
Heavy Machinery: This may not be Hit for all, but Otis’s sound effects make me crack the hell up. His Mother’s Day speech was hilarious too as he talked about how he took his mother out to eat a thick and juicy steak. Then he proceeded to get lost in thinking about steak.
Raul Mendoza: Mendoza had his best sequence on offense to date and I think the guy is totally ready to move up to the next level. This guy always stood out as different. He may not be the smoothest luchador like an Aerostar, but he is more of a “practical” luchador. He kinda reminds me of the positive aspects of Hunico or even a Dragon Lee. As I said in my written review, this guy has main roster potential if they put a mask on him. The only caveat I have is Vince McMahon not knowing how to book luchadores. You may have noticed that I didn’t put Mendoza’s opponent in this section. More on that in a bit.
Velveteen Dream vs. Ricochet: The only downside in this encounter was the placement on this show and card. Dream vs. Ricochet has Takeover main or secondary main event written all over it. In the three or so minutes, these two showed that they can live to the hype. Ricochet is the pro wrestling version of Dante from Devil May Cry in all of the inhuman acrobatic stuff he can pull off. Nigel McGuinness did a good job getting a point that I try to in my reviews in that Ricochet does do a great job pulling out his acrobatics in practical situations and his Superman pose is a mind game and confidence ploy. We know what we have in Ricochet, but Velveteen Dream can do no wrong at this point. He rises to the level of his high-level opponents and shines bright. The best part of his act is that he doesn’t forget to bring Velveteen Dream into the ring rather than keep him tucked away in promos. The finish was what should have happened as well. It set up a handicap match that I’m looking forward to based off of seeing a very similar handicap match in Lucha Underground.
No Contest: Thumbs up to Kayla Braxton and the NXT creative team for announcing that a match ended in a “No Contest”. It’s so odd not writing “apparent no contest” in my review because so many wrestling companies, including WWE, blow off this simple detail.
Nikki Cross: It’s great seeing Cross back in an actual program after wandering around for months just doing squash matches and even being off television for long stretches of time. This Cross and Dakota Kai relationship reminds me of a similar relationship in Impact Wrestling between Rosemary and Allie. Rosemary and Nikki Cross are just so good at being characters inside and outside of the ring. Bonus points for Nikki Cross giving an anime-esque inspirational speech to Dakota Kai, which will feed into Kai’s development towards trying to topple evil overlord Shayna Baszler.
Lacey Evans: Everything I’ve been asking for from her appeared on this episode. Well… almost everything. I’m still waiting for that natural sounding promo from her. Evans did a great job with her look and in-ring in this episode. The new music wasn’t memorable but it was needed to make viewers forget of her stale 1920s pinup gimmick. Now she’s keeping the “entitled” part, but pivoting to her military background. She also looked great in the ring in beating up the former Impact Knockout.
Brandi Lauren: A minor hit stemming from reviewing a ton of her matches and seeing her on this show. She was Impact’s resident enhancement wrestler for the Knockouts and did the same here. She did a good job selling for Evans. Here’s hoping that WWE takes a second look at Lauren as a long term potential prospect. She has a good “girl next door” look that’s different enough from Dakota Kai. She reminds me of having a similar charm to Tough Enough winner Sara Lee, except Lauren can actually wrestle.
NXT TV Misses
Tommaso Ciampa and Candice LeRae: This is only a minor Miss by comparison to Ciampa’s past promos. It was fine in progressing this storyline and I could have easily have given it a Hit, but at the end of this episode this segment would end up being forgotten. It was a bit strange too. Who chants “Mess him up”? I’m fine with PG chants but that was forced PG. “Beat him up” would have been better. Even Ciampa sold that chant as odd. This was an okay segment, just not a standout one. It would have helped if either LeRae was better at acting (she isn’t bad, just not selling this concerned wife thing as well as she can). Some LeRae vignettes would help.
“The Finest” Kona Reeves: The guy has a good look and good size. He’s even pretty good in the ring with an aggressive style. His gimmick still screams bootleg and bush league. Not only that, but it got worse after his last showing. His entrance comes off as extremely rehearsed (which is a problem with a lot of the newer WWE Performance Center entrances). Another annoying part of the act is how he feels the need to say the word “finest” every few seconds. He got good heat to start but it later turned to apathy, which is not a good emotion to invoke from a crowd. We’ve seen people turn it around and I’m hoping that Kona does it because there’s something there. They might find a way to make this thing work, but at this point it’s very low level.