By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
NXT TV Hits
Keith Lee vs. Marcel Barthel: A good debut not only for Keith Lee, but also for Marcel Barthel who most wrestling fans may know as Axel Dieter Jr. The response from many after the match is how impressive Marcel looks and I had the exact same reaction when I first saw him in PROGRESS as a part of the Ring Kampf stable with Big Daddy Walter. Barthel is the epitome of a guy with a “good look” and he’s the all-around complete package on first impressions. Without saying a word, you know he’s a scary German dude. One thing I would have held back on is his overuse of the world “nein” during the match because he didn’t need to do that to show people he’s German. Lee only showed a taste of what he could do, which is totally the approach they should be taking with him. Introduce his offense slowly and have him wow the audience with his highly athletic moves.
The Velveteen Dream Experience: With the multi-camera setup and usage of drone cameras, this reeked of being a Jeremy Borash cinematic production. It was a pretty fun cinematic. I did say in my initial thoughts that this was an underwhelming segment, and I’ll stick with that given my high expectations from two over-the-top personalities. Velveteen Dream handled his end well. Back when the Velveteen Dream character was doing the cheap Prince ripoff and wasn’t that good, I recommended that he look at some of the work that comedian Dave Chapelle did with the Prince character because I thought that was a nice comedic twist on the Prince gimmick. Since then, Dream has moved away from being a ripoff and been more of a Prince-inspired gimmick, but here he completely went into Dave Chapelle mode and it was awesome. EC3 was good, but the disappointment ultimately lies with him because he’s capable of much more. He was in fight promotor mode rather than playing off of Dream’s antics. We’ve seen him do masterful jobs in Impact Wrestling in playing off people, so he can do it, but he limited himself here. That drawback aside, this segment still got a smile out of me.
Kassius Ohno vs. Adrian Jauode: A personally comedic Hit from me initially due to Adrian Jauode’s look. He came out dressed as Ryu from Street Fighter complete with the ripped Karate Gi. Then he goes into Tekken’s Eddy Gordo mode with the capoeira fighting stance. On a more serious note, he was here to do the job to Kassius Ohno and he did that well enough. Ohno has popped up again in recent weeks after being missing for a long period from television. They’re doing that thing again where they build him up with squash matches only to have him lose to the next big indie signing. I totally expect him to lose to Keith Lee at the Los Angeles Takeover show and it would take a bit to make me think otherwise. The commentators are telling an interesting story with him on commentary by saying that he’s tired of being a curtain jerker. Seeing is believing on Ohno getting a real push only because his pushes in NXT recently have been so formula. Right now, he’s in the role that Andrade Almas was in when things weren’t working out for Almas. Where there is hope is that once Tom Phillips started telling a story with Almas on commentary, I had an inkling that there was a huge push in store for him. Hopefully Mauro’s commentary is an analog to that, but I have less confidence in them doing that with Ohno. Again, seeing is believing.
Adam Cole: A minor Hit for a simple and effective beatdown. Cole and the Undisputed Era didn’t do anything we haven’t seen in pro wrestling before, but the beatdown during the entrance is a simple and effective way of keeping a feud hot. It was also a nice touch to have Cole emerge from the Ricochet custom spotlight which made for a cool visual. Bonus points to Cole and the Undisputed Era after the show for their cameo during the Aleister Black mystery attack where he and the Era fled the scene blaring the Undisputed Era entrance theme on their car radio.
NXT TV Misses
Aleister Black vs. Johnny Gargano: This was another common trope we see in pro wrestling, but this was done in the most rudimentary fashion. The show looked hot on paper with Black vs. Gargano, Ricochet in a match, and Lee vs. Barthel. Only Lee and Barthel delivered and that was in a showcase. The other two were bait and switches and this was the simplest way to book the Takeover Triple Threat match. Simple isn’t always bad as I mentioned with the Adam Cole beatdown, but this segment really didn’t have to happen as evidenced from the crowd knowing exactly what everyone else knew and that this would lead to a Triple Threat at Takeover Brooklyn. A William Regal performed Jack Tunney Style vignette might have done a better job in place of this if we could have gotten two more minutes of in-ring. Of course, the triple threat isn’t happening anymore due to Black’s injury and it’ll be interesting to see how they edit next week’s NXT episode.
Taynara Conti vs. Vanessa Bourne: A good effort from both developmental prospects and I’ve been particularly impressed by Bourne’s improvement. Ultimately the reason for this match happening was utterly confusing. Of all the NXT roster, why are Conti and Bourne getting the only qualifying match when everyone else was simply awarded a spot? Maybe you can postulate that the Mae Young is for up-and-comers only, but Conti and Bourne have been featured on NXT TV and even in the Mae Young Classic already so that reasoning will only define down Conti and Bourne. Another detractor is this match, while decent, wasn’t anything to write home about and it contained some sloppy segments. If they were going to have a qualifier, then why not have Madison Rayne, Jinny, Kacy Catanzaro, Sienna, or any other wrestlers unfamiliar with the NXT audience wrestle a developmental prospect to introduce them to the NXT audience?
Nikki Cross vs. Amber Nova: Not a bad match quality-wise and former Impact Knockout Amber Nova looked pretty good in her NXT match. The problem here is we’ve seen this pattern with Nikki Cross before. They put Cross in a big feud and then suddenly relegate her to enhancement matches because they don’t have a storyline for her. I expect her to be called up after SummerSlam to Smackdown, but this match didn’t have to happen.
Overall Show: This show wasn’t terrible by any means. I was entertained by a lot of it; but even in the good parts there was a looming bit of disappointment throughout the show. This is probably due to the high standard of NXT shows throughout the last few years, but every once in a while, they are due for an underwhelming episode. While every segment served a purpose, there wasn’t that high efficiency we usually get from NXT segments. Ultimately, this was the most skippable episode of NXT in recent memory.