By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
NXT TV Hits
Velveteen Dream vs. Lars Sullivan: A nice clash of styles. Dream was his usual plucky self while Sullivan brought the violence and aggression. The finish was screwy, but the best case scenario of the many options because both men need to be protected. This was also a successful test run with Velveteen Dream as a full-on fan favorite. Before this episode, I was almost sure that Ciampa was leaving Los Angeles with his championship, but after that reaction he got at Full Sail, WWE might be tempted to pop the LA crowd with a Velveteen Dream title victory.
Johnny Gargano: His promo was a bit cheesy and I’m never a huge fan of the selfie approach, but with Johnny being a bit unhinged now the low quality selfie thing works. Gargano becoming heel is going to be an interesting experiment that has the potential to be a huge draw. Another positive layer is Gargano playing the modern day TV villain where Gargano talked about being the hero in his story. The best villains today are villains that think they are the hero in their universe.
Bianca Belair: A small segment and the “undefeated” catchphrase is negative heat. Aside from that, someone who chews gum during a speech all smug-like is the good type of “grrr” heat.
Jeremy Borash: A minor and personal hit. I’ve been covering Impact Wrestling for this site for years and it was surreal to hear JB as a WWE backstage interviewer. They didn’t show him on screen but he was pretty solid here. Good for JB for making it to WWE TV as “the hands” of the the press.
Candice LeRae: Like her husband, LeRae is doing a good job having a transformation of her own. She’s laying it on thick with the dark clothing and black lipstick but that works as a form of symbolism. LeRae deflecting Borash’s question wast well done on her end to show weakness in her while also having her defend Johnny. It looks like we might get Candice vs. Cross in San Jose next week from this?
Heavy Machinery vs. The Forgotten Sons: Mostly because of the forgottenness of the Forgotten Sons, when both teams made their entrances I was about to write this match off as forgettable. The Sons have just been disappointing since their debut. Give them Lacey Evans! Anyways, they really surprised me here with some good heel tag team work and pacing. Heavy Machinery kept up with that fast pace. This was a great battle between power and tact. The commentators pointed it out but it should be noted here that Otis Dozovic is developing well as an in-ring talent. He’s been on a roll recently and even had a standout main event with the NXT Champion recently.
NXT TV Misses
Keith Lee, Matt Riddle, and Kassius Ohno: Three Hit-worthy talents, but NXT is laying it on soooooooo thick that Kassius Ohno is a “gatekeeper” and that he’s going to lose to Matt Riddle and Keith Lee soon. I like the Ohno heel turn that they’ve been building up to but they are being very meta here to the point were they are telling you way ahead of time that Ohno has no chance against any “shiny new toy”. Call this a tentative Miss because there must be something that they aren’t telegraphing, right? Lee and Riddle don’t need to lose either so I’d take Ohno having some sort of draw with Lee or Riddle as a payoff.
Taynara Conti: She’s vastly improved from last year but still not polished enough to be a character on TV. She comes out wearing a Judo Gi but the Judo background does nothing to influence her in ring style aside from a basic hip toss. Kyle O’Reilly is someone to look to for Judo/Jujitsu and wrestling integration. Conti’s also coming off like an imitation Alicia Fox with her forced “crazy” gimmick. Conti should spend time away to season but there are other developmental experiments who are ready for the next level like Aliyah or Vanessa Bourne.
Check below for the latest Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Salina de la Renta from Major League Wrestling.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Brian Fritz of Sporting News and Between The Ropes discussing WrestleMania 36, WWE television from the empty WWE Performance Center, his own travel woes, NFL free agency, and more...