By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
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NXT Live Event
St. Paul, Minnesota at Roy Wilkins Auditorium
Report by Dot Net editor Jason Powell
A Triple H video opened the show. Greg Hamilton was the ring announcer and did a fine job. He didn’t stand out in the way that Mike Rome did the first time NXT came to town, but that says more about how good Rome was than it’s meant to speak negatively about the performance of Hamilton.
1. Matt Riddle defeated Kassius Ohno. A good opening match. Riddle’s popularity was certainly more than a case of fans being eager to cheer for any babyface in the opener. This crowd loved him. Riddle won surprisingly via pinfall rather than with the Bromission.
In a great touch, a brief video aired of Velveteen Dream at Paisley Park, home of the late musician Prince. I’m not one to make a lot of noise at live events because I’m on the job (aside from maybe or maybe not yelling “tap” at 215 awkward moments), but I certainly popped for this video and I hope they shot more for television.
2. Jessamyn Duke (w/Marina Shafir) defeated Candice LeRae. Shafir’s interference led to Duke getting the win. Duke’s inexperience showed, but she has potential and I look forward to seeing her progress.
3. Bobby Fish defeated Humberto Carrillo. A nice match. Fish was over with the fans going in while Carrillo won them over and was given a nice round of applause afterward.
Kona Reeves was shown at Mall of America and then making fun of the Minnesota Vikings (that dirty SOB!).
4. Dominik Dijakovic over Kona Reeves. I spent all day grumbling over the thought of Reeves being in the main event tag match the night before in Green Bay, as I assumed we’d get the same main event. It’s nothing against the guy and I think he has great upside, but he’s just not positioned as a main eventer on television, and the last NXT main event I saw in person featured Riddick Moss in a tag match. It was nice for Moss since he’s a hometown guy, but he felt out of place in the main event. Needless to say, I was happy they shook up the card, but this turned out to be one of the better matches of the night. A very pleasant surprise with strong work from both men.
5. Aleister Black beat Johnny Gargano. A good, long match. It wasn’t Takeover quality, nor should anyone have expected it to be, but it was still highly entertaining with hard work from both men.
6. Ricochet and Heavy Machinery defeated Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, and Roderick Strong. A fun, high energy six-man tag match. Unfortunately, Tucker Knight showed a lot of light on a kick (if memory serves) and lost the crowd for a bit. Both teams had plenty of fan support and it was fun to see Duluth, Minnesota native Otis Dozovic work in his home state.
7. Kairi Sane defeated Shayna Baszler by DQ in an NXT Women’s Championship match. Sane performed her second top rope elbow of the match and had the pin, but Duke and Shafir interfered for the DQ to save Baszler. Candice LeRae made the save. It felt a little clunky that heelish on television Candice was a pure babyface and that she and Sane were able to run off the heel trio, but the company gets a pass since Dakota Kai was injured the night before and did not appear on this event. In a perfect world, the heels would have been really put in their place after stealing the match earlier and cheating to save Baszler’s championship in this match.
8. Tommaso Ciampa defeated Velveteen Dream to retain the NXT Championship. Ciampa caught Dream with a hanging DDT and scored the clean pin. He cut a promo afterward and put over Dream while also taking credit for selling 600 extra tickets. He had good heat and the live crowd loved Dream. A quality house show main event both on paper and in execution.
Notes: A very enjoyable show. The title matches following intermission were good for live events, but the crowd actually seemed hotter for the pre-intermission matches. Fans did go crazy for the main event introductions.
Attendance was down from previous stops as there were an estimated 2,000 in the building. It couldn’t have helped that Smackdown was just in town the week after Thanksgiving and the company’s advertising went from focusing on that event to pushing their March 2 house show. Sadly, this NXT show seemed like an afterthought as far as local advertising is concerned. Nevertheless, the fans who did attend were vocal and into all of the matches.
Jeremy Borash was shooting footage at various times throughout the evening and the Minnesota native had family in the crowd. I must say that it felt strange to see the longtime TNA employee wearing NXT gear even though he’s been with the company for a while now.
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