By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
NXT TV Hits
EC3 vs. Adam Cole: A match that got a good amount of time. This may be EC3’s last television match in NXT (WWE’s YouTube had a Sarah Schreiber interview with EC3 where he talks about leaving NXT while also referencing his time in NXT as Derrick Bateman, and he delivered a farewell address at the live event in Durham). While EC3’s character in NXT has been pretty basic, I feel like he’s gotten better as an in-ring worker during his time in NXT. He was solid as Derrick, but in Impact he gained a lot of body mass to the point where he was slower and limited in the ring. He’s balanced out a bit and has gotten rid of the limited and slow part. Where a lot of people may have a negative perception of Ethan is in terms of character, and I understand that. People haven’t seen Ethan work as a heel and got a very generic babyface in NXT. Hopefully we see the return of “Dixie Carter’s entitled nephew” on the main roster, minus the Dixie. Adam Cole hasn’t wrestled a lot in NXT recently to the point where you forget how good he is. Cole doesn’t flip, flop, or stiff strike. He’s really good at telling stories and selling with his facial reactions.
Street Profits: We’s seen this promo before from other teams where they call out the other tag teams of the division (I think we’ve even heard this from Street Profits before). It’s the same promo minus Heavy Machinery and The Mighty because they are no longer in NXT. That said, this felt different enough because the players involved. Montez Ford is starting to get a bit too cartoony, but right now he’s walking that line and carrying the Street Profit character with his natural charisma. Angelo Dawkins cut one of the better promos in his career right here. The benefits of the WWE Performance Center are hopefully paying off. Dawkins just showed a lot of confidence where before he seemed a bit nervous while Ford carried the team in terms of personality. Good promo by both men. Another plus is that the Street Profits not-so-subtly alluded to how they are the current Evolve Tag Team Champions.
Nikki Cross vs. Bianca Belair: While it would have been better if they built this up one week in advance via a quick promo segment, the match was still good. It made since to have this match since their last two matches ended in a draw and no-contest (due to Bianca Belair being teleported away via Aleister Black). This was a good brawl. Cross excels in brawls and this was good to get Belair in a fisticuffs situation. The only detractor from this match was Cross’s impending call-up killing most of her nearfalls, though to her credit she did manage to get a dramatic nearfall near the end of this match.
Opening Promo: While the opening segment involved four wrestlers and many feuds, this segment managed to develop all the feuds and social connections between the wrestlers. Johnny Gargano vs. Ricochet was set up as well as Tommaso Ciampa vs. Aleister Black. Black was never a bad talker but he was always better when speaking less. In recent months, Black has found his voice to the point where his longer promos are pretty compelling now. Speaking of finding a voice, Ricochet found his voice the moment he showed up on NXT television. He’s been solid on the mic and has overcome a lot of the weaknesses that held him back in Lucha Underground (maybe John Hennigan should spend a few months in the performance center to work on his promos because he has the same problems that Ricochet once did?).
NXT TV Misses
Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner vs. Stanley Watts and Hector Kunsman: The match was fine. I like the result and I’m a huge proponent of pushing Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner to the moon (In my opinion, I’d push Barthel all the way to the main roster if the guy would stop yelling “nein” after every move). What was odd here was the match was three minutes too long due to the enhancement guys not only getting a lot of offense in, but they dominated the “European Union” for stretches. Barthel and Aichner are imposing dudes and I wouldn’t have introduced them to U.S. viewers by having them get beat up by the local job guys.
Keith Lee: The promo was pretty solid to start with Lee promising revenge while sounding a bit concerned for his friend Matt Riddle. Lee has the best speaking voice in WWE since Low Ki so WWE should try to utilize this asset (I may be speaking hyperbolic, but I think Lee has a great voice). What killed the promo was him sneaking his “Bask in my glory” line. I know he did this in the indies, but it’s made worse when WWE encourages such an unnatural behavior. He was supposed to sound serious, but some of that serious was taken away by the forced catchphrase. Aleister Black used his catchphrase in the earlier promo against Tommaso Ciampa, but he found a way to make it sound natural. Hopefully Lee does down the road too.
Double main event billing: Both big matches on the show were solid, but what makes Nikki Cross vs. Bianca Belair, and Adam Cole vs. EC3 a double main event when this has been NXT’s formula for the past year: A good match to start, enhancement match in the middle, and good match to end. I’d say save this line for a moment when it counts and stands out. NXT has done this before which is why I’m criticizing it now.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Brian Fritz discussing the formation of All Elite Wrestling and their launch rally.