By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
NXT TV Hits
Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano: A Hit that was tempered a bit and I was tempted to put it in the “Miss” section because there were a lot of things that could have been done better, but I also figured that watching the Evolve 10th Anniversary show did muddle up the perception of this moment. They were billing this as both Adam Cole’s first title defense and hyping it up as Johnny Gargano’s return to NXT after being gone a month or two. Both of these builds were kinda paid off on Sunday with Cole defending against Akira Tozawa, and Johnny Gargano returning to “WWE” television in a run-in on that show. That said, if you didn’t see the Evolve show then it was a solid Hit because it was good to see Gargano is sticking around in NXT and kicking ass.
Kushida vs. Apollo Crews: A really strong television match. While Crews has been treated poorly on the main roster he does show flashes of greatness there and those flashes were prolonged in NXT because he’s treated like a bigger deal on this show. His weaknesses are still his mediocre promos and infinite grin. Kushida is acclimating well to the WWE Style and NXT is doing a good job treating him like a big deal. I like the current gimmick they have going on with people from different brands all lining up to wrestle Kushida. They took care of 205, NXT UK, and Smackdown. Who will step up from Raw?
Bronson Reed vs. Dexter Lumis in a Breakout Tournament match: This was one of the shorter tournament matches, but there was a lot of character delivered through from both wrestlers, especially Lumis. Reed is a big man who can fly, we see a lot of those in wrestling these days (Killian Dain, Willie Mack, Jeff Cobb, etc.). That said, he does look unique enough and have a good moveset to stand out. We haven’t seen too much of Reed but I’m looking forward to seeing what the Aussie can bring. Lumis is someone I’ve had a lot of exposure to from his Impact Wrestling days. He was playing the Christian Bale character from American Psycho in Impact and he’s brought that here full force. His strength is he has gone all out on this serial character since he made his debut on TNA Gut Check and I respect the guy for that. What impressed me the most is Lumis has gotten a lot better in the ring and he’s integrated the serial killer mannerisms into his wrestling, similar to what we see from Killer Kross in other promotions. That said, he’s a bit of a cartoony version of Kross with a lower career potential ceiling it seems. That said, I like what I saw from him and intrigued to see how far NXT is willing to go with the serial killer character. I don’t think we’ll end up seeing him creepily stalk Cathy Kelley like he did to Christie Hemme back in the day though.
Matt Riddle vs. Arturo Ruas: It’s really tough for me to not give Matt Riddle Hits because this guy is so damn good against any opponent (perhaps I’m a bit biased because I do have a martial arts background). Speaking of my Martial Arts bias, that applies to Arturo Ruas too. Ruas is the former Adrian Jaoude, who I used to make fun of for looking like a different video game character every week. He’s a pure WWE developmental prospect, but I would argue after seeing the Evolve 10th Anniversary that he’s one of the ones furthest along. The martial arts in me squealed when the guy transitioned between fighting stances/styles mid match. He’s doing a great job integrating Jujitsu and Cepoeira in his wrestling moves similar to how John Morrison integrates parkour in his wrestling. If the guy can continue to do the capoeira stuff that other people can’t do, this guy would stand out in a great way.
None: I was disappointed that NXT went back to their regular match and promo formula. The past few weeks have consisted of very good vignette productions and character profile pieces. That said, NXT’s formula works. I can nitpick things here and there (which I did above), but there wasn’t anything that missed the mark.