By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT TV Hits
Adam Cole vs. Matt Riddle for the NXT Championship: The best match of a good night of in-ring action from NXT and AEW. There were excellent near falls that created terrific suspense. Cole going over with the use of his cast was a nice touch in that it added heat to his act while giving Riddle an out for losing. I also enjoyed the heel logic promo with Cole saying he was medically required to wear the cast and actually won the match with his Last Shot finisher. In general, it was nice to hear from some of the NXT talent given how little talking there was on the first show. New viewers need a chance to get to know these characters the same way that longtime viewers do and this show was a step in the right direction for the balance between wrestling and talking.
Finn Balor returns to NXT: Balor showing up unadvertised to confront Cole after the NXT Title match was a great touch and gave the show a dose of star power. Main roster Balor smiled too much and seemed to lose as many matches as he won. I have much more confidence in Paul Levesque and his crew booking Balor than I do in Vince McMahon and the main roster team.
Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly vs. The Street Profits for the NXT Tag Titles: A good tag team match that mostly aired during the overrun, meaning it likely produced one of the better viewership numbers of the night. The Street Profits entrance with hype man Wale was excellent. This match also featured plenty of dramatic near fall moments. The post match scene with Adam Cole coming out to celebrate Undisputed Era holding all the titles only to be confronted by Tommaso Ciampa was a great closing shot. I love the way Ciampa shows his obsession with the NXT Title belt by eye f—ing it whenever he sees it.
Shayna Baszler vs. Candice LeRae for the NXT Women’s Championship: A quality title match with the right person going over. I realize that some fans are burned out on Baszler’s title reign and are ready for something new, but this wasn’t the time to book the title change because it wouldn’t have meant anything to newer viewers. Badass Baszler’s bully persona is easy enough to pick up on, but new viewers still don’t know much about LeRae. LeRae is the type of character that can easily absorb this loss and bounce right back from it.
Io Shirai vs. Mia Yim: Shirai is one of the most entertaining acts in the company and I’ve enjoyed Yim’s work since her days as Jade in Impact Wrestling. Shirai going over was the right call. That said, it will be interesting to see who emerges as the top babyface of the women’s division. Could it be Rhea Ripley, who is popped up recently after spending most of her time in NXT UK?
Velveteen Dream: New viewers were given their first taste of the Velveteen Dream Experience. I loved that he was surrounded by a group of attractive women and then delivered the line regarding Undisputed Era that he’s never complained about taking on more than one man at a time. Dream needed the mic time more than anyone to help new viewers understand his act and he made the most out of a brief promo.
Pete Dunne vs. Danny Burch: This was more about setting up Damian Priest’s post match attack on Dunne. They kept the match brief and the angle sets up what should be a good mid-card match or program.
Johnny Gargano vs. Shane Thorne: A minor Hit for Gargano getting a clean pin. Newer viewers must feel a bit late to the party on Gargano. Hopefully he will get some mic time soon to help establish his character for everyone.
NXT TV Misses
Full Sail setting: I really didn’t expect the size of the venue to be as much of an advantage as it was for AEW, but jumped out the moment I went from watching NXT to watching the Dynamite show. Let’s face it, if the AEW show had sucked then the venue size wouldn’t have been a big factor, but the quality of the show combined with the big venue made AEW look major league compared to the smaller NXT venue. I still believe product quality will determine the winner, but AEW running arenas is a big advantage if everything else is equal.