By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic for an NXT North American Title shot: Another excellent match between Lee and Dijakovic, and the added stipulation that the winner of this match would get a title shot gave it even more juice. The Roderick Strong interference finish was disappointing in the moment and it does make Strong look like a dope for not expecting the obvious Triple Threat announcement. Still, the lack of a clean finish means they can go back to Lee vs. Dijakovic somewhere down the road, ideally on a Takeover event, and it set the stage for what should be a good three-way title match.
Damian Priest vs. Pete Dunne: A good back and forth main event. Dunne’s pre-match angle with Killian Dain left me wondering if the big man was going to interfere for a cheap finish. Instead, they went with Priest using a good old fashioned kick to the balls to get the cheap victory. It wasn’t the most satisfying finish, but it accomplished what it needed to by giving Priest a win while also giving Dunne an out for losing to extend the feud.
Matt Riddle vs. Bronson Reed: I assumed this was going to be a squash win for Riddle coming off his loss to Adam Cole, but Reed got in some impressive offense and was made to look strong with a good near fall before Riddle rallied and put him away. Riddle even followed up with a respectful fist bump afterward. It will be interesting to see how they handle Reed’s transition once he is presumably cast as a badass monster type. Is it as simple as giving him the right mouthpiece?
Io Shirai vs. Kayden Carter: An entertaining showcase win for Shirai. Carter is losing television matches, but she stands out as someone who could use a little polish and has a bright future. But Shirai’s time is now and she’s a blast to watch in the ring. The post match angle with Rhea Ripley confronting Shirai set the stage for a must see match. The NXT women’s division is loaded and that’s not even counting Toni Storm and some of the talented women that Ripley was working with in NXT UK.
Tegan Nox vs. Taynara: A nice return for Nox from her second ACL surgery. The post match angle with Shayna Baszler putting an end to the feel good moment between Nox and Dakota Kai was perfect for the badass Baszler character.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Angel Garza: A good showcase match for Ciampa in his return from an injury layoff. He looks great physically and it’s a nice surprise to see him return so quickly. It was a little disappointing to see Garza picked for this spot because he has so much upside, but this isn’t the type of loss that will stick with him once creative decides to get behind his character. The post match scene with Undisputed Era coming out and sending a message to Ciampa while giving the USB file to Mauro Ranallo was a nice touch.
Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch: A good win for Aichner and Barthel. Lorcan and Burch have been established as a quality team in NXT that always puts up a good fight even in defeat, so a decisive five minute win should go a long way toward establishing Aichner and Barthel.
Killian Dain vs. Boa: A strong squash win for Dain. I like the way they set this match up last week by having Dain rough up Boa after his loss to Cameron Grimes. That post match angle with Dain crossing paths with Pete Dunne, who snapped his fingers, was a solid way to set up a future match between them.
None: Wednesday nights are a blast. It’s invigorating to see competing shows filled with excellent young talent being booked well. I also appreciate the way both sides are showing creative restraint. NXT had a loaded lineup for the first head to head battle, but they’ve pulled back since then and aren’t showing any signs of panicking despite losing the early ratings battles. I wish the Monday and Friday night shows were even half as much fun as as the first three weeks of NXT vs. AEW. And I actually feel sorry for fans who pick sides. Any fan who skips either show out of some odd sense of loyalty to either brand is just depriving themselves of two great hours of weekly television.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...