By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Finn Balor vs. Keith Lee vs. Tommaso Ciampa in a Triple Threat for a shot at the NXT Championship: A strong Triple Threat with an excellent finish. I was surprised to see Balor get the win when Lee had so much momentum, but this isn’t the main roster and thus there’s no reason to think that they won’t get him right back on track and eventually get to him challenging for the NXT Championship.
Lio Rush vs. Angel Garza for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship: A hell of a way to open the show. Rush and Garza work so well together and the match was filled with great athleticism, back and forth action, and some terrific near falls. I loved the spot where they slapped each other silly, and then traded superkicks that led to both men falling down simultaneously. I also liked that in a match filled with big spots, Garza went over using a submission hold. And, of course, congratulations to Garza and the future Mrs. Garza on their post match engagement. Does this mean Garza is a babyface again this week? I enjoy his work either way, but they really need to pick a direction and stick with it.
Video packages: I was down on NXT during its early weeks on USA Network for not featuring nearly enough promos or video packages to help introduce the wrestlers to new viewers. They are definitely making up for it and I hope the AEW crew is taking notes. The Shayna Baszler video was simple and effective in terms of establishing her personality and recapping her domination of the women’s division. I wasn’t as keen on the Rhea Ripley piece, but the videos that showcased the participants in the Triple Threat main event were very good. Each video is proof that it doesn’t take a lot of time to establish the basic traits of a character and/or the dynamic between wrestlers heading into a match.
Mia Yim vs. Dakota Kai: A solid match with Kai using the exposed turnbuckle to get the win to give Yim an out for losing. The Kai turn on Tegan Nox was so damn good, but the follow-up has left something to be desired. We should be hearing more from Kai regarding the attack and her new heel attitude. Kai’s post turn feud is intense and heated, but it feels like it should be happening with Nox rather than Yim. On a side note, it’s time to pull back on the crazy spots involving Yim. The table spot in the ladder match was sick enough, and I feared for Kai’s career while watching last night’s table spot.
Travis Banks vs. Jaxson Ryker: This match was held right after Raul Mendoza’s win over Cameron Grimes, so I was surprised to see them go with back to back up upsets. This one may have packed more of a punch if Ryker had been showcased more on NXT television since the move to USA Network. He’s spent more time standing in the corner of Steve Cutler and Wesley Blake on USA Network than actually racking up his own wins. I suspect we’ll be seeing more NXT UK talent appearing on the show leading into the Worlds Collide event that will feature NXT vs. NXT UK matches during Royal Rumble weekend.
Bianca Belair vs. Kayden Carter: This had to be a new record for longest hair by two wrestlers in a singles match. Anyway, Belair got a showcase win while Carter showed heart. Here’s hoping that Belair gets a meaningful program and stops spinning her wheels.
Cameron Grimes vs. Raul Mendoza: I would probably feel differently about this match if I hadn’t seen Grimes portrayed as a hayseed doofus throughout his run as Trevor Lee in Impact Wrestling. This felt like a bad flashback with Grimes being easily distracted and pinned.
Tyler Breeze and Fandango vs. The Singh Brothers: Perhaps I’m off in my longtime take that Breeze and Fandango have potential as a Midnight Express style heel tag team. I just know that their oddball stripper costume gimmick feels totally out of place in NXT.