By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano brawl: Ciampa and Gargano provided viewers with a violent tour of the WWE Performance Center. This was a great brawl that reignited pro wrestling’s best feud. Gargano costing Ciampa the NXT Championship at NXT Takeover: Seattle brought the feud back, but this brawl elevated the intensity in a major way. We still haven’t reached the point where Gargano is getting anywhere close to the level of heat that Ciampa did when he was the heel, but perhaps that will change in time.
Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne vs. Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly for the NXT Tag Titles: Another quality tag title match from these teams. Fish and O’Reilly are among the best teams in the business, and Riddle and Dunne have quickly established themselves as a strong duo. The involvement of Zack Gibson and James Drake set them up as the likely next challengers in what should be a very good match.
Keith Lee vs. Cameron Grimes for the North American Title: As much as I hope that NXT creative will stay behind the Grimes character, there’s no shame in his character losing clean to Lee. This was a very good match and it’s possible that Grimes gained something in defeat, though the followup will be the key. The post match angle with Damian Priest attacking Lee only to have Dominik Dijakovic make the save was well done, as both remain the top threats to Lee’s North American Championship reign. I loved the final part of this with Lee seeing Dijakovic holding his title belt and then putting him down with a Spirit Bomb.
Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley: Flair finally heeled on the fans, but only because the fans at the Performance Center forced her hand. Flair is on enemy territory at NXT shows these days. Hopefully she’ll go for this type of heat when she’s on Raw, because it seems like a lot of those fans are nodding along when she boasts that she’s a bigger star that Ripley. Either way, this was a simple, yet strong angle that put good heat on Flair.
Dakota Kai vs. Mia Yim for a spot in the NXT Takeover Tampa ladder match: Given the crazy bumps that Yim took when she worked against Io Shirai in a wild ladder match last November, it should not surprise anyone to see her booked for the Takeover ladder match. Kai continues to shine in her heel role and I continue to enjoy Raquel Gonzalez serving as her muscle. The finish with the referee being caught up with Gonzalez and not counting a pin for Kai gives her a good heel logic out for losing the match.
Kushida vs. Raul Mendoza: A quality match. Mendoza consistently delivers quality matches even though he loses far more often than not. Perhaps that’s about to change given the kidnapping angle. Either way, Kushida needs a regular dance partner. After seeing him work a fairly brief house show match with Cameron Grimes, I would enjoy seeing them have an actual television feud.
Raul Mendoza kidnapping: Was this the return of Samoa Joe’s kidnappers from TNA? Did The Dark Order decide to steal Mendoza and bring him to AEW? Was it Frank the Tank grabbing Mendoza for an initiation? “You tell anyone about this and I’ll f—ing kill you. I’m kidding, I’m kidding, we’ll have him home by tonight.”
Tegan Nox vs. Deonna Purrazzo for a spot in the NXT Takeover Tampa ladder match: The match was fine. And while I like Purrazzo’s work, what has her character done in NXT to even earn a spot in this qualifying match?
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...