By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Live from Winter Park, Florida at Full Sail University
Aired April 22, 2020 on USA Network
[Hour One] A recap of last week’s NXT aired…
Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton were on commentary. It was noted that Finn Balor wasn’t around. They showed footage of referees and crew looking around backstage. Phillips noted that Regal pulled Balor from the match against Dream. They framed this as some sort of “incident”…
Velveteen Dream made his entrance for a promo. He mentioned the words “new levels new devils” several times. Dream said for himself he deals with the same old demons. Dream said hey was speaking to Finn “Baylor”. Adam Cole interrupted Dream’s promo. Cole talked about people jumping to conclusions about Dream vs. Balor being a number one contender’s match. Cole said Dream is just trying to sneak into a title shot.
While Dream was distracted, Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish attacked Dream from behind and beat him down. Keith Lee ran out for the save and cleared Undisputed Era from the ring. The segment ended with Keith Lee’s theme playing. Tom Phillips hyped up the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament matches coming up. Saxton hyped up a Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae apparance…
Shotzi Blackheart made her entrance in her signature toy tank…
1. Tegan Nox and Shotzi Blackheart vs. Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez. Things were even early on between Kai and Nox. Nox turned the table and tagged in Blackheart. Blackheart dominated Kai and hit her with a senton. Nox tagged in and hit Kai with a Senton. Blackheart hit Kai and Gonzalez at ringside with a diving crossbody heading into commercial. [c]
Gonzalez had Blackheart in a standing bow and arrow back from the break. Kai tagged in and went for a face wash, but Blackheart got out of the way, hit Kai with an Enzuigiri, and tagged in Nox. Gonzalez tagged in too. Nox hit Gonzalez with a lot of forearms and strikes, but couldn’t get Gonzalez off her feet. Nox staggered Gonzalez but only got her to a knee. Gonzalez caught a flying Nox and hit her with a Fallaway slam.
Blackheart tagged in and grounded Gonzalez with a seated senton. Kai pulled Nox away and hit her with a draping Yakuza kick at ringside. Gonzalez caught Blackheart with a Uranage for the victory.
Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez defeated Tegan Nox and Shotzi Blackheart via pinfall 4:39 of on-air TV time.
Tom Phillips hyped up Velveteen Dream and Keith Lee vs. Adam Cole and Roderick Strong later in the show as a replacement for Dream vs. Balor…
John’s Thoughts: A good clean win for the heels. I really like the way they’re promoting Raquel Gonzalez and Gonzalez is doing a better “big man” job then most “big men”. She’s really looking great as a monster heel. Nox and Blackheart are plucky babyfaces. They can shrug off losses. It’s usually hard to build credible heels and so far Gonzalez is looking credible.
Tom Phillips cut to a video package hyping Drake Maverick. It featured Drake Maverick getting released from his WWE contract, his emotional Twitter video, and Drake Maverick in a produced video talking about how he’s going to give his all in the tournament…
John’s Thoughts: I have no problem with WWE making an angle out of this. I’m pretty sure this was not planned initially, and moreso a result of Spud putting out that really emotional video after getting released from WWE. Good for Spud, and there’s a part of me that’s happy knowing that it looks like he might be staying along in WWE given his really strong promo ability. I’ve said it ever since the guy got signed: the guy’s a great comedy heel, but he’s an even better main event talker as a underdog wrestler.
An ad aired for the Friday Smackdown Triple H career celebration…
As Jake Atlas made his entrance, they aired a Jake Atlas profile package. Atlas talked about trying to break barriers and be a role model. Pretty standard, but good stuff. After the package, Saxton noted that Atlas just recently started training at the WWE PC as a recent signee. Drake Maverick made his entrance to Xavier Woods’s old NXT theme. The commentators continued to talk up Maverick’s emotional story…
2. Jake Atlas (record 0-0) vs. Drake Maverick (record 0-0) in a Group A match of the Interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament. Atlas dominated early on with his agility. Maverick told Atlas he needs it. Maverick dominated Atlas with some leg holds. Atlas tried to dump Maverick outside of the ring but Maverick held on to the ropes. Maverick hit Atlas with a dropkick. Atlas caught Maverick, but Maverick reversed it into a huracanrana to send Atlas outside. Atlas turned the tide by hitting Maverick with a tilt a whirl backbreaker in the ring.
Atlas utilized his size to manhandle Maverick around the ring. Maverick rammed Atlas’s head into the turnbuckle for a moment of respite. Maverick worked on Atlas with strikes and European Uppercuts. Maverick caught Atlas with a nice drop toehold into the buckle followed by a front kick. Maverick hit Atlas with a Missile Dropkick. Maverick went for the Tequila Sunrise on Atlas, but Atlas rolled to ringside. Maverick nailed Atlas with a suicide dive. In the ring, Maverick hit Atlas with a top rope elbow drop for a two count.
Maverick went for the Under Dog (Dudley Dog), but Atlas escaped and hit Maverick with a back kick. Maverick caught Atlas with a rising palm. Atlas blocked a Maverick Frankensteiner. Atlas hit Maverick with a Tightrope Cartwheel DDT for the win.
Jake Atlas defeated Drake Maverick via pinfall in 6:28 to win a match in Group A.
McKenzie Mitchell asked Jake how he felt with his latest victory. Jake said he felt at the top of the world. Jake tried to talk to Drake Maverick, but Maverick was despondent and being carried to the back. Atlas said he was rooting for Maverick. Atlas then hyped how he was trying to win the tournament.
John’s Thoughts: I like the result here. The internet may not like it (even though last time Jake Atlas lost a match, the internet peeps suddenly got mad out of nowhere), but I like the result. That’s how you build up a underdog. If you gave me a bet, I bet Maverick loses the tournament in the groups, but because they’re Kayfabing things now, they have a nice “blurred line” scenario they can work with. To be honest, I think they can really do something big if they want, maybe bigger than EC3 vs. Drake Maverick from back in the day. But even if they don’t go that far, they will still have people at the edge of their seats for Drake Maverick matches.
A Damien Priest vignette aired where Priest addressed the Keith Lee documentary package. Priest said he doesn’t care about Lee, he cares about the championship. Priest said Lee is only picking guys that Lee knows he can beat. Priest noted that Lee picked Dijakovic and Grimes due to confidence and said that it was Regal that made the triple threat against Lee’s wishes.
Damien Priest talked about making moments. Priest said in his first main event on NXT he beat Keith Lee. Lee talked about becoming the new NXT North American Champion and how he’s going to “live forever”…
Kushida was already in the middle of his entrance as they cut to a quick Kushida promo where he talked about preparing for the tournament. He was wearing a nice Fedora in the video. They also aired a Tony Nese promo, where Nese talked about winning a tournament last year to become the Cruiserweight champion and was champion at WrestleMania 2019…
3. Kushida (record 0-0) vs. Tony Nese (record 0-0) in a Group A match of the Interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament. Phillips noted that Nese lost the championship last year in a triple threat, and that Nese wasn’t pinned. Early on Kushida converted a heel hook into a hammerlock. Nese got to his feet and hit Kushida with a bulldog on the top rope. Nese threw Kushida into the barricade. Nese got a two count in the ring. Kushida recovered and hit Nese with a diving lariat. Nese did a baseball slide to the outside to avoid Kushida’s handspring elbow. Nese whipped Kushida into the barricade heading into commercial.[c]
Nese had Kushida in a bodyscissors. Nese and Kushida traded punches with Kushida getting the upperhand and escaping. Tom Phillips noted that Finn Balor is still missing and there was some sort of thing that happened backstage. Kushida hit Nese with forearms and his signature handspring elbow. Kushida hit Nese with a cartwheek dropkick and haymaker. Kushida hit Nese in the arm. Kushida focused his kicks on Nese right arm. Nese went for a Pumphandle slam ,but Kushida turned it into a Hoverboard Lock.
Kushida didn’t lock the move, so Nese hit Kushida with a Suplex to escape the hold. Kushida shook up Nese with handspring boots. Nese shoved Kushida off the top rope and hit him with a 450 for the two count. Kushida hit Nese with a series of palms. Nese came back with his own rising palm. The palms caused Phillips to reference Jushin Thunder Liger. Kushida escaped a superplex and hit Nese with a Spanish Fly Hoverboard Lock to lead to the submission win.
Kushida defeated Tony Nese via submission to win a match in Group A.
Phillips cut to the tournament standings graphic which was updated….
McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher. Riddle said that even though he likes T Man, he misses Stallion Pete. Thatcher said Riddle prefers to knock people out while Thatcher prefers to bend people. Riddle gave Thatcher a loving look and said Thatcher is a beautiful man, which reminds Riddle of Stallion Dunne. Riddle and Thatcher hyped up their next match…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Given the lack of star power in Group A, Kushida is the favorite given how NXT protects him. Drake Maverick is the underdog story in Kushida’s group and the presumed foregone conclusion with Kushida adds to Maverick’s underdog story. By the way, given Finn Balor going missing, my guess is that he got attacked backstage by Karrion Kross. Backstage attacks to random dudes was Kross’s MO in his Impact debut so it might be a repeat here. (Though I was kinda hoping that Kross would end up being Finn’s new Bad Luck Fale-type enforcer, but I don’t think that’s going to happen).
A Karrion Kross video package aired where a female voice was narrating Kross’s attack on Tommaso Ciampa last week.
[Hour Two] The commentators sent things to a Johnny Gargano video package. Gargano was cutting a promo in front of what looked like a cell phone. There was “romantic” music in the background. Gargano was bragging about his accomplishments and he was sitting at the end of a candlelit dinner table. Candice LeRae gave Gargano dinner and talked about how she was the only person that believed in Gargano. Gargano said the NXT he loved became a Toxic Wasteland. The camera then got a black and white filter and weird noises in the background. Gargano started ranting on the fans. Gargano said he’s tired of saying yes to everything. Gargano said he deserves everything, not Ciampa.
The music cut back to normal and Candice LeRae talked about how she was the big sister of the women’s lockerroom. LeRae said she ate second so they can eat first. The black and white errie filter cut back in. LeRae ranted on the women’s locker room. LeRae said she’s going to put her self first now. Gargano said LeRae can eat first at the dinner table now as a symbol. The Garganos continued to rant about how bad everyone else was. Gargano said he’s tired of always getting put in an ambulance. After another shift to the black and white filter, Gargano talked about remaking NXT in his image. Gargano claimed that in 2020, Gargano and LeRae will win the NXT and NXT Women’s championship. LeRae framed themselves as the “good guys” and said that good guys get what they deserve…
An Io Shirai video package aired (with subtitles). Shirai said that she’s going to show Charlotte how great Io Shirai is. Io Shirai highlights aired. Shirai talked about destroying the queen’s castle and how Io Shirai bows down to no one…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Mixed thoughts on the Gargano promo, but I did like the content overall. Gargano and LeRae were stellar here. Gargano wasn’t the most eloquent, but he played the petulant character very well. Candice LeRae was even better. It was a really good “mission statement” promo to set up the mission statement of heel LeRae and Gargano. What I wasn’t a huge fan of was the overproduced screen filters. I’ll tolerate it for now, but I hope they don’t go overboard with the cheesy music, screen filter, and motion blur. I can rationalize it as a Gargano produced video, but it was over produced. It reminded me of a bad Impact Wrestling cinematic where they have too much fun with the Adobe After Effects post production. It’s ok now, I jus thope they tone things down a bit.
McKenzie Mitchell interviewed a crestfallen Drake Maverick, who was sitting on stairs. Drake cried and said Atlas was great. Drake said everyone else is fighting opponents, but Drake is fighting opponents and himself. Drake said maybe everyone is right about him…
John’s Thoughts: I know what Drake’s missing for this story. Give the guy an EC3 type of douchebag heel! They probably won’t do that, but it would be good heat for a heel to try to crush Maverick’s dreams (I also remember how great EC3 vs. Spud was back in 2015 and want more of that.
4. Mia Yim vs. Jessie Kamea. Jessie Kamea is the former Jessie Eleban, she now has a generic heel gimmick with all black clothes. Yim dropped Kamea with a drop toehold early on. Yim took down Jessie with a shoulder block. Jessie came back with her own shoulder block. Yim caught Kamea with a roundhouse and got a two count. Yim hit Kamea with a few Muay Thai clinch knees. Phillips reminded viewers that Yim was Charlotte Flair’s first opponent in WWE/NXT. Kamea hit Yim with a running knee for a two count.
Kamea hit Yim with a twisting elbow for a two count. The commentators continued to talk about Charlotte’s career in WWE. Kamea missed on a dropkick which allowed Yim to rally back. Yim hit Jessie with a STO followed by a Protect Ya Neck for the victory.
Mia Yim defeated Jessie Kamea via pinfall in 3:10.
As Yim was heading up the ramp, she was interrupted by Charlotte Flair’s entrance. Flair confronted Yim with a mic. Flair said Yim must have already heard that Flair wants a match against Yim first and how she hopes Yim wants that match too. Yim said she watched over the years, Flair becoming the Queen while Yim became the HBIC. Yim said she wants to wrestle Flair. Flair complemented Yim and called her a “good hand” before leaving. Saxton noted how backhanded it was…
A Jack Gallagher video package aired. Gallagher said his fighting name is “Gentleman Jack”. Jack talked about being in WWE for a long time, but not being a champion. Jack said he’s not playing games now. Jack talked about his new tattoos being warpaint…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Flair in NXT has been solid for her first few weeks. It’s probably the fresh setting, but this is also a good chance for her to try out new takes on her character given the new and more reliable creative team handling her creative. By the way, Jessie Eleban has been in WWE for a long time. Why did they take away her “nerd girl” gimmick, which she was playing well, and turn her into a generic heel? She looked decent, but she’s probably just waiting for the right repackage, similar to Raquel Gonzalez.
A Robert Stone and Chelsea Green promo aired. Green was in the middle of a bikini photoshoot while Stone was lounging in the pool. Stone hyped up Green. After Green was done with her shoot, Stone told Green how much Green was compared to people like Shotzi Blackheart or Rhea Ripley…
Jack Gallagher made his entrance wearing a red robe. Fantasma made his entrance with a purple cape and had a white mask (not my favorite, but much better than his pretty eh purple mask)…
John’s Thoughts: By the way, Fantasma lost his mask in a mask vs. mask match in AAA. It looks like WWE’s going to pull a Rey Mysterio with him now and rewrite things to fit WWE’s storylines. That said, Fantasma is a guy I would get behind when it comes to a big push and potential merchandise.
5. Jack Gallagher (record 0-0) vs. El Hijo Del Fantasma (record 0-0) in a Group B match of the Interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament. Gallagher kept Fantasma grounded early on. Fantasma escaped and hit Gallagher with a dropkick for a two count. Gallagher went to his own chinlock. Gallagher slammed Fantasma and went for several quick pin attempts. Fantasma hit Gallagher with forearms. Gallagher backdropped Fantasma and gave him a forearm. Gallagher then threw Fantasma into the barricade. Fantasma held Gallagher and dumped him outside with a curcifix drop to ringside. Fantasma hit Gallagher with a plancha heading into commercial. [c]
Gallagher gave Fantasma kicks while Fantasma was on the apron. Gallagher got a two count off of Fantasma. Gallagher locked Fantasma in an armbar. Fantasma escaped and rallied back against Gallagher. Fantasma sent Gallagher outside with a jump kick. Fantasma hit Gallagher with his signature Arrow from the Depths of Hell Suicide Dive (which I still argue as the best Suicide Dive in the industry).
Fantasma got a two count off a rollup. Gallagher escaped a Fireaman Carry by pulling at Fantasma’s mask. Gallagher hit Fantasma with a headbutt for a two count. Fantasma avoided a dropkick and staggered Gallagher with Fireman Carry knee strikes. Fantasma hit Gallagher with the Thrill of the Hunt (Samoan Driver) for the victory.
El Hijo Del Fantasma defeated Jack Gallagher via pinfall in 8:19 of on-air TV Time to win a match in Group B.
McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Fantasma. He spoke all in spanish. He pretty much gave a generic babyface promo talking about how he’s going to be champion…[c]
John’s Thoughts: I like the new looks I’m seeing from both Fantasma and Gallagher. Shame that Gallagher devlops a new look on 205 Live (mixed thoughts on the tattoo though) and is still playing the fodder gatekeeper. Gallagher is another guy who’s so talented in the ring and as a personality that it’s so odd to see him not pushed higher on the card. As for Fantasma, good debut. Did I have my info wrong? I’m pretty sure the guy speaks perfect English from what I heard in Lucha Underground and Impact Wrestling. Heck, he was translating Pentagon Jr. promos when he was Impact. I wonder why he’s going all Spanish in NXT so far? I’ll post one of his promos below, but I remember LU giving the guy a lot of promo time, and he never spoke Spanish (despite being in a company that would have allowed it). He also had a really good calm promo style that really worked for his cowboy bounty hunter character.
Tom Phillips announced Charlotte Flair vs. Mia Yim in a non-title match. Saxton announced Keith Lee vs. Damien Priest for the North American Championship. Phillips noted that Io Shirai is next in line for the title and this match with Yim was happening because Flair requested it…
Oh no! They cut to El Hijo Del Fantasma who was cutting a Spanish promo in the parking lot. Suddenly the Luchador Ninja Kidnappers attempted to kidnap Fantasma. Fantasma tossed around one of the “Luchadores” and the kidnapper ninjas got back in their SUV and retreated…
John’s Thoughts: Fantasma avoiding kidnapping makes me more suspicious than ever that he’s the leader of Samoa Joe’s kidnapper ninjas. Either that or my fake-kayfabe Ninja Exalted One Jeremy Borash. Samoa Joe needs to know who kidnapped him Dammit! (there’s also a part of me that hopes they don’t pay this off because the mystery of the Samoa Joe kidnapper ninjas is one of the legendary unfinished storylines in wrestling history). This is the first kidnapping attempt that didn’t have to deal with Kushida though (which also has me thinking that they’re telegraphing a Fantasma vs. Kushida final)
Entrances for the main event took place…
6. Velveteen Dream and Keith Lee vs. Adam Cole and Roderick Strong (w/Bobby Fish). All four men brawled. Fish was ejected when Dream protested. While the referee was distracted with Fish and Dream, Damien Priest showed up and jabbed Lee in the throat. Preist fled. Lee crumpled to the floor. Cole demanded that the referees count. The referees didn’t and instead more referees showed up to check up on Lee who was choking at ringside. [c]
The commentators noted that this was a handicap match now that Keith Lee couldn’t continue. UE dominated Dream. Dream tried to fight UE off but Cole gave Dream a kick and Strong gave Dream an Angle Slam to get a two count on Dream. Strong hit Dream with a few of his signature backbreakers.
For some strange reason, creepy ass Samuel Shaw, now named Dexter Lumis, showed up on the ring apron and was just standing there. He was standing in what would be Dream and Lee’s corner, watching Dream get beat up. Dream managed to hit Strong with a Dream Valley Driver. Lumis held out his hand for a tag. Dream made the tag and Lumis had the hot tag sequence. Phillips said the “referee is showing a lot of leniency in this match” to explain why this is allowed.
Lumis hit Cole with a sitout chokeslam. Bobby Fish showed up again at ringside. Lumis hit Fish and Strong with a flip dive. Dream hit Cole with a Purple Rainmaker for the victory.
Velveteen Dream and Dexter Lumis defeated Adam Cole and Roderick Strong via pinfall in 6:10 of on-air TV Time.
Dream posed in the ring. Lumis was peeking at dream from ringside, next to the apron. Cole, Fish, and Strong retreated up the ramp to close the show…
John’s Thoughts: I’m never the biggest fan of wonkyness involving random tag partners and I wasn’t a fan of it here. I’ll give NXT this one because at least they had Phillips rationalize it as the referee authorizing Dexter Lumis as the random tag team partner. That said, I’m actually intrigued at some sort of program involving Dexter Lumis and Velveteen Dream weather it be as a tag team or as opponents. Both men have a oddball strangeness about them and I think there’s a potential for a good story there.
A jam packed and very efficient episode of NXT as usual. More developments though which is a good thing. Lots to absorb with a handful of mysteries set up too. We don’t know why Finn Balor is missing (maybe he just couldn’t make the show and they’re retconing thigs?). We got another attempted kidnapping, those are always fun. We got a bunch of good Cruiserweight matches. We also got the ongoing Drake Maverick fighting for his career storyline. Good overall. I’ll be by tomorrow with my member’s exclusive NXT Audio Review, and Jason will be by with his NXT Hit List.