By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Matt Riddle vs. Timothy Thatcher in a cage fight with Kurt Angle as special referee: A cool and innovative match. The NXT Fight Pit was well designed and worked for television. It doesn’t look like the structure will work in its current form when live crowds return due to the scaffolding creating a lot of obstructed views. Nevertheless, I really like the structure and the overall match, as well as the way Thatcher was put over clean. It was also a great touch to have Angle serve as the special referee. As much I enjoyed everything about the actual match, the hype left something to be desired. We saw both fighters backstage during the show, but I’m surprised they didn’t do more to showcase the match and play up the fight pit throughout the show in order to hook viewers. That said, those who stuck around received a real treat.
Kushida vs. Drake Maverick vs. Jake Atlas to advance to the finals of the Interim NXT Cruiserweight Title tournament: A hot Triple Threat match to open the show. The Maverick storyline has been excellent and that’s more than enough to make up for the oddball finish. I get that it was supposed to be controversial because Atlas tapped to Kushida’s armbar before the referee hit the mat for the three count, but Kushida’s legs were covering Atlas even before Maverick made the cover. This left me wondering if Kushida supposed to have his shoulders on the mat too because it would have made a lot more sense in terms of Maverick being declared the winner. Still, a confusing finish wasn’t enough to ruin the match for me. It was a nice touch to have Kushida endorse Maverick as the block winner along with Maverick doing the right thing by offering him the first title shot if he wins.
Rhea Ripley and Io Shirai vs. Charlotte Flair and Chelsea Green: Green and Robert Stone gained something by being aligned with Flair in this match. I mistakenly assumed that Green would take the loss since the other three will met in the Triple Threat at In Your House. And perhaps a case can be made that she should have lost the match for that reason, but hopefully it’s a sign that the NXT creative forces are starting to protect Green. I’m not sure where Stone stands now that Green fired him in a post show video released by NXT. Could he end up with Aliyah despite blowing her off last week?
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Leon Ruff: Scarlett walking to ringside and distracting Ciampa created the reason for Ruff to get more offense than anyone would have anticipated before Ciampa came back and destroyed him. The post match Karrion Kross promo on the big screen was strong, and Scarlett simply looking back at Ciampa and smiling was perfect. Kross and Scarlet were both good, yet separate acts in Impact Wrestling. There were no guarantees that putting the real life couple together on camera would work, but it’s been fantastic so far.
Johnny Gargano vs. Adrian Alanis: The Gargano invitational is a fun way to work in some of the developmental talent. Most will serve as enhancement wrestlers, but there’s always a chance that the company will attempt to make a star by having one of them beat Gargano or take him to the limit. The match also set the table for the fun Keith Lee and Mia Yim spoof of the Gargano and Candice LeRae dinner table promos.
Shotzi Blackheart vs. Raquel Gonzalez: An entertaining match, but that trust fall dive that resulted in Blackheart crashing and burning was brutal. One can only hope that she didn’t suffer any major damage. I have no idea how she was able to continue the match or whether she even should have continued the match, but I liked the finish with Dakota Kai interfering while the referee was distracted by the bickering between Candice LeRae and Tegan Nox.
None: This was a strong episode of NXT television and the spectator wrestlers definitely helped create a better atmosphere. There were some rough outings from both companies early in the pandemic, but NXT and AEW are now producing quality television and Wednesdays are unquestionably the best night of the week for pro wrestling viewers.
I would take this episode over quite a few pre-pandemic shows tbh