By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Kushida: NXT creative forces are trying to make Kushida edgier, so having him go toe to toe with badass heel Ciampa was a logical move. They delivered a strong match and the cheap finish is understandable because it would not have made sense for either man to take a clean loss. But Velveteen Dream’s overacting really stood out. You can’t go from a gritty battle to over the top hammy selling without it looking fake. By the way, why is Ciampa a heel? He was among the best heels in the business throughout his run with Johnny Gargano, but he also became one of the top babyfaces in NXT. He felt like the face of the brand when I attended an NXT house show in February, and it seemed like there was more of his babyface story to tell.
Ember Moon and Rhea Ripley vs. Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez: It looks like we’ll be seeing a different version of Moon. As much as I’d like to see her play a dark and brooding character with some Crow Sting similarities, it looks like she is going in a different direction. So far so good. She came off likable during her promo and NXT did a nice job of making her return to the brand feel important. The Eclipse finisher on Kai looked better than ever. On the flip side, we’re still waiting for Ripley to regain the momentum that she lost when she was booked to lose to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania.
Drake Maverick and Killian Dain vs. Ever Rise: Never doubt Maverick’s ability to make something work. He’s shown tremendous range as a performer over the years and I’m already enjoying his oddball partnership with Dain. Killian is more than holding up his end as the no nonsense monster. I might piss myself if Dain ever joins Maverick in dancing to their whistling entrance theme.
Ridge Holland vs. Danny Burch: The match and the post match fight with Oney Lorcan were both entertaining. Unfortunately, Holland suffered a left leg injury while catching a diving Oney Lorcan. Here’s wishing him the best.
Shotzi Blackheart vs. Xia Li: Blackheart continues to provide a spark of energy every time she appears. The post match angle with Boa handing Li a piece of paper and then heading to the back with her was an interesting development.
Dexter Lumis vs. Austin Theory: The match was well worked, but it felt like it went longer than it needed to. This seemed like a spot to put over Lumis in short order given that Theory has the heel excuse that he’d already worked a match against Leon Ruff.
Timothy Thatcher: The Thatch As Thatch Can videos are a great way to show that his character is sadistic. Unfortunately, he’s been booked to lose too many high profile matches lately. Has Thatcher had a meaningful win since he beat Matt Riddle in the fight pit?