By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Shotzi Blackheart vs. Raquel Gonzalez in a ladder match: The ladder matches still feel unnecessary determining which team will have the WarGames advantage, and NXT didn’t even do an effective job of letting viewers know that this would be a ladder match. It was never made clear last week and the first place I spotted official clarification was on my satellite company’s onscreen guide in the listing for this episode. In fact, NXT did a poor job of hyping this show, as this was the only match advertised until late Wednesday afternoon. That said, when you look at the match lineup, the only match that may have been worth advertising in advance was the opening tag match. Putting all of that aside, this was an entertaining match between two of NXT’s rising stars. It wasn’t always pretty, but it worked. The involvement of Io Shirai established her as the fourth woman on the babyface team while also giving Gonzalez and out for losing.
Pat McAfee promo: Another gem. McAfee promos have quickly become must see moments. I like the way he stopped using the tired and dated references to the internet wrestling community and shifted his focus to the overall fanbase, which covers a lot more ground. It’s hard not to wonder just how good McAfee could have been had he set out to become a pro wrestler rather than a punter. Obviously, everything has worked out well for him, but he’s a great talker and had such a good first in-ring outing that you have to wonder if he could have been an elite performer
Damian Priest and Leon Ruff vs. Santos Escobar and Raul Mendoza: A fun opener. The dynamic between Priest, Ruff, and Johnny Gargano has made for good television and I am really looking forward to their Triple Threat match for the NXT North American Title at Takeover. Escobar belongs in the heavyweight division. I’m not really sure that NXT needs a cruiserweight championship, but I guess it’s here to stay as long as they move forward with 205 Live.
Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher: A nice angle with Ciampa crashing the Thatch As That Can segment. The segment put some heat on Thatcher heading into what should be a fun Takeover match between the two. Will the trainee who helped Thatcher become a regular part of his act?
Cameron Grimes vs. August Grey: A soft Hit for a showcase win for Grimes with a post match angle that delivered a final push for Sunday’s strap match against Dexter Lumis.
Jake Atlas vs. Tony Nese: Both matches in the Miss section are here for reasons other than match quality. This match struck me as a channel changing moment. Atlas has lost more than he’s won, and Nese seems to lose whenever he works outside 205 Live. That said, Atlas getting the win and some mic time seems to suggest that creative has plans for him.
Zack Gibson and James Drake vs. Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner: A well worked tag match. But who were viewers supposed to side with? It felt like NXT threw in the towel in the viewership battle with AEW Dynamite by going with this match involving two heel tag teams that still mean more in NXT UK than they do in the North American version of NXT. The match concluding with Ever Rise attacking both teams and then racing for the exit and yelling “Ever Rise rules” made them seem cowardly and dorky, which isn’t a good combination if they are going to be babyfaces. And if they are not babyfaces, is this a three-way battle between three heel tag teams? Perhaps this will make more sense in a week or two.