By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Casualties of WarGames: I am always a fan of pro wrestling companies slowing down and putting over a match or an event after the fact rather than rushing to whatever is up next. The wrestlers deserve to have their hard work and sacrifices in a WarGame match acknowledged, and it’s wise to put over the violence and danger of the match now to help sell the match in future years.
Raquel Gonzalez vs. Ember Moon: I didn’t think of this as a main event match when it was announced, but I certainly will if they ever book a rematch. Gonzalez has made dramatic improvements to her in-ring game. She had to go over in this match coming off of her big WarGames match win over Io Shirai. Moon is really good in the ring and while I like what we’ve seen her NXT persona, it feels like there’s still work to be done in terms of establishing her character.
Finn Balor opening with Pete Dunne, Damien Priest, Kyle O’Reilly, and Scarlett: A formula segment with a few challengers coming out to stake their claim for a shot at the championship. It’s always feels a bit strange that only a few wrestlers seem to want a shot at the championship, but the segment accomplished what it needed to in terms of lining up the potential challengers while also letting viewers know that Karrion Kross’s return was imminent.
Karrion Kross attacks Damian Priest: This was set up nicely during the opening segment when Priest addressed Scarlett by her old Impact nickname “Smokeshow” and said that she delivers messages while Kross stays in the car. Kross’s attack really stood out due to its intensity, and I loved the way that the camera followed him outside where he drove off in a car with Scarlett in a car. This may have actually been too good if Kross is staying heel, as that was the coolest thing anyone has done on the NXT television show all year.
Johnny Gargano and The Way: The over the top celebration of “The Way” faction was a blast. Gargano has really found his groove in this heel role and is doing awesome work. I genuinely looking forward to the Gargano and Candice segments each week. The duo aligning with Austin Theory and Indi Hartwell has potential to be fun now and especially when they eventually split up. Theory’s dopey character reminds me of Josh Woods in ROH, but they have to be careful not to make him main roster Riddle stupid. That Milky Way line was a huge groaner and made him look like an absolute moron. The segment that led to Kushida volunteering to replace Priest in next week’s tag team match sets him up as a likely challenger for Gargano. I love it. Gargano can sell the feud on the mic while making viewers want to see him get his ass kicked, and his matches with Kushida should be terrific. It looks like things are finally about to pick up for Kushida.
Killian Dain vs. Pete Dunne: The distraction finish made for a disappointing ending to an otherwise strong match. That said, giving Dain an out while making Dunne look opportunistic was the right move. I just hope we can see a fight to a clean finish at some point when it makes sense. Drake Maverick showed his usual good fire while initially fighting off the interference of Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch.
Isaiah Scott vs. Jake Atlas: A potential channel changing match if only because neither man has completely connected with the viewers yet. Even so, it was a well worked match and I liked that Scott declined to shake the hand of Atlas after taking the upset loss. Scott had every reason to be upset… with himself for wearing those green elf tights.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Cameron Grimes: A well worked match. But can we please cut to the part where Grimes abandons the false bravado act and becomes a serious player? I was happy to see that Ciampa vs. Thatcher wasn’t a one and done. They have good chemistry and I really hope that Thatcher will come out of this with more credibility. He’s an excellent wrestler who stands out as unique in NXT, but he’s been booked to lose too many matches. It’s also cool to see Tyler Rust (Rust Taylor) thrown right into the NXT mix.
Zack Gibson and James Drake vs. Marcel Barthel and Fabien Aichner vs. Chase Parker and Matt Martel: It felt like a channel changing moment when only two of these teams wrestled last week and the Ever-Rise duo interfered. Here we go again. I like these teams, but I had no idea who viewers were supposed to root for. The two British teams are really good, but they just haven’t connected with the North American audience yet. I thought Ever-Rise might be pegged as the babyfaces in this feud last week, but it looks like they are going with a strange three-way heel tag team program. Recent signees Dezmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz can’t debut soon enough to give NXT the strong babyface team that the division is currently lacking.
Io Shirai and Toni Storm: Is Storm heading back to the UK? I don’t understand why else she would be booked to be beaten up by Shirai and even double teamed by Ember Moon. Will they ever get it right with Storm in North America outside of the Mae Young Classic tournament?