By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
“MSK” Wes Lee and Nash Carter vs. Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza in a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic semifinal match: MSK always bring high energy and they got this show off to a good start with a win over the Legado del Fantasma duo. NXT desperately needed a strong babyface tag team, so it’s no surprise to see the duo advance to the finals. That said, it will be interesting to see if they are booked to win the tournament or if the creative forces feel that they have already made their mark by going to the finals.
Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher vs. “The Grizzled Young Veterans” Zack Gibson and James Drake in a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic semifinal match: I was legitimately surprised to see Gibson and Drake get the win. MSK vs. Ciampa and Thatcher would have been a fun styles clash, but MSK vs. GYV should be a terrific match. Gibson and Drake have struggled to click in the North American NXT. This win gives them credibility, and a case can be made for attempting to truly make them by having them win the tournament.
Xia Li vs. Cora Jade: Oh, sure, now Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter care about Li. Where were they when Tian Sha was torture training her and poor Boa? All kidding aside, I continue to enjoy this unconventional storyline. Beth Phoenix once again mentioned the mythology of Tian Sha in a way that left it up to the viewer’s interpretation. If you like hocus pocus in pro wrestling, then you can believe in the origin story. Or if you want a realistic product as I do, you can look at it as mind games and showmanship.
Kushida vs. Austin Theory: The real fun was the Johnny Doctor Guy segment. Johnny Gargano faking an injury to avoid facing Kushida was a good fun. William Regal was perfect as the no nonsense authority figure. The actual match was entertaining with a well timed DQ finish. The involvement of Dexter Lumis afterward likely sets up a tag team match coming out of Takeover.
Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart vs. Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell in a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic semifinal match: There was no reason to think that LeRae and Hartwell would win considering that fellow heels Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez had already reached the tournament finals. Even so, this turned out to be an entertaining match, albeit with some clunky moments. The finish was fun with Hartwell sacrificing herself to spare LeRae, only to be crushed and pinned by Blackheart.
Cameron Grimes returns: The Billionaire Bumpkin was unexpected fun. I was hoping that Grimes would return with more of an edge to him, but he continues to do a hell of a job with the hayseed persona that he’s asked to play. Bonus points for the current events references to the Game Stop and “Dog Coins” stock stories.
None: Every segment served a purpose and I was never bored during the episode. I really liked way that the Takeover matches were spotlighted at the end of the show. That was great use of the overrun, as they were able to push Takeover to the NXT audience as well as AEW and other television viewers who changed channels at the top of the hour. It was a successful go-home show before the final segment, but those brief match spotlights made it a great go-home show.
The best thing about the Dusty Rhodes Classic this year is that you have actual teams in the final instead of thrown-together singles wrestlers who are already top guys. Having the likes of Balor/Samoa Joe win it defeats the whole point of a tournament like this.