By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Orlando, Florida at Capitol Wrestling Center (WWE Performance Center)
Aired April 27, 2021 on USA Network
[Hour One] The NXT intro video aired. It sounds like they’re rotating intro themes…
Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, and Beth Phoenix were on commentary. As entrances for the opening match took place, Vic Joseph made sure to drop his contractually obligated line of NXT having the best Women’s Division in the world…
1. Dakota Kai (w/Raquel Gonzalez) vs. Mercedes Martinez. Kai used a legscissors to take down Martinez to start the match. Martinez escaped and laid a few slaps on Kai. While a bit of slipping occured, Martinez caught a flying Kai and got a little bit of a knee bar in. Martinez planted Kai with a Spinebuster for a two count. Kai recovered and hit Martinez with a snap DDT for a two count. Kai hit Martinez with a bottom rope face wash for a two count. Kai worked on Martinez a bit and got a backstabber in for a two count.
Martinez staggered Kai and hit Kai with an innovative Gory Bomb into an Impaler DDT. Kai tossed Martinez into the corner and then followed up with a Face Wash Kick. The show cut to Picture-in-Picture.[c]
Kai had the advantage back from the break, but Martinez quickly regained control. Martinez hit Kai with a Three Amigo variation of a Dragon Suplex. Martinez slammed Kai’s arm to the mat with Kai selling a shoulder injury. Kai rolled back in the ring to distract the ref. Gonzalez went for a lariat at ringside but Gonzalez ducked it. Martinez got back in the ring and hit Kai with a high knee. Raquel Gonzalez ran in the ring and attacked Martinez for the apparent DQ.
Mercedes Martinez defeated Dakota Kai via apparent DQ in 12:30.
Gonzalez womanhandled Martinez at ringside while trash talking Martinez in Spanish. Gonzalez ended her onslaught with a lawn dart toss into the ring barricade.
John’s Thoughts: This is a heel vs. heel matchup that actually works. I’m a bit surprised that Gonzalez ended up being presented as the full-on heel in the end because Gonzalez has proven that she can pivot seamlessly to Babyface if she wants along with Martinez being such an intimidating force. I’m not going to complain though because this should be a very entertaining clash of titans. Kai continues to do a good job as the workhorse of the division. The Shawn Michaels and Diesel comparisons are real with Kai and Gonzalez (complete with Gonzalez even pulling off the Lawn Dart toss in the last segment).
McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart about having to face The Way down the road. The tag champs were hyping up their upcoming matches against The Way and Robert Stone Brand. Suddenly someone delivered flowers to the tag champs. Franky Monet (Taya Valkyrie) showed up and said that the tag champs look like they have an admirer. Franky took the from tag and revealed that the flowers were from Dexter Lumis. Moon noted that she’s married and they couldn’t be for her. Shotzi also rejected the flowers comically…[c]
The show cut to Cameron Grimes shopping at a jewelers. Grimes was acting like a goof, saying that he was treating himself to bling. He wanted an expensive watch. The graphic said “to be continued” showing that we’re getting more of these segments for the rest of the show…
Zack Gibson and James Drake were already in the ring for a promo segment. James Drake started the promo and claimed that MSK was ducking out on the Grizzled Young Veterans. Gibson talked about how the GYVs are the leaders the NXT Tag Team Division needs. Gibson implied that MSK are a couple of snowflakes. Gibson was about to do his usual “Soon to be Recognized” promo, but he was cut off by Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher.
Ciampa talked about how he and Thatcher are similar to the GYVs because they are all Grizzled and Veterans. Ciampa said he and Thatcher also know about how to be a leader too. Ciampa said he and Thatcher are putting their names in the hat as to being the next Tag Team champions. They talked about watching old GYV footage and taking notes. Thatcher led the crowd in the UK “Shoe’s off” song that the UK crowd would give Gibson. Thatcher and Ciampa took off their shoes and cleared the heels from the ring to end the segment…
McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Killian Dain and Drake Maverick about facing Imperium later in the show. Drake said he’s worried about Dain either not being there for the match or betraying him in the middle of the match.
Xia Li, Boa, and Mei Ying were shown standing in darkness. Li was saying words in Mandarin (my Mandarin is rusty and I can’t translate). The promo ended with the words “Tian Sha” on the screen…[c]
John’s Thoughts: I like that NXT is trying to give the tag division some promo time, but the Grizzled Young Veterans could use a bit more vignettes and character development before they go out there to cut regular wrestling promos. Nothing was wrong, but I also felt like not much was pushed forward here other than it looking like the GYVs are being fed to Ciampa and Thatcher in the near future. I also thought it was odd for Thatcher to randomly bring up an NXT UK chant that the United States viewers know nothing about, and Thatcher assuming the American would jump in on an esoteric chant.
A Make a Wish video package aired that spotlighted one of the kids that conquered their terminally ill diagnosis…
The show cut to an Isaiah Scott recording studio promo. Scott talked about initially thinking that Leon Ruff was a coward, but him later being proud of Leon. He said he never knew Leon had it in him. Scott said it’s obvious that the ring can’t contain him and Ruff. Scott proposed a Falls Count Anywhere match. Scott said because Ruff wants to play games, Scott is going to play games with Ruff’s life…
John’s Thoughts: Great stuff! Scott is cutting the best promos of his career in this recent heel run and I felt like consistent promos and characterization are what have been holding back Shane Strickland over the years. These cinematic pre-taped promos are making Scott look really cool and also allowing WWE to hide any weaknesses Scott may have with promos.
Toni Storm made her entrance and claimed that she was the one that made Zoey Stark famous. Storm’s enhancement opponent was already in the ring…
2. Toni Storm vs. Zayda Ramier. Storm dominated Ramier early on. Storm then tortured Ramier with a backbreaker stretch on the knee. Zayda made a bit of a rally with punches. Zayda then missed two kicks and got German Suplexed. Storm tackled Zayda in the corner and followed up with a hip attack. Storm teased going for a Storm Zero, but instead dragged Zayda to the top rope. Storm was about to go for a Super Storm Zero, but Zoey Stark got on the apron to distract Storm. This allowed Zayda Ramier to shove Storm off the top rope and hit Storm with a Shooting Star Press for the surprise victory.
Zayda Ramier defeated Toni Storm via pinfall in 3:29.
Santos Escobar, Raul Mendoza, and Joaquin Wilde cut a promo backstage. This promo, like the Isaiah Scott promo, had a multi-cam cinematic setup (my guess is that this is a Jeremy Borash production?). They talked about making examples of their opponents later in the show and how they are all going to bring the Tag Titles and Cruiserweight title the Legado Del Fantasma faction…
Bronson Reed was headed to the ring for his next match. Reed glared at Johnny Gargano, who was standing in the Gorilla Position area. Austin Theory also showed up all smiles…[c]
John’s Thoughts: I’m still shocked that Toni Storm is pigeonholed in the “jobber to the stars” role because at one point I would have thought she could have been a potential face of Raw of Smackdown’s women’s division if done right. For some reason, she hasn’t taken the world by storm (pun attended) like I would have hoped. That said, I did like the surprise win from Zayda (who I don’t know too much about other than her being a student of Booker T). I hope they follow up with her surprise win. The ultimate goal of that segment was to put some steam behind Zoey Stark, and in that I thought the segment succeeded.
McKenzie Mitchell interviewed LA Knight. Knight talked about how he got the W over Dexter Lumis. He called Indi Hartwell a “pop tart”. Knight talked about how he saw that Indi had a “tingle in her loins” when she saw LA Knight. Knight ended his promo with his fact of life catchphrase. Ever Rise randomly showed up with merch cups to hang out with McKenzie (I’m have no clue why these guys make me think of the Young Bucks?)…
3. Bronson Reed vs. Austin Theory (w/Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae, Indi Hartwell). Reed and Theory traded headlocks during the opening chain wrestling sequence. Reed took down Theory with a shoulder tackle. Theory went for a leaping move, but he was pounced by Reed. Theory landed an impressive drop kick on Reed, but Reed no-sold it. Theory distracted Reed so that Johnny Gargano could hit Reed with a superkick. Theory tossed Reed into the steel steps heading into regular commercial.[c]
Theory worked on Reed with methodical offense back from break. Reed got a breather after avoiding an elbow drop from Theory. Reed caught Theory and hit him with a Military Press. Reed hit Theory with a front hip attack. Reed planted Theory with a release chokeslam and a senton for a two count. Theory came back with a neckbreaker for a two count. Reed hit Theory with a Samoan Drop for a two count.
[Hour Two] Wade Barrett noted that Gargano was looking very nervous because he doesn’t want to face Reed again. Theory shook up Reed with a superkick. Theory yelled “This is the way” and went for a Suplex, but Reed reversed the suplex into his own suplex on Theory. While both men were knocked out, Dexter Lumis showed up at the top of the stage. Johnny Gargano saw Lumis and pulled LeRae away for safety. Lumis then started following Hartwell around the ring in stalker fashion.
Lumis and Hartwell then faced off on the ring apron. Theory ended up knocking Lumis off the apron. Reed knocked out Theory with a forearm smash. Reed hit Theory with the Tsunami Splash for the victory and number one contendership to Johnny Gargano’s title.
Bronson Reed defeated Austin Theory via pinfall in 9:00 of on-air time.
The commentators noted that Bronson Reed won number one contendership to the North American Championship per William Regal’s stipulation. Reed taunted Gargano from the ring, saying that he was coming after the title.
McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Kushida, Wes Lee, and Nash Carter who were all hyped for their match against Legado Del Fantasma. Kushida joked that tonight they can be called MS-Kushida…[c]
John’s Thoughts: A good match with Reed continuing to look good after the repackage and toning down the high flying moves. Reed is one of WWE’s better big man workers at the moment and still has a lot of room to grow. The Hartwell-Lumis story may not be for everyone, but I get a kick out of the comedy produced by the Way. Hartwell was the weakest of the Way in terms of personality, and this is getting her out of her shell and showcased. This segment was efficient in pushing Reed in the North American Title division while also continuing to add layers to the “In-Dex” love story. I’m not going to fault NXT for telling a long-term slow-burn story. Sometimes I wish we get that on Raw and Smackdown.
Johnny Gargano and the Way were backstage complaining. Gargano said that it was all Lumis’s fault. LeRae claimed that it was all Moon and Blackheart’s fault, saying that they are trying to get in the head of Hartwell’s love, Lumis…
Instagram pictures were shown of Finn Balor and his wife (who wore a luchador mask) on vacation in Mexico. The commentators noted that Balor will be back on NXT next week..
John’s Thoughts: I’m happy that Balor is sticking around in NXT (at least for now) and not going back to his lame ass grinning character that he had when he was on Raw and Smackdown. It was a bit odd to show him randomly on vacation coming off his WrestleMania weekend match against Kross. A bit of a tonal dissonance and almost kayfabe breaking.
4. “Imperium” Marcel Barthel and Fabien Aichner (w/Alexander Wolfe) vs. Killian Dain and Drake Maverick. Dain no-sold Aichner’s offense early on and tossed Aichner around. Dain took out Aichner with one of his impressive crossbodies. Aichner tagged in Barthel so that Imperium could double team Dain. Dain ended up dumping Barthel to ringside to regain the advantage. Dain body slammed Barthel and tagged in Maverick. Dain hip tossed Maverick on Barthel. Maverick used his quickness to avoid Barthel. Maverick hit Barthel with a dropkick.
Maverick hit Aichner with a Sliced Bread and a Victory Roll. Maverick went high risk, but Barthel yanked Maverick back to the mat. Aichner and Barthel went into isolation offense on Maverick heading into commercial.[c]
Imperium continued to cut the ring in half on Maverick, preventing him from tagging in Dain. Wade Barrett noted that Fabien Aichner is the strongest man pound-for-pound in NXT (which may be true, too bad he lacks any sort of charisma). Maverick managed to slam Aichner, but Barthel got off the apron to pull Dain off the apron. Imperium put the boots to Maverick, but Dain entered the ring and cleared the heels from the ring. Aichner distracted the referee so Wolfe could hit Dain with a chair, but Wolfe hesitated and refused to hit Dain.
This caused Wolfe and Berthel to bicker. Maverick hit Barthel with a dive. Barthel tossed Dain into the Steel Steps. Aichner beat up Maverick in the ring. Imperium hit Maverick with the European Bomb to give Aichner the victory.
Imperium defeated Drake Maverick and Killian Dain via pinfall in 8:07 of on-air time.
Vic Joseph noted that he believes that Killian Dain have proven that he has Maverick’s back…
John’s Thoughts: Barthel and Aichner are still very dull in terms of characters, but I have to say that I’m a little bit intrigued with his story with Dain and Maverick. At first it looked like it was all about recruiting Dain, clear cut; but it seems like there are a lot of intricate directions they can go if they wish. One thing that intrigues me a bit is the potential of Drake Maverick joining Imperium to give them a top quality talker and personality. The only reservation I have with that is I’ve never seen Maverick work his main event promo style as a heel. His main event level promos are as a underdog babyface where as a heel he’s been the goofy butt of all jokes (which he’s really good at).
The show cut to Pete Dunne cutting a promo backstage. Dunne talked about people should be talking about him more and how he’s the toughest matchup in NXT. Dunne talked about how he can go after both Johnny Gargano and Karrion Kross. Dunne said he’s the baddest man in NXT and anyone should try to prove him wrong, he dares them…
John’s Thoughts: Is this another thing Borash and crew are experimenting with now that NXT is unopposed on Tuesdays? We’ve gotten several promos on this show already, and all were given the pre-tape setup with cinematic multi-cam.
Another Ric Flair Car Insurance commercial aired this week (no LA Knight in this one)…
The show cut back to Cameron Grimes at the jewelers, buying a gold watch. Grimes was about to buy the gold watch, but someone showed up behind him to show off his “Million Dollar” diamond watch. The man behind Grimes was Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. DiBiase did his signature evil laugh and walked out of the jewelers. Grimes continued to gripe about DiBiase continuing to outshine him…
John’s Thoughts: They’ve been teasing Ted DiBiase appearing in NXT ever since Cameron Grimes returned as the millionaire character. It was fun seeing Million Dollar Man back on WWE television, especially since he was such a fixture in a lot of people’s nostalgia. I hope that this isn’t a one-off cameo and that we get more between Ted and Cameron (but I also don’t want them to overdo it and overexpose DiBiase on NXT).
Entrances for the Blackhart and Moon vs. Robert Stone Brand match took place. During the babyface entrance, the tag champs were jumped by Indi Hartwell and Candice LeRae. Hartwell and LeRae left the tag champs lying. For some reason, Aliyah, Stone, and Jessi Kamea were celebrating in the ring holding up the women’s tag titles…
The commentators cut to Adam Cole being interviewed by Arash Markezi. They did the interview poolside (at the same pool that they once used as Velveteen Dream and EC3’s pool, presumably). Cole talked about how he made the decision to not carry Undisputed Era anymore. Cole said he’s also carried NXT over the past few years. Cole said that Undisputed Era turned their back on Cole, not the other way around. Arash asked Cole what does he think about people saying that Kyle O’Reilly is the face of NXT.
Cole said that O’Reilly is not ready for the main event. Cole said he knows that O’Reilly is insecure about being in the main event or a world title contender. Cole said as long as Cole is in NXT, O’Reilly can’t have that spot. Arash asked Cole about his thoughts on Karrion Kross. Cole said Kross is good, but he’s not sure if Kross is great. Cole said some say that Kross’s injury was a freak accident, but it might be an example of Kross not being ready for the championship.
Cole said he’s pissed off of people continuing to hype O’Reilly as the face of NXT and soon you’ll see the best Adam Cole you’ve ever seen. Cole then ranted about Arash holding up the interview because it’s hot poolside. Cole left the interview. The camera cut to Kyle O’Reilly watching the interview in a dark room, presumably backstage in the Performance Center…
A vignette aired. I think it was for a wrestler (but it also looked like an MMA gym commercial). The vignette ended with a logo saying “Diamond Mine”…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Here’s hoping that Cole is also sticking around in NXT because the fear is real with his potential callup. If I were Cole, I would stick in NXT, especially if he’s making a lot of money off his “The Chugs” persona on Twitch (His Twitch channel looks like its doing well, but he does break character there because he’s the most wholesome babyface on that channel). Going to the main roster, usually means you have to ditch those 3rd party things. As a viewer, you shouldn’t want to see Cole on the main roster because they would presumably screw him up due to his size.
The commentators advertised the following matches for next week: Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon vs. The Way in a street fight for the Women’s Tag Team Titles, and Leon Ruff vs. Isaiah Scott in a falls count anywhere match. Finn Balor will also return on next week’s NXT episode…
John’s Thoughts: At one point, those two matches would have been considered as throwaway undercard matches (and it still is to casual viewers I assume). That said, I think they’ve done a good enough job in the last few weeks elevating those programs with consistant build. Scott’s recording studio promos and Ruff’s grit have done a great job making their falls count anywhere match meaningful.
Entrances for the six man tag match took place. Kushida is back to wearing his Marty McFly pre-match gear…
5. “Legado Del Fantasma” Santos Escobar, Joaquin Wilde, and Raul Mendoza vs. Kushida, Wes Lee, and Nash Carter. Legado had the advantage early on with quick tags and isolation offense on Wes Lee. Lee dumped Mendoza to ringside to tag in Carter. MSK hit Mendoza with their signature roundhouse flurry. Kushida hit Wilde with a dropkick after Carter put Wilde in a Muta Lock. The show cut to picture-in-picture.[c]
Vic Joseph hyped up the return of Finn Balor for next week. Joseph also hyped up Raquel Gonzalez vs. Mercedes Martinez for the Women’s Championship in two weeks. Legado went back to their quick tags to keep Nash Carter isolated in the heel corner. Kushida got the hot tag and cleaned house. Kushida hit all three opponents with his signature moves. Lee and Carter tagged in so MSK could hit Wilde with Hot Fire Flame. MSK hit Mendoza with stereo dives. Escobar recovered and dragged Kushida to ringside.
Escobar power bombed Kushida through the table. Mendoza tossed Carter into the steel steps to leave Lee alone in the ring. Lee went for the Eddy Gordo waterfall kick on Wilde, but Wilde dropkicked Lee out of the air. Legado went back to quick tags and corner offense on Lee. Referees and trainers were shown checking on Kushida at ringside. Lee ended up fending off all three Legado members with kicks. Carter recovered and got on the apron, begging for the hot tag.
Carter got the hot tag, where he took out Escobar and Wilde with kicks, but Mendoza kicked Carter in the head to end that quick rally. Kushida broke away from the trainers and referees and entered the ring against their orders. Escobar grabbed Kushida and planted him with the Phantom Driver. Wilde and Mendoza hit Carter with their Legsweep Leg Lariat combo for the victory.
Legado Del Fantasma defeated Nash Carter, Wes Lee, and Kushida via pinfall in 13:47.
Escobar posed with Kushida’s Cruiserweight Title while Mendoza and Wilde held up MSK’s tag titles…
John’s Thoughts: This is the 3rd week in a row and NXT is continuing to experiment with experimental main events as opposed to the hotshot main events they were doing when against AEW on Wednesday. This was a good trios main event and I think Legado Del Fantasma came off really well in the end. Good heat was put on the heels and I liked the injury angle which elevated Escobar a bit while putting sympathy behind Kushida. I wouldn’t put the cruiserweight title in the main event slot every week, but for this week it was fine and NXT got to continue to push their storylines forward in a positive way.
NXT is slowly changing the format of their show week-to-week ever since the move to Tuesdays. What stood out this week was the constant usage of the multi-cam pretapes. They came off well, especially the Isaiah Scott and Adam Cole ones. The Pete Dunne one also worked to hide Dunne’s weaknesses on a live mic (though I think he does have talent to do good live promos when he’s just being an a-hole to people). It’ll be interesting to see how NXT does a few months from now once people start catching on that their show is becoming a national TV alternative to shows like Raw, Smackdown, and even AEW Dynamite.
The one plus I see over the past few weeks is that their writing is tighter and they are making an effort to develop new stars through patient storytelling. The one thing I do feel NXT still has to step up at is creating big moments. Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, and Finn Balor returning in successive weeks are good moments, but they aren’t channel turners. It would help for them to maybe shift someone over from Raw and Smackdown back to NXT. Maybe even bring in a legacy star like Ted DiBiase, or someone returning? We’ll see what they do. I’ll be by later with my member’s exclusive audio review for this show with more thoughts.