By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Orlando, Florida at Capitol Wrestling Center (WWE Performance Center)
Aired May 4, 2021 on USA Network
[Hour One] A teaser aired to hype the Leon Ruff vs. Isaiah Scott falls count anywhere match and Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon vs. The Way in a Street Fight for the Tag Titles…
Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, and Beth Phoenix were on commentary…
1. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. Leon Ruff in a Falls Count Anywhere match. Ruff tried to jump the gun, but the referee held him back to allow Scott to complete his entrance routine. Ruff ran at Scott right after the bell, but Scott nonchalantly raised his leg like a badass and Ruff ran right into it. Ruff tried to use his quickness to take advantage of the match, but Scott’s methodical strikes were better early on. Ruff reversed a JML driver into an armdrag. Ruff went for a Suicide Dive, but was caught midair at ringside.
Scott hit Ruff with a nasty looking Death Valley Driver on the spine of the apron (nice bump). Scott tossed the lighter Ruff around at ringside. Scott continued to toy with Ruff in the ring with slow offense and gloating. Scott hit Ruff with a top rope Superplex for a two count. Ruff tangled Scott’s foot in the second rope by blocking a PK. Ruff hit Scott with a driveby dropkick from ringside. Scott recovered and swatted Ruff out of the air with a simple chop. Scott chucked a red toolbox at Ruff, which Ruff avoided. The show went to picture-in-picture.[c]
During the break, Scott dragged the action to the locker area of the WWE Performance Center, the ringside lockers. Scott dominated completely and then dragged Ruff to the stage. This was where Ruff recovered. He tossed Scott off the stage and hit Scott with a cannonball for a two count at ringside. Scott went for another Superplex, but Ruff used his knees to escape and nail Scott with a Super Crucifix Bomb for a two count. Ruff dodged a punch, making Scott hurt his hand on the mat. Ruff then hit Scott with a Poisonrana from the apron to ringside.
Scott slowly rolled away to prevent Ruff from going for the pin. All the while, Scott was cracking up, trash talking Ruff. Ruff was reversed and it looked like he landed on his head (probably just a good bump) when Scott hit Ruff with a modified Michinoku Driver for a two count. Ruff recovered and hit Scott with a few dives while holding the toolbox, driving the box into Scott’s knee. Ruff got a two count.
Ruff locked Scott with a wrench assisted ankle lock. Ruff caught Scott with his impressive looking corkscrew cutter. Ruff hit Scott at ringside with another cutter. Ruff dumped Scott to the hard camera side of the barricade. Ruff was about to do a dive from the camera perch but Scott was shoved aside and Ruff dove right into the hands of a random big dude. The big dude told Ruff “you must be out of yo mind!”. Vic Joseph said the man’s name was AJ Francis and that he’s a part of Scott’s entourage. Francis gave Ruff a Death Valley Driver on the ringside barricade. Scott gave Ruff a JML Driver in the ring for the win.
Isaiah Scott defeated Leon Ruff via pinfall in 15:20.
Highlights from the match aired…
Finn Balor was shown walking in the WWE Performance Center parking lot…[c]
John’s Thoughts: A great opening match. I’m surprised they were light on the weapons here, especially given Scott’s past as a CZW deathmatch wrestler (I’ve seen Shane Strickland go a bit overboard in some of these garbage matches). Maybe they’re saving the garbage tricks for the women’s tag, but at the same time I’m not complaining because in my opinion less is more. Ruff continues to shine in every program he’s in. He’s a tiny dude that bumps well, but the dude gets believable big wins on occasion, making him NXT’s 1-2-3 Kid. I’m ultimately happy Scott finally may have won a feud and I’m looking forward to his partnership with AJ Francis, or even a faction where he has stooges.
Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory barged into William Regal’s office, but Regal was already having a meeting with Scarlett [Bordeaux]. Gargano decided to maybe chat with Regal later. Theory was then was distracted, looking around Scarlett’s chest area. Theory said “those are huge” and asked “are those real?”. Theory was refering to Scarlett’s fingernails. Gargano dragged Theory out of Regal’s office…
Some random wrestler named Asher Hale was already in the ring…
2. Cameron Grimes vs. Asher Hale. Grimes planted Hale early on with a Belly to Back suplex. Hale slowed things down with a side headlock. Grimes got out and hit Hale with a shoulder tackle. Hale used his agility to avoid Grimes and he hit Grimes with a dropkick to the knee. Grimes came back with a clothesline. Hale hit Grimes with a Dragon Screw. Grimes reversed a Tornado DDT. Hale came right back with a missile dropkick for a two count. Grimes recovered and hit Hale with a Black Hole Slam. Grimes yelled “to the moon” like a countdown and hit Hale with the Cave In for the victory.
Cameron Grimes defeated Asher Hale via pinfall in 3:04.
McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro. Carter talked about how they’ve given up on Xia Li and have moved on from Tian Sha. Catanzaro talked about how she and Carter want to go after the tag team titles. Franky Monet and Franky Monet’s cute Pomeranian interrupted the interview. Monet mocked Carter and Catanzaro for having fighting spirit. Monet continued to act condescending til the end of the segment…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Grimes is another wrestler, like Ruff, who benefits from the wins that NXT creative give him (a reason why 50-50 parity doesn’t work). Hale looked pretty decent, Grimes usually makes opponents look good, but the focus here was giving Grimes an enhancement win. I hope that we get another appearance from Ted DiBiase down the road because that can be a fun throwback and comedy segment. Even though Grimes and DiBiase are feuding, I wouldn’t mind those two maybe teaming up with DiBiase as a manager? Maybe bringing back the Million Dollar Championship? Not sure if DiBiase wants to work weekly TV though.
The camera cut to Grimes gloating in the locker room. Ever Rise showed up and continued to shill their podcast, mugs, and t-shirts. They kinda look like the NXT good value Young Bucks. Grimes left saying that he was going to the moon…
Zack Gibson and James Drake were already in the ring. Drake actually had the mic and called out Ciampa and Thatcher for bringing back Gibson’s “take off your shoes” mock chant from the UK. Drake called the fans swamp creatures. Gibson said that the fans have nasty webbed toes and that may drive the GYVs to leave this nasty country. Before Gibson could get into his “Soon to be recognized…” routine, Ciampa’s theme played as Ciampa and Thatcher made their entrance….
3. Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher vs. “The Grizzled Young Veterans” James Drake and Zack Gibson. Ciampa dominated Drake early on with his power advantage. Thatcher tagged in and worked on Drake with chain wrestling. Drake got to his corner and tagged in Gibson. Phoenix noted that the GYVs made it to the finals of the Dusty Classic twice (both losses). Thatcher slammed Gibson to the mat and got a two count. Thatcher then worked on Gibson with some joint manipulation. Gibson reversed Thatcher into a high guard. Thatcher used the Octopus Guard to lock Gibson in a sleeper hold.
Drake gave Thatcher a boot, but Thatcher no sold the kick, keeping his lock held. The show then went to regular commercial with Thatcher and Ciampa locking Gibson and Drake in stereo submissions.[c]
Thatcher worked on Drake against the ropes with European Uppercuts. Drake thought he tagged in Gibson, but Drake Wuertz told Drake that the tag was illegal because Drake executed the tag from the apron. Drake used the referee arguing as a distraction to yank Thatcher to the mat. Drake then legal tagged Gibson to get a two count on Thatcher. Gibson kept Thatcher under control with a Cravate. Thatcher escaped with an armdrag. Gibson used a heel hook to prevent Thatcher from tagging.
James tagged in and tried to pull Thatcher back but Thatcher kicked James away to get the hot tag to Ciampa, who cleaned house with a handful of lariats to the GYVs. After chopping up Drake’s chest, Ciampa tagged back in Thatcher. Thatcher and Ciampa gave Drake double team strikes ending with a knee from Ciampa. Ciampa tagged in and got a two count on Drake. Thatcher tagged back in. Drake managed to kick free from a heel hook. Drake tagged in Gibson who walked right into a Belly to Belly.
Ciampa and Drake took each other to ringside with lariats. Thatcher made Gibson crumple with a chest chop. Thatcher hit Gibson with a Dragon Suplex and went for an armbar, which Gibson blocked. Ciampa was shoved into the table. Drake followed up by diving into Ciampa with a suicide dive. Wade Barrett noted that he lost his shoe. Gibson hit Thatcher with a Helter Skelter for a two count. Ciampa distracted the referee from the apron. Thatcher picked up Wade Barrett’s shoe, which was in the ring somehow, and he smacked Gibson in the head for the win.
Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa defeated The Grizzled Young veterans via pinfall.
Gargano and Theory attempted to barge into Regal’s office again. Regal was actually in the hallway. Gargano tried to plead to Regal that his match against Reed in the future shouldn’t be happening. Regal told Gargano that the match was still happening. Regal then told Theory that his “new friend” Scarlett got Theory booked in a match against Karrion Kross. Regal entered his office. Theory acted shocked that Scarlett would see him as a friend, not catching that Regal was being sarcastic…[c]
John’s Thoughts: An entertaining time-filler match that was made to showcase Thatcher and Ciampa’s tag team synergy. Good win for Ciampa and Thatcher and I’m looking up to the style clash between them and MSK down the road. It looks like GYVs were here to be the transition feud that gets Thatcher and Ciampa to MSK while MSK feuds with Legado Del Fantasma. Smart move to keep multiple story threads running in the tag division. Ciampa and Thatcher use dirty tactics, but they’re selling this as a part of their gritty personality as opposed to having an evil alignment.
[Hour Two] Isaiah Scott was shown walking with three random wrestlers (two male, one female) in the hallway. Scott bragged about taking care of Ruff right before the group headed out to the parking lot…
Vic Joseph sent the show to a Sarray hype package. The package had Vic Joseph’s weekly contractually obligated line about NXT having the best women’s division in the world (which is arguably true)…
NXT Champion Karrion Kross and Scarlett [Bordeaux] made their entrance. Kross was wearing formal attire, that showed off his muscles, while also wearing a silken-looking suit vest. Kross said he made things clear a few weeks, and that all people had to do was step up. Kross said all he got was a bunch of people saying they’re not afraid of him. Kross said he’s not afraid of them too and now it’s time to give the people what they want. Kross said Kross doesn’t have to prove people wrong, people need to step in the ring with him to prove themselves right. Kross said he was going to dive bomb Austin Theory on his head next week.
Kyle O’Reilly made his entrance to interrupt Kross’s promo. KO looks like he raided one of Daniel Bryan’s plaid shirts while still looking like a hippy straight from Larchmont Ave. in Los Angeles. O’Reilly said he understands why Kross is confident and that’s because of Kross’s sheer dominance. O’Reilly said he’s here to tell Kross that he’s not afraid of Kross and he’s in the ring to say him vs. Kross is the match that both he and Kross want. Pete Dunne made his entrance to interrupt O’Reilly. Dunne said that he’s the baddest man in NXT and if Kross and KO think otherwise he dares them to come at him.
Finn Balor interrupted Dunne. Balor said he has been there and done that once with Dunne, and twice with O’Reilly. Before even dropping a line about Kross, Balor jumped Kross. Kross managed to fight off Balor initially. O’Reilly and Dunne tried to get shots in, but were tossed to ringside by Kross. Kross and Balor went back to brawling, pretty even until Balor was dragged to ringside by security. Kross gave one of the indie wrestler security guards with a Saito Suplex. As Balor was dragged to the back, Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory jumped Kross from behind.
Kross dominated early on, but The Way had the numbers advantage. The Way got Kross to his knees and gave Kross stereo superkicks. Gargano left Kross lying with a North American Title Belt shot to the head. The Way backtracked up the ramp to end the segment…[c]
John’s Thoughts: We haven’t seen the NXT Champion in a while so it was beneficial to have one of those segments that sets up the potential opponents for Kross. Even though they haven’t clearly defined it, it seems like they’ve been having Kross lean babyface ever since his feud with Santos Escobar. Kross is doing things like wrestling from behind all the time, holding up the mic to incite chants, and saying things like “give the fans what they want”. I was initially opposed to this because I’ve seen Kross be such an amazing heel, but Kross also has amazing and uncanny selling ability. Let’s see how this goes? In another note, it’s still taking time for Kyle O’Reilly’s quirky presentation to grow on me, and I’m usually a fan of levity and quirkiness when done right.
McKenzie Mitchell tried to interview The Way, but they were in a rush to drive away from the WWE PC…
Zayda Ramier was already in the ring. Her opponent is Sarray and Beth Phoenix made sure to drop another one of those “NXT has the best women’s division” in wrestling lines..
4. Sarray vs. Zayda Ramier. Sarray dominated the match after a dropkick. Barrett hyped up Ramier’s last win as bigger than Sarray’s debut because noone expected Ramier to win. Ramier tripped up Sarray and locked Sarray in a STO. Sarray hit Ramier with a few kicks and got a two count after a small package. Sarray turned a modified sharpshooter into a Muta Lock. Phoenix pointed out that Sarray is short, being 5 foot. bit also being very fierce. Sarray got a two count.
Sarray had an awkward landing off a dropkick and Ramier got a two count ount Sarray. Ramier hit Sarray with a Sling Blade for a two count. Sarray came back with a German and Saito Suplex for the win.
Sarray defeated Zayda Ramier via pinfall in 3:37.
Marcel Barthel, Fabien Aichner, and Alexander Wolfe were having a zoom meeting with WALTER backstage. I think they were speaking in German…
Another vignette aired for whatever the hell “Diamond Mine” is supposed to be. It still looks like a MMA gym commercial…
An ad aired for this week’s Smackdown, hyping up the Throwback Night theme…[c]
John’s Thoughts: A basic showcase to a wrestler that WWE is clearly pushing as their latest international sensation. It was fine, but I still feel like Sarray is a bit bland in terms of coming off as a generic joshi babyface. Plucky and milquetoast doesn’t necessarily work well for a wrestler that’s also being presented as a buzzsaw. Here’s hoping that they give her the Io Shirai treatment in giving her an elaborate character and personality. I’m actually pretty hyped about Booker T’s pupil Zayda Ramier who has looked good in recent matches, even getting that win over Toni Storm.
Sarray was making sure Zayda Ramier was doing okay backstage. The camera showed that Toni Storm was about to approach them, but she was cut off and had a staredown with Zoey Stark…
Jake Atrlas was already in the ring. LA Knight made his entrance and cut a promo on the way to the ring. Knight called the fans a bunch of incels. Knight said he was going to put Jake’s ass so far that Jake’s going to need an atlas to find it…
5. LA Knight vs. Jake Atlas. Atlas used his agility and dropkicks to dominate early on. Knight blocked a suicide dive with an uppercut. Knight caught Atlas with a slingshot shoulder block. Wade Barrett was over-the-top in hyping up knight. Atlas hit Knight with a knee, forearm smash, and suplex for a two count. Knight got a breather after giving Atlas an STO into the buckle. Atlas avoided the corner. Atlas hit Knight with a CQC combo, but Knight quickly recovered and planted Atlas with his finisher, the face driver. Barrett noted that his finsher was now being called the BFT, Blunt Force Trauma.
LA Knight defeated Jake Atlas via pinfall in 3:05.
Candice LeRae was hyping up Indi Hartwell backstage. Hartwell acted nervous and LeRae assumed that Hartwell was still distracted by a boy, Dexter Lumis. LeRae continued to encourage Hartwell while also looking a bit paranoid over her shoulder…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Knight had a bit of a rough few weeks when he started in NXT, but he’s starting to really pick up steam and look like his good ol’ Eli Drake self. As I said, the key to his success is good promos, and his promos have gotten back to form in recent segments. I also continue to hype up the guy as a sleeper hit in the ring because the guy can work that Takeover main event style when he has to.
Toni Storm cut a promo backstage where she talked down Zoey Stark. Storm ended her promo by saying that she brought Stark into this business and said that she will also be the one to take her out…
Santos Escobar, Joaquin Wilde, and Raul Mendoza were already in the ring wearing business suits. Escobar talked about how he was fighting for legacy. He noted people saw him become Cruiserweight champion and the undisputed emperor of Lucha Libre. Escobar recapped last week’s main event segment where he left Kushida and friends lying. Escobar said he’s going to take back what is his by taking back the NXT Cruiserweight Championship (Mendoza’s voice comically cracked acidentally when he agreed with Escobar). Joaquin Wilde took the mic and talked about how Legado embarrassed MSK last week. Mendoza said a few words in Spanish, talking about blood and gold, and then he went into English saying that they were coming after the tag team championships.
Escobar was about to continue his promo, but he was cut off by Kushida appearing on the LED fan screens. Kushida proposed Kushida vs. Santos Escobar for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship next week. Escobar said “you’re on” to end the segment…
The commentary team checked in from the table and performed a split screen interview with Raquel Gonzalez and Mercides Martinez. Gonzalez talked about how’s she going to dominate as champion. Martinez talked about having the experience and being hungry now. Martinez said that Gonzalez intimidates the locker room, but not Martinez. Martinez said you don’t see fear in her eyes. Martinez talked about paving the road for people like Gonzalez. Martinez said that Gonazlez is not gritty, but cookie cutter. Mertinez said that Gonzalez made the blueprint that molded Gonzalez.
Gonzalez pointed out that in one year, Gonzalez has surpassed all of Martinez’s lifetime achievements. Martinez said in one night, she’s taking the title away from Gonzalez. Gonzalez said that Martinez is her first title defense, and will definitely not be the last…
Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon were chatting backstage. They were then enthralled by Franky Monet’s cute Pomeranian. The pom left the scene and Ember Moon pointed out that it wasn’t so cute, because the dog left a turd in the toy tank. Moon and Blackheart walked off disgusted at the tank poop…[c]
John’s Thoughts: A solid promo exchange between Gonzalez and Martinez, but I felt like they could have used maybe a week or two more to establish Martinez as the babyface. Martinez worked this babyface in NXT before when she didn’t have a contract and was feuding with both Shayna Baszler and Ember Moon, playing the role of the grizzled vet. Even though this feels a bit rushed, Gonzalez vs. Martinez should be a show stealing match if given the right amount of time and creativity.
Cameron Grimes was trying to enter a club, but he was stopped by the club’s bouncer. Grimes kept claiming he was on the list, but the tall bouncer kept him out. A long white stretch limo showed up and Ted Dibiase emerged from it. DiBiase talked about how he rented out the entire venue for the night. DiBiase said his “everybody has a price” catchphrase and signature laugh. Grimes was left throwing a fit again because DiBiase continues to show Grimes up…
Entrance for the Women’s Tag Team Title street fight took place. Beth Phoenix pointed out that Blackheart’s ring gear was Freddy Kruger inspired while it looked like Moon’s attire was inspired by Jason Vorhees. Alicia Tayler tried to handle the formal in-ring introductions, but both teams brawled immediately to prompt the bell ring…
6. Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart vs. “The Way” Indi Hartwell and Candice LeRae in a Street Fight for the NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships. The commentary team talked about how Dexter Lumis continues to loom in the thoughts of Indi Hartwell. Both teams paired off and tossed weapons in the ring. Moon and Blackheart gave Hartwell stereo dropkicks to crush a trash can on Indi Hartwell. LeRae dropkicked her opponents to ringside. LeRae went for a baseball slide, but the tag champs dodged and use trash lids to hit LeRae with a conchairto. Blackheart and Moon brought a table to the ring.
Hartwell tossed Moon into the plexiglass and gave Shotzi Snake Eyes on the apron. Hartwell used a big boot to dump Ember Moon to the hard camera section. Hartwell set up a few chairs at ringside. Moon and Shotzi both recovered. Moon hit Hartwell with an X Factor onto the chairs. Blackheart sat Hartwell on a chair she put on top of the crowd of chairs. Shotzi was about to go for a Suicide Dive, but LeRae blocked it by shooting Fire Extinguisher in Shotzi’s face (I was a bit nervous given how many times I’ve seen Shotzi’s face go splat on ringside chairs at indie shows. LeRae did Shotzi a favor in my opinion). The show cut to picture-in-picture. [c]
[Overrun] Vic Joseph noted The Way dominated most of the break. Ember and Shotzi regained control and hit Hartwell with a double team slam for a two count that LeRae broke up. Moon and Blackheart gave Hartwell stereo forearms. The tag champs put LeRae on a bridge ladder at ringside. Blackheart hit LeRae with a diving Senton on the ladder. Wade Barrett shared my fear of Blackheart’s dangerous botches as he noted on commentary. Moon Power Bombed Hartwell into a table, but the table didn’t break (your “I am the table moment”). The Way regained control. Hartwell held up a ladder as a bridge with Blackheart on it. LeRae gave Blackheart a lionsault. Moon broke up LeRae’s pin.
Hartwell gave Moon a spinebuster into a ladder. Moon broke up that subsequent pin. Hartwell tossed Shotzi into the ringside barricade and cleared the announce table. Blackheart recovered and planted Hartwell through the table. Blackheart climbed up the ringside scaffolding and then dove off, giving Hartwell a crossbody through the table. LeRae gave Moon a jackknife pin for a two count. Moon gave LeRae a power bomb for a two count. Blackheart tried to pull LeRae off the top rope, but LeRae escaped and shoved Blackheart into Moon. Moon fell on top of a table. Blackheart dived over the top rope and gave Moon a springboard elbow through the table. LeRae gave Blackheart a Wicked Stepsister into a steel chair for the victory.
The Way defeated Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon via pinfall in a street fight in 15:34 to become the new NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions.
The new women’s tag team champions celebrated their title win to close the show…
John’s Thoughts: A really fun garbage brawl and yes, they were saving all the garbage risks for the main event compared to the opening no-dq match. A hard worked and fairly safe hardcore match by both teams. I thought the hardcore and tornado tag style hid some of Indi Hartwell’s weaknesses in the ring, where her inexperience stood out as a bit of a negative in these teams’ last match against each other. Another huge win from this match, is that Shotzi Blackheart didn’t almost kill herself with a botched daredevil move, which Wade Barrett even pointed out he was afraid of seeing. I don’t mind the tag title change because I feel the Way can do a good job utilizing their heel personalities to have face tag teams chase them. You can even flip The Way babyface because they are so funny and lovable.
NXT continues to experiment with new production techniques and this was a show built around two hardcore matches. Both hardcore matches were pretty solid and the main event stood out in a good way. The experimental women’s main event reminded me of the time where TNA was putting Gail Kim and Awesome Kong in their main events (along with wrestlers like Taylor Wilde, Angelina Love, Velvet Sky, and others) and the Knockouts segments were the highest rated segments on TNA Impact. NXT’s claim to fame is that they do have the best women’s division in all of wrestling and they should really do a better job at marketing that to help raise their ratings. I still also feel that NXT needs to bring in a big star and have big moments. If not Daniel Bryan (who may or may not be in play), it would help if they bring someone of name value over? I’ll have more thoughts in a bit with my member’s exclusive audio review.