By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT Stand & Deliver Hits
Johnny Gargano vs. Grayson Waller in an unsanctioned match: A strong brawl and a credibility building performance for Waller despite the fact that he tapped out. So many comparisons have been made between Waller and The Miz due to their verbal skills. Miz’s in-ring style works for him and he’s had a great career, but Waller has proven himself to be more versatile in the ring and works a more aggressive style. The post match scene with The Way was the reunion that we never knew we needed, and yet it was enjoyable and got over big with the live crowd.
Wes Lee vs. Dragon Lee vs. JD McDonagh vs. Ilja Dragunov vs. Axiom in a Fatal Five-Way for the NXT North American Championship: A very good match with top notch work for everyone involved. Lee seems to be gaining momentum as champion, so I like the idea of keeping the title on him. One frustrating aspect of NXT going with so many multi person matches to get more people on the show is that it created too many scenarios where the fans reacted to moves rather than truly getting behind one wrestler in particular. So while I enjoyed this match and I get that this is the WrestleMania weekend show, I hope the creative forces will make some tough decisions by booking more singles and traditional tag team matches for the good of future PLEs.
Roxanne Perez vs. Zoey Stark vs. Gigi Dolin vs. Tiffany Stratton vs. Lyra Valkyria vs. Indi Hartwell in a ladder match for the NXT Women’s Championship: Dolin’s ladder spinning Terry Funk tribute spot was one of the only things that felt truly off in this match. And that’s impressive considering all the moving parts and the experience level of some of the wrestlers involved. The least experienced wrestler of the bunch took a hellacious bump and one can only hope that Stratton avoided injury. I liked the spot with Jacy Jayne returning to prevent Dolin from winning and that the referees didn’t just stand around afterward because it’s technically a No DQ match. The finish was a lot of fun and a cute payoff for longtime fans with Dexter Lumis returning to help his storyline wife win. Hartwell has had some ups and downs in NXT and it was a really nice moment to see her unexpectedly win the championship.
“Chase U” Andre Chase, Duke Hudson, Thea Hail, and Tyler Bate vs. “The Schism” Ava, Joe Gacy, Rip Fowler, and Jagger Reid for control of Chase U: A soft Hit. This was the least intriguing match on paper aside from Ava making her in-ring debut, as the idea of The Schism potentially taking over the fake university was just plain corny. The tease of Hudson joining The Schism was silly and yet it worked like a charm. The live crowd popped big when he double crossed the cult by tearing off their t-shirt and staying true to Chase U.
NXT Stand & Deliver Misses
Bron Breakker vs. Carmelo Hayes for the NXT Championship: An overbooked mess. I like the outcome, but I’m not a fan of how they got there. The ref bump felt unnecessary and I despise that the guy who went on to win the championship tapped out while the ref was down. It would be one thing if Melo were a pest heel who stole the belt, but that’s not what they were going. Rather, Breakker inexplicably treated Melo like he was a deserving champion despite the tap out and the interference from Trick Williams. So they basically gave us a tainted finish followed by a post match scene that that would typically be reserved for when a new champion is crowned after a competitive match with a clean finish. This was NXT’s biggest show of the year and it was headlined by a match that they billed as 18 months in the making. Why couldn’t they go with a clean finish? Why was it so important to protect Breakker at the expense of the new champion?
“Gallus” Mark Coffey and Wolfgang vs. Julius Creed and Brutus Creed vs. Tony D’Angelo and Channing “Stacks” Lorenzo in a Triple Threat for the NXT Tag Team Titles: Everyone worked hard, but the live crowd never seemed fully invested. It was an odd match on paper with D’Angelo and Stacks feeling to new to the tag division to have any issues with either team, and the Gallus duo still haven’t caught on. It didn’t help that Brutus missed his cannonball dive on what appeared to be the biggest spot of the match. On the bright side, it was good to see Joe Coffey finally arrive and hopefully his mic skills can give Gallus a needed boost.
Kiana James and Fallon Henley vs. Isla Dawn and Alba Fyre for the NXT Women’s Tag Team Titles: The right team went over. I’m high on the upside of James and Henley, but Dawn and Fyre are simply the better team at this point. They’ve also reached a point in the story where James and Henley appear to be on the verge of splitting, so there was no reason for them to keep the belts. The actual match had a decent amount of clunkiness, and I rolled my eyes at the finish. If Brooks Jensen was willing to hold James’s purse, then he’d also be whipped enough to hand it back the moment that she asked for it.
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