By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Seth Rollins and Bron Breakker: It’s been fun to watch the Breakker tweak his look and act as he finds himself as a heel. He’s off to a good start and it’s encouraging to see him being his own man rather than emulating his uncle’s promo style. Rollins was very good in his big screen promo and they set the table for what feels like one of the biggest matches in NXT television history. Bonus points to Vic Joseph for selling the announcement of next week’s World Heavyweight Championship with the right mix of astonishment and excitement.
Wes Lee, Mustafa Ali, and Tyler Bate vs. Joe Gacy, Jagger Reid, and Rip Fowler: A hot opening six-man tag match with good work from everyone involved. The finish was awkward with one referee stopping the other referee from counting because the illegal man was being pinned. Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough to ruin the good work of everyone involved. And while I didn’t care for the spot involving the referees, they also deserve credit for their perfect timing in executing that spot. I also enjoyed the backstage angle that resulted in Ali selling Lee and Bate on the idea of being the special referee in their NXT North American Championship match. I’m genuinely curious to see what the Ali character is up to.
Baron Corbin vs. Ilja Dragunov: Why is the main roster star suddenly dressing like a guy who can’t afford ring gear? The match followed the usual formula of Dragunov taking a lot of punishment before battling back. The finish with Bron Breakker running in right in front of the referee was weak, yet par for the course on this overbooked episode (more on that later). Carmelo Hayes dominating Corbin after the match didn’t leave me anxious to see their NXT Championship match, although they still have another week to put heat on Corbin.
Oro Mensah vs. Nathan Frazer in a Round Match for Noam Dar’s NXT Heritage Cup Championship: The introduction of the rounds style format on NXT television has been rough. They never bothered to have a rounds style match on NXT television before Noam Dar and Dragon Lee met for the Cup at the last PLE, and that match had a wonky finish. Mensah and Frazer worked hard and while it may have been unavoidable, it felt flat watching Frazer beat Dar’s sidekick to win the Cup rather than the actual champion.
Thea Hail vs. Cora Jade: The match was nothing special. The finish felt like it was more about setting up Jade vs. Dana Brooke than it was about giving Hail momentum heading into her NXT Women’s Championship match in two weeks. The backstage segment with Hail and Duke Hudson was better, and it was encouraging that Tiffany Stratton’s character felt more authentic and less cartoonish during her brief appearance.
Dabba-Kato vs. Axiom and Scrypts in a handicap match: We just watched Scrypts inexplicably beat Dabba-Kato in a singles match last week, so what was the point of having a handicap match this week? Are the creative forces hellbent on destroying Dabba-Kato’s monster aura once and for all? As if the bad mathematical gimmick he started with wasn’t bad enough, now poor Axiom is tasked with getting Reggie over? That poor man. On the bright side, it’s good to see the talented duo of Angel Garcia and Humberto Carrillo put to use in NXT again after they simply disappeared from the main roster.
Edris Enofe vs. Malik Blade: I get the basic story that the undercard tag teams are facing their own partners in an attempt to bond. But there was just not reason to really care about the outcome. The post match brawl involving each of those previously chummy teams was a groaner and completely distracted viewers from the Angel and Humberto promo that was taking place on the interview perch.
Roxanne Perez vs. Tatum Paxley: The finish looked downright brutal and the live crowd sitting in near silence throughout the majority of this match was telling. I hope the more intense post match promo was a character shift for Perez, who came off too child-like while cutting that recent promo about how the ribbons in her hair are for all the little girls watching.
Crowded show: This edition of NXT suffered from some of the issues that often plague AEW shows. For instance, NXT crammed in too many people during this episode with wrestlers running out during or after most of the matches. They also had a backstage segment that required me to look up the identity of one of the new developmental wrestlers involved (this would have been a good place for one of the name graphics that I’ve praised NXT for using during other backstage segments). I get that they have a lot of people in developmental and are mixing in more main roster talent, but trying to keep everyone happy and involved should not come at the expense of show quality. Meanwhile, they also failed to build up the main event throughout the night to the point that I actually forgot what the show closing match would be.