By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT Gold Rush Hits
Seth Rollins vs. Bron Breakker for the World Heavyweight Championship: The backstage segment with Rollins interacting with his trainee Nathan Frazer and then NXT Champion Carmelo Hayes was really enjoyable. Although the match with Breakker was solid, it was slower paced than most of Rollins’ matches and they never sold me on the possibility of a title change despite Rollins’ selling a rib injury. I was really hoping that Breakker would come out of this looking stronger in defeat. Still, it was a treat to see Rollins defend his new championship on the NXT television show. The post match angle with Finn Balor attacking Rollins for the second straight night was really well done. As someone who feels Balor has been too damaged to be viewed as a real threat to win the title, I’m impressed by the effort to put heat on him by telling the story of him softening up Rollins heading into the match. I still don’t see Balor as a threat to win, but I am open to the possibility that the damage he has inflicted will leave Rollins vulnerable to a same night Money in the Bank cash-in.
Wes Lee vs. Tyler Bate for the NXT North American Title with Mustafa Ali as special referee: This was not the gem of a match that one would expect from Lee and Bate. It was pretty obvious that the focus would be on Ali’s antics as special referee, so I never got my hopes up for greatness. There was still some really good action along the way, but this was more about setting the table for a likely Triple Threat match.
Edris Enofe and Malik Blade vs. Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen vs. Hank Walker and Tank Ledger for a shot at the NXT Tag Team: This went significantly better than I anticipated. Three-way tag matches have a lot of moving parts and some of the wrestlers involved in this match are light on experience. They were given a good amount of time and pulled it off nicely. I’m cool with Enofe and Blade getting the title shot, but I continue to hope that Briggs and Jensen don’t get lost in the shuffle. Their act with Fallon Henley really won me over after a rocky start.
Carmelo Hayes and Baron Corbin: A quality verbal sparring session. Corbin did his part as the heel by saying that he wasn’t bothered by Melo’s digs, yet occasionally showed through his facial expressions that some of the jabs got to him. Hayes closed his part a high note and really had the live crowd with him, but I like that Corbin got the last word and declared that the lesson was over.
Von Wagner and Mr. Stone: Wagner’s legitimate story about his childhood surgery was endearing. I’m not really sure how it sets up whatever is next for Wagner’s character, but it made for a strong segment.
Chase U pep rally: This act continues to amaze me. The idea of a 2021 character inspired by Bobby Knight somehow clicking and getting other characters over along the way is really something else. Thea Hail has gone all in with her take on Cheri Oteri’s Saturday Night Live cheerleader character. It’s silly sports entertainment and it works for its place on the card. Tiffany Stratton also came through with one of her better verbal performances during this segment.
NXT Gold Rush Misses
Dana Brooke vs. Cora Jade: All of the “hard work” talk regarding Brooke obviously isn’t enough when a good portion of the crowd turned on her in favor of the wrestler billed as NXT’s “resident mean girl.” Not even a scripted knee injury spot was enough to turn the fans in Brooke’s favor. Granted, it came off like it was a pocket of fans who were rooting against Brooke, but it’s not like the rest of the crowd came to her defense.
Valentina Feroz and Yulisa Leon vs. Jakara Jackson and Lash Legend: There were some clunky moments, but it was actually more good than bad, especially when compared to some of Legend’s past work. Feroz and Leon are solid in the ring, yet just haven’t clicked as characters, which made it tough to get invested in the match.
Gable Steveson appearance: Don’t get me wrong, it was cool to see Steveson make the surprise appearance. I just don’t know what they wanted viewers to take away from his offer to train Eddy Thorpe for his Raw Underground style match against Damon Kemp. Are viewers supposed to know that Steveson and Kemp are brothers? Does Thorpe’s character know they are brothers or is he oblivious? It came off like a case of “if you know, you know” since the broadcast team didn’t provide any clarity.