By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT Gold Rush Hits
Carmelo Hayes vs. Baron Corbin for the NXT Title: The presentation of the match left something to be desired. The only time we heard from the champion was during his backstage segment with Rhea Ripley, and we never actually heard from the challenger. Granted, they did a good job of setting this up on previous shows. It’s simply that they could have done more within this episode to make the match feel bigger. Putting that aside, it was good to see Corbin abandon the gym clothes for actual wrestling attire. The match was well worked. While I never bought into the idea of Corbin winning the NXT Championship, he had some nice near falls and it felt like a really good bounce back win for Hayes after his loss to Finn Balor on Raw. As much as I don’t understand why NXT is the only show with an overrun, I like that this match actually went beyond the usual overrun time rather than conveniently ending at the normal time.
Rhea Ripley: NXT has created the vibe that you never know who might show up from the main roster from week to week. Ripley warning Hayes about getting involved in Judgment Day business furthers my assumption that Hayes will end up facing Balor in a rematch for the NXT Championship. Ripley also endorsed Lyra Valkyria. It’s not enough to make Valkyria, but it helps the cause.
Nathan Frazer vs. Dragon Lee for the NXT Heritage Cup: It was good to see a strong rounds style match on NXT television. The finish was really well timed with just one second remaining on the countdown clock when Frazer got the pin.
Tiffany Stratton vs. Thea Hail for the NXT Women’s Title: This was a better than anticipated match. There were a couple of awkward exchanges late, yet they managed to follow through and execute the moves they were going for. Hail getting a visual submission while the referee was distracted was a nice touch. Stratton retained her title, yet Hail was protected nicely so they can run this back at some point. The post match angle with Andre Chase returning to help Duke Hudson run of Charlie Dempsey and Drew Gulak was fun.
Gigi Dolin vs. Kiana James: An in the middle match. The live crowd’s subdued reaction to the match was telling. This feud just hasn’t clicked yet despite NXT creative’s attempts to make Dolin a sympathetic character due to her upbringing. Jacy Jayne destroyed Dolin with that wicked kick during their breakup angle and their feud fell below expectations. I can’t imagine that James pouring paint on Dolin is going to take this feud to another level as much as it just extends the mid-card feud.
NXT Gold Rush Misses
Mark Coffey and Wolfgang vs. Edris Enofe and Malik Blade for the NXT Tag Team Titles: The in-ring work was mostly solid. Enofe slipping while going for a tricky spot was unfortunate, but it was encouraging to see how quickly the wrestlers regrouped and got the match right back on track. The issue is that I felt apathy regarding the outcome of the match. Gallus still hasn’t clicked as characters, and it feels like the creative forces have never quite settled on who they want Enofe and Blade to be. The Stacks interference finish was meant to be compelling and yet I just couldn’t care less about why he helped the Gallus duo after kidnapping Joe Coffey. It was explained later in the show in another jailhouse exchange that required viewers to turn their brains off. It’s bad enough that viewers are supposed to accept that they could film these conversations, but they really make it idiotic by having a camera shoot behind D’Angelo on the jail side of the divide. All of this for a D’Angelo vs. Stacks feud?
The Schism family meeting: Man, I can’t wait to see Zack Gibson and James Drake escape this mess once their deals expire. To be fair, Joe Gacy was good on the mic and I like the idea that he proposed next week’s loser leaves NXT match because it seems to work to his advantage regardless of the outcome.
Eddy Thorpe and Gable Steveson: So Thorpe is apparently the most oblivious character ever because he doesn’t seem to have any idea that Steveson is the brother of Damon Kemp. Sure, they can always have Thorpe reveal that he knew and simply wanted to use Steveson for his training, but then it makes Steveson look foolish for thinking that he could pull off this bad ruse.