By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT Heatwave Hits
Carmelo Hayes vs. Wes Lee for the NXT Championship: A hell of a television main event despite the flawed finish. A lot of this episode felt like a standard television show, but this match and the mixed tag match made it worthy of being a themed edition special. Lee hitting his feet on the ropes while going for a suicide dive and then crashing head first into the barricade was frightening. I’m guessing he was supposed to crash through the barricade because Hayes was already moving out the way. Lee glaring at Hayes after beating the referee’s count didn’t seem improvised. It says a lot about Lee that he was able to return to the ring to take Hayes’s finisher. I just hope he’s okay after that nasty landing.
Rhea Ripley and Dominik Mysterio vs. Dragon Lee and Lyra Valkyria: Ripley and Valkyria work really well together and carried the body of the match. It wasn’t always as smooth when Dom and Lee were legal, but there was more good than bad. Lee pinning Dom was a logical move in that it sets them up for an NXT North American Championship match. One of the only negatives of the match was actually Raquel Rodriguez throwing soft shots that mostly missed Ripley.
Nathan Frazer vs. Noam Dar for the NXT Heritage Cup: A nice match without some of the campiness that has hurt other Heritage Cup matches. Frazer was protected to to some extent by having to kick Oro Mensah off the apron, which gave Dar time to avoid his finisher. It wasn’t an over the top distraction finish, and Dar is the type of heel who gets some of his heat for winning in flukey fashion from time to time. Dar winning the cup was logical. He does a great job of making the cup feel like the most important thing in his world, which should help get it over. It also gives the Meta-Four a boost with their leader holding a title.
Ilja Dragunov vs. Trick Williams: The match seemed laid out to be a “thank you, sir, may I have another” respect builder for Williams. The problem is that while he took a beating from Dragunov, he looked gassed and struggled at times. Williams whiffed with a haymaker punch, ran the ropes awkwardly, failed to sell when Dragunov pulled the ropes into his face, took a DDT wrong, and didn’t go up for a late Dragunov move attempt. But none of this seemed to matter to the live crowd. They got behind his Trick’s late flurry and the fans opposite the hard camera were on their feet during the closing minutes. There was even a “this is awesome” chant. So while the flaws in Williams’ game were on display, he ultimately seemed to gain the fan respect that the match was intended to give him.
Ivy Nile vs. Ava: An in the middle rather than a true Hit or Miss for a very basic match with a surprising outcome. With The Schism and all of their masked henchmen at ringside, it would have been easy to have Nile take a distraction finish or lose due to outside interference. Rather, she went over strong and even got the better of some of the henchmen afterward. So while the match was nothing special, I applaud the clean finish after NXT went overboard with bad finishes last week. As for the Creeds kidnapping Ava later in the show, they’re fools for only asking to be reinstated back into NXT when they could be hitting up her father for boatloads of ransom money!
NXT Heatwave Misses
Tiffany Stratton and her potential challengers: The issue remains that the Stratton character just doesn’t feel real. It strikes me as more of an issue with the creative she’s getting, because her delivery has improved, but it comes off like they are asking her to be one dimensional and cartoonish. The only part of the segment that really clicked was Roxanne Perez showing good fire as she tries to move away from the sugary kiddie persona.