By John O’Connor, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@thereal_JOC)
NXT: Level Up (Episode 81)
Taped in Orlando, Florida at the WWE Performance Center
Streamed September 1, 2023 on Peacock/WWE Network
An ‘in memory of’ graphic of both Terry Funk and Windham Rotunda flashed on the screen before the introduction video this week…
Javier Bernal made his way to the ring as the broadcast team of Blake Howard and Byron Saxton welcomed us to the show…
1. Javier Bernal vs. Riley Osborne. Osborne worked on the arm of Bernal in the early stages of the match. Bernal returned the favor and forced Osborne to the canvas. Osborne took flight to escape and nailed Bernal with a springboard arm drag from the turnbuckle. Osborne looked to continue the momentum but Bernal hit a hip toss on the newcomer and followed up with a sliding clothesline to get a near fall on Osborne. The two men traded punches, before Bernal grounded Osborne once more with a chinlock.
Osborne rallied and hit a corkscrew splash for a two count. Bernal rolled to the outside to recover but was met by Osborne once more who hit Bernal with a Fosberry Flop. Sending Bernal back into the ring, Osborne climbed to the top rope and hit a Shooting Star Press on the grounded Bernal for the victory.
Riley Osborne defeated Javier Bernal via pinfall in 6:17.
The commentary team hyped Stevie Turner vs. Valentina Feroz for after the break…[c]
2. Stevie Turner vs. Valentina Feroz (w/Yulisa Leon). A stalemate between the two women as the match began. Turner held onto the arm as Feroz looked to jockey for position. Feroz sent Turner into the corner but Turner dropped Feroz face first onto the top turnbuckle to keep in control. Turner hit a reverse neckbreaker for a near fall and wore down Feroz as Leon encouraged Feroz from ringside. Feroz hit Turner with the double knees and a meateora for a two count but the force of Turner’s kick out sent Feroz into the second turnbuckle. Turner followed up with a running double knee strike to the back for the win.
Stevie Turner defeated Valentina Feroz via pinfall in 4:19.
The commentary team hyped the main event…[c]
3. Duke Hudson (w/Andre Chase) vs. Akira Tozawa in an NXT Heritage Cup tournament Group B match. Akira Tozawa is representing Monday Night Raw. The rules of the NXT Heritage Cup tournament was shown as the entrances took place and it was reiterated that the winner of the tournament will face the NXT Heritage Cup holder Noam Dar at NXT No Mercy.
Hudson used his strength to take down Tozawa early but Tozawa powered up and grabbed the head of Hudson but Hudson dropped Tozawa with a shoulder block. Tozawa hit a spinning sunset flip to gain a two count on Hudson which sent Hudson to the outside. Tozawa looked to fly but Hudson cut him off and hit a springboard German suplex to take control. Hudson locked in a sleeper as the crowd looked to bring Tozawa back into the contest.
Tozawa up to the top and hit a missile dropkick for a long two count on Hudson and looked to finish. Hudson powered up on Tozawa and dropped the Japanese star with forearms and punches but Tozawa faked out Hudson and hit Hudson with a shot to the face of his own. Hudson hit a boot on Tozawa and looked for the Razor’s edge but Tozawa countered and went for the back senton from the top but Hudson got the knees up and followed up with the Razor’s edge to earn his first two points in the tournament.
Duke Hudson defeated Akira Tozawa via pinfall to earn two points in the ‘NXT Heritage Cup tournament’ in 6:55.
John’s Ramblings: Finally after 80-plus episodes, we have a match on ‘Level Up’ that felt consequential with Hudson vs Tozawa battling it out in a match that was part of the NXT Heritage Cup tournament. A match always means more when athletes are fighting with stakes involved so it was good to see a tournament match feature on this episode and not just on the main NXT show. With that in mind, the main event is the match you need to see if you are following the tournament but none of the other matches this week were bad by any means if you were to sit down and watch the full show.