Can’t help but think how special the tournament opening episode will be when WWE production has more than just one Dusty Classic to use for the top-of-show montage.
Right to tournament action, as the Bollywood Boys reunite after appearing separately in the Cruiserweight Classic (CWC). And Harv even got in some offense in their one minute, thirty second first round loss to Authors of Pain. Gurv just got destroyed and pinned after the leg sweep/lariat combo, which Tom Phillips informs us has been dubbed “The Last Chapter” by Paul Ellering.
Cruiserweight fave Rich Swann dances his way to the ring for his match against Patrick Clark, who’s rocking his Prince-inspired get-up rather than his Murica-themed one. The Tough Enough contestant blows kisses at Rich, who acts bemused by the whole thing. Clark takes down the smaller Swann at first, but then he dodges some offense for a standoff. Patrick taunts, his opponent dances some more before hitting a dropkick. A big spinebuster earns Clark a two-count, but that’s his last hurrah. A stiff kick to the mush and a high knee leaves him open for a handspring moonsault, and Rich wins in under three minutes.
Couple of recaps provide background for action we’ll see later, as a look at Cedric Alexander’s win over Andrade “Cien” Almas focuses on their post-match sportsmanship, and Liv Morgan not being ready for Asuka leads to the great fallout clip where Peyton Royce & Billie Kay mock the Jersey girl in the trainer’s room.
- Normally, there’s an expiration date on my enjoyment of squashes. I’m not a huge Braun Strowman fan, for instance. But I think I could watch Akam & Rezar throw dudes into other dudes for years.
- The Last Chapter is such a good name for a move from a team named the Authors, I’ll even forgive Ellering’s goofy promo from last week.
- Reading about Clark’s flamboyent gimmick tweak from house show reports, I didn’t realize it was quite so... 80s heel. I’m not offended, but if I had a vote, I’d suggest toning it down. It’s all in how the crowd and, more importantly, his opponent, takes it. Swann’s reaction was perfect, playfully dismissing it without acting disgusted. I don’t see all performers and audiences executing in that way, and it becomes a risk/reward thing.
- Patrick seems to love going over the top for a negative reaction, but seems talented enough to not need to go as far as he does... if that makes sense.
- Couple of fun squashes to start things off, mostly thanks to extremely watchable victors. Which is how those things are supposed to work.
- Hoping Liv has a long run on NXT - just so I can hear Corey diss her home state.
Royce, accompanied by Billie, is in action next, facing the debuting Danielle Kamela. Peyton slams the newcomer and talks trash, creating an opening for Kamela to connect with a crossbody and dropkick before eating a spin kick for a cover. Royce works over Danielle’s shoulders and arms with strikes and holds. She fights out to get in another couple of licks, highlighted by a handspring back elbow. But a suplex is countered into a slam, and a bridging suplex puts the finishing touches on a win in about three and a half minutes.
An interview with Tye Dillinger & Bobby Roode shows them struggling to get on the same page. Roode takes over the interview immediately after Charly Caruso asks Tye a question, saying their Dusty Classic match next week is a big opportunity for Dillinger. They do agree that they should be favorites to win the whole tournament, and the Perfect Ten is willing to put up with the Glorious One’s eccentricities for a chance to honor his mentor, the American Dream.
After Phillips and Graves lay it on thick praising Dan Matha, the huge rookie is immediately met by Samoa Joe, who headbutts him to the ground. Joe calls for a microphone while delivering forearms, and pauses mid-verse for an STJoe in the corner and to kick Matha to the floor. “Tick Tock, who will be the next to get their head rocked?” The former champ promises to destroy NXT’s future if General Manager William Regal doesn’t give him a match against Shinsuke Nakamura, or hand him the NXT championship.
Backstage, Dasha Fuentes interviews another Dusty team in Swann and No Way Jose. Before dancing away, Jose says he picked Rich as his partner because life showed him “hard times” and Swann said “no way”. Rich thinks people take Jose lightly because he likes to fiesta, but he’s a 6’ 3” beast.
- Have gone on a bit in my house show reports already about how ecstatic I am the Aussie lasses are paired up again, so just know that I’m in favor of more Billie & Peyton. It’s also an intriguing possible solution to the Asuka problem.
- Is Royce trying to be every Batman villain at once? Put some clown make-up on her and she can be Ivy, Nygma and Mistah J.
- Another enjoyable one-sided affair. That Kamela is on our screens at all so soon, and got a considerable amount of offense in, would indicate someone at the PC likes her. Hard to judge from this, but I didn’t see any reason to not be optimistic.
- In one segment, Glorious 10 join my list of favorite tag teams. Too bad they’re telegraphing a break-up already, but maybe their inevitable feud can take its time building up so we can get more interactions like the ones we’ve gotten the last couple weeks before Tye just wants to murder the guy.
- I’m a fan of all Roode’s iterations, but I’d forgotten how much I love this version. It’s like the character from EGO signed with the E and got an even bigger head.
- Mr. Regal really needs to address his main event scene.
- Seeing Swann and Jose next to each other made me think about why one happy dancing fun guy works for me while the other doesn’t. Work rate and a broader range are two reasons, but the biggest one is probably the name. If Rich went by “All Night Swann”, I probably wouldn’t be able to stomach that, either.
SaniTY’s debut is promised for next week, when they’ll face Glorious 10 in a first round match.
The main event is another Dusty Classic bout, as tag champs the Revival square off against Almas & Alexander. Cedric starts against Dash & Dawson, who work quick tags from the start. He takes some ground-based offense from Dawson before escaping via a backflip and a headscissors takedown which allows him to make a tag. Cien comes in with more of the same, and a tandem dropkick sends the Revival to the outside to regroup.
Dawson goes for a cheap shot while the referee is distracted denying Wilder a tag they champs made on the floor, but Alexander is ready. The next several minutes are Revival trying to do dirt and the makeshift team getting the upperhand by working together. This culminates in Cien’s faking a dive for his signature pose in the ropes while Cedric dives over him to take Dash & Dawson out on the ramp. After rolling them back in, he gets a two count, but targeted attacks on Almas’ arm puts the heels in the driver’s seats on either side of a commercial.
ACA is face-in-peril for a while, and even the moment where he countered into a small package goes unnoticed thanks to Dash & Dawson distracting the referee. Revival teamwork also isolates him and denies him several opportunites to tag in Cedric. He does eventually connect with an enziguri which brings Alexander in hot. A handspring enziguri almost ends it, but Dash breaks up the pin and another great nearfall comes a moment later when he flips over Dawson into a bridging cover.
He doesn’t connect on much else, however, and the Revival yank Almas off the apron to isolate Cedric. A few moments later, he turns into a Shatter Machine and the champs advance after nine minutes.
Post-match, Cien appears to console Alexander, but then wags his finger to the audience behind Cedric’s back to signal the beatdown. He stomps his partner to the outside, where he drops him face first on the steel steps. ACA soaks up Full Sail’s jeers from the ramp as the credits are displayed.
- We’ve seen this formula from NXT in the past, and it still works. The main event was at least a 4 star affair in my book, with a great piece of character development on the end. Put that on top of advancing a bunch of angles with a mix of short matches and interviews and I’m gonna enjoy your wrestling show.
- Someone with more skill breaking down matches than I could probably tell you why the Revival vs. Almas & Alexander was so good. For me, all four men did their thing, with Dash & Dawson in particular doing what they do every time they get in the ring - prove there’s no one better at pissing off fans while delivering a psychologically sound tag match.
- One of the many things I dug about the Cien turn is how it happened immediately after a match where they finally got Full Sail to cheer for him. Some of that is a testament to how over Cedric is, but it’s still impressive considering how disliked he was when working with Dillinger and others shortly after his TV debut.
- There’s a fallout video where ACA seems particularly angered with the fans for cheering for Alexander. That’s fine to start, but I’m not sure giving him a relateable grudge is the right way to go. His actions in the arena, where he seemed to feed off the boos, is more interesting to me. Or at least more Ingobernable.
- Overall, though, turning him is absolutely the right call. And feuding with a natural babyface like Cedric will result in both guys being more over by the time their program is done - which is how these things are supposed to go.
For the second year in a row, the Dusty has changed up the dynamic of NXT. The change of pace is nice, and looking at how many stories - for pairs and singles - they can spin out of the bracket, it fits right into the blend the show has going of everything from veterans to developmental prospects on the men’s side.
The women’s division is a bit of a different story, but they seem to have hit on a story which can get them through the winter while they stock the PC for the next possible tournament.
If I have a knock on the last batch of shows, it’s the reliance on squashes. But they’re telling stories via those matches, and the next rounds of the Classic should mean at least a few episodes over the next couple months will have multiple meaningful bouts.