NXT returned to us last night with their first 2-hour show on USA and the first episode going head to head with AEW. You can find the results at the live blog here.
What an Open
NXT made sure to start things off with a bang.
Matt Riddle and Adam Cole put on a hell of a match to open the show. Cole’s injury wasn’t a factor when it came to riling up the crowd and putting on a damn good match. It was a bout high on moves and light on slowing down and selling, so if you’re old school, maybe this wasn’t for you. But, personally, it didn’t bother me here. (And I am a person who appreciates a slower match at times.)
It delivered exactly what they were going for: An action fest to open a big show. The ending sequences were fantastic, including building up to the Bro To Sleep, a move Cole fought out of multiple times throughout the match before Riddle could finally deliver it.
In the end, Cole’s injury was actually Riddle’s undoing as the Panama City Playboy used his cast as a weapon to set up the Last Shot for the win. It’s a classic move and serves to remind us that no matter how good his is in the ring and how charismatic he is, Adam Cole is a heel.
That alone could have served as baller open, but then they dropped the surprise return of Finn Bálor, which is definitely adding more star power. It’s the perfect amount of star power too. He had a pretty strong run on the main roster so it’s not like bringing an NXT guy who floundered on the main roster. But he is an NXT guy through and through so it’s the perfect fit.
I wonder where this leaves Riddle. He lost his title shot and two men made their intentions for the championship known this week. How does the Bro handle going to the back of the line? Or does Cole’s use of the cast as a weapon give Riddle a strong enough excuse to get a rematch?
While we have to wait for the answer to that question, what we do know is that NXT knows how to open a show with a bang.
It was the main event match that really made this feel like we were watching a TakeOver on Wednesday night (like way back in the day).
It started with the special entrance with Wale, which is something you get at PPV specials and not usually on a weekly show. And then the in ring action was stellar. It was a match that would normally open a TakeOver instead closing this NXT. Tag team wrestling in NXT is fantastic, but these two teams have a special chemistry that may top what they normally do.
After the ERA retained with some help from Roderick Strong, NXT dropped a cliffhanger angle worthy of closing out a TakeOver.
As Adam Cole tried to acknowledge his boys on stage, he was interrupted by the returning Tommaso Ciampa!
First off, how great is it that six months after spinal fusion, Tommaso is back? That’s the best of all this.
But story wise, it really crowds the title picture in a good way. First with Finn Bálor and now Tommaso Ciampa. And Matt Riddle and Johnny Gargano not far behind them. Things are going to get fun.
Shayna Baszler retained her title against Candice LeRae in what may have been one of her best title matches.
Unlike many, I’m not really tired of Baszler. But she needs to have the correct opponent to work, and she hasn’t had that in awhile. Bianca Belair and Mia Yim aren’t the plucky underdogs that work best with the champ. Io Shirai could fit that bill but the chemistry wasn’t fully there.
Candice is that type of plucky underdog who works best with Shayna (like Kairi Sane did). She plays a great face in peril while having an intensity to her fire up.
While Shayna worked LeRae’s arm as is her signature, the match didn’t become too focused on that to the point they lost the crowd. Instead, LeRae fired back earlier than some of her opponents, causing the champ to focus less on targeting the body part.
Instead, she went to her other ace in the hole: The Kirifuda Clutch. The latter portion of the match was all about the champ trying to win with it and the challenger finding a way to avoid that. (One of the best moments of the match was when Candice locked the move onto Shayna for a taste of her own medicine.)
In the end, Shayna was too tenacious with it and Candice ran out of answers and had to tap. But this loss didn’t hurt LeRae like it seemed to set back Shayna’s last few opponents. And it’s always nice to see how good LeRae can be and how well Shayna can work when she has the right opponent.
Johnny is Back and Shane is Good
The biggest takeaway for me in Johnny Gargano’s victory over Shane Thorne was that Shane Thorne is very good.
This match was as meant to showcase Shane Thorne as it was to give Johnny a big win. Thorne is proving to be an entertaining solo heel act. He’s got a good look, attitude, and he delivers in the ring.
Yes, Johnny Gargano is a great dance partner and everyone is going to look a bit better than normal against him. But Shane didn’t look like he was being propped up by Johnny at all. He was holding his own. His kick based offense is a cool style and his was crisp out there.
He may have lost last night, but look for big things from the Aussie.
- Io Shirai and Mia Yim had themselves fun match, which Io won. This was meant to keep her atop of the division for possible future title shots since Shayna will be looking for a new challenger.
- Velveteen Dream cut a promo which didn’t say too much outside challenging Roddy Strong for the North American title. But it reminded us that Dream is charismatic no matter what he’s saying.
- We saw a video package for Tegan Nox’s road back from injury, hinting we’ll see her on the NXT main show. Which is great! It looked like she’d be on NXT UK, but we also know they don’t mind crossing over talent.
- Pete Dunne picked up a W against Danny Burch. Lately, Pete’s mainly been having fun matches, and this was a good, hard-hitting one against the no-frills Burch. But it looks like Pete’s found himself a program as Damien Priest attacked the Bruiserweight post match. This is an intriguing feud given the difference of styles.
This was a great episode of NXT, one that clearly pulled out all the stops. And even though there were no title changes, it didn’t take away from how big this show felt. All the championship matches delivered, and honestly, none of them should changed hands right now. No need to pull the trigger on a change just for the hell of it.
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