NXT returned last night (Apr. 1) from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.
Keith Lee retained his North American title in the main event of tonight’s episode. It was our TakeOver match of the week, with the TakeOver skull logo on the screen for the match. (That skull logo served as a reminder just how cool pirate themed WrestleMania could have been.)
Working with no crowd is very tough. It’s tough on the wrestlers to find their flow. There’s no feel what works and adjusting on the fly after taking into account the reaction of the fans. It’s tough on the viewers as well, who are trained to respond to a match along with a live crowd. Silence usually means a match is bombing so it’s something we have to actively try to overcome.
Lee, Dominik Dijakovic, and Damian Priest put on a match that did the best to overcome all of that. Their hard hitting hoss style may be conducive to getting people invested at home no matter what. Hell, this match had Lee using the very large Priest as a damned weapon.
Damian brought the night stick into the match at the end, calling back to one of the reasons this match even happened in the first place. It ended up costing him and costing Dijakovic as his knee hit the nightstick during Feast Your Eyes. Keith Lee was the one able to capitalize.
It’s time for Lee and Dijakovic to go their separate ways for now. It doesn’t mean they can’t come back to this down the road. But he has been associated with Dominik for the better part of a year. It’s time to take a breather with that and see him feud with someone else.
Run the Gauntlet
Shotzi Blackheart got what may now just be known as the “Kofi Kingston treatment” in the Last Chance Gauntlet Match. She started at #1 and defeated four women before losing to the heel Dakota Kai at the end.
Of course, none of the women she ran up against were established in NXT. Beating Deonna Purrazzo, Xia Li, Aliyah, or Xia Li on their own isn’t something that’s going to make anyone right now. It’s not like she picked up wins over Bianca Belair ort Candice LeRae. But it’s still impressive to win four matches in a row.
Dakota picking up the win is heeling 101. Someone does a ton of work, the heel walks in with a bodyguard and plays dirty to win. That’s the good stuff right there.
The lack of crowd really undercut what could have been though. Hearing the crowd slowly get behind the babyface and that buzz getting louder as she goes deeper into the gauntlet match really would have helped accomplish getting her over. Not that this didn’t help Shotzi’s case. She’s better off because of this. But that crowd could have brought it to a different level.
Velveteen Dream defeated Bobby Fish in the opening match. Fish worked over Dream’s leg most of the bout, but Dream won with a Dream Valley Driver that was a bit outta nowhere.
After the match, Velveteen cut a quick promo on Adam Cole. There wasn’t much to it. And he’s gonna have to go through Kyle O’Reilly if the pattern sticks. He already beat Roderick Strong weeks back and then Fish on this episode. It only makes sense he runs through all of them.
Dream wrestled in purple latex gloves. It was very Velveteen Dream. It was one of those things that is overall harmless. But it also had me think about the country’s big lack of PPE while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and the attempted joke failed to land. Not that is was some travesty that he wore a pair of gloves or anything.
Dexter Lumis is finally back after losing the first round match in the Breakout Tournament months back.
He’s still rolling with the serial killer gimmick, which I dig. I like that type of campy thing in my wrestling here and there. However, it’s difficult to reintroduce a character without an audience. In such an early stage of character development, you need to hear what that crowd likes and doesn’t. Maybe they’d learn that weird crawl out of the ring thing doesn’t work. Or maybe they’d learn the crowd loves it. Without that instant reaction, it’s going to be hard to properly refine a new persona.
He defeated Jake Atlas this week. This is probably the bit where they use a new signee to act as talented enhancement talent prior to taking them off TV and repackaging them. But Atlas gave fans like myself who don’t really know him a strong first look.
Kushy and Kidnapping
Kushida defeated Joaquin Wilde via submission. Sam Roberts may not have been fun to listen on commentary all night, but his points about Kushida not living up to the hype around his signing weren’t wrong. It’s clear that’s the narrative they want us thinking about and given how things stalled after his injury, it may be the story to tell.
Joaquin Wilde was later abducted in the parking lot like former Kushida opponent Raul Mendoza. While this doesn’t make NXT security look good, I’m very curious to see what comes of this.
The main event was strong and the gauntlet match was fun, but this show felt average otherwise. Negative points for Sam Roberts on commentary playing the annoying heel announcer. Also, negative points for the fact the audio and video weren’t completely synched. That audio issue could take someone out of a match that the talent is already working so hard to keep people at home invested in given there’s no one there watching live.
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