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NXT recap & reactions (May 5, 2020): Not surprising

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NXT returned last night (May 5) from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Not Surprising

The end of the main event is probably something you predicted.

It’s very possible you guessed that Charlotte Flair would interfere in the match between Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley to leave it a no contest that would result in a triple threat match for the title.

And that’s what happened. Well not the triple threat part. They haven’t announced anything like that yet. But the smart money is they will.

Predictable isn’t always bad though. So was this a good predictable or eye roll predictable?

First the match.

Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley had a great bout together. The chemistry was certainly there as they told the story of Rhea’s size and raw power against Io’s tenacity and experience. They told that story well as both women found advantages in their individual strengths. It’s a match that we didn’t get an end to, but we need to at one point.

That’s when Charlotte came down “just to observe,” but of course something was going to go wrong.

And go wrong it did. Io huricanrana’d Rhea into Charlotte. So when the Queen came to, she delivered a big boot to Shirai. It made sense, but it’s a trope we’ve seen plenty and didn’t do much to assuage the disappointment of a predictable non-finish.

But that was only the last minute or two of the night. The match prior was very good and the upcoming triple threat will probably be very good as well.

Cut from the same cloth

Tommaso Ciampa finally confronted Karrion Kross, the first we’ve seen the man since Kross attacked him from behind.

Ciampa didn’t rush the ring to try to fight his assailant. He calmly walked to the ring and welcomed the newcomer to NXT, putting him over in the process. Because he didn’t need to do anything rash. Tommaso is very confident in who he is and doesn’t fear a man like Kross.

That makes sense. They’re both cut from the same cloth. Sure, the Sicilian Psychopath is a good guy now. But at his (black) heart, he’s a villain. He rose to the top by being the baddest bad he could be.

So he understands Kross. He respects Kross. But he sure the hell doesn’t fear him. That’s why he could step into the ring with the man with no trepidation.

And that’s why this is such a good feud for Kross to start out with. Ciampa is bulletproof in NXT. Taking a loss (which he surely will) isn’t going to hurt him at all. And it will help Kross tons to beat a man who’s as dangerous as he is.

Fight another day

Drake Maverick upset Kushida to earn one more week in WWE.

Like with most Drake matches where he’s the babyface, he got his ass beat 95% of the time. Kushida meticulously worked over the left arm of the underdog, setting up his Hoverboard Lock finisher.

Despite it being a rather simple formula, it worked. Maverick brought the fire to carry his portion of the match (in this case, the selling). When he pleaded with referee Drake Wuertz not to stop the match no matter what, you could feel that.

And he was able to bring enough to show while he was definitely outmatched, he wasn’t completely out of his league. (This is compared to back in the day when he was the X Division champion in TNA and brought almost no offense to his babyface matches.)

In end, Sliced Bread failed him due to how jacked up his arm was. Instead, they fell from the top rope in a way that had Kushida in prime position to lock in the Hoverboard Lock. At that point, Drake had to fight for his career in a panicked exchange that was palpable. He was able to gain the leverage and steal the match with a pinfall upset.

This set up a triple threat between Jake Atlas, Kushida, and Drake for next week. So it’s more of a stay of execution for Maverick. But he’ll take it.

Strange Bedfellows

Roderick Strong made his ERA members proud by defeating thorn in their side Dexter Lumis. Dexter brought the creepy, at one point enjoying knife edge chops (and those are serious chops - ask Daniel Bryan), and kept selling his character. But the veteran Strong was able to sneak a pinfall.

But Lumis isn’t the type of guy to take a loss well. He locked in his submission from the ring apron and dragged Roddy out to the floor, hold still applied. Adam Cole and Bobby Fish ran out to stop the madness, but Velveteen Dream ran out to make sure they didn’t.

It was a bit surprising seeing Dream so soon. With the allegations and the way he quickly lost the title, I expected him to be off TV longer.

Instead, he’s back to cement the oddest tag team. The flamboyant Dream and the uber intense Lumis. Let’s hope they team up at least once. After that, maybe Dream turns heel on the man, blaming him for the title loss. We’ll see about all of that.

Johnny’s best

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed Johnny Gargano as much as I do now.

His character as one half of Mr. and Mrs. NXT is an obnoxious delight. From him singing Mia Yim’s song when the couple interrupted her victory, to supplementing his wife’s promo with annoying interjections, to shouting “Oh my God!” when he saw Keith Lee chasing him off, it’s all so very good.

He’s always been a great wrestler, but his character was never great. He was a good true blue babyface, but it could be a bit bland. But now his character is straight up enjoyable on its own without his in-ring acumen. (If anything, he’ll need to learn to wrestle as a bad guy given his style.)

It feels like this is going to set up a big mixed tag of Mr. and Mrs. Garagano vs. (real life but not kayfabe) couple of Mia Yim & Keith Lee. That will be a real test for the first couple of NXT.

B Block

El Hijo de Fantasma defeated Akira Tozawa to advance to the finals of the cruiserweight tournament. While both men end at 2-1, Fantasma held the tiebreaker given he beat the man he’s tied with.

It was a good match, but I don’t feel too invested in either man that match. That’s probably because of how invested the Drake Maverick story was that nothing else in the tournament can compare.

After the match, the men gave each other their respect in the parking lot when the masked kidnappers attacked Tozawa. Fantasma started to exit his car to assist him but just his opening the door sent the assailants scurrying. It’s all just too suspicious, and I expect we’ll learn Fantasma is the mastermind in the finals of the tournament.

All The Rest:

- Shotzi Blackheart cut a video promo from a tank. It was full of that punk rock energy, though her promo delivery was a half shout that lost a bit of sincerity. (Talking about how her dad inspired her to get into rock deserves to sound a bit more sincere.) But she’s damned unique and has a charisma that is hard to deny. Shotzi could hone her tone with her promos, but badass tank gal is a gimmick that can certainly work.

- Damian Priest had a short promo explaining his attack on Finn Bálor but at the same time, not saying much. It wasn’t a very inspired promo, though didn’t have much opportunity to get there. This is Priest’s sink or swim feud so he should get some legit time to prove why he deserves to stand across from one of NXT’s best.

- Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch brought a new aggression when they straight up dominated the team of Ever-Rise. With Matt Riddle & Timothy Thatcher no longer in the division (and fighting in a submission cage match next week), they need a babyface to fill the void. Looks like that may be #1 & #2.

NXT is still enjoyable. Yes, I miss the crowds, but not as much when watching NXT.

Grade: B

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