NXT returned last night (May 6) from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.
Velveteen Dream failed to win the NXT title in the main event of this episode.
They went back and forth for the first segment. The match portion was good, but nothing too special given it was a main event title match. Then we got the obligatory Undisputed ERA attempted interference.
However, Bobby Fish and Roddy Strong were cut off by a waiting Dexter Lumis, who revealed himself from the ring in what was probably my favorite moment of the match. But he got overzealous and tossed one of them ERA boys into the referee, knocking him out.
With a ref bump comes the part where Dream hits a move, this time the Elbow Drop, for a 1-2-3 that the referee isn’t there to count. He then turned his attention to the chaos outside, taking those men out. But when he got back in the ring, Adam Cole was waiting with a superkick and a Last Shot for the win.
While they protected Dream given he has the “I would have won if the referee wasn’t knocked out” excuse for losing, the way Cole put him away pretty quickly after that felt rather inauspicious. This isn’t one of those losses where someone is going to be elevated despite not winning.
Maybe it’s the lack of crowd to help this build. Maybe it’s the accusations of inappropriate and illegal behavior. Maybe it’s the fact that Dream was playing full heel against Roddy Strong when he was the babyface. It’s probably all of those combined. But the program never felt like the big title program it was meant to be.
It felt like this was the only move - to get Cole past this feud and onto something bigger. (I’m thinking Finn Bálor though Keith Lee is another option.) Maybe Velveteen takes exception to Lumis and goes after him, but I think it’s just as likely we don’t see him on TV for a month.
It was a promising feud to start, one that felt it should have been big, but multiple factors derailed this to give us an entertaining, but in the end forgettable match. And the man who was a shoe in to win the title now has the feeling of an uncertain future.
Rhea Ripley is back!
Her return capped an already surprising end to the Women’s title match. Charlotte losing the gold was not going to be an option this soon after winning it at WrestleMania. So Io taking a hard fought loss was the most likely scenario.
Instead, Charlotte got herself disqualified by using a kendo stick. This protected Io Shirai. She was too much for the Queen, driving the champ to give up by attacking her with a kendo stick, admitting she can’t beat her on her own. It also allowed Charlotte fully embrace her heel side, which they don’t do enough of.
Rhea Ripley’s return is a boon for the division as well. They were positioning her as a top talent prior to her hiatus. Yes, there was a sizable speed bump at WrestleMania, but that didn’t undo months of positioning her like a star.
So in the end, Charlotte cheated to win, which a heel should, Rhea is back, and Io looks strong. This is an example of a title match that was better off with a screwy finish.
Karrion Kross made his anticipated in ring debut. And it was fantastic.
Their rollout of Kross has been pretty flawless so far. From the creepy videos, to slowly stalking Tommaso Ciampa, to the eventual attack against Ciampa, it’s been gradually building anticipation.
This in-ring debut was an emphatic exclamation point to all of that.
His entrance was ominous and threatening. All in black in white, Scarlett stood on the ramp as smoke surrounded her. Then she was joined by the imposing Kross and they walked to the ring. Scarlett sang his rather intense theme music, making her feel like she’s the leader of the Cult of Kross.
The match was a dominant squash against poor Leon Ruff. Karrion brutalized the young man with a pair of Doomsday Saito suplexes before chocking him out with the Kross Jacket.
That entire segment made him feel dangerous. It’s quite the debut.
Finn Bálor is focused on finding who attacked him weeks back.
He cut a brief promo, and he got meta with it. The Prince talked about how someone attacks the top guy to get a push. But in this case, that push is going to be a squash. While I often roll my eyes at promos that lean on “insider terms,” it seems to work with this version of Bálor. It’s as if he’s so fed up with everything that he doesn’t care.
The match immediately after this was Cameron Grimes winning a squash. The Carolina Caveman then got on the mic and started talking smack about Finn. Like a moron.
Bálor walked with a purpose to the ring to confront Grimes, who immediately backed off like a coward. So good heel work for the Tar Heel. Finn offered him a free shot but laid Cameron out when he finally took it.
This sets up a match for next week.
All Heart, No Soul
This is the most interested I’ve ever been in Johnny Gargano’s character.
He’s definitely committed to this heel persona and it shows. His attitude is different. He’s a cocky but also a heel who begs off. And he wasn’t afraid to cut all corners to try to fell the bigger man. He feigned a knee injury before inflicting a legit one on Dominik. Candice saved his ass a couple times. He used an exposed turnbuckle to set up his finishing DDT. Whatever it took, honor be damned.
Dominik Dijakovic was a good first opponent for this new Johnny. It gave Gargano a reason to try as many underhanded tactics that he could. While I think Johnny kicked out of a couple big moves that maybe should have been avoided so Mauro didn’t have to put over his typical resilience given he’s a heel now, it was a brand new Gargano. It was even coupled with brand new theme music, losing the upbeat Rebel Heart that we associate with his babyface run. This wasn’t like when Johnny kind of turned heel to face Aleister Black (that was more the bad influence of Tommaso Ciampa). This is a brand new man.
The new dastardly duo of Candice LeRae and Johnny Gargano are off to a hot start. Let’s see where this takes them.
All the Rest:
- Akira Tozawa picked up a decisive win over Jack Gallagher. Which is great, but we also see him jobbed out on Raw every week which lessens the impact (and lessens the accomplishments of everyone in the tournament since he’s got one of the best records).
- Kushida went over Jake Atlas in the cruiserweight tournament as well. This puts him at 2-0. His last match is against Drake Maverick, who sits at 1-1. So Drake can stay alive by defeating him. It’d be a Herculean effort, but it’s possible. If Jake Atlas beats Tony Nese, he’d be 2-1 as well. Then what? Maybe a triple threat? It’s a way to get Drake to the finals if they want to go that way.
- Chelsea Green defeated Xia Li with the help of Aliyah. It was quick, and the finish was sloppy (with Li not falling fast enough to the I’m-Prettier). Robert Stone helped Aliyah up after the match, hinting that maybe he could be interesting in recruiting her for his Brand. But nothing would make me less interested in the Robert Stone Brand, which I like, than bringing Aliyah on board.
They loaded the second hour, which left the first hour feeling a bit filler-y. But all in all, this show was good. Like last week, they’ve got Mauro Ranallo and Beth Phoenix calling the action alongside (from home) alongside Tom Phillips. Ranallo makes these empty arena shows better.
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