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NXT recap & reactions (June 10, 2020): Tick Tock


NXT returned last night (June 10) from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Tick Tock

NXT has nailed the imagery when it comes to Karrion Kross. His killer entrance is proof enough of that.

They demonstrated that again this week at the close of NXT. Adam Cole had just defeated Dexter Lumis (with some help from Roddy Strong and Bobby Fish). A three on one beat down post match brought out Velveteen Dream to aid Lumis, both chasing off Fish and Strong leaving Adam Cole alone in the ring.

That’s when the lights went out and Scarlett walked out. They used a spotlight on her, following her through the smoke which in itself was a fantastic image. Playing the role of Kross’ harbinger, she then revealed an hour glass and set it in the ring. She slowed flipped the device over and left, leaving Cole speechless in the ring.

No words said but the message was received loud and clear. Adam Cole’s time is running out and when it’s over, he’ll have to reckon with Karrion Kross. It was a superb way to fade to black on this episode of NXT.

But is Karrion Kross the next challenge for Cole?

Maybe not. Because earlier in the night, a quick encounter backstage showed Keith Lee making it known he’d like a shot at that title. However, Finn Bálor looked in the camera after beating Cameron Grimes and said he wanted the North American championship. Finn wants Lee, Lee wants Cole. Kross wants Cole.

Dexter Lumis unfortunately will not be on that list. He is 0-2 against the Undisputed ERA. But they’ve done a really strong job at making him look like a force to be reckoned with. His character work during the match really sells who he is. The man loves to take a beating and is hard to keep down. However, he’s beatable. And that’s important.

You look at a character like Bray Wyatt’s Fiend and realize if you make a character too unbeatable, you book yourself into corners way too easily. Instead, Lumis is the prototypical horror movie villain (despite not playing a villain right now). He is hard to keep down, but he can be stopped.

Even with the loss this week, he got a moment to shine afterwards. When Adam Cole decided to jaw with his defeated foe after the match, you just knew that Lumis was going to sit up and lock Adam in a choke. That sit up is reserved for the good supernatural characters - Undertaker, Kane, Wyatt. It’s a move that fits the character of Dexter.

The last piece of this puzzle is Velveteen Dream, who is apparently still feuding with the Undisputed ERA but at this point, that’s got to be to transition him to whatever his next thing is. Of all the characters here, he is the one who’s in the most tenuous position after losing on Sunday. But this is NXT and they do a good job figuring out what’s next.

The Reveal

El Hijo del Fantasma’s reveal as leader of the kidnappers was very well done.

Many people, including myself, assumed he was the leader of the men abducting folks from the parking lot. They way they were so bad at actually kidnapping Fantasma seemed to choreograph it. But they added a ton to that here in a very strong reveal.

It was at the expense of Drake Maverick, who was being gracious about his defeat last week but asking Fantasma for a rematch. That’s when the masked men came out. And after a brief period of pretending he’d fight alongside Drake, Fantasma revealed himself to be the leader of these abductors.

But then the abductors unmasked, showing themselves to be Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza. I suppose that maybe I should have seen that coming, but it was a complete surprise to me. Not only were they abducted, they were brainwashed. This included a complete makeover for Wilde, who had a short cropped hair.

Then to add more surprise, Fantasma unmasked himself, telling everyone he’s to be known as Santos Escobar now.

The idea that he used his reputation to infiltrate the tournament and win the title, only to reveal he had evil intentions was really well done. This isn’t just turning El Hijo del Fantasma heel. This is him completely denying that personality, one that many fans who known him from outside WWE really love, to reveal a new villainous one.

Plus it was at the expense of NXT’s truest blue babyface Drake Maverick, who could possibly be champion if it weren’t for these guys last week.

Despite the main part of the reveal being a bit predictable, this was all very well done and gives us a dangerous trios stable. It shows that predictable is not always bad but is sometimes the right call.

Till Death Do Us Part

Candice LeRae and Johnny Gargano continue to be a wildly fun heel pairing.

They met the couple of Keith Lee and Mia Yim in a rematch from last week. It was a very entertaining match that really allowed all four members of this match to shine. Keith Lee always shines because he’s Keith Lee. Mia hasn’t always completely connected, but this feud has really allowed her to find that gear. The Garganos give her a foil to righteously unleash her entire attitude upon. Plus she gets to mix it up in the ring against the talented LeRae.

And of course, the Garganos are a blast. From begging off a beating to taking advantage of every situation, they are firing on all cylinders. This week, it was Candice who used Keith’s eye injury to give her husband the advantage when the North American champ was holding both of them with ease. She later DDTed the big man with an assist from her hubby and had a priceless reaction, gloating “I did that!”

It was the finish that really took the cake. As things were breaking down, as tags matches often do, Johnny hit his Last Beat DDT on Keith, but Lee fell with his full weight landing on LeRae. When he realized what had happened, he was despondent, picking up Candice to get her out of the ring. That’s when Gargano rolled up Keith, who was still holding his wife, and picked up the sleaziest of wins.

Then Johnny celebrated out of the ring, holding up the arm of Candice, who was still completely limp at the time!

Johnny and Candice have their new characters down in a way they never did with their old personas. Meanwhile, Lee and Yim make perfect foils for them. I don’t know if this is going to lead to another North American title match. It really doesn’t need to. Lee can move on to bigger things and Johnny can end the feud which he overall lost on a high note.

Slimy Grimey

NXT really made Cameron Grimes look good this week.

And I’m not actually talking about the match he had with Finn Bálor. Don’t get me wrong. That was a really good match that positioned Grimes closer to the level of Finn. But I was referring to the backstage character work that helped recapture the heat he was just starting to get before crowds went away.

Some jawing with Damian Priest prior to his match earned him a punch to the face from the Archer of Infamy. Grimes tried to capitalize, saying his jaw was too hurt to fight Bálor. But Drake Wuertz didn’t believe him so he got William Regal on the Skype. Regal insisted on speaking to Grimes himself.

But Cameron was too busy flirting it up with a couple ladies backstage, obviously not hurt at all. That didn’t stop him from pretending his jaw was hurting when he realized Regal was listening over the iPad.

That’s the kind of entertaining sleazy that works great for this character. With him getting that going and the caliber of match he can have, he can start to really go places in NXT.

Funny but Serious

Breezango got a video package/interview that stressed that they like to joke around, but they’re both very talented and take wrestling seriously. They reminded us that Fandango won his first match, which happened to be at WrestleMania. (They did not mention who it was against.) They reminded us that Tyler Breeze had a string of classics in the early NXT days. But they lost their way on SmackDown, becoming a punchline. Now they’re back to prove they’re more than that.

I usually don’t talk too much about video packages, but this was a needed narrative. These two guys are wildly entertaining, but if you’re going to be on NXT, it needs to be stressed that they take the wrestling seriously. Hell, their characters didn’t seem to take it seriously enough when it came to Raw and SmackDown (which was no fault of their own). This was a necessary video that helps cast them in a slightly different light. They’re still hilarious and they were here, such as calling Imperium “Emporium.” But it was a video that painted them as more than that and sets us up for next week’s tag title match nicely.

All the Rest:

- Damian Priest has a brief backstage promo, playing it almost a bit humbled. He admitted Finn Bálor was the better man but he helped make his name. It was a more nuanced Priest which was preferred. Hopefully he can build off his strong TakeOver showing from here.

- Indus Sher defeated an enhancement team to pick up their first win. It was a pretty basic squash that didn’t really do too much.

- Dakota Kai defeated the upstart Kacy Catanzaro. Kacy got to show a little offense before taking the L. When Kai and Raquel González tried to beat her up post match, Catanzaro’s friend Kayden Carter attempted to make the save. But despite trying, she fell victim to González as well.

This was a strong fallout episode, setting the stage for some possibly really fun things in the future.

Grade: A-

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