NXT returned last night (June 24) from the WWE Performance Center petri dish in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results to this week’s episode at the live blog here.
This week’s main event almost felt like retribution.
Back at the back end of last year, when Keith Lee was at his hottest, he was in a #1 contenders triple threat match with Finn Bálor and Tommaso Ciampa. Lee didn’t just fail to win, but he took the pin. It felt like a shot to his moment at the time. Not one that would keep him down for long, but a speed bump to his ascension.
This week he found himself in a very similar situation. Substitute one former DIY member with another and it was the same match. Keith vs. Finn vs. Johnny Gargano. #1 contender to face Adam Cole for the NXT title.
But this time, there was no doubt it was Keith Lee’s time.
The theme of the match was Keith Lee’s dominance. It was by no means a squash of two men. Johnny and Finn both had their time to shine. But Lee was the focus. He was the one who the others had to work (sometimes together) to get off his feet.
If there was any doubt they had that last match in mind, they even called back to the moment when Finn was setting up in the corner and Keith ominously rose up behind him. It was such a great moment last December. Why not give it to us again six months later.
Lee’s win was dominant, delivering the Big Bang Catastrophe to both men in very close succession in the end. It was a convincing win that left little doubt that Lee’s a main event man.
In two weeks, we’ll learn if Keith can take it all the way to the top. If this is any indication, it’s his time now more than ever.
When watching Damian Priest battle Cameron Grimes this week, something dawned on me. These are two guys who I just hadn’t been feeling in NXT. They were talented enough but just were not clicking. But then the last few weeks, they’ve started really growing on me.
For Grimes, he’s had more time on the microphone, in the ring and backstage/outside, that really sell how big of a douche this character is. I mean a mega douche right here. His ring work is good, but it needed that character work. He had been getting there with the live crowd, but the loss of that caused a bit of a regression because he had no one to play off. But with more backstage time, he got back on track.
With Priest, he is a rare example of someone actually falling up in a loss. He looked very good against Finn Bálor at In Your House. But the real important aspect was the change of character. He’s not the same man after that loss. If he were, that loss wouldn’t have the impact it currently does. He’s somewhat humbled and more focused.
Mixing these two together worked. Priest played up his injury from TakeOver and from a presumed Grimes attack from earlier in the day, allowing Cameron to focus on being the heel and exploiting his opponent’s weaknesses. It actually led to a win for Grimes, but that loss doesn’t feel like it diminishes Priest. The injuries protected him, as did the fact that Cameron isn’t one to lose a lot.
At this point, sign me up to be the president of the Robert Stone fan club.
This man is hilarious. His “Choo choos” when he told Rhea Ripley to hop on the Robert Stone train was one of my favorite moments of the night. He can get his ass kicked, come back for more, and be hilarious every time.
Aliyah is along for the ride and is rather entertaining in her role. Her match with Rhea Ripley was booked perfectly. There was never any doubt that Rhea is ten levels above her. Aliyah could try, Robbie could try to help her, but the Nightmare is just too dominant.
This story rides on next week as both Stone and Aliyah face Rhea. If she loses, she’s got to joint the Robert Stone Brand. High stakes!
Face Your Fears
Roderick Strong cannot get himself right after all that Dexter Lumis has done to him.
It seemed like he faced his fear when he got into the trunk of their car earlier in the night after a trip to the psychologist/Kyle O’Reilly. (Roddy only realizing at the very end that Kyle was the doc was probably the funniest moment of the bit.)
However, when Strong had to actually face Lumis later in the night, it was obviously he was nowhere close to conquering his fear. In fact, he ran into the plexiglass trying to escape into the crowd to get away from the menacing Lumis.
This ended in a count out as Roderick wouldn’t get back in the ring, but that won’t be an option next week. William Regal has ordered a strap match between these two men. Roddy better get himself right in the next week.
I’m really curious to where this is headed. It felt like the plan was to get to a Velveteen Dream & Dexter Lumis tag team. But with some more allegations coming out about Dream, that is probably off the table. Hopefully that doesn’t leave Dexter high and dry because he’s doing some really entertaining work right now.
Raquel González is dominant.
Big Momma Cool teamed with her HBK in Dakota Kai to take on the KCs Express (Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro). And Raquel dominated.
I appreciate how much they protect her size, especially in a match against two women who are much smaller in stature. González rarely left her feet while the KCs had to get creative to knock her off her game. (And they both looked very good doing so.) It’s a simple pattern, but it’s one that works.
Meanwhile, despite being the focus of the duo, Kai is the smaller talent who does the selling for the team. But she still makes sure to take advantage of her partner’s size to earn herself a submission win.
As these two click, Kai is calling out NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai. Given the streak she’s been on since González joined her, she’s deserving of the opportunity and is my pick to win the fatal 4-way #1 contenders match next week.
All the Rest:
- Santos Escobar defeated Jake Atlas one on one. Joaquin Wilde & Raul Mendoza had a few moments of involvement, but they were not involved in the finish.
- Karrion Kross defeated big Bronson Reed. It wasn’t as much of a squash as I had anticipated. The Thicc Boi used his size to stagger Kross early. But Kross loved it and barreled back to tap Reed with the Kross Jacket.
- Tim Thatcher’s Thatch as Thatch Can lessons continued this week. This is a simple segment, showing Thatcher explain how holds work, how they can fell a bigger man and cause some real pain. It serves to demonstrate how dangerous Thatch can be in the ring. I’d hate to be one of those students though.
Outside the main event, there wasn’t too much of consequence this week. But even the less important stuff was entertaining.
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