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NXT recap & reactions (July 22, 2020): It’s on now

NXT returned to us last night (July 22) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Near Perfect

Karrion Kross’ rollout has been near perfect.

NXT has been careful not to over expose him, for awhile just teasing his presence. When he finally debuted, they made sure his matches were occasional, ensuring they’d feel special every time. And with that superb entrance, they always feel special.

This week was one of his matches and once again, they nailed it.

Dominik Dijakovic was the perfect opponent for Kross right now. He’s bigger than Karrion, or at least taller, and unlike Bronson Reed weeks back, he’s more experienced. It was one of Kross’ biggest challenges. In fact, given the way he easily disposed of Tommaso Ciampa at TakeOver: In Your House, it could be the biggest challenge in his NXT career.

This was the most we’ve probably seen Kross sell. That’s not an issue. If he’s going to be in an eventually title match with Keith Lee, he’s going to be selling. But with the way they booked this segment, they were still able to make him feel extremely dangerous.

Things started to get ugly when Dijakovic was sent into the steel steps, landing between them in the ring. Kross delivered a nasty kick to the steps, giving the image that he was crushing his opponent’s head between steel and steel.

Such a brutal move brought Keith Lee to the ring to check on his friend. This is the other reason Dominik was the perfect choice for this match. Not only could he give Karrion a challenge, but anything Kross does to him will also hurt Dom’s friend Keith Lee.

The NXT champ wanted to throw in the proverbial towel for his friend, but Dijakovic insisted he don’t, telling his friend that whatever happens, it’s his choice. That forced Lee to watch helplessly as his eventual opponent dismantled the man he credited just last week for helping his career. And without saying a word, Keith’s face told the story they needed to tell. You could read his conflict and his anger.

Meanwhile, after surviving quite the onslaught from Dijakovic, Kross walked out feeling just as dangerous as he did coming in, if not more.

It still feels like it could be too early to run this match at TakeOver: XXX. I assume Kross is going to win his eventual title match and if that’s the case, Lee’s reign will be just six weeks long. But Karrion cutting the legs out from under what should be an epic run for Lee could be just another reason for fans to hate the man.

We’ll have to see what the next month brings. After this, I can’t imagine them being able to delay the title match too long. The stakes already seem too high to drag it out.


NXT kicked off this week’s show with the announcement that Keith Lee will be relinquishing the North American title. His reason being he didn’t want to hold down the growth of the promotion. By holding both titles, he was taking away a prize for the up and comers to fight over.

That makes sense. It’s a bit disappointing as I love the story of a fighting champion having to fight twice in a night until he loses one or both titles. But they could probably do more by having a new midcard champion to anchor that division as Lee defends the promotion’s top prize. Plus, having one person hold the top title and the midcard title muddles the distinctions between the “divisions.”

To crown a new champion, there will be a ladder match at TakeOver: XXX in a month. And to qualify for that match, wrestlers need to win a triple threat match.

This week’s triple threat was Bronson Reed vs. Roderick Strong vs. Johnny Gargano. And it was the perfect formula of two smaller, sleazy heels trying to take down a man who’s power dwarfs theirs.

This style delivered a match where Big Boi Bronson looked like a beast while the other two didn’t looked out matched because they could out strategize the big man. They needed big moves to get Reed to go down, the man not selling the offensive he shouldn’t. And when they did get him down, they lit into each other like we should only expect between these two vets.

Bronson picked up the W with a big splash from the top onto Roddy. Reed is the right choice to win. If they want to use the North American title to help build up the next crop of talent, Bronson is your man right there. Gargano and Strong don’t need it. Put the spotlight on a man who could be your future.

Blue Chip Signing

So Robert Stone was run over by a tank again.

His client Aliyah had a match with Shotzi Blackheart, continuing the feud between the brand and the lone wolf. It was a pretty good match, one of Aliyah’s better ones. Robert Stone tried to distract Shotzi for the win, but he was unsuccessful.

After the match, Blackheart ran over Stone’s good leg with a tank. But then she was attacked by Mercedes Martinez.

Stone continues to be a blast. He’s so very good at playing the comedic role, with his over the top selling. Plus he acts enough like a jerk that we don’t feel bad for him. He’s become a must see for me every week. And this story has also helped elevate Aliyah, who I find myself more interested in now than ever before.

Meanwhile, it looks like Mercedes Martinez’s first real focus is going to be Shotzi Blackheart. It’s a good program for both women. Blackheart will get to work with a true veteran. Win or less, this feud will elevate her. Meanwhile, Mercedes gets a feud that she will likely win. (At least she should if they want to portray her as the dangerous killer.)

To tie it all together, Mercedes Martinez later agreed to join Robert Stone’s Brand. Her reasoning? She wants someone to do all the work so she can just get into the ring and kick ass. While that makes sense, it also feels like associating with that doofus takes just a little of the badass from away her. Likely it won’t be a long partnership, and she’ll be kicking the crap out of him sooner than later though.

Hoss Fight

Dexter Lumis defeated big Killian Dain by submission (Dain passed out in his choke). This served as one of Lumis’ most impressive wins. Given the shear size and power of the Beast of Belfast, Lumis no long held his usual advantage.

It was a really fun match, a combination of your standard hoss bruiser and some more athletic moves, especially on Dexter’s end. The man did a kip up into a leg drop that was really dope. He’s got a senton in his arsenal as well.

In the middle of the match, Dain’s shirt ripped and the rest of the bout, it looked like he was wearing a massive thong. And unfortunately, I’m still immature and couldn’t not see that the rest of the way.

Other happenings:

- Timothy Thatcher defeated Oney Lorcan in their rematch. This time, it wasn’t locking in a hold, but instead reversing a hold into a pin, that was able to score the victory. Just another way that he’s proficient in the ring.

- Breezango picked up a W this week against Ever-Rise, a team who has been used as enhancement for a little while now. The boys were dressed as Mounties, Beth Phoenix delivered some beaver puns with a straight face, and this team has struck a good balance of funny and skilled in the ring that wasn’t there on the main roster.

This was a very good episode. They continue to nail Karrion Kross as they set up the eventual title match, Bronson Reed won a fun match to enter the North American championship ladder match, and Robert Stone continues to entertain.

Grade: A

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