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NXT recap & reactions (July 29, 2020): Breakout

NXT returned last night (July 29) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.


The main event this week was the triple threat match between Finn Bálor, Timothy Thatcher, & Dexter Lumis. The winner to go onto TakeOver: XXX to compete in the North American title ladder match.

When they announced this match, many fans got excited. These are three entertaining but very different superstars. Finn Bálor is NXT royalty, a talented veteran. Timothy Thatcher is special in the ring with his proficiency in catch wrestling. And Dexter Lumis has proven he’s mastered his stalker character, one that is constantly enjoyable.

But given their mix of styles, there was always a risk it just wouldn’t mesh. You can put three good wrestlers in a match and that match isn’t necessarily going to be good. Especially when their styles are so different.

Luckily, it worked here.

This was a fun bout with a blast of an ending. Here’s how that closing sequence went down:

First Lumis grabbed Thatcher in his Silence submission, but Finn broke it up with a Coup de Grace to Dexter. Then Tim, who had worked over Bálor’s leg earlier in the match, locked a Leg Lock onto the Prince. Finally Dexter returned, almost emerging from the shadows, to apply the the Silence to Thatcher again.

However Thatcher wouldn’t let Finn go, perhaps hoping he’d score a win before fading. But Bálor was too tenacious and Tim passed out, awarding the match to Dexter.

Dexter joins his fellow Breakout Tournament competitor Bronson Reed for a match that really is looking like it’s going to help build an upcoming talent. Given the way both Reed and Lumis look like a big deal coming out of these matches, which have them going over established wrestlers, NXT is doing a good job building up their midcard.

As for the other two, perhaps we’ll see Finn and Tim feud. There are certainly worse things they could do with both men.

Serious Lee

Keith Lee is pissed.

After last week, he should be pissed. He had to watch his friend get brutalized by Karrion Kross, who’s been playing games with the champ. Keith couldn’t throw in the towel because Dominik Dijakovic insisted he don’t. But that was not easy for the champ. He still had to watch him get hurt.

Because of that, Lee wasn’t messing around this week. He marched to the ring with a purpose. No hitting his pose. No smiles. Instead, a man focused. A man angry.

He cut a killer promo that conveyed that without going over the top. He did the little things, like referring to Dominik by his indie name (Dijak), given that’s how he’s known him for so long. He dropped the word bullshit a couple times too, but in a way that didn’t feel cheap. They bleeped it as well, which actually feels less like a stunt. He felt warranted given how we got here.

Lee is the type of person who doesn’t get louder when angry. He doesn’t shout. He doesn’t raise his voice. He lowers it in a way you know shit is serious right now. Kind of like how you knew you were in trouble as a kid when your mother lowered her voice instead of raising it.

Cameron Grimes tried to run his mouth at Keith’s expense. It was a bit of a comedy reprieve, but at the same time, it showed just how serious Lee is right now. He’s not going to joke around with the fabulously obnoxious Grimes. He’s going to grab him by the throat. And when Grimes tried to sneak attack later on, he ate a nasty Spirit Bomb.

Scarlett appeared, acting as the herald of Kross, before Karrion popped up on the big screen to deliver his message. He started by prodding his foe, telling Lee he was going to have to live with leaving Dijak out to dry last week. Then he delivered an ominous warning: Give him a title match or more will get hurt.

He didn’t need to tell Keith twice, who is game. But William Regal weighed in later to make it known that he makes the matches and you have to earn a title match. (Outside Dijakovic a couple weeks ago that is.)

This story continues to own. It only took a few weeks, but this match has some real heat behind it. It’s personal. Lee sold that last week and this week, with both his facial expressions and his convincing promo. Meanwhile, their “less is more” approach to Kross makes his eventual lock up with the champ highly anticipated.

Women’s tag

NXT opened the night with a traditional tag match between Io Shirai & Tegan Nox against Dakota Kai & Candace LeRae.

There isn’t too much to say here. It did exactly what it was meant to.

It gave us a tease of Io vs. Dakota. And that definitely delivered because those two didn’t hold back on each other. It shows that when these two go one on one, likely at TakeOver, the chemistry is going to be there.

It also set up Candice/Tegan, which is the likely next feud for them. Tegan delivered a technically illegal Shiniest Wizard (she wasn’t the legal tag member) to Candice, allowing Io to deliver her moonsault for the win. That gives Tegan a win after her failed championship attempt week’s back. Kai did not take the pin. And Candice will have an excuse for losing claiming “She cheated!” (They also tried to sell the idea that Dakota left LeRae high and dry, but it didn’t play that way.)

This was a standard tag match that moved two feuds forward.

The real intriguing happenings in the division was actually a backstage confrontation between Dakota and Rhea Ripley. The Nightmare took exception to Kai claiming she’s next in line for the belt, and that set up a number one contenders match for next week.

I wondered in the preview how they’d get me to believe that Dakota actually has a chance against Io in a championship bout. Beating Ripley would do that.

Needed Win

Roderick Strong and Johnny Gargano had themselves quite the bout this week.

This stemmed out of a backstage segment where they blamed each other for Bronson Reed winning the triple threat last week. In said triple threat, Strong and Gargano had a stretch where they wrestled the hell out of each other. So more of that this week was always going to be a plus.

Because these men are so good, it didn’t matter it was heel vs. heel. They’re just really good wrestlers who struggled to outsmart the other. The announce booth added another level to the match, explaining both men really needed a win. Gargano hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire and the Undisputed ERA are struggling.

In the end, it was Johnny who picked up the victory. That’s the right call. Undisputed’s loss led to their angle, which we’ll get to momentarily. But Gargano’s heel character needs to pick up more wins to stay viable.

The Boys are Back in Town

After Roddy’s loss, he, Adam Cole, and Bobby Fish were rather despondent backstage. What had happened to the great Undisputed ERA who used to run NXT?

That’s when Kyle O’Reilly appeared to breathe some life into them. He delivered a pep talk which gave them the fire to attack Imperium later in the night, after the tag team defeated Ever-Rise (more like Always-Lose, amirite?). It was the ERA of old showing some dominance.

If I had to guess, it’s not going to go that way. Undisputed has had their story about being the most dominant brand. It’s now time for their next story. Maybe a story where O’Reilly finds himself taking charge and Cole is on the outs. Maybe a face turn for a few or all of them.

Wherever they decide to go, Kyle’s return means they can start going there. Undisputed was at a standstill with O’Reilly understandably staying home. Now that he’s opted to come back, they explore the next chapter of NXT’s premiere stable.

All the Rest:

- Mercedes Martinez, with Robert Stone and Aliyah in her corner, defeated Shotzi Blackheart. Mercedes took a beating early on but endured, and maybe even thrived on that. When she turned it on, she was just too much for Shotzi to handle. A good week for the Robert Stone Brand.

- Isaiah “Swerve” Scott defeated Jake Atlas. This makes sense as they’re setting up Scott to face Cruiserweight Champion Santos Escobar given he has a win over him from the cruiserweight tournament. Meanwhile, Jake Atlas has been taking a lot of losses, but given he hasn’t really had a real story yet, he can do that for a little bit before they find something for him. But it can’t happen for too long.

Another solid two hours of wrestling for the black and gold.

Grade: A-

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