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NXT recap & reactions (Aug. 19, 2020): The Natural

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NXT returned last night (Aug. 19) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

The Natural

Pat McAfee is very good at this wrestling thing.

He’s a natural heel who’s always had the gift of gab. But even with all that, his promo against Adam Cole this week was very strong.

It was the perfect mix of not burying/putting over his opponent while putting over himself more. He made excuses for the cheap shot punt he delivered to the former champ, selling it as some major accomplishment in a way that made sure the fans know he was full of crap.

Meanwhile, the normally very talkative Adam Cole just leaned in the corner and let him run his mouth. When McAfee was done, Cole walked towards him, triggering security to run in and try to stop him. And like most security in the world of wrestling, they got their ass kicked, this time single handedly by Adam Cole.

Watching that suddenly put a worried look on Pat’s face. Not too worried. He was still trying to play it cool. But it was clear Adam sent a message that words could not.

We have no idea how Pat will fare in the ring, but up to that point, he’s nailed his role in this feud. I have confidence they’ll book the match to keep the momentum going.


Second Chance

Velveteen Dream defeated Finn Bálor in the main event to earn a spot in the second chance ladder match.

To be totally honest, I’m not able to get into Dream matches right now. The shadow of allegations is tough to get past. Yes, we don’t know if he’s guilty or innocent, but everyone is going to approach matches like these differently. Triple H’s “let’s talk about something else” put a bad taste in my mouth. So right now, these are matches I’m not going to be able to enjoy like I was be able to prior. Will that last forever? Not necessarily. But right now, it’s tough for me to completely objectively watch a Dream match.

What I did gleam just watching the match is Velveteen is better in this role as a vicious heel. It’s a new wrinkle he’s doing well with. At one point he was laying in some punches while standing on the turnbuckle and then turned to the crowd and shouted “Why aren’t you counting along?” That was good heeling.

This match ended up having plenty of run ins from everyone who is in the TakeOver ladder match. It was a standard “get everyone in there” trope, but NXT doesn’t do it often so this was fun.

In the end, it was Bronson Reed left standing holding the gold. This build has done a good job establishing him as a bigger deal than he was prior. He’s probably not going to win on Saturday. I still think that honor goes to Damian Priest. But they’ve elevated multiple guys in this build. That’s the ideal.


She’s Back

Dakota Kai’s partner in crime, Raquel González, has returned. And that’s a very good thing for the women’s title match against Io Shirai this Saturday. Because Kai had been floundering without the gimmick that brought her to the dance - small heel with a formidable bodyguard.

The return went down during a brawl between challenger and champion that took place after Kai dispatched Jessi Kamea. The Kiwi cut a pretty generic but not bad heel promo regarding her plans to repeatedly kick Io in the face this weekend. Shirai wasn’t feeling just listening to that dumb BS so stormed to the ring, and a brawl ensued.

That’s when Raquel appeared, shifting the momentum square into the corner of Kai. The two women left the joshi champ laying, establishing dominance prior to TakeOver.

González was sorely missing during the build to the match, for whatever reason she was out. Because of that, they had to quickly reestablish the duo and did a good job of it. This would have been more effective if Raquel was around the entire time to reenforce the challenger, but this was enough to add some fire to the women’s title program.


Ouch

Johnny Gargano was meant to be the heel when he went over Ridge Holland to qualify for the TakeOver ladder match. But it just didn’t play that way.

The size difference alone is enough to place Johnny at underdog status. Ridge is a tree trunk of a man. So even Gargano’s cheating (such as aid from Candice LeRae) seemed like reasonable evening of the playing field.

But then there was that straight up nasty bump he took in the middle of the match, when Holland didn’t turn all the way on a powerslam, planting Johnny Wrestling right on his head. The announce team put that over big time, amazed he even finished the match. So winning that match was nothing but an amazing accomplishment.

It’s not an issue. He can resume his heel ways this Saturday, hopefully avoiding the bigger bumps during the ladder match. Meanwhile, while Ridge looks physically impressive, this was a reminder he has a lot of work to do.


All the rest:

- El Legado del Fantasma defeated the trios team of Breezango and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott. The cruiserweight champ pinned Tyler Breeze after the referee deemed Tyler and not Isaiah the legal man when it looked like Swerve had the champ pinned. This has been a simple build (in a good way) towards Scott vs. Santos Escobar. Scott is the only man to pin Escobar. This was during the cruiserweight title tournament when Escobar was still El Hijo del Fantasma. Because of that, Swerve should get an eventual title match.

- Shotzi Blackheart & Rhea Ripley got a measure of revenge on the Robert Stone Brand this week, defeating Mercedes Martinez & Aliyah. While Shotzi pinned Aliyah, the real point of note was the big time power bomb Ripley delivered to Martinez on the floor, adding some heat to that eventual killer feud.


This was a solid episode, with some strong contributions from the women’s title build and the McAfee/Cole segment. Everyone is going to be able to enjoy Velveteen Dream to varying levels and I fall in the “I can’t really get into his segments” right now. Outside that, this was an enjoyable show.

Grade: B+

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