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NXT recap & reactions (Aug. 5, 2020): A Natural Heel

NXT returned last night (Aug. 5) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Long Version

Pat McAfee is a major a-hole.

The dude is a natural heel and now is playing one on NXT TV. With Pat playing the antagonist to Adam Cole, this will also serve as Cole’s inevitable babyface turn.

This chapter of their story went down during the main event of the night, with Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish facing off against Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner for the NXT tag team championships.

Prior to this, Cole snapped on Pat during his radio show after Pat insulted his height amongst other things. They apparently buried the hatchet prior to this week’s show, but McAfee on commentary wouldn’t stop mocking Cole, who was at ringside to support his boys. It was so bad that it drove Beth Phoenix off commentary, which seemed a bit excessive but definitely let us know who the heel was here.

Adam heard his barbs and confronted him, telling him to cool it. When Pat wouldn’t stop, Cole tossed some water in his face. That amped things to the point they had to be held apart as McAfee continued to mock the size of the former NXT champ.

All of this overshadowed the actual main event, which ended in an Undisputed loss when Cole’s beef with McAfee proved too distracting. That’s obviously a shame given how good tag team wrestling is in NXT. But it was also by design.

Because while the immediate story is about turning Cole face and running a program with the naturally obnoxious McAfee, the biggest story is likely what comes after. And that’s Cole’s fracture with Undisputed.

After the former punter delivered a stiff kick to the exposed head of Cole (who was being held back but reaching over the announce desk), knocking Adam out, none of the Undisputed guys stuck around to check on him.

Adam’s focus on McAfee cost his boys the match and his continued feud with him with likely steal the spotlight from the rest and divert his attention from the group. Meanwhile, Kyle O’Reilly just returned in a way that feels like he is going to slot into the leadership role.

The longer play isn’t Cole vs. McAfee but probably Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly and the rest of the ERA.

That’s why I appreciated this main event angle. Yes, McAfee is a really good heel and they did a good job starting to turn Cole. But the way it overshadowed the others is going to prove the bigger issue down the road, setting us up for a longer, more fruitful feud than a one time celebrity angle.

Lucky Win

NXT’s booking of Dakota Kai continues to confuse me.

The result of her match with Rhea Ripley for the right to face Io Shirai for the NXT Women’s title was correct. Dakota needed to pick up the win. But they didn’t do it in a way that makes her a believable threat to Io Shirai. And that was an important aspect of this match.

To put it bluntly, Kai got her ass kicked. Rhea Ripley was dominating a good 90% of the match. That itself isn’t an issue. Ripley is a powerhouse and should be presented as such. But if Dakota is to be a believable effective heel, she needs to come up with an answer for that from her bag of tricks.

But she didn’t. Instead, she had to show babyface pluck by continuing to kick out of moves that should have put her away. And when she finally got help, it wasn’t help that she choreographed.

Instead, Mercedes Martinez attacked Ripley, perhaps getting some revenge for Robert Stone who looked the fool at the hands of Rhea. And that’s all well and good. That’s a feud I’m greatly looking forward to because of the caliber of both women and the fact this is an extension of Ripley’s comedy feud with Stone.

However it leaves Dakota lucking into her title match. That’s not the position you want her in. If she needs luck to beat Ripley, what chance does she have against another superior athlete in Io? You can’t expect her to luck out again.

Normally, Kai has Raquel González by her side. That’s the formula that’s gotten Dakota to this point. But Raquel has been MIA. Maybe she’s hurt. Maybe it’s COVID related (and that could just be opting to stay away to be safe). But either way, Dakota needs to be a proactively successful heel for anyone to believe she has a chance against Shirai, not an accidentally successful one.

Body Count

Karrion Kross doesn’t play by the rules.

Last week, General Manager William Regal was not having Kross and Keith Lee setting up their own title match. This is Regal’s promotion, and he makes the matches.

Normally, that would lead to a #1 contender’s match. Kross would get his opportunity there, win it, and then go to face Lee at TakeOver. But Kross is chaos personified. Rules don’t apply to him. Something maybe William Regal didn’t understand the magnitude of.

Instead of playing be those rules, Karrion attacked the locker room, laying out at least three men to send a message to the champ. He’ll keep dropping bodies until Keith gets him the title match they both want.

The way Kross flips the entire system on its head portrays him as a dangerous man. I’ve been a big fan how they portray Karrion since the beginning and that continued this week.

No Surprises

Damian Priest’s victory in the TakeOver ladder match qualifier this week was a no doubter.

He’s been a featured man on NXT TV. Oney Lorcan has never been a successful singles athlete. And Ridge Holland hasn’t even been on Wednesday night before this. So this was always Priest’s match to win.

Because this was a debut for Holland, NXT made sure to showcase the former rugby player in a way that served his future even in a loss. Any they did a good job of that. He was a powerhouse to be reckoned with, with thighs the size of tree trunks. Seriously, the man was a brick s***house.

Oney Lorcan helped hold the match together with his style working well with everyone. Hopefully, he gets a legit singles run in the future, one that’s more than just helping elevate others.

Priest was always going to be the winner and right now, that’s the correct choice. He has really turned his loss to Finn Bálor into babyface momentum. In fact, the Archer of Infamy has to be a favorite to win the whole thing.

Mission Statement

El Legado Del Fantasma are now targeting Breezango.

Their reasoning is two-fold. First is because Tyler Breeze and Fandango helped Drake Maverick in his feud with them weeks back. The second has to do with their mission statement: To prove that lucha libre is an art, now just flashy flips.

Santos Escobar feels Breezango mocked lucha culture, and this was the answer to that.

I’ve appreciated El Legado’s purpose. Their mission to bring respect to lucha libre, something that is in Escobar’s blood, makes sense. But they’ve perverted it to suit their needs. It’s classic heel work and done really well.

While Isaiah “Swerve” Scott is destined for a cruiserweight title shot, I hope Tyler Breeze gets one as well.

Other Happenings:

- Thicc Boi Bronson Reed defeated Shane Thorne in a match meant to showcase the big man. And it did that. It also reminded me that Shane Thorne is a good wrestler, and I wish they gave his prior singles attempt a bit more time before dropping it.

- Tegan Nox defeated Indi Hartwell, building her up a bit for her eventual feud with Candice LeRae.

A solid episode this week. I enjoyed the final angle and all Karrion Kross bits at this point. I still don’t get their booking of Dakota Kai.

Grade: B

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