NXT returned last night (Sept. 16) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.
Shotzi Blackheart had herself a star making match against Io Shirai.
Some credit will obviously have to go to the women’s champion, but it takes two to tango and Blackheart more than held her own. This was a fantastic opening bout. And despite losing, it elevated Shotzi to a spot where she can conceivably believably compete for the NXT women’s title in the very near future. Much like, and maybe even more than, Damian Priest being elevated by losing to Finn Bálor, this is how a wrestler can win by losing.
This isn’t news, but the NXT women’s division is fire. Elevating Blackheart is just another plus for what is probably the best women’s division in wrestling.
There will be a #1 contender’s battle royal next week where all the women will fight for the chance to face Io Shirai at TakeOver on Oct. 4. Shotzi is in the match, but it wouldn’t make sense for her to win right away. That honor could go to Rhea Ripley, who is coming off that intense cage match with Mercedes Martinez. But that feels like a feud that needs more time to build than the one week they’d have prior to TakeOver.
In fact, with both the men and women crowning a #1 contender next week, I wouldn’t be surprise if both winners are up and comers or an old feud given the lack of time to tell a story.
And Still (part I)
The main event of the evening was a North American title match between Damian Priest and Timothy Thatcher.
It was a fun bout. In general, I enjoy Thatcher’s matches because they’re always very different than anything else we see in WWE. His catch technique inevitably lead to a mash up of different styles. This time it was Priest’s heavy hitting brawler style vs. the more technical style of Timothy. Plus it’s always exciting to see what Thatcher is going to do when he finally hooks a limb.
Likely to the surprise of no one, Damian did not lose his first title defense. But the bigger takeaway for me is how NXT went from having a very weak midcard to a very stacked one in a matter of months.
And still (part II)
NXT tag matches are probably my favorite tag matches in wrestling.
This is all subjective. That should be pretty obvious but it warrants repeating here and there. But NXT books their tag matches in a way where things get crazy but never too too crazy where it feels like abject chaos. The tag title match tonight, which saw Breezango defend successfully against the former champs Imperium, was an example of that.
The match was booked in a way that almost illustrated that Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner are the better team. They’re just so smooth and their chemistry is so good. In general, they just looked slightly better than Breezango. But the champs have more experience and can gut out the long runs of offense from their opponents and figure out a way to win.
That’s OK too. Sometimes, the champions aren’t the all around best, but they’re the best right now.
This new side of Kushida is excellent. And just what he needed.
A couple of injuries have derailed various pushes for the Japanese superstar (especially the first one), and it seemed like Kushida became lost in the fray in NXT. That changed last week when he beat the ever living hell out of Velveteen Dream. It was a side of the man we have never seen before and it was almost refreshing.
That continued this week.
Austin Theory came out and smugly tried to write off his loss to Bronson Reed last week as a fluke. He issued an open challenge to prove that point. It was a move that’d backfire.
Kushida walked to the ring with a purpose. It wasn’t a complete squash. Clearly they’re too high on Theory for that. But it was very one sided with Kushida aggressively targeting the younger man’s arm. He would do so almost viciously at times before tapping Austin to the hoverboard lock.
This is a good way to build a wrestler back up. They told a story where he was attacked after a match and came back with a vengeance. Even if Dream ends up winning their eventual feud, and that’s more likely, this aggressive Kushida can survive that and keep rolling.
He’s just not that into you
Killian Dain really really doesn’t want to team with Drake Maverick.
In fact, this week, he was content to sit in the back and watch Drake get beat down in a 2 on 1 handicap match instead of helping out the man he was scheduled to tag alongside. It took William Regal telling him to go out to the ring to get him to even walk out there. And even then, it was just to toss Maverick into the ring, telling him to take his beating like a man.
It took Roddy Strong talking trash to the big guy like an idiot that led to Dain actually getting physically involved, his dominance so much that Undisputed got themselves DQ’d. And in the end, Killian still punched Drake out.
This has been a slow build and rightfully so. Dain is not the type of guy to change his mind and suddenly want to help Drake Maverick. It would logically take a while Maverick to prove himself to the Beast of Belfast. If Killian has ever watched WWE TV, he’s probably seen Drake piss himself so it’s understandable that he’d be apprehensive.
All the Rest:
- Tommaso Ciampa easily defeated some enhancement talent this week. He went to beat down the man afterwards when he was interrupted by Jake Atlas, who cut a strong, quick promo about how next week, he’s going to show Ciampa how dangerous he could be. This is a much more interesting Jake Atlas compared to the “I was rooting for you to beat me, Drake Maverick!” Jake Atlas that debuted.
- Finn Bálor cut a strong video promo, comparing Finn as champion in the past (a man who helped build the brand) and Finn as champion now (a man who the brand needs). I’m more excited for this reign for Bálor than his last because this time around, he seems to have complete command of his character.
- Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter defeated Xia Li and Jessi Kamea as NXT works to establish the KCs as a tag team. They looked really good together but with no other tag teams in NXT, I’m not sure what the end game is. It’s too soon for a tag title shot but if not that, what?
This was an enjoyable episode where everything seemed to bring something to the table. It wasn’t a big episode in the sense there were no major story beats that moved forward, but it was still a more than solid episode.
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