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NXT recap & reactions (Jan. 27, 2021): Spinning the Wheels

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NXT returned last night (Jan. 27) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results from the live blog here.

Spinning the Wheels

The main event this week was a tag match, in a show jam packed with them, featuring the former enemies Finn Bálor & Kyle O’Reilly facing the tag team champions of Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch in a non-title match.

The match itself was good, though it was easy to be tired of tag team matches given there were so many. Finn Bálor played the face in peril with the heels working his arm, and O’Reilly was the hot tag who won decisively with a submission.

After the match, Pete Dunne showed up to employ a handicap beat down of the victors before Adam Cole and Roderick Strong ran the Kings of NXT off.

All in all, this angle is spinning its wheels. Kyle and Finn had an entertaining feud against each other, but there’s little spark in this story of them playing reluctant allies against Pete Dunne and the tag champs. In general, NXT has been missing a spark, and much of the issue is there’s nothing hot going on with the main titles. (The women’s title still doesn’t have clear direction, only starting to unveil that after weeks.)

I do give them props for making the act of Finn Bálor literally stepping back to stand shoulder to shoulder with the ERA feel like a very important moment, but that wasn’t enough to make this feel main event worthy.

This story needs a spark to make it feel deserving of a top spot on a card with TakeOver only a couple weeks away.


Friendship Goals

Raquel González and Dakota Kai predictably defeated Jessi Kamea and Aliyah to advance in the Dusty.

There isn’t much to say about the match. Dakota did much of the work, but González took care of business in the end. It wasn’t anything spectacular but did what it set out to do: Remind us that González is dominant.

However, what I appreciate the most is the evolving relationship between Dakota Kai and Raquel González. Raquel debuted as Dakota’s bodyguard last year. She was clearly working for Kai, with the focus being advancing Kai’s career.

Then Raquel started to breakout on her own, and instead of dropping the team or feuding, the dynamic shifted. Dakota was more than happy to try to play the role of support for the ascending González. She even got closed into a locker for her aid during Raquel’s Last Woman Standing match against Rhea Ripley. And now they’re functioning as a team, both working to that common goal.

They may be bad gals, but I dig this friendship.


Elevation

The opening bout in the night of tags featured MSK taking on Drake Maverick & Killian Dain.

One thing I have in general appreciated about the Dusty Classic is how they use it to elevate tag teams to a more serious status. Dain and Drake were a ful on comedy bit when they started off. With time and now a spot in the Dusty, they were featured as more of a respectable tag team.

They DNA of the team is still there: Dain is the threat and Maverick is the ‘weak link.’ But this week, Drake held his own. He wasn’t the liability as he had played in the past. That’s important if they want this team to be more than just a comedy act. (Which to be fair, if that’s what NXT wants, that’s a good role for them.)

The team still doesn’t feel like a cohesive unit. There’s still a feel of two guys who are in a tag team match together as opposed to a duo actually working together. It’s part of who they are, though hopefully they evolve into more of a team.

On the other side of the ring, MSK are very exciting. I have some experience watching them as the Rascalz in Impact, but I’m many months removed from watching Impact so I don’t know the caliber of work when they left. That said, they feel more special here. They’re unique in style and personality. I was excited for this match because of them this week and I’m excited to see what they do next round.


Superb Underdog

My favorite match of the night was the Dusty quarterfinal bout where the Grizzled Young Veterans defeating Kushida and Leon Ruff.

It was the only Dusty match of the night that really felt like the finish wasn’t the foregone conclusion. Yes, GYV were the favorites. But Ruff and Kushida picked up a big first round win.

This match accomplished the task of getting me to a point that I really wanted the underdog team to win. Leon Ruff just does a fantastic job working a match as a sympathetic character. His personality makes it so easy to root for him. Meanwhile, the GYV aren’t flashy, but their style allows you to easily root against them. Then it’s all the more disappointing when they win.

After the match. Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory attacked Ruff & Kushy, revenge for their loss to them last week. They were eventually scared off by Dexter Lumis, who has issues with the Way as well given he lost a North American title match in a less than clean manner.


Who’s next?

It looks like Io Shirai may have to defend her title in a triple threat match.

Toni Storm called out the champ, but after Shirai answered, Mercedes Martinez inserted herself into all of this. With Storm and Martinez not on the same page despite being a one and done tag team, there’s enough here to go with the triple threat.

Honestly, a triple threat makes sense. There are so many women deserving of a title match, running a program with two of them at once helps move the line along. And if there’s a person they want for a singles match with the champ down the line, they don’t take the pin.

It’s not official, but it’s our best guess of what’s next for the champion.


All the Rest:

- Bronson Reed went over Isaiah “Swerve” Scott. It’s clear they’re building up Reed big time. I question doing it at the expense of Swerve, who hasn’t won anything of significance at all in his time in NXT. I think a win to split a series with Jake Atlas (who also never wins) was his biggest achievement. They need to find a program for Scott he can walk out victorious.

- Curt Stallion was supposed to have a cruiserweight title match this week. But he was attacked prior so it was push until next week. William Regal figures El Legado del Fantasma are the culprits, and while he’s probably right, Karrion Kross leaving a calling card on Santos Escobar’s bag makes me wonder if he’s the real attacker. I don’t see what his motive would be though.

- Malcolm Bivens scheduled Tyler Rust a cupcake match up to pick up an easy week after Rust tried to do his own business last week and booked himself in a match with Bronson Reed. Rust won so Malcolm is earning is money.


With the abundance of tag matches and lack of any real hot angles, this show felt like it dragged on. Nothing was outwardly bad. Each segment would have worked well on a show that had some hot angles. But this felt like a bunch of supplemental stories strung together, leaving this to feel like a duller episode of NXT.

Grade: C+

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