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NXT recap & reactions (Feb. 3, 2021): On This Day


NXT returned last night (Feb. 3) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

On This Day

The NXT title match for TakeOver: Vengeance Day was set this week. Royal Rumble winner Edge let the participants know he’ll be watching closely.

Finn Bálor made his title match with Pete Dunne official after Pete Dunne was insisting on it in a promo. And while it should be a banger given the in-ring talent of both men, it doesn’t feel big. O’Reilly vs. Bálor felt bigger than this one. I’m not entirely sure why either. Pete Dunne is great and has held multiple championships in the NXT system. It’s not that he’s not a legit contender.

Maybe it’s because he no longer has Pat McAfee putting him over. Dunne is an average promo and benefitted greatly from a strong talker selling his talents. Maybe it’s because he just lost to the guy who lost to the champ, losing to Kyle O’Reilly in a #1 contenders match not long ago. Either way, this feud seems to be missing something.

Edge interrupted their confrontation to put both these men over, as well as the NXT brand as a whole. And we know he was being sincere. Any listen to his former podcast with Christian when both were both still fooling themselves on retirement, you’d hear him putting over NXT over and over again. The man legit loves this promotion.

He predictably teased that he could face the winner of this match at WrestleMania. He’ll do that with all the brand’s main titles until he finally settles on an opponent. That opponent won’t be the NXT champion. Edge didn’t win the Rumble to face Finn Bálor at Mania, even though that match would be tight. He’s going to challenge for SmackDown or Raw’s championship.

Despite that, just the fact he’s ‘considering it’ gives this feud weight it didn’t have prior. Even if we know he’s probably not going to face the winner, knowing that he’s thinking about it, even just in kayfabe, raises the status of the match.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t add the heat to the match that this program is missing. Hopefully creative figures out how to inject that in the go home show next week.

Elevating Santos

For some reason, Karrion Kross is targeting the cruiserweight champion Santos Escobar.

This boiled to the surface after Escobar successfully defended his title against Curt Stallion. The match was fine, but a footnote to the bigger picture. In fact, the entire match, Scarlett was watching from a balcony and the announcers talked about Kross throughout. Curt Stallion’s chance at a title was not the focus here.

There’s a lot of unknown here. We don’t know why Kross targeted the cruiserweight champ to being with. Escobar didn’t do anything to Karrion prior to finding the tarot card on his bag last week. Ever since that he’s been cavalier about the threat, but Kross started it. He’s 265 pounds so likely doesn’t have the 205 silver in his sight. What’s his endgame here?

The other question is what’s the overall goal? What does NXT look to accomplish with this heel vs. heel program that involves a championship that will be forgotten while this takes place?

One thing it will do is allow Santos to shine brighter. The issue with the cruiserweight division is there aren’t any standouts that allow exciting programs for the champ. He’s by far the most exciting person in the division. So he never gets to raise his game against other talent. He doesn’t get to work guys like Ciampa or Kushida or Gargano or Cole. Those are all programs he’s more than ready for. Perhaps their plan is to use this story to get the title off Escobar and show that he’s ready to ascend the card.

Even in the week this has been happening, Escobar was able to show how good he is. The amount of cockiness he showed when face to face with doomsday himself with baller. Particular, the sigh & eye roll he gave when Karrion was about to join him in the ring demonstrated on how confident this man is. Yes, he’s too confident, but he stood up to NXT’s most dangerous man without blinking.

Whatever the goal, I’m very curious to watch where this takes us.

Speaking of Kross, he and Edge had an interesting confrontation in the parking lot. Karrion told the Ultimate Opportunist that if he is looking to claim the NXT title, he’ll be dealing with him, not Finn or Pete. Edge warned the man that those words may serve as motivation. While this may not go anywhere, it’s great to see the hall of famer mixing it up with as much talent as he can during his stop in the CWC.

Main Event

The main event of the week was a men’s Dusty quarter final between Undisputed ERA (Adam Cole & Roderick Strong) and Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher.

If you look at the history of the Dusty, Tom and Tim were actually the favorites here. Makeshift tag teams have made up the majority of Dusty winners (3 of the 5). Undisputed are probably the greatest NXT faction of all time, producing many strong tag teams from their ranks, but they just couldn’t get it done here.

There wasn’t any major angle here. This was all about the Dusty Cup and advancing to the semi-finals. But the talent in this match was at another level, giving us a baller tag team showdown.

I’m curious what’s next for the ERA. They’re out of the Dusty. Kyle O’Reilly is out of the world title picture. Once again, NXT creative will be tasked to find something interesting for a crew that really has done everything there is to do. Except break up.

Heels? Really?

Raquel González & Dakota Kai defeated Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter to advance in the Dusty Cup.

To no fault of any of the performers or creative, I watched this match with the rumor about NXT aiming to turn Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter heel on my mind.

Because that really would be quite ridiculous. No doubt Triple H loves to turn his natural babyfaces heels, and to be honest, they’ve all done very well as villains. But this one would be pretty crazy. Two undersized woman who are very athletic make for natural babyfaces.

So I watched this match to see if there were any hints of a turn, and honestly, there weren’t. Maybe the KCs’ prematch, pretaped promo was a bit annoying. But I just figured that’s their personality. The women showed aggression, but you want your babyfaces to find a level of aggression to prevent them from being pushovers.

And honestly, anyone who’s on the other side of the ring from Raquel González is an underdog.

It was expected that Kai & González would win. Raquel is pretty untouchable at this point so they’re going to be cautious with any loss she takes. But the match still established the KCs as a damn fun team. They’ve discovered a way to integrates Kacy’s Ninja Warrior style without going over the top with it. And her finisher remains crazy, though Dakota being late on breaking up the pin forced Raquel to kick out of it in only its second apperance.

The questionable heel turn will be something interesting to watch in the future, but the KCs could be a really fun babyface duo.

Underdog Success

I love Leon Ruff.

That dude absolutely knows what his lane is and he maximizes it completely. He knows he’s an undersized underdog and doesn’t do anything that is unbelievable. I never watch a match with Ruff and think “He’d never be able to pull that off.” That’s an impressive feat for a smaller man like Leon.

Every move he hits works. He’s never over powering, instead of using his own momentum, sometimes his opponents, to his advantage. He uses his smarts too. In this match against Austin Theory, Ruff channeled Eddie Guerrero when he convinced the referee that Johnny Gargano attacked him, resulting in the Way’s leader’s ejection.

Ruff didn’t win, but that’s also why he works so well. He’s such an underdog that his losses are understandable. But his offense is good enough that he could conceivably win many of his matches. It’s a role that has it’s limits, but with they way they use him right now, he’s owning the spot.

After the match, Austin Theory tried to punish his opponent further, but Dexter Lumis stopped him, ripping off some of his hair when Theory was trying to escape. Lumis didn’t eat the hair, which I felt would be on brand, but he did sniff it.

All the Rest:

- The Robert Stone Brand’s Jessi Kamea was scheduled to face Toni Storm, but not long after the match started, Mercedes Martinez attacked one of her TakeOver opponents. Io Shirai came down to watch. Kamea tried to insert herself into this fray, but Stone and Aliyah smartly kept her from getting her ass epically kicked.

- El Legado del Fantasma defeated Lucha House Party in the quarter finals of the Dusty. This sets up MSK vs. Legado next week, which should be a kickin’ match. MSK cut a little promo after this match to give the fans a taste of their quirky personalities. So far, their rollout has been primo.

- Tian Sha has a wild backstory.

This was a fun show this week. As the Dusty advances deeper, the tag matches carry more weight. The main event tag was very fun. And Edge’s appearance felt special, even if it wasn’t more than expected.

Grade: B+

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