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NXT recap & reactions (Mar. 10, 2021): Game changers

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NXT returned last night (Mar. 10) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Finn Bálor finally faces Adam Cole

After surviving a hellacious battle with Roderick Strong in last week’s main event, Finn Bálor was forced to return to Orlando for another war. This time he’d be putting his NXT championship on the line against Undisputed Era’s disgraced leader Adam Cole, but at least he’d finally get a measure of revenge for the boot to the face Cole gave him at Vengeance Day. Would “The Prince” retain or would the turncoat Cole have the last laugh?

Cole as you’d expect tried to use every cowardly tactic in the book, even yanking Bálor toward the outside of the ring so he could boot him in the face from the floor, then setting up the steel steps looking to smash him through them like he did Kyle O’Reilly. Bálor saved himself with a suplex onto the steel entrance ramp to send us to a commercial break, one of several during the night’s main event!! The action would continue past the top of the hour as both men beat each other from pillar to post for one near fall after another.

Adam Cole nearly seemed to have the upper hand with multiple cross faces to the previously broken jaw of Bálor, but he withstood the pain and even kicked out of a Panama Sunrise. Bálor tossed Cole out of the ring to recover, and when Cole looked up from the barricade, he saw Kyle O’Reilly staring him down! That was all the distraction Bálor needed. He hit a suicide dive to the outside, threw Cole back into the ring, went to the top for the coup de grace and connected clean for the 1-2-3!!

The show could have gone off the air at this point, but Kyle O’Reilly had OTHER plans. He got in the ring to confront Adam Cole, who tried to hit the low blow, but O’Reilly clearly had a steel cup under his street clothes because it had NO EFFECT. O’Reilly started to whip Cole all over the building, knocking down an official who tried to break it up in the process, and tried to suplex Cole onto the steel steps before a half dozen referees jumped on him.

Cole fled the homicidal intentions of his former “brother” while Bálor looked on from the ring, and when he turned around KILLER KROSS WAS WAITING. Bálor quipped “What took you so long?” and the two faced off to tease a match for Takeover.


Io Shirai’s quest to be the best

Two weeks ago at the CWC, Toni Storm insulted Io Shirai and said that until Shirai beats her one on one, she’s not a REAL women’s champion. A lesser woman might have thrown a fit and stormed out of the building, but the “Queen of the Sky” isn’t afraid of a good fight. Storm dared her to go find William Regal and book a title match, and Shirai’s response got straight to the point: “YOU’RE ON!!” Only one woman could leave the Capitol Wrestling Center with the NXT title around her waist.

The title defense kicked off the live broadcast and felt like it could have been even better if it has gone last and gotten an overrun — or been part of a NXT Takeover proper instead. Still it was a very solid outing for both women that had plenty of twists, turns and near falls until Shirai finally applied her cross face submission one too many times for Storm to survive, forcing her to tap out to the pain and keep the gold around Shirai’s waist.

Later in the evening Shirai would find Raquel González to say “I want you NEXT” but we had a few other things to get through first, including something set up earlier by William Regal.


Speaking of Regal

NXT’s General Manager promised us not one but TWO blockbuster announcements that would “forever change the landscape of NXT.” One would presumably address the controversial finish of the WWE women’s tag team title match, but would the other be that WWE NXT is moving to Tuesday nights? Hopefully you didn’t place any bets on that outcome, because Mr. Regal had something completely different in mind.

Just like the tweet says, NXT Takeover “Stand & Deliver” will be Wednesday, April 7th on USA Network, followed by a second night on Thursday, April 8th exclusively on Peacock. Mr. Regal did tease TWO announcements before the show aired though — here’s the other.

Dakota Kai and Raquel González gloated over being inaugurated the NXT Women’s Tag Team champions while the rest of the women’s locker room scowled from the entrance ramp. Eventually Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart got fed up with their posturing and challenged them to a title match. William Regal made it official and they met up a little later in the evening — but I’ll tell you what happened in the match right here and now!

The action started out with Shotzi Blackheart putting Dakota Kai in a cloverleaf submission hold for a LONG time, dragging her back to the center when she almost got to the ropes, but on the second attempt she finally got her left hand on the ropes. After she got up both women hit kicks for a double knockdown leading to a commercial break. Raquel González was firmly in control when we came back, which led to her and Kai double teaming on Kai for a long time. Eventually Ember Moon got the hot tag to clean house, There was an equal amount of double teaming from the faces, until González and Moon got tied up in the ropes and Kai ran into them and sent them tumbling to the floor. Blackheart hit a bridging suplex to pin Kai and the reign of the champs was not even one full show before a title change!


The darkest Knight

Despite promising a “real men” ethos of knuckling up for fair fights, L.A. Knight took it upon himself to interfere in Bronson Reed’s match with Cameron Grimes, causing the big man to lose to the wannabe redneck Ted DiBiase. Was this the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Knight and Grimes, or just an excuse for the salty Knight to wreak havoc and knock off the biggest targets on his climb to the top? We wouldn’t find out because the moment Knight showed up to cut a promo about making his “in ring debut” next week, he was attacked by an angry Reed looking for a little payback. If he wants a first opponent for said debut Reed appears to be willing to oblige!


Kayden looks to settle the score

Having seen her friend Kacy Catanzaro take a beatdown from Xia Li, Kayden Carter was out for revenge in singles competition on last night’s show. The numbers game would not be in her favor though as Catanzaro had NO backup, while Li had her friend Boa and their mysterious mentor Mei Ying. Carter would have to overcome tremendous odds to exact a measure of revenge for their dastardly deeds, but her friend Catanzaro had OTHER ideas. She limped down on her crutches, ostensibly to offer her support, but the moment Li had her back turned Catanzaro WHACKED HER WITH A CRUTCH, which whether she intended it or not gave Li the win by DQ. She continued the beatdown until Boa made the save and broke the crutch. Mei Ying signaled to Boa to finish her off, but Kayden Carter whacked Boa with the OTHER crutch to make the save and the faces quickly bailed out!


And if that wasn’t enough...

Jordan Devlin informed us that his quarantine had been lifted and he’d be back at the Capitol Wrestling Center next week to show Santos Escobar exactly who the REAL cruiserweight champion of WWE NXT is!

The Grizzled Young Veterans were scheduled for a match with Legado del Fantasma, but MSK pretended to be Breezango to cause a distraction and get James Drake rolled up, at which point the REAL Breezango showed up. That’s our best comedy segment for this week, although Johnny Gargano whipping Austin Theory into a frenzy wasn’t bad either.

Two more things — Imperium once again made their pitch to Timothy Thatcher, but Ciampa said he’d give them an answer himself with a tag team match NEXT WEEK. Pete Dunne gave a lesson in submissions to Jake Atlas and proclaimed himself the world’s best technical wrestler, daring the entire roster to PROVE HIM WRONG.


Grade: A-

If Io Shirai and Toni Storm had been given more time, this show could easily have been an A or an A+. All of the title matches including the unannounced women’s tag team title defense were excellent. Xia Li vs. Kayden Carter was a dud, Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Legado del Fantasma wasn’t even a match at all (it was all a swerve for MSK and Breezango to return) but everything else made up for those matches in spades. I hate to admit it but it was also nice to have a break from Cameron Grimes for a week. He’s funny but too many servings of what he’s got to offer ruins the taste — less is definitely more.

Get up from your cageside seats and sound off below. See you in seven days!