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NXT recap & reactions (Apr. 20, 2021): New champions and new challengers!


NXT returned last night (Apr. 20) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

KUSHIDA’s championship celebration and open challenge

After his stunning victory over Santos Escobar last week, newly minted Cruiserweight champion KUSHIDA had plenty to celebrate, and WWE was more than happy to oblige. Before the show had even aired on USA Network we were promised a party to celebrate his first week on top. If pro wrestling has taught us anything though it’s that these events are always an excuse for a new challenger to rudely interrupt and shoot their shot — which is exactly what KUSHIDA invited people to do.

Former tag team champion Oney Lorcan was the one to answer the challenge!

In case you forgot Lorcan was a solid cruiserweight outside of his former tag team glory, this match was a fine reminder of his skill in the ring. Add Will Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr. to this match and you would have had more holds than a GameStop PS5 reservation line. Even without them it was a technical showcase of back and forth grappling and painful moves. KUSHIDA may have looked like the loser of the match if you were to judge by the bright red blisters on his chest from nearly a half dozen chops by Lorcan, but moments afterward he successfully applied the Hoverboard Lock to force Lorcan into submission.

His victory was short lived as Santos Escobar hit the ramp and Legado del Fantasma jumped him and worked him over in front of the announcers. Before the beatdown could go from 2-on-1 to 3-on-1, MSK came out to even the odds. It looks like we’ve got a match for next week! In the meantime KUSHIDA is still your Cruiserweight Title champion.

In addition to that match William Regal also signed Dakota Kai vs. Mercedes Martinez and Bronson Reed vs. Austin Theory. The more NXT uses one show to book the next, the happier I am overall. Logical progression is highly underrated.

Kyle O’Reilly makes his big return

After surviving a brutal unsanctioned match against Adam Cole at night two of Takeover: Stand & Deliver, Kyle O’Reilly was ready to return to the Capitol Wrestling Center and declare victory. Would Adam Cole be waiting to sabotage him one last time, or could O’Reilly finally move on from the dissolution of The Undisputed Era?

O’Reilly was in a festive mood to open the show, strutting down to the ring while Wade Barrett moaned about him acting like the cock of the walk. O’Reilly thought it was too dark in the Capitol Wrestling Center until he took off his shades, at which point “Cool Kyle” said he could either go after the “workhorse” North American title or the biggest man in NXT, but he had ALL THE TIME in the world to decide. Before he could go on to say that meant he really wanted Karrion Kross, Cameron Grimes got involved.

Grimes wanted to form a “business partnership” with O’Reilly, and he played along like he was interested in it, but he then informed Grimes he was medically cleared for a match and all he needed was an opponent. Once he put his shades back on he FOUND his opponent, and subsequently decked Grimes with a right hand. A humorous way to open the show that set up the main event for later in the evening!

O’Reilly spent the period before commercial break working over Grimes’ left arm looking for a submission. Grimes got the heat going into the break by giving O’Reilly a German suplex right onto his “injured neck.” That allowed him to have the heat by stretching out the neck after the break, but neither man wound up using the injured body part to pick up the win. In fact let’s be honest — for the last three or four minutes of the match they were pretty much no selling each other’s offense and popping right back up. I’m not so much of a grizzled OLD veteran that I hated this, but any sense of realism went right out the window. Suspend your disbelief though and it’s just fine, since O’Reilly finished the match with a brainbuster and a flying knee off the top to the back of the head. THAT is a convincing way to end it.

Dexter Lumis vs. LA Knight

They’ve been on the edge of each other’s radar, nudging toward an eventual collision after LA Knight eliminated Dexter Lumis in a battle royal, and now the moment of impact (pun intended) had finally arrived. Dummy, yeah! LA Knight and Dexter Lumis mixed it up in a one on one battle live on NXT.

The match started with a lockup and was largely 50/50 from that point until the commercial break, with each man only getting the advantage for a few seconds. Knight finally got control by ducking a charge to the corner and hitting a neckbreaker before tossing Lumis out, and he continued to work Lumis over via “picture in picture” until we came back. At this point things started to go awry. A series of right hands put Knight down, but when the action spilled outside, Knight tripped Lumis into the plexiglass barricade face first. As he was stumbling around he looked up and saw... you guessed it... Indi Hartwell.

Knight took advantage of her distraction not once but TWICE, the second time yanking Lumis back into the ring the hard way to score the pinfall. Hartwell tried to make amends by coming down to the ring for a smooch, but The Way interrupted and dragged her out.

Breezango vs. Grizzled Young Veterans

Perhaps Breezango was paying tribute to the late Prince Philip with their attire this week?

Needless to say Zack Gibson of GYV was not amused by their “daft cosplay,” although Breezango was in control before the bell AND as NXT took time for some commercials. I swear Frank Thomas looks more swollen now than when he was “Big Hurt” in the majors. Anyway as the late Eddie Guerrero used to say “If you’re not cheating you’re not trying.” James Drake faked a leg injury so that Zack Gibson could poke Fandango in the eyes, and despite Breeze making the big comeback with a hot tag, Drake was able to make a blind tag before the Ticket to Mayhem put his shoulders on the mat for three. Wade Barrett promptly declared GYV to be the rightful challengers to MSK, and I’m perfectly fine with that.

Imperium vs. Ever-Rise

Glorified squash. I would have been annoyed by anything else. Even Killian Dain coming out from the back to get in Alexander Wolfe’s face couldn’t slow down Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel for long. Drake Maverick tried to join in so Dain had to drag him away.

After the silliness concluded, an assisted uppercut (Aichner hoists Scott Parker up, Marcel Barthel knocks him down) ended the match decisively. The mat is sacred once again.

All of this and the “Warrior of the Sun” too

It was finally time for Sarray (formerly Sareee) to make her Capitol Wrestling Center debut! Who would her opponent be? None other than “Iron Woman” Zoey Stark.

If you’re a fan of Stark you were probably dismayed that was already in the ring waiting for Sarray after a commercial break, which is almost never a good sign. It turns out it wasn’t a squash though. In fact it was actually MUCH more competitive than I would have had for Sarray’s debut, but that’s personal preference. It didn’t stop me from enjoying the near falls and the back and forth action, which finally ended with Sarray hitting a suplex and hooking the leg to keep Stark down for good. As Sarray was celebrating her victory in the ring, Toni Storm ran out to stomp a mud hole into Stark, forcing Sarray to make the save.

Grade: B+

This is one of those cases where NXT greatly exceeded my own expectations. Going in less than half of the matches were announced or booked, but going out we’ve set up no less than three contests for next week. I still wish Sarray had been a little more dominant for her first exposure to the NXT audience, but if we assume she’s facing Toni Storm next week, that would be a FOURTH match booked just because of this show. Can someone teach the writers at Raw that this is the stuff that matters? Give us feuds and matches we can invest in, not silly nonsense that gets rewritten hours before the show airs anyway.

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

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