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NXT recap & reactions (May 11, 2021): As advertised

NXT returned last night (May 11) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Raquel González vs. Mercedes Martinez

Tensions have been brewing for weeks between Raquel González and Mercedes Martinez. Last night at the CWC they boiled over as González put her NXT Women’s Title up for grabs!

Martinez got a hot start to the match and sent González to the outside to work her over on the floor, giving us an almost immediate excuse for a commercial break. This carried NXT from the first hour into the second hour with the match continuing picture in picture. González was in control when we came back. It has been politely suggested I could make the post-show reaction less of a move for move description (that’s what the live blog is for after all) so let me give you an impression of the match instead — it was sloppy, but fun.

Martinez and González didn’t seem to be on the same page from bell to bell, but that made it feel more like a fight than a choreographed exhibition, and sometimes that’s just what you want to see. Martinez enhanced this by resorting to a lot of MMA style strikes and ground and pound, and González would recover and roar back. Martinez nearly took her out with a spear to the floor, but González kicked out of the near fall back in the ring and wound up finishing the match with her one arm slam. You wouldn’t want the new champion to lose her first title defense so thumbs up all around. The only question now is who’s NeXT?

Two out of three falls

Having scored his first WWE title in an upset win over the man who unified the interim and official cruiserweight belts, KUSHIDA was ready to prove he was really the better man by putting that title on the line in a two out of three falls match.

The main event went until 8 minutes from the top of the hour before Escobar hit a Phantom Driver for the first fall. Seconds later KUSHIDA tied the score 1-all by locking on an arm breaker and forcing Escobar to tap. It seemed like they might be sending home the match early, but instead they gave both men an overrun for a series of near falls and near submissions. After Escobar escaped a series of Hoverboard Lock attempts, KUSHIDA finally got a bridging suplex and was able to hold Escobar down long enough to retain the gold.

I loved everything about this. I openly complained when KUSHIDA won the title and it wasn’t the main event of the show, so in a very selfish way I feel like this was NXT answering my complaint and giving both of these men both the time and the spotlight they deserved. The only downside (if you can call it that) is that KUSHIDA has beaten him decisively twice, so there’s no need for a rubber match. I could watch these two mix lucha libre with fighting spirit for as long as they wanted to face each other. The good news is that there are plenty of other worthy challengers on the NXT roster who can face KUSHIDA at TakeOver.

Austin Theory made a big mistake!

After Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory barged into General Manager William Regal’s office to make demands, Theory found himself mesmerized by Scarlett and her big... fingernails. Off camera Scarlett made her displeasure with Theory’s leering known by getting him booked for a non-world title match with her man Karrion Kross! Make no mistake — even WWE was calling this “punishment” for his sins.

Theory’s only prayer in this match was Gargano running interference for him on the outside, but aside from ramming Kross into the plexiglass and hitting a DDT on the floor, 90% of the offense went to Kross — as it should have. The champion needed to look strong in a non-title match against a comedy opponent and I’m happy to say he did, kicking out of a pin attempt at one, hitting a forearm to the back of the head to wipe Theory out, and locking in a Kross Jacket for the referee stoppage. The ace up WWE’s sleeve is they achieved two goals in one segment — not only did they make Kross look strong, but they made Finn Bálor look strong by coming out to get in his face immediately after the win. “I don’t wait in lines” were his words to Kross, and he accepted the challenge for a rematch, but we won’t get that match until May 25th. Unlike Bálor though I’m happy to wait to see it!

What’s going on with Alexander Wolfe?

Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe were once comrades in arms in the SAnitY faction, but have since got their separate ways as Dain wound up in a tag team with Drake Maverick, while Wolfe went on to be part of WALTER’s Imperium crew. After Wolfe refused to bash his old friend with a steel chair two weeks ago, a very displeased WALTER gave marching orders to his soldiers and told Wolfe to take care of business. Before the show could even take place though the match seemed to be in peril.

His Imperium brothers seemed skeptical that a “stomach bug” befell their friend.

It’s not easy to review a match that didn’t happen, but for what it’s worth here’s my two cents — Imperium is such a strong faction that the only way they’re going to fall apart is if the cracks come from their own foundation. The only way to shore up their sagging walls would be to kick Alexander Wolfe to the curb and pour new cement in his place. Who would that be? With TakeOver: In Your House a month away this foundation will continue to slowly rot away from now until then, and I’m intrigued to see who will fill in the cracks.

Kyle O’Reilly demanded a match with Oney Lorcan

I think this clip from WWE’s YouTube explains why, but we’ll talk more about the match itself and what the outcome meant below.

Pete Dunne returned to keep an eye out his protege during the match, using his presence as a distraction so Lorcan could hit a cheap shot outside the ring. Even though Lorcan was in control when we came back from break, O’Reilly rallied after some nasty chops and eventually got a heel hook on. Lorcan got a rope break but limped around until O’Reilly knocked him down and hit the flying knee off the ropes to the back of the head for the pin.

He couldn’t celebrate for long though because Dunne and Lorcan jumped him for a two on one beatdown... until Bobby Fish returned to make the save! O’Reilly said the past is the past and he’s doing his own thing now, and Fish said yeah that’s fine, I’ve got my own business to take care of too, “see you when I see you.” If that’s a slow burn to reuniting Fish and O’Reilly as a tag team I’m here for it, and if it’s not I’m happy Fish came back anyway.

Kyle wasn’t the only one making demands

Leon Ruff insisted he was medically cleared to compete, but William Regal wasn’t hearing it.

Since William Regal wouldn’t give him what he wanted, Ruff picked a fight with Pete Dunne as he was in the ring complaining that Karrion Kross was ducking him as a challenger. As usual he dared anyone in the locker room to “prove him wrong” and once Ruff jumped him he had all the excuse he needed to prove himself right. Ruff was given a couple of hope spots but largely dominated until Dunne locked in a triangle choke and hit elbows to the head of a defenseless opponent until the referee waved off the match. Even if Dunne has to wait in line to get his title shot, they’re keeping him looking strong in the interim, and we’ve moved on from the Ruff vs. Isaiah Scott program to boot, so this was a win all around.

MSK vs. Breezango in a non-title match

“Prince Pretty” Tyler Breeze and the fabulous Fandango were looking to get back to their winning ways by challenging MSK. With a win they’d presumably earn a title shot as well!

It’s to the back of the line with Breeze and Fandango though, because they kept getting hit with the “innovative offense” of Wes Lee and Nash Carter again and again. The commentary team needs a new phrase to describe what the former Rascalz do, but they’re not wrong about it being impressive. Furthermore it’s such a trope of champions losing non-title matches to give the challengers a title shot that I was please to see MSK pick up a win here. There’s more than enough time to find them new challengers before TakeOver. For their part MSK already has someone in mind.

One more note about this match — everybody except for the aforementioned commentary team marked out for referee Darryl Sharma (a/k/a Hornet) doing a leapfrog during the bout!

Isaiah “Swerve” Scott finally introduces his faction

Somebody in the creative team is a fan of 1990’s West coast hip-hop (and so am I) because his crew has been dubbed “The Row.”

Clockwise from upper left the members are Scott, “Top Dolla” A.J. Francis, Ashante “Thee Adonis” and B-Fab. If you don’t know, now you know. Yeah that’s Biggie’s line, not anything Death Row rappers ever said (except sarcastically) but Hit Row isn’t above straight jacking.

I’m happy to see that Scott has moved on from Leon Ruff and I’m looking forward to seeing what impact Hit Row will make on NXT in the weeks and months to come.

Two more things

“I’m Bronson Reed, and I’m in a rage! I want Gargano, and I want him in a cage!!”

We’ll get that match next week along with Zoey Stark vs. Toni Storm, so stay tuned! Last but not least I’d like to leave you with Ted DiBiase rubbing his wealth in Cameron Grimes’ face one more time.

Grade: B+

I’d like to let you know my scoring system so we can all understand each other a little better. An A+ for me would be a show where every match went almost perfectly from bell to bell, every promo made sense, and every payoff was worth the wait to get it. A B+ is a solid show that’s firing on all four cylinders but may be holding back on a few things for a bigger payday (say a TakeOver card) down the line. C+ is an average show, not a terrible show, just a show that I’d rather watch over Monday Night Raw any day of the week (and twice on Tuesday). Once we get to C or C- that’s when things have gone awry in a bad way — botched spots, cameras missing the action, incomprehensible promos that make no sense, and finishes that leave you asking “What the hell were they thinking?” If we ever get to a D or F it’ll be a very rare day and it’s not a grade I want to ever give out. That would be a show as bad as December to Dismember or (God forbid) Heroes of Wrestling.

The May 11th episode was a B+ edition of NXT in every respect — good matches, good promos, good finishes, but nothing that would exceed the level of a very solid well built TakeOver card that was three hours of pure wrestling satisfaction. I honestly don’t need every NXT to be a B+ or better, but I’m very happy to cover this show because even NXT’s lowlights are better than many other people’s highlights.

As always though a grade for a show is an objective opinion, and you know what they say about everybody having one. If we agree that’s fine, and if we disagree then that’s what the comments section is for. I’ll respect your right to dissent if you don’t agree, and at the end of the day, we all got to watch some pro wrestling on a Tuesday night.

That’s not a bad thing, that’s, a good thing. BANG!

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

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