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NXT recap & reactions (May 25, 2021): Bálor vs. Kross, one more time!

NXT returned last night (May 25) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Finn Bálor vs. Karrion Kross

The NXT Championship was won by Karrion Kross at night two of NXT Takeover: Stand & Deliver last month. Finn Bálor has promised to take Kross into the deep water and make him drown, but it was Kross who left Bálor for dead in a decisive win that dethroned the long reigning champion. Never one to just sulk away and lick his wounds, Bálor challenged Kross to a rematch two weeks ago, and Kross was more than happy to accept. One can presume William Regal had to cross the T’s and dot the I’s on the paperwork, but usually in storyline a former champion has a “rematch clause” anyway, and making us wait a couple of weeks for the payoff just heightened the anticipation for this fight.

If I have only one complain about this match it’s the fact that we went to a commercial break with picture-in-picture less than a minute after the opening bell. Here’s hoping that WWE decides to upload the uninterrupted match to either YouTube or Peacock. (Both. Both is good.) Then again that’s what makes a Takeover a Takeover right? Uninterrupted action in the ring. Kross worked over Bálor’s back to wear him down, but the former champion kept making one comeback after another as we went past the top of the hour. This was as good as you’ll get on cable/satellite for free as they tore into each other over and over again, with action so stiff that Kross was leaving welts on Bálor’s body.

“The Prince” was giving just as good as he got right back to the champ.

In the end Kross put Bálor away with the Kross Jacket submission, but I tip my hat to both men for the caliber of match they put on here — taking themselves and their bodies to the limit. Whoever Kross faces at Takeover in June will have to work hard to have a match that looks as good or is as physically punishing as this one.

Franky Monet debuts for (at least) the third time

Make no mistake about it — I adore Taya Valkyrie. I’ve been a fan of La Guera Loca for a long time. I’d even go so far as to say she’s been underutilized to this point in her career, despite the fact she’s been a three time AAA women’s champion and a former Impact Knockouts Champion. If they wanted to make her annoying on WWE television though they’ve succeeded. She made her first appearance on April 13th, had multiple backstage segments since that date, yet for some reason she had to make her debut again last week. If that wasn’t enough now they promised us a “world premiere” of Franky Monet this week, which is different from her last two debuts... how?! I still love her but I don’t understand this at all.

Happily this time they got it right by giving Franky Monet a squash match with Cora Jade. The former Taya Valkyrie took at least 90% of this match and finished it with an implant buster, showing immediately that she’s a force to be reckoned with on this show and in this women’s division. That’s how you do it folks.

Raquel González & Dakota Kai vs. Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart

In the short history of the NXT Women’s Tag Team Titles, both of these teams are in the record books as former champions — Raquel González & Dakota Kai were the first, and promptly lost to Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart in their first defense. Moon and Blackheart were subsequently dethroned on May 4th, so it only makes sense to have these two teams face each other for a future opportunity at Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell.

This match opened the live broadcast and had González showing off her power early as Blackheart was literally not able to do a thing to her. That’s not how the match ended, but that’s how the segment ended. Even though Moon and Blackheart got the win, an angry González destroyed Blackheart all around the ringside area and left her in a heap outside, while Moon was equally debilitated back inside the ring. I can think of no better word for it than Pyrrhic — the winners actually wound up the losers here. It might be hard for them to claim a title shot at LeRae & Hartwell after this beating.

“Kiss my grits like Flo from Mel’s Diner!”

After Ted DiBiase distracted Cameron Grimes and caused him to lose a match to Jake Atlas, an irate Grimes stormed out of the Capitol Wrestling Center to demand satisfaction. While Mr. DiBiase did not give him any last week, we were promised a “Million Dollar Face-Off” this week. If the GameStop stonks and dogecoin doubloons couldn’t put a smile on Grimes’ face, maybe the chance to finally make the Million Dollar Man kiss his grits would.

If you want the word for word of their verbal interaction the live blog has you covered, but here’s what you need to know the most — L.A. Knight came out to interrupt their back and forth exchange. Knight vowed that he was exactly the protege that could fulfill Ted DiBiase’s legacy, and an insulted Grimes told Knight to get the hell out of the ring or get kicked out of it by force. He turned his back on Knight to talk to DiBiase at his own peril and got dropped immediately for that mistake. “Kid, you’re never going to get it are you?” Once again the Million Dollar Man gets the upper hand. This leaves me with more questions than answers. Are we using DiBiase to get over Grimes, or are we using him to get over Knight? Is this an attempt to make Grimes a sympathetic babyface?

I’m really curious as to where this storyline goes next, and I bet that you are too.

Bobby Fish only wants one thing — Pete Dunne in a ring

On the May 18th episode of NXT, Bobby Fish made it clear that he blames Pete Dunne for the injuries that put him on the shelf, and that furthermore he found it amusing that Dunne claims everyone in NXT is ducking him or afraid of him. Fish made be many things but “afraid” certainly isn’t one. He dared Dunne to make good on his promise to have any one in the locker room “prove me wrong” and the match for this week was on!

Fish certainly fought like a man out for vengeance, blasting Dunne at every opportunity and locking in a long armbar that Dunne couldn’t escape for a long time. Why not? If someone puts you on the shelf with an injury in storyline, try to injure them right back. The reverse is also true as well — if someone is previously injured, work over the previous injury in the match. Both men played their parts to perfection here, but in the end it was Dunne who got the advantage and the pinfall, leaving his lackey Oney Lorcan to the dirty work and (as he vowed out loud) put Fish “back on the shelf.” The heels left with their heads held high and a circle of referees telling them to get out. If you’re a Fish fan this was red hot heat. Dare we say that Fish got fried here? We dare! “This feud must continue” and I’m here for it.

Bronson Reed addresses the NXT Universe

Last week Bronson Reed overcame the odds inside a steel cage, having to deal with North American champion Johnny Gargano on the inside, along with the constant interference of Austin Theory on the outside. In the end a “Colossal” Tsunami splash left Gargano down for the count and crowned a brand new champion. What’s next for Reed? We found out last night when he gave his address live from the Capitol Wrestling Center.

Reed took his victory lap with the North American title before Legado del Fantasma interrupted to mock the new champion. Escobar has concluded in his own mind that the North American title represents both USA and Mexico (but not Canada) so that means he deserves it as the emperor of lucha libre. Before he could even attempt to make good on his threat to take the title away from the champ, MSK hit the ring to dispatch Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza, and Reed sent Escobar spilling out of the ring to the floor.

We’ve got ourselves a tag team title match for next week. Once again NXT does the thing I like the best about this show — the segments on one show set up matches and events you want to see on the weeks to come. Speaking of which William Regal said after this segment that Kyle O’Reilly vs. Pete Dunne vs. Johnny Gargano next week would determine the new No. 1 contender for the NXT champion at Takeover: In Your House next month. Brilliant! If a show has a General Manager, he should book what the fans want, and as a fan I definitely want to see the winner of that match challenge for the gold.

Mercedes Martinez vs. Zayda Ramier

Ramier was already waiting in the ring when Martinez made her entrance, which is never a good sign for that individual in any form of televised wrestling match. Ramier had a couple of hope shots but 90% of the offense went to the veteran, which is fine by me, because Ramier is still young and has many years ahead of her. Boa had been lurking behind Martinez backstage before the match, and after Martinez picked up the win the lights went down and a Tian Sha video played as the ring filled with smoke. The lights went down again and when they came back up Martinez had a black mark on her hand. Ominous!

A few more things

It appears that Dexter Lumis never got around to checking his Twitter DM’s because he’s heartbroken that Indi Hartwell talked crap about him when she and Candice LeRae had their spa day. Maybe he should have watched a replay of NXT to see that she took it all back? Hopefully he’ll figure it out. We also got a solid promo from Hit Row putting the whole of the NXT roster on notice. If you didn’t know, now you know.

We had some words from last week’s opposing tag teams of Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher and the Grizzled Young Veterans. The former promised that their war had only begun and “round three” was coming up..

A cocky Zack Gibson and James Drake said they had no interest in renewing the rivalry and were moving on to MSK and their plans to wear tag team gold.

Last but not least WALTER gave marching orders to Imperium to destroy the tag team division and show everyone that the mat is sacred.

Grade: A

I’m sorry Cage-a-holics, I just don’t have anything to gripe about this week. A solid show from start to finish. Every segment made sense. Every match had the right person win. Every angle leaves me intrigued as to where NXT is going next. When it’s good, it’s good. Even the “What happened to Tian Sha? Did they just drop the angle?” commenters should be pleased that they got a payoff this week. Kudos to NXT on an excellent show.

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

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