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NXT recap & reactions (June 15, 2021): SoCal submissions and big decisions!

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NXT returned last night (June 15) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

“It’s time for a change”

After weeks of “bedlam and carnage” on the weekly NXT show, a frustrated GM William Regal admitted at Takeover: In Your House that in his seven years things had never been as bad as they were right now. The straw that broke the camel’s back appeared to be all of the brawls between members of the fatal five-way before the main event, but the fight between Dakota Kai and Shotzi Blackheart couldn’t have helped matters.

Seemingly rendered impotent by the refusal of anyone on the roster to acknowledge his authority, Regal vowed that it was “time for a change” to NXT. Was that change a submission specialist from Southern California?

For the full verbiage of the opening segment click here, but for the abbreviated version read on! Regal came out to tender his resignation with a tear in his eye, Karrion Kross (and Scarlett) came out to mock him and make him leave, Samoa Joe interrupted and Regal offered him the GM’s position. Joe refused! He said Regal’s shoes were too big to fill, but he offered a counter proposal — as a man who always “afforded” Mr. Regal respect during his NXT tenure, Joe wanted to ensure every superstar in NXT gave him that same respect.

Regal offered him the role of his enforcer on two conditions — he could not be an active competitor, and he could not lay a hand on anyone... unless provoked. Joe accepted those terms and dared Kross to do something. He backed down and took his leave, but it wouldn’t take long before someone “provoked” Joe. Adam Cole shoved him during a pull apart brawl with Kyle O’Reilly backstage, Joe ripped off his jacket, and choked Cole the hell out!

With the internet rumor mill buzzing for two straight days about Joe’s return to NXT, I’m sure many people expected him to be the GM, not the GM’s lieutenant/right hand man/enforcer. I didn’t want Regal to leave though, and I thought Joe being cut by WWE was an idiotic decision, so as far as I’m concerned this is the best of both worlds. Regal stays, Joe returns, and all is right with the world. Given that Joe’s concussions left him unable to be medically cleared to compete, it’s hard to argue with him being given a role where he gets to cut promos, enforce the law, and choke out anybody stupid enough to defy authority. Win.

KUSHIDA’s open challenge

In addition to this seismic shift to the NXT landscape, cruiserweight champion KUSHIDA vowed to continue his open challenge policy on this Tuesday’s edition of the show. That makes perfect sense given he didn’t defend the title on Sunday night, but it left only one (obvious) question — who would step up next to try and dethrone him?

The challenge was answered by Trey Baxter, who even got a video package and his own entrance music to welcome him to the fight. During the pull apart between Cole and O’Reilly earlier, William Regal told them to each pick an opponent for a match next week. As a result O’Reilly came out to scout this match, and after KUSHIDA took Baxter off the ropes with a Hoverboard Lock and then quickly applied a second one to tap him out, O’Reilly said KUSHIDA was the man he wanted to face next week. KUSHIDA accepted and this segment accomplished three things in one fell swoop — introduce Baxter as an up-and-coming wrestler (he might have gotten lost once or twice but KUSHIDA carried him through it), give KUSHIDA another successful title defense, and book a match for next week’s show. You can’t argue with getting that much done at one time and having it all make sense.

Grown ass men vs. Grizzled Young Veterans

I don’t know about anybody else but personally I was salivating for this match. I realize the Grizzled Young Veterans aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (joke intended) but I think Zack Gibson and James Drake are a fun duo. I like everything about them from their in-ring work to their snarling promos about being better than every American tag team they’ve faced.

The only team that might be more fun though is Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher, who look and sound far more “grizzled” than the young UK upstarts. GYV offered them a tornado rules tag team match to settle their differences, and the angry old men gleefully accepted. Let the bodies hit the floor!

This might as well have been called a no disqualifications street fight, save for the fact that the only “weapons” all four men used were their own bodies. Other than that there was no reason for the referee to be present to enforce rules — he was only there to see if someone got pinned or tapped out. At least one spot had me genuinely worried when Drake hit a dive while Ciampa was on Gibson’s shoulders on the floor. Given Ciampa’s history of neck issues that’s not a bump I would have taken under any circumstances.

Realistically though if WWE is promoting it on their social media the spot went exactly as planned, and as evidence of that Ciampa came back seemingly from the dead to grab Gibson and drop him high through the air onto the announce table. Payback! He promptly got in the ring and took out Drake too, leaving him prone for Gibson to apply the ankle lock for the submission. Ciampa yelled “This was our Takeover!” into the camera as we left the Performance Center for McKenzie Mitchell to catch up with Regal and Joe, who both declared their new partnership a success and the first of many more nights to come.

Io Shirai addresses the NXT Universe

After Io Shirai made her return last week with a little help from Poppy, the former NXT women’s champion looked to be in fine form as she chased Candice LeRae from the ring. This week it was announced ahead of the live broadcast that Shirai would “address the NXT Universe” about her return. Would the fight with LeRae continue or would she set her sights on much bigger goals?

Before we could even get Shirai’s statement, LeRae came out to interrupt and tell her that as much as things have changed around here one thing hasn’t — “I still hate you.” While LeRae was busy distracting her Indi Hartwell snuck up on her from behind.

The two on one beating nearly led to Hartwell doing an elbow drop on Shirai from the ring through the announce table, but Zoey Stark made the save at the last second and the faces sent the heels packing. It looks like we’ve got ourselves a tag team match, and that’s fine with me. Next week, Great American Bash, whenever. Hook it up!

Ted DiBiase formally crowns his protege

In a match with the Million Dollar Title hanging overhead, LA Knight literally climbed the ladder of success to become Ted DiBiase’s new protege. He held the title and he had his hand raised by the Million Dollar Man, but it appears that alone was not enough, as we were promised that Knight would have a coronation on NXT last night. The only conclusion I could draw from that going into the show was that Cameron Grimes was going to show up and ruin Knight’s celebration.

Right man, wrong conclusion. Grimes didn’t come out to ruin the celebration, but he did come out after Knight ruined it himself. After gushing about how DiBiase was his hero and childhood idol, he concluded that he had now gotten everything he ever needed — so it was time to get rid of what he didn’t need!

He decked DiBiase with the mic and stomped a mud hole in him until Grimes ran out to make the save and yell “You crossed the line!” If we needed a full babyface turn for Grimes, having Knight deck a defenseless old man and Grimes be the man who will defend his honor is one way to achieve that goal. The fans were already getting behind Grimes anyway, so you may as well take this ball and run with it!

Imperium vs. Breezango

An already stacked show had even more to squeeze into a two hour broadcast when it was announced that Imperium’s Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel would be looking to take out Breezango. The ladder they seek to climb is much more figurative, but either way the winners would be one step closer to a future match with MSK.

The match survived a commercial break but the momentum was almost entirely in Imperium’s favor, to the point that Wade Barrett surmised that this wasn’t really a match but a lesson being taught to the entire roster. WALTER won’t be happy that they lost then because Tyler Breeze caught Fabian Aichner with a school boy cradle. On the other hand Imperium beat both memebers of Breezango senseless afterward and draped their flag over Breeze’s carcass in the ring, so he may feel that the message was delivered after all. The ring is still sacred even if you lose on a fluke roll up to a couple of clowns. To me this is an excuse to continue the program between both sides while leaving Aichner and Barthel looking strong until they meet again, so once again this segment left me satisfied.

Raquel González & Dakota Kai vs. Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter

If you love tag team action this was certainly the episode of NXT for you. Women’s champion Raquel González and her partner-in-crime Dakota Kai looked to reassert their dominance as a duo, but they’d have to go through Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter first.

There were so many quick tags and changes of momentum that I don’t even think I caught them all in the live blog, but I’ll refer you to it anyway if you want the particulars. Even though Carter and Catanzaro got plenty of hope spots and a few near falls, the story was what it almost always is with González — no matter how hard you hit her you just can’t keep her down. Even when Catanzaro hit Kai with a 450 and seemed to have the pin with González on the floor, she recovered just in time to pull Catanzaro off and toss Carter overhead into the plexiglass. Kai hit the GTK and got the win for their team. It was... as expected. A little too much of a mess for me to call it good, but a little too much of a train wreck for me to take my eyes off it. I guess that’s a success.

What else do you need to know?

Periodically throughout the show we’d get a few seconds of a phone’s battery life being recharged. It was never addressed on camera by anyone so clearly you’re meant to be guessing as to what it means.

We had a fun little spot with Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory trying to suck up to Samoa Joe. Joe’s response to Gargano was priceless. “Johnny, can you do me a favor? GET OUT.”

Pete Dunne also dared Joe to do something with his eyes, prompting Regal to look at them both and say “Gentlemen — please.”

We also got a promo segment from Mercedes Martinez, vowing that even though she took the worst that the Tian Sha faction could offer at Takeover, she was far from dead and that next time she’d knock Mei Ying right off her stupid throne.

At the Great American Bash on July 6, 2021 we’re getting Cole vs. O’Reilly 2!

Ever-Rise rebuilt the set Hit Row destroyed. Funny, I didn’t even know they destroyed it.

I think their carpentry skills need a little work. Franky Monet also promised us an encore of her world premier. I hope that means she’s going to wrestle.

Santos Escobar vowed to take the North American title from Bronson Reed one on one.

The Diamond Mine is “open for business” next week.

Oh... and the Robert Stone Brand had a couple of seconds of TV too.

Grade: A-

There was a bit too much going on this week for me to fully enjoy the show. Nothing was done wrong or poorly, but it was like drinking 12 cans of Mountain Dew in one sitting. I like my caffeine too but I’d prefer to have it in more controlled doses that don’t leave me twitching like the squirrel who bit a power line. Seeing Joe return and play such a dominant role in restoring order pushed my grade up just a bit from the B+ that I had considered giving it. In storyline or in real life, this show needs his calming presence badly. You don’t mess with Samoa Joe, because if you do, Joe’s gonna kill you.

Get up from your cageside seats and sound off below. See you next week!