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NXT recap & reactions (June 1, 2021): Adam Cole returns!

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NXT returned last night (June 1) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Triple threat No. 1 contender’s match

By order of General Manager William Regal on last week’s show, former North American champion Johnny Gargano would face former United Kingdom champion “Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne and former three time NXT tag team champion Kyle O’Reilly in a triple threat match to open the show. The winner would emerge the No. 1 contender to face Karrion Kross at Takeover: In Your House on June 13th.

This is pure armchair quarterbacking at its finest, but I would have put a match this important at the end of the show rather than the beginning, out of fear that viewers would tune out and watch something else the moment this one was over. Nevertheless it was a solid in-ring affair with the typical triple threat formula of knocking one man out of the ring so the other two could battle for a bit, only for the third man to break it up and reset the action. Dunne had the best spot out of all of them when he did a double finger manipulation and a double hand stomp to Gargano and O’Reilly. How and why have we never seen that in a three way before?

Just when it seemed like we were on the verge of one of the three pulling ahead of the pack and emerging victorious, Dunne and O’Reilly got attacked by a rampaging Adam Cole, swinging a chair like the late Balls Mahoney. He wasted no time laying everyone to waste.

The ref tried to break it up and got knocked down, then smashed into the plexiglass for good measure. Cole got into the ring to wipe out Johnny Gargano, and an irate William Regal came down with two security officials to throw him out — but not before he got in one more cheap shot on O’Reilly!

At this point your opinion of what happened next is either that it was either carefully orchestrated chaos or a show that had very little announced going in quickly turning into “send people out and let them do whatever.” Ember Moon ran out to challenge Raquel González to a fight. Moon got the better of her as Regal and the security guards ran back out to the ring, but while Moon was celebrating her come up and González was being held back, Dakota Kai snuck up behind her and destroyed her with kicks.

Even WWE’s official Twitter account for NXT said the show had “gone off the rails,” but if it was planned to that degree it wasn’t entirely satisfying to see. Who wants to invest nearly a half hour into a triple threat match to determine a new challenger for the NXT title that ends with no winner? Not me. Who wants chaos (even scripted chaos) to completely take over the show? Not me. That chaos continued straight into the next segment.

“Dummy, yeah!”

With a callback to Impact Wrestling, L.A. Knight made his way to the ring and proclaimed he’d be taking on Jake Atlas. As you might expect we had both Ted DiBiase coming out to the entrance ramp to watch, and Cameron Grimes coming out to talk to the Million Dollar Man. Grimes didn’t so much interfere in the match as he did annoy DiBiase by running his mouth non stop. In the end Atlas took advantage of the showboating Knight and hit a cartwheel DDT off the ropes to get the pin.

Why send Grimes out if he’s not going to cost Knight the match directly? You can argue it furthers the storyline with Ted DiBiase I suppose, but if Knight would look stupid for losing on interference, he looks even stupider losing without any! That doesn’t make me want to see either one of these men vie for DiBiase’s affections.

Adam Cole hijacks the show (again)

As if his first interruption wasn’t enough, Adam Cole came right out to the ring to take over the show again. Read the full blog if you want the word for word — here’s the short version: I was champion for 400+ days for a reason, I run this place, and Karrion Kross is a jacked up musclehead not fit to lace my boots. An irate Kross hit the ring to argue with him, Regal came out in a vain attempt to regain control, and Kross told him he wants everybody from the triple threat and Adam Cole at Takeover all at one time.

Out of a show that felt like a million things being thrown at a wall to see what sticks, this segment stuck the most. Kross and Cole hit all the right notes in their respective promos and even though I would have preferred Kross have just one contender, his justification for not wanting a one-on-one title defense at least helps it make sense. There’s only one problem here — if he destroys four different top contenders at once on June 13th, who can possibly challenge him for the title after that? Would Bronson Reed vacate the North American title to get a shot? Who else is there? I’m serious. Who, else, is there???

MSK faces Legado del Fantasma

Despite the interference of the Grizzled Young Veterans ensuring that Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher lost their own contender’s match against Legado del Fantasma, GM Regal ruled that the results of the match would stand and that Legado would get to face MSK for the titles. I didn’t suspect that WWE would make a title switch with just under two weeks to go before Takeover, but that’s why we watch right? Let’s talk about what happened.

As you would expect Legado spent a lot of time cutting off the ring for two on one beatdowns, all with a smiling Santos Escobar sitting by the commentators, biding his time for an opportunity to interfere. When Wes Lee crashed to the ground right in front of him, Escobar posted him into the steel steps and threw him back. Nash Carter saved him from the pin at the very last possible second, and then an angry Bronson Reed charged down to ringside to smash Escobar into the plexiglass.

Joaquin Wilde ate the pin moments later for a solid main event to a very disorganized show.

Hit Row feuds with Killian Dain & Drake Maverick

Don’t sleep on the parking lot outside the Capitol Wrestling Center. An angle involving the stars of NXT getting in each other’s faces before or during the show is practically a trope at this point, but that’s not to say I’m tired of it. In fact it’s impressive that they almost always have the cameras white balanced properly for the broad sunlight of the bright outdoors. Take it from someone who dabbled in television in college — it’s not that easy to do. In any case when Hit Row arrived for today’s taping, things quickly got heated between them and the tag team of Killian Dain & Drake Maverick.

One might have assumed this would be followed up on with a match on NXT proper. One would assume incorrectly. They showed the video package, but no other mention of the incident nor match between these teams occurred. Maybe next week?

KUSHIDA’s open challenge

Less than a half hour before the show went to air we got breaking news via social media.

Who would step up to accept KUSHIDA’s open challenge? A young rookie named Carmelo Hayes. The powers that be backstage must think a lot of the young man, because he took a large percentage of the match, and KUSHIDA sold a lot for him to make him look like he can go toe-to-toe with the long time veteran. Ultimately though despite going through a commercial break with Hayes being in control afterward, he still got taken down and put in the Hoverboard Lock for the submission.

As the announcers like to say Hayes has some innovative offense so I enjoyed his late notice challenge to KUSHIDA. I’m not sure I’d have a newcomer “run the bingo” that much but if they go somewhere with Hayes in the future then perhaps it was a necessary evil. If they drop it as quickly as they did Zayda Ramier after her program with Toni Storm though, it wasn’t worth it at all. Speaking of which...

Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell vs. Zayda Ramier & Zoey Stark

It was a non-title match for The Way, and the challengers still didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. A couple of quick hope spots didn’t change the champs getting the win.

On a show this random and messy, this kind of squash restored sanity to the proceedings. Good job to everyone involved.

What else do you need to know?

Xia Li wants revenge for losing to Mercedes Martinez at the Mae Young Classic.

Mercedes Martinez vowed to “run through her” at Takeover in response.

Speaking of wrestlers booking their own programs, Ember Moon vowed to take out the “lackey” Dakota Kai on next week’s show.

She also promised that with Kai out of the way, she’d be able to take from Raquel González the thing that matters to her the most at Takeover — the NXT women’s title. One more thing: the Grizzled Young Veterans tried to get a closer look at the night’s main event, but Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher were having none of it.

Grade: B-

I know that giving a C or lower to NXT is tantamount to fighting words around here, but we are infinitesimally close to that mark tonight. A really good tag team main event and a really strong opener before Adam Cole interrupted were good enough book ends to a show to save the grade, along with the Cole vs. Kross segment to explain why Adam Cole (bay bay) ruined a perfectly good triple threat. The Way winning a squash non-title match helped too. Honestly I should have known this show would be a cluster going in given that by Monday night they had only announced two matches, but after a solid A last week this show can’t possibly compare to that one. Here’s hoping they right the ship before Takeover.

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