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NXT recap & reactions (June 22, 2021): Diamond Mine get props like a cop

NXT returned last night (June 22) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

The “enforcer” era for Samoa Joe has begun

After William Regal agreed to make Samoa Joe his right hand man to ensure he was afforded the proper respect, NXT wrestlers started lining up to either suck up to Joe and get in his good graces or try to “provoke” him into getting physical. Here’s a quick example of the former as opposed to the latter.

Joe was not interested in any ass kissing, and the one time Adam Cole laid hands on him, he quickly wound up face down on the floor unconscious after Joe choked him out.

At the end of the show Regal and Joe promised it was “the first of many” nights to come with authority finally being restored. How did this new powerful duo whip the NXT roster into shape this week?

Unfortunately Joe didn’t get to choke anybody out this week, but he did have his hands full commanding the security team to break up multiple incidents, each of which we will cover in the notes below. In between those times Karrion Kross dared him to get “provoked” but Joe didn’t take the bait. As he let Kross walk by, Pete Dunne was waiting behind Joe to stare a hole through him for the second week, building up to a match that for medical reasons we may never ever get to see — and that’s a damn shame.

The Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly sandwich

Speaking of Cole and O’Reilly though, they were the two ends of a NXT sandwich this week and the rest of the show was the fillings. Seven days ago William Regal informed Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly that they would have to settle their differences at the Great American Bash on July 6th, but in the meantime they would have one-on-one matches with the opponent of their choosing. Cole would be too busy recovering from Joe’s choke to make his pick last week, so we’d get his answer this week!

We already knew who O’Reilly wanted to face though — cruiserweight champion KUSHIDA.

First up though was Adam Cole (bay bay), who came out to open the show and informed us that he would be facing... no one, because he doesn’t play by anybody’s rules but his own. As it turns out though he didn’t have to choose because Carmelo Hayes interrupted, did his best John Cena imitation by declaring his “ruthless aggression” and slapping Cole in the face. The ref already knew what Cole wanted after this disrespect and called for the bell.

Given his “rookie” status you’d probably be surprised by how much Cole gave Hayes in this match. This could have easily been treated like a squash, but it was as close to 50/50 as Hayes was going to get in a losing effort. Once the fireman’s carry was countered into a backstabber from Cole though it was the beginning of the end, and despite several attempts to put Cole away, his superkick was better and his Panama Sunrise was the nail in the coffin. He’s worked with both KUSHIDA and Cole in matches on NXT and looked good both times, so that speaks to the quality of people he’s working with, but it just might say that Hayes is a future star in the making to keep your eye on too.

At the other end of the sandwich we had a non-title “respect” match with two wrestling and grappling technicians. O’Reilly and KUSHIDA had the closest thing to a worked MMA match we’re going to see in NXT, constantly fighting their way in and out of armbars, choke holds, and leg locks with the occasional near fall thrown in just to remind us it was pro wrestling. At the end of this move for move, counter for counter war, KUSHIDA tried to drag O’Reilly to the center to reapply the Hoverboard Lock, but O’Reilly countered one last time into a small package for the win. Neither man had much time to appreciate their efforts. Adam Cole ran out from the back and got into a wild brawl with O’Reilly, spilling behind the announce table and through the barricade as Joe sent his army of lieutenants to snatch them up.

To make KUSHIDA’s loss even worse, he got jumped by the debuting Diamond Mine to close the show, a faction which features Malcolm Bivens as the manager/mouthpiece and the returning Roderick Strong! He’d be joined by Bivens protege Tyler Rust and a Performance Center coach/certified badass named Hideki Suzuki. DM left KUSHIDA in a heap and Bivens threw his cruiserweight title onto his prone carcass before the show went off the air.

Franky Monet’s encore debut

If the opening and closing segments had been the entirety of the show, I would have been just fine with it, but there’s much more to talk about. Franky Monet (f/k/a Taya Valkyrie) and her little dog Presley have made their pre-debut, their NXT debut, their backstage segment debut, and their “world premier” in-ring debut just to name a few. It’s now a running joke that the NXT writers can’t seem to get enough of. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you this week’s “encore debut” of Franky Monet on WWE NXT!

This week’s victim for the encore premier was Elektra Lopez — a name I can only assume the brain trust came up with by combining Carmen Elektra and Jennifer Lopez. She had an outfit that tried to emphasize her ass-ets to boot, and in the words of Shakira her hips didn’t lie when she danced to celebrate a brief moment of triumph over Monet. The rest of the time though it was all Taya Valkyrie’s show, throwing around Lopez with ease, doing ground and pound when she wanted, and finishing things off with a big Glam Slam. I enjoy watching Franky/Taya do these squashes. Let’s stop calling them a “premier” though unless we’re going to get DJ Premier on the 1’s and 2’s.

Million Dollar Retribution

After LA Knight’s cowardly attack on Ted DiBiase Sr., fellow millionaire Cameron Grimes ran down to make the save to the raucous approval of the NeXTras in attendance. Now that his full fledged face turn has begun, how would Grimes get retribution on Knight for attacking the man he both emulated and idolized?

Actually... he wouldn’t. Despite a hard tease for it on both last week’s program and via social media since, we got an absolute dud in response this week. LA Knight did a promo from his pool mocking Grimes for caring more about the “old man” than the fortune and fame.

Sadly Grimes got even less than this. He had a vignette outside the Performance Center handing out hundred dollar bills to well wishers, until someone made the mistake of asking him if “Grandpa Ted” was okay. Grimes promptly decked the doofus and made it rain. I would have preferred him to have had a match with whatever trainee this was, but alas it was not meant to be. This was easily the biggest misfire of an otherwise well done show.

Ever-Rise vs. Hit Row

The pre-pre-pre show feud you didn’t even know about spills over onto NXT tonight. Ever-Rise wants to get revenge on Hit Row for destroying their set from Takeover, but the Suge Knight inspired faction led by Isaiah “Swerve” Scott is not the merciful type. If you don’t know, now you know. And if you needed two men to be killed by Tha Row, here you go.

This was a full on squash and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Ever-Rise are geeks while Hit Row are going places as a faction. Back to the pre-pre-pre show for Martel and Parker. Top Dolla made sure that from now on Ever-Rise will put some respect on his name.

Io Shirai & Zoey Stark vs. Aliyah & Jessi Kamea

Io Shirai doesn’t like Zoey Stark, but she respects her. Apparently that’s all that’s needed.

I quickly got the feeling during this match as to why Aliyah & Jessi Kamea are often relegated to dark matches and backstage segments. Kamea in particular made Zoey Stark look out of place on every spot, and even though Stark has had her weak moments at times, none looked quite as bad as this — so I blame Kamea. When Kamea dropped an elbow I was worried she was going to accidentally crush Stark’s throat. As if things weren’t already messy enough, tag team champions Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell arrived to watch.

Team Respect eventually won when Shirai hit a moonsault on Kamea for the pin. This led almost immediately to Raquel González & Dakota Kai arriving to tell everyone that they’re the number one contenders to The Way, and everybody else can get to stepping. Naturally this led to Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart coming out too and saying they beat González and Blackheart but they seem to have forgotten, and Blackheart suggested a reminder via ass kicking! This led to a brawl between all parties in the ring until Samoa Joe arrived and sent an army’s worth of security people in to break it up. It’s a measure of his enforcer role that these blackshirts were effective. Maybe he put them through two-a-days!

Johnny Gargano & Austin Theory vs. Pete Dunne & Oney Lorcan

This match was set up earlier in the evening when The Way came down to the ring to cut a promo about how the new NXT needed a new champion, and not a scary doomsday muscle head, but a headband wearing family man — Gargano naturally. Pete Dunne and Oney Lorcan arrived to dispute this idea, and Gargano tried to “show respect” to Samoa Joe and William Regal by not being goaded into a fight. As The Way left though, Theory put his fingers in Pete Dunne’s face. Big mistake! Dunne immediately snapped them. After trying to suck up to William Regal in his office to make Dunne & Lorcan pay for their misdeeds, Regal said they could have a tag team match instead.

This impromptu tag team match was everything the women’s tag wasn’t. Nobody was out of position, every move looked crisp, and Dunne was his usual vicious self — taking off the tape to manipulate Theory’s fingers even more. Gargano kept making the save when needed, but Theory used his feet as a weapon and his body as a missile when his arm and hand couldn’t do the work, so he saved Gargano several times too. The NeXTras rallied behind The Way despite their often times heel behavior, simply because they like Johnny Wrestling more than The Bruiserweight, and they erupted in enthusiasm when he hit Lorcan with One Final Beat for the pin. Unfortunately The Way didn’t have long to celebrate as Karrion Kross immediately laid Gargano out. Any other night this would’ve been a main event worthy match. It over-delivered for the slot it was put in.

What else do you need to know?

Multiple matches were booked for future programs last night. After Mercedes Martinez was offered a mixed tag match against Boa and Xia Li, the Tian Sha faction jumped her during a backstage interview, before Jake Atlas rushed in to even the odds and make himself her partner for the fight next Tuesday.

We’ve also got a women’s tag team triple threat on deck — Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart, Zoey Stark & Io Shirai, and Raquel González & Dakota Kai. The winner of the match is the new number one contender to face The Way at Great American Bash. A “face to face” meeting between men’s champions MSK and their own top contenders Timothy Thatcher & Tommaso Ciampa was announced at the same time.

The mysterious charging battery got all the way to 51%. Woo-hoo.

Grade: A-

Compared to a week ago I felt like this show had higher highs and lower lows, yet in the end I would say it evened out to the same grade because of good booking and great angles. Paying off the Diamond Mine with the return of Roderick Strong was a stellar move. Giving Jake Atlas more to do on the show this week and next week was a stellar move. Carmelo Hayes is the rookie of the year so far in NXT. The opener and closer were both awesome, Gargano & Theory were babyfaces for me and the live crowd, and if they parade out people for Franky Monet and Hit Row to squash every week, I’m down with it. Had they not dropped the ball on Cameron Grimes this week I would have gone up to an A+, but with how bad Jessi Kamea & Aliyah were, I can’t go higher than A-. That’s a wrap folks.

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

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