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NXT recap & reactions (June 29, 2021): Heading to a bash, but not at the beach

NXT returned last night (June 29) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Bronson Reed vs. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott

This was last night’s last minute addition to the card and subsequently the main event. It started out with a promo alerting us the NXT Breakout Tournament returns in two weeks.

Reed was interviewed by McKenzie Mitchell about the tournament’s return. He said that tournament put him on the map and elevated him to being North American champion. Scott (and Hit Row) interrupted to remind him that he was in that tournament too, and told Reed if he’s really the champion he claims to be he’d put the title on the line in a match tonight. It’s as simple as that right? Well because this is NXT and not UFC, yes, yes it is.

In the early going Scott was no match for the size and power of Reed, but he stayed in the fight through the overrun until Hit Row could finally even the odds on his behalf. Reed tried to go to the top rope for a Tsunami and Adonis yanked him off the apron.

An enraged Reed destroyed the plexiglass at ringside by throwing Top Dolla through it, then throwing Adonis on top of him for good measure, but Scott kicked him in the head as he tried to get back in the ring and quickly followed up with a 450 for the pin. New champion!

Now folks I have to admit a little bias here, because I interviewed Shane “Swerve” Strickland (link) when he was still on the independent scene before he was signed to a Performance Center contract. I thought he was immensely talented back then, and I’ve been waiting for him to have his breakout moment in WWE for a long time. After the feud with Leon Ruff ended and the Hit Row faction was formed, I was convinced that his time had finally come — and this result validates that feeling. This is not bad news for Bronson Reed. Considering he’s been getting dark matches before WWE TV shows for the top executives, he’s likely getting a call up very shortly, which if you’ll look back through previous recaps is something I predicted given both his size and agility. He’s exactly the kind of monster Vince McMahon loves so he’ll be fine on USA or FOX. In the meantime, it’s Swerve’s time.

Diamond Mine is open for business

In a surprising turn of events right as NXT was about to go off the air, Diamond Mine arrived and laid waste to KUSHIDA. The new faction consists of manager Malcolm Bivens, his protege Tyler Rust, former Undisputed Era member Roderick Strong, and catch wrestling trained shooter Hideki Suzuki. Their actions made it immediately clear they intend to be a powerhouse faction on the NXT roster.

How would they follow up on this vicious assault? Did they have their eyes on the cruiserweight title KUSHIDA holds, or was he just a victim to send a message to the rest of the locker room? Well they found another victim this week as Roderick Strong was sent to the ring for a match with Asher Hale. Let’s make a long story short here — Strong tapped him out with a submission, and was so determined he tried to apply another submission after the bell. Malcolm Bivens said that the Diamond Mine is “open for business” and business is definitely good. I hope this faction lasts longer than The Hurt Business did.

Triple threat tag team insanity

The ring couldn’t contain the brawl between the women’s tag team division last week. This week Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart vs. Raquel González & Dakota Kai vs. Zoey Stark & Io Shirai would settle which duo among them was the true number one contenders for Indi Hartwell and Candice LeRae and their tag team titles at Great American Bash on July 6th.

This match led off the show and the entrances were almost the only thing that wasn’t totally chaotic. The period of calm in this storm was the picture in picture during commercial and the few minutes after we came back from break, but before long all six women were in the ring fighting again. The only ones to get the upper hand were Stark and Shirai, with the latter hitting her patented moonsault not once but twice, the second time using it to pin Dakota Kai and claim number one contender status for her team. How does one say they both enjoyed something and thought it was way too frenzied? Any two of these teams would’ve been a fine match, but there was barely enough time for all three to get their stuff in. The right team won though as we need something for Shirai to do if she’s not going after the women’s title, and it’s a sign of the faith WWE has in Stark to pair the two together for a match with The Way next week. I don’t even need it to be a title change at the Bash, just a damn good tag team match, and I’m reasonably sure it will be.

The return of Mixed Match Challenge?

Not exactly. NXT airs on USA Network and not Facebook, but a little of that feeling was in the air last night as Mercedes Martinez & Jake Atlas took on Xia Li & Boa. The Tian Sha faction has been trying to put Martinez out of action, but after Atlas came to her rescue last week, the match was made official for television seven days later.

These four competitors could barely wait for the opening bell to go after each other. Mei Ying watched from the throne at the top of the ramp as Xia Li got taken apart by Mercedes Martinez before the commercial. If the match could have stopped there it would have been best for all involved, because when Mei Ying somehow caused a distraction to Martinez just by sitting there, Li attacked her from behind and threw her back into the ring for a roundhouse kick. Martinez got her shoulder up before the pin but the ref called for the bell. The cameras refused to show Martinez being attended to, so it’s very likely that Martinez got a legitimate concussion. If they’re faking it for a heat angle it’s in very poor taste and I’m not a fan of it. I’m not satisfied with the conclusion of this match, but they’ll try to convince us that this is how it was meant to be all along.

Cameron Grimes heads to the ring (then the moon)

My biggest gripe last week was that neither Cameron Grimes nor LA Knight had any in ring action, let alone any interaction with each other. Instead we got Knight cutting a promo from his luxurious estate while Grimes beat up some random jabroni in the NXT parking lot who made the mistake of calling the Million Dollar Man “Grandpa Ted.”

This week though we were promised Cameron Grimes in action, in the ring, hopefully with a chance to show LA Knight that his disrespectful words and actions would soon be met with violent retribution at Great American Bash. He’d get that retribution in the form of a singles match with Ari Sterling, the same man who called DiBiase “Grandpa Ted” last week. Grimes hit the Cave In and pinned him, only to have Knight come out and mock both him and the Million Dollar Man. He says he’s beyond DiBiase because he’s the “Million Dollar Mega Star” and offers Grimes this proposition — beat me at the Great American Bash and you get the belt, but lose and you become my personal butler. Naturally Grimes accepts.

I think we all know where this is going, but to be perfectly clear, Cameron Grime is losing at the Bash. This is not a bad thing. The comedy of Grimes being forced to be LA Knight’s butler is going to be some of the most fun segments on NXT week after week, because the natural heel cockiness of Knight and the natural comedic timing of Grimes are as well met as any combination on this show. On top of that it’s simply too soon for Grimes to get his big redemption win. Having him be humiliated by his “boss” for week after week is only going to make people want Grimes to come out on top even more. You could take this program all the way to SummerSlam weekend easily.

A face off before the Bash

The grizzled old veterans Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher were announced for a face to face meeting with tag team champions MSK last night. You could hardly have gone into the show thinking that these two sides would leave their last encounter before the Bash at just words.

If you want the full verbiage go to the live blog, but the short version is that all four men came down to the ring with chairs — and sat in them (at first). Ciampa told MSK that nobody is more hungry than “Toothless Timmy” and he smiled to show off the gap. Eventually Nash Carter and Wes Lee demanded respect and threw a slap to get it. Ciampa said you get a free one this week, but next week we take your pride +and+ your titles. This was a fun and effective segment building up the title match at the Bash.

Sneaky Papa John

Johnny Gargano decided to prove that anything Karrion Kross could do, he could do better, repaying the favor from last week when Kross wiped him out. Gargano plowed him into a garage door backstage before a break, and an irate Kross stormed down to the ring after said same to call him out. Gargano responded and said he’s not only a better wrestler than Kross, he’s smarter too, and to prove his point Austin Theory jumped Kross from behind. Kross eventually got control of the situation, beating both men up 1-on-2, smashing Papa John into the plexiglass repeatedly, then tearing apart the steel steps to do something very nasty. Blackshirt security arrived to stop him, and Gargano hit him with a superkick while he was being held back. Samoa Joe got in Kross’ face and stopped him from retaliating further.

Well if you weren’t already hyped for Gargano facing Kross, this segment certainly should have been the icing on the cake. Here’s what intrigues me the most — WWE has repeatedly had Karrion Kross working dark matches with the main roster over the last few weeks. If Vince McMahon is that desperate for a new “big man” on Raw or SmackDown, is it actually possible that he could drop the title to Gargano in advance of a call up? I’m now salivating to see if Johnny Wrestling can get the NXT championship back.

Cole and O’Reilly have words (again)

You just can’t keep Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly apart for very long. Full verbiage here, short version follows: Cole thinks O’Reilly has been riding his coat tails for four years, O’Reilly thinks Cole is a piece of human garbage and is disgusted to have been in a faction of any kind with him. Before the two could come to blows, Samoa Joe stepped between them and said “not now.” Cole deliberately ignored Joe’s instructions and charged. Joe ducked him, O’Reilly took him down and put on a leg lock, and Cole screamed at Joe that he should get O’Reilly off him. Joe stood there with a smug look on his face and did nothing about it.

When Joe had finally seen enough he calmly stepped out of the ring and sent in the security team. It’s one thing to be an authority figure on a wrestling show, it’s another to be the kind that fans actually approve of. It’s far too rare especially in WWE that a general manager or an enforcer sees to it that heels get their just desserts. This just makes me smile. I don’t know who is winning next week at the Bash, but I can’t wait to see it.

Two more things

The cell phone battery got up to 81% this week for those keeping track, and Sarray demanded a match with Toni Storm, which William Regal said he’d take into consideration.

Grade: B+

I think most of you who follow my work now know me well enough to know I’m not a fan of the “talk heavy” editions of NXT, so it may surprise you that I enjoyed this one as much as I did. I would have given this an A- were it not for Mercedes Martinez being legitimately injured. That kind of sloppy accident should never happen. Someone’s probably going to point out that it’s “not ballet” in response but I always though that was a stupid saying. Have you ever seen the amount of physical training ballet dancers do? The amount of injuries they work through and overcome? Ballet is just as hard and on occasion more dangerous. In fact it has more in common with wrestling than not given you have to have complete trust in the people who pick you up to put you down safely. If Xia Li can’t work safely with a veteran like Mercedes Martinez then she is nowhere near ready to move beyond this level.

Get up from your cageside seats and sound off below. See you at the Bash!

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