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NXT recap & reactions (July 13, 2021): Karrion Kross chokes out Samoa Joe

NXT returned last night (July 13) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Johnny Wrestling vs. Karrion Kross

Last week at the Great American Bash, General Manager William Regal decided the fighting between NXT champion Karrion Kross and The Way’s leader Johnny Gargano needed to come to an end. His solution? Give Gargano a title shot and make his enforcer Samoa Joe the special guest referee. Kross was not pleased with these developments and insinuated Gargano doesn’t even “wear the pants” in his family. The retort back was as obvious as it was enjoyable.

Now in my mind this set up was the perfect excuse to call Karrion Kross up to the main roster. If Samoa Joe was “provoked” by Kross, he could simply choke him out and let Gargano make the pin. I doubted that it could actually be that simple but unlike some of the other WWE brands, NXT more often than not does what would logically make sense, so I was anxious to see if they’d give Kross an out without having Gargano just pin him clean. I realize that would be preferable but despite his “Johnny Wrestling” nickname and my adoration of him, I highly doubted they’d let him do that to their new project.

Despite Joe going to both locker rooms before the match began to lay down the law MMA style (“Protect yourself at all times. Obey my commands at all times.”) both men promptly ignored him and began brawling on the outside. An irate Joe got out of the ring twice to insist they get back in the squared circle, directing most of his wrath at Kross, but Kross smashed Gargano’s back into the announce desk instead.

After a commercial break taking us to the top of the hour Joe had miraculously managed to get them back into the ring. It hardly mattered because Kross still wasn’t listening to authority. He refused to break the Kross Jacket when Gargano grabbed the ropes, and Joe had to pull him off, giving us our first face off between the two. Kross tried to break down the steel steps and smash Gargano with them, forcing Joe to pull them out of his hands for our second face off. Both times Joe dared Kross to do something stupid, both times he refused. Despite Gargano’s best efforts he finally got caught with a forearm to the back of the head and pinned. Joe raised the champion’s hand, but Kross wasn’t done getting in his face. Scarlett tried to pull her man back, but when Joe went to walk away, Kross jumped him from behind and applied the Kross Jacket until Joe went out cold.

I have many, many thoughts about this. The first is that perhaps they’re not quite ready to pull the trigger on Kross going to the main roster, but God knows why. The second is that Joe called the match fairly down the middle and didn’t interfere to help Gargano in any way, only stopping Kross from breaking the rules of a title match. Despite that an enraged Kross choked him out afterward, and that could lead to William Regal stripping Kross of the title. I’m not sure which one would be worse for Kross — losing by being screwed, or having your reign end without even defending the title. What would that even lead to? A tournament for the vacant belt? We’re already in the middle of a Breakout Tournament, so having two at once would be huge overkill. My next thought is that this is to set up a program between Joe and Kross — but is Joe medically cleared for that? It might sound strange to say this but I’m pleased with the lack of a direction to go in here. It makes me want to watch the show next week to see how they resolve all of this, and I’m betting that you feel the same way.

Ikemen Jiro vs. Duke Hudson

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call Ikemen Jiro a “viral sensation” but he’s certainly been one of the more noticeable aspects of 205 Live, making the most of his flair in ring attire and wresting maneuvers every chance he gets. In the opening round of the 2021 Breakout Tournament though, he’d have to go against a hulking 6’5” beast named Duke Hudson.

Before the match had even begun Wade Barrett was selling the idea that Hudson was just too big for Jiro to beat. No — really? Jiro was on 205 Live and Hudson looks like he eats 20.5 ounces of steak for every meal. Eventually he just put Jiro down with a Big Bossman Slam, also known as the Winds of Change when Wade Barrett did it. Back to Friday nights for “Handsome” Jiro. He’s better off there. They’ve never given him a win on NXT and he certainly wasn’t getting one over Hudson. The writing was on the wall.

Hard times for Cameron Grimes

As stated previously NXT tends to make the obviously correct choice more often than not. I’m sure fans of Cameron Grimes would have preferred him to get his revenge on the devious L.A. Knight, but the opposite happened at the Bash and now Grimes has to be his personal butler. The comedy of Grimes being forced to clean Knight’s boots and serve him martinis while constantly grumbling about his boss is just too good to pass up.

As eagerly as I was anticipating what Kross and Gargano would do inside the ring, I was just as much anticipating what Grimes and Knight would do outside of it. How many weeks of abuse could Grimes take before he’d snap? More than one. Knight tried to humiliate Grimes with a haircut, a shave, and a butler’s uniform. Grimes just smiled at how good he looked in the mirror and said Knight was jealous. Knight tried to get him to mow his vast estate with a push mower. Grimes “delegated authority” and paid a kid to do it for him, lounging by the pool with a drink instead. Knight tried to stop Grimes from paying said kid, so the kid punted Knight and Grimes bumped him into the pool. “Can I offer you a towel... sir?” The only one who got humiliated this week was the former Eli Drake! More of this please.

Sarray vs. Gigi Dolin

William Regal’s number one import “Warrior of the Sun” Sarray was excited to face Toni Storm in one-on-one competition, but Storm mercilessly shot her down by saying she’d had more wins in Japan than Sarray had hot lunches. Ouch.

The good news for Sarray is that somebody else was more than willing to compete with her. Gigi Dolin (formerly Priscilla Kelly) stepped up at the Capitol Wrestling Center with a challenge for Sarray, one which could take the place of that missed match with Storm.

For inexplicable reasons Mandy Rose came out to watch this match. She seemed to be impressed when Sarray hit a double kick to the head right through the ropes, followed by a high angle suplex that couldn’t have felt good for Dolin, leading directly to the pin.

She didn’t stop to confront either of the women involved. She just nodded her head and left. Where are we going with this? Did Rose get sent down when Tegan Nox got sent up? We’d get some answers a little later on after a bonus tag team match, so keep on reading.

Ember Moon vs. Dakota Kai

Dakota Kai cut a promo on Ember Moon last week, calling her an annoying little bug that needed to be squashed. Nice idea in theory, but in practice Kai usually needs the help of Raquel González to pull off any form of bug smashing. On top of this Ember Moon just lost her tag team partner to a SmackDown call up, so she’s got even more to prove as a soloist.

This match opened up the live broadcast last night, and had at least a half dozen near falls before the first commercial break. Something seemed to be a little off for both women when we came back. Kai was out of position for some of her spots. Moon nearly slipped when she tries to come off the ropes for a crossbody. Eventually they got on the same page for long enough to do a finish, thanks to a distraction from González on the outside. which was just enough for Kai to land her patented Go 2 Kick and get the pin. She had no time at all to celebrate because Xia Li came out to challenge González to a women’s title match. González accepted. That’s fine. She needs new opponents and we haven’t seen her defend the belt for a while. The sooner this happens the better!

Santos Escobar vs. Dexter Lumis

As stylistic pairings go I don’t think they get much weirder in NXT than this. On one hand we have Santos Escobar, the high flying “respect the bingo” luchador who has been obsessed with the North American title and vows he represents sangre y tradicion in the ring. On the other we have Dexter Lumis, who one well known podcast refers to as “the creep from the creep farm,” and it’s an apt description. He kidnapped Austin Theory. He stalks Indi Hartwell. Even if you’re an InDex fan (and I am) he’s a total psycho whose signature move is to hit people in the jaw with an uppercut — ain’t no high flying here. How would this turn out?

NXT wisely decided to play up the “weird” factor from the get go, having Lumis kneel and pull himself around the ring with his hands both before and during the match, leaving Escobar shook by his antics. He ordered his Legado flunkies to attack Lumis in response, but instead they had to save him from being pulled under the ring by the creeper! After the break it settled down into a more normal match, but you had to expect Legado del Fantasma to interfere and they certainly did right as Lumis was about to lock on the Silencer. Mendoza dragged Escobar to safety, and Wilde posted Lumis on the outside as he gave chase. They sent him back into the ring for Escobar to hit the Phantom Driver. The celebration was short lived though as Hit Row came out to confront Legado for all the trash they were talking about last week’s cypher. Escobar and his men decided to live to fight another day but I’m looking forward to a six-man tag match between these two!

As a little bonus after the break, Indi Hartwell tried to repay the favor and carry Dexter Lumis to the back. She picked him up clean (that girl is impressively strong) but then had to pretend to trip just so she could fall on top of him for a smooch. Right as they were about to lock lips Candice LeRae ran down to break up InDex yet again. Boooooo!

The Diamond Mine is still open

As if this show wasn’t already loaded up from the top to the bottom, the Diamond Mine decided to remind us they’re still open for business by throwing out an open challenge. Which member of the NXT roster would step up, and which Miner 49er would they face? As it turns out they figured it out before the show even went to air — Bobby Fish accepted the invitation for a one on one shot at Tyler Rust.

I wouldn’t exactly call this match a squash, but it didn’t go through a commercial break, that’s for damn sure. Fish had to play the dumb babyface and let himself be distracted by Roderick Strong so that Rust could hit a chop block to the knee and a buzz saw kick to the head for the pin. The entire Diamond Mine got in the ring to finish Fish off, but KUSHIDA ran out to make the save. Looks like we’ve got ourselves a tag team match in the future!

What else do you need to know?

Adam Cole (bay bay) came out to cut a promo and said he was done with Kyle O’Reilly and that his interview with Wade Barrett earlier in the show was pathetic. Honestly he’s not wrong. He said he’s moving on to Samoa Joe. His call out backfired though because he made the mistake of saying nobody in the back had the guts to confront him, not Joe, not anybody — and Bronson Reed answered him. He called Cole his “golden opportunity” and knocked him out of the ring when he tried a superkick. Samoa Joe came down to ref the main event, stopped to stare daggers in Cole, but just moved on to the business at hand. Yet another potential match for Joe if he’s medically cleared. They just can’t stop teasing us with them.

Speaking of which...

We had a backstage segment where Pete Dunne declared himself the baddest man on the entire roster, better than Gargano or Kross, and Timothy Thatcher took exception to this. Dunne responded: “Who’s asking?” Tommaso Ciampa ran in for the answer and both teams got into a wild brawl. Later on after they had been separated Joe was giving his final instructions to Johnny Gargano, and as he walked away in disgust, Dunne was waiting. Okay at this point it’s ridiculous. Either tell us that he’s cleared or stop promoting these matches that we’ll never get to see. Shit or get off the pot.

Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs. Jessi Kamea & Aliyah

So here’s how we found out what Mandy Rose was up to — it’s a bit convoluted so bear with me. C&C (Music Factory) picked up the win, at which point an irate Aliyah snapped on Robert Stone and slapped him. He asked her what the hell she was doing, and she said she had done way more for him than he had ever done for her. She slapped him harder and sent him flying across the ring. Then she gave him a thoroughly vicious beating as the crowd roarer their approval. She blew a kiss to the crowd, to Kamea, and left on her own.

At this point Franky Monet came out to pick up the pieces, and a brutalized Stone essentially ceded power to her, letting Kamea leave with her and stumbling along behind. Backstage Monet declared that we wouldn’t have to worry about Aliyah any more as her newly minted flunkies looked on. Mandy Rose walked up, surveyed the situation, and said “It seems like the Robert Stone Brand is under new management.” She and Monet gave each other approving looks. If this doesn’t mean Rose is joining the Franky Monet Brand, then I don’t know what the hell the point of this was. I’m 99.9% sure that’s where it’s going.

Grade: A

This would have been an easy A+ if the main event have been given more time to breathe. There was something incredibly old fashioned about tonight’s show in the best possible way. I miss the days when I used to watch Raw every week and think “Who’s the next challenger? Where’s that relationship going? Why are these people working together?” It has often been said that pro wrestling is a soap opera in spandex, and whether or not you like the comparison, that’s when it really works best — when it sinks its hooks in you and refuses to let go until you get the answers to those questions. My one and only complaint would be to pick a feud for Joe if he’s cleared. Not the whole roster — just one man — hopefully Kross. I really really liked this episode and can’t wait to see what comes NeXT.

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

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