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NXT recap & reactions (July 27, 2021): A ‘Colossal’ mountain to climb

NXT returned last night (July 27) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Climbing a “Colossal” mountain

Last week WWE announced that Bronson Reed and Adam Cole would finally have their singles match with each other. Reed had made his intentions clear ever since losing the North American title to Isaiah “Swerve” Scott — you’re the biggest name around here, and if I take you out that makes me the man.

Cole didn’t get to be the man though without being one of the most cunning and devious man on the roster, not to mention being one of the best wrestlers in the world bar none. Still just looking at the size of both men it was clear Adam Cole had a “Colossal” challenge in front of him. The only way to deal with a problem this big is to make it smaller, which Cole did by repeatedly working over the left leg and knee. Reed kept firing up for one comeback after another, but in the end Cole avoided the Tsunami Splash because a hobbled Reed was too slow to get to the top rope (that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it). He immediately capitalized with a superkick and a knee to the back of the head (with the knee pad down) to get the three count.

His victory lap would be short lived. An enraged Kyle O’Reilly ran out from the back, steel chair in hand, and nailed him square in the back. He choked Cole with the chair, he broke down the steel steps, and he suplexed Cole right onto them. If you weren’t already amped up for the third match in this trilogy at Takeover 36, this closing segment was exactly what you needed. It’s a shame we’ve got to wait several more weeks to see it!

What are William Regal and Samoa Joe going to do?

To briefly recap what got us to this point — Samoa Joe refereed a title match between Karrion Kross and Johnny Gargano. Kross retained the NXT title but choked out Joe after the match. Joe declared himself “provoked” over General Manager William Regal’s objections and vowed to put his hands on Kross. Kross avoided Joe’s wrath and to make matters worse he left Regal laying in a heap in the parking lot battered and bruised before Joe could get to him. Now that Regal has been “provoked” how would he and Joe respond to these attacks?

Joe marched down to the ring and threw a chair and a table in, but then set them up politely and said Kross is too much of a coward to be here, so he invited Mr. Regal to join him instead. Joe presented his “three part plan” to Regal. Step one was his resignation from NXT management, effective immediately. Step two was a contract that would put Joe back on the active roster of talent. Step three was a contract to face Kross for the NXT title at Takeover 36. Regal accepted his proposal, signed the contracts, and the deal was done!

This was the obvious and only solution to the problem, especially after weeks of teasing feuds between Joe and everybody on the roster from Adam Cole to Pete Dunne. Win or lose at Takeover 36, it’s great to have Joe back in the ring again. You’d expect Joe to win the title given Kross is already being used on the main roster on Raw, but only time will tell.

Josh Briggs vs. Carmelo Hayes (NXT Breakout Tournament)

After two great matches with KUSHIDA and Adam Cole, Carmelo Hayes has quickly become my favorite rookie on the NXT roster. He was rewarded with a spot in the NXT Breakout Tournament to further showcase his talents, but much like our Cole vs. Reed main event, there would be a significant size disparity for Hayes to overcome. Briggs was the final EVOLVE champion and at 6’8” and close to 300 pounds it’s not hard to see why. Could Hayes finally pick up his first official win against such overwhelming odds?

Briggs used his size to his advantage to manhandle Hayes, but Hayes was resilient and kept trying to chop Briggs down to size quite literally. Duke Hudson joined the commentary position to scout his second round opponent, at which point Hayes got on a roll with one move after another that stunned or staggered the big man. Briggs appeared to have it in hand with a one arm choke slam, but Hayes kicked out at the last second. When the moment was right he went to the top rope and came off with a flying leg drop to secure the win! For his part Hudson seemed happy the smaller man won, vowing that it would make his next match “much easier” as a result. Since this is NXT and not the main roster though there’s every chance they could make Hayes the underdog who overcomes the odds time and time again, and that’s exactly what I’m hoping for.

Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs. Franky Monet & Jessi Kamea

After successfully taking over the Robert Stone Brand, Franky Monet (and her little dog too) had eyes on taking over the entire NXT women’s division. The first step in her master plan would be to team with Jessi Kamea to take out long time tag team competitors Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro, and with Robert Stone watching their backs this couldn’t possibly go wrong for La Guera Loca... right?

She may have a grudge with Robert Stone though. He tried to use his hand bag (which Wade Barrett insisted was not a purse) as a foreign object, feeding it to Franky Monet over the referee’s objections, and the distraction allowed Kacy Catanzaro to tag in and hit the 450 for the win. Simple as that!

I know this isn’t their plan, but who here besides me wants to see Franky Monet vs. Robert Stone one on one, ending with Monet giving him the Glam Slam? I’d pay to see that. Hell I’d renew my subscription to Peacock specifically for that very purpose.

Stranded on Hit Row

I can’t help but think of this song every time I see Hit Row. As Kurupt says himself on the track, “Row rolling like the mafia.” That’s exactly how Isaiah Scott’s crew operates — they overwhelm the opposition by working together as a unit. They’d need that kind of unity going against Imperium’s Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel, because “the mat is sacred” and WALTER’s fearsome leadership motivates them to take out anyone they face. One wild card was in play though — potential interference from Legado del Fantasma in the match.

Hit Row had the crowd on their side and seemed to be well in control of the match thanks to the agility of Ashante “Thee” Adonis and sheer size and strength of “Top Dolla” AJ Francis. I didn’t expect the faces to be in control going into the commercial break, but perhaps the NXT brass hasn’t figured out they are babyfaces just yet. Going against Imperium though how could they not be? If it wasn’t already obvious what happened at the end solidified their face turn — Legado del Fantasma interfered in the match and caused Adonis to eat a double team power bomb, with Barthel making the cover for three. Imperium took their win and took a powder as Top Dolla took a three on one beatdown from Escobar, Wilde and Mendoza, but a chair swinging Isaiah Scott made the save as the crowd erupted for him. Now who hotter than Hit Row? Nada nada. How about a six man match at Takeover 36?

Actually you won’t even have to wait that long — the match is signed for next week!!

Raquel González is betrayed

It’s been so subtle that you might have missed it, but every time Raquel González has mentioned that there’s nobody who could take the women’s title from her, long time friend Dakota Kai has shot her a look — the “oh really?” look if you know what I mean. Still after González dominated Xia Li in last week’s main event, you had to think these former tag team were on the same page. If I was Kai I certainly wouldn’t want to cross González. Is it really worth the risk of being crushed the way Li was, both figuratively and literally?

Apparently fear is not a word that this kick master knows. She played González like a fiddle, buttering her up by telling her she was “Big Mami Cool” and the most dominant champion in NXT history. As González took a victory lap with the title thinking she had no worthy challengers to face her, Kai flew in with a knee and laid González out! You love to see it.

Pete Dunne & Oney Lorcan vs. Timothy Thatcher & Tommaso Ciampa

Ah yes. This is exactly the kind of match I live for on NXT. Four of the most technically sound and physically violent wrestlers in the world paired up to square off in tag team competition. What could possibly be bad about this? “Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne and Oney “Don’t Call Me Biff” Lorcan. “Toothless” Timothy Thatcher and “Sicilian Psychopath” Tommaso Ciampa. If I could cover these shows while eating a bucket of popcorn during a match like this, you can damn well believe I would.

Wade Barrett called for “a masterpiece of savagery” and that’s exactly what we got from the opening contest of the show. The chops were hard, the submissions were fierce, the brawling was brutish. What could have been a stellar two-on-two contest though was disrupted by the return of Ridge Holland. His distraction let Pete Dunne hit the Bitter End on Ciampa to get the pin. I wanted to hate this for screwing up a great match but... I actually don’t? I feel like it’s the perfect set up for a six man match at Takeover 36. All we need is for Ciampa and Thatcher to find a partner as violent and dangerous as they are. My mind is spinning with the possibilities and all of them make me smile.

What else do you need to know?

We had a series of comedy vignettes with LA Knight and Cameron Grimes on the golf course. Knight kept plunking balls into the water, and after Grimes was sent to retrieve one, Ted DiBiase pulled up in a golf cart and told Grimes that he’s a fighter — not a butler — and he should remember that. Grizzled Young Veterans wanted to play through because Knight was moving too slow, and this escalated into a $20,000 bet going to the next man to sink the ball into the hole they were on. Knight plunked another shot into the water, so Grimes stepped up to the plate to win it for his team, gold (and presumably monogrammed) golf ball in hand. His back swing managed to crack Knight in the nuts and the head, but his follow through landed the ball right on the green and it rolled straight into the cup. A dazed and confused Knight thought he had been jumped by James Drake and Zack Gibson, and he gave chase as they fled in a golf cart. Good times, good times.

Candice LeRae and Johnny Gargano were upset that Austin Theory had “run away from home.” Indi Hartwell received a present from Dexter Lumis - a caricature showing him as the newest family member of The Way. Gargano said “NO WAY.” Hartwell proposed a one on one match between Gargano and Lumis — if Lumis wins, she gets to date him. Gargano added a stipulation of his own — if Lumis loses, she never brings him up or mentions him ever again. This quickly got added to next week’s show along with Bobby Fish vs. Roderick Strong, and Joe Gacy vs. Trey Baxter in the final opening round match of the Breakout Tournament.

We also had Zoey Stark pitching a “friendship date” to a very reluctant Io Shirai.

Grade: A+

It’s hard to screw up a show when you tape it in advance, and NXT most certainly did not. Even if you disliked the outcomes, you can’t argue that they all advance the ongoing story lines in exactly the right way. This was a fantastic episode. I have no complaints.

Get up from your cageside seats and sound off below. I would say that I’ll see you in seven days, but I’m changing assignments to cover AEW Dark and Elevation starting next week. It has been my distinct pleasure to cover NXT for you this summer, and I look forward to continuing my role at Cageside Seats and supporting the next person on this beat. Like the old saying goes it’s not goodbye, it’s “See you down the road.”

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