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NXT recap & reactions (Aug. 17, 2021): Joe’s gonna hate you

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The TakeOver 36 go home show offers a lot of wrestling and a lot of stories stuck in neutral.

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NXT’s Present x NXT’s Future

This was a weird episode of NXT. For a go-home show, it lacked urgency. The show merrily meandered down the stream minus a couple segments. Samoa Joe and Karrion Kross’ confrontation was one of those segments.

Joe came to the ring and did what he does best, which is be dope on the microphone. Joe’s strength is his believability. No matter the situation, I hang on every word and trust everything that comes out of his mouth is truth. Samoa Joe is the living embodiment of keeping it 100. So when he says he isn’t here for talking since he’s here to give Kross all of that action, I can only nod my head in agreement.

Kross came to the ring—sans Scarlett as the crowd really wanted us to know—and reframed the narrative of their rivalry. For him, this isn’t about Joe, Kross, or even the NXT Championship. Their match at TakeOver 36 is about the future of NXT. Intriguing idea, but rather than elaborate, Kross calls security to the ring and the thing we knew would happen happened.

Joe and Kross did their best to literally bring down the house, breaking up parts of the Capitol Wrestling Center as they fought through barricades and chain links. It’s almost as if NXT is telling us not even the arena is big enough to contain the hatred these two cats feel towards each other.

While I wanted more from Kross about “the future of NXT,” the brawl sufficed to keep the story simple. Not to mention it was the most exciting thing on the show so, hooray for that.


Indi CC’d Every Guy She Used to See See ‘Round Town

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I said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a sap. A hopeless romantic infatuated with a good love story. While Indi Hartwell and Dexter Lumis isn’t always my cup of tea—still wonder what she sees in the man—how NXT defines their bond is pretty damn poetic. Indi chose to defy “mom” and “dad” one more time when she joined forces with her man to take on Robert Stone and Jesse Kamea.

If I can keep it real for a moment, it didn’t matter who they were in the ring with. This “match” showcased these two are more in sync than Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez. Indi does that creepy thing on her knees like him, she responds to his emotionless stares that Beth Phoenix says are filled with love, and she summons the strength of Hercules and Xena when they lock eyes.

Dexter Lumis is her boo thang, through and through.

Once they made quick work of Stone and Kamea with dual Silence finishers inside and outside the ring, Indi did what any woman in love with a psychopath would do on her birthday: she popped the question.

While I’m no expert on engagement rings, I’m pretty sure she didn’t go to Jared for that. Shame on Mr. Lumis for making Indi spend her money on a ring for him on her birthday.

Step up, Dexter.

Anyway, Johnny Gargano and Candice LaRae will surely want Indi to not do this, reconsider, and read some literature on the subject of marrying crazy people. Will they speak or forever hold their peace? It’s wrestling, so my money is on the former. Look for them to break-up the wedding—because it’s a wrestling wedding—setting up the inevitable mixed tag match between two parents, their surrogate daughter, and her dead-eyed fiancé.

I do hope there’s cake.


How You Like Me Now?

NXT combined two stories in its main event. We got the payoff to weeks of back and forth between MSK and Imperium mixed with Ilja Dragunov and WALTER’s apparent disgust for each other. It was obvious the tales would intertwine when Dragunov called WALTER everything but a child of God earlier in the night and the NXT UK champ no-showed.

If Dragunov wanted his attention, he needed to snatch it rather than ask for it. “Shockingly,” Ilja showed up during the main event to distract WALTER and Imperium, while providing an opening big enough for MSK to mount a serious comeback and prove their toughness.

The NXT Tag champs keep proving their worth while all contenders we thought were worthy to dethrone them show they can’t outlast the champs when it counts.

How was the match, you ask? Pretty damn dope, actually. Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel wanted to punish Nash Carter & Wes Lee.

And punish they did.

They set out to prove their worth as pro wrestling’s saviors with no time for the high-flying antics of MSK. Anytime Carter or Lee look cleared for takeoff, Aichner or Barthel grounded them with what I can only describe as “severe quickness.” I present exhibits A-Z:

And then there’s Dragunov, who suffered the wrath of a pissed off WALTER. Seriously, putting his name in all caps fits in this context. The champ unloaded a furious anger on his TakeOver 36 opponent, repaying him in kind for last week’s embarrassment. WALTER started the night concerned with brethren performing well enough to reclaim the NXT Tag Team Championships. With that dream deferred for now, the big man looks like his sights are aimed squarely on Ilja.

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From everything presented thus far, it’s clear their match or Joe x Kross will win the superlative for “most violent of the night” this Sunday. As fans, we win either way. Isn’t that the most important part?


Extracurriculars

Ilja Dragunov x Roderick Strong

Strong was supposed to fight Kushida tonight for the Cruiserweight Championship. Fate intervened and said “nah.” In lieu of the title match, Malcolm Bivens issued an open challenge to anyone in the back. Dragunov, wanting to get his mojo back after taking the L last week, accepts.

These two cats beat each other’s ass. Dragunov’s insane power and tenacity were the stars of the show, as he just refused to let up. Strong relied on the Diamond Mine for an advantage or two and it worked to a degree, but not enough to get the W. Two weeks ago, Strong’s crew got him over the finish line but tonight, they could barely eek him over it, much less pull him.

Even a bloody Dragunov leaking like a running faucet was too strong for the man with the matching last name. A good opening match that setup a plot thread carried through to the main event.

Culture x The Culture

Hit Row marched to the ring and let Legado del Fantasma know the beef is now fully-cooked filet mignon after yanking out Isaiah Swerve’s grill. Santos Escobar put his hands in another person’s mouth and yanked something out. That’s serious beef for a host of reasons, starting with Escobar’s trife disregard of hygiene.

But I digress.

Swerve fell for the actual oldest trick in the book when Escobar called him to the parking lot in hopes that they could settle their differences one on one, like men. Swerve apparently doesn’t watch wrestling or any other form of entertainment since he *gasp* walked into a trap. Hit Row came to his aide, issued a beat down to all three members of Legado del Fantasma, and Swerve got his grill back.

This feud feels like its doing the running man rather than running, man. We’re getting a six-man tag match next week which is cool, I guess, but we’re just delaying the inevitable North American Championship match between Escobar and Swerve. And if the beef is as cooked as Swerve says, why aren’t we getting that match yet?

Raquel Gonzalez x Dakota Kai Face to Face...Digitally!

The NXT Women’s Champion and her former best friend talked a bunch of crap to each other to get us excited for this weekend’s bout.

Meh.

Look, I’m down for the match, but like a lot of this episode, it added nothing new to what we already know. A go-home show should add another layer to the story, not repeat the same beats. These two didn’t do anything different than last week. Raquel thinks Dakota is envious and a snake. Dakota thinks Raquel is too big for her britches and ungrateful. Raquel promises to whoop ass at all costs. Dakota says Raquel is dreaming. Raquel calls Dakota a sidekick. Dakota fumes.

Meh.

Cameron Grimes x Josh Briggs

The match was fine. LA Knight paid Briggs to make mincemeat of Grimes before their match this weekend. Clearly he didn’t pay him enough because Grimes handled Briggs with ease. The fact he did it in a butler outfit makes the feat even more impressive.

LA Knight, who not only made a dumb investment and lost a bet to Ted Dibiase, did the post-match beatdown and sent Grimes to the nurse’s office. This led to a nice moment later that, much to my surprise, actually moved the story forward! Cameron finally realized he’s nobody’s butler and is, in fact, a true champion. Dibiase going into “disappointed Dad” mode apparently was all the motivation Grimes needed to find himself and get in the right mindset for his Million Dollar Championship match.

It’s not Shakespeare but it worked for me.


Grade: B-

NXT’s floor is pretty damn high. This was still a good show but I gotta dock points for the lack of excitement in a go home show before their biggest event of the summer. Barely anything moved forward and more seemed set up for next week rather than this weekend.

There’s always good on Tuesday nights, but much like Dexter Lumis, NXT needs to do better when a celebration is around the corner.

What say you?