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NXT recap & reactions: The power of love

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When was the last time someone fought for your heart?

Love Me or Leave Me Alone

Ladies and gentleman, you are looking live at the Capital Wrestling Center where love, apparently, reigns supreme. Yes, the crowd that normally wants fighters over lovers made it clear where its allegiances lied the second NXT’s main event kicked off. Johnny Gargano, Indi Hartwell’s surrogate father, was bombarded with boo birds as he walked to the ring.

Dexter Lumis was given an antihero’s welcome as he prepared to fight for true love. Would the cat slightly off his rocker—a generous description—defeat Gargano and “win” the chance to...take Indi to the movies? Or the mall? Or whatever the hell wrestlers do in this situation. Would Johnny Wrestling fulfill the dream of every father ever and defeat his daughter’s crazy boyfriend in the ultimate test of strength? Shoutout to De La Soul because as per usual in NXT, the stakes were high.

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Look, for the record, I’m not a fan of couple names. Hearing “InDex” makes me wish I had two more eyes to roll. But I’m a malcontent and I accept that. Cool? Cool.

Anyway, what NXT is really good at telling simple stories. The tale of two star-crossed lovers is as elementary as it gets, but it only works if the audience buys into the couple. Indi’s taste in men aside, the NXT faithful clearly believe in the magic these two create when they’re together. It only made sense that a few minutes into the match, Indi made her way to ringside and made it clear when it comes to family and love, the latter wins every single time. The actual in-ring action didn’t matter here, so don’t expect a blow-by-blow paragraph. This was all about the drama between Hartwell, the two men fighting for her future, with Candice LaRae caught in the middle like thousands of mothers before her.

We got a heartwarming moment when Lumis, fighting to beat a submission, summoned the strength of Samson, Hercules, and the Hulk—the Incredible one, not the incredible racist one—as he crawled his way towards Indi standing on the ring apron. Was it a little on the nose? Sure. But all good love stories have obvious moments designed to tug at heart strings.

In the end, Lumis got off his game when he was pushed into Indi. From that moment on, his focus was on her safety and making sure she knew he meant no harm. As anyone in NXT will tell you, giving Gargano an opening of any size is pretty much the start of your ending. Johnny hit One Final Beat and the rest, as they say, is...well, you know. The CWC, along with Ms. Hartwell, was crestfallen.

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But wait, there’s more!

Indi, never one to let a little thing like a wrestling stipulation stand in her way, ran back to the ring and Lou Thesz pressed the defeated Dexter. The two engaged in a romantic game of tonsil hockey, flummoxing Gargano and Candice, while sending the crowd home happy.

Like I said, NXT is really good at simple stories and while this one obviously isn’t over yet, they’re playing every note at just the right pitch. We’ll see what happens next week but consider me intrigued. But I’m also a hopeless romantic and a sap, so what do I know?

To paraphrase one of the great poets of our time, the power of love is indeed a curious thing.

Kriss Krossed

Remember when I said the CWC chose love over violence? Yeah, that goes out of the window when Samoa Joe is close to the ring. Karrion Kross, fresh off an ass whooping at the hands of Keith Lee, showed up to taunt Joe. Kross has a TV just like the rest of us, so no doubt he saw GM William Regal assign Joe his own personal top flight security squad to protect him from himself...and protect Kross from Joe.

Raise your hand if you knew how that would end.

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There’s not a lot to talk about here. The segment existed to show Joe do what Joe does best and that’s choose violence. Hey, security guys, you had one job. And you failed miserably as Joe ran through each of you like a hot torch through butter. Either you guys really suck or Joe just wants to get his hands on Kross, and the NXT title, that much. My vote is on a little of both.

Kross’ luster isn’t as bright given his recent issues on Raw, but it’ll be good to see Joe do his thing again after far too long. And his hatred for Kross is palpable. Not sure how they stretch this out for the next few weeks but I’m sure they’ll figure out more things for Joe to beat up. Perhaps some furniture. Or Michael Cole just because.

Diamonds are Forever

Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong. Two more cats involved in the “good friends, better enemies” story Triple H and Shawn Michaels absolutely adore. Seriously, they can’t get enough of it. At least...that’s how the match started.

As it went on and the picture cleared up, what we got was a story about Strong proving he could still cut it in NXT. He and Bobby are evenly matched but the Diamond Mine was the difference. When Strong felt..weak...it was the Diamond Mine that cheered him on. It was Malcolm Bivens’ voice as head cheerleader and calming influence that put him on track.

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The two former Undisputed Era members put on a violent match, complete with stiff punches and even a little blood. But when the smoke cleared, Fish’s solo act wasn’t enough for a crew he couldn’t keep his eyes off. He had Roderick dead to rights but like so many insecure high school guys in relationships, his paranoia got the better of him.

Now the man with a fish on his trunks—get it?—is rudderless while his opponent has a date with Kushida for the Cruiserweight Championship. See what happens when you get distracted?

Hit Row is an Army, Better yet the Navy

Duh. There’s no way I’m doing one of these and not talking about Hit Row. Ashante “Thee” Adonis & Top Dolla went to war with Legado del Fantasma’s Joaquin Wilde & Raul Mendoza. I say “war” because it’s clear this match was really about Isaiah Scott and Santos Escobar. Yeah, yeah, a tag match was happening and it was a pretty good one, but the DQ finish illustrates the match was never the thing. This was a proxy battle between two cats who dislike every damn thing about each other.

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Wilde and Mendoza couldn’t handle Top Dolla, and Ashante gave them that work as well. Santos swung a chair because he wanted to get his hands on Swerve and because he realized his boys can’t cut the mustard. Or the ketchup for that matter.

Props to everyone involved for being cool with ripping out Scott’s gold fronts. As someone who spent a lot of time in an orthodontist office, having someone’s hands in your mouth isn’t exactly a day at the beach. Well, actually, it’s more like a day at the beach in a Jaws movie. The fact they did it during COVID no less is even more gross, but hey, anything to put those smiles on all those faces.

Once the fronts came out and Hit Row regrouped to save their leader, Santos showed his true colors. The leader of the legacy of the phantom went ghost and watched as the row gave the Wilde and Mendoza all of that smoke.

Once again, simplicity at its best. Isaiah cares about his crew and they care about him. Santos looks like he only cares about his crew when they can take care of him. Real G’s move in silence but that dude is completely mute. Whatever happens between Swerve and Santos might also spell the end of Legado del Fantasma. Keep an eye on this going forward.

Extracurriculars

Dakota Kai Explains it All

Dakota Kai stunned the CWC last week when she betrayed Raquel González. This week, she explained her motivations and, shock, they’re pretty damn simple and effective! The way Dakota sees it, she plucked Raquel out of obscurity and González had the audacity to become a star and the champ of the women’s division.

How. F’n. Dare. She.

Kai felt betrayed and overlooked. Raquel stole her spotlight, her glory, and never once repaid the favor. Let’s hope no cows were harmed in the making of this beef because it’s about to get real.

Ridge Holland x Ikemen Jiro

Let’s keep it a buck: this was a squash. This match was designed with one purpose in mind, and that was to send a message to Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher. Holland, Pete Dunne and Oney Lorcan looked past Jiro, but used the CWC favorite to get heat, even if it was a little on the cheap side. Holland’s bowler and stick make him look like a Peaky Blinders extra but you know what? I’m down. Thatcher and Ciampa need a third man because even someone terrible at math like I am knows that three beats two any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Cameron Grimes and LA Knight x Young Grizzled Vets

First off, I take issue with Cameron Grimes saying he wouldn’t rock the butler outfit if he wasn’t trustworthy. Has Grimes ever seen or read a murder mystery? The butler almost always did it!

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, the match itself was fine. It all built to the obvious ending where LA Knight proved he isn’t trustworthy. Duh. That was obvious to anyone watching, including Ted Dibiase, who made his way to ringside and gave Grimes a pep talk after he took the pin.

Dibiase was always a man with a plan, so I’m curious to see how he plans to make Grimes the new Million Dollar Champion.


Grade: A

What a surprise, NXT put on a dope show on Tuesday nights. Gasp, right? Not everything worked but pretty much every thing did. There’s a “face to face” next week I’m already giving the side eye and I can’t wait for them to leave the CWC but the black and gold brand looks like it’s starting August on a very strong foot. The idea of two grown adults telling another adult who she can and can’t date is still weird to me but hey, they pulled it off. NXT is pretty good at that sorta thing.

And for those unaware, I am now your official guide through this thing called NXT. Hopefully the smart ass musings don’t bother you too much, and I look forward to discussing the show with you from now until NXT moves to Mondays and is absorbed by Raw.