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NXT recap & reactions (Aug. 31, 2021): Revenge is semisweet

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Will Tommaso Ciampa avenge his fallen friend? Will Dexter Lumis win Johnny Gargano’s approval? NXT answers these questions and more on a standard Tuesday night

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If Wale has anything to say about it, this is the second to last time the black and gold brand look like this on Tuesday nights. But don’t cry, NXT faithful, dry your eye! That’s two weeks from now, so let’s live in the moment and enjoy what we have while we still have it.

Don’t forget to pay attention to every word Claire writes on her play-by-play blog.

Now let’s get into Tuesday’s proceedings, shall we?

The Numbers Game

The one common thread running through tonight’s show was cats biting off a lot more than they can chew. Tommaso Ciampa, going on pure emotion, wanted payback on Ridge Holland for putting Timothy Thatcher out of commission last week. Ciampa even talked to an invisible Thatcher in a chair beside him, in a nice character moment showing just how unhinged Ciampa is.

He looked like a man who knew no matter the outcome, he wasn’t walking out of the Capital Wrestling Center without more than a few bumps and bruises. If he even walked out at all.

When Ridge Holland, the man with the best hat in the business, walked to the ring with Pete Dunne and the boys in tow, everyone in the CWC knew a fight was coming.

Ciampa had his moments early, but Holland owned most of the match. Whenever Ciampa built up even a little momentum, Holland snuffed it out. He added insult to injury by talking a whole bunch of trash and forcing Ciampa to deal with the boy band on the outside of the ring.

No matter what Tommaso did, there was a huge brick wall in front of him. Impossible to get through and too high to get over.

Until Holland made a mistake.

Remember what I said about emotion getting the better of the wrestlers in the CWC tonight? It was only a matter of time before Holland fell victim to his feelings. He had Tommaso right where he wanted him until he grabbed his truncheon. Obviously, he wanted to put Ciampa on the shelf in the same way he did his Thatcher.

It’s poetic, so I get it, and it makes for great storytelling. Ciampa ducked, completely throwing Ridge off of his game and marking the beginning of the end.

Ciampa got the win and got a beat down from Dunne and crew as his reward. Only to get saved by MSK, who are ready to destroy Burch and Lorcan next week. Once the odds were even, the heels ran off to fight another Tuesday, and the show faded to black.

A great end to a solid show with logical and compact storytelling. Whatever happens to NXT in two weeks, we’re still in a good spot if that model sticks.


Papa Don’t Preach

Johnny Gargano x LA Knight squared off but that was only part of the story here. Indi Hartwell and her fiancé accompanied Papa Gargano to the ring, somewhat against his will. Both men believe the NXT Championship is their next mountain to climb, but need to get through each other first before they can even look at that summit.

Would Johnny let Indi and Dexter’s love distract him from handling his business? How would LA Knight perform after losing his Million Dollar Championship? Will Indi bring out a plate of chicken fingers from under the ring? These are the important questions we demand answers to.

And answers we got.

In what was essentially the story of a future son-in-law trying to impress his future dad, Lumis came through in the clutch as the match went on. He caught Johnny off the ring apron, saving him from hitting the ground with a thud. He pushed Johnny aside when LA Knight went for a sneak attack. Little hearts were practically dancing around in Indi’s eyes!

But like every story of this ilk, there comes a point where the boyfriend takes it a step too far and ruins a good thing before it starts. Indi, desperate to seal the deal between the most important men in her life, gets Johnny’s attention when Dexter is extending his hand for a high five; the ultimate sign of solidarity for dad’s and people who make dad jokes.

Well, that distraction took way too long, as Johnny took his eyes off the prize and ate a BFD for his troubles.

Gargano loses the match, goes off on Dexter and Indi, and the romantic comedy now enters its second act. Will dad and the fiancé squash their beef and laugh about it at the wedding day? Or are we looking at NXT’s version Meet the Parents?


Big Mami Cool Sends a Message

NXT Women’s Champion Raquel Gonzàlez issued a playground beatdown to Jessi Kamea. Raquel kept her eyes on Franky Monet for most of the match. I’m still not sure if Franky is a worthy contender for Raquel’s title. At most, we know she’s really good at giving orders and bossing people around. Getting in the ring with Raquel just feels like ringing the dinner bell for a great white shark on Amity Island.


Long Live the CZAR

lja Dragunov walked into the CWC to a hero’s welcome. You saw his match at TakeOver 36, so yeah, all those flowers are well-deserved. Not since Ivan Drago have I seen such a formidable Russian.

He didn’t make any news or tell us anything we didn’t already know. The NXT UK Champion felt it appropriate to bid us a proper adieu before he goes back across the pond, as it were. He questioned who has the guts to take the title from him and he said it all with his chest. The CWC held back its tears and hung on every word.

The Ring General has fallen. Long. Live. The CZAR.

And yes, you have to read that as if you’re Scar from The Lion King.


Extracurriculars

The Champ is...Not Here

Samoa Joe talked shop with Wade Barrett. His third NXT title reign is all about legacy and destroying anyone in his way. Buyer beware.

A Rose by Any Other Name?

The first match of the night in the CWC featured Mandy Rose x Sarray face-to-face. I emphasize “face” because the match ended less than 15 minutes in when Sarray dropkicked Mandy in her face. Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne quickly escorted her to the locker room, making Sarray the winner by countout. Dolin and Jayne, defending their cult leader’s moneymaker, beat the bricks off Sarray later in the show. Cool, I guess?

Happy Birthday, Ember!

Kay Lee Ray mentioned Ember Moon earlier in the evening in a one-on-one interview. Well, the birthday girl didn’t take too kindly to that and told Kay Lee to come get this action next week.

I can’t promise we’ll get cupcakes, but we will get violence. That’s a whole lot better, right?

Ego Meets Heart

Kyle O’Reilly wants a shot at the NXT Championship. Duke Hudson wants to prove he’s better than EVERYONE and do something with those two chips on his shoulder. O’Reilly came in held together with bubblegum and tape, something Hudson took advantage of to the fullest extent.

He pounded Kyle for the majority of the match but Kyle never gave up and never gave in. Kyle saw an opening and wrecked Duke’s bum knee on the ring ropes. A few moves and a heel hook later, Kyle limped away the victor. His sights are firmly set on Samoa Joseph.

Carmelo? Meet Escobar

Carmelo Hayes still isn’t telling us what champion he’s coming for. But one mention of the North American Championship brought out Legado del Fantasma and Santos Escobar quicker than you can say Candyman five times in a mirror. Also? Don’t say Candyman five times in a mirror.

Escobar put Hayes on notice that the North American title is his and he should stay out of his business. Hayes, in what might be silliest question of the night, asked if that counts as a threat. Yes, homie. It’s most definitely a threat.

Waiting For Kushida

Roderick Strong is a patient man. While Kushida is absent, he plans to run through as many people as possible until the Cruiserweight champion shows up. Ikemen Jiro decided to defend Kushida’s honor to no avail. That jacket did him no favors as Strong dominated from the start. And he broke that man’s ass. After picking up the W, Roderick declared himself the uncrowned Cruiserweight Champion. Because, sure, that’s a thing you can do.

But damn, that jacket is fly.

Play Stupid Games...

Grayson Waller figured he and Drake Maverick were ready for Imperium. So ready, he didn’t heed a single warning from his partner. Well, we know what happens when you play stupid games. Way too high on himself in the middle of the match, Waller tags himself back in for reasons. Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel, laughing inside, put him in the Imperium Bomb and the ref counted three.


Surprise, surprise, the black and gold brand put on a solid show on a Tuesday night. While nothing stood out as amazing, we got some good matches. It was a weird show in its rhythm, which started with the first match that wasn’t really a match. We’ve got a women’s tag team championship match next week—thank you for answering my question from last week!—and I’m sure a few other surprises.

Tonight felt like NXT treading water as things change. Everyone has their eyes on September 14, and not just for the wedding bells.

Grade: B

That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.