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NXT recap & reactions (Aug. 9, 2022): Apollo is cruising nowhere fast

NXT doesn’t put its best foot forward on the last leg to Heatwave.

The dog days are barking, ladies and gentlemen. Claire and I are here to entertain you during these very hot days and cool nights. She’s got her blog, I’ve got these words, paragraphs, and punctuations below.

Let’s talk NXT!

The Chariot Rides to Nowhere

I don’t know what NXT is doing with Apollo Crews. First he’s journaling and righting wrongs like he’s The Equalizer. Then he’s hanging out with Diamond Mine. Then he’s having visions in green on his way tot he ring like he’s Bruce Banner. His match with Roderick Strong—beefing over Apollo hanging out with the Creed Bros.—was proof Apollo is a fantastic wrestler in search of a great angle.

Apollo and Roddy complement each other very well. Power and agility vs. technique and mat wrestling always mesh, but they told a good story too. It started as a traditional wrestling match, complete with a collar and elbow tie-up. Then escalated into an “anything you can do, I can do better” contest as each man matched each other. Roddy paint-brushed Crews so Crews paint-brushed Roddy. Crews goes for a dropkick, Roddy goes for a dropkick. At times, it really felt like Apollo’s audition for leadership over the Diamond Mine. Especially since the Creeds seemingly take direction from Apollo more than Roddy.

And maybe that’s where they need to go with this. Strong’s leadership is the opposite of his namesake. More importantly, they’re dragging out this Diamond Mine way too long. I say it every week and the fact that I do means we need that wrap it up button ASAP. This also gives Apollo some direction. He can wrestle all the great matches he wants. And, for the record, he won this match, overcoming a bad lower back and altering his offense just enough to compensate.

But he’s a ship without a rudder at the moment. Compare that to Dolph Ziggler’s brief foray in NXT where he claimed the NXT championship. Or Natalya’s stint, which was all about creating a new star for the brand and telling the entire division to step up. Quick, name Apollo’s purpose right now. Don’t think too hard.

There’s a lot of creative change in WWE at the moment. Duh, right? Maybe this evens itself out in due time but the winds of change need to blow through Florida quick, fast, and in a hurry. Apollo and Roddy tore the house down this week, easily putting on the best match of the night. Now, give us something new for Apollo on the paint splat brand: follow through.

That crowd will only chant his name for so long. If you want them to keep chanting, give them a reason to care. Because seeing green before the match, and not explaining it, ain’t it.

And neither is Grayson Waller.


Zoey’s on a Roll

Zoey Stark is on a roll. That roll continued this week in a solid match with Cora Jade. Cora was on a mission to eliminate Stark for Mandy on the promise she gets a title shot. And she tried. She really tried. Cora brought out her black kendo stick at one point in the match, showing getting the W was never the point. Injuring Zoey by any means necessary was always the focus. The second time she went for the kendo stick, it was in Roxanne Perez’s hands. That slight distraction was enough for Zoey to finish Cora right in front of guest commentator Mandy Rose.

Roxanne chased Cora away, which is a good touch. It’s smart to build to their eventual confrontation rather than just giving it to us just because. The show ended with Mandy flat on her back after failing at her surprise attack, and Zoey standing tall with the championship in her hand.

Now, if you believe in wrestling opposite momentum, Zoey isn’t winning at Heatwave. But I do think the story is pointing to Zoey as the one to take Mandy down and possibly send her, along with Toxic Attraction, to the main roster.

Hear Me Roar

Nikkita Lyons’ match with Kiana James confused me a tad. The first portion worked well for me. Kiana worked Nikkita’s suspect knee, which not only targeted a weakened body part but neutralized Nikkita’s offense. Smart stuff from a wrestler who claims she’s the smartest person in the locker room. Kiana even played possum when the women were on the outside, causing Lyons to kick the steel steps and further injure that bum knee. I love details like that.

But the ending threw me for a loop. Nikkita executed a very dope looking roundhouse kick with that same leg—the one with the worked over knee—to set up Kiana for her finisher. It’s a great looking move and any other time I’m fine with it. But Kiana punished that knee. Why not take that time to answer the question if Nikkita can finish a match without using her favorite weapon? And the amount of force needed to do said kick? Whew. The match overall was fine but that finish left a bad taste in my mouth.

Kiana had the last laugh with a sneak attack after the match. And, in one of the funniest moments this week in wrestling, Kiana talked trash over her opponent while holding her briefcase high. Yup, her briefcase theoretically filled with papers, pens, and notebooks. You know, for all those calculations.

It Ain’t Trickin’...

I like the idea of a Rounds match but the boxing portion of it threw off the rhythm. Even with that, Trick Williams and Wes Lee told a pretty compelling and simple story. Trick has Carmelo Hayes by his side for help while Wes overcomes the odds. The right person won (Wes) and beating Trick at his own game—a knock out—was poetic. But the execution of the match lacked the coolness of the idea. There was even a moment where Trick put his foot on the rope during a pinfall only to immediately take it off the rope. Which makes me think it was an accident that added to the haphazardness of the match.

Look, I’m just saying if I want fake boxing, I’ll call Don King.

Grading on a Curve

Arianna Grace caught a black eye from Thea Hail last week. It wasn’t on purpose, but Grace wants restitution. And by that, I mean she wants money. Andre Chase, who is either very cheap or very broke, said since the incident happened on Chase U grounds, Thea and Arianna will settle their beef in the ring. Of course, he used a lot more colorful language than that so use your imagination and pick the naughtiest words possible.

Thea impressed for her first match. It wasn’t a long match and Arianna controlled most of it, but Thea showed a lot of promise. Her transitions were smooth, her character work was strong, and she looks like a natural babyface. Arianna was on point as well, especially doing all the cheap heel tricks cheap heels know best. She cried about her eye, she went for cheap shots at every turn, and even tried sucker punching Thea for matching black eyes.

I’m still shocked Arianna won. But I suppose that’s part of a larger story about Thea still learning the ropes—pun intended. Fine match.

Three’s a New Crowd

Lash Legend and Pretty Deadly are a trio. How did we get here, you ask? Well, that’s why I’m here.

Lash monologued about her loss to Alba Fyre to Malik Blade & Edris Enofe for about an hour. They snapped, Pretty Deadly pulled up, and impolitely told Enofe & Blade it’s rude to interrupt a lady. As fate would have it, the four men were on the docket for a tag match this week.

Briggs, Jensen, and Fallon Henley showed up. Their interference actually caused Blade & Malik the W. D’oh! Lash Legend showed up out of nowhere and bicycle kicked Fallon into next month. Then, a victorious Pretty Deadly celebrated with Lash Legend, while the losers licked their chops.

Not much of a match since it was short and a tad chaotic, but I’m interested in the drama.

Aside from a few solid matches, this was a drag of an episode. It lacked something I can’t quite define but the two-hour show felt longer than Raw. We got one video segment for the NXT championship match that didn’t excite me at all, and another about Gigi Dolin & Jacy Jayne finding themselves after losing their tag titles. Meh. The Joe Gacy/Cameron Grimes stuff is still happening and it’s still a cheap imitation of Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan from several years ago. NXT normally has a flow to it but this really felt like a bunch of stuff thrown at a wall. Oh, and that “Final Accord” between Santos Escobar and Tony D’Angelo was just awkward. The visual of that small table in the middle of a giant park just made NXT look and feel small. On a show before their next big event, that’s the lasting image for me and it’s a pretty awful metaphor.

Grade: C-

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

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