Velveteen Dream (art credit Joel Tesch © PWTorch)
SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)…
Johnny Gargano vs. Donovan Dijakovic – HIT : Debuting new brooding music tonight, Johnny Gargano faced off against Dijak in one on one action. There was about a 70 lb weight difference between these two competitors, but Gargano brought quite a bit of offense to the big man. I was impressed with both men in this match. Dijakovic still may not have much of a personality, but when he was in control of the match he was tossing Gargano around the ring like yesterday’s garbage.
LaRae interjected herself shortly before the commercial break, as expected when she didn’t accompany him to the ring. She caused a few obvious distractions throughout the match and I think was utilized effectively as a heat magnet for her husband. One distraction allowed Gargano to begin untying a turnbuckle pad. He kept working on it until he was able to remove it, send Dijak head first into it the metal turnbuckle and nail his finish for the win. This might have been one of my favorite Dijak matches. Where I didn’t think he’d win, he put up a believable fight against one of the top guys in NXT.
NXT Interim Cruiserweight Championship Tournament – Akira Tozawa vs. Gentleman Jack Gallagher – HIT : This tournament has become my favorite part of NXT week to week, and that’s saying something. I was very clearly documented on PWT Talks NXT about a month or so ago asking “If nobody defended the title, would anybody even notice?” Now, this cruiserweight title feels like a prize! Every competitor has something to prove, they have a story and they have a mission – capture that title! This was an oddly short match considering how long the others have been. But that didn’t mean it was devoid of action! This loss effectively removes Jack from Group B contention, and Tozawa cut a promo afterwards calling out Fantasma, his next opponent.
Xia Li vs Chelsea Green – : Glad to see Xia Li in action tonight! I just wish it was against another opponent. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to get behind Green and the Robert Stone Brand. I think if they put another wrestler in the spot, fine. But Chelsea’s accoutrement in the ring is still lacking for somebody touted to be perfection by her manager. Aliyah interfered in attempt to get back at Li for breaking her face last year, and cost Li the match. Hate to see Green win, but looking forward to seeing how well Aliyah does in a feud against Xia Li in the weeks to come! Especially if she aligns with the struggling Robert Stone brand to add a little extra something to the mix.
Karrion Kross w/ Scarlett vs. Leon Ruff – HIT: In what might be the coolest entrance to hit NXT…ever, Kross and Scarlett made their long awaited NXT debut. This wasn’t even a match so much as a jobber massacre. Kross and Scarlett have such a polished act and I am immediately sold on this duo. Between the music and presentation to their acting to their in-ring work. Incredibly solid.
NXT Women’s Championship – Charlotte Flair (C) vs Io Shirai – HIT :This was the match I had been looking forward to all week. Charlotte is arguably one of the biggest female stars in the company and brings a lot of prestige to that title. She looks exactly like the champion I’m sure Vince and HHH dreamed up in their heads. Shirai may not look like their ideal champion, but she surely brought it to the corporate chosen one, Flair. A total styles clash here, Shirai with her quick, agile and nimble offense vs. the power of the Queen. Matter of fact. Shirai did so much offense against Flair, that Flair needed to use a kendo stick to disqualify herself. As the ref rang the bell, Rhea Ripley made her return to NXT for the first time since WrestleMania, saving her frenemy Shirai and extracting revenge on Flair. At first, I hated the finish. Why would Flair resort to this cheap tactic? But if that means a re-ignited feud between Flair and Ripley, I am 100% on board.
NXT Interim Cruiserweight Championship Tournament – Kushida vs. Jake Atlas – HIT : A young up-and-comer in Atlas against the veteran Kushida in the second Cruiserweight match of the night. Offense so quick, blink and you missed half the match. I continue to be nothing but impressed with the in-ring ability of Atlas. So fluid, crisp and smooth in the ring you would think he had been wrestling for a decade or more. He went toe to toe with one of the best Cruiserweights in the business, Kushida, and even though he may have lost, he looked like a million bucks.
Finn Balor Returns – HIT : Balor stood at a podium on stage and said a lot without saying much. Essentially, he took 3 minutes to say that he was coming for whoever attacked him. This segment just kind of existed for me, I didn’t like it, nor did I hate it.
Cameron Grimes vs. Denzel Dejournette – HIT: Whoa, when did Shelton Benjamin grow a beard? Dejournette may have lasted less than a minute against Grimes, but the brief offense that he did bring to the table reminded me of Jason Jordan and Benjamin. Grimes picked up a mic and cut an impassioned promo saying that he deserves more than he’s getting. But he tied it into Finn Balor’s promo by calling him out, bringing Balor into the ring without Grimes even realizing it until Balor was standing right next to him. Grimes backed down immediately, completely submitting to Balor and undermining months of character work. Balor attacked Grimes and left him lying as he told the camera man that he’s coming for the snake who attacked him. It’s the most interested I’ve been in Balor in weeks, so let’s see where this goes!
NXT Championship – Adam Cole vs. Velveteen Dream – HIT : The second Championship match of this action packed episode of NXT! This was a Takeover caliber match and it’s a shame that this wasn’t able to be filmed in front of an audience. Where this feud has been building for months at this point, it was was explosive from the moment the bell rang. Adam Cole walked into the match as the longest reigning NXT Champion, but it seemed like it was Dream’s time to shine. The Undisputed Era came out to help Cole and all of a sudden, Lumis came from under the ring to save Dream. The ref was taken out and Dream actually made the pinfall over Cole, leading to the Cole distracted win shortly thereafter. I really enjoyed the match, and other than the oddity of Lumis, I hated the finish. I was fine with Cole winning, but this has been played out many times. The ref gets knocked out, babyface gets the pin, technically wins, but then loses when the ref comes to.