By: Frank Hyden
NXT crowned a new champion last night and had a steel cage match between two hard-hitting women. Let’s get right to the rundown.
GOOD- Finn Balor beats Adam Cole to become NXT Champion
We start off with this big match. They went back and forth on offense, with neither man getting a true advantage. Cole worked the knee over of Balor, applying a figure four a few times. Balor hit Cole with the Coup de Grace off the top rope but Cole kicked out. Cole hit Balor with the Last Call but Balor kicked out. Balor finally finished Cole off with a top rope 1916 to become the new champ. This was a good match.
GOOD- Backstage and out of ring stuff
Robert Stone was going to smash Shotzi Blackheart’s tank until she caught him. Aliyah jumped Blackheart from behind, though, and they interrupted NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai’s photo shoot. Shirai and Blackheart laid out Aliyah and Stone with their top rope moves. Then Blackheart grabbed Shirai’s belt, indicating she wants a title shot. Shirai grabs it back and warns Shotzi “Don’t make me hurt you.” They also did a couple segments with Tegan Nox and Candice LaRae and Johnny Gargano. Nox and LaRae started to patch things up but then argued, with Nox dumping spaghetti on Gargano and LaRae breaking the TV as she threw something at Nox. Timothy Thatcher ran another of his teaching segments and ran down NXT North American Champion Damian Priest. I liked all these segments, as I like the people involved.
BAD/GOOD- Velveteen Dream squashes Ashante Adonis, Kushida returns
There wasn’t much to this match, but it was just to set up the return of Kushida, who aggressively attacked Dream after the bell. The BAD is for NXT continuing to push Dream despite allegations and evidence against him being a sexual abuser. WWE said they did an investigation but some of the accusers have said they were never contacted. I don’t know, I’m torn. I believe in innocent until proven guilty but I’m not sure WWE did a true investigation or not.
GOOD/BAD- Breezango/Imperium promo and Bronson Reed beats Austin Theory
Breezango and Imperium hyped their upcoming rematch. It got the point across that the two teams are very different in their personalities. And the Reed-Theory match was solid but forgettable. It was just kind of there. This is probably more of just a learning experience, they didn’t really mesh well.
BAD/GOOD- Rodrick Strong beats Killian Dain
I didn’t care for this match at all. For one, Dain must have gone to the Karrion Kross school of facial expressions because he kept doing the whole wide-eyed, bug-eyed stuff. That looks amateurish and makes you look like a cartoon character. Whoever is telling these guys to do that stuff needs to stop. Secondly, I don’t know why they keep putting Strong in there against guys so much bigger than him. Dain is well over twice Strong’s size, it starts to look ridiculous when Strong has a lot of offense against these big guys. And Strong is too good to just be a jobber, I want to see him have a lot of offense because he usually does a good job. How is he going to do any of his backbreakers against guys that are so big? Strong did a good job here, as you would expect, he was selling his ass off. However, there’s only so many heelish ways he can take over on these guys, whether it’s attacking them from behind or whatever. Hell, they had Bobby Fish literally jump in the ring and pull Strong away from a Dain attack but didn’t have him get DQ’d. I mean, come on. After Strong pinned Dain, they did some more stuff with Dain and Drake Maverick.
GOOD- Rhea Ripley beats Mercedes Martinez in a steel cage
There were some big bumps during this match. Ripley took a German Suplex off the top rope, Martinez took a Superplex off the top rope. She also took a Riptide from Rhea through a table that led to the finish. This was a good steel cage match with the limitations WWE has. I understand the no headshots rule, though I do think there’s ways around that and if you did them very sparingly, you could still be safe. But I get it, they don’t even want to take that chance. Okay, we’re thinking longterm health here, no problem.
However, the no-blood thing really takes the wind out of the sails for these types of moments, pun intended. You have these big moments, not just this match, but in WWE in general. It’s the culmination of a feud or the escalation of a feud, yet it seems like every other match. There’s nothing to differentiate between some of these matches. I’m not saying I want to see blood every week. In fact, I don’t want that at all. Nor do I want blood in multiple matches on the card, unless the feud warrants it. I’ve already complained about wrestlers going too far in their promos with talk of ending careers and destroying their opponent, then you get to the match and they get a backslide or roll-up and are all happy. They wrestle a normal match so the talk rings hollow and becomes white noise. It would be the same with blood, you don’t want that. You don’t want the sight of blood to become commonplace.
But, if you can use the blood to add juice or excitement to a match or feud, you’ve got something. Blood helps elevate a match beyond a “normal” match. It should only be used in big moments or matches, but it should be used. I don’t want anyone’s forehead looking like a roadmap but the occasional blood is a good thing. I think it would have added something here to have Rhea bleeding a little, it would have made her win more impactful. This is a minor quibble, I can’t hold something against a match when they’re not allowed to do that, I just think it would have made the match even better. This was a really good way to end a pretty good episode of NXT
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