Hi again, Joe here. Welcome back to Full Sail for the latest review of NXT. It would have been out sooner but you can blame the Network upload schedule for this delay in your getting to read about why Cameron Grimes’ wacky hat will save us all. Grimes’ hat and the man underneath it would compete on this episode along with NXT UK and North American Champions WALTER and Roderick Strong in non-title action. Also, Rhea Ripley, Dakota Kai and Bianca BelAir in matches with title implications, let’s see how it all went down:
Squashes (Both orange & blackcurrant)
Rhea Ripley def. Aliyah w/Vanessa Borne // Ripley tapped out Aliyah with an elevated deadlift cloverleaf. Post-match: Ripley declares herself the next challenger to Shayna Baszler
Pre-match: Ryker took out the lads from Ever-Rise. Forgotten Sons (Blake & Cutler) w/Jackson Ryker def. Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) // Blake hit a double team stomp for the pin
Cameron Grimes def. Boa // Grimes hit the running double stomp for the pin. Post-match: A wild Killian Dain appears, attacking Boa as Grimes bails.
Packages (both video & small)
We got a highlight reel for Finn Bálor.
Keith Lee tells us why next week he’s going to beat Dominic Dijakovic.
Dominic Dijakovic tells us why next week he’s going to beat Keith Lee.
Backstage, Cathy Kelly waited to interview Tommaso Ciampa but Angel Garza turned up. Ciampa punched him.
Damien Priest tells us he attacked Pete Dunne because he’d made himself a target and put a bullseye on him and then about twelve more archery puns.
Pete Dunne tells us that he’s going to beat up Damien Priest because he doesn’t like being sneak attacked and he hates archery puns.
NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Lio Rush vs Drew Gulak (c)
This was a very smartly laid-out contest. Gulak has been such an impressive champion and after last week seeing a grand total of zero title changes, opening on the title match seemed like it might be leading us into thinking lightning would fail to strike for the fourth time. But strike it would. Having two former CZW Heavyweight champions in the ring, they worked a classic opening sprint as Rush looked to utilise his speed and unpredictable offence where Gulak kept trying to slow him down and break his neck. I think to really sell the drama they could have done with a few more convincing near-falls down the line but avoiding the trappings of finisher spam third-act problems was a breath of fresh air. Rush battled through multiple unique attempts to lock in a Dragon Sleeper before hitting the Dragon’s Call frog splash for the pin. I’m still not sure if this was the right time to make the title change hands as it felt a little abrupt but that did add to the surprise. It’s a swerve for certain but we’ll see if it’s one that pays off.
Post-match: Regal goes to put the belt on Rush before Gulak pushes him away and does it himself. A handshake and Gulak leaves, hopefully not for good as I’d love to see him vs Roddy Strong.
Winner: Lio Rush NEW CHAMPION
Roderick Strong vs Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott
Strong is a true workhorse, capable of making anyone look like a star. It just so happens, Swerve is a damn star. This only really avoided the squashes section because it was long enough to feel semi-competitive and because quite frankly, the in-ring action was good enough to deserve highlighting. Swerve is a unique competitor because he doesn’t do much that is particularly flashy but what he does is bring a unique quality: his performances are cerebral and clinical but not cold or lacking in drama. The fact that it took the added pressure of the full gang of pricks to take him out of his element speaks to the belief they must have in him. Also, he’s very good at kicking people and I like watching people get kicked. Eventually, Strong got the victory off the Stronghold modified half crab.
Post-match: Cole and the Gang storm the ring and talk about how no-one’s on their level till the Dream appears talking about how in two weeks he has a rematch for the North American Championship and Roddy won’t retain because he has a small dick. Then Ciampa comes out and continues to tell the belt he never lost that “Daddy’s Home.”
Winner: Roderick Strong
Bianca BelAir vs Dakota Kai
I told you a moment ago, I really like watching people get kicked. That is what Kai does better than anyone else. I don’t think there was a type of kick she didn’t hit. Though her matches with Baszler were some of the more underwhelming of the champ’s run, BelAir has been on a rebound ever since proving that she can be one of the best power-bases of the WWE Women’s divisions. The match itself was a great, little encounter with both competitors making the most of the time given t really get in as much as possible. The decision to have Kai lose on her second match back is a weird one, especially as she has such a great in-built story with Baszler. Also, Bianca declaring herself the woman to go through before you face Baszler, like, she lost to Baszler, twice then she lost to Mia Yim, twice then she lost to Candice LeRae. Bianca, you really don’t have the credentials to gatekeep at the moment. This shouldn’t detract from this being a very fun match and the potential of either a triple threat of Baszler-BelAir-Ripley or a match between the latter two being potential show-stealers wherever they are. But it must be said, Kai is too good to be just the person you beat on your way to the title. BelAir pinned Kai off a Gorilla press slam.
Winner: Bianca BelAir
KUSHIDA vs WALTER
My f**king God, this was good. From the second this one began, it became clear why KUSHIDA left New Japan, the man might be built like a cruiserweight but when he wrestles a heavyweight, he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with them. This wasn’t your classic David vs Goliath encounter, showcasing both men’s technical wizardry, KUSHIDA worked a very smart match, keeping his offence convincing, often with these encounters you have to suspend your disbelief but KUSH holds his body-weight in such a way that it doesn’t look like WALTER’s having to do any of the work. But WALTER himself, possibly the greatest Western practitioner of the 90s All Japan fighting spirit, really brought it here. Taking a potential slip-up after KUSHIDA nearly fell off a springboard and turning it into a thunderous boot, looking like an early knockout victory might be on the cards. But the fight continued and I’m glad it did as we got something truly spectacular. While the crowd was split in their support (boo. the. fucking. heels), what was special here was that KUSHIDA truly looked dominant at times, his transitions into submissions were spectacular, his apron DDT was hellacious and even if no one can compete with WALTER in a slap fight, that he still has a chest is enough to say that he is earning his stripes. WALTER got the pin off a big ol’ Lariato.
Another very strong week and one that actually flowed better than last week’s show for my money with greater opening and closing encounters plus two very strong matches in the middle. Plus some very efficient story progression. The future’s looking bright, it’s looking black and yellow.
Tegan Nox in action
Tommaso Ciampa vs Angel Garza
Pete Dunne vs Damien Priest
Keith Lee vs Dominic Dijakovic
All photos courtesy of wwe.com