We’re into the second half of the first round, and the standard is still consistently high. Looking at the card for this one, I’d expect that to continue.
Toni Storm def Ayesha Raymond
Dakota Kai def Kavita Devi
Bianca Belair def Sage Beckett
Piper Niven def Santana Garrett
After a quick look at the brackets, and the matches on the show, we’re straight in to the first match
Ayesha Raymond vs Toni Storm
There are just some matches where impartiality goes out of the window. Sorry but this is one of them. Toni Storm is one of my favourite wrestlers. Ayesha Raymond is also very good, but I really want Storm to win this one. I’m not alone, the crowd appear to have warmed to Storm, and Raymond gets a good amount of boos.
Toni Storm gives up some height and power in this one, but that doesn’t phase her, nothing does. I’m sorry, but I really can’t overstate how good Toni Storm is. That’s not to take anything away from Raymond, she did a great job in this match. She has power and style, and it’s not easy to get a crowd who are mostly unfamiliar with your work to boo you that much (no sarcasm, she established her character very well).
Ayesha Raymond took some time out to jeer at the crowd, who were booing her quite loudly. It was her undoing. Storm evaded her leap from the top rope, rolled her up, and got the win.
Kavita Devi vs Dakota Kai
Kavita Devi is one of the less experienced wrestlers in the tournament. She’s trained by The Great Khali, and has a powerlifting background. She’s power based, but seems to have some good agility alongside it. Dakota Kai looks delicate next to her but has the experience advantage over her opponent.
While Devi has the power, the bank of moves she has to draw on is limited by her inexperience. Kai is agile to the point of being bouncy. The comparisons with Bayley are inevitable, and I have no problem with them, providing you’re comparing her to Bayley at her very best.
Kai says that her kicks are her strength, but for the early part of the match, nothing she did seemed to have any impact on Devi. She turned it round towards the end though, and once she secured the upper hand she’s kept it.
Dakota Kai got the pin after kicking Devi in the face, and following up with a double stomp from the top rope.
Sage Beckett vs Bianca Belair
Bianca Belair has been doing the NXT live shows for a while, and there is a buzz on social media about her. Her unique offence involves using her braided hair as a whip, which appears to be more effective than it sounds. She certainly doesn’t lack confidence. Neither does Sage Beckett. She has an ethereal air, and describes herself as a Shaman.
Both these women are among the taller and more powerful competitors, with Beckett having the edge in both respects. Power was the theme of this match. It also seemed to one of the most even contests, despite the disparity in experience levels.
Belair has a star quality to her. She’s already popular with the crowd. I can see her being around for a long time. A future NXT champion at the very least.
In this instance, that star quality won out over experience. After Sage Beckett dominated the majority of the match, Belair used her hair whip, followed it up with a spear, and pinned her.
Piper Niven vs Santana Garrett
We’ve talked a lot about the size and strength advantage in matches to this point, but there isn’t a bigger advantage in the competition than the one Piper Niven has over Santana Garrett. Unfortunately for Garrett, Niven also has the speed and skill to back it up. That’s not to write Garrett off though, she’s an extremely experienced performer with nine years behind her.
The crowd were into this match, with loud duelling chants before and during. There were a lot of pin attempts in this one, both women seemed to want to get the quick pin if they could. The match kept up the trend of the final match of each show being the strongest (although the opening match of this one was close). Like the crowd, I would have been happy with whoever went through.
It was back and forth into the near falls, but every match must end with a winner. Piper Niven absolutely planted Garrett with a Michinoku Driver for the pin.
Four more through to the second round.
Just four more women to add, before the second round matches are set. Already it’s looking like the second round is going to deliver some spectacular contests.