NXT is in full rebuild mode now the dust has settled from WrestleMania week and the Superstar Shake-up. Well, nearly settled anyway. Pete Dunne gets the opportunity to get his own back on Roderick Strong this week for turning on him at TakeOver. The other advertised matches for the week are Candice LeRae versus Bianca Belair, and Street Profits versus TM61. We’re also due to see the ‘repackaged for a push’ Kona Reeves. I’ve enjoyed what we’ve seen of Reeves previously, so I’m intrigued to see what they’ve done with him.
Kairi Sane def Shazza McKenzie
TM61 def Street Profits
Kona Reeves def Patrick Scott
Bianca Belair def Candice LeRae
Pete Dunne def Roderick Strong
Undisputed ERA opened the show. Adam Cole said Oney Lorcan would come to consider being beaten by him as one of the highlights of his career, making history as the first person he successfully defended the North American Championship against. Kyle O’Reilly added that Danny Burch got what he deserved for having the audacity to stick his nose in their business. Bobby Fish said he’ll give rehab a heads up that they’ll be sending some extra patients their way. Roderick Strong said what he did to Pete Dunne at TakeOver is going to pale in comparison to what he’ll do to him tonight.
Kairi Sane vs Shazza McKenzie
Two women’s division matches on one show, we are indeed blessed. This one was short and sweet. And I mean sweet literally, it was a very good-natured to start with, and Kairi Sane always looks so happy.
This was a sub-two-minute highlight reel of Kairi Sane’s top moves. I’m not sure what the match was supposed to achieve or how it benefitted either Sane or McKenzie. It, of course, finished with the Insane elbow.
Lacey Evans came to the ring while Sane was celebrating. She said, a true lady with class always admits when she is wrong. She wanted to apologise to Sane and tell her she does belong in NXT. Evans extended the hand of friendship/respect but, when Sane hesitated, she punched her out instead.
Cathy Kelley interviewed Candice LeRae about Johnny Gargano’s condition (rather than her upcoming match, obviously). LeRae said this hasn’t been an easy year. She was so optimistic at the beginning of the year, she was finally in NXT with her husband and he had a title match. They thought Ciampa was family but now it seems like he’ll stop at nothing. They thought they were done with this but she had to watch them stretcher her husband out, and for what? She apologised, while crying, and excused herself to go and get ready for her match against Bianca Belair.
Lars Sullivan hype package. The era of destruction is beginning, and he’s got his sights set on gold. All three singles champions were shown during the promo (Aleister Black, Adam Cole, and Pete Dunne), so it’s not clear which title he’s going for first.
TM61 vs Street Profits
Fast-paced and fun match but it would have benefitted from more time. There was enough time for everyone to show off their best stuff and a couple of nifty double team manoeuvres before it was time for the finish. It’s tough to fit a decent tag match into three minutes, but it had a lot of potential.
Shane Thorne rolled up Montez Ford, but Thorne’s feet were on the ropes, and being held there by Nick Miller. The ref didn’t see it and counted the pin.
This seems to suggest a new attitude for TM61. They’ve hinted at switching it up on promos, but I didn’t realise cheat to win was what they meant.
War Raiders hype package, starting with a stats comparison between them and Heavy Machinery led into the announcement that a match between the two teams is happening next week.
Kassius Ohno was interviewed about the Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa situation. He’s known Gargano for ten years, they’re friends. Tommaso Ciampa has become an opportunistic coward. When he saw Gargano being wheeled away last week he realised someone needs to make Ciampa feel that helpless, and that someone is him.
Kona Reeves vs Patrick Scott
This was Kona Reeves grand unveiling. He has, apparently, been repackaged as an extra from Miami Vice. Whatever the look, Reeves is good and he deserves this chance. He’s been very patient and worked hard.
Standard squash match, nothing more to say. He’ll be interesting when he’s interacting with the rest of the NXT roster.
EC3 promo next. He’ll be making his NXT tv debut next week and turn it into NX3
Dakota Kai interview. She talked about Ember Moon and the IIconics making their mark on the main roster, then was asked if she was intimidated by Shayna Baszler. She said she didn’t want to talk about her issues with Baszler, it happened – what else do they want her to say? Vanessa Borne interrupted and said the way Kai has handled Baszler in the last few weeks and she sees scaredy-cat written all over her face. If it were here, she would have slapped the hell out of Baszler because she’s not scared of anyone. Dakota Kai said she may have issues with Baszler, but she’s not scared of her. When Vanessa Borne left, Kai said she can take her on, she’s not scared of her.
Candice LeRae vs Bianca Belair
I’ve been looking forward to this, but it was a clearly subdued Candice LeRae that came to the ring, highlighted by several camera shots of her looking sad. That doesn’t bode well for a match against Belair who is clearly a fast-rising star.
Nice duelling chants from the crowd to start the match. On sheer popularity, as well as talent, both these women would be near the top of the tree. It was a tentative and hesitant performance from LeRae, and she suffered because of it. Bianca Belair dominated for all but a few moments of the match.
It got bad for LeRae after Belair caught her when she jumped off the turnbuckle. Belair showed off her strength by lifting LeRae over her head and holding her there before throwing her into the turnbuckle.
There was a brief fightback from Candice LeRae, but Belair stopped her in her tracks again and hit the reverse powerbomb for the win.
Another three-minute match.
EC3’s tv debut next week will be against Raul Mendoza. Also happening next week is Kassius Ohno versus Tommaso Ciampa.
Pete Dunne vs Roderick Strong
Roderick Strong initially appeared to come out alone, but when he was halfway down the ramp Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly joined him.
It started as a scrap with them just beating on each other, but soon settled into a very good match.
Roderick Strong moved things in his favour when he dropkicked Dunne out of the air as Dunne launched himself off the apron, then followed up by dropping him spine-first onto the edge of the ring. Dunne eventually switched things around by blocking a back-breaker and turning it into an x-plex.
Undisputed ERA were unusually well behaved when Dunne got thrown out of the ring in front of them, holding their hands up and backing away under the ref’s gaze.
A series of forearms from Strong just served to wind Dunne up and he caught hold of Strong’s arm to do the finger snap.
After that, it was just seconds before Pete Dunne hit the Bitter End and Strong was down for the count. Except the count didn’t happen because Cole and O’Reilly jumped into the ring and started beating on Dunne, getting Strong disqualified in the process.
Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan ran in to even the numbers and cleared Cole and O’Reilly from the ring. Pete Dunne finished the clean-up by kicking Strong out of the ring, throwing Kyle O’Reilly’s shoe out after him and getting a laugh when it hit Adam Cole.
Dunne, Lorcan, and Burch stood together in the ring as Undisputed ERA backed up the ramp.
It’s no good. Five matches in a one-hour format that also included three interviews and a couple of promos, is just too much. Last night’s SmackDown Live only had three matches on and that’s twice as long. I’m not suggesting that was ideal either, more that the two shows would have fitted more comfortably into each other’s timeslots. Of the five matches tonight, four were three minutes or under. It’s really hard to invest in matches of that length.
I said last week it would be interesting to see how Bianca Belair and Candice LeRae were positioned in their match because it looks like they are both destined for big things. Belair may have won this one, but she did so against a distracted and troubled LeRae rather than beating Candice LeRae on top form. That’s important going forward.