Tonight, on the first half of NXT’s Great American Bash, Sasha Banks returns to NXT to take on Io Shirai in a non-title match. Bayley will be with Banks, so it’s a shame Shirai doesn’t have any friends left on the NXT roster. The number one contender for Shirai’s title will be decided tonight by a fatal four-way featuring Tegan Nox, Dakota Kai, Candice LeRae, and Mia Yim. Rhea Ripley has a handicap match against Aliyah and Robert Stone. If Ripley loses, she has to join the Robert Stone Brand. Oney Lorcan faces Timothy Thatcher at Lorcan’s request. And NXT’s first-ever strap match will hopefully be enough to stop Roderick Strong running away from Dexter Lumis. It’s also being presented with limited commercials, so sounds like the busiest of busy nights.
Tegan Nox def. Candice LeRae, Mia Yim, and Dakota Kai
Timothy Thatcher def. Oney Lorcan
Rhea Ripley def. Aliyah & Robert Stone
Dexter Lumis def. Roderick Strong
Io Shirai def. Sasha Banks
Tegan Nox vs Dakota Kai vs Mia Yim vs Candice LeRae – Fatal Four-way Number One Contender’s Elimination match
Raquel Gonzalez was not allowed to come to ringside with Dakota Kai. William Regal declared there would be no outside interference.
Slow start to the match with everyone looking for the opportunity to take advantage and trying not to be the first eliminated. Candice LeRae was the first elimination, courtesy of Mia Yim’s Seoul Food.
Mia Yim had a great match while she lasted. Seoul Food would have taken out Tegan Nox as well if Nox hadn’t rolled out of the ring. Dakota Kai took advantage while Yim was looking down at Nox on the floor and pinned her.
So it came down to Kai and Nox, two women who would arguably have been in the title picture much earlier and more consistently without their respective injuries. It was the personal, vicious, battle you only get with ex-best friends who know each other’s every move, and neither wanted to concede to the other. Someone had to win though and eventually, Tegan Nox got the pin off the Shiniest Wizard.
Damian Priest said Cameron Grimes now has his full attention, and he’s going to make sure Grimes regrets it.
Timothy Thatcher vs Oney Lorcan
This one was a technical masterclass with added violence and a smattering of malice. It was great but the problem with technical masterclasses is, unless you’re play by playing them, they make for dull reviews. They spent a lot of their time trying to detach each other’s limbs and the rest trying to batter each other’s souls out. Timothy Thatcher won with a Fujiwara armbar.
Karrion Kross’ hype package had a very apocalyptic feel to it. It’s a very visually interesting presentation.
Rhea Ripley vs Aliyah & Robert Stone
Robert Stone turned up in a boxing robe, with his hands taped up and a mouthguard and goggles. Both he and Aliyah were allowed in the ring at the same time, but Stone told her he could handle it. He did a lot of fancy footwork then got slapped to the canvas and rolled out of the ring. He made himself useful by immobilising Ripley, grabbing her leg so Aliyah could knee her in the face, and he dragged Ripley off the pin. Ambitiously he dived over the top rope and wiped himself out. Aliyah’s dive took Ripley down while she was laughing at him.
After a break, Aliyah and Stone with both trying to submit Ripley, and they still failed. They might have had a shot at pinning her after a double suplex, but argued over who would take the pin. Next time they tried, they got suplexed. Rhea Ripley had had enough by that point. She used Aliyah to take out Stone, then just headbutted him when he tried to come back at her, then submitted them both at the same time with a double Prism Trap.
That was ridiculous and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Roderick Strong vs Dexter Lumis – Strap Match
Speaking of ridiculous…
Strong got out of the ring during Lumis’ entrance, which clearly wasn’t going to work for him in a strap match, then attacked Lumis before the ref could attach the strap. Lumis fought back and put the strap on Strong himself. The strap was so long they spent much of the match trying not to trip over it or gathering it up so it wasn’t in the way. Lumis opened the trunk of one of the two cars on set, but Strong avoided being put in it. The crowd chanted ‘Dexter Likes It’ when Strong was whipping him with the strap. Honestly, it’s kind of hard to tell if they’re right. He didn’t seem to object, he definitely didn’t scream the place down like Strong did when it was his turn.
The nostalgic gimmick was something different, I guess, but the match went too long for me. Bobby Fish appeared and bounced Lumis off the apron. The ref saw him stood there but it was no DQ, so there was nothing he could do. Fish invaded the ring as well but ran into the strap and went down, then got knocked off the apron by Lumis slinging Strong into him. Finally, Dexter Lumis locked in The Silence, with a bit of help from the strap, and Strong tapped out.
Next week is part two of The Great American Bash, so we got to see a build package for the main event of that, Keith Lee vs Adam Cole – Winner Takes All.
Candice LeRae and Johnny Gargano were unhappy with her elimination. She got into a scrap with Mia Yim while Gargano was complaining that everyone ganged up on her. Gargano ended up in a standoff with Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott after he tried to break it up. Next week Yim and LeRae had a Street Fight.
Drake Maverick interrupted Legado del Fantasma – Santos Escobar, Joaquin Wilde, & Raul Mendoza – talking about how they’re going to remake the perception of Lucha Libre in their image. He ripped his neck brace off on the ramp and was immediately overwhelmed the second he got to the ring. Breezango came to his aid, so next week we have a six-man tag to look forward to.
Grimes declared himself number one contender to face whoever wins the Winner Take All match next week. I suspect William Regal will have something to say about that, but we’ll see.
Io Shirai vs Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks arrived at ringside by car, standing in the back while Bayley sat in the front holding Banks’ dog. They didn’t keep the poor pup at ringside, happily. Bayley caused a distraction early on by tooting the horn on one of the cars and I immediately wanted her to just go away. This match should have no interruptions, NXT even made it add free, and it should certainly have no interference.
I don’t think I’ve ever gotten used to just how often Sasha Banks looks like she might have hurt herself during big matches. There were a couple of those in this one, but she got back up each time, so hopefully there’s no damage. Io Shirai took some big bumps as well, like being powerbombed into the plexiglass barrier then onto the floor.
Bayley had to interfere, of course. She threw one of the tag belts to Banks when Shirai had her in a crossface, then smashed Io Shirai in the face while the ref was taking it away. She followed the ref around the ring to try to get the belt back. While she was playing tug of war with him, Asuka popped her head up over the apron and misted Sasha Banks. Shirai’s rollup immediately afterwards was unsuccessful but she slapped her to the mat, paused to dropkick Bayley into the barricade, then finished Banks off with a moonsault, shielding Banks’ face from the ref so he didn’t see the green.
Asuka joined Io Shirai in the ring to celebrate.
That was a really good episode of NXT. It felt like a special event, not quite TakeOver special, but special. One day I want to see Io Shirai versus Sasha Banks in a proper one on one with no outside interference.
It’s been a tough time to be a wrestling fan recently for several reasons, and the spectre of COVID still looms over the whole of WWE, so it was nice to be able to sit back and enjoy an entire show. I’m looking forward to seeing if next week’s Great American Bash night two lives up to night one.