Amanda Why (@manda_why)
It’s the first of the brand new format NXT this week, and it’s over 24 hours after it originally aired because I’m in the UK and WWE didn’t bother to sort out overseas tv for the debut. The first hour was on the USA Network in the US, with the second hour on WWE network, but it’s all up on WWE network a little over 24 hours later. There are some great looking matches on the card, and I’ve avoided most of the spoilers, so let’s check this out.
Candice LeRae def. Mia Yim, Io Shirai, and Bianca Belair
Cameron Grimes def. Sean Maluta
Roderick Strong def. Velveteen Dream (TITLE CHANGE)
Pete Dunne def. Arturo Ruas
Xia Li def. Aliyah
Lio Rush def. Oney Lorcan
Triple H’s motivational speech style intro was everything you’d expect, and Mauro Ranallo did the ‘to camera’ intro for commentary. Full Sail has had a bit of a rearrange/makeover, but it’s recognisable.
Io Shirai vs Bianca Belair vs Mia Yim vs Candice LeRae – Number One Contenders match
Opening the show proper with a women’s fatal four-way is a bold statement from NXT, but when you have these four women in your locker room, why wouldn’t you. LeRae wanted Shirai before the bell but ended up tangling with Belair early on. All four showed exactly why they got to open the debut. They put on a hell of a match and I wouldn’t have a single argument with any result, but I am beyond thrilled that Candice LeRae got the pin with a reverse-rana and moonsault on Mia Yim.
Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke, and Marina Shafir met LeRae on the stage so Baszler and LeRae could go nose to nose. Candice LeRae will not be intimidated.
Sean Maluta vs Cameron Grimes
Lasted one single move. This one.
Velveteen Dream (C) vs Roderick Strong – NXT North American Championship match
Big characters capture attention quickly, so a Velveteen Dream match on the debut show was a good move. The match was great in its way, with Roderick Strong biding his time before making Velveteen Dream pay for his early arrogance. Strong’s matches almost invariably feel quite methodical, and the fact he controlled huge portions of this one really slowed the pace. Keeping it slow effectively stopped Velveteen Dream building any real momentum. He had moments of brilliance, and a couple of near chances, but it was looking bleak after he spent way too long in a Stronghold
The rest of Undisputed ERA arrived and surrounded the ring. Strong tripped Velveteen Dream into the ref. Velveteen Dream delivered a Dream Valley Driver while the ref was down and dealt with Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly, then kicked out of an End of Heartache that the ref came to just in time for. Another Dream Valley Driver put Strong down for the Purple Rainmaker, but when Velveteen went up for it, Adam Cole superkicked him in the face and a second End of Heartache finished him off.
Undisputed ERA now hold all the men’s gold in NXT.
The first five minutes of the network hour were a recap of the first hour and the announcement that Candice LeRae will take her title shot in two weeks.
Pete Dunne vs Arturo Ruas
Dunne is a full-time NXT member now, which is great because the Full Sail crowds love him. Ruas was an interesting opponent for him as well, spectacularly fast and impressively technical, which gave Dunne the opportunity to show something a bit different. An entertaining mix of beautiful technicality and precise strikes which was a lot of fun to watch. In an unusual turn of events, Dunne got his fingers snapped by Ruas, but Dunne got his own back later, while he was tapping Ruas out. Fantastic match, I hope they do it again.
Dakota Kai is back next week. That’s excellent news. The NXT women’s division is ridiculously strong.
Xia Li vs Aliyah, with Vanessa Borne
Aliyah’s character issues have led to her becoming rather underrated, but she had no answer for Xia Li once she got going. The match was extremely brief. Xia Li has probably the fastest feet in the women’s division and she put them to good use and got an important win. Li is in the lower part of the women’s division at the moment only due to inexperience, and she improves on every outing. She did make an error in this one, she slipped on the ropes and fell down, but she got up and carried on for the win. It will be interesting to see if she’s ready to start her rise through the ranks.
Kushida vs Denzel Dejournette was the scheduled match, but Imperium, minus WALTER, turned up and beat up Dejournette before Kushida could appear. Then WALTER came out and introduced them. They are in NXT to restore the order and tradition of the sport.
Kushida finally arrived and said it was his time. He took care of Wolfe, Aichner, and Barthel, then went briefly one on one with WALTER. Kushida left the ring when the rest of Imperium made it back into the ring. WALTER vs Kushida will be fun.
Oney Lorcan vs Lio Rush – Cruiserweight Championship Number Contenders match
The integration of a 205 Live storyline is an interesting choice for the debut episode. Mauro Ranallo gave Rush props for speaking out about his mental health while the crowd welcomed Rush back to NXT.
The match was fast-paced. Lorcan destroyed Rush when he could get hold of him, but Rush gave him the run around for a good while after the initial exchanges. Once he’d grounded Rush it was all Lorcan, but he couldn’t keep him grounded, despite doing obvious damage to his knee. A springboard stunner got Rush back into it, and Lorcan’s series of submission attempts failed to make him tap. Rush got the pin with a Spanish fly followed with a frogsplash.
Matt Riddle vs Killian Dain – Street Fight
This was a fun street fight. They were out in the crowd and using the furniture. They took a trip through the backstage area and went outside and then chaos erupted. WALTER was the first to get involved, followed by the rest of Imperium, then the rest of the roster joined in. Dain and Riddle made their way back to the ring and everyone else followed. The show closed out with a mass brawl in and around the ring and Killian Dain diving onto half a dozen people. Ridiculous, but fun.
After the show went off air, William Regal set a rematch for next week.
The match cutaways for ad breaks are annoying, and the tv ‘hour’ feels very short (around 45 minutes once it hits network). There were a few recaps, and Damian Priest got an intro package, but the debut tv hour felt very much like an episode of NXT. We got two great matches and a squash.
The second hour was strong as well. Mixing in the 205 Live storylines adds a bit of depth (while seemingly being the final nail in 205 Live’s coffin), and Imperium is an interesting addition. There’s quite a lot for NXT fans to be excited about.
Overall, the format changes haven’t altered NXT beyond recognition, not yet anyway.