NXT was back in town so I figured I’d check them out again after last year’s show. This time Undisputed Era was in town unlike last year, along with new additions to NXT in Matt Riddle, Keith Lee, and Kushida. Here’s how things went down:
The Street Profits vs The Outliers
The Street Profits are saw perfect opening act for a house show with their energy and playfulness. You can’t say enough about Montez Ford’s talent to entertain and Angelo Dawkins had rounded into a fine partner for him. Ford is a future singles star but I hope they get a good run together on the main roster first.
Their opponents the Outliers were accompanied by a manager, Robert Strauss. Strauss and Stokely Hathaway are hopefully going to revive a role that could be very useful going forward. This match was standard tag team stuff – hot start by the Profits, Outliers got the advantage, then the big comeback before the finish – but well done by everyone involved. Profits pick up the win here.
Keith Lee vs Punishment Martinez
The surprise match of the night. I haven’t been big on Martinez since he was in Ring of Honor but he really showed out here. This match was just great, two big guys just wailing on each other with strikes and power moves. Lee’s agility for a man his size is just tremendous. The finish was one of those standup strike exchanges that can often get ridiculous but in this case it finally made sense because both guys collapsed. Martinez fell on top of Lee and got the surprising win.
NXT Women’s Title Match: Shayna Baszler (c) vs Kacy Catanzaro
Baszler has come a long way in a year both in the ring and projecting her personality to the audience, and Kacy is progressing pretty well too even though she’s still more of spot wrestler right now. The two worked really well together mixing Kacy’s athleticism and Baszler’s mean, brutal style. Kacy put up a good fight and hit some cool stuff but she got caught in Shayna’s finisher (I don’t know how to spell it, sorry) like they all do.
Intermission time came next, then….
Submission Match: Kushida vs Drew Gulak
They teased this on NXT TV last week but I didn’t think it would come this quick. Gulak is a good choice for this kind of thing, though. They put a good match with lots of counters back and forth, but they could have stood to go a few more minutes in my opinion. Kushida is a great wrestler, as is Gulak, but to be honest I think he should be an NXT lifer instead of hitting the main roster because I don’t think he’s gonna translate well to the main roster audience.
Roddy Strong and Kyle O’Reilly vs Danny Burch and Orney Lorcan
Bobby Fish had his arm in a sling and didn’t come down to ringside with them; poor guy has terrible luck. These two teams had a fabulous match at Takeover Chicago last year and put on another really good one here. They all work so well together and you can just run this back a million times. This match was another match that was worth the ticket price itself.
From the looks of things they may have shot something for TV here because one of the Forgotten Sons (I forgot which one; I’ll be here all week, thank you) came down the aisle and distracted Strong and enabled Burch and Lorcan to get the win. Great match as always with these guys. As for the hints at the Undisputed Era breaking up, judging by the T-shirt count in the building I’m guessing that it’s not going to actually happen (especially if Fish has to miss any significant time).
Io Shirai and Candace LeRae vs Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir
Duke and Shafir were accompanied to the ring by Shayna Baszler, and she stayed on the the ramp to watch which of course was a tell that something was about to go down. This was a relatively short-lived match, standard stuff until Baszler got involved. LeRae and Io are both very good but Duke and Shafir got a ways to go before anyone can even think about doing the 4 HW vs 4 HW feud. (Personally I don’t think it’s going to ever happen; any of the 4 HW of NXT ever doing a job to Duke or Shafir is just way too unrealistic to expect). I don’t know if this was being taped for TV or not, but the highlight of it was the fight that broke out between Io and Baszler that spilled into the crowd. Both ladies kept it up well and it’s good that they’re putting some heat into this feud and not just leaving at having a match.
And now it’s time for the…..
Main Event – North American Title Match: Velveteen Dream (c) vs Adam Cole vs Matt Riddle
Just a year ago, Dream was in a midcard match here with Ricochet and now he’s main eventing while Ricochet is on the main roster. All three guys got big reactions from the crowd and at different times got their names chanted; Dream even gave his glasses to a kid in the front row a la Bret Hart.
The match itself was very good. All three guys did well but I was particularly impressed with Riddle. The man is so much more than a ‘MMA guy’, he’s a really good in ring worker. Things did get a little too, how can I say it, selling impaired in some spots but it didn’t get too ridiculous. At one point Dream brought a chair in and I had to remind myself that Triple Threats are no DQ. A ‘Momma Mia!’ chant broke out after one sequence which is either great or terrible depending on how you feel about Mauro. Dream retained the title by pinning Cole, and after the match addressed the crowd and thanked us all for coming out. I will say that this year the main event did not feel like as much of a foregone conclusion as last year. I mean, you know the title isn’t changing hands at a house show but last year Andradae was already headed to the main roster so there was zero chance of suspense.
I’m almost done but I would be remiss if I didn’t give a few thoughts about something else, namely:
How will they do on the main roster?
There are definitely some people who I think are sure to do well: Dream, the Street Profits, and Shayna Baszler. I think Riddle has a chance to do big things. But I’m not sure about some of the others. Kacy Catanzaro is going to be doing spots in Royal Rumbles and Money in the Bank matches for years. Undisputed Era are your quintessential ‘Way over with NXT/indie/hardcore fans’ act that the main roster audience just may not find all that impressive. Same for Candace LeRae and Keith Lee. As great as they are in the ring you need more than that to get over on the main roster and I’m going to see more from all of them than they’ve shown us so far. Kushida I already mentioned but I’d put Burch & Lorcan and Martinez in that boat also. It’s not as simple as you may think it is.
Really good show, better than last year’s which was good itself. As I’m sure you’ve heard NXT is a different product than the main roster and that goes for the house shows, too, but a great time can be had at both. Despite what I think about anyone’s main roster prospects they all put on a good show here. If you get a chance to check one out I do recommend it.