NXT returned last night (Mar. 11) from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Pure Hate

I’ve really bought into this new round of Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa.

Johnny Gargano delivered a promo from a PC conference room that was strong. Because it shined a light on what’s so odd about pro wrestling. Tommaso Ciampa was the big bad villain of NXT. He tormented Johnny for years. He disrespected the fans. But after a time away, with no signs of remorse nor apology, we’re OK suddenly cool with him when he came back?

That is odd, isn’t it? I understand where Johnny is coming from. If someone who tormented me in any sense was suddenly beloved by all without ever paying for his sins, that’d eat me alive. If that person was the good guy, I’d be the bad guy. Because without some type of contrition, there’s no way we’d be on the same side.

Their brawl was entertaining, and I’m a guy who doesn’t really care for backstage brawls. But they were making sure to lay it in and really sell how much they hate each other. Destroying the PC weight room was a night touch. Those poor new recruits are going to roll in tomorrow, and that place will be a mess.

In the end, Tommaso delivered an Air Raid Crash from the balcony through the announce desk. While I thought they may go with Johnny standing tall at the finish, ending it with both men taking each other out works too.

While I thought Johnny gave us a perfectly valid explanation to his actions, Mauro kept pushing that we still don’t “know why,” so it sounds like we’ll get a specific explanation. Not that this feud really needs it.


Another tough night

The Undisputed ERA are having a tough time.

Before Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish got their tag team title rematch, Velveteen Dream cut a promo on the entire faction. He revealed his endgame was always the title. He never cared about Roddy Strong. That was all just to set him off in order to orchestrate last week’s attack.

What a great angle. For one, it retroactively explains his heelish actions in that feud. Knowing that it was all to manipulate Strong to get what he wanted makes sense. It paints him as a smart & cunning, but also slots him back as more of a babyface.

The tag match itself between the BroserWeights and the ERA was fun. There was a lot of fun in-ring action, but my favorite moment was when Pete Dunne did his best Eddie Guerrero impression to convince the referee that Adam Cole hit him when he did not. (Matt Riddle getting involved and trying to sell the story was very entertaining.) It is a moment where we see Riddle’s influence affecting the Bruiserweight. Because that’s not something Dunne would have done before he met the Bro.

The Grizzled Young Veterans got involved and almost cost the Brosers the match. There was a nearfall there that I bit on. But the tag champs prevailed, keeping the gold away from the ERA.

In the end, it serves to set up the GYV vs. the Brosers at TakeOver, which should be a good match.


Triple Threat here we come

Keith Lee defended his North American title successfully against Cameron Grimes. It was a good match that allowed Grimes to look good but never really put across the idea that he was really a big threat to win.

Cameron utilized an offense that had the big man reeling, but it was always Lee’s to win. And sometimes, that’s how it should be. Keith’s a big deal. Competing as much as Grimes did is enough to help him look good.

After the match, Damian Priest attacked Lee with a night stick. This brought out Dominik Dijakovic, who ran off Priest. But when Lee came too, he only saw Dominik. So he delivered him a big time Spirit Bomb thinking he was the attacker.

This sets up the already pretty obvious triple threat at TakeOver. I’m still not feeling Priest much. He’s not bad, but he hasn’t found that gear that clicks with me. The other two have though and Priest can work so the match will be a banger of a hoss fight.

And now they’ve set up a reason for both Dominik and Lee to be mad at each other, which will make it more combustable.


Up a notch

Charlotte returned to NXT to respond to Rhea Ripley’s Monday night right hook. And she escalated it.

After cutting a promo about how Rhea doesn’t know what it’s like to have 80K chanting her name (though the way things are going, they’ll be wrestling in front of an empty stadium), a brawl broke out. And Charlotte got the upper hand. She knocked Rhea’s leg against the ring post multiple times before locking the figure four around the post.

This was a good angle in that this feud needed something more. On paper it’s good and the posturing prior was entertaining for awhile. But we need a little more. Adding an injury that the Queen can target presents a different layer to the story.

It could help present Charlotte as the crafty veteran that the champ needs to figure out. As long as they don’t over do it like the main roster did with Becky Lynch last year (and they probably won’t), it’s another angle to the program.


Again?

Once again, Mia Yim got the best of Dakota Kai. You know, the Dakota Kai who just won a big feud with Tegan Nox? Yeah, that’s right.

Honestly, this is another baffling one. They just established Raquel González as effective muscle for Dakota. Now this week, it was Raquel who was part of the reason she lost.

Now that’s not entirely fair. Throughout the match, González played her role perfectly and helped Kai multiple times. But in the end, it was the referee dealing with Raquel that ended up costing Dakota that mach. And that just doesn’t make sense in the grand scheme of thing.

Why set up Dakota to win the feud while establishing González as a force to be reckoned with to have them both lose just a week after beating Nox? Just have Nox go over if that’s the case. Because Kai isn’t any more elevated after this week than she was prior to winning last week. It’s amazing that they can’t seem to get this one right.


Other happenings

– Kushida defeated enhancement extraordinaire Raul Mendoza with the Hoverboard Lock in a fun match. Kushida’s injury late last year really derailed his push. It looked like he was destined for big things but that hasn’t been there since returning from injury.

– Raul Mendoza was KIDNAPPED! Color me intrigued on this type of angle that NXT doesn’t often run.

– Unlike her foe, Tegan Nox picked up a win against Deonna Purrazzo this week to qualify for the ladder match. She’s faring better than the woman who beat her twice in a row.


The last thing I’ll note was the Performance Center environment. Early on, I felt it was noticeable. It was like an indie show on TV. But by the end of the episode, I had forgotten about it. It didn’t affect the episode for me. Which is good because we may see many more shows from here in the near future.

Grade: B+

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