NXT returned last night (July 15) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.
New double champion Keith Lee opened this week’s episode by thanking people who have helped him along the way. One was his late trainer Tim Brooks, who believed in him when no one else did. Another was Dominik Dijakovic.
Lee acknowledged that his series of matches with Dom late last year elevated him to a place he hadn’t been. And that’s true. In fact, one could argue Keith was floundering prior to their matches. It was to the point that many, including myself, thought he was going to turn heel after a series of losses.
But his fortunes turned when he won his series with Dijakovic. And because of that, he wanted to defend both of his titles against his friend then and there.
The match itself was good enough. They have undoubted chemistry, but it never came close to touching the epic feel of their matches last year. That was by design though. Dominik told us why in a backstage interview when he pointed out that Lee is at a different level now than when they last fought. That’s a level that Dijakovic isn’t at right now.
In general, I’m not a fan of an impromptu title match like this. With midcard titles, it makes sense to defend them all the time. Those are the workhorse titles. But world title matches, and especially double title matches, should feel special. Even if it’s a match you pretty much know the outcome, a top title match should carry an excitement because it’s world title match.
Dominik Dijakovic didn’t do anything to earn an NXT title shot, and that’s something that should be earned. This would have worked just as well if Keith said he has free rein to make his own matches without Regal for the North American title and just defended that. But this is all a preference thing that I feel about titles.
The post match angle furthered the slow build to Karrion Kross vs. Keith Lee. As Dom and Keith were showing their respect to each other, the lights went out and a spotlight shone on Scarlett sitting on the stage. She walked to the ring with a burlap sack in hand and emptied the remains of the hourglass broken at the hands of the champ.
This is just another example of how NXT has nailed presenting Kross and Scarlett. There’s an ominous mood everywhere they go. They also work to not overexpose them. He’s rarely there front and center, but he’s often lurking. They’ve built a character who feels special and feels dangerous.
Kross later interrupted a Dominik Dijakovic post match backstage promo. This led to a brawl and a match next week. Looks like Karrion is going to brutalize Keith’s friend to send a message.
The main event of the evening was the advertised Women’s title match between Io Shirai and Tegan Nox.
It received the last quarter of the show and went pretty much to the end.
The beginning of the match, and much through the middle portions, it looked like this was Io’s game. It didn’t look like Tegan didn’t deserve to be there. Not at all. But it felt like Io was just on another level. That goes along with how they bill her as one of the best in the world. (And she is.)
It was an error leading to an injury that turned things around. Io tried to deliver double knees to the challenger outside the ring. However Nox moved and Shirai delivered the double knees to the steel steps instead.
That mistake cost Io that earlier advantage. She was no longer on a level above Tegan. Now Nox was able to take advantage, which lead to an exciting final five minutes where the challenger tried to realize her dream.
However, the champ is the champ for a reason. Shirai had her opponent scouted and when things looked bleak for Io as Tegan set up for the Shiniest Wizard, the champ responded with a sudden Shotei palm strike. This allowed her to deliver her moonsault for the win.
It was a clean win, with no interference from the likes of Candice LeRae as I predicted. Given Io Shirai is billed as one of the best there is, hanging with her for 30 is nothing to scoff at. Though I don’t know what program Nox could move into where she can get a big win to wash this taste out of her mouth. There’s Candice, but it feels like she would need to win that feud more. There’s Mercedes Martinez and Rhea Ripley, but again, they should probably be the ones to win that program. The NXT women’s division is a great place with a lot of special talent, but unfortunately for Tegan, there isn’t an obvious feud where she can build herself back up. NXT is good at this though so we’ll see what they come up with.
Someone who does have an obvious next feud is Io Shirai, who was attacked by Dakota Kai post match. Kai has been booked strong as of late and makes perfect sense for a longer program for the champ.
Damian Priest finally got his revenge on Cameron Grimes.
The Archer of Infamy found the groove he needed to find, and it looked like that groove involved more aggression. Priest game out of the gate with focus and intensity, an added level that the character needed.
As a heel, he was more cocky than focused. Now he’s finally has that focus, which helps his cause. Damian really did come out for the better after that loss to Finn Bálor.
Meanwhile, Cameron Grimes starting to find his own groove as an obnoxious heel. His trash talk mid match helps sell that. His feud with Priest has helped him find that character he needs to be so people want to see him lose.
Robert Stone got his revenge against Shotzi Blackheart for running over his leg with her mini tank last week.
Shotzi was in the middle of a match with newcomer Indi Hartwell. Hartwell looked good, but the match got to a point where it was Blackheart’s to take. That’s when my man hobbled out in a walking boot to distract his green haired antagonist.
During the distraction which also caught the referee’s attention, Aliyah pushed Shotzi off the top rope, allowing Hartwell to pick up a big singles win. I would think that means they plan to keep her around. Blackheart is established and picking up a win over her, even with Rob Stone interference, is not nothing. Indi looked good in the match and has a palpable attitude that works for a heel.
Meanwhile, Shotzi will be feuding with the RSB for a little. That’s not a bad thing. Rhea didn’t look any worse for feuding with the comedic Stone. The same will likely apply to Blackheart. Stone plays the joker while the ladies can just play their part as their variant of badass.
- Timothy Thatcher defeated Denzel Dejournette. However when he tried to lock his hold after the match, Oney Lorcan broke that up. Last week, Thatcher tried that with Lorcan, not releasing the winning hold until Oney screamed in pain. Clearly the intense Lorcan did not care for that, and this will lead to a rematch. Great! Their match last week was really fun.
The champs are strong in NXT. This was a solid fallout show from the Great American Bash.
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