Reviews

The John Report: WWE NXT 04/20/21 Review

Welcome to the WWE NXT review here on TJRWrestling. It’s the second episode on a Tuesday. Let’s roll.

This episode is taking place at the Capitol Wrestling Center at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Check out my WWE NXT review archive here.

The show began with the NXT theme song with highlights of NXT stars and then the new NXT logo was shown. They don’t always open with that, so it’s nice to start with something like that. The announce team is Vic Joseph, Beth Phoenix and Wade Barrett as usual. There were fans in the building behind the barricade as usual.

Let’s Hear from Kyle O’Reilly

Kyle O’Reilly made his entrance dressed casually with a hat on his head, a jean jacket and sunglasses. Kyle talked about how at NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver it was the biggest fight of his life. Kyle took off his sunglasses and hat saying that he feels more like himself now. Kyle said he always thought that this work and abilities in this ring will speak for themselves. Kyle said that now that Adam Cole is behind him, it’s time to move on. Kyle said to succeed here, you have to have a killer instinct and he found that killer instinct. Kyle said that you have to be willing to do everything and pay the sacrifice in this ring to achieve your goals. Kyle asked what’s his next challenge and objective? Should he challenge for the workhorse title, the North American Championship? Or does he go after a dominant force in NXT, the NXT Champion Karrion Kross? He was cut off after he mentioned Kross.

Cameron Grimes made his entrance saying he was there to say congratulations because Kyle showed that he can stand and deliver. Grimes claimed that he made a killing on Draftkings betting on Kyle because they thought Kyle was an underdog, but Grimes said that he was a top dog. Grimes said they can make some “Cool Kyle” sunglasses. Grimes suggested a possible NFT and Kyle coins. Grimes said that they can go “to the moon” with Kyle saying it at the same time. Kyle congratulated Grimes on all the success in the stonks and thanked him for the DOGE advice. Kyle said that he was officially cleared, then he put on his sunglasses and punched Grimes to let him know that he will have a match with him. That led to Cool Kyle putting his hat back on and celebrating.

Analysis: The stuff at the beginning of the promo was a little bit strange, but once Grimes got out there, Kyle was more comfortable with the promo. It was an easy way to set up a match between O’Reilly as a top face and a midcard heel like Grimes. They should do well in a match together since they are two of the best wrestlers in NXT. I think O’Reilly going after the NXT Title held by Karrion Kross makes a lot of sense, but having him face Johnny Gargano for the NXT North American Title would be awesome too. It’s a bit of an evolution for the Kyle O’Reilly character because now he’s more confident after beating Adam Cole at NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver. Cameron Grimes continues his role as the character that made a lot of money with stocks and he does well in that role.

They showed the arrival of Sarray earlier in the day as she shook hands with William Regal. Zoey Stark volunteered to step up to face Sarray, so Regal made the match for tonight.

LA Knight was backstage doing a promo talking trash about Dexter Lumis because they’re in a match up next.

(Commercial)

LA Knight made his entrance with Barrett putting him over as usual. Dexter Lumis entered and we got a replay of last week when Dexter carried Indi Hartwell to the backstage area after she faked that she was hurt.

LA Knight vs. Dexter Lumis

Knight with a shoulder tackle into a jackknife cover. Lumis was able to come back with a clothesline. Knight shoved Lumis back and knocked him down with a kick to the face. Lumis went for the Silence submission, but Knight managed to bail to the floor. Knight got back the apron, pulled on Knight’s arm against the top rope and hit a shoulder tackle, but then Lumis came back with a back body drop. Knight backed right into the ringpost after some creepy crawling from Lumis and then Lumis sent Knight back into the ring. Lumis charged, Knight moved, Lumis hit the turnbuckle and Knight hit a neckbreaker. Knight tossed Lumis to the floor leading to a break.

(Commercial)

The match continued with Lumis hitting a spinebuster. Lumis delivered punches, a bulldog, a belly-to-back suplex and a leg drop. Lumis hit a slingshot suplex for a two count. Knight with a thrust to the throat, Lumis tossed Knight out of the ring and Knight sent Lumis into the barricade. Knight drove Lumis back first into the apron. When Lumis was on the floor, he saw Indi Hartwell watching behind the barricade and Indi stared at him while slipping because she was nervous. Knight hit Lumis with a forearm to the head, sent Lumis into the ring and then Lumis jumped over the top onto Knight on the floor. Lumis was distracted by Hartwell staring at him, so Knight caught Lumis with a front neckbreaker for the pinfall win after ten minutes. The execution of the move wasn’t very good in terms of Lumis not coming close to the mat, but Lumis sold it anyway.

Winner by pinfall: LA Knight

Analysis: **3/4 It was a decent match with Knight picking up a much-needed win as he continues his ascent up the roster. They were booking Knight strong, then he failed to pick up some wins he needed, so this should help him. Lumis lost because he was busy staring at Hartwell, which you can use as an excuse to say Lumis shouldn’t hurt too much from losing this match.

After the match, Hartwell was on the apron while Lumis was in the ring. The fans were chanting “kiss” when The Way members Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae and Austin Theory stopped Indi with Theory carrying Hartwell to the back.

Leon Ruff did a promo about how he slammed Swerve Scott’s head into the locker last week. Ruff told Scott it’s his move now.

An interview with Io Shirai is up next.

A commercial aired for A&E’s Biography of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper this Sunday.

(Commercial)

Io Shirai Interview

Io Shirai was interviewed by Beth Phoenix in the backstage area. There was a TV screen as they showed Shirai’s NXT Women’s Title win last year. Shirai said that was the biggest night of her life and meant that she was the best. Beth talked about Raquel Gonzalez giving Shirai a big Powerbomb on the floor with Shirai saying she was hurt and lost a lot of energy. Shirai said that Raquel was her biggest and toughest challenge, but when the time is right, she will get her rematch. Shirai said until the rematch, she needs rest and said that she defended her title a lot over 300 days, so her body needs time. That led to Franky Monet showing up with her dog. Franky congratulated Shirai on an amazing title reign. Franky told Beth Phoenix she has been watching her since she was a kid. Money said that she was willing to fill Shirai’s shoes. That led to Shirai talking to her in Japanese. Franky said she didn’t understand, so Shirai goes: “I like cats.” That was funny. Franky held her dog in her hand and that was it.

Analysis: I thought Io did a pretty good job here. English isn’t her first language, but she speaks slowly and it’s easy to understand if you pay attention. I like how they had Franky Monet show up to show that she is going to be a big factor in the women’s division. Franky had a funny line saying she grew up watching Beth. The reason it’s funny is that Franky is only a few years younger than Beth, so it just came across as a disingenuous heel line. Plus, I think Franky is easy on the eyes, so I like seeing her on the screen.

Breezango were in the ring for their match. They were dressed like the Queen’s Guards with Barrett thanking them for dressing like that. They did that because they were against the British team known as the Grizzled Young Veterans with Zack Gibson doing a promo on his way to the ring.

Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) vs. Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango)

The GYV guys tried to do a cheap attack, so Breezango cleared the ring before the match began. That’s when the bell rang. Breeze started with Gibson, Fandango tagged in, Drake saved Gibson on a whip against the turnbuckle and then Gibson took over with a chinlock on Fandango. Gibson with an elbow to the back of the head of Fandango, Drake tagged in and Fandango managed to knock Gibson out of the ring. Breeze tagged in, Breezango with a double team kick to send Drake on the floor, Breeze kicked both opponents and then Fandango hit a somersault dive onto the heels on the floor.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Drake jumping off the top rope, Fandango avoided it and Drake was favoring the left knee. While the referee checked on Drake, Gibson did an eye poke to Fandango and Drake worked over Fandango to show that the knee was fine. Gibson was back in for a double-team dropkick into a slam for two on Fandango. Gibson with a chinlock, Fandango broke free and hit a spinning clothesline. Drake tagged back in against Breeze, who unloaded with stomps on Drake and a jumping kick to Gibson’s head. Breeze jumped off the apron with a forearm to Drake. Back in the ring, Breeze with a legsweep and Gibson went into the ring, so Drake got a rollup for two. Gibson tagged in and GYV hit the Ticket to Mayhem double team move with Gibson pinning Breeze for the pinfall win after about nine minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake)

Analysis: **1/2 A crafty win for the heel team of Grizzled Young Veterans, who did a fake knee injury spot to take control. Even though Breezango are former NXT Tag Team Champions, they don’t get pushed that well and usually are there to put over heel teams. I like the GYV works so well together and their double team finisher is one of the best in WWE right now.

Indi Hartwell was about to be interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell, but then other members of The Way showed up to stop it. Bronson Reed talked about how Dexter Lumis would be a great addition to the Gargano Family. Gargano reminded Reed that he already beat him. Theory talked to Reed saying that he talked to Regal and Theory will face Reed, so the only way Reed gets another title shot is if he beats Theory. Reed was happy about that while Gargano didn’t like it at all.

Zoey Stark made her entrance. Sarray was shown walking backstage because her debut is next.

(Commercial)

Cameron Grimes was interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell. Grimes said he bid on a Ja Morant NFT, but he got an extremely high bid that they accepted by…Ted Dibiase. Grimes ranted about Dibiase as he has done in the past.

Analysis: There was a recent interview with Dibiase saying he’s coming in for some NXT appearance soon, so that’s what they are building.

Sarray made her entrance for her NXT debut. They called her the “Warrior of the Sun” and she’s from Tokyo, Japan. I had heard of her before, but this will be my first time reviewing one of her matches.

Sarray vs. Zoey Stark

They shook hands to start the match to show it’s a babyface matchup. They locked hands, Stark had the leverage advantage, then Sarray took over a bit and hit a running dropkick followed by a double foot stomp onto her back. Sarray tied up Stark’s legs in a submission and then bridged back for like a reverse STF, but Stark got to the bottom rope. Stark with a back elbow to the head leading to a running clothesline for two. Stark with a suplex, then elbows to the head and a two count. Stark grounded Sarray by hooking Sarray’s arms behind her and Sarray broke free. Sarray sent Stark to the apron leading to a forearm and a low dropkick. Sarray worked over Stark with forearms, then Stark with a forearm and Sarray was fired up with about five more forearms until Stark hit a running knee. Stark ran the ropes, Sarray with a dropkick and Sarray hit a running dropkick. Sarray with a Fisherman’s Suplex (aka Perfectplex) for a two count. Stark came back with a spin kick to the head followed by a half ‘n half suplex and then a sliding knee to the face for two. Stark went up top, she jumped off with a 450 Splash and Sarray moved leading to Sarray getting rollup where she sat on top for two. Stark with a spinning kick to the head for two. Stark with a spinning heel kick, a forearm and hit an overhead Saito Suplex for the pinfall win after about eight minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Sarray

Analysis: *** That was pretty good for being under ten minutes and full of action. It made sense to have Sarray win in her NXT debut where the company treated her like a big deal. Those last few minutes were tremendous with Stark getting several nearfalls throughout the match and then Sarray managed to come back strong for the clean win. I thought this was a fun match for the time given. I expect Sarray to continue her winning ways as they build her up to be a threat in the division.

Post match, Sarray picked up Stark and they shook hands.

Zoey Stark was on the ramp after the match, so Toni Storm showed up to attack her and sent Stark into the barricade. Sarray checked on Stark and then Storm went to the back.

Raquel Gonzalez, the NXT Women’s Champion, and Dakota Kai were interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell. Raquel said if the women in the locker room want to step up, she’ll take them down one by one until there is nobody left standing.

(Commercial)

There was a backstage scene with Candice LeRae telling Indi Hartwell to not be distracted by boys, then Indi saw Dexter Lumis in a room so she stared at him. Candice didn’t realize that Indi was looking at Dexter. That led to Candice talking trash to Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart, the NXT Women’s Tag Team Champs let Candice know that Indi was there, and then Candice tossed a cup of water in Ember’s face. Ember and Shotzi knocked down Candice, took her in the room and beat her up or so we thought.

They showed highlights of Kushida winning the NXT Cruiserweight Title last week. They showed media clippings about it and Japanese wrestling media covering it as well. They had comments from NXT Producer Steve Corino talking about how happy he was for Kushida and they showed Kushida thanking the fans.

Analysis: NXT does a tremendous job of making title changes feel like a big deal. This was another example of that.

Kushida made his entrance with the NXT Cruiserweight Title around his waist. Kushida said that last week he won the title (from Santos Escobar) in an open challenge and tonight he will give the same opportunity. Kushida: “Who wants title shot?” It was Oney Lorcan, who is a former NXT Tag Team Champion.

NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Kushida vs. Oney Lorcan

Kushida was wrestling in trunks and barefoot with his feet taped up a bit. Kushida was wearing shoes and jeans in the past, then he went to tights and now he’s barefoot, so it’s a bit of a different look as Barrett pointed out. They did some mat wrestling to start as Kushida turned it into a move with his knees in the back. Kushida kicked Lorcan in the arm, Lorcan slapped on a side headlock and Kushida did a takedown into a cross armbreaker for two. Kushida charged at Lorcan, who was sitting on the turnbuckle and Kushida kicked him off the turnbuckle to the floor. That led to a break.

(Commercial)

Lorcan was in control as he pulled back on Kushida’s arms. Lorcan with a forearm, Kushida with a kick to the arm and Lorcan hit an uppercut for a two count. Lorcan with a running knee to the ribs for two. Kushida fought out of an abdominal stretch with elbows, then Lorcan charged and Kushida hit a running forearm to the face. Kushida with punches to the body, more kicks and a back elbow. Kushida jumped off the top with a double knee attack on the left arm. Lorcan came back with an uppercut and a blockbuster neckbreaker for two. Lorcan delivered several hard chops to the chest, Kushida with a punch into a cartwheel and a punch. Kushida kicked the left elbow of Lorcan and he locked in the Hoverboard Lock submission with Lorcan tapping out to give Kushida the win after ten minutes.

Winner by submission: Kushida

Analysis: ***1/4 This was really good with a lot of hard-hitting moves and they worked at a fast pace, especially in the last few minutes. Kushida kept going after the left arm throughout the match, Lorcan kept firing back with uppercuts/chops with the right arm, but in the end, it was Kushida applying his Hoverboard Lock finisher for the win. I don’t think Kushida is capable of having a bad match because they’re always going to give him around ten minutes and we know he’ll always put up a fight. It’s easy to like his matches.

Post match, Santos Escobar appeared on the stage, Kushida stared at him and the other Legado del Fantasma guys (Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza) attacked Kushida from behind. That led to NXT Tag Team Champions MSK showing up to save Kushida. MSK and Kushida cleared the ring of the heels.

Analysis: The three babyface champions stood tall in the ring. This was a fine way to set up a six-man tag team match for next week.

There was a backstage promo from Mercedes Martinez calling out Raquel Gonzalez. Martinez said that Dakota Kai barks the orders and Raquel follows her. Martinez said she’ll take out Dakota, and then nothing will stand in from of Mercedes’ way so she can go after Raquel’s title.

(Commercial)

There was a backstage discussion between Johnny Gargano talking to Austin Theory about Theory setting up his match with Bronson Reed. Candice LeRae showed up looking like she was beaten up. Indi Hartwell was happy to see Dexter Lumis earlier. Indi also said she saw Mr. Regal, who is giving them a Tag Team Title match. Gargano left his wife Candice, who was not happy about what happened to her.

Ever-Rise (Matt Martel and Chase Parker) vs. Imperium (Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel) w/Alexander Wolfe

Aichner with a belly-to-back suplex on Martel. There was a jawbreaker by Martel and Parker tagged in with Aichner hitting him with a fallaway slam. Barthel sent Parker into the turnbuckle. Aichner and Barthel each hit dropkicks on Parker. Killian Dain showed up to yell at the Imperium guys while Parker got a rollup on Aichner for two. Aichner with a huge clothesline on Parker and Aichner kicked Martel off the apron. Drake Maverick went after Wolfe and punched him, but then Dain carried Maverick to the back. Barthel tagged in for a double team uppercut into a Powerbomb for the pinfall win after about two minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Imperium (Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel)

Analysis: *1/2 A quick match to put over Imperium as future title contenders. The Dain/Maverick stuff was a bit distracting, but it was a follow-up from last week. I like Ever-Rise as a team, but it’s not their time right now. There are multiple heel teams for MSK to feud with right now with Grizzled Young Veterans, Imperium and Legado del Fantasma, so that’s a good situation for the tag team division.

Kyle O’Reilly was shown walking in the backstage area. As O’Reilly neared the steps to go onto the stage, he saw NXT Champion Karrion Kross standing by with the lovely Scarlett. They had a staredown.

Analysis: A sign of things to come? Most likely. Since NXT usually has two months apart for Takeover events, the next one is probably in June and they might go with Kross vs. O’Reilly as the main event there.

Kyle O’Reilly made his entrance for the main event.

(Commercial)

Here are some matches announced for next week:

* Dakota Kai vs. Mercedes Martinez

* Bronson Reed vs. Austin Theory – If Bronson wins, he earns a future North American Championship match.

* Kushida & MSK vs. Legado del Fantasma

Analysis: That’s a solid lineup for next week although no title matches announced yet. I expect Martinez to win the women’s match. I assume Reed beats Theory. Kushida & MSK vs. Legado del Fantasma is a bit of a tossup, but I think we might see Escobar pinning Kushida to set up a title match between them.

Cameron Grimes made his entrance.

Kyle O’Reilly vs. Cameron Grimes

They did some mat wrestling early with Kyle going for an armbar right away with Grimes fighting to get out of it. Grimes took over with a side headlock on the mat. Grimes with a running shoulder tackle, Kyle tripped him up and went back to an armbar on the left arm. Grimes with an uppercut, Kyle with a knee to the chest and he bounced off the ropes with a hard slap to the face. Kyle hooked the arm into a leg trip. Grimes went for a sunset flip, but that led to Kyle turning it into an armbar again and then Grimes got his feet into the ropes to break it. Grimes fought out of a submission move and hit a German Suplex with Kyle rolling to the floor leading to a break.

(Commercial)

Grimes was in control with a chinlock, then Kyle broke free and Grimes hit a clothesline. They were telling the story of Kyle dealing with a neck injury in the past, so Grimes was focusing on that. Grimes with a hard whip into the corner with Kyle taking a sternum bump against the turnbuckle. Grimes pulled back on Kyle’s head to cause more pain to the neck and then Kyle broke free with a knee to the ribs. Kyle wit ha barrage of knees to the body, kicks to the body and then a legsweep. Kyle charged with a running forearm, then he pulled on the left arm against the shoulder and a belly-to-back suplex. Kyle went for a submission, but Grimes got to the ropes to break it, so Kyle kicked the back of the left leg. Grimes with an elbow to the head and then Kyle countered a move into a Guillotine submission to choke out Grimes. Kyle with a hard knee to the face. Grimes came back with a spinning sitout slam for a two count. Kyle countered a suplex into a submission, Grimes countered that by going for a pin, but Kyle kicked out. They exchanged strikes with knees and forearms, Grimes with a kick to the head. Kyle bounced off the ropes right into flipping cross body block slam that Grimes does for a two count. That’s such a cool move. Grimes charged, Kyle with a kick, Grimes with a knee to the face and a superkick. Kyle bounced off the ropes with a huge clothesline. Kyle with a forearm to the face followed by a brainbuster. Kyle went up top and delivered a knee drop to the upper back for the pinfall win after about 14 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Kyle O’Reilly

Analysis: ***1/2 It was a very good main event match that got plenty of time. Both guys focused on a body part with Kyle targeting the left arm for most of the match while Grimes kept working on Kyle’s neck. When a match tells a story like that, it’s easy to get into it. I think the finish could have been a bit better with a submission move on the arm. I don’t know if Kyle is going to keep going with the knee to the back as a finisher because it feels like more of a setup move rather than a finisher. Anyway, it made sense for Kyle to win since they are clearly building him up as a likely NXT Title challenger.

Kyle O’Reilly celebrated the win and the show ended right at the top of the hour.

Analysis: In the past, NXT would go about five minutes past the top of the hour, but maybe that has ended now that they are no longer against AEW Dynamite. Last week they did the overrun on Tuesday. This week they did not.

 

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Kyle O’Reilly
  2. Cameron Grimes
  3. Kushida/Sarray

 

The Scoreboard

This week: 7.25 out of 10

Last week: 7.75

2021 Average: 7.48

 

Final Thoughts

It was a good episode of NXT with some quality matches, but nothing that special in terms of big moments. They are doing slow builds for certain characters. Kyle O’Reilly was featured a lot as the show opening promo and then beating Cameron Grimes in the main event in the best match of the night. They made a big deal out of Sarray’s in-ring debut and she had a fun match with Zoey Stark, who continues to impress. I thought Kushida looked impressive in his title defense. LA Knight got a meaningful win over Dexter Lumis although it wasn’t totally clean. Most of the matches were predictable on the show, so that hurts a bit because the audience can tell what’s coming.

I don’t think there’s a sense of urgency in the NXT brain trust that they need to put on huge matches week after week. They are going to slowly build up talent to set them up for Takeover shows every two months and it doesn’t mean we are going to get title matches all the time on NXT TV. Most of the champions in NXT were not featured that much this week. It was more about building up title challengers.

NXT remains a good show on a week-to-week basis. I just don’t know if they can hook the casual fans with shows like this. For us hardcore fans, we can enjoy it. Without big angles or surprises, it’s tough to get the casual fans that interested in the product. It’s not a complaint because I enjoy NXT for what it is. It’s just how I see it.

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John Canton

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