Look, it’s not my fault. When I started a column for Uproxx Sports premised on NXT and AEW Dynamite sharing one night, I didn’t know they were going to be on different nights for weeks on end. Last week, AEW was on Saturday, which happened to be when NXT was having a TakeOver. This week, AEW was on Thursday night, and next week NXT’s on Tuesday. I’m just trying to keep up. Welcome to Wednesday Night’s Alright (plus sometimes other nights, too) on Uproxx Sports.
Shocking Departure: Karrion Kross
Karrion Kross apparently separated his shoulder in the match with Keith Lee at TakeOver XXX, so he had to open this week’s NXT by relinquishing the NXT Championship. Of course, Kross doesn’t talk like regular people talk, but he managed to convey what had happened, and that even though he might enjoy the pain of his injury, he knows NXT won’t let him defend, so he has to go heal up. It’s impressive how much they managed to keep him in character for this segment, but it was still impossible to avoid feeling a little bad for the relentless pitiless monster with the separated shoulder.
As for the title, William Regal filled us in later that a new NXT Champion will be decided in an hour-long, four-way Iron Man Match between Johnny Gargano, Finn Bálor, Adam Cole, and Tommaso Ciampa. So somebody who’s been NXT champion before soon will be again, and it won’t be Keith Lee because he lives on Raw now. This should be a fun match, and will almost certainly last longer than an hour because two guys will be tied. That’s how these things go.
It looks like Cody is going to be taking time off to sell his kayfabe injuries from last week’s beating at the hands of Mr. Brodie Lee and the Dark Order. Cody’s obvious really important to AEW, but I think it’s a good move to keep him out of sight for a while. It will give other performers more room to shine, especially without those weekly 20+ minute TNT Championship Open Challenge matches.
NXT’s Jake Atlas will also have to be off TV for a while after what Tommaso Ciampa did to him, but let’s save that for the next section…
Nefarious Heel Behavior: Tommaso Ciampa beats Jake Atlas to a pulp
Tommaso Ciampa beat Jake Atlas like Atlas was a sewer juggalo and Ciampa was Vengeance. He squashed him in the ring, and then destroyed him outside of it, culminating with Jake’s face being driven into the underside of the ring. And then Ciampa just sat there while medics scurried around hoping to save Jake’s career.
So with this return, Ciampa’s Face/Tweener time is done, and this is the return of the absolutely brutal “Sicilian Psychopath” Ciampa. And this is Ciampa who’ll be sharing a ring with Gargano, Cole, and Bálor on Tuesday. I don’t know that he’ll win that match, but it will definitely be twice as violent just by him being there.
The long-simmering tension between the Young Bucks and Hangman Adam Page started to come to a head this week, when Hangman grabbed Nick Jackson’s ankle and stopped him from doing a springboard that would have kept Matt from getting pinned by Trent. The only reason I didn’t put this above Ciampa is that I’m not convinced Adam Page is the heel. Interfering in a match to make your friends lose because they’ve been annoying you lately is absolutely a heel move, but the Young Bucks so often seem like jerks in their interactions with Page, and didn’t come off any better later in the show when they confronted Hangman about his actions.
It looks like Santos Escobar has a loaded lucha mask, which is a pretty weird way to cheat when you’ve just recently decided to wrestle maskless, but I appreciate the innovation.
Disappointing Women’s Booking: Shotzi Blackheart and Mia Yim barely get started
Shotzi got to run over Robert Stone with her tank again, which I think everybody except Stone can enjoy. Then she had an impromptu match with Mia Yim, which was just starting to get really good, and then ended after like three minutes. The NXT women were also in the main event with a strong match this week, so I can’t complain about that division in general. But I really did want to see Shotzi and Mia really go at each other for a while.
Not to be outdone, AEW also had a supremely short women’s match, but of course it was the only one on their show. That was the handicap match with Big Swole taking on Rebel/Reba and Penelope Ford, who were fighting on behalf of Britt Baker. By winning the match, Swole won the right to whatever kind of match she wants with Doctor Baker at All Out, by which time Britt’s expected to be healed and cleared for in-ring action. That should be a good match, and I’m looking forward to it. This match was short and sloppy, and Rebel’s wrestling in particular is what it is, and what it is is not great.
Best Promo: Jon Moxley
I’m sorry, but there’s no denying it: Jon Moxley is cool. I don’t know how he does it either. Yes, on one level he is a kind of pug-faced 30-something man with thinning hair. But somehow, at the same time, he’s Cry-Baby. He’s the Leader of the Pack. He’s the Fonz. He can just slouch lazily in a chair while MJF energetically fumes at him, and Moxley seems like the coolest guy in the world. Compared to MJF, he’s Chris Isaak.
So it’s even better when Moxley outsmarts his opponents. Like here, when he is forced to sign a contract for a title match in which he won’t be allowed to use his finishing move, the Paradigm Shift, but he’s added an extra page to everyone’s contract, so now Moxley gets a run at Mark Sterling, MJF’s lawyer, and can Paradigm Shift him as much as he wants. So whatever happens at All Out, Moxley at least gets to have fun next week.
The Dark Order had a whole segment where they had a mock funeral for Cody, and then Brodie Lee formally introduced Anna Jay as a member of the group, and “the Queenslayer” which is an impressive if ambitious title for her. I will never pass up a chance to listen to Brodie Lee talk.
The Order came back later to offer a job to Anna Jay’s partner in the recent Women’s Tag Team Tournament, former NXT Superstar Tay Conti (apparently WWE only copyrighted the “nara”). So if Tay’s going to be in the Dark Order, surely that must mean she’s signing with AEW? And if there’s any reason at all for her and Jay to stay a team, doesn’t that imply that the women’s tag division is going to be a thing going forward (and hopefully have belts?). Don’t mind me, I’m just getting my hopes up out loud.
Candice LeRae showed up to talk about Tegan Nox and whether or not they’re still friends. In contrast to psychos like Ciampa and cult-leaders like Brodie, I really enjoy the human scale of Candice’s villainy. She and Johnny aren’t world-conquerers and you probably couldn’t even call them “evil.” They’re just bad people. Petty jerks who take their failings out on others and don’t let things go. They’re all of us, on our worst days.
Best Match: Imperium vs Breezango
Breezango deserved this. Those two guys aren’t just funny and handsome, they’re genuinely great wrestlers, and them being champs is awesome, as was this match. Imperium have no sense of humor and like hurting people, which makes them perfect villains for Chaotic Good heroes like Breezango. Fandango did great work here as a Face in Peril, and Tyler got the most out of those hot tags. But in the end, it was Fandango who got the pin. I’d like to see these two hold the belts for a little while, and build up some new teams along the way.
As for Imperium, they’re no doubt returning to NXT UK when it comes back next month, and will probably take those Tag Titles sooner or later.
Santos Escobar had a great Cruiserweight Title Defense against Isiah “Swerve” Scott, with all the excitement you want from that division, plus added tag team run-ins. Then there was the ending, with Escobar putting on a lucha mask and delivering a head butt, which I’m sure we’ll get more on soon.
The strongest match on AEW Dynamite was the Young Bucks vs the Best Friends, which was one section of the Tag Team Gauntlet. This was where Hangman Page grabbed the ankle, but it was a lot of fun even outside of that drama bomb.
Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley also teamed up to take on Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez in the Main Event of NXT, which was another really excellent match, with plenty of “real team vs people who don’t like each other” storytelling. The Robert Stone Brand also got involved, with Mercedes Martinez pulling Ripley off the apron and into the steel steps. It’s clear that Rhea’s going to have to deal with Robert Stone (and presumably fight Mercedes) before she can go on to accomplish anything else, because they’ll never stop bothering her.
That’s all for this week. Next’s week things still aren’t normal, schedule-wise but at the very least this column should be out on Thursday again.