Sports

Wednesday Night’s Alright: NXT Running Unopposed

Welcome to Wednesday Night’s Alright, my Uproxx Sports recap of the big events from wrestling’s biggest night, when AEW Dynamite on TNT goes up against WWE NXT on USA. At least, that’s what usually happens. This week AEW was pre-empted by the NBA, so NXT was all we had.

Exciting Arrival: Jessi Kamea

Admittedly, Jessi just appeared to job to Dakota Kai as part of the build to Kai’s TakeOver match with Io Shirai. Still, she’s so much fun and has so much charisma in her appearances on the WWE Performance Center YouTube channel that I’m always happy when she shows up. She used to have a Nerd gimmick, but she’s traded it in for the standard WWE Women’s Division “hottie with colorful hair” deal, which is kind of a shame, but like, I get it. Nobody’s going to look at the post-NXT, pre-heel-turn careers of Bayley and Sami Zayn and think that being a nerd in WWE is a good idea.

Anyway, hopefully in time we’ll see more from Jessi, but this week she gets roundly pummeled by Dakota Kai, leading into a confrontation with Io Shirai and the return of Kai’s strapping henchwoman, Raquel González. I liked that Dakota has Raquel’s help against Io only after showing that she could defeat somebody like Jessi without any help. Kai exists outside the coward/capable dichotomy of WWE heels, which makes her a lot more fun to watch.

Nefarious Heel Behavior: Cameron Grimes

All Grimes really did this week was show up during the main event, act obnoxious, and sit atop a ladder. The thing is, though, Cameron’s very good at being obnoxious. Everybody makes fun of him, but I have to admit at this point I’m on board with his backwoods carny gimmick. He’s not just another simple hillbilly in wrestling, he’s the guy who runs a Museum of Oddities out of the back of his filling station. The guy who says, “Behold, the legendary unicorn!” and then shows you a goat with a missing horn. I don’t know what the future holds for him and his top hat, but right now I’m enjoying it.

Runners Up

Well of course Candice LeRae interfered with Johnny Gargano’s match against Ridge Holland. Although that didn’t keep Johnny from taking a really scary-looking bump in that mach, it did help him win. Then Johnny showed back up after Cameron in the main event, causing general chaos as the whole thing descended into that pre-gimmick-match Go-Home Show brawl that they love to do. There was another big heel on this show, but we’ll get to him in the next category.

Thing I Could Have Done Without: Still not feeling Pat McAfee

Look, I don’t want to be a jerk about this. Pat’s promo this week certainly wasn’t bad, nor was Adam Cole’s response. I’m just bummed out that they’re doing this angle at all. Non-wrestling athletes and personalities getting involved in angles and having matches on big shows used to be the exclusive domain of the Main Roster. It was the sort of thing we thought of NXT as too good for. NXT was the brand about wrestling, not guest stars from football and boxing. Now here we are: NXT’s on USA, there’s heavy competition for ratings, and the former longest-reigning champion in NXT history is fighting an NFL punter turned podcaster. It’s not what I want.

Runners Up

Speaking of bummers, we can see now for sure that Velveteen Dream is still a major player on NXT, despite, you know, all that. I want to believe that WWE knows more than we do, that it’s absolutely clear to them that the accusations against Dream are false. I want to believe that, but WWE has given me no good reason to trust them in these matters. So here I am watching Velveteen Dream, whose wrestling I used to really enjoy, and think “Gosh, I really hope he’s not a sexual predator, because if he is he’s definitely getting away with it.”

Best Promo: Johnny Gargano

I’m including an online-only promo this week, since we’re short on content. And anyway, this is great heel stuff from Johnny and Candice. I recommend watching it twice — once to focus on Johnny, and again just to watch Candice’s face as she reacts to every single word he says. There’s something about these two as a heel couple that’s different from Johnny and Taya in Impact or Miz and Maryse in WWE (or even Johnny and Miz in WWE), and I think I’ve put my finger on it. Johnny and Candice are a good-looking couple, but it’s never about that with them. They don’t present themselves as glamorous people we should be jealous of. They’re nasty little rat people who fight dirty and are too disconnected from reality to be enviable. You don’t want to be them, you just want to get away from them before they decide you’re in their way.

Runners Up

Tegan Nox clearly hasn’t figured out that she should stay away from Candice, since she gives a backstage interview about how she wants to spend time with her and try to patch up their broken friendship. I don’t think that’s going to go well for you Tegan, but I do look forward to the match it immediately leads to.

Dakota Kai also did a nice job of calling out Io Shirai, doing her best to refute what Io said last week about Kai still being a scared little girl. I love a heel who’s confidence is in question even if her bravado never lets up.

Best Match: Aliyah and Mercedes Martinez vs Rhea Ripley and Shotzi Blackheart

The biggest head-bangers of the post-Ruby Riott NXT Women’s Division teamed up to take on the Robert Stone Brand, and it was great. Rhea and Shotzi work well together, but the dynamic I’m really feeling is between Aliyah and Mercedes. Aliyah kind of fawns over Mercedes while Mercedes barely seems to notice Aliyah, or Robert for that matter. It’s clear that Stone and Aliyah realize that Mercedes is their ticket to wins and cash, and that they need her more than she needs them. This angle could be just the thing to build Mercedes up while justifying her losses, until eventually she beats up Aliyah and Robert and goes on a hell of a run by herself.

Anyway, this was a fun match with enough talent divided between three of its participants to more than make up for the fourth. NXT’s women’s division can seem overcrowded at times, but the matches and most of the storylines continue to be impeccable.

Runners Up

Breezango teamed up with Isaiah “Swerve” Scott to face all three members of Legado Del Fantasma, and that match was really good too. I’ve been a fan of Swerve since he was Killshot on Lucha Underground, and he meshes nicely with Breeze and Fandango, two talented wrestlers who are clearly thrilled to get to wrestle on a weekly basis. I assume this is leading to a singles match between Swerve and Santos Escobar (Killshot vs King Cuerno!), and I’m definitely looking forward to that one too.

That’s all for this one-show Wednesday. I know this isn’t the last time Wednesday Night Wrestling is going to be reshuffled by so-called “legitimate” sports, but we’ll figure it out as we go along

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