Welcome everyone to the second edition of ‘On the NXT Level’, I am your columnist, Daniel A.J Barker, and what a week we've had from the yellow brand. This is going to be a mix of review and preview. Just to mention that it's taken longer to piece together the full show. For anyone outside the United Kingdom, you're likely not aware that it requires costly avenues these past few months to enjoy NXT at a reasonable time.
Seriously, even on the WWE Network, British viewers have to wait an entire week for the latest episode to be made available. I don't think anyone here on WNS is going to be pleased with me doing a piece based on developments over a week behind. It is worth the effort, not solely to do the column but to stay in the loop.
Reigning NXT champion Adam Cole, North American Champion Keith Lee, Johnny Gargano, and Fin Balor were embroiled into an extremely interesting segment on Wednesday. Last week Adam Cole was given a message by Karrion Kross, which turns out not to be the only avenue at play here. Each of these four men confronted one another giving solid arguments, motivations, and intentions.
Anyone who's followed my writing whether here or elsewhere can vouch that I've always maintained that these championships need to be regarded with importance, always. WWE has had a long lineage over the past couple of decades in treating them as mere props and that attitude has poured into the creative process. You can just tell the belts are an afterthought.
William Regal gave an announcement on-screen that made both my ears prick up like a Border Collie, that Keith Lee would defend the North American Championship against Balor & Gargano, next week in a triple threat. The winner would then go onto challenge Adam Cole in a winner takes all bout on July 8th.
I've mentioned an article in the future pitting AEW efforts and compare to NXT, and vouched it would spill out generally into these weekly columns. I can't deny stating that the booking here is so impeccably solid. Everybody involved looked great and there are layers at work. There are potential contenders for either belt inside and outside the ring.
I'm more sold on next Wednesday's triple threat than any other championship match occurring between now and July 8th. Of course, at that time, Adam Cole will challenge whoever is North American champion. You can see so different paths that can be taken which makes watching more worthwhile.
Ever since Drake Maverick got given the contract by Triple H, that good feeling didn't last long. The guy is having a hell of a time. The current Cruiserweight champion, Escobar, is showing his true colors and comes across a solid heel. I'm hoping the 'leader of leaders' phrase doesn't get repeated. A bit of a tongue in cheek remark, the weakest point of his promo.
Escobar's reasoning behind his actions is understandable. Adults like heels more because they see the logic behind the words. He doesn't want to follow the tradition of being a traditional luchador. That's not what his intentions are at all. His name must exceed the mark, be a stand-alone prescience, as he is. That's his motivation.
Drave Maverick got turned on the episode a week prior and on Wednesday sought revenge. The most over he's looked in recent memory for me. I doubt he'll take the title off the champion, especially when Escobar has the numbers advantage in his corner. It will look like a classic obnoxious bad vs the scrappy and resilient good guy when it does come to fruition.
The women's side of the equation was certainly interesting. Aliyah got the roll-up pin on Xia Li after Robert Stone puked up in the ring and caused a not so intentional distraction. This pin appeared to be botched. If it was, they did a good a job as any to quickly rectify by switching from leveraging the back to focussing on keeping Xia Li's arms pinned to the mat.
Mia Yim engaged in a brawl with Candice backstage, after Candice got in Keith Lee's face. I am pretty sure the first container shot that hit Candice hurt worse than it should have. After rewinding a few times, it is a give or take situation with how well she managed to protect herself. I even felt it and I'm quite a way away peering through a screen.
Nothing like a good old fashioned slugfest involving attractive ladies, eh?
Kayden Carter suffers a submission defeated to Dakota Kai. Jaqueline Gonzales as Kai's manager comes off ok, I don't see it lasting too long. I have seen Kai perform in the other female predominant promotions around five or six years ago. The stakes are higher in NXT granted, she isn't a talent I'd assume would be partnered up with an enforcer.
Sasha Banks and Bayley defended the WWE Women's tag titles, defeating Nox & Blackheart. At one stage it felt like a battle between the blue hair and the green hair. Thanks to Bayley helping Sasha turn the tides for her to escape a submission and apply her own (nicely done by the way), the match was theirs.
Io Shirai then came down to the ring and gave Sasha and Bayley their physical marching orders. It's her territory and she is establishing dominance. Obviously we haven't seen the last of this feud.
A triple threat for the NXT Women's title is the logical approach to take and would benefit Shirai a lot to successfully defend it. Let's wait and see.
I'm going to end the column on these segments. The Undisputed Era took Roderick Strong to a 'psychiatrist' to get over the trauma caused by Dexter Lumis. The Doctor, who looked remarkably like Kyle O'Reilly in disguise, encouraged Strong to confront his fears. Following this session, the Undisputed Era was unsuccessful in convincing their comrade to go near the trunk of the car.
A nice combination of silly comedy, complimented with elements to continue character progression. It felt worth watching. Heaven knows some of the larger brand skits make me want to lose the will to go on...
Timothy Thatcher is doing promos revolving around training wrestlers in the ring. These are really good, I mean really good. His technical prowess is nothing short of excellent and seeing a segment link directly to his abilities is a well-formulated idea.
There's something about Thatcher on camera. BELIEVABLE is the word that comes to mind. He looks ready to move up the ranks. But alas, I don't want him to or a lot of the roster going anywhere for that matter.
Does that make me selfish? Pssh, yeah!
Selfish and insecure they'll be underappreciated under the 'other' creative light.
To this day I struggle to forgive WWE for promoting NXT talent and completely dropping the ball. It happens. You know it, I know it, Triple H knows it.
Here I am blabbing away, I need to ask a single question, what are your thoughts?
We are looking to do Q&A sessions. Feel free to contribute a question on the comments section, Facebook, Twitter, or ask them directly.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, find my new Twitter profile @danielajbarker1, or track my Facebook page @danielajbarker.
Until we meet again next week, take care.