Review: NXT TV #449, #450, #451 (Aired May 16, 23, & 30)

#449

Tommaso Ciampa & Candice LeRae Promo Fantastic heel promo that uses Ciampa’s arrogance well as a tool in sustaining the story. LeRae grounds it all really nicely, with Ciampa continuing to keep the heat on. Really extraordinary segment, with interesting gender dynamics. ****3/4

Brandi Lauren vs Lacey Evans I think I like Lacey’s new music a lot better. Her old tune was really starting to grate on me. She continues to progress in the ring, too, but this match wasn’t even especially interesting as a squash. Evans is carrying herself really well, either way. Kairi Sane attacked Evans after the match, which is what it is.

Aleister Black Pretaped Interview I think Black has a steeply inverse relationship between how much he talks and how interesting he is. It’s not only that he’s not great at talking, but he’s got an intriguing aura about him the less he talks.

Dakota Kai Pretaped Interview (w/ Nikki Cross) Kai is playing such an interesting persona, as she’s got such a nervous energy about her (which you don’t often see). I love how Nikki interrupts here; she’s just a ton of fun. ***3/4

Velveteen Dream (vegetarian!) vs Ricochet It’s great how hot the crowd was for both of these guys. Nice well-paced start with great theatrics throughout, and a lot of athleticism from both guys. The non-finish for this was disappointing, but understandable as a means to an end. ***3/4

Raul Mendoza vs Kona Reeves Really good back-and-forth between the two, with Mendoza showing off some great striking. Lots to like in this one. ***3/4

Ricochet & Velveteen Dream Backstage Nice tension here, but nothing too compelling in itself. ***

Heavy Machinery & TM61 Backstage As much as I don’t like Heavy Machinery’s gimmick, they were obviously having fun. I liked TM61’s heeling here, and the segment is a solid build to a match between these teams. ***1/2

Oney Lorcan, Danny Burch, & Pete Dunne (vegan!) vs Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, & Roderick Strong (Undisputed ERA) Great intensity in this match, with non-stop action and interesting character-oriented spots. Really incredible stuff. ****1/2

#450

Tucker Knight & Otis Dozovic (Heavy Machinery) vs Nick Miller & Shane Thorne (TM61) Not bad at all. I feel like it actually moved a bit too fast, though. I also feel like TM61 looked surprisingly weak here. ***1/4

Bianca Belair Video Package I like Belair a lot, but I feel like this was kind of a nothing segment. To be fair, it was more of a tease for the next week’s episode.

EC3 Video Package Pretty good, but mostly just a simple update to stuff we’ve seen. ***

Kairi Sane vs Lacey Evans Really brilliant psychology at every moment of this, and a very competitive feel backed up by a solid build. I’m really concerned about what the result means, though. ***3/4

Gargano & LeRae Pretaped Interview Just a prelude to something Gargano’s going to say at Full Sail Arena.

Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch Interview Brief.

Undisputed ERA Pretaped Promo Adam Cole is already making excuses in delightful heel fashion. Kyle O’Reilly also stands out in this, but everyone does a great job of being obnoxious. ****1/2

Lars Sullivan vs Velveteen Dream (vegetarian!) & Ricochet Some cool spots, but I felt like the tempo was a bit off and some stuff looked a bit weird to me. I also just don’t really see the purpose of this match, and I found it kind of dull overall. It got more interesting towards the end, even if I didn’t think it made sense.

Dakota Kai Backstage Interview (Interrupted by Baszler) Kai pulls off earnestness really well here, and Baszler pulls off the more bullying role well too. Good, simple segment. ***3/4

Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae, & Tommaso Ciampa Promo The retirement tease just felt hollow. I’m not sure how anybody could buy into it, even if it was meant to get the crowd to encourage him (and it worked in that way). And I really don’t like the gender dynamics of it all. Anything that makes Candice a prop I’m really not okay with, and the bump she took was sold like she’s not a wrestler herself. So much of this segment was hard to buy, and some of it was hard to stomach politically. I just expect better from NXT in particular.

#451

Aleister Black & Lars Sullivan Promo I thought this was pretty weak and it sets up a fairly unexciting title match.

Rowe & Hanson (War Raiders) vs Cody Vincent & George Hixon Acceptable squash. Slightly better than average by that criterion.

Lacey Evans Backstage Interview I think Evans did a good job here, but needing to discuss her Woman’s Right finisher herself made it sound way sillier than when Mauro refers to it. It’s kind of a clever name for her finisher, but it’s also so close to being bad that it can sound awful pretty easily.

EC3 vs Fabian Aichner A fairly crisp match gets interrupted by Gargano’s contract for his match against Ciampa in Chicago. ***1/4

Bianca Belair Video Package It’s been clear that they’re turning her babyface, and they’ve given her a nice, sincere backstory to get her personality and history across. ***3/4

Ricochet vs Chris Dijak Really nice debut for Dijak (which I’ve been looking forward to after his amazing match vs Keith Lee in PWG), and Ricochet was definitely no slouch in this himself. Short match, but really good for the time it took. I hope Dijak gets a lot more airtime ASAP. ***1/2

Ricochet & Velveteen Dream Promo Great back-and-forth verbal battle between these two, with a spectacular finish to the segment. ****

NXT Women’s Championship Match: Dakota Kai vs Shayna Baszler (c) Fascinating psychology at play in this match. Brutal-looking, incredible action. ****

The Champ Gets Antagonized by Nikki Cross Really fun stuff, though it kind of comes off the rails (even by the standard of Cross being wacky). I look forward to the match. ***3/4

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