Is WWE still bad? For sure. Over the past week we’ve seen zero changes in their approach to COVID-19 and employee safety, or any further action taken against the remaining roster members accused of sexual assault. In fact, one of them seems to be getting a huge push on SmackDown right now, and doesn’t that just feel like absolute garbage.
But the WWE machine rolls on uncaring, like it’s done for 25+ years. This week, we saw night 2 of The Great American Bash, during a time period where the words “great” and “American” really feel oxymoronic together. While some of the matches felt a bit underwhelming when compared to last week’s stacked card, NXT still continues to prove that no matter how bad the company’s morals, how mismanaged the shows are, if you genuinely have enough talent on your roster, you can’t avoid turning out at least one banger.
LeSlaying the Competition
I love street fights, mostly because nothing is funnier than a wrestler’s idea of a “cool” “street” look. Tonight we were treated to Mia Yim’s dangling overalls, which felt actually more like a potential hazard in a match like this, and Candice LeRae’s fishnets, which miraculously didn’t even tear. Like, at all. Please, drop the link Ms. LeRae.
Yim and LeRae have had beef for weeks, and after last weeks fatal 4-way and their mixed tag match last month, we finally get see the two go one-on-one. The stipulation works really well here; even before the match starts, Yim digs under the ring to pull out as many chairs as the recruits managed to shove down there about twenty minutes ago. She hits LeRae with a kendo stick, and the two fight to the catering area, which is a very sad looking table covered in Party Mix and UTZ chips. In a fun spot, LeRae goes for a fire extinguisher and sprays Mia to keep her away, but the HBIC lands a dropkick that sends Candice through the depressing catering spread. Nobody is getting any kettle chips tonight.
They make it back to the ring, and Yim pulls brass knuckles out of her pocket that I guess she just didn’t think to use before this moment. Maybe she forgot they were in there and it’s like finding $5 in some jeans you just washed. She swings, but Candice holds up a chair, and Mia probably breaks her entire hand. LeRae steals the knuckles and lands a hard blow on the other woman’s head, then delivers a swinging neck breaker into a pile of chairs. She throws an arm over Yim to get the win.
An exciting opener to start things off! The bad news is it doesn’t get this fun again until the main event, but the good news is they’re finally letting Candice LeRae wrestle as herself. I only counted 3 Gargano mentions during this whole match! That’s gotta be a record.
Things Somehow Get Worse For Drake Maverick
There’s a lot of potential in Legado del Fantasma; Santos Escobar is a great choice for current Cruiserweight Champion (although, definitely worth noting that despite being accused of battery, Jordan Devlin remains under contract as of right now) and turning him heel immediately after winning the title worked, as he beat fan favorite Drake Maverick to secure the interim title. The Maverick storyline feels slightly more palatable now, if only because we have about 80 other things in wrestling to be mad about right now. The stable also gives Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza something concrete to do, which is a good thing in my book. This match is kind of random, but last week we got some set up where the group attacked Maverick backstage, and Breezango came to his rescue. Breezango is yet another WWE tag team that deserves so much more than they’ve ever gotten, but at least we get to see them more on NXT tv.
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We start out with Wilde and Fandango. Breezango do a double team on Joaquin, but he manages to tag in Mendoza. Prince Pretty gets a two count off a neck breaker, but Mendoza kicks out. Maverick is tagged in and wants Escobar, and the cruiserweight champ isn’t interested. Maverick is in control for a while, shouting at Escobar while keeping Mendoza down. Escobar seems really unbothered; maybe he can’t understand British people when they yell. I have that same problem. Working at an English bar was rough. We get some fast tags, and end up with Breeze and Fandango taking out Wilde with the Falcon Arrow. Escobar comes in to assist, but runs out to avoid Maverick. Fandango throws Drake over the top rope onto the heels on the outside, then follows with a moonsault of his own. I need to find some more strong friends who can do that to me.
Fandango hurts his leg on the moonsault, and Legado take advantage. Wilde and Mendoza focus on the leg until Escobar finally tags in. Dango manages to get to his corner and tag Maverick, who unloads on the champ. He’s in control for a while, hitting a drop kick and a bulldog, until Wilde and Mendoza come in. Breezango come to even the odds, and the four fight to the outside, while Escobar hits the Phantom Driver to win.
All Bad Guy, No Rebel Heart
Johnny and his wife used date night the other week to beat up Mia Yim, and Isaiah Scott stepped in because somebody raised him right. Now he’s facing Gargano, but can Disney’s #1 power couple get the double win tonight?
They start off on the mat for a bit here; a little surprising considering the high-flying skills of both men. Swerve tries to quicken the pace, which is where he really excels, but Gargano continues to slow him down and ground him. Swerve gets a break when he lands a dive on Johnny outside the ring, but Mr. Wrestling recovers. For a minute, I’m thinking he’s so devoted to NXT he’s got ‘DEW’ written on his trunks in a tribute to tonight’s sponsor, Mountain Dew. Turns out its’ ‘TJGW’ (the Johnny Gargano Way) in a script font. The more you know! Scott takes control again and lands the House Call, but takes so long to cover that Gargano rolls out of the way. Johnny tries the Garga-no Escape but can’t get it, and Scott counters into a driver. With the power of his army of action figures, Johnny kicks out. After knocking him down again, Scott climbs the turnbuckle and goes for a double stomp. Gargano gets out of the way again, and Swerve seems to hurt his leg. Johnny takes advantage by throwing him into the ring post on the outside, then blatantly stealing his wife’s moves with a Poisonrana. He throws Swerve back in the ring and hits the DDT to win.
Longtime listeners will know I might not be the biggest fan of the Johnny Gargano Style™, but even for all I can complain about kicking out of finishers, he remains a mainstay of NXT and one of the most dependable guys on the brand. His match here against Scott was middle of the road fare for me; Swerve has been fun on 205 Live and NXT, but his style can sometimes mimic Gargano’s, in that it’s big move after big move after oops match is over finally one big move worked. Again, I see why it’s so popular with the NXT crowd, but it doesn’t always land for me.
That being said, this was still a fine match-up. I like Gargano playing a villain, because it’s the closest I’ve seen to the first time a child plays that wink murder game and realizes the absolute power of fictionally murdering their friends within the confines of a two minute game. Gleefully sneering “this is my house” before landing the DDT is Bad Guy 101, and it works so well for him. I want a promo where he turns around in a big swivel chair petting his new dog and talks in a terrible RP accent. Scott is a rising star in NXT, but a loss to one of the continual top guys here certainly doesn’t hurt him.
Local Possum Man Has Rough Time
Adam Cole has been NXT champ for over a year, which is like 3 years in Triple H time when he’s booking someone else. Keith Lee has been on a roll since becoming North American Champion in January, and making Johnny Gargano look super dumb in front of his wife. So they both have a lot going for them. Lee certainly feels like the biggest threat to Cole’s championship reign, but it’s hard to count out the craftiness of someone raised by raccoons.
Adam tries to chop down the bigger man to start, but Lee is able to keep countering. They fight to the outside, with Cole trying to catch his breath along the barrier. Lee tries to run him down but Cole gets out of the way and he knocks through the plexiglass protecting the audience, which feels about as safe as anything else in wrestling right now. Cole takes advantage and tries to keep up with some quick strikes on the outside. Once they’re back in the ring, he tries to bring out his little knee and make it a real party, but Lee grabs his hand to stop him. Fair, because I also hate seeing wrestler knees. Timothy Thatcher please cover up.
Lee gets control for a while, but Cole keeps managing to stay alive. Lee nearly caves in the champion’s chest, then goes up to the top turnbuckle. He delivers a huge superplex from the top rope, but Cole still somehow kicks out, even though he looks like he’s lost any remaining brain cells. Lee retaliates with a Spirit Bomb, but nasty little Adam gets a finger on the rope. A moonsault from the top gets a 2.5 count. The man and his weird fireball tattoo really just won’t quit. He avoids the Big Bang Catastrophe and hits two superkicks, but Lee isn’t fazed. Another series of kicks gets him down to his knees. Cole hits two kicks to the head, then the Last Shot, and Lee still kicks out. A Panama Sunrise gets the same result, and Cole is losing his tiny little mind. Adam pulls down his knee pad real slow and sensual, then hits another Last Shot. He climbs up to the top to go for Panama Sunrise again, which is puzzling considering it’s literally never won him a match in NXT. Lee catches him and delivers a Spirit Bomb, then the Big Bang Catastrophe to become double champion of our hearts.
This was good! It was a classic NXT main event, which isn’t always super up my alley, since there’s only so many false finishes I can stand before I tune out. But both of these guys are wildly talented, and their chemistry here was good. You could have shaved off a good chunk of the middle and the story would have delivered the same, but the end result still felt earned. Lee is a fantastic talent and seeing him wield both belts is a great moment, although it would have felt even better in front of a crowd.