Hey gang! NXT has been in a weird spot over the past few months. After losing the "Wednesday Night War" with AEW Dynamite and being cast away to Tuesday nights, WWE (and more importantly Vince McMahon) has seemingly lost faith in NXT and the brand is now caught in a tug of war between the Chairman and NXT creator Triple H. This has lead to inconsistent storylines, disappearing talents, and an overall feeling that there is no longer a direction for the brand. But nothing can get wrestling back on track like a good pay-per-view event, which there is this Sunday night with NXT TakeOver 36 on Peacock. So can the black and gold brand get its shit together enough to make that show a must-see? Let's find out!
We start the show with Diamond Mine already in the ring and Malcom Bivens already with a mic in hand. He calls Kushida a liar and a coward, saying he backed out of his Cruiserweight title defense against Roderick Strong tonight (he was "not medically cleared").
Bivens then issues an open challenge, which is answered by Ilja Dragunov.
Roderick Strong vs Ilja Dragunov
Tight and technical off the bell as they grapple and exchange holds on the mat. Strong eventually starts the striking and both men exchange hard chops to the chest.
It's snug and hard-hitting the rest of the way, with each man gaining stretches of control over the other.
Well into the match, Dragunov is hitting a series of German Suplexes on Strong and I guess Strong landed hard on Dragunov's face cause he's busted open on his eyebrow and is bleeding all over. They keep going through, despite Dragunov wearing the "crimson mask".
Shortly after, Dragunov hits the Torpedo Moscow to plant Strong and get the pinfall.
Winner: Ilja Dragunov
After the match, Dragunov grabs a mic and calls out Walter, but the NXT UK Champion doesn't respond.
Next, we go to a "Prime Target" video package detailing the Adam Cole/Kyle O'Reilly rivalry and previewing their Two Out of Three Falls Match this Sunday.
Hit Row now hits the ring and calls out Legado del Fantasma. Swerve especially has beef with Santos Escobar for reaching into his mouth and stealing his grill. Escobar appears on the tron and challenges Swerve to a one-on-one fight in the parking lot right now, which Swerve jumps at.
He heads outside but is jumped by Wilde and Mendoza. Escobar again goes for his grill, as Hit Row arrives to help him.
We now go to a "digital exclusive", which isn't that at all because THEY'RE SHOWING IT ON TV! LA Knight is working out in the gym and Cameron Grimes is wiping him down, still being his butler at the moment. Knight is excited at having Ted DiBiase becoming his butler and then notices big Josh Briggs hitting a tire with a sledgehammer and offers him money to take out Grimes in a match tonight, which he accepts.
Next, we have a promo from Imperium, where they promise to make an example out of MSK tonight and take back their sport by winning the NXT Tag Team Championship.
Cameron Grimes, with LA Knight vs Josh Briggs
Ted DiBiase is on commentary for this match and is talking up Grimes and Knight joins the booth as well.
Briggs has the size advantage here and is all over Grimes to start.
DiBiase bets Knight "double or nothing" ($20,o00) that Grimes wins the match tonight, which Knight accepts.
Grimes rallies and takes over the match, using speed and smarts against Briggs. Grimes hits the Cave-In for the pinfall in a surprisingly short match.
Winner: Cameron Grimes
After the match, Knight punches out DiBiase at ringside and when Grimes runs out to help, Knight drops him with a Snapmare Driver on the outside.
We now go backstage in the locker room, where Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae are lecturing Indi Hartwell about dating Dexter Lumis, but Hartwell is just ignoring them and telling them how many awesome dates they've been on. Eventually, Lumis appears and the lovebirds head off for their mixed tag team match. This segment would be cringe except for Gargano's fantastic comedic timing making things work.
Next, we have a backstage interview with NXT Women's Tag Champs Zoey Stark and Io Shirai about them trying to get along as partners. Stark tries to defend their relationship, but Shirai interrupts that she doesn't like her and is only there for the titles.
Indi Hartwell & Dexter Lumis vs Robert Stone & Jessi Kamea
Franky Monet is with Stone and Kamea for… reasons. It really doesn't make any sense.
This is pretty much a total schlock comedy match. Everyone involved is much better than what they were sent out to do here and it honestly feels like Vince's silly creative all over this.
Hartwell eventually uses Lumis's Silencer to make Kamea submit.
Winners: Indi Hartwell & Dexter Lumis
After the stupid match, things get even more stupid.
Hartwell gets down on her knee and proposes to Lumis, which he accepts. Again, if this doesn't reek of Vince McMahon creative to you, I don't know what to tell you.
We now see Diamond Mine exiting the trainer's room and Bivens says the match was unfair because Dragunov is a heavyweight and Strong is a Cruiserweight. He then says that Strong has a guaranteed shot at the NXT Cruiserweight title when Kushida is cleared.
Next, we have a split-screen interview with NXT Women's Champion Raquel Gonzalez and her challenger Dakota Kai. Gonzalez is about as interesting as mayonnaise spread onto wallpaper here and the crowd sounds totally checked out (which is saying something because they've been very loud all night). The only time they pop is when Kai says she will win the title, which isn't good as they're clearly trying (poorly) to get Gonzalez over here.
Carmelo Hayes vs Duke Hudson – NXT Breakout Tournament
Let's find out who will face Odyssey Jones in the Tournament final!
Both guys look like total stars and honestly, this probably should have been the finals match. Hudson is so good at mixing his size with his arrogance, ala Razor Ramon. And Hayes has great natural charisma and explosive action.
Each man gets to showcase their skills here, with Hudson showing his storytelling and power skills, while Hayes pulls off breathtaking moves.
Eventually, Hayes hits a monster slingshot DDT to Hudson on the apron to firmly take over and then hits a top rope leg drop on a standing Hudson for the pinfall.
Winner: Carmelo Hayes
After the match, Hayes cuts a promo on the stage, where he declares himself the "final boss" that Jones must face. This brings out Jones, who obviously disagrees.
We now get a video promo from up and comer Jacy Jayne, who says some random stuff.
Cameron Grimes is getting medical help in the trainer's room when Ted DiBiase approaches him to apologize and tell him maybe they bit off more than they can chew. Grimes disagrees and hypes them up.
MSK vs Imperium – NXT Tag Team Championship
An interesting mix of styles here, with the hard-hitting old-school style of Imperium matching up against the slick and speedy style of MSK.
Imperium is pretty firmly in control early, but MSK is able to respond with their speed. Speed can only do so much against power though, as Imperium takes back the momentum with stiff clotheslines and uppercuts. Every time MSK gets something going, Imperium is able to knock them back down.
Walter makes his way to ringside just as MSK is starting to take over with double team moves. Dragunov runs out and starts fighting Walter at ringside, allowing MSK to get the pinfall.
Winners and still Champions: MSK
After the match, Walter wipes out MSK on the apron, but Dragunov is able to get shots in on him, that is until Imperium gangs up on him.
We now have a video promo where Pete Dunne and Ridge Holland call out Tomasso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher.
Samoa Joe hits the ring now and calls out Karrion Kross to have a face-off before their NXT title match on Sunday. Kross hits the stage and says their match is about the future of the brand. He then calls security out to protect Joe from him. He enters the ring and says he's going to drop Joe fast and the fight is on! They brawl out of the ring and through security as they beat each other up around the ringside area, with Joe eventually throwing Kross through the crowd barrier.
They brawl into the crowd and Kross tackles Joe through another crowd barrier as security and referees dogpile on them to end the show.
Again, the big issues remained on this week's show, where it felt unfocused and was missing some key players. There are some big matches we're supposed to care about this weekend, yet the talent involved wasn't even featured on the go-home show before it, so that takes a bit of steam out of it all.
But hey, at least we got plenty of stupid comedy, right?
It wasn't all bad, as the Dragunov vs Strong and Hayes vs Hudson matches were really good and the brawl at the end was fun, if not too short.
Here's hoping that NXT does what they do best this Sunday at TakeOver, which is ignore all the outside hullabaloo and put on a really solid night of wrestling matches. Of course, that all depends if a certain geriatric in a bad print suit is there or not…
Till next time friends!