The John Report: WWE NXT 05/18/21 Review

Welcome to the WWE NXT review here on TJRWrestling. There are some big matches coming up in NXT land since this week’s show is headlined by the NXT North American Title Steel Cage Match between champion Johnny Gargano and challenger Bronson Reed. Next week’s episode of NXT has the NXT Champion Karrion Kross defending his title against Finn Balor in a rematch from the last Takeover. Speaking of Takeover, we also have NXT Takeover In Your House on Sunday, June 13 to look forward to. I think the NXT brand is producing a lot of great content. I look forward to it every week.

This episode is taking place at the Capitol Wrestling Center at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Check out my WWE NXT review archive here. Let’s get to it.

The opening video package hyped the two big matches: Gargano vs. Reed in a Steel Cage Match and Toni Storm vs. Zoey Stark.

That match between Storm and Stark was up first. The CWC had some fans in attendance behind the barricades as usual. The announce team was Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett and Beth Phoenix as usual. The story here is that Stark (a rookie in NXT) beat Storm recently, so the heel Storm wants revenge.

Zoey Stark vs. Toni Storm

Stark went after Storm early on with kicks against the turnbuckle and then a dropkick leading to Storm going to the floor. Stark jumped over the top onto Storm on the floor. Back in the ring, Stark hit a missile dropkick. Storm was on the floor, she blocked a kick and sent Stark back/butt first onto the apron. Storm whipped Stark into the steel steps and then a running hip attack against the steps. Storm with a suplex for a two count followed by Storm getting a boot to the face for two. Stark with knees, Storm with a slap and Storm tossed Stark across the ring. Storm with a backbreaker and then she stretched Stark across the knee. Stark countered strikes leading to a backslide pin. Stark with a jumping enziguri kick to the head leading to a break.


It was a slugfest as they exchanged strikes, then Stark avoided a charge and hit a superkick. Stark with a running clothesline followed by a running kick for two. Storm went for her finisher, but Stark countered it into a hurricanrana for two. Stark with a kick and a half n half suplex for two. That reversal of the hurricanrana was amazing. Storm came back with a German Suplex. Storm Zero connected for just two with Stark kicking out. The announcers were shocked while noting that nobody kicks out of that, but Stark just did. Storm picked up Stark and hit a twisting DDT like move for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Toni Storm

Analysis: ***1/4 It was a very competitive match. They work well together. Storm was in control early, Stark was impressive while making her comeback, but then Storm found a way with the German Suplex, then the Storm Zero and then whatever that finisher was called. Stark won their last match, Storm won this one, so maybe that’s going to mean another match is coming soon. I’m not sure that’s the best thing, but it would make sense.

Post match, Franky Monet appeared on the stage with her dog. There were graphics on the screens saying the in-ring debut of Franky Monet is next week.

Analysis: I’m looking forward to it. More Canadians = better show.

Legado del Fantasma’s Joaquin Wilde & Raul Mendoza were interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell. Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher showed up. Some friendly trash talk ensued, which led to the teams agreeing to the match.

Cameron Grimes showed up to the arena in his car, he wanted Jake Atlas to park his car and Atlas said that Ted Dibiase took Cameron’s spot. Cameron and Jake agreed to a match for later.

Karrion Kross and Finn Balor in a Prime Target video is up next.


There was a video NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell getting a spa day earlier in the day. There were two women there, but then Dexter Lumis showed up. Indi thanked Candice for helping her forget about Dexter and then Dexter left looking sad. The women ended it saying they did things their way.

Prime Target: Karrion Kross vs. Finn Balor

There was a Prime Target video featuring Karrion Kross and Finn Balor separately watching their NXT Takeover match from last month when Kross beat Balor to win the NXT Title. The rematch is next Wednesday on NXT. Kross said when Balor hit the doble foot stomp, he felt it for weeks. They had NXT Analyst Jimmy Smith talking about the match. Balor said he felt the force, power and speed of Karrion’s conviction. Kross said that empathy goes out the window because it’s kill or be killed. Kross hit a forearm to the back to get the pinfall win. Kross said it was just a matter of time. Balor said that he isn’t dead. Pat McAfee commented on the NXT Title match next Tuesday speaking about how the fact that we’re getting this match on NXT is a dream come true. McAfee thinks Balor walks out as the champion. Paul Heyman commented on it saying he’s known for not predictions but spoilers and Heyman said it’s too close to call. Balor and Kross were shown training while highlights were shown of their past interactions.

Analysis: The video was fantastic as usual. I assume Kross will retain because otherwise it would be a short reign for Kross.

Cameron Grimes did a pre-match promo saying that everybody thinks it’s funny that Ted Dibiase keeps interrupting him. They showed a video of Ted Dibiase highlights including clips of Dibiase losing and getting beat up. Grimes laughed about it.

Grimes charged right into a dropkick from Atlas that sent Grimes to the floor.


Jake Atlas vs. Cameron Grimes

It started during the break. Atlas with a kick to the chest, then a boot to the face and Atlas hit an armdrag. Atlas with a kick followed by a hurricanrana off the middle ropes for two. Grimes lifted up Atlas to the ring apron, then Atlas back in and Grimes hit a knee followed by a clothesline for two. Grimes with a hard whip into the turnbuckle. Atlas blocked a kick attempt, Atlas with a hard slap to the face and then a whip that sent Grimes sternum first into the turnbuckle. They showed a white limo with a $ sign on it. Grimes with a forearm, Atlas with a jumping knee and Atlas hit a lefty clothesline with Grimes doing a flip bump. Atlas was on the top rope, Grimes avoided an attack and then Grimes hit the running cross body block. Ted Dibiase’s music as Grimes was about toe finish off Atlas. Dibiase appeared in a suit on the stage. Atlas capitalized on that with a sunset flip for the pinfall win after five minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Jake Atlas

Analysis: ** The distraction finishes happen on NXT just like they happened on Raw this past Monday. I complained about them a lot on Raw because there were so many. This one does make sense since Grimes has been humiliated by Dibiase repeatedly, but I don’t love it as a finish. Anyway, it’s good for Atlas to get a win since he’s talented and needs wins like that.

Post match, Dibiase was laughing about what happened. Grimes tried to do a cheap attack, but Atlas hit a forearm and Grimes left. Grimes walked out the back door, then he went up to the limo, Dibiase said: “Not bad kid, but you’re no Million Dollar Man.” Dibiase left. Grimes: “That damn Ted Dibiase!”

Analysis: That classic “That damn Ted Dibiase” line makes me laugh every time. Grimes is very entertaining.


Bronson Reed talked about how in 2007, he had his first match and he was excited but he was nervous. Now Bronson Reed has the biggest match of his life against Johnny Gargano in a Steel Cage match. He talked about his journey and said he won’t let Gargano deny his destiny. Reed said he’ll look his wife in the eye and say after 14 years, “we did it.”

Pete Dunne Interview

Pete Dunne was interviewed in the backstage area by sports journalist Arash Markazi. Dunne said that he has proven he can beat Kushida, then he said WALTER is unfinished business, he beat Johnny Gargano when he faced him and then Karrion Kross, which is the main title. Dunne doesn’t care if he gets respect because the quality of his work speaks for itself. Dunne said he’s never had a bad match, he might lose occasionally, but they leave different after they’re done with him. Dunne said that he takes a lot of inspiration with British wrestling, which he mixes with his own style and blend everything he has learned. Dunne said he tries to make it more violent and aggressive. Dunne said everybody knows if somebody twists your finger or bends your shoulder. Dunne said that he used to set goals, but now he takes opportunities and he said that he is focused on winning the NXT Title.

Analysis: Good interview. There wasn’t anything groundbreaking that was said, but it did a nice job of showing what kind of serious competitor that Dunne is.

Killian Dain (w/Drake Maverick) vs. Alexander Wolfe (w/Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel)

Wolfe with punches and a boot to the face. Wolfe with forearms, then the bigger man Dain hit three forearms and an elbow smash to the face. Dain sent Wolfe into two turnbuckles and a clothesline. Aichner on the apron, he shoved Maverick down and Dain kicked Aichner off the apron. Wolfe hit a massive German Suplex. Barthel wanted Wolfe to use a steel chair, but the referee stopped that. Wolfe grabbed the chair, but Dain was back up and hit a running cross body block for the pinfall win after two minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Killian Dain

Analysis: 3/4* A short match to put over Dain and set up the angle after the match.

Drake Maverick was thrilled about the win and he jumped on Dain’s back to celebrate.

Barthel and Aichner helped Wolfe up, but then Barthel and Aichner attacked Wolfe. Barthel and Aichner hit the Imperium Bomb (uppercut into a Powerbomb) on Wolfe.

Analysis: That likely means Wolfe is out of the Imperium group for now or maybe just a way to teach him a lesson.


Raquel Gonzalez, the NXT Women’s Champion, was interviewed backstage with Dakota Kai by her side. They spoke about how they disagreed about how Raquel told Mercedes Martinez she respected her while Kai said she would have kicked off Mercedes’ head off. Raquel and Dakota said that they wanted to go after the Women’s Tag Team Titles. Ever-Rise showed up with coffee mugs. They were annoying as they plugged their internet talk show and then Gonzalez slapped Matt Martel to knock him on his ass.

Analysis: I think they are going to slowly tease a split between Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai. Raquel has been showing babyface tendencies of late while Kai is more of a pure heel. It could go either way, though. Anyway, it’s more of a long term thing for later in the summer most likely.

Legado del Fantasma (Joaquin Wilde & Raul Mendoza) vs. Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher

Wilde use his speed early on to avoid Ciampa, then Ciampa got him on the floor and whipped Wilde into the barricade. Ciampa with a shoulder tackle followed by a chinlock. Thatcher with a headlock, then Mendoza tagged in and Thatcher grabbed an armbar. Ciampa was back in with a chop on Mendoza leading to a leg scissors around the throat. Ciampa with a running forearm, Mendoza got his foot up and worked over Ciampa with punches. Mendoza ran right into a boot from Ciampa and Thatcher applied an armbar. Mendoza was bleeding from the nose after taking a shot to the face earlier in the match. Mendoza with a dropkick to the left knee, then repeated kicks to the chest and Thatcher applied an Ankle Lock. Wilde was brought into the ring, so Thatcher applied an Ankle Lock to Wilde too. Legado boys countered into pin attempts. Ciampa with a clothesline on Wilde, Mendoza with a kick on Ciampa and Thatcher hit a jumping kick to the head of Mendoza as the show went to break.


The match returned with Ciampa on fire with running clotheslines for both opponents that were standing against the turnbuckles. There were like eight clotheslines total and then a leaping double clothesline. The crowd was fired up. The heels managed to take control with Mendoza stomping on Ciampa. Wilde was back in with a double team dropkick for two. They replayed when Mendoza took an elbow from Ciampa leading to a bloody nose and then the medical team cleared Mendoza to continue. Ciampa and Mendoza exchanged strikes, Mendoza with a shoulder tackle to the ribs and Mendoza’s charged shoulder tackle missed because Ciampa moved. Thatcher was back in with belly to belly suplexes on both guys. Thatcher with uppercuts for Mendoza followed by a suplex across the ring. Ciampa was back in with chops on Mendoza. Thatcher beat up Mendoza with forearms. Ciampa was back in with a knee lift, then a running knee and that got a two count. Mendoza with a jumping kick to the head, Ciampa with a chop, Mendoza with chops, Ciampa with two forearms and Mendoza countered Ciampa into a knee to the face. Wilde tagged back in with a suplex, Mendoza back in and Legado hit double moonsaults on Ciampa. Mendoza ran the ropes, Thatcher grabbed him and then Wilde hit a somersault dive on Thatcher on the floor. Wilde to the apron and Ciampa hit the Willow’s Bell DDT for two because Mendoza broke it up right before the three count. That was timed really well. Grizzled Young Veterans showed up at ringside in suits and hit a double team slam that sent Ciampa into the apron. The referee was looking at Thatcher. Mendoza charged with the running kick while Wilde did the legsweep and Mendoza pinned Ciampa to win after 16 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Legado del Fantasma (Joaquin Wilde & Raul Mendoza)

Analysis: ***1/2 This match was very good with Legado picking up the big win while the feud between Thatcher/Ciampa and the Grizzled guys continues. The distraction finishes are something that can get tiresome, but when it happens after 15 minutes of great wrestling and builds on an already existing rivalry, it makes sense within the storyline. Legado wants a shot at the NXT Tag Team Titles held by MSK and now they will be one step closer. I thought Mendoza really stood out in the match since he took a beating for a lot of it, but he kept on coming back for more. Ciampa had a lot of fun moments throughout the match especially during that clothesline fest he was doing. They got a lot of time and made the most of it. I enjoyed this match.

Bobby Fish was interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell. Fish said that last week had very little to do with Kyle O’Reilly and everything to do with Pete Dunne and Oney Lorcan. Fish mentioned that since he’s been gone, Undisputed Era has broken up as well. Fish said that Dunne and Lorcan put him out at WarGames, so now there’s a debt to pay. Fish said that at WarGames, they caused his arm injury and he’s going to finish his business with Pete Dunne. Fish left.


They showed Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell at the spa. The woman that worked there said that the credit card was declined. The woman said that there was an unpaid expense from flowers purchased three weeks ago. Indi Hartwell realized that it was Candice that got flowers for Ember/Shotzi instead of Dexter Lumis. Indi excitedly said that this means that Dexter still loves her. Candice wasn’t thrilled about it.

A Johnny Gargano promo aired with Austin Theory. Gargano spoke about how he was going to beat Bronson Reed in the main event.

Sarray vs. Aliyah (w/Robert Stone & Jessi Kamea)

Sarray wanted a handshake, Aliyah kicked her and then Sarray got a takedown into a dropkick. Aliyah hit a running back elbow and then a takedown with a handful of hair. Aliyah tossed Sarray across the ring followed by a running knee. Sarray with a spin kick and a German Suplex. Sarray jumped off the top with a missile dropkick. Sarray hit a running dropkick against the ropes. Sarray hit a Saito suplex sending Aliyah high on the shoulder for the pinfall win in a match under three minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Sarray

Analysis: *1/2 A quick match to put over Sarray. Aliyah did get some offense and looked competent, but this was all about giving Sarray another win to continue her undefeated run in NXT.

The babyface team of Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon said that they were going to get back on track and go after the Women’s Tag Team Titles that they used to have.

Hit Row were walking backstage because they were up next.


There was a video package featuring the Diamond Mine. We don’t know much about it yet.

Hit Row (Top Dolla & Ashante Thee Adonis) w/Isaiah “Swerve” Scott & B-Fab vs. Tony Nese & Arya Daivari

Top Dolla is AJ Francis from the WWE Most Wanted Treasures show on A&E. Adonis faced off with Nese with Adonis hitting a flapjack. Dolla tagged in and tossed Nese across the ring while knocking down Daivari as well. Dolla hit a slam on both opponents at the same time. Dolla with a clothesline. Adonis with a dropkick followed by punches. Adonis with a superkick on Nese. Dolla with a running splash on Daivari followed by a slam off the shoulders into a suplex for the pinfall win after about two minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Hit Row (Top Dolla & Ashante Thee Adonis)

Analysis: *1/4 An easy win for Hit Row to put them over as a new stable in NXT. Dolla hit some big moves and Adonis was very aggressive.

Hit Row did a post match promo. Scott said that he doesn’t care who wins the North American Title match, but he’s going to come after the champion. They ended with their catchphrase: “And if you didn’t know, now you know.”

The NXT General Manager William Regal said that Legado del Fantasma will face MSK for the NXT Tag Team Titles in two weeks. Regal talked about wanting to see what woman will step up to challenge Raquel Gonzalez and said that he’s bringing in more cruiserweights to find challengers for Cruiserweight Champion Kushida. Regal said that Ember Moon/Shotzi Blackheart will face Dakota Kai/Raquel Gonzalez next week.

Johnny Gargano and Bronson Reed were shown walking backstage in separate parts of the arena. The Steel Cage was being lowered from the ceiling.


Next week, the talented Franky Monet makes her NXT in-ring debut. I predict a victory.

Also next week on NXT:

* Cameron Grimes and Ted Dibiase will have a “Million Dollar Face-off.

* Karrion Kross defends the NXT Championship vs. former champion Finn Balor.

* Bobby Fish vs. Pete Dunne. (That was announced later in the show.)

Bronson Reed made his entrance as the challenger for the NXT North American Championship. Johnny Gargano was up next as the NXT North American Champion and he was joined by Austin Theory. They are part of “The Way” group. The wrestlers stood in the ring for the championship introductions from Alicia Taylor. Reed was announced at 330 pounds while Gargano is 199 pounds.

Steel Cage Match for the NXT North American Championship: Johnny Gargano (w/Austin Theory) vs. Bronson Reed

The rules for WWE steel cages are that you can win by pinfall, submission, leaving through the door or climbing over the top of the cage to the floor. There were about ten minutes before the top of the hour, but they do overruns in NXT sometimes.

Gargano tried to run out the door, but Reed got a hold of him. Gargano tried to send Reed into the cage, Reed hit a back elbow and ran over Gargano to knock him down. Reed tossed Gargano back first into the cage. Reed tossed Gargano into the cage again. Reed launched Gargano into the steel cage. Reed squished Gargano against the cage. Gargano ducked a charging Reed, but then Johnny got stuck against the cage because there was no room and Reed hit a DDT. Reed tried a suplex, Gargano hit a forearm to the back of the leg and then Gargano jumped off the top rope with a moonsault onto a standing Reed. Gargano doesn’t go off the top that much, but that was really well done. Gargano tried a climb, Reed caught Gargano on his shoulders and Reed hit a Death Valley Driver slam for two. Reed tried a climb, then Austin Theory climbed outside the ring, so that allowed Gargano a chance to superkick Reed on the ropes, so Reed was crotched against the top rope.


The match returned with Gargano hitting a running dropkick against the cage while Theory did a splash against the cage at the same time. Gargano jumped off the ropes, but Reed caught him and hit a powerslam. Reed with forearms, an atomic drop and a slingshot into the steel cage. Reed lifted Gargano on his shoulders, he went the middle rope and Reed hit a Samoan Drop off the middle rope for two. Reed tried a climb, Gargano met him on the top rope and Johnny hit a sunset flip Powerbomb for a two count! That was such a cool spot. Gargano tried to climb out, Theory was there to pull Johnny as well, but Reed pulled Gargano back. Reed jumped onto the chest of Gargano. Theory climbed onto the door, Reed hit the door to knock Theory down and Gargano got a kick. Reed went for a Powerbomb, Gargano to the ropes and then Reed got a hold of him, so Gargano hit a Poison Rana on Reed, so it was a reverse hurricanrana on a 300+ pound man. That was so impressive. Gargano wanted the One Final Beat DDT, but Reed caught him and sent Gargano to the apron. Reed was close to the door, but then Theory got behind the referee and slammed the door on Reed’s head. Gargano jumped off the top into a DDT so it was One Final Beat off the top for a two count. Gargano climbed again, Reed got a hold of him on the middle rope and Reed hit a Powerbomb off the middle rope. The fans chanted “this is awesome” for them. I concur. Reed tried to climb up the cage again, Theory was on the other side, but Reed managed to knock Gargano and Theory down. Reed jumped off the top wit ha splash to the back of Gargano. Reed closed the door and jumped off the top again this time with the Tsunami (great yell by Barret) for the pinfall win at 16 minutes.

Winner by pinfall AND NEW NXT North American Champion: Bronson Reed

Analysis: **** That was a fantastic match. Gargano continues to amaze in big matches and makes everybody around him better. Reed is a bigger guy that can’t move around as fast as Gargano, but Reed more than held his own. They did a lot of cool moves like that Poison Rana, then the One Final Beat by Gargano and then I really liked Reed’s big moves that he used to get the win. Reed also had big moves like the Samoan Drop off the middle rope and that big Powerbomb off the ropes as well. It was cool that Reed needed to do the Tsunami splash twice since he did it once to the back and then he hit in a regular way with a Tsunami splash off the top. There weren’t any submissions or body parts that were worked over during the match. It was more about hitting some big moves to try to wear the other guy down. I like how Theory kept trying to cheat for Gargano, yet he wasn’t able to cheat enough to get the win. When Gargano won the title the last time, I figured he would lose it to somebody that hasn’t been a champion before and that’s what happened. Use Gargano to lift up others. It worked here.

They showed replays of the key spots.

Reed celebrated with the title in his hands while some sparklers went off in the ring. Reed was emotional while the fans cheered for him and the announcers talked about Reed’s journey to get there. Reed help up the title and that was the end of the show.

Analysis: I like that the title change was treated like a big deal. It should be a big deal.

Here’s a cool post match video of Reed celebrating with his wife after the match. He’s a good dude. Happy for him.


Three Stars of the Show

1. Bronson Reed – Gargano was better if you want to think of it in terms of performance, but I’m happy for Bronson getting his big moment.

2. Johnny Gargano

3. Legado del Fantasma and Ciampa/Thatcher


The Scoreboard

This week: 7.75 out of 10

Last week: 7.75

2021 Average: 7.53


Final Thoughts

I thought it was another strong episode of NXT. There were some great matches as usual, which helped to carry the show. The main event between Bronson Reed and Johnny Gargano was probably Reed’s best singles match because Gargano makes everybody better while Reed more than held his own. They built up to the big spots well. The timing was right for a title change.

The tag match with the Legado boys beating Ciampa/Thatcher was very good even with the cheap finish. I liked the Toni Storm match with Zoey Stark with Toni getting a big, much-needed win thanks to a cool new finishing move. There were also several squash matches to put over some of the newer talent getting pushed like Sarray and Hit Row while Killian Dain beat Alexander Wolfe to cause problems with Imperium. Poor Cameron Grimes lost because of a Ted Dibiase distraction. “That damn Ted Dibiase!” I enjoy those segments.

Another thing I really like about NXT is they build matches week to week very well. This week had a main event with a North American Title match, next week is the NXT Title match, two weeks from now the NXT Tag Team Titles are on the line and so on. You can’t book everybody in a match every week, but you can use the time to build to those big matches week after week.


Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.

John Canton


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