The John Report: WWE NXT 03/31/21 Review

The John Report: WWE NXT 03/31/21 Review

Welcome to the WWE NXT review here on TJRWrestling. The month of March is over and bring on WrestleMania time in April. That also means a first ever, two-night NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver next week as well. We are also two weeks away from NXT moving to Tuesday nights. I’m doing the usual NXT format with summaries of the matches and I’ll go play by play for the main event.

This episode took place at NXT’s home called the Capitol Wrestling Center at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. Check out my past WWE NXT reviews right here. Please follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Let’s roll.

The show began hyping up next week’s NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver Night One event on Wednesday, April 7. That’s going to be on USA Network and Peacock (for those of you in the US). They also showed clips of matches next Thursday, April 8 on Night Two on Peacock/WWE Network.

They were at the CWC with some fans behind the barricades at ringside chanting “NXT” to welcome us to the show. The announce team of Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett & Beth Phoenix were there to call the action.

Roderick Strong made his entrance first. Cameron Grimes did a promo talking about the intellectual property of the Undisputed Era. Grimes had a new shirt “Grimes The System” instead of “Shock The System” and Strong didn’t like that, so he punched Grimes.

Roderick Strong vs. Cameron Grimes

They had a backstage altercation last week, so now we get a match. Grimes was in control early on and then Strong stopped him with a hard chop. Strong hit a dropkick and clothesline to send Grimes to the floor where Strong hit a dropkick through the ropes. Strong was staring at some fans in an Adam Cole shirt, so Grimes drove him back first into a metal part of the set and that led to a break.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Grimes remaining in control with a kick to the chest. Each guy got a strike in to knock the other guy down, so they regrouped from there. Strong got some momentum going with one of his great backbreakers for two. Strong also got a superplex for a two count. They did a great spot with Strong charging at Grimes, who hit a cross body block into a slam counter for a two count. Grimes took out some Undisputed Era armband from his trunks. Strong came back with an Angle Slam, saw the UE merch and was distracted, so Grimes hit the Cave In kick for the pinfall win after 12 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Cameron Grimes

Analysis: ***1/4 This was a really good match with two talented wrestlers that were hitting hard and doing a nice job of selling throughout the match. It’s nice to see Grimes picking up the win as a younger guy with a bright future. Strong was distracted by Undisputed Era items throughout the match, which ended up costing him the win. That’s nothing against Strong, who I like as a talented veteran, but I think Grimes is a special talent that can really thrive if he’s used right in the coming months. Grimes needs wins like this.

Roderick Strong vs. Cameron Grimes: WWE NXT, March 31, 2021

There was a training video featuring Killer Kross training in catch wrestling, judo and striking because those are his strengths. Kross said he knows Balor will try to tire him out, but you can’t run from Kross forever. Kross said that he’ll light up Balor with shots he’ll carry his whole life. Scarlett said “fall and pray” and Kross ended it with “tick, tock.”

Analysis: Nice training video. NXT does those well.

(Commercial)

There was a video with WALTER telling his Takeover opponent Tommaso Ciampa that he is a shell of his former self. Walter said he respects this sport like nobody else. Their match is next Wednesday on Night One.

There was a graphic shown that NXT is moving to Tuesday nights starting April 13. It was announced on Tuesday and you can read more about it here.

Santos Escobar, the Cruiserweight Champion, was in the ring with his Legado del Fantasma guys. Escobar issued an open challenge to show Jordan Devlin what he’s in for. Escobar said blood and tradition say he’s the best cruiserweight in the history of NXT. Tyler Breeze of the Breezango team entered as the opponent. Breeze did a quick promo saying he works his ass off while Escobar feels entitled, so challenge accepted.

Santos Escobar (w/Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde) vs. Tyler Breeze

Breeze connected with a couple of dropkicks early in the match. After Escobar was out of the ring, Breeze sent him back in and Escobar hit a low dropkick. Breeze got in a kick to the face while Escobar was charging him. Breeze even delivered shots to Wilde and Mendoza on the floor. Breeze hit a jumping kick to rock Escobar, which led to a break.

(Commercial)

Escobar remained in control with a double knee attack on Breeze followed by a gutbuster where he dropped Breeze’s ribs onto the knee of Escobar. Breeze got a hurricanrana leading to punches and Breeze focused on the left knee a bit with a knee drop to the leg. Breeze applied a Sharpshooter submission with Escobar getting to the ropes to break the hold. Escobar came back with a jumping kick to the head and the Phantom Driver got the pinfall win after 11 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Santos Escobar

Analysis: *** A good match to put over Escobar going into Takeover while Breeze isn’t in a match there, so it was obvious that Escobar was going to win. Lots of cool moves and counters throughout the match. The Phantom Driver by Escobar is one of my favorite finishers in NXT.

NXT Cruiserweight Champion Santos Escobar vs. Tyler Breeze: WWE NXT, March 31, 2021

After the match, the tag team MSK ran out there to prevent a post match attack. Legado del Fantasma and Escobar left to avoid an attack.

The Grizzled Young Veterans appeared on the screen doing a promo about how they are soon to be recognized as the next NXT Tag Team Champions.

Analysis: The men’s NXT Tag Team Title situation has three talented teams, but there’s not much of a story there. It should be an outstanding match.

Johnny Gargano, the NXT North American Champion, was interviewed with The Way group. Gargano complained about the battle royal, then Austin Theory mentioned the Fingerpoke of Doom and Johnny realized it would be great if Theory won so that he could lay down for Johnny to beat him. Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell did a quick promo about their match tonight.

They showed a cute dog looking at the WWE Performance Center from a distance.

(Commercial)

They showed a video of last week when Raquel Gonzalez gave Io Shirai a Powerbomb on the announce table. After it happened, Io was asked by Mckenzie Mitchell if she was ready for Raquel at Takeover and Shirai made it clear that’s why she picked her.

Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell vs. Gigi Dolin & Zayda Ramier

Dolin was known as Priscilla Kelly in her pre-WWE days, so some fans might be familiar with her. Dolin got a bit of offense, but then Hartwell hit a sidewalk slam. Ramier with a neckbreaker and clothesline on Hartwell followed by an enziguri kick to the head for two. Hartwell came back with a spinebuster. LeRae tagged in, knocked Dolin off the apron and kicked Ramier. LeRae stomped on the back of Ramier and Hartwell hit a springboard elbow drop to the back for the pinfall win after three minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell

Analysis: *1/2 A short match that was a clean win to give LeRae & Hartwell some momentum going into their Women’s Tag Team Title match at Takeover. I think Dolin can be a big star in NXT later in the year as she gets more chances to show what she can do. I don’t know much about Ramier other than she was trained by Booker T, but she does move very well.

There was a post match promo from Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell saying they deserve to be NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions. Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart did a promo from Shotzi’s tank saying they accepted the challenge even though it was obvious it was already happening.

Raquel Gonzalez was shown walking backstage for her match with Dakota Kai by her side. Io Shirai was standing there, she brawled with Gonzalez a bit, Kai got a hold of Shirai and Raquel slammed Shirai into an equipment case. Scott Taylor (Scotty 2 Hotty) and Sonjay Dutt checked on Shirai as Gonzalez left.

The cute dog was shown in the Capitol Wrestling Center.

(Commercial)

Roderick Strong was shown walking with his luggage. Mckenzie Mitchel asked where he was going because he was in the battle royal later on. Strong said he was done and kept walking.

Raquel Gonzalez (w/Dakota Kai) vs. Zoey Stark

Raquel is main eventing NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver night one against Io Shirai next Wednesday. Stark with a headscissors and dropkick, but Gonzalez was able to take over with her power. Barrett talked about Gonzalez having a dominant run in the last six months and he’s right about that. Stark with a superkick and then avoided a Gonzalez charge with Raquel bumping to the floor. Kai got in a cheap shot on Stark (the referee was looking at Gonzalez on the floor), so Stark punched Kai over the barricade. Stark hit an impressive running knee for two. Stark got another nearfall after a blockbuster neckbreaker off the top for two. Gonzalez ended up catching Stark and hitting her one-arm Powerbomb for the pinfall win after five minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Raquel Gonzalez

Analysis: **1/2 A dominant win by Gonzalez although Stark did get plenty of offense and looked competitive in this match where it was obvious that Gonzalez was going to win. I really Stark’s offense because she can do a lot in the ring while making it look easy. Stark has a bright future.

Io Shirai went out to the ring to brawl with Gonzalez with Shirai hitting a dropkick to send Gonzalez out of the ring. There were referees at ringside, btu they didn’t do much. Gonzalez did a two-handed toss that sent Shirai into the barricade. Gonzalez left with Kai.

Zoey Stark vs. Raquel González: WWE NXT, March 31, 2021

Analysis: The intensity has really picked up with this rivalry. I like to see that.

The cute dog was shown in the building running the stairs and running across the NXT logo.

(Commercial)

Kushida was about to be interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell for the battle royal. Pete Dunne said he heard Kushida say he was the best technical wrestler and Dunne told him to prove him wrong.

Analysis: This will be a great match. The “prove me wrong” line is what they’d always have Chris Benoit say when he was calling himself the best technical wrestler 20 years ago.

Prime Target: Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly

If you don’t know what the Prime Target videos are it’s when they do these awesome video packages to set up a Takeover match. Kyle said that they met about 11 or 12 years ago and they hit it off. Cole said it was 2009 and from that moment going forward he’s been attached to Kyle whether that’s as friends (a pic was shown of them having fun) or opponents (a pic of them facing eachother in New Japan was shown). They showed Undisputed Era highlights while showing comments from their main event promo last week. They showed the comments from Cole last week that O’Reilly is a sidekick and that is not Cole. They showed the clips of their interactions of the last few weeks. It led to NXT GM William Regal announcing the Unsanctioned Match at NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver on Night Two next Thursday, April 8. They showed more comments from both men and edited the video as if it was a movie.

Analysis: I love these Prime Target videos. They’re so well done. If you have been paying attention then it’s a reminder of the story, but if you are only a casual viewer then it’s one of the better video packages you’re ever going to see. I enjoyed it a lot. The video production team in NXT does an excellent job with videos like this as usual.

Prime Target: Cole vs. O’Reilly: WWE NXT, March 31, 2021

Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro entered for a tag team match. Kacy missed several weeks with a leg injury, but she’s back now.

(Commercial)

Xia Li & Mei Ying (w/Boa) vs. Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter

Ying is a mystery figure that we don’t really know and she just stayed seated in her chair in the aisle. Carter and Kacy made quick tags to try to work over their former friend Li including Kacy hitting a running clothesline. Li took over by sending Kacy into the ring apron and barricade. Kacy spun around into a double knee to the face. They showed Ying standing up out of her chair, then Carter went up to her and Ying choked Carter, who passed out from the pain. Ying sat back down while Carter was out on the stage. Back in the ring, Li connected with a knee to the face and a spinning kick for the pinfall win. They got about three minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Xia Li & Mei Ying

Analysis: *1/2 Xia Li continues her winning ways after Li trained her to be more vicious. The Ying/Li angle has worked in terms of making Li look like more of a star, but I don’t know if this mystery type of gimmick works in NXT. It’s not that interesting to me.

Raquel Gonzalez was interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell with Io Shirai showing up for another attack. Gonzalez lifted up Shirai and tossed her through some cardboard or something that was in place of some window that was usually there. It was obviously a planted piece to make this move look more devastating. Gonzalez told Shirai to stay down.

The cute dog was shown in the building as she went up to a woman in high heels. It said on the screen: “See you soon April 13th! Franky.”

Analysis: It’s expected to be the debut of the talented women’s wrestler Taya Valkyrie. I don’t know for sure if her name is going to be Franky, but WWE recently trademarked the name Franky Monet, so that’s likely her WWE name. Taya is married to WWE’s John Morrison and the couple has Instagram accounts for their dogs too.

(Commercial)

Tommaso Ciampa talked about his NXT UK Title match against Walter at Takeover Stand & Deliver. Ciampa said that all these people say that he isn’t like he was since 2018. Ciampa admitted that in some ways he has changed, but then he shifts his mindset and he blocks out the hate. Ciampa talked about the ones that believe in him and he hears his supporters. Ciampa said that has been at the top of the mountain, he knows what it likes to fall to the bottom and pick yourself back up because it changes a man. Ciampa said he would rather be a man who fights for something than somebody who fights for nothing. Ciampa will found out that the Psycho Killer still exists and told Walter it’s a long fall from the top of the mountain.

Analysis: Awesome promo. That match is going to be amazing at Takeover Stand & Deliver. I’m really looking forward to it.

The announcers went over NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver matches for Night One next Wednesday, April 7 on USA Network & Peacock (or wherever you watch the NXT TV show).

* NXT UK Championship: WALTER (c) vs. Tommaso Ciampa

* NXT Tag Team Championships (Titles Are Vacant): MSK vs. Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Legado del Fantasma

* Six-Man Gauntlet Elimination Match Where Winner Gets US Title Match on Night Two

NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai (c) vs. Raquel Gonzalez – Night 1 Main Event

There was a fifth match announced later.

Here’s what is coming on NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver Night 2 on Thursday, April 8 on Peacock/WWE Network.

* Unsanctioned Match: Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly

* Unification Ladder Match for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Santos Escobar vs. Jordan Devlin

* NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships: Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart (c) vs. Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell

* NXT North American Championship: Johnny Gargano (c) vs. Winner of Gauntlet Elimination Match

* NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) vs. Karrion Kross – Night 2 Main Event (April 8)

Analysis: These lineups are awesome. Ten matches total. We will have a preview up on TJRWrestling on Tuesday morning most likely and then I’ll have reviews of both shows.

Finn Balor was shown seated in a room talking about how he was expecting Karrion Kross for a long time. Balor talked about how at Takeover, the nerves make your legs heavy. Balor talked about how his stamina has always been his strength and that he doesn’t get gassed out. Balor said that the deeper the match goes, that deep water, that’s where he drowns. Balor said that Kross will choke and that Balor will still be NXT Champion.

Analysis: It’s a tough match to call. I’m leaning towards a Balor win and for Kross/Scarlett to go to Raw or Smackdown after WrestleMania. I just think that act would do really well on Raw or Smackdown.

Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett were in the ring to talk about the main event battle royal. Barrett said it was simple with 11 superstars in this match and then the final six superstars will make the Gauntlet Eliminator Match at Stand & Deliver next week. Joseph said that the order that the final 6 men are eliminated will determine their entry order for the Gauntlet Eliminator Match. The man that wins the battle royal will enter the Gauntlet Match last.

Analysis: It’s simple, yet complicated.

Isaiah “Swerve” Scott entered for the battle royal, btu Leon Ruff showed up to attack him. They have had issues for months as Ruff hit Scott with a clothesline out of the ring. Scott backed up against the barricade as the show went to break.

(Commercial)

The final entrant was Pete Dunne while the other guys were in the ring.

11-Man Gauntlet Eliminator Battle Royal

It was going to be a 12-Man battle royal, but Roderick Strong left. They had ten of the guys pair off all around the ring while Dexter Lumis stood in the corner and wasn’t interacting with anybody. Jake Atlas tried to eliminate Tyler Rust, Malcolm Bivens (the manager of Rust) held onto Jake’s foot and then Swerve Scott eliminated Atlas with a kick. Rust was sent towards Scott, who hit a back body drop to eliminate Rust. Bronson Reed hit a running shoulder tackle on Austin Theory, then he sent Theory to the apron and Reed did a hip attack to knock Theory out of the ring. Theory was on his back, so his feet weren’t on the floor and then the dumbass Theory did a kip up with his feet touching the floor. That meant Theory was out. Kushida hit a double back elbow on LA Knight and Cameron Grimes. Pete Dunne hit a forearm and a jumping enziguri kick. Kushida kicked the arm of Grimes while Dunne stomped on the arm of Ruff. Dunne and Kushida got into a fight with Dunne going for a submission and then Kushida fought out of that. Dunne lifted Kushida to the apron while Kushida had an armbar and then they ended up tumbling over the top to the floor, so both guys were eliminated.

Analysis: After the break, it was announced that Kushida would face Dunne at NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver on Night One. That will be a fantastic match. It also means five matches on both nights of Takeover.

(Commercial)

The battle royal continued with the final six men that were in the Gauntlet Eliminator Battle Royal: Dexter Lumis, Isaiah Scott, Bronson Reed, Leon Ruff, Cameron Grimes and LA Knight. Johnny Gargano, the North American Champion, was on commentary for the rest of the match. Lumis continued to stand in the corner without doing anything. Gargano said “you think you know me” to Beth and also said “on this day” he’s the North American Champion, so that’s two Edge references. Bronson Reed dumped Ruff and Scott out of the ring. Grimes and Knight worked together on Reed, so then Lumis finally did something and helped them dump out Reed. Grimes offered to pay Knight and Grimes so that Grimes could be the last man in the match. Lumis punched Grimes and then Lumis/Knight tossed Grimes out of the match. Cameron’s money was all over ringside. Barrett: “I just made about three grand!” That was funny. Lumis with a back body drop on Knight and Knight sent Lumis over the top to the apron. Lumis with a shoulder tackle. Lumis teased a suplex, Knight choked Lumis across the top rope and then Knight went to the floor under the top rope. Knight pulled Lumis off the apron to the floor to win the match. This match went about 13 minutes.

Winner: LA Knight

Analysis: **3/4 It was a solid battle royal that was well booked with Knight picking up the win after a crafty elimination of Lumis. I think most of the eliminations were booked well and they continued some of the storylines involving the guys in this match. I figured that Lumis would make it near the end because he’s likely the guy that’s going to challenge for the North American Title based on the storyline that has been in place for him. Knight winning is good for him because it shows he’s a smart heel that knows how to pick up victories. I liked the way Bronson Reed was booked in the match as a dominant force as well.

12-Man Battle Royal to qualify for Gauntlet Eliminator: WWE NXT, March 31, 2021

This means the order of the Gauntlet Eliminator Match at Takeover Stand & Deliver looks like this: Leon Ruff (#1), Isaiah “Swerve” Scott (#2), Bronson Reed (#3), Cameron Grimes (#4), Dexter Lumis (#5) and LA Knight (#6).

LA Knight left the ring and did a promo pointing at Johnny Gargano’s NXT North American Title. Gargano wished him good luck.

Io Shirai, the NXT Women’s Champion, made her entrance in the ring. Shirai called out Raquel Gonzalez while also speaking in Japanese. Shirai told Gonzalez to get out there. Raquel went out there with referees trying to break it up and then other women’s wrestlers in NXT were there to try to break it up. Gonzalez knocked some of the women down. Shirai dropkicked Gonzalez off the apron. Shirai went up top and hit a cross body block onto Gonzalez and about ten other women who all bumped to the floor even though some of them were not even touched. Shirai stood tall over Gonzalez, who was down as they replayed the spectacular cross body block by Shirai onto the other women on the floor.

Shirai stood tall over Gonzalez looking fired up. They probably should have handed Shirai her NXT Women’s Title at that point, but she didn’t have it with her. That was the end of the show.

Analysis: It was a running theme all night with Shirai and Gonzalez brawling over the building. Gonzalez was dominant in every other setting, but when they got to the ringside area it was Shirai hitting the big move to knock down Gonzalez. My expectation is that Gonzalez will win the NXT Women’s Title at Takeover since Shirai has been champion for a long time. It just makes sense to do a title change.

Io Shirai and Raquel González’s wild brawl: WWE NXT, March 31, 2021

 

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Cameron Grimes
  2. Io Shirai
  3. Raquel Gonzalez

 

The Scoreboard

This week: 7 out of 10

Last week: 7.25

2021 Average: 7.40

 

Final Thoughts

It was a solid episode of NXT with a heavy emphasis in building up to the ten NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver matches coming our way next week. Some of the matches were built up by segments during the show while others were given the video package treatment. I think by the end of the night, they did a pretty nice job of promoting everything at Takeover Stand & Deliver next week.

There was a lot of focus on the Raquel Gonzalez/Io Shirai rivalry throughout the night. I liked brawling around the ring, backstage and then the final scene with Shirai showing off her athleticism to take down Gonzalez to end the show. That was a feud that needed more attention and I’m glad that they gave them several segments on this week’s show to build that up more.

In terms of match quality, it wasn’t like one of the better NXT episodes. However, that’s okay because we know that Takeover is coming next week. It’s going to be awesome. I’m excited about it. Our preview is coming early next week.

The next WWE NXT Takeover is called Stand & Deliver on April 7 & April 8. Here’s what is scheduled for Wednesday, April 7 on USA Network/Peacock (or wherever you watch NXT TV):

NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai (c) vs. Raquel Gonzalez – Night 1 Main Event

NXT Tag Team Championships (Titles Are Vacant): MSK vs. Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Legado del Fantasma

NXT UK Championship: WALTER (c) vs. Tommaso Ciampa

Six-Man Gauntlet Elimination Match Where Winner Gets US Title Match on Night Two: LA Knight (#6) vs. Dexter Lumis (#5) vs. Cameron Grimes (#4) vs. Bronson Reed (#3), Isaiah “Swerve” Scott (#2) vs. Leon Ruff (#1)

Pete Dunne vs. Kushida

Here’s what is scheduled for Thursday, April 8 on Peacock/WWE Network:

NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) vs. Karrion Kross

Unsanctioned Match: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Adam Cole

NXT North American Championship: Johnny Gargano (c) vs. Winner of Gauntlet Elimination Match

Ladder Match for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Santos Escobar vs. Jordan Devlin

NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships: Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart (c) vs. Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell

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