Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Maryann Mason
Thursday night NXT returned to the National Guard Armory in Lakeland for a night of hard hitting action. With much of the roster away with other commitments, the remaining talent stepped up and put on a fun and exciting night of wrestling and no one went home disappointed.
The always over Enzo Amore is always a good choice to start a show, as he received the usual big pop. He made his way to the ring by himself to take on his opponent, Angelo Dawkins. The match begins with several minutes of back and forth action before Dawkins takes over. He pummels Enzo before grounding him with a chancery. Enzo makes sporadic comeback attempts only to be shut down and grounded by Dawkins. Finally, Amore launches a comeback flying into Dawkins with his spastic trademark crossbody and follows with a flurry of punches. He sends Dawkins into the turnbuckle with an STO before climbing the turnbuckle. Amore launches off the top and catches Dawkins with a hellacious DDT for the win. Amore has improved considerably, even though his major strength still lies in being underdog. Dawkins has always been impressive athletically, but now his charisma is starting to really come through with his “curse of greatness gimmick. He was great tonight interacting with the crowd.
Billie Kay is next out to the ring, accompanied by her manager Sylvester Lefort. Her opponent is Gionna Daddio. The two start off with a lot of fast paced back and forth action before Billie takes a cheap shot and attempts to slow Gionna with a chinlock. She continues her onslaught with a backbreaker before settling into a single-legged camel clutch. Eventually, Gionna comes back dropping Billie with a couple of dropkicks and nailing her with an enziguri. She goes for the pin but Sylvester places Billie’s foot on the ropes. Lefort gets climbs onto the ring apron to cause a further distraction but Gionna dropkicks him to the floor. Gionna turns around to be caught by a surprise roll-up pin giving Billie Kay the victory. This match was a highlight of the night with great performances by both women. I like the pairing of Billie and Sylvester, it really seemed to work. For the amount of times she has been wrestling, Gionna Daddio is very impressive. People critical of another model turned wrestler are going to be proven wrong, as it seems safe to say she is a natural. At some point during the match (not sure exactly when) her nose got busted, but she worked through it and finished the match. Luckily, it was just a bloodied nose and nothing was broken.
Next up is Riddick Moss taking on Josh Woods. Almost immediately after the initial lock-up Woods traps Moss in an armbar before transitioning into an ankle lock, but Moss makes the ropes. The match continues with the quicker Woods staying one step ahead of Moss always coming back to a series of painful armlocks. The powerful Moss reverses an Irish Whip slamming Woods into the turnbuckles with enough velocity to make the entire front row cringe. He follows with a fallaway slam, then pummels Woods. Moss attempts to keep his opponent grounded, but Woods locks on another ankle lock out of nowhere before Moss makes the ropes. Woods continues with a series of suplexes before Moss manages to nail him with a kick to the face. Moss then finishes Woods with a neckbreaker for the victory. This was another impressive match. At these house shows Riddick Moss goes back and forth between heel and face depending upon what is needed, but he seems to be gaining a lot more traction as the cocky heel. This was the first time I personally saw Josh Woods wrestle (other than a few scuffles as Preston Cunningham Jr) and I wasn’t disappointed. From the way he was dressed to the moves he used, Woods MMA experience and amateur wrestling background was obvious. He is a lot of fun to watch and with more performances like tonight he won’t have a problem getting over.
Levis Valenzuela is out next for yet another promo. He talks about the phenomenon known as NXT and the opportunity it has given him. He expresses his desire to be the first Dominican NXT champion. He is interrupted by Emma, who tells him that dancing and pandering to the crowd got her nowhere. She says dancing is not the answer, and neither are the people in this crowd. She insists the dancing needs to stop but he tells her “No way, Jose!” He tells her that she can’t bring people down with her whining and that we’re all going to dance and the fiesta will continue. She tries to slap him but he catches her hand, spins her around and dips her. His music hit and a conga line emerges from the back and makes their way around the ring. The dancers consist of new recruits including Rich Swann, and all of the recent Tough Enough signees (minus ZZ).
The evening continues with Solomon Crowe taking on Tino Sabbatelli. After an initial lock-up the two trade several punches and chops until Tino takes over with a hard whip into the corner. Sabbatelli continues with a running powerslam before settling into a chinlock. The match continues with Crowe enduring punishment from Tino until he mounts a comeback culminating with a high knee in the corner guaranteed to loosen a few fillings. He finishes Sabbatelli with a twisting suplex neckbreaker for the pin. This was a short textbook wrestling match that saw Crowe mostly selling the offense of Sabbatelli. The newcomer Tino Sabbatelli is certainly competent in the ring, but nothing about him jumps out at me yet. As a big fan of Solomon Crowe, I have to wonder what in the hell they are doing with the guy. Crowe should be challenging for the NXT title, instead he is in limbo.
We continue with tag action as Marcus Louis and Sawyer Fulton take on perhaps the most over tag team in NXT, Jason Jordan and Chad Gable. Marcus Louis may not be full on crazy anymore, but he’s still definitely weird as he circles the ring maniacally and smelling his hands after attempting a handshake with Gable. The bell rings and the two lock up, several minutes of awesome chain wrestling follow with Gable getting the upper hand. Gable and Jordan control much of the bout with great wrestling from both Jordan and Gable, including some impressive tandem wrestling too. After a cheap shot the bad guys take over with Sawyer clotheslining Gable out of his boots. Sawyer and Marcus beat down Gable before slowing down the pace. Marcus circles him maniacally beating him down with big clubbing blows. Sawyer tags back in and levels Gable with a palm strike that would make CJ Parker proud. However, moments later Gable snatches Fulton’s arm out of nowhere for an armbar over the ring ropes. This creates enough separation for Gable to make a hot tag to Jordan who comes in with a series of dropkicks. He hits Louis with a suplex following with another to Fulton. He tags in Gable and they hit Sawyer Fulton with Grand Amplitude for the win. This was a fun match, as is usually the case with Jordan and Gable who are so much fun to watch. A fine performance by Fulton and Louis as well, both men have all the tools athletically, but still seem to be looking for that angle to connect them with the crowd.
Next is Bull Dempsey taking on the German Alexander Wolfe. This was another textbook wrestling match that saw some back and forth offense until Wolfe took over against Dempsey mostly working the arm and hand. Wolfe controlled much of the match while yelling at the crowd in German. Ultimately, Dempsey would “Hulk up” at the offense of Wolfe and come back with a series of punches. He squashes Wolfe with a big splash in the corner laying him out. Bull climbs the turnbuckles and launches off squashing his opponent with a seated senton for the win. I like Bull Dempsey, but this match seemed to struggle to keep the attention of the crowd.
More women’s action is next with Aaliyah (formely Jasmin/Nooph) taking on Nia Jax, who came out to a nice pop. The two lock up but Nia easily pushes her off. The speedy Aaliyah runs the ropes comes back at Nia with a series of kicks to the legs before Nia once again swats her off. Then Nia drops her with a shoulder breaker, then continues by tossing around her opponent by her hair like a rag doll. Nia locks her opponent with a vicious bear hug until Aaliyah gets free and attempts a comeback with another set of kicks, but Nia sends her to the mat with a clothesline. She stalks her opponent around the ring like a wounded animal before locking on another bear hug. Eventually, Aaliyah mounts another comeback with a series of dropkicks. She climbs the top rope and leaps off at a standing Nia (perhaps going for a hurricanrana?) but Nia falls back and they both land awkwardly, with Aaliyah looking like she took the brunt of it. Nia pins her for an abrupt finish. Nia continues to do well with her monster booking, while the little I have seen of Aaliyah mostly consists of her selling so it is hard to say. I saw Aaliyah after the show and luckily she was okay after the rough looking abrupt ending to her match.
Our main event is a tag match for the NXT tag team titles with The Vaudevillians challenging the champs, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder. The match starts off with some great chain wrestling between English and Dawson. Eventually, English gets the upper hand. Dawson tags out but Dash doesn’t fare much better soon finding himself having to escape an armbar from Gotch. Later, Dawson finds himself with his arm in a hammerlock for some signature squats from the gentleman grapplers. English does 10 squats, but Gotch outdoes him with a manly 31 squats. Eventauly, after a blind tag Dash clotheslines English out of his boots and the two begin an intense beatdown. Dash and Dawson employ frequent tags working the leg of English, at one point wrapping it around the ring post. Ultimately, English makes a hot tag to Gotch who comes in and clears the ring with an onslaught of innovative kicks and strikes. Gotch sends Dash out of the ring and nails Dawson with a rolling senton. English follows with a low angle senton off the second rope for the pin but Dash pulls the referee out of the ring to narrowly avoid a three count. The referee calls for the bell giving the Vaudevillians a DQ victory. Dawson and Dash continue to beatdown their opponents after the bell until Enzo Amore runs in to make the save. Amore rocks Dash with a series of punches before The Vaudevillians finish him with a Whirling Dervish. This was a great main event with both teams looking really good. The Vaudevillians are over as always, and it’s so gratifying to finally see Dawson and Wilder getting a well-deserved and long awaited push.