Friday, December 9, 2016

NXT St Petersburg 12-8-16

Dedicated to the memory of
Todd Garzon. NXT Head Of Security
Rest In Peace

Before NXT became a huge international machine that it is, you used to hear the term “NXT Family” thrown around quite a bit. It was an appropriate term to describe the rag tag group of regulars who came to know each other at these small intimate shows, and the relationships we formed with staff and the wrestlers too. As head of security, Todd was at the center of all of it and central to so many peoples NXT memories. He loved his job. He took his position very seriously, exercising authority when necessary. However, he loved the fans too and treated everyone like a friend. His favorite part of the job was watching kids’ faces light up when they watched the magic of wrestling unfold. My heart goes out to his family.

Thursday night the NXT Florida loop made an inaugural stop at the National Guard Armory in St Pete. With the touring roster still making towns across the globe, the cruiserweights and several new names stepped up to carry the NXT banner. In fact, I almost hesitate to call shows “A” shows or “B” shows anymore. The caliber of the roster is too great for that… in fact, these “B” shows are actually refreshing, new, and in some ways better.

Jack Gallagher vs Steve Cutler
With a unique blend of technical prowess and comedic elements, Gallagher is a great way to kick off a show. Jackie Boy showed off his grappling skills, and made sure to hit his signature spots including the headstand on the turnbuckle and tying a frustrated Cutler into a pretzel, much to the amusement of the crowd. Gallagher has charisma in spades. Steve Cutler has been in the system down here for a while, and I say give him a push (at house shows, anyway) and see what happens. Steve seems to have found some confidence since playing heel, he does well trash talking and bantering with the crowd. However, it wouldn’t help him here; Jack Gallagher defeated Steve Cutler by pinfall after a huge running corner dropkick

Lana vs Sarah Bridges
The ravishing Russian returned to the Florida loop for the weekend in… well, an interesting way. Lana danced her way into the ring like a party girl to horrendous dance music, dressed ala the Ziggler storyline. Lana comes off as enthusiastic and likeable, but the skill level just isn’t there. Even the very competent Bridges seemed to have trouble gauging Lana’s stop/start timing and dictate the flow of the match. The last time Lana came down here she was protected in tag matches and she came out looking much better, that’s the formula they need to stick to for now if they insist on moving forward with Lana as an in-ring performer. In the end though, Lana defeated Sarah Bridges with a sit-out slam

Tian Bing vs Kona Reeves
Kona Reeves (formerly Noah Kekoa) played the heel in this match, mocking Bing with martial arts chops and a crane kick ala the Karate Kid. The cocky Reeves dominated much of the match before Tian Bing soundly beat him with a flurry of kicks and strikes. Bing finished off Kona with a superkick for the win. I really like the ring style of Tian Bing, the man has it, and he just needs to make that connection with the crowd. Kona Reeves has all the tools, and a look that will probably suit him well down the line.

Cruiserweight champion Rich Swann is out next for an interview with Kayla Braxton. He briefly mentions his rough past, stating that his belt proves that no matter what, you can do anything. The massive Dan Matha comes out to interrupt; he is met with “Mr. Clean” chants. He mocks the champion. Undeterred, Swann tells him that with courage and heart he can get the job done no matter what. Matha tells him that we’ll find out about that later.

Noam Dar vs Gran Metallik
This was a fun match between two cruiserweight standouts. Noam Dar wisely played a ground game, working the arm of Metallik for most of the match. However, the luchador is about impossible to keep down. Gran Metallik mounted a comeback in the end culminating in a superkick and a Metallik Driver for the win. Both of these guys are so much fun. The young and cocky Dar has such a ring presence, while Metallik may finally be the luchador the WWE has been looking for.

Tommy End vs Roderick Strong
The match of the night was also easily the hardest hitting, as neither man is known for kids gloves. Strong’s strikes reverberated throughout the armory, while End exhibited one of the most impressive flurry of kicks I have seen in a long time. This was a brutal, fast paced, back and forth match that seemed it could go either way at times. Towards the finish, End nearly destroys Roddy with a crazy flurry of kicks and strikes. He stops to trash talk and is met with a sickening high knee, followed by a single leg dropkick that gave Roderick Strong the win. I’m a huge fan of both wrestlers. I was very familiar with Roderick Strong before NXT, but had only seen a handful of Tommy End matches… I feel compelled to go and find them all now, and so should you.

Daria Berenato vs Mandy Rose
Despite the fact that they are both rookies, these two women have a great chemistry together. This was a decent textbook wrestling match. Mandy Rose, who seemed to be on the fast track for a while, appears to be struggling to find her place again. One can’t deny she is green, but considering how long she has been wrestling, she’s progressing fine. Daria, on the other hand, has MMA experience and a plethora of strikes/kicks to make her look pretty good in the ring. However, it wouldn’t help her this time, Mandy Rose defeated Daria Berenato with a facebuster.

Dan Matha vs Rich Swann
This very lopsided affair saw Rich Swann getting dismantled for ten minutes, with only brief attempts at offense. In the end, he nailed Matha with a trifecta of kicks for only a two count. Moments later, Matha charges the corner, Swann dodges, and Matha goes shoulder first into the ringpost. Rich Swann rolls him up for the win. It was a painful match to watch, but did well in demonstrating the never say die attitude Swann.

Heavy Machinery & Hoho Lun vs Sanity
Tucker Knight and Otis Bogojevic dominated the early going of this main event, along with a few brief tag-ins from partner Hoho Lun. Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, along with Big Damo struggled to keep up with Heavy Machinery who kept one step ahead. The crowd popped for the inevitable clash of the massive Otis and Damo. But perhaps the crowd was most behind the underdog Lun, who came in with a strong flurry of offense. Thanks to a distraction from Nikki Cross, Sanity took over and began systematically taking apart the much smaller Hoho Lun. He eventually made the hot tag to Tucker who cleared the ring before chaos ensued like it so often does in these matches. In the end, Lun ended back in with another surprising bit of offense before Sanity nearly killed him with a double team for the win. Afterwards Sanity attempted to completely destroy Hoho, but Tucker and Otis made the save. The good guys celebrated, and the crowd went home happy.


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