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While AEW continued to celebrate the New Year this week, Wednesday’s show NXT kicked off the 2021 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
The tournament will feature matches between the new and existing teams, which will compete in contests over the next several weeks before fighting for the coveted trophy between the final two teams.
Adam Cole and Rodrick Strong of the Undiscussed Era take on Brizango, while The Grizzled Young Veterans take on Ever-Rise.
We also saw the top NXT duet in action when Candice Lera faced Shottzy Blackheart and Johnny Gargano faced Dexter Loomis.
Let’s take a look at everything that happened on this week’s show.
1 out of 6
NXT wasted no time in taking action. As the opening video ends, Lira and Blackheart come out for the opening match.
He immediately started using a quick tempo and matched evenly until Blackheart took LeRae down in a short-arm scissors submission.
Indie Hartwell cheered on Lyrae from ringside as she battled back. He forced the fight out of the ring, and Blackheart hit a jumping knee from the steel steps. A distraction from Hartwell allowed The Poison Pixie to take control.
He traded the upper hand several times, but neither contestant could put the other away, until Lira hit a swinging neckbreaker from the middle turnbuckle for the pin. Hartwell provided another distraction to give her the victory.
Both Blackheart and Lira are known as risk takers, so it was no surprise when they started flying around the ring to take each other out.
Even with a small crowd in attendance, you fans could love Blackheart. LeRae sported a good heel, but it was the green haired girl who stood out for most of the match.
Hartwell did a good job as LeRae’s didactic in Ringride, but it would be nice to get a few more segments that let us get to know her character better.
Overall, it was a good way to kick the action for the night. Blackheart would easily overcome this loss.
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The first round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic began with Ever-Rise on The Grizzled Young Veterans.
Jack Gibson quickly took control and brought in James Drake to keep the pressure on. Chase Parker knocks Drake down his hair to bend the table. Gibson had to calm down Drake so that he would not disqualify the team.
Gibson hit Matt Martell on the apron before turning his attention to Parker. GYV spent the next few minutes watching Parker through the wrinkles.
In the end Martel got the hot tag and the strike was followed by both opponents. Both teams participated in a sequence of double-team moves that led to Gibson and Drake beating their finishers to victory.
It was a fast-paced match-up with some solid tag team wrestling, but was cut too short once in the final few minutes.
A few tag team spots in a row are fine, but once the referee steps aside and lets everyone stay in the ring as much as they want, it becomes very chaotic.
Other than that, it was a fun bout. Grizzled Young Veterans continue to impress with every outing, but Ever-Rays may use a bit of tuning.
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After a quick promo from Blackheart and Amber Moon seeing their upcoming appearance in the Dusty Rhodes Cup, Loomis and Gargano came out for their match.
Gargano’s North American championship was not on the line, but he had Austin Theory at Ringside to provide him with some backup. Gargano engraved one of Loomis’s paintings, and the tortured artist took him down easily.
He followed Gargano out of the ring, but Johnny Wrestling was still able to hit a kick in the face. They fought on the top rope, until Loomis knocked them down. Gagano avoided the Senton bomb as the show broke.
Loomis began to rebound and untied the right-handed stiff pair. He seemed to have the match well in his hands, but being away from Theory, Gargano was rolling Loomis to victory.
Gagano and Theory try to attack Loomis after the match, but Kushida runs down to save. Kushida clarified that she is coming for the North American Championship.
Loomis is one of the most unique talents of all of NXT, but management may not know how it intends to use it yet. It is clear that WWE wants to push him, but he is not in a hurry to establish his character.
Both these superstars have incredible talent, but it felt like they were a little behind in this match. We have seen many wrestlers save their best ideas for PPV matches, but in this match it was a lot clearer than usual.
The match was fine, but never felt like it reached the level these two are capable of achieving. It is difficult to know exactly what was missing. It was just a child that fell short. It should have been a night match but would not stand out in the end.
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The new tag team on the block made its debut this week when MSK took Jake Atlas and Isaiah Scott in another first round match at the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
Atlas debuted against Nash Carter. He did a good exchange of takedowns and counters which led to Atlas getting a two-count.
Carter and Tagore’s swag brought in Wes Lee. A moment later, Scott and Atlas gave birth to a newcomer for a double-team combo. Scott and Atlas adopted some dirty tactics, and this led to a huge brawl with all four men at ringside.
We returned from a break, with Carter seeing Scott in a bodyskisser. He tagged them both and Lee went into a rage. The two teams came close, but it was MSK who won to advance to the tournament.
Grade: C +
It was another match that had a quick tempo with a lot of energy, but MSK’s debut, formerly known as The Rascalz, made it a bit more interesting.
WWE didn’t spend a ton hyping the group’s arrival, but it recently teased it with some graphics. It was an interesting decision to debut as part of this tournament because if MSK does not win, it means it is going to lose its first match at NXT.
Atlas and Scott did a good job together, but they were never going to be a permanent team, so it’s best to finish early. He made MSK good.
The only major complaint with this match was the lack of pacing. It felt like they simply moved from one place to another without taking the proper time to sell anything. Maybe they had to pack as much as possible in the match, but sometimes, less is more.
5 out of 5
After returning last week with a decisive victory, Xia Li was back this week for another job fight. He hit a right hand and a spinning kick to win. He gave some more punishment after the match was over.
As a match, it was not much. As a way of making Lee invincible, it was terrible. Grading two strikes and the post-match attack is almost impossible, so this grade is based on how well this segment worked.
Lee has an appearance about her that makes her stand out from everything else on the roster. If WWE continues to book him that way, it won’t be long before he lands a title shot.
Changes in entry, music, form and outlook all suit her well. It will be interesting to see if Boa gets the same success when he starts wrestling more often.
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The main event featured Tyler Breeze and Fandango in the third Dusty Classic bout of the night featuring Cole and Strong of the Undiscussed Era. Kyle O’Reilly went to the ring with his teammates despite not clearing the medics.
Breeze and Cole get into a deadlock after their first exchange and join hands as a show of honor before re-locking. They both tag their partners so strong and Fandango can square.
We returned with a break to see Brijango dominate Cole with some standard tag team tactics. The leader of the UE brought in The Master of the Backbreaker to do what he does best.
Strong opens a front of crime against both men. Once Cole was recovered, Strong tagged him to pass-fall to get a double-team move. Breeze switched tables and tagged Fandango to kick off a sequence, with all four men taking each other in different ways.
Pete Dunne, Oni Lorcan and Danny Burch attacked KOR on the ring until Finn Balor tried to save. Pat McAfee’s friends kick him out, but Cole overcomes the distraction to hit Breeze a superkick for the win.
As expected, it was the best match of the night. The chemistry between all four men in the ring was off the charts and they used it for memorable performances.
Ringside’s high tremors marked the third time this week ended with interference, but of the three, this one made the most sense from a story standpoint. The WWE addressed three different fights at the same time with efficiency.
This bout was a prime example of how good the breezes and fandangos are. They make everything easy and always raise their opponents higher. This was the best possible way to end this week’s show.