Tony Nese def. Tyler Breeze
While I don't recall these two having any sort of bad blood with each other, it was still a super solid match with both guys having good performances. The action was entertaining and they made the most of the time they had. Nese has been on a losing streak for a while, so his win here was a pleasant surprise. I don't expect him to be contending for the Interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship any time soon, but at least it's a step in the right direction for him.
Tehuti Miles def. Danny Burch
Miles has been utilized as an enhancement talent for NXT, 205 Live and the main roster since WWE started filming shows at the Performance Center, but I have noticed him getting more shine than your average Performance Center recruit between his unique look and the fact he's been getting an entrance. I fully expected this to be a short and sweet showcase win for Burch, but it turned out to be fairly competitive. Not only that, but Miles scored the huge upset victory. Props to 205 Live for trying to switch things up and make a new name, though it's very possible Burch will avenge the loss next week and that'll be it for Miles.
Sheamus Won a Battle Royal to Advance to the Semifinals of the Intercontinental Championship Tournament
It was revealed at the start of the show that Elias was struck by a car that was believed to belong to Jeff Hardy, who was found banged up in the bushes. It was a controversial angle for sure given Hardy's past issues with alcoholism (and how WWE has turned a blind eye to them whenever he's had run-ins with the law), and while I agree that it didn't need to happen, it at least made for an interesting opening to the show that held my attention. It was then announced by Adam Pearce (who apparently is SmackDown's new authority figure?) that this Battle Royal would determine AJ Styles' opponent in the finals (Styles wanted a bye while Bryan preferred to compete for it). I didn't expect Jey Uso to be used at all while his brother Jimmy was out injured, but not only did he participate in this thing, he lasted until the very end before being eliminated by Sheamus. It was cool to see him as well as Shorty G have such strong showings. It was a slightly-above-average Battle Royal on the whole.
Lacey Evans vs. Sonya Deville Ended in a Double Count-Out
I've been absolutely loving Deville's heel work over the past month or so and thought she had another excellent performance here. In fact, Evans also did exceptionally well and the two of them had a great match in the time they were allotted. I honestly had no idea what to expect from this, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The double count-out finish keeps their feud alive and leaves the door open for a rematch sometime soon.
Finn Balor def. KEnny Williams
I'm curious whether this was taped with the intention of airing it on TV or if it was always meant to be a dark match. Either way, it was a quality contest and it was cool to see Williams hang with a top talent like Balor. Williams doesn't often get the credit he deserves for being so skilled, so I was glad he had as solid of a showing as he did here. It's unfortunate that Balor's feud with WALTER has been put on the back-burner for now because I was really looking forward to that matchup.
Rhea Ripley def. Nina Samuels
This took place during that period when Ripely was pulling double-duty on both NXT and NXT UK. I'm a big fan of hers, but not even she could get an exciting match out of Samuels, who bores me to tears. There wasn't anything technically wrong with this, but it also wasn't anything more than average, either. On the bright side, it did effectively hype Ripley's upcoming opportunity at the NXT Women's Championship next weekend at NXT TakeOver: In Your House.
Drake Maverick def. Jake Atlas and Kushida in a Triple Threat Match to Advance to the Finals of the Interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament
Having three guys in there who realistically could have won really added to the drama of the match and the suspense surrounding the outcome. Okay, so I never actually thought Atlas was going to advance, but I had no idea who would win between Kushida and Maverick. It was a very well-worked Triple Threat and was the best choice to start the show with. Maverick's journey to the title (despite being unemployed, supposedly) continues and part of me thinks he may actually become the champion, but I'm also sticking with El Hijo del Fantasma as my pick.
Johnny Gargano def. Adrian Alanis
Gargano referred to this as the first-ever "Johnny Gargano Invitational," accidentally calling his opponent Adrian Adonis. Alanis may have gotten a move or two in, but this was all about Gargano, who won in the matter of a minute. The real focus was on what happened afterward with Keith Lee and Mia Yim mocking the recent Gargano dinners from their own home. It allowed them to show some personality for a change and set the stage for the eventual mixed tag team match.
"Broken" Matt Hardy and The Young Bucks def. Joey Janela and Private Party
Hardy portrayed his classic persona here (not "Extreme," but maybe "High Voltage"?) and it meshed well with Young Bucks' style. Janela and Private Party were a random trio, but it was clear that their sole purpose was putting over Hardy and the Bucks. It was an enjoyable outing to kick off the show. Even better was the post-match angle that saw FTR (the former Revival from WWE) arrive and save the Bucks from a beatdown at the hands of The Butcher and The Blade. I like that they're not immediately jumping into a showdown and are instead taking their time with it. FTR were always expected to sign with AEW, but it didn't make this moment any less cool.
Brian Cage def. Lee Johnson
This was the perfect first match for Cage on Dynamite. It was kept short and sweet and allowed Cage to showcase his intensity and dominance. It may have meant more had AEW not just aired 10 consecutive squash matches on Tuesday's episode of Dark, but that's merely nitpicking. I love the idea to pair Cage with Taz and I'm looking forward to Cage challenging Jon Moxley for the AEW World Championship at Fyter Fest.
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