First Ever NXT Live In Person Review Submitted by Justin Watry on 03/02/2020 at 12:02 PM
In Person NXT Live Review 02.22.2020
Buildup – A little background to this all first. I have never been to an NXT show. Never been to a Takeover. Never been to a live event house show. Certainly never been to a television taping down in Florida. However, I am the one guy to be signing the praises of the entire brand for the past six years. If you listen to the 411 Foresight Wrestling Podcast or follow me on Twitter at @JustinWatry – you already know this. I am full board NXT…so it was high time for me to actually go and see what all the fuss was about. Originally, the plan was to go to Milwaukee Friday night. That was sold out and the re-sale market was a bit ridiculous with prices though. Thus, it was PLAN B – make the near 90 minute journey to this place called Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Home for the Herd, the G-League team for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. After securing some pretty darn good tickets, it was time to rock and roll.
Arriving – Grabbed some delicious Subway with my buddy before the event and pulled into the Menominee Nation Arena. As mentioned, this is the home of the Herd basketball team who I actually went and saw play last year with my brother. Good time so I knew the ins and outs of the setup. As I searched for tickets in the days leading up to the show, there were A LOT of available seats. A lot. I was seriously shocked and how poorly the event was doing. When I officially bought tickets hours before, it was a totally different story. Most of the seats were now gone, and it was slim pickings outside of the “bleachers.” This was confirmed as we got to the parking lot and saw multiple lines of people waiting to get in. Right at 6:30pm when doors open. Perfect timing for the 7:30pm start time!
Opener – After an introduction and usual opening on the big screen, it was time for the opening contest! My, oh my. The POP for Finn Balor’s music hitting first was amazing. I did not expect him to come out right away. In hindsight, it was great. Start us off with a big name and immediately have us hooked. Fans loved him from beginning to finish. There was no booing or Johnny Gargano chants (he was not there but was also never advertised to be there). Fans loved Finn Balor, and the show was off to a good start when his opponent was revealed to be Rik Bugez! Gotta love Wisconsin, right? Right? Honestly, I did have one person ask me who that guy was. Other than that, people dug him. Just not anywhere near the aura Balor brought. They did a few things like played the guitar during abdominal stretches and other ‘mocking’ poses dealing with the rock and roll stuff. Balor won after about five minutes. Awesome stuff.
Kushida/Dexter – I admit it. I have no idea what Kushida did before signing on with WWE NXT. I could not tell you one thing about his career or whatever his pairing with Alex Shelley was about. I have no clue nor do I care. What I can tell you is fans loved him. Not as much as Finn obviously but wow, he needs to be doing more on TV. His theme music, his facial reactions, his fanbase, his moves, etc. He has it all down ladies and gentlemen. I remember he was hyped as a big time signing, so let’s get back to that mindset. Dexter? Dude is creepy. His American Psycho vibe. sliding on the ring canvas and gloves is such a nice touch. Fans HATED him and never let up on him. Super fun bout and exactly what the live event setting is for. Kushida rules. Easy win for him.
Damian/Dominik – The only upset of the evening. Mr. Feast Your Eyes lost clean as a sheet to Mr. Priest. I know it is a live event and the outcome doesn’t really matter…but Dominik had such great fan support. We were cheering for him from the start and really thought he’d win. Priest is the next rug below him on the pecking order, so it was not a HUGE upset but still surprised me. Did you all watch NXT Takeover Portland? Opener might be match of the year right now. Anyways, hard hitting big man battle. Lots of ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’ from the live crowd.
Six Women Tag – This was Kayden Carter, Mia Yim, and Tegan Nox taking on Chelsea Green, Dakota Kai, and Raquel. Robert Stone and his BRAND actually came out first to cut a promo. He said he was not going to be disrespected in Oshkosh like he was the previous night in Milwaukee. Of course, he blamed the referee, and that would definitely be foreshadowing. More on that in a bit. Side note here – extra security was brought in to stand on all four corners surrounding the squared circle. No joke, it was only for this match. Not even the NXT Womens Championship match later. Just this one. Make of that what you will. Either way, fun stuff with the whole focus being on Dakota ducking Tegan and always running from her. Raquel looked good despite being a relative newcomer on the television show. Eventually, Robert Stone did get involved and yep, he got ejected AGAIN! Hilarious moment. He has the whole act down pat and was even nice enough to reply to my tweet last night. Bonus! The faces won and celebrated around the ring.
North American Title – Keith Lee may have received a bigger pop than Finn Balor. Truthfully, he may have been the most over guy all night. Men, women, kids, diehards, casuals – everybody got up and cheered for him. I know he is the North American Champion currently, but I do wonder if he has more mountain to climb. Would anybody complain if he was feuding with The Undisputed Era right now for the NXT Title? No, of course not. Wow. Singing along to his theme, chanting “Bask In His Glory” and all the fun stuff he does in the ring. We were there with him the entire match. Credit to Roderick Strong, his opponent, as well. He played the little weasel so well, ripped on Wisconsin (where he was born) and bounced around like a pinball. Great heel to the dominating face. Lee won and as we went to intermission, the crew switched up the top rope. It did look like Keith Lee ran so fast at one point the whole structure shook. Would not surprise me if he busted something or knocked the top rope loose. Either way, he won and is STILL NXT North American Champion!
Dream/Grimes – Earlier in the night, we had a pre-recorded promo from Charlotte Flair talking about Bianca Belair. I guess that was the officially announced match for NXT on Wednesday? Then we had a second pre-recorded promo from the one and only Cameron Grimes ripping on The Velveteen Dream, setting up this match coming out of the intermission break. Not much to this one. Dream messed with Grimes’ hat. They took turns doing the Val Venis/Rick Rude style hip swivel, and then it was over with in a hurry once the in-ring action started. A Dream Valley Driver got the job done. One, two, three. No shock to anybody, but the fans love The Velveteen Dream. If it is his turn to take the NXT Title in Tampa Bay, he gets my vote. We shall see.
Womens Title – When the very talented Alicia Taylor announced that the next match was for the NXT Womens Championship, the building exploded. Arguably the third or fourth biggest crowd reaction of the entire show. Even bigger than when the actual NXT Womens Champion walked out. Rhea Ripley was a huge fan favorite, but wow, the fans were pumped to see the title bout between her and Bianca Belair. Both women are ready for primetime and deserve to be on the main roster, but since NXT is basically the main roster now, it works. Good back and forth match and one that the fans were definitely looking forward to. Ripley obviously retained and is one step closer to the WrestleMania stage in April.
Main Event – Our final bout of the show was a six man tag team match. Kyle O’Reily, Bobby Fish, and NXT Champion Adam Cole wrestled NXT Tag Team Champions Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne…and Wisconsin’s own Tomasso Ciampa. It is between him and Keith Lee for loudest crowd reaction. We all knew he would be the Broserweights partner, but that only made the reveal that much better. So great. Lots of ‘Bro’ chants. Lots of ‘Dunne’ chants. Lots of “Daddy’s Home’ chants. Literally! The faces won to send the crowd home happy, and fans started to file out around 10:30pm. Roughly a three hour show as advertised. Ciampa did stick around with Riddle and Dunne to give a post-match speech about being back in Wisconsin, sticking around in NXT until retirement and how great the fans and crew are. Closing it out, he gave us all the final word as the building chanted “We Are NXT!”
SUMMARY: Excellent show. Loads of fun. Another thing crossed off my wrestling bucket list in seeing NXT live in person. Based on my Twitter feed, a bunch of wrestlers stuck around and took pictures with fans outside, so that was awesome of them. My buddy and I were long gone by then. He is a casual fan but certainly knew the gist of everything going on and had a blast. I am bad at crowd estimates, so do NOT quote me on this, but I would guess 1,000 fans. Maybe 1,500 if I was being nice? Again, I am NOT the guy to ask for crowd estimates. I just know tickets moved fast in the final day and filled up most of the available sections. Either way, if you have never seen NXT live, I definitely recommend it. Pictures and videos can be found on my Twitter feed, so be sure to check that out...