It was an impulse decision, but after missing out on attending CWF’s Battlecade the weekend before, I was really jonesing for some live wrestling. 2019 is shaping up to be a fantastic year of wrestling here in North Carolina with New Japan Pro Wrestling, Evolve, Ring of Honor, NWA’s Crockett Cup, and possibly an All Elite Wrestling event all occurring. I already have tickets for NJPW and plan on attending the Crockett Cup and any AEW event close by, so the thought adding NXT to the list of promotions I see this year was too much to resist. So, I contacted the redditor and we made plans to attend NXT Live this past Sunday at the Durham Armory in Durham, North Carolina.
The Durham Armory is a wonderful building that was built back in the 1930’s during the WPA (Work Progress Administration) days. The building was transformed into a civic center in the 1950’s, has a great look, and frequently hosts kickboxing and MMA bouts, but surprisingly not much wresting. The only evidence I can find of any professional wrestling events being held at the Durham Armory was back in 2012 when an all-female group called the Luchadoras held a show at the venue.
Well, the WWE did well and picked a great venue for this type of show. It was intimate, unique, and everything I like in a wrestling venue. It didn’t feel cookie-cutter at all and that’s a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to WWE produced events. I loved the look and feel of the venue, and my only true complaint is there were no concessions. I get not serving hot food, but a cooler with some water bottles would have gone a long way in making things a little more enjoyable.
Let’s take a quick look at the matches from the event.
Matt Riddle defeated Adam Cole
Now this is how you start a wrestling show! Wow… just seeing these two face-off was worth the price of admission, but they actually put on a great match with a fantastic finish that saw Matt Riddle getting the win with a vicious powerbomb.
Kairi Sane & Xia Li defeated Lacey Evans & Aliyah.
So, right after bringing out Cole/Riddle, they decide to bring out Kairi Sane and Xi Li, which really made my night. The match wasn’t a classic, but it was great to see all four of these women in the ring. Aliyah ate the Sane Elbow to give Sane/Li the win. Aliyah is in need of some major time at the Performance Center though and Evans didn’t really get much of a pop. I’m not sure how smart it is to call her up right now. Sane was insanely over.
Following the match, Sane/Li brought Lacey Evans into the ring and hugged her. It was her final NXT match before being called up to the main roster.
Keith Lee defeated Dominik Dijakovic
Keith Lee is a beast, and Dijakovic didn’t look great when the match started. But once these two got rolling, it was arguably the most entertaining match of the evening. A “This is Awesome” chant broke out and these two big men put on a classic big man match that got the crowd pumped. I was super impressed with the match placement, as these first three matches offered something different and really got the night going. Keith Lee got the win after catching Dijakovic in the air, flipping him over, and hitting him with a powerslam.
Brennan Williams defeated Kona Reeves
he only dud on the card was this. Kona came out insulting the crowd and spent way too much time on the mic. Williams finally came out after maybe ten minutes of Kona going on and on. He brought a UNC Tarheels towel to the ring which wasn’t well thought out. For those who don’t know, North Carolina lives for college basketball. All three ACC rivals (NC State, Duke, UNC) are within twenty minutes of each other, and residents here are fiercely divided on their favorite teams. Duke University is located in Durham, which is where this event took place. So coming out with a UNC towel, didn’t exactly win over the crowd. Instead it split the crowd, ruined Kona’s heat, and then it didn’t help that Kona got back on the mic to try and salvage things.
After another wasted five minutes, Williams hit Kona with a scissors kick and the match was over in one move. Total waste of time and Williams’ Lenny Kravitz look is terrible.
EC3 & War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe) defeated The Undisputed ERA (Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong)
Awesome, awesome match! EC3 came out in war paint and all six men were incredibly over. The Undisputed ERA took a beating in this one, and the War Raiders put their agility on display. This was a great way to get things back on track, right before the intermission.
WWE NXT North American Championship Match
Ricochet (c) defeated Shane Thorne
It’s safe to say Ricochet had the loudest pop of the night. Throne played the heel well with one classic moment coming early on where he attempted to grab Ricochet’s hair. Ricochet mocked him since he didn’t have hair, so Shane reached up and grabbed his beard.
Ricochet got a few cool flips in, including one off the stage and he picked up the win with a frankensteiner into a modified driver for the win.
It’s worth mentioning, television does not do the North American title justice. That belt is absolutely gorgeous.
Bianca Belair defeated Rhea Ripley
While watching this match the only thing I could think of is this should have been swapped with the women’s tag match earlier on. I know it was a cool down match prior to the main event, but these two ladies just never really got going. The match itself might have been better than the tag match, and the crowd reaction to both ladies was nice, but I was no impressed. I am a fan of Rhea Ripley’s look and ability; I just think she just needed a different opponent.
Aleister Black & The Velveteen Dream defeated Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa
Wow… I was not expecting to see DIY in action! Ciampa and Gargano were never 100% on the same page, since they clearly did not trust each other, but moments would pop up and you’d see that classic DIY chemistry shine. It was incredible to watch these two men put so much psychology into a tag team situation like this.
Dream had some great comedy spots, while Black played the intimidating straight man. Overall it was a very good match that got the crowd to chant “This is Awesome.” Gargano accidently kicked Ciampa twice, which gave Dream time to kick Gargano and then Black time to finish him off with another vicious kick.
Following the match, Ciampa and Gargano teamed up on Dream and Ricochet came out to make the save. Within moments, the Undisputed ERA was in the ring attacking Ricochet, which brought out EC3, the War Raiders, and Matt Riddle. The faces cleared the ring of everyone but Adam Cole, who was treated to several punches, and even a mini-superkick party. Ricochet hit Cole with the Rock Bottom and teased a People’s Elbow before hitting a backflip on Cole. Riddle put Cole in a figure four and Dream hit him with a leg drop while the War Raiders kept the rest of the heels away from the ring.
Afterwards, Ricochet got on the mic and thanked the crowd and then handed the stick off to Dream who talked about NXT and his appreciation for the brand, before finally handing the mic off to EC3 to say some departing words since he had just wrestled his final NXT match.
The only negatives I have to say about the entire experience are (1) the lack of concessions was disappointing and you heard a lot of mumbling throughout the crowd, especially during the fifteen minute intermission. (2) The commercials. I know the WWE runs commercials during Raw/Smackdown and all that, but they were really badly placed in between the matches and to be honest, no one in attendance needed to see a commercial for the Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania. (3) There was a security guy who was constantly in the way. He was a WWE employee and sat next to the announcer, but after every match he stood up and blocked the view. Someone who worked there told him he needed to sit down and not block the fans, but it didn’t stop him. He’d just stand up and text on his phone or sit down and put his hands behind his head and block a significant part of the action at times. Here are a couple pictures of what I mean.
Overall, this was probably the best top-to-bottom wrestling show I’ve ever attended. There was very little time wasted and it wasn’t so overproduced like a typical live WWE event. Instead, it was just a bunch of talented wrestlers given time in the ring to do what they do best, and that’s the type of wrestling I love. I will definitely be on the lookout for NXT’s return to Durham and I highly recommend checking out their house shows if you find yourself near one.