Since having a baby a year ago I haven’t had much time or energy or money or anything to get out and watch any wrestling, but when I saw that NXT was coming to the nearby town of St. Charles for a live show I knew I had to jump at the opportunity. I went a couple of years ago and had a blast, so coming back again when the roster is arguably even stronger was a no brainer.

Right before the show began.

My wife and I got there about an hour early when the doors opened, but we didn’t really need to “beat the rush” because it never really got that crowded. I think it was even lighter than last time we were here, and that show was competing against a big hockey game. We did get to see Sarah Schreiber, the host for the evening, try her damnedest to get the people who were there excited about watching old network clips of NXT debuts. She wasn’t that successful, but she gave it her all.

The first match of the night featured the wildly popular Street Profits versus two of the Forgotten Sons, Blake and Ryker. The crowd was fairly indifferent to the Forgotten Sons, with only a few “TNA” chants directed at the former Gunner. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I felt a little weird seeing these war veterans as bad guys minutes after standing for the National Anthem. We’re supposed to respect the troops, right? That’s what they tell me, and I’m not gonna boo these guys when all they do is come out looking angry. The Street Profits won when Montez Ford hit a Five Star Frog Splash.

These two deserve better than my poor quality photos.

Next up was Raul Mendoza who took on Kassius Ohno. Ohno was SUPER over with the crowd, despite being a heel (and kind of a loser) on NXT tv. Raul came out to little reception, but after Ohno beat the hell out of him, eventually picking up the win, the crowd was on Raul’s side. Ohno gave him a brief fist bump (or bro pound?!?) after the match in a nice show of sportsmanship.

The crowd was excited when Sarah next announced it was time for some women’s action… but then it was a little deflating when Reina came out. Look- I watch NXT every week and even I can’t remember if I’d seen Reina before. I think she was on the Mae Young Classic? Aliyah came out as her tag partner to an equally tepid reaction. But then Dakota Kai and Candice LeRae came out, both of whom were very over with the crowd and the match got underway. It was a decent match, with Dakota selling for most of the time, but ultimately picking up the win with her tag partner. Even though everyone was dead for their entrances, I was impressed with how Reina and Aliyah got themselves over as heels during the match, mostly by yelling back at the crowd.

Lars had an open challenge next where he challenged anyone with enough “hutzpah” to come to his “territory”. Johnny Gargano came out and the two of them had a hell of a match with a weak DQ ending where Lars just shoved the referee. After that he tried to hit Johnny with a chair, but Johnny reversed it and sent Lars packing with a couple of chairshots of his own. Johnny was one of the biggest stars of the night and it was nice to see him looking like “Johnny Wrestling” again, and not some chump who probably attacked Aleister Black.

We know you’re the one who attacked Aleister, Johnny. It’s okay, we forgive you.

Oney Lorcan and Danny Birch came out next to fight the tag champions- Undisputed Era. Only Roddy Strong and Kyle O’Reilly came out, but the crowd was going bananas for them. I’m not sure if the everyone was just worn out or what (it was only five matches in) but the crowd died down about halfway through the match when the heels started locking in rest hold after rest hold. Birch and Lorcan made some nice comebacks, but eventually Undisputed Era picked up the win.

After a much needed intermission, Sarah announced that the remaining matches were all title matches, starting with Ricochet defending his North American Championship against Adam Cole. The crowd really lit up for these two, and gave a standing ovation to Ricochet when he won. There were a lot of dueling chants throughout the match, and of course everyone did the “Adam Cole, bay bay” during Cole’s entrance. You have to!

The one and only!

Next up the Women’s Championship was on the line as Kairi Sane defended her title against Lacey Evans. I’ve never really cared for Lacey on NXT tv (maybe it’s the accent or her constantly switching between a Southern Belle gimmick and a military gimmick? This night she was in her Sailor Moon meets Donald Duck gear), but I thought she was pretty good here. Kairi was really over with the crowd and put Lacey down for the count with her diving elbow after a quick, but good, match. I was surprised to see Lacey challenging for the championship, maybe she’ll be working with Kairi after Evolution.

Then it was main event time, where we saw Tommaso Ciampa face Velveteen Dream. Look- I’ve never been a big Velveteen Dream fan, certainly not since his very recent face turn, but I have to say he was really good here and the crowd was solidly behind him. Sure, there were a few chants for Ciampa, but seeing Dream win the crowd over (including me) when he really has only been a face for a couple of weeks on NXT tv was impressive. The match was great though, and even made me think Dream was going to win a couple of times, as unlikely as that would be in Small Town, Missouri, in front of an arena barely a fourth of the way full. It was great though and makes me excited for Dream to be in the main event of NXT for a while.

A complete star.

Overall it was a great show even though I’ll admit it was missing a lot of wrestlers that I was hoping would be there. No Heavy Machinery, no Bianca BelAir, no Nikki Cross, no Keith Lee, no EC3, no War Raiders. It was still fun, but it felt like half the roster was missing. I guess the NXT roster was too big, despite only being from an hour long tv show. The wrestlers who were there were great though, and I hope they come back soon with everyone else.