Welcome to the weekly TJRwrestling review of WWE NXT. Jim Kress was normally the one handling these duties, but due to his personal schedule, he stepped away from writing, I will be taking over from here on out. Jim was a good writer and I am sure John will miss his input. John will also be posting a less-intensive reaction to NXT every week. Let’s get this party started.
WWE NXT from Full Sail University 1/22/2020
The matches for tonight include two semi-final matches in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, plus a match between Roderick Strong and Keith Lee for the NXT North American Title.
The show opens with a package showcasing last week’s episode of NXT. It focuses on the women’s in-ring standoff and the feud between Lee and Strong.
We are joined at the top of the show by the commentary team of Mauro Ranallo, Beth Phoenix, and Nigel McGuinness. Mauro talks about World’s Collide, which is this Saturday on the WWE Network, and gets us ready for the first match of the night.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-Final
The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish) (w/Adam Cole and Roderick Strong) vs. The Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake and Zack Gibson)
The Undisputed Era are the current NXT Tag Team Champions and are over with the crowd, even if they are heels.
O’Reilly and Gibson start the match with O’Reilly taking the early advantage. Gibson recovers and makes a quick tag to Drake. Drake is a house of fire and hits a flurry of offense. O’Reilly rebounds and The Undisputed Era makes some quick tags and hits some double team offense. Fish with a belly to back suplex for a two count. He works on Drake in the corner and makes another tag to O’Reilly. He continues working over Drake’s leg and gets a quick two count. Drake goes for a counter, but is cut off quickly. Drake finally recovers and makes a quick tag to Gibson. He is in and starts with some offense, but it doesn’t last long and O’Reilly takes back control. Both men go back and forth, with Gibson taking the advantage and knocking him to the outside.
*Commerical Break* double screen action shows Gibson maintaining control on both men. He continues working on O’Reilly in the middle of the ring. He makes a tag to Drake and they hit a double team move on O’Reilly for a two count. Drake hits a backbreaker and slides to the outside of the ring. He pulls O’Reilly out with him and throws him into the barricade. He makes the tag into Gibson, who continues slamming down on O’Rreilly. Another tag into Drake, who hits a stiff elbow to the face. He locks in a chinlock that’s has O’Reilly gasping for air. O’Reilly gets back to his feet and starts to fight out as we return to full screen.
O’Reilly tries everything he can to get away but to no avail. He finally hits an enziguri and makes the tag in to Fish. Fish comes in and takes out both men with a flurry of offense. Gibson comes off the top with a knee drop but Fish catches him and locks in an ankle lock. He keeps it in before Drake saves his partner. Gibson makes the tag to Drake and they hit the Helter Skelter for a close near fall. Another tag into Gibson, and they go for another double team move, but Fish escapes. Fish tosses Drake over The top which gives the Undisputed era an opportunity to hit a double team suplex for a two count. Gibson recovers and hits O’Reilly before making the tag back in to Drake. Drake is in and trades blows with Fish in the middle of the ring. Fish eventually gets the advantage and makes the tag into O’Reilly. They hit a pop up double knee strike for a two count. Just as they take the advantage, the Imperium music plays and distracts all the members of the Undisputed Era. Drake takes advantage of the distraction and hits a move on O’Reilly and picks up the upset win in about 12 minutes.
Match Winner(s): The Grizzled Young Veterans
Match Rating: 3.75/5 Stars
Match Notes: That was one hell of an opening tag match. It was fast-paced the whole way through, and both teams look so fluid together. Fish and O’Reilly are just a well oiled machine at this point, and they didn’t slow down in this match. O’Reilly especially is the standout to me, but I have loved everything both men have done in NXT so far. Drake and Gibson weren’t slouches themselves, and really held their own here. The Imperium and Undisputed Era match will be unbelievable when it happens at World’s Collide.
After the match, all the members of Undisputed Era are livid in the ring and are looking to get a piece of Imperium.
They go to a package showcasing the upcoming match between Rhea Ripley and Toni Storm at World’s Collide on Saturday night. That should be a hell of a match. They go to a commercial break.
They are back from the commercial break, and we have women’s action for the second match of the night.
Io Shirai vs. Toni Storm
The match begins with Shirai taking storm down to the mat and working on the leg. It doesn’t last long, with Storm taking the advantage back and working on the leg herself. Both women are back to their feet, with storm hitting a basement dropkick to the face. She hits Shirai with some more offense and gets a two count. Storm continues hitting her with some uppercuts which knock Shirai to the ropes. Storm continues, but Shirai eventually takes the advantage back and hits a dropkick for a two count. She works storm over to the corner and hits some chops. Shirai knocks her to the bottom rope and starts stepping on the back of her head. she continues working over the neck of Storm, and as they rise to their feet, Shirai hits a shoulder block. With both women down on the mat, Shirai locks in another chinlock. Storm tries to make a comeback, but Shirai cuts her off with a clothesline for a two count, as they go to a commercial break.
We are back from the break with Shirai still working on the neck of Storm. Storm attempts to make another comeback, but Shirai hits her off and his some double knees in the corner. Shirai charges in, but Storm gets the feet up and follows that up with a German suplex. Storm goes for a cover and gets a two count. Storm goes for her finisher, but Shirai fights out. She hits the ropes, but Storm recovers and hits a clothesline for near fall. Storm charges in, but Shirai counters into a roll up for a two count. Shirai goes for a 619, but Storm counters and knocks her to the outside. Storm goes to dive outside, but is hit with an elbow by Bianca Belair and the match ends in a disqualification. It went about 10 minutes.
Winner (by DQ): Toni Storm
Match Rating: 3/5 Stars
Match Rating: Both women had an impressive outing here. Shirai has impressive moves and held her own against a bigger opponent. Toni Storm had a quality night too, hitting some nice power moves mixes with the athleticism. She is a future player, not only in NXT, but on the main roster as well. The NXT women’s division is superior to all the other major brands going right now. Storm and Ripley will be a barnburner.
After the match, Belair continues the assault on Storm. Just as she goes to finish her off, Rhea Ripley makes her way to the ring. The two face off in the ring, but Shirai hits a springboard dropkick that knocks Belair out of the ring. She tosses Ripley out and follows that up with a springboard over the top on both women. Storm recovers and hits a dive to the outside on all three women. She rolls back in the ring and poses with the NXT Women’s Title.
The Undisputed Era are backstage and are still upset about Imperium’s involvement in their match. Cole says the focus should be on their other match tonight and Imperium will get theirs in the end. They walk off as they go to commercial.
Coming out of the break, Finn Balor is making his way down to the ring for the next match of the night.
Finn Balor vs. Joaquin Wilde
Both men lock up and Balor shows off the speed and takes the early advantage. He knocks Wilde down to the mat and starts to stop him in the midsection, while talking trash to him. He tosses Wilde to the corner and hits a stiff elbow. He pulls him out, and just as Wilde attempts a comeback, Balor hits a beautiful dropkick, knocking him to the mat. He hits the buckle dropkick, followed by the Coup de Grace and the 1916 DDT and he gets the win in about 1:30.
Winner: Finn Balor
Match Rating: Squash
Match Notes: Balor was even impressive in a squash. He is in the upper tier in the industry. The trash-talking during the match was an added bonus. Balor as a heel is starting to grow on me. He has a busy schedule coming up, with a match at World’s Collide against Ilja Dragunov and at Takeover: Portland against Johnny Gargano. Both should be fantastic matches.
They hype up the main event between Keith Lee and Roderick Strong later tonight for the NXT North American Title.
Shayna Baszler is backstage and talks about being angry that she isn’t the champion anymore. She brings up Rhea Ripley and how she is counting the days until she becomes Shayna three time. She says she is ready for tonight’s match, and they go to commercial.
They are back on, and we see a package hyping up the tag team of DIY, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. That team is responsible for a few five star classic matches, so it’s exciting to see them back together.
Shayna Baszler vs. Shotzi Blackheart
There is bad blood coming into this match, with Blackheart getting one over on Baszler last week.
Both women circle the ring, and lock up in the middle. Baszler takes her down to the mat, but nonchalantly lets her back to her feet. Blackheart gets some quick offense in, but Baszler regains the advantage and goes for the armbar. Blackheart tried to fight out, but Baszler is just too much. Both women get back to their feet, and Blackheart tosses Baszler over the top rope. Blackheart continues with the advantage, but Baszler comes back and tosses her out of the opposite side of the ring. She tosses Blackheart into the apron, and continues the assault with blows to the back of the head. She gets back in the ring, and continues working on the head and neck of Blackheart. Blackheart finally fights out and she hits a knee strike followed by a DDT. She pulls herself to her feet and hits a clothesline. She charges in but Baszler counters with a lariat of her own. Blackheart fight off the Baszler attack and hits some more offense. Both women go out to the apron of the ring, with Blackheart hitting a move on Baszler. Baszler rolls in the ring and Blackheart climbs to the top. She attempts a senton, but Baszler moves and locks in the rear naked choke. Blackheart fights her heart out while in the move, but eventually taps out, and gives Baszler the win in about 7 minutes.
Winner: Shayna Baszler
Match Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Match Notes: Baszler is an absolute beast. It took a while for her to grow on me, but she is at the top of the NXT Women’s Division. Blackheart showed a lot of fire in the match, but Baszler proved to be too much. Her strikes look believable, and a lot of people are picking her to win the Women’s Royal Rumble match on Sunday. I am included in that group.
After the match, Baszler celebrates in the ring, before they go to a package about Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox. It shows the bad blood between the two, and the match is set for next week.
Mauro talks about the upcoming tag team match, before going to the commercial break.
The other Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic match is up next as they come back. But first, we have a backstage segment with the NXT Cruiserweight Champion, Angel Garza. He talked about his four way match at World’s Collide and said he will walk out with the championship around his waist because he is confident in his abilities.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-Final
“The Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne and “The Original Bro” Matt Riddle vs. Imperium (Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner) (w/Alexander Wolfe and Walter)
I will go on record and say that Imperium have one of the coolest entrances in the wrestling.
Dunne and Aichner are the first two in the match. They lock up, with Aichner taking the early advantage. Imperium makes a series of quick tags and take turns working on the arm of Dunne. Dunne makes his way to his feet, rebounds and gets a tag into Riddle. They hit a double team moonsault for a two count. There is a quick exchange, with Barthel taking the advantage back with chops in the corner on Riddle. Both teams make tags, and Dunne hits Aichner with some quick offense. He stomps on the hand of Barthel, and follows that up with a crucifix bomb for a near fall. Dunne continues taking on both men, and makes his way outside for a staredown with Walter. Imperium takes advantage of the distraction and hits Dunne with double team moves into the stairs. Walter continues to look on as they go to the commercial break.
Back from the break, Barthel is still working on Dunne’s head and neck area. He tosses him into the corner, but Dunne recovers and hits an elbow to the face, knocking him to the mat. He isn’t out for long, and gets a tag into Aichner. He comes in and starts to go to work on Dunne. He hits some stiff shots, but Dunne recovers and gets the desperation tag to Riddle. Riddle is a house of fire and hits both members with a suplex and a knee to the face. Dunne and Riddle make some quick tags in and out and they double team Barthel. Barthel takes back the advantage, and throws Riddle shoulder first into the corner. He makes the tag to Aichner, and he continues working on Riddle. Riddle recovers enough to make another tag to Dunne, but Imperium is ready for it and hits some double team offense on Dunne. Imperium continues making tags in and out, but Dunne rebounds and locks in an armbar on Barthel. Riddle and Aichner are on the other side of the ring, with Riddle having the ankle lock locked in. Riddle hits a jackhammer in the middle of the ring for a two count. Riddle is back to his feet as the fans chant “this is awesome”. Riddle climbs to the top, but Aichner cuts him off with some stiff chops. Brainbuster by Aichner on Riddle. Dunne makes the blind tag, and as Imperium goes for a double team powerbomb, Riddle reverses Aichner with a hurricanrana and hits Barthel with a German suplex. Dunne is the legal man and comes in to assist, and they hit a double team dropkick/enziguri and they pick up the win in about 15 minutes.
Winner(s): Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne
Match Rating: 3.75/5 Stars
Match Notes: That match was on par with, if not slightly better, than the opening tag team match. Dunne and Riddle worked well together, with both of their styles complimenting each other. Both men are stars in singles action, so it naturally has carried over into their team. There were a bunch of stiff shots from both teams and it was just a battle from start to finish. It also had a lot of fast paced action, so it had a little bit of everything. Imperium has a bright future ahead of them as well, and the stable as a whole has the legs to go the distance. This match checked all the boxes you want to be associated with something as big as this tournament.
After the match, Dunne and Riddle are interrupted by their opponents next week, The Grizzled Young Veterans. Both teams take their turns to get some jabs in, with Riddle making a slight weed joke, as always. After the brief exchange, Dunne’s music hits and both teams head to the back.
Keith Lee is shown getting ready for his match tonight, and they go to commercial.
NXT North American Title Match
Roderick Strong (c)(w/The Undisputed Era) vs. Keith Lee
The crowd is super fired up for this match. Both men get the championship introductions, as the referee holds the belt up above his head.
The match begins with Strong trying to shoot the leg of Lee. Lee battles back with some strong strikes that knock Strong back into the corner. He tosses Strong to the outside of the ring and looks down at The Undisputed Era as they go to commercial.
They are back from break, with Lee hitting a cross body block on Strong. He rolls to the outside, but Lee follows him out. He looks on top of the Undisputed Era, as he hits Strong with some vicious sounding chops to the chest. Strong rebounds and hits the bad ankle of Lee, which has him vulnerable. He follows that up with a baseball slide dropkick, and continues working on the ankle on the outside. He pushes the stairs against the ankle of Lee, and kicks the stairs into it. Strong rolls him in the ring, and goes for a cover but only gets a one count. He continues working on the ankle, and has him locked in a submission in the middle of the ring. Lee shows the power and launches him off his leg, but Strong gets right back to work on the ankle. Lee tries to get to his feet, but Strong continues to hit strikes to the head, which knocks him to the mat. Strong goes to lock the ankle lock in again, but Lee throws him to the outside. Strong is only outside for a short time, and gets back in and locks in another ankle lock. Lee finally fights out, and kicks him to the mat. Strong keeps the advantage with some shots to the head and follows that up with a stiff elbow to the back of the head. Both men are down, and they go to a split screen.
*Commercial Break* split screen action shows Strong continuing to work on the ankle of Lee. He is relentless. He locks him in another ankle hold, and Lee is riving in pain. Lee kicks him off again, and Strong attempts to go back to the ankle, but Lee lifts him up and Strong hits nothing but mat, as they go back to full screen.
Lee is back in the offensive and hits Strong with some strong blows. Lee hits a power slam, followed by a one-hand slam that gets a two count. He tosses Strong to the outside, and he is surrounded by The Undisputed Era. They use the numbers game to give Strong the advantage, with Fish hitting Lee while he was laying on the apron. Both men are back in the ring, and they exchange shots in the middle of the ring. Strong takes out Lee with a headbutt, but falls to the mat himself. Both men are down on the mat, as Lee uses the ropes to pull himself back up. He climbs to the top, but Strong cuts him off on the way up. Strong climbs up with Lee, but Lee knocks him off with an elbow. Strong is relentless and gets back up to the top, and hits an Avalanche Olympic Slam, for a one count. Both men are back to their feet, with Lee knocking Strong over the top rope with a huge shoulder block. He took out other members of his team on his way down. Strong gets back in the ring and is met with a big clothesline that gets a near fall. Lee goes back to the top, but he misses the moonsault. Strong takes advantage, and locks in the ankle lock while grapevining the leg. Lee does everything he can to get to the ropes and he does. Strong uses every bit of the five count before breaking the hold. Lee and Strong are back to their feet, and Lee hits another huge chop to the chest. Cole distracts Lee and Strong hits a kick to the face. Lee recovers and hits the Big Bang Catastrophe and gets the three count to win the NXT North American Championship. The match went 21 minutes.
Winner and NEW NXT North American Champion: Keith Lee
Match Rating: 4/5 Stars
Match Notes: That was a great match from start to finish. Strong worked on the bad ankle of Lee for the majority of the match, and they told the big man/little man story well. Strong is a pro, and this match was another feather in his cap since joining NXT. Keith Lee has been on fire as of late, with some people even picking him to win the Royal Rumble on Sunday, CM Punk included. Lee works the power style well, but also has good agility for a big man. He hits moves that a man of his size wouldn’t dream of, and had a bright future ahead of him. Hell of a way to main event the show.
After the match, The Undisputed Era stand stunned in the ring. They don’t have much time to wallow, because Imperium climbs up on the other side of the ring, with both teams standing toe to toe. They get in the ring and the brawl is on. Walter absolutely lights Adam Cole up with a chop to the chest. Damn, that was the hardest chop I can remember ever seeing. Both teams continue the brawl, as NXT security gets in the ring to break it up. The crowd chants “let them fight”, and the shows goes off the air.
Overall Show Rating 7.5 out of 10
That was an impressive showing by NXT. I rated three matches almost four stars, and it was non-stop action from start to finish. The opening tag team match was fast paced and didn’t slow down for a second. Fish and O’Reilly giving the rub to a younger team like The Grizzled Young Veterans is cool to see. That’s the only way to build younger talent. Finn Balor has a strong showing, even in a squash match. Storm and Shirai had a great back and forth match, and Baszler and Blackheart had it’s moments as well. Like I mentioned in the review, the NXT Women’s division is the best in the business. The second semi-final tag team match was just as good as the first, and the finals should be something else. Lee defeating Strong in the main event and winning the North American Title in the process was the right move. Lee has been on fire, and this was a way to keep him at a main event level. The showdown between Imperium and The Undisputed Era was just icing on the cake for the night, and the match on Saturday at World’s Collide has the potential to be legendary.
What did you think of this week’s episode of NXT? Did it win the Wednesday Night War for the Week? Follow me over @collectiveheel On Twitter and let me know your thoughts. Support the site. Support each other. I’ll be back soon with some more Collective Thoughts.