Welcome to the WWE NXT review here on TJRWrestling. The next Takeover is on Sunday, December 6, so it’s time to set up that card. As usual for my NXT reviews, I go with a summary style for most of it and then play by play for the main event.
This is episode #431 of WWE NXT. It took place at NXT’s home called the Capitol Wrestling Center at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. Check out my past WWE NXT reviews right here.
The show began with Leon Ruff, the NXT North American Champion. A replay of Ruff’s upset title win over Johnny Gargano was shown.
Johnny Gargano interrupted the video package with a promo complaining about what happened last week by telling Ruff he’s a joke and tonight the joke is over because Johnny is winning back that title.
The announce team of Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett (in the arena) and Beth Phoenix (at home in North Carolina) were on hand to call the action.
NXT North American Championship: Leon Ruff vs. Johnny Gargano
Gargano was very aggressive early on as he whipped Ruff into the turnbuckle and beat on him strikes. Ruff showed off his speed very well, he hit a kick to the head and an incredible hurricanrana off the ropes along with a dropkick. Ruff hit a somersault dive off the top onto Gargano on the floor with Ruff jumping too far, so he barely hit him. Gargano took control again with a clothesline. Gargano launched Ruff headfirst into the turnbuckle two times in a row. Damian Priest showed up to distract Gargano, so Ruff got a rollup for two. Ruff also hit a big clothesline. Ruff missed a dive off the top when Gargano moved, so Johnny hit a superkick and Powerbomb. Gargano hit the One Final Beat DDT for two with Priest pulling Ruff out of the ring. The referee saw it, Priest said “sorry kid” and punched Ruff, which led to the DQ finish after five minutes.
Winner by disqualification: Leon Ruff
That meant that Priest screwed Gargano out of the win by punching Ruff. Gargano was freaking out about it while Priest was laughing.
Analysis: **1/4 This was fun for a five-minute match with an ending that wasn’t clean. Gargano controlled most of it while Ruff did a nice job of selling along with making the babyface comeback when needed. The improbable title reign of Leon Ruff continues, but it probably won’t last that long. At least that’s what we’re supposed to think.
Cameron Grimes did a promo about his blindfold match.
Blindfold Match: Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis
The wrestlers put the blindfolds on that were more like black hoods covering the head. They were not just covering the eyes. Grimes did some comedy things like jumping onto the mat, trash talking and running into a turnbuckle while Lumis just stood there. They did a spot where the referee got close to Grimes, so Grimes punched him and kicked him while on the mat. Grimes took the blindfold off to see he hit the referee. Lumis with some punches and then Grimes took the blindfold off Lumis, who did some more punching along with a bulldog. They left the ring with Lumis whipping Grimes into the barricade a few times. Grimes climbed over the barricade and went to the back, so it just ended after about five minutes.
Match Result: No Contest
Analysis: *1/2 It wasn’t much of a blindfold match since it became a regular match. The lack of a finish means the story will continue with Grimes continuing to fear Lumis. Grimes was entertaining as the heel in the match doing some comedy for a few minutes. Lumis was his usual self by not showing much emotion and coming away with the victory.
William Regal was shown backstage talking to Damian Priest, who said he was just joking around. Leon Ruff walked up to him saying he is just a joke to Priest? Damian said that it’s not like that. Priest said he just didn’t want Johnny to win the title. Ruff slapped Priest in the face (since Priest punched him earlier) and then told him he’s no joke. Regal told
It was announced that the women’s WarGames match will have Candice LeRae captain one team (the heels) and Shotzi Blackheart as the captain (the faces) of the other team. NXT Takeover WarGames is on Sunday, December 6.
Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro vs. Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell
Kacy and Kayden worked well together early in as Kacy hit a headscissors on Hartwell leading to Candice tagging in. LeRae hit a knee to the ribs and Hartwell tagged back in with a spinning sidewalk slam. Kayden got the hot tag with an impressive flatliner on LeRae and a dropkick on Hartwell. Kacy hit a dive on Hartwell that the director missed. LeRae avoided a running kick by Carter and then she hit a brainbuster. Hartwell kicked Kacy while they were on the floor. LeRae hit the Wicked Stepsister stomp to the back of the head to send Kacy into the mat and Candice covered for the pinfall win after four minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell
Analysis: ** It was okay for a shorter match to put over Candice/Indi as a heel alliance with Candice as the veteran helping Indi get better. I like Kacy and Kayden as a natural babyface team that works well together. If WWE actually remembered that the Women’s Tag Team Titles could be defended in NXT then maybe Kacy and Kayden will get a title shot at some point.
There was a video about Arturo Ruas. He was drafted to Raw last month, but now he’s back in NXT. Way to plan things well, WWE creative team.
Arturo Ruas vs. Kushida
They did some grappling on the mat with Ruas going for submissions, but Kushida broke free and Ruas hit him with a knee strike. Ruas grounded Kushida with an armbar with Barrett saying he was impressed by Ruas. The offense continued for Ruas as he drove Kushida’s left arm into the mat. Ruas with a knee to the ribs, Kushida kicked the left arm, kick to the head and an impressive low dropkick for two. Kushida went for a kimura lock on the left arm, Ruas got out of it and Kushida hooked the legs leading to a pin where he bridged back for the pinfall win after about five minutes.
Winner by submission: Kushida
Analysis: **3/4 I liked this match between two guys that know a lot of submissions and counters. It’s not a style of wrestling that every fan loves, but I certainly appreciate the grappling skills of Kushida and Ruas. I’ve written before that I want to see Kushida pushed more. He has been utilized a bit more of late, but not at a consistent level.
Ember Moon and Toni Storm were interviewed by McKenzie Mitchell in the backstage area. They were happy to be teaming up since they both fell victim to the numbers game. Storm mentioned the NXT Women’s Championship, so Moon said let’s get through this and then they’ll worry about the title.
A video aired about Io Shirai facing Rhea Ripley in the main event later in the show with NXT superstars, plus legends like Triple H Shawn Michaels and Road Dogg – three men who run NXT from a creative standpoint.
Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez vs. Ember Moon and Toni Storm
The heel side of Kai and Gonzalez were in control early. Strom blocked a kick of Kai and Moon tagged in with a clothesline along with a dropkick. The face team of Moon and Storm cleared the ring leading to a break.
The match continued with Gonzalez working over Storm with a forearm to the back, then Storm hit a headscissors and brought Moon in. Moon was impressive with a senton splash along with a kick to the face. Moon jumped off the middle ropes with a double knee attack on Gonzalez for a two count. The heels were able to take control again as Moon was chasing on the floor and Gonzalez decked her with a boot to the face. The announcers spoke about how Gonzalez has improved this year and they’re absolutely right about that. Moon managed to break free briefly, but Gonzalez prevented a tag by hitting a shoulder tackle across the ring. Storm tagged in against Kai with two German suplexes, Kai tried to fight off Storm and then Storm hit a third German suplex. Storm with a running hip attack and a Fisherman’s suplex got a two count as Gonzalez broke it up. Moon took out Gonzalez with a superkick, Kai kicked Moon and Storm/Kai did a double clothesline. Kai with a running boot, but then Storm kicked her in the chest. There was a referee distraction spot with Gonzalez shoving Storm into the ring post. Moon hit a suicide dive on Gonzalez, who went back first into the announce table. That looked rough. Storm got an inside cradle on Kai for the pinfall win after 12 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Ember Moon and Toni Storm
Analysis: ***1/2 It was a competitive, even tag team match for the most part. I’m glad that the faces won because they needed it more. Moon is awesome, Storm continues to impress, Kai is very consistent and Gonzalez gets better every time she’s out there. The finish being done that way shows that Storm barely won the match rather than winning in dominant fashion. All four of these women could be believable as the NXT Women’s Champion in the future, so I like that they were given time to show what they can do.
Post match, Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell attacked Moon and Storm from behind. They sent them into the ring with Kai hitting Storm with a kick. Gonzalez hit a huge spinebuster on Moon and Storm. Candice and Indi smiled at Gonzalez and Kai in the ring.
Analysis: This means that Candice wants Gonzalez and Kai to join her WarGames team, so the foursome will likely be LeRae, Gonzalez, Kai and Hartwell. The face team is probably going to Shotzi Blackheart, Ember Moon, Toni Storm and perhaps Io Shirai as well.
The Pat McAfee-led heel group that also includes Pete Dunne, Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan were shown arriving at the building.
Timothy Thatcher vs. August Grey
Thatcher was aggressive with forearm strikes and a suplex across the ring. Grey got some offense with punches until Thatcher stunned him with another forearm to the face. Grey managed to hit a superkick to create some space. Grey went up top, he walked the ropes and Thatcher stopped him with another forearm. Thatcher hit a double underhook suplex. Thatcher slapped on a guillotine choke submission and Grey tapped out to give Thatcher the win after about four minutes.
Winner by submission: Timothy Thatcher
Analysis: *3/4 A shorter match to put over Thatcher, who is the submission expert that usually beats people that are not the bigger names in NXT. Grey got a bit of offense, but Thatcher was dominant.
Post match, Timothy Thatcher trash-talked Grey by giving him another lesson saying that you shouldn’t pick a fight with a man you can’t beat. Thatcher put the guillotine choke on Grey, so Tommaso Ciampa made his entrance.
Ciampa got in the ring with Thatcher, who said he had no problem with Ciampa and Thatcher backed out of the ring.
Analysis: Ciampa was a heel earlier in the year, but I think he’s in face mode again since he’s done promos about being the heart of NXT that wants to deal with problems in NXT.
Tommaso Ciampa was interviewed backstage by Mckenzie Mitchell. Ciampa said he wanted to fight Thatcher and he left.
Damian Priest entered for a match with no opponent visible yet, but there was Johnny Gargano to attack him. They went into the ring with Priest working over Gargano with punches, then Gargano with a kick to the head and Priest hit a spinning forearm to the face. They left the ring with Priest clearing off the announce table. Gargano fought back with a forearm. Priest with a boot to the jaw. They went back towards the ring with Priest grabbing a steel chair. Leon Ruff hit a dropkick on Priest after Gargano moved. Ruff with a superkick on Gargano. Priest went for a kick. Ruff moved and Ruff dropkicked Gargano into Priest. Ruff with a back body drop on Gargano over the top onto Priest on the floor. When Priest and Gargano got back up, Ruff ran away from them.
Analysis: It seems like this will set up an NXT North American Title match most likely at Takeover WarGames with Ruff defending the title against former champions Priest and Gargano. The NXT brand doesn’t do triple threat matches on Takeover that much, but the story would make sense in this case.
It was announced that Wade Barrett can’t be there next week, so the guest commentator next week is going to be Kevin Owens. That should be fun. I think KO will do great in that spot.
There was a video from one night earlier with William Regal knocking on Boa’s door saying he hasn’t been at the WWE Performance Center. Boa said that “she’s coming” and Regal wondered if he meant Xia Li with Regal noting she hasn’t been at the WWE PC for two weeks. Boa just said “she’s coming” and then closed the door on Regal.
Analysis: The mystery continues. There’s somebody in power that has control over Boa and Xia Li, so we’ll find out soon.
Leon Ruff was shown talking to William Regal in the backstage area. Ruff told Regal he’ll face the both of them referring to Priest and Gargano.
The entrances took place for the main event with Rhea Ripley entering first followed by NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai.
NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai vs. Rhea Ripley
Ripley shoved Shirai down to show off her power, but then Shirai hit a dropkick. Ripley went for a body slam, Shirai slipped out with a pin attempt and Ripley hit a shoulder tackle. Shirai hit a dropkick that sent Ripley out of the ring between the ropes. Shirai ran the ropes and then Ripley hit her with a forearm. Ripley sent Shirai face first into the ring apron as the show went to break.
Shirai missed a running attack because Ripley moved and Shirai hit the turnbuckle, so Ripley hit a spinebuster. Ripley hit a powerful vertical suplex as the NXT Champion Finn Balor was shown arriving at the building. Ripley grounded Shirai by pulling on the left arm and squeezing the ribs. Ripley went for a superplex, but Shirai slipped out of that attempt, she pulled on Ripley’s arm and Shirai hit a German Suplex off the middle ropes. Shirai with an uppercut palm strike followed by a double stomp to the midsection. Shirai bounced off the ropes with a running dropkick for two. Shirai with a crossface submission, Ripley broke free and hit a boot to the face. Ripley was bleeding from the left ear, which is not that surprise since she’s got big rings there, so it’s possible to get cut by that. Shirai wrenched on the left arm of Ripley and then drove the double knees into the arm. Shirai hit a running dropkick to the left arm. They left the ring again with Shirai whipping Ripley left shoulder first into the steel steps. Ripley was screaming in pain to sell it. They went to break again.
The match returned with Ripley hitting a superplex while standing on the middle rope with Shirai on the top rope. That got a two count for Ripley, who was selling the left shoulder. They exchanged strikes, Ripley with repeated knees to the face and Ripley hit a running dropkick on a seated Shirai for a two count. Ripley lifted Shirai in an inverted Cloverleaf submission and then grounded Shirai on the mat. Shirai managed to gout of that and went for an armbar on the injured left arm, Ripley fought it, Shirai held on and Ripley got her feet on the bottom rope to break the hold. Shirai went for the 619 kick by the ropes, but Ripley avoided it twice. Shirai with slaps to the face, then the 619 kick connected by the ropes and Shirai hit a missile dropkick for two. Nice nearfall there. Shirai went up top, she jumped with the moonsault, Ripley moved and Ripley hit a running clothesline with Shirai doing a flip bump for a two count. Ripley went for the Riptide, but Shirai did an incredible counter into a DDT! That looked great. Ripley went to the apron, Shirai did a sunset flip onto the floor and Shirai gave Ripley a Powerbomb through the announce table! That was pretty crazy, but it looked good and worked very well. Ripley crawled back in the ring just before the ten count and Shirai jumped off the top with the Over The Moonsault onto the back of Shirai for the pinfall win after 22 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Io Shirai
Analysis: ****1/4 This was an awesome match as expected. It was definitely a Takeover style match in terms of the time they were given and the story they told. They got a lot of time, it was very even the whole way and Shirai found a way to win to keep her title. They match up so well together with Ripley using her size advantage leading to power moves while Shirai is so great at selling and making that babyface comeback. Shirai is one of my favorite women wrestlers in WWE because of her consistency in these big title matches no matter who the opponent is. Ripley did an excellent job of selling the left arm injury, it led to a slower pace in the second half and that spot through the table was incredible. I didn’t expect a spot like that, so give them a lot of credit for doing something special like that. There have been a lot of outstanding matches on NXT TV this year. This is definitely one of the better matches I have watched and reviewed this year. Io and Rhea deserve a lot of praise for this match. It was excellent.
Post match, Ripley and Shirai shook hands outside the ring. They embraced in a hug out of respect. There were “NXT” chants in the arena.
Analysis: There are rumors that Ripley may be headed to Smackdown or Raw. I think it’s very possible. I thought that a few months ago. She could fit in on either show. There’s a ready-made feud for her with Charlotte Flair since she lost to Flair at WrestleMania, so they can pick that up. I think Ripley is going to do very well wherever she is because she’s a complete wrestler already in her mid-20s. She has a very bright future.
Finn Balor made his entrance as the NXT Champion with about five minutes left in the show. Balor congratulated Io Shirai on the victory.
Let’s Hear from Finn Balor
Balor said that the last time you saw him, he defended the NXT Championship with a broken jaw in two places. Balor said that he said that he’s got three plates in his jaw that say he’s a bad son of a bitch.
There was an interruption from Pat McAfee and his group that includes Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. McAfee said that a lot has happened while Finn was sipping steaks with smoothies for the last six weeks. McAfee said that this is their show now. McAfee told Finn that while he’s sitting at home nursing that jaw with his wife, they must have seen what they were doing. McAfee talked about how they took out Drake Maverick and Killian Dain along with Breezango. McAfee said that Burch and Lorcan are the greatest tag team. McAfee bragged about how The Undisputed Era is dead because of them. The group stood on the apron as they circled Balor. McAfee told Balor to hand the title over to them since they run the show. McAfee said if he doesn’t, he’ll end up like the others…he’ll be dead.
Balor said that it’s easy for the mice to play when the cat is gone, but the cat is back and look at what he dragged in.
The Undisputed Era foursome made their entrance as Balor left the ring. The foursome of Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish went after McAfee’s group with all eight guys pairing off. Cole hit a kick on McAfee on the floor with Pat taking a great back. Dunne and O’Reilly were brawling along with the other four guys that were part of the tag teams.
Analysis: Great ending to the show with some chaos. McAfee’s promos are excellent and I like that Undisputed Era made their big return to try to shut him up. It was nice to see Balor back in the ring although we don’t know when he’ll be cleared to wrestle again. I loved how intense this was.
After the show was over, the cameras kept rolling and WWE uploaded this video to Youtube as well as social media. NXT Commissioner William Regal announced the match: “Wargames!” It was cool how Adam Cole was screaming for him to do it and he did it. Loved that moment.
Three Stars of the Show
- Io Shirai
- Rhea Ripley
- Undisputed Era
I give this show an 8 out of 10.
A very good show as usual with Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley putting on a great match for the NXT Women’s Title. It was one of the best WWE TV matches of the year. Ripley sold the shoulder the whole match, she nearly won and Shirai kept on coming back until she finished her off. There were several other women that looked awesome on the show too, which shows just how strong the women’s division is in NXT. The two women’s matches were both long while there were several other matches under five minutes. It’s a bit of a different format from the usual for NXT, but I think it worked because it showcased some other wrestlers. I also really liked the story of Leon Ruff wanting to prove to Johnny Gargano and Damian Priest that he is not a joke.
The main event angle was excellent with Finn Balor returning, then dealing with Pat McAfee’s group and that led to Undisputed making their big return as a babyface group. I really like how it was set up, which will lead to the WarGames in a few weeks. The storyline has been built up very well and I think any regular NXT viewer is going to be very excited to see that WarGames match.
The last NXT Takeover event of the year is NXT Takeover WarGames on Sunday, December 6 on WWE Network. Here’s what we know so far.
WarGames Match: Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong) vs. Pat McAfee, Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch
WarGames Match: Team Shotzi Blackheart vs. Team Candice LeRae
Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.