Welcome to the WWE NXT review here on TJRWrestling. It’s the follow-up show to this past Sunday’s NXT Takeover WarGames event. It was a very good show overall with Johnny Gargano winning back the NXT North American Title, Raquel Gonzalez leading the Team Candice heel team to win their WarGames match and the babyface Undisputed Era group to win their WarGames match in the main event. Let’s roll with the review where I provide a summary for most of it and then play by the play for the main event.
This is episode #434 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 opening video package showed highlights of the NXT Takeover WarGames event from Sunday night.
They were at the WWE PC known as the Capitol Wrestling Center with some fans behind the cages. The announcers are Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett at the arena along with Beth Phoenix at home in North Carolina.
Let’s Hear from Finn Balor
The NXT Champion Finn Balor was in the ring with his title and leather jacket along with one of his “Prince” shirts. Balor hasn’t had a match in over two months due to a broken jaw. Balor said that WarGames is done and the time for team sports is over. Balor said that the champion is back. Balor said that some people love him, some people hate him and if you want to get to know him, you’ve got to see him in the ring.
Pete Dunne showed up to say that they are cut from the same cloth because he came from overseas and he made a name for himself just like Balor. Dunne said in a matter of time, the NXT Title will be his.
Kyle O’Reilly was next saying that Pete is tough and he knows it first hand. Kyle said that this is the Undisputed Era and they’re all just living in it. Kyle noted that he broke Balor’s jaw and technically Finn won the match, but he ate his meals through a straw because of Kyle.
Damian Priest was next to join the promo party saying he was looking forward to this for a while. Priest said that him facing Balor would be a marquee match and it’s something that Balor wants. Dunne ripped on Priest for not beating Leon Ruff, Priest said McAfee pays Dunne to be quiet, Kyle ripped on Priest for not winning matches lately and Priest said he doesn’t get paid to be off for six months. While they argued, Balor walked up the ramp.
Balor told them that they need to learn manners because they cut him off before he was finished. Balor said that on January 6th at New Year’s Evil, he’ll defend the title, but who he faces is not his problem, that is William Regal’s job.
Balor was interrupted on the stage by some smoke as the lovely Scarlett showed up in black leather as a sign that Karrion Kross is ready to return to action. Scarlett stared at Balor, who said he had a message for Kross: “When he’s ready, Finn’s ready.” Balor walked to the back.
Priest called on Scarlett and said that if her boy (Karrion Kross) wants to pick a fight then all he has to do is step to him like a man. Scarlett had an evil grin on her face as she walked to the back. That led to a commercial.
Analysis: There was a lot to digest there with three guys making it clear they wanted a shot at Balor and then Scarlett’s appearance means that Karrion Kross is back in the mix too. It was great to see Scarlett again. She’s gorgeous. I’m also glad that Kross is back. I think there were some good lines of dialogue by Balor showing confidence as champion while Kyle, Dunne and Priest all had some quality trash talk lines as well.
Pete Dunne was backstage saying he didn’t come back to NXT to just wait for an opportunity when Killian Dain showed up. That fight was quickly broken up by Drake Maverick, Danny Burch, Oney Lorcan and referees.
Analysis: Dunne was part of a parking lot attack on Dain, so Dain was looking for payback. NXT doesn’t forget storylines like Raw and Smackdown sometimes do.
Jake Atlas vs. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
They are both babyfaces that are contenders in the cruiserweight division. There were several moves attempted by Atlas, but Scott was able to avoid and counter him leading to a running kick to the face. Atlas with a headscissors, but then Swerve ducked a cross body block with Atlas hitting the mat. Atlas avoided a kick and hit his own superkick followed by a clothesline. Atlas with a suplex into a sitout slam for two. Scott did a cool move where he did a fireman’s carry into a jumping kick to the head. Scott got cradle hooking the arms, but then Atlas countered it by laying on top and keeping the shoulders down to win after about five minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Jake Atlas
Analysis: **1/2 It was a fast-paced match between two good athletes with bright futures. Atlas picked up a big win as his positive momentum continues after some other recent wins. It was an even matchup with Atlas winning on a counter rather than getting a decisive victory. A rematch that gets a few more minutes would be fun to see.
Post match, Scott walked away from a handshake and had an angry look on his face. That might lead to a heel turn for Scott.
Tommaso Ciampa did a promo about continuing to move forward and how he knows no other way. Ciampa talked about Cameron Grimes, who he faces later in the show.
Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson and James Drake) vs. Imperium (Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel) vs. Ever-Rise (Chase Parker and Matt Martel)
The rules are that one member of each team are legal, so it’s a triple threat match with tag teams. They’re all heel teams. Barthel worked over Gibson with a suplex while Ever-Rise stayed out of the ring briefly. Drake was on fire after a tag with a running dropkick to knock down Ever-Rise off the apron. After Drake and Barthel battled for a few minutes, Ever-Rise took advantage with some double team offense. After Drake hit a spinning heel kick, Martel hit him with a clothesline and then Ever-Rise sent Drake into the turnbuckle for a two count with Aichner making the pinfall save. Barthel and Aichner hit a double team dropkick. Aichner hit a moonsault off the middle ropes, Barthel got a two count and then Barthel slammed Gibson on the floor. Aichner and Barthel did some great double team moves on Drake, then Parker went back in and tried to steal the pin for a two count. Gibson went back into the ring for the double team Ticket to Mayhem (a slam into the double knees) and Drake pinned Parker to win after about eight minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson and James Drake)
Analysis: *** That was good with a lot of action with Grizzled Young Veterans and Imperium working most of the match while Ever-Rise were the third team that were the cowardly heels. The last few minutes were full of action with Imperium getting in a lot of offense, but then Gibson/Drake capitalized on everybody else being out of the ring and hit their double team finisher to win.
Grizzled Young Veterans celebrated the win as the announcers put over the fact that they had two wins in a row since coming back to NXT.
Analysis: I think the NXT tag team division is a weak point for the brand, but these three teams are good as are the champions Burch and Lorcan. I just think they need to develop some babyface teams although I can see Killian Dain and Drake Maverick eventually becoming the babyface champions. I can see Grizzled Young Veterans as the next champions too.
There was a video package about the Men’s and Women’s WarGames matches with the wrestlers talking about how wild the WarGames matches were. During the video, Bobby Fish announced that he had surgery to re-attach his tricep muscle as we saw a clip of him taking a stomp to the arm from Pete Dunne and also tackling a guy through a table. Dakota Kai was holding her neck saying she won’t be seen for a while. Candice LeRae also had a broken arm although we don’t know to what degree.
Analysis: The injuries to Fish and LeRae were legit with both of them happening during the match. I’m not sure what Kai’s injury is, but if it’s a neck or shoulder then she might be out for a while. I don’t know the severity of any of the injuries at this point.
Toni Storm said that her sights are on the NXT Women’s Title, but all she’s heard about is Ember Moon. Io Shirai showed up with the NXT Women’s Title saying that she didn’t have a problem with Toni, but she doesn’t like her and Shirai punched her.
The fight between Shirai and Storm led to them fighting out into the arena and into the ring. Shirai decked Storm with an uppercut and a running knee attack against the turnbuckle. Storm left, so Ember Moon punched her from behind and whipped Storm into the steel steps. Moon sent Storm back in the ring, so Shirai hit the Over the Moonsault on Storm off the top rope. Moon left while Shirai stood over Storm.
Analysis: There’s a lot of depth in the NXT women’s division. It’s definitely one of the best things about the NXT brand right now.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Cameron Grimes
Ciampa won at Takeover while Grimes lost at Takeover. As Ciampa controlled Grimes, Timothy Thatcher sat on a chair at ringside to watch the match just like his Takeover opponent Ciampa did during a recent Thatcher match. Ciampa hit a running elbow with Grimes bumping out of the ring. Grimes hid behind Thatcher briefly, Ciampa hit Grimes with a forearm and then when they went back into the ring, Grimes hit Ciampa with a knee to the ribs. That led to a break.
Grimes remained in control, but Ciampa bounced off the ropes with six clotheslines in a row including a leaping clothesline. Ciampa hit a running knee to the jaw for two as we saw Thatcher with stitches in his left ear as Barrett noted he got five stitches in the ear. Grimes countered a sunset flip into a pin for himself, then Ciampa hit a knee and Grimes hit a forearm leading to the running cross body block with Grimes landing on top for a two count. That’s such a cool move that always works for a nearfall. They battled by the turnbuckle with Ciampa sending Grimes out of the ring. A wrestler ran to the ring, Joseph said it was Tyler Rust, Ciampa went to attack him, but Grimes was back in with Ciampa sliding out to the floor and going back in. Ciampa hit the Willow’s Bell DDT off the ropes for the pinfall win after about 11 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Tommaso Ciampa
Analysis: *** A good match as expected with Grimes coming up short again. There were some nice nearfalls for Grimes especially after that leaping cross body, but Ciampa was able to come back from that. Grimes got plenty of offense, nearly won a few times and then Ciampa put him away even after a brief distraction. I like Ciampa a lot, so a win for him is not something I’m going to complain about a lot. I just think at some point Grimes should get some significant wins.
Post match, Ciampa stared at Thatcher with Thatcher saying he had nothing to do with Rust trying to go after Ciampa in the ring. Ciampa left to the back. Grimes complained about Thatcher being out there, so Thatcher wrenched on the left leg of Grimes and Grimes went down selling a left leg injury.
Raquel Gonzalez did an interview with Mckenzie Mitchell saying they won WarGames at a cost because her friend Dakota Kai is injured at home because of Ember Moon, so Ember has to pay later tonight.
There was a video of Boa and Xia Li training with the mystery people that were trying to make them better. There was blood on the faces of Boa and Xia Li to show they took a beating. We got shots of some mysterious eyes as well.
Let’s Hear from Johnny Gargano and Friends
Johnny Gargano, the three-time and NEW NXT North American Champion made his entrance with wife Candice LeRae along with their allies Austin Theory (who was Ghostface in the past) and Indi Hartwell, who is still wearing a neckbrace. They were booed heavily for this promo segment. Candice had a brace on her right wrist/arm that was injured during WarGames on Sunday.
Gargano said that you should open your eyes because they are “The Way.” Candice said that Johnny became North American Champion, Candice won WarGames and Johnny kept saying “The Way” during the promo. Theory said “The Milky Way” which was awkward and Gargano said it was okay. Gargano said he cut his lip leading to stitches, but he overcame that to become the first ever three-time NXT North American Champion. Gargano said that for the second year in a row, Candice led her team to victory in WarGames so she is Ms. WarGames. Gargano had a gift while noting overnight shipping from Italy is expensive. It was a ridiculous trophy for his wife that had a doll on top of it. Candice felt bad for not getting him a trophy, but Johnny said he’s got his NXT North American Championship and after some help from his boy Theory, he won. Johnny noted next week there’s a tag team match with Gargano and Theory facing Leon Ruff and Damian Priest. Johnny said that if you’re not in The Way and Candice said stay out of The Way.
Damian Priest congratulated Gargano on the win and Theory on the sweet reveal. Priest walked down towards the ring, but then Karrion Kross showed up with an attack where he whipped Priest into the barricade. Kross picked up Priest and gave Priest a Powerbomb onto something soft beside the ramp. Kross walked to the back with a menacing look on his face and he left for the parking lot in his car with Scarlett in the passenger seat. Kross drove away.
Analysis: Welcome back to Karrion Kross, who missed about three months or so with a shoulder injury. We saw the interaction earlier with Scarlett smirking at Priest, so that set up this attack. As for Gargano’s promo, it was fine for a heel promo. I’m not sure if The Way is the official name of this group, but they said it so many times during the promo that it does seem like the name they are going to keep using.
Tyler Rust was shown backstage with Mckenzie Mitchell trying to interview him while Malcolm Bivens said he gave Rust his business card last week and suggested they talk business. Rust went to talk to Bivens.
Analysis: I think Bivens has so much potential as a manager that can be doing a lot on this show. I hope this leads to big things for him managing Rust, which is fine with me.
Pete Dunne vs. Killian Dain
Dunne is from England while Dain is from Northern Ireland. The big man Dain hit a running kick to the face to knock Dunne out of the ring followed by a kick on the floor. When Dunne tried to fight back, Dain put him against the ring post and went for a headbutt, Dunne moved, so Dain hit the ring post. Dunne was in control with repeated kicks to the face until Dain came back with an overhead belly to belly suplex across the ring. Dunne with an enziguri kick and a snap German Suplex leading to a roundhouse kick to the head. They went to break there.
The action continued with Dunne in control until Dain was able to fall backwards while Dunne was on his back. Dain was sent out of the ring by Dunne, but Dain came back with a slam and a senton splash from the apron into the ring. Dain got a two count after Powerbomb with an elbow drop. Dunne went for a submission on the right arm, but Dain came back with a one-armed Powerbomb. Dain with a running dropkick, but the cannonball failed when Dunne moved. Dain hit a superplex off the top that was almost like a Fisherman’s suplex as he delivered the move. Dain also hit a clothesline with Dunne doing a flip bump. Dain hit a back splash off the ropes. Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan showed up at ringside, but Drake Maverick was there with a steel chair to fend them off. When Maverick celebrated that, Burch and Lorcan attacked Maverick from behind. Dain punched Burch and Lorcan to get rid of them and Burch/Lorcan never touched Dain, so there was no DQ for that. Dunne capitalized with a kick followed by the Bitter End slam for the pinfall win after 14 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Pete Dunne
Analysis: ***1/2 This was really good. Dunne is one of my favorites in NXT because his style of match is what I like to see. I liked the physicality of this match with the smaller man Dunne working as the heel that was able to match the power of the bigger opponent Dain, who does a nice job of selling. The win was cheap for the heel Dunne since his buddies Lorcan/Burch caused a distraction, which led to Dunne hitting his finisher to win. It makes sense for Dunne to win even though Dain could have won due to getting revenge for the attack that Dunne did on him. I just think Dunne winning was the right call since he is in the NXT Title picture while Dain is mainly a tag team wrestler at this point.
Leon Ruff was about to be interviewed backstage when Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory walked up to him. Gargano said that there’s no way Damian Priest will be ready for the tag team match next week. Gargano suggested that Ruff could face them 2 on 1. Kushida said that if Rush needs partner, it’s going to be Kushida. Ruff was happy with that.
Analysis: That sounds good as a tag team match. If it also means that Kushida might be going after Gargano’s NXT North American Title then that’s awesome because Kushida needs to be utilized more. That match was made official later in the show.
A video aired about the NXT New Year’s Evil special on January 6 for the first NXT show of 2021. As we learned earlier, Finn Balor will defend the NXT Title that night.
Raquel Gonzalez made her entrance for the main event. It was the second straight week where she main evented since she faced Shotzi Blackheart in a Ladder Match last week in the main event. Gonzalez lost, but it wasn’t clean. Ember Moon was up next as the babyface moment.
Ember Moon vs. Raquel Gonzalez
Gonzalez used her power with an elbow to the face along with a toss across the ring two times. Gonzalez hit a corner splash. Moon came back with a rising kick to the face and Gonzalez did a hair whip followed by elbow drops. Moon came back with three running dropkicks in a row followed by a flatliner with Gonzalez rolling to the apron. Moon with a running shoulder tackle while Gonzalez was on the apron leading to a bump to the floor going into commercial.
There were about eight minutes left as Gonzalez was in control stretching Moon across her back. When Moon broke free, she ran right into a big boot to the ribs from Gonzalez. After Gonzalez grounded Moon with a chinlock, Moon sent Gonzalez into the turnbuckle, then a kick to the face and a suplex off the ropes. Gonzalez went for a big boot, Moon avoided it, Moon with kicks to the body and an enziguri kick to the head. Moon with a forearm to the jaw, then Gonzalez blocked a bulldog and Moon hit a DDT counter for a two count. Moon sent Gonzalez out of the ring followed by a suicide dive. Gonzalez was by the announce table, Moon tried climbing an apparatus by the table, but Gonzalez grabbed her and Gonzalez sent Moon into the ring post for a two count. Gonzalez went for a charge, Moon moved and Moon hit a running knee lift to the face for two. Gonzalez hit a clothesline. Gonzalez went for a power move, but Moon countered it into a pin attempt for two. Gonzalez blocked a kick and hit a huge one-armed Powerbomb style move (it needs a name for her) for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Raquel Gonzalez
Analysis: ***1/4 I liked the match with Gonzalez showing her dominance throughout. Moon is excellent at selling and making the big comeback, so it worked well. While Gonzalez is still a bit slow at times, she has improved a lot in the last few months. Remember that NXT is still a developmental brand for some of the wrestlers, so having Gonzalez work with Moon is smart because it gives Gonzalez a chance to show what she can do against one of NXT’s best. The push of Gonzalez continues since she pinned Io Shirai in the WarGames match and now she’s got a big win over Moon as well.
Post match, Toni Storm went to the ring and was about to attack Moon. That’s when Rhea Ripley’s music hit and Storm had a great shocked look on her face. Ripley pulled Moon out of the ring. Ripley went into the ring, Gonzalez moved Storm out of the way and Gonzalez faced off with Ripley in the ring as two taller women that have faced off in the past. Gonzalez had a staredown with Ripley with Gonzalez bailing to the floor. The Ripley/Gonzalez staredown ended the show.
Analysis: This should lead to Gonzalez vs. Ripley very soon, perhaps at the New Year’s Evil Show on January 6 if they can wait that long. Ripley beat Gonzalez in the past when they had a match, so I would expect Gonzalez to win to continue her rise to a title shot.
Three Stars of the Show
- Pete Dunne
- Raquel Gonzalez/Ember Moon
- Killian Dain
I give this show a 7.25 out of 10. Last week was a 6.75 out of 10.
This was an entertaining show with consistently good matches all night long although there wasn’t one match that really stood out. Now that Finn Balor is back in action soon that helps a lot because the NXT Title can be a focus again after two months of being out of the picture. It was nice to see Karrion Kross back on NXT TV along with the lovely Scarlett. I think a Kross feud with Damian Priest is interesting. Pete Dunne being used in a featured role is always a good thing too. The tag team division doesn’t have a lot of babyface teams right now, but three heel teams had a nice showing here with Grizzled Young Veterans continuing to impress me.
The women’s division continued to shine with Raquel Gonzalez beating Ember Moon in the main event. We also saw Io Shirai and Toni Storm getting involved with Rhea Ripley also showing up after the main event. I think Gonzalez getting a title shot against Shirai very soon seems likely and I think Gonzalez might be the next champion.
They are going to set up some big matches at New Year’s Evil on January 6. That will be a big episode of NXT to start 2021 in a few weeks.
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