Welcome to the WWE NXT review here on TJRWrestling. As is always the case for my NXT reviews, I provide summaries for most of the matches/promos and this week I’ll do play by play on two of the matches since Cole/O’Reilly and Ripley/Storm are two big matches on this show.
This is episode #435 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.
They started with action right away with Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett calling the action in the arena while Beth Phoenix was at home in North Carolina as part of the announce team.
Kushida and Leon Ruff vs. Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory (w/Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell)
It looks like they are going with “The Way” as the official name for Johnny’s group. Gargano is the North American Champion.
Kushida was aggressive against Theory with an atomic drop and a running knee lift. After Ruff tagged in, Theory hit him with a suplex. Ruff was impressive showing off his speed leading to a dropkick, but Theory decked him with an elbow. Ruff got some momentum going with a dropkick to Gargano. There was a front suplex by Gargano that sent Ruff into the mat. The heels worked over Ruff a bit more, so Kushida saved his partner from a double team as they knocked the heels out of the ring. Ruff went for a move off the top, but he slipped jumping off the top rope and landed right on his back instead of knocking down his opponents. Ruff wasn’t hurt, but it was obviously a slip by Ruff. Back in the ring, Ruff hit a DDT on Theory for two. Gargano was legal as Theory hit a dropkick into a Spear by Gargano leading to a break.
The match returned with Ruff still in the ring as the face of peril until he kicked Gargano and brought in Kushida. There was a flurry of offense by Kushida on both guys including a running armbar on Theory. Gargano with a rolling kick, Kushida kicked the left elbow and Gargano hit a kick to the head, but there was Ruff with a missile dropkick. Double running kick by Ruff and Kushida got a two count on Gargano. Theory hit a sitout slam off the shoulders on Ruff for a two count. Double superkick by Gargano and Theory on Ruff got a two count as Kushida broke the pin. Ruff with a superkick on Gargano, Theory tagged in and Ruff hit a Cutter off the top on Gargano and then Theory kicked him in the head. Theory hit a move that was a spinning slam on Ruff for the pinfall win after 14 minutes. Barrett correctly noted that Theory was on a losing streak for a long time, but now he’s got that momentum going again.
Winners by pinfall: Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory
Analysis: ***1/4 This was pretty good with The Way heel team getting a win in their first official tag team match together. That result makes sense although I’m a big Kushida fan, so I would like to see him get some wins. Ruff put up a good fight, he sells really well and I like his offense a lot. I’m not surprised he lost here. Theory and Gargano work well together as a team with Theory getting the much-needed win after a lot of losing this year.
Dexter Lumis was in the arena sitting on a platform with an easel in front of him. He was working on a painting.
Toni Storm was featured in a video talking about how she ran Rhea Ripley from NXT UK when Storm took the Women’s Title from her. Storm said that she used to respect Ripley, but all she cares about is Toni Time and tonight she ends this rivalry on her terms.
Shotzi Blackheart was interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell in the backstage area. Shotzi said she was proud of her team at WarGames even though they lost. Shotzi said WarGames is over, but her war against is far from over while noting she broke Candice’s arm, so tonight she’ll break her best friend (Indi Hartwell).
Ciampa put a chair at ringside along with a t-shirt as if he was inviting Timothy Thatcher to watch the match.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Tyler Rust
Rust is a newcomer in NXT with the story being that he was a student of Timothy Thatcher. There was some mat wrestling for a few minutes as Thatcher made his way down to ringside with Ciampa saying: “I knew you’d come, buddy.” Ciampa with some hard chops followed by a running back elbow and he tossed Rust out of the ring by Thatcher. Rust shoved Ciampa into Thatcher, then Rust went for a kick, Ciampa moved and Rust kicked Thatcher down. Referees showed up to make Rust go to the back. Rust did an armbar on the apron as they went to break.
Ciampa countered an armbar into a Samoan Drop. Ciampa with three clotheslines followed by a jumping clothesline. Ciampa with a running slam off for a two count. Rust came back with an axe kick to the back for two. Rust did a nice job of aggressively going after the left arm with submission attempts. Ciampa with a knee, but then Rust hit a boot to the face and a flipping neckbreaker that was really good for a two count. Nice offense there. Rust did a submission pulling on both arms with Ciampa getting his left leg on the bottom rope to break the hold. Ciampa came back with two shots to the knee, a pump kick and a running knee to the face. Ciampa hit the Willow’s Bell DDT off the apron for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Tommaso Ciampa
Analysis: ***1/4 It was a competitive match that went longer than I would have expected. That’s good for Rust, though. It gave him a chance to show what he could do against one of NXT’s best wrestlers. Rust had some unique moves to make him stand out from others on the NXT brand. In the end, Ciampa found a way to win the match as expected, but it was more of a fight than you might expect.
Post match, Ciampa had his hand raised as the winner while the announcers put over Rust in a big way with Barrett saying they had a “megastar” on their hands now. I don’t know about that, but Rust did a nice job here.
When Ciampa went up the ramp, Thatcher showed up again and Ciampa threw one of Thatcher’s shirts at him.
A video aired about the Grizzled Young Veterans tag team Zack Gibson and James Blake where they talked about how they’re the best tag team anywhere in the world. They are one of my favorite teams in NXT.
There was a brief video about Karrion Kross, who is in action later.
There was a clip of what happened during the break with Malcolm Bivens talking to Taylor Rust and telling him that he was a star. Bivens touched fists with him, so he might be Rust’s manager now. Please use Bivens more. He could be a huge asset as a manager. I’d be all for that.
Kyle O’Reilly entered with Adam Cole and Roderick Strong of the Undisputed Era. Bobby Fish is out of action for a few weeks after an injury during the WarGames match. Pete Dunne entered with his allies Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan, who are the NXT Tag Team Champions. Killian Dain and Drake Maverick showed up at ringside to fight Burch and Lorcan with the UE guys going in as well. There was also Tyler Breeze and Fandango, who showed up to join the fight between them. The wrestlers went fighting to the back as the bell rang to start the match.
Kyle O’Reilly vs. Pete Dunne
I’ll go play by play for this match. The winner of this match gets an NXT Title match against Finn Balor at the NXT New Year’s Evil event on January 6.
Kyle and Dunne exchanged forearms to the face followed by submission attempts by both men. Dunne went for a leg submission, Kyle got out of that and then Dunne went for another submission attempt. Dunne with a clothesline, Kyle to the floor, Dunne with a pump kick to the face and Kyle countered a suplex on the floor. They exchanged forearms outside the ring and got back in before the ten count. Kyle unleashed some kicks on Dunne with hard kicks to the leg and then a running kick that sent Dunne out of the ring. They went to a picture in picture break.
Dunne was in control with a snap German Suplex, but then Kyle countered a Bitter End slam into a front facelock and Kyle hit a running knee to the chest. Dunne with the Explex (suplex into a slam) as Dunne wiped some blood from his mouth. Dunne stomped on the left arm of Kyle while also bending the left arm of Kyle and a stomp to the ribs. Dunne with a neckbreaker followed by an armbar. Dunne with strikes to the head, Kyle avoided an attack off the ropes and Kyle hit a knee to the ribs. Dunne with a forearm for the face, but then Kyle hit a kick to the ribs along with knees to the body along with a legsweep. Kyle with a running forearm to the face, then three double underhook suplexes in a row for a two count. Kyle with a kick to the back of the leg while Dunne was on the turnbuckle. They were both on the turnbuckle with Kyle going for a suplex, Dunne landed on his feet and kicked Kyle repeatedly. Dunne hit a running dropkick on Kyle while he was against the turnbuckle. That led to a second picture in picture break.
The match continued with both guys on the apron pulling the other guy into the turnbuckle. That looked a bit silly, but at least they sold it well. Dunne hit a sitout Powerbomb for a two count leading to an armbar on the left arm. Kyle came back with a cross armbreaker, but Dunne countered into an ankle lock and then Kyle did an ankle lock of his own as well. Dunne broke free with a headbutt to the shoulder and then Kyle came back with a brainbuster. There were “this is awesome” chants as both guys were out on the mat. I agree with the chant. The fans were chanting “fight forever” as well. Kyle with a forearm, then a knee lift to the face and hit a bridging head/arm suplex on Dunne for two as Dunne’s mouthguard was knocked out of his mouth. Dunne went to put the mouthguard back in, so Kyle kicked him in the face. Kyle took down the left leg, Dunne went for an armbar and they both avoided submission attempts. Kyle with forearms to the face followed by a running kick to the jaw. Dunne was back to his feet, then Dunne with a jumping kick to the head and some finger pulling. Dunne with a hard kick to the chest. Kyle countered the Bitter End on the apron and turned it into a suplex on the floor! Wow. That was amazing. Kyle jumped off the top with a knee to the back of the neck and covered for the pinfall win after 23 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Kyle O’Reilly
The win means that Kyle O’Reilly will challenge Finn Balor for the NXT Championship at the NXT New Year’s Evil show on Wednesday, January 6. It’s a rematch from NXT Takeover 31 in October.
Analysis: ****1/4 This was an outstanding wrestling match that was a mix of great submission wrestling and some hard strikes throughout the match. It’s rare to see a match get over 20 minutes on a WWE TV show, but I’m glad that Kyle and Dunne got the chance to have a long match like that. It’s fair to say that Kyle earned that win since he took a beating for most of the match, but found a way to overcome Dunne’s viciousness. I enjoy watching this heel version of Dunne because he’s even more aggressive. I think the match could have moved more nearfalls although it certainly wasn’t lacking in terms of submission moves. That move that Kyle did on the apron to counter the Bitter End was amazing because he turned it into a suplex on the floor. That was an incredible move that I don’t recall seeing before. Kyle finished him off with the knee drop after that to win in a way that left no doubt who the winner was. This was their second NXT match in month or so since they did a Ladder Match before WarGames as well. I liked this match more and I look forward to their next match as well.
Simply put, @TripleH said it best:
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) December 17, 2020
Rhea Ripley was shown warming up for her main event match with Mckenzie Mitchell asking her about her match. Ripley said she’s not the same Rhea Ripley that Toni Storm knew in NXT UK while noting Toni is the same piece of trash she was back then with Ripley saying she was going to finish this.
The weekly video aired featuring Xia Li and Boa taking orders from their master, who was training them to be better fighters. The video showed Xia beating Boa with repeated kicks and punches while bloodying his face. There was a shot of a mystery figure again, which looks like a woman, but we don’t know who it is. That ended it.
Analysis: It looks like it’s a way to toughen up Xia Li and Boa to bring them back to NXT TV as major threats due to their ability to survive the training they have gone through.
Indi Hartwell (w/Candice LeRae, Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory) vs. Shotzi Blackheart
Hartwell was the taller of the two women as got two waistlock takedowns. Blackheart with a shoulder tackle and dropkick. Blackheart with a step up enziguri and a corner attack missed because Hartwell avoided it. Hartwell lifted up Shotzi into a full nelson slam although it didn’t look that good. Blackheart sent Hartwell into the corner leading to a running splash along with a dropkick that sent Hartwell out of the ring. LeRae jumped on the apron to distract, Gargano handed Hartwell the trophy that he gifted Candice and Hartwell hit Blackheart in the ribs. The referee saw it, so it was DQ finish after about four minutes.
Winner by disqualification: Shotzi Blackheart
Analysis: *1/2 A shorter match with a cheap ending to show that Shotzi’s issues with Candice and friends will continue although Candice is out of action with the right arm injury. Hartwell isn’t at the level as some of the other NXT women and it showed here. Some of her bumps don’t look as smooth with her offense looking awkward as well. Anyway, the finish likely means they’ll be doing a rematch soon.
Post match, Hartwell and LeRae did a double team wicket stepsister stomp to the back of Blackheart to send her into the mat. There was no help for Blackheart as the heels stood tall.
There was a video letting us know that the big Australian “Colossal” Bronson Reed is back in action next week on NXT.
The incredible entrance of Karrion Kross was next. It’s nice to see Kross back in action along with the lovely Scarlett. This is Kross’ first match since injuring his shoulder in August, so it’s been about four months when he won the NXT Title from Keith Lee. There were some “welcome back” chants.
Karrion Kross (w/Scarlett) vs. Desmond Troy
Kross was dominant with forearms, running clotheslines and an overhead suplex. Kross with a kick to the head along with a Saito Suplex. Kross slapped on the Kross Jacket submission with Troy tapping out quickly to give Kross the win after about one minute.
Winner by pinfall: Karrion Kross
Analysis: * This was all about putting over Kross to show he was healthy and ready to go again.
After the match, Karrion Kross looked into the camera to tell Damian Priest that he’ll see him at New Year’s Evil on January 6. Tick, tock.
Isaiah “Swerve” Scott was interviewed backstage by Mckenzie Mitchell. Scott was asked why he didn’t shake the hand of Jake Atlas last week. Scott said he was sick of people asking him about that and that he talked to Mr. Regal while revealing that he (Scott) has a match with Atlas next week.
The Ever-Rise duo of Matt Martel and Chase Parker walked up to Mitchell as well. They said it was like a handicap match last week, so Parker said that they went to corporate to take that match out of the record books. Martel said that they’re coming for Goldberg since they’re on a winning streak. Mitchell asked if they were asking for a rematch. Parker just wanted their voices to be heard and one more thing: “Ever-Rise rules.”
The drawing of Dexter Lumis was shown to reveal that he is the host of NXT New Year’s Evil on January 6. Barrett: “Dexter Lumis doesn’t even talk, so how can he be the host?” That question has no answer, but Dexter is the host.
Finn Balor was in a video package saying it wasn’t Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly II, it’s Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly: The End.
There was a plug for the New Year’s Evil matches in three weeks:
* NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) vs. Kyle O’Reilly
* Karrion Kross vs. Damian Priest
Normally the advertise matches for next week in that spot, but they didn’t do that this week. Later in the show, they said that there’d a Gargano Family Christmas segment next week.
Toni Storm vs. Rhea Ripley
There was a shoulder tackle by Ripley early on as she used her size to her advantage and then each woman got some nearfalls. There were more pin attempts after that. Storm with chops, then a hard slap to the back and Ripley got payback with a hard slap to the back of her own. Ripley with a kick to the chest. Storm sent Ripley out of the ring, then Storm drove Ripley back first into the turnbuckle and a kick by Storm knocked Ripley down to the floor as the show went to break.
The match continued with Ripley getting some offense with repeated kicks and knees to the face followed by a running dropkick. They did a spot where they each hit a headbutt at the same time as both women went to the mat to sell before getting up before the ten count. Ripley and Storms exchanged forearms, Ripley sidestepped Storm and hit a dropkick for two. Ripley slapped on an inverted cloverleaf submission, Storm crawled to the ropes and sent Ripley into the ropes. Storm with a running clothesline on Ripley followed by a bridging German Suplex for two. Storm with a hair toss across the ring two times. Storm charged, Ripley moved, Storm hit the turnbuckle and Ripley sent Storm into the turnbuckle for two. Ripley with three leg drops in a row. Raquel Gonzalez showed up at ringside while Storm was on the apron, Ripley kicked Storm and Storm went crashing into Gonzalez on the floor. Ripley sent Storm back in the ring, the referee was looking at Storm, so Gonzalez sent Ripley shoulder first into the ring post. That led to a running hip attack by Storm. That was followed by a Storm Zero sitout Powerbomb for the pinfall win after 14 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Toni Storm
Analysis: *** It was pretty good with Storm getting a meaningful win even though it was cheap. That’s fitting for Storm’s heel character while Raquel Gonzalez continues to build up her rivalry with Ripley. I thought they could have booked the Gonzalez spot in a better way because it was too silly to have the referee look away from it as much as he did, but I realize why it was done to allow the Gonzalez cheap shot. Ripley was protected because she didn’t lose clean. I just think the ending could have been booked better.
After the match, Storm celebrated the win while Gonzalez looked on from the ramp and Ripley stared at her from inside the ring. The ending focused on the Gonzalez/Ripley staredown. That was the end of the show.
Analysis: Ripley beat Gonzalez in a singles match the last time they faced off. This time, I would expect Gonzalez to win since she has been on a roll of late and it would elevated Gonzalez to get a win over Ripley. I assume they’ll do Gonzalez vs. Ripley at New Year’s Evil as well.
Three Stars of the Show
- Kyle O’Reilly
- Pete Dunne
- Tommaso Ciampa
I give this show an 8.25 out of 10. Last week was a 7.25 out of 10.
Awesome show carried by the O’Reilly/Dunne match in the middle of it. That was one of the best WWE TV matches this year and the fact that they got over 20 minutes is amazing too. Even though it was tough for anything to follow that, I was entertained during the whole show. There wasn’t a lot of talking this week other than backstage interviews. It was more about the in-ring action, which is a strength of NXT. Any time you have four matches over three stars in a two-hour show, that’s pretty damn good to me. Good work by Ripley and Storm in the main event as the women’s division gets to headline NXT again. That seems to happen pretty often of late. They deserve it.
I think they have some strong rivalries right now with Balor/O’Reilly, Kross/Priest and Ripley/Gonzalez as well. The tag team division is slowly being built up too.
One of the reasons I like NXT so much is that a lot of the matches feel like there is something on the line rather than just doing the same matches repeatedly, which is a problem with Raw. O’Reilly and Dunne had a great match not just because they got 20+ minutes. It was great because they were competing for something – a shot at the NXT Title. Make the viewers care about wins and losses. Rewarding the winners is a good way to do that.
Here are some matches for the New Year’s Evil show on January 6.
NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) vs. Kyle O’Reilly
Karrion Kross vs. Damian Priest
I assume they do Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Gonzalez there as well.
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