Welcome to the WWE NXT review here on TJRWrestling. Merry Christmas to you and your family if you are celebrating on Friday as I will be. It will be the smallest Christmas gathering ever, but that’s what happens with COVID-19 changing things for a lot of us. Here’s hoping for change for the better in 2021. As for me, I’m also working on my 12th annual WWE Johnny Awards column that will be posted on Monday.
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 the opening title match along with the main event.
This is episode #436 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 action started right away because as soon as NXT Tag Team Champions Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan made their entrance, they were attacked form behind by their opponents Killian Dain and Drake Maverick. The match began at that point.
Street Fight for the NXT Tag Team Championships: Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan vs. Killian Dain and Drake Maverick
These Street Fight tag team matches are confusing to fans because of the rules. More on that after the match.
Dain whipped Burch into the plexiglass screens and Maverick sent Lorcan into the logo on the stage. Dain sent Burch into the steel steps as well. Maverick hit Lorcan in the ribs with a steel chair while also bringing more chairs into the ring. Lorcan and Burch fought back with a double team attack on Dain that saw them whip Dain into the plexiglass. Burch knocked down Maverick with some punches. After all of that brawling, they turned it into a regular tag team match with Lorcan hitting Dain with an uppercut. Dain hit a back body drop on Lorcan onto two chairs that were opened up in the ring. Dain splashed Burch and threw a chair on him. Maverick tripped up Burch leading to a senton splash from Dain, who also did a body slam and Dain slammed Maverick onto Burch. Dain picked up Maverick, then used his legs to swing into Lorcan. Corner splashes by the challengers along with a double team kick to the face of Lorcan. Burch knocked down Maverick with a clothesline while Dain battled Lorcan on the floor with Lorcan hitting a blockbuster neckbreaker on the floor. Dain sent Burch over the barricade at ringside. Lorcan tried to suplex Dain into a table, but Dain fought him off and Dain charged at Lorcan against a table on the floor, Lorcan moved and Dain went crashing through a table. That led to a break.
The match slowed down with Maverick as the face in peril while Lorcan beat on Maverick using Maverick’s own leather belt. Burch tagged in with a belt shot to Maverick’s back multiple times with Drake screaming in pain. After the champs whipped Maverick into the turnbuckle, Dain emerged from the floor and was on the turnbuckle to get the tag. Dain with belly to belly suplexes on both heels, running corner splashes on both guys and a splash on both guys at the same time. Dain with a Powerbomb to Burch along with an elbow to the chest. Maverick tagged in, Dain was on the apron and Lorcan/Burch knocked him off the apron with Dain landing on the table that didn’t break. It was actually two tables that didn’t break. Barrett covered for the table saying they were reinforced. I don’t think so, but the tables just didn’t break. Bad luck, I guess. Maverick got a low blow punch on Lorcan and a low blow kick to Burch. Maverick got some payback by using his leather belt to beat on both opponents. Lorcan came back with a low blow punch of his own. Burch brought in a cricket bat that he used to hit Maverick in the ribs. Lorcan and Burch hit the elevated double team DDT for the pinfall win on Maverick while Dain was still on the floor. It was about 13 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan
Analysis: ***1/4 It was a good match even though the Street Fight rules can be a bit confusing. There were times when all four guys were brawling on the floor and other times when they were in the ring obeying tag team rules. More on that below. Anyway, I think Dain and Maverick are good candidates to win the titles eventually, but it might be a few weeks or months until that happens. The fact that the table didn’t break when Dain landed on it was a bit of a surprise and that was supposed to be the biggest bump of the match. Instead, Dain had to sell it on the floor. Burch and Lorcan work well as a team even without a name.
Here’s what NXT referee Darryl Sharma (who used to be a wrestler) tweeted about the rules when he saw fans complaining about some things. He was the referee in the previous match.
Tags counted in this match because only the legal participants can determine the finish. Also, rope breaks are in effect as it is not falls count anywhere. Did they have to release the hold? No. But they cannot win that way. #WWENXT
— Darryl Sharma (@WWEdarrylsharma) December 24, 2020
It’s not a Falls Count Anywhere Match. Finish has to occur in the ring. The ropes are out of bounds. Tags have to be called to determine which competitors can be in play for a finish as this was not a tornado tag. #WWENXT
— Darryl Sharma (@WWEdarrylsharma) December 24, 2020
Analysis: I like his explanations. It would be nice if WWE would also explain things during the show because fans have questions that don’t get answered. I still think doing a Street Fight with tag teams that are forced to tag is flawed because both wrestlers could be in the ring at the same time without being DQ’d. From a logical point of view, both guys should be in the ring at all times since you can’t be disqualified for it. I’d rather see them use Tornado Rules if you’re going to do a Street Fight in a tag team match.
The announce team of Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett were shown at ringside calling the action. Beth Phoenix was also on commentary at home in North Carolina.
There was a holiday message from The Way group featuring NXT North American Champion Johnny Gargano, wife Candice LeRae, Austin Theory and Indi Hartwell. Theory opened a present that was protein powder that said “The Gargano Whey” on it with Theory saying he can be dynamic in the ring like Gargano.
Finn Balor and Kyle O’Reilly Comment on Their NXT Takeover 31 Match
It’s going to be Finn Balor defending the NXT Title against Kyle O’Reilly at New Year’s Evil on January 6, so a video was shown of both men watching their NXT Takeover 31 match separately. We saw them each talk about the match as they watched. O’Reilly said he felt like he and Balor were destined to do this for a long time. They focused on a spot where Balor kicked the kidney of O’Reilly that injured him. They also showed when O’Reilly hit a running knee left that broke Balor’s jaw. Balor said that he won the match, but all people remember is Kyle broke Finn’s jaw. Balor said that there will be no trilogy here, this will be the end and O’Reilly said this time he will shatter Finn’s legacy.
Analysis: Awesome video. No surprise there.
Tyler Rust was in the locker room with manager Malcolm Bivens while Mckenzie Mitchell showed up for an interview. Bivens said that Tyler Rust is not a rookie, he’s a diamond in the rust.
Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. Jake Atlas
Atlas beat Scott two weeks ago and Scott teased a heel turn after the match by not shaking his hand, so this is the rematch. The match was even in the early going until Atlas hit a dragon screw leg whip into the ropes followed by a springboard kick on the apron led to Scott taking a break leading to a break.
The match returned with Atlas hitting an impressive leap onto the back into a sunset flip Powerbomb for two and Atlas hit a Cutter also. Scott managed to block the cartwheel DDT with a superkick. Scott managed to hit two suplexes in a row for a two count. Scott went for a move by the turnbuckle, Atlas got out of that with a reverse hurricanrana, but Scott did a backflip onto his feet! That was great. Scott with a jumping kick to the face and then they battled over a pin attempt. The wrestlers held onto the ropes, Scott hit a headbutt and then Scott hit a slam off the shoulders called the Confidence Boost for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
Analysis: *** Good work by two of the better cruiserweights in NXT right now with Scott getting the win after losing their match. I like the heel teases by Scott because while he’s always been fun to watch in the ring, I think character-wise there was more that he could do and now we are seeing that. The headbutt that Scott used wasn’t a low blow, but they were tied up in the ropes while it happened, so it was a bit of a chop shot.
Post match, Scott gloated about the win with a point to the crotch while he was celebrating. Beth questioned his actions while Barrett said good for him for celebrating. Beth said that wasn’t the classy way to celebrate. Atlas refused a handshake after the taunting.
Adam Cole and Roderick Strong were interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell as they talked about how Kyle O’Reilly was going to beat Finn Balor. Velveteen Dream showed up saying the mighty has fallen because Cole was the leader of the Undisputed Era, which makes Adam Cole a cheerleader. Cole slapped Dream in the face, told him there’s no leader in the Undisputed and Cole challenged Dream to a match to show him they’re still the top dogs around there.
Timothy Thatcher did a promo from his training center talking about his rivalry with Tommaso Ciampa. Thatcher said that Ciampa didn’t respect him when Thatcher tried to challenge him to a match. Thatcher said he’s going to take liberties with Leon Ruff and he dared Ciampa to stop him because he wants to fight Ciampa.
Rhea Ripley vs. Dakota Kai
This is a match that has happened a few times this year, but not for a while anyway. It was announced by NXT GM William Regal that Dakota’s friend Raquel Gonzalez was banned from ringside for this match. Ripley used her power as she grabbed Kai around the waist, slammed Kai and then Ripley whipped Kai into the turnbuckle. Kai got in a big move by stepping on Ripley’s shoulder onto the apron and then Kai sent Ripley into the ring post. That led to a break.
Kai was in control of the match as she worked on the left arm of Ripley with Ripley coming back with a counter that was like a Powerbomb. Ripley with repeated knees to the face while also selling the left arm injury, Ripley hit a dropkick and a hard slam to the mat. Kai with a kick, but then she missed a corner kick while Ripley slammed Kai off the shoulders for a two count. Kai managed to send Ripley into the turnbuckle, then a running boot to the face and Ripley slapped on the inverted cloverleaf submission. That’s when Raquel Gonzalez appeared on the stage, but not ringside so that’s okay as Ripley stared at Gonzalez with Kai getting to the bottom rope. Kai blocked a superplex leading to a double knee attack to the back for two. Ripley powered out of a choke attempt leading to the Riptide slam for the pinfall win after 12 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Rhea Ripley
Analysis: ***1/4 This was an entertaining match that told a nice story with Ripley selling the left arm injury for most of it before finding a way to win. I would have liked to see Kai get some more offense in the match because there was only one nearfall where it looked like she might win. It made sense for Ripley to win since she’s going to be up against Raquel Gonzalez soon, so it’s important for both of them to go into that match strong.
After the match, Gonzalez slowly walked down to the ring while pushing away short referees. Ripley and Gonzalez exchanged punches, the referees tried to break it up and the ladies kept on fighting. There were more officials from the back with Joseph calling them producers, which is the actual name. Guys like Sonjay Dutt, Steve Corino and Scott Taylor (Scotty 2 Hotty) were part of the team trying to break them up. The women were eventually kept apart to end the segment.
Analysis: I think the NXT brand has done an excellent job of building up to this match. The last time they had a match, Ripley got the win. I think Gonzalez will win the next time they have a match.
The Gargano Family Christmas was shown again with Indi Hartwell opening up her present to show it was a Playstation 5 box. There was nothing in the box, though. Gargano said that the box was for dramatic effect. Gargano wanted to give Hartwell the family nickname, so he christened her “Indi Wrestling.” Candice said that they support her, Indi Wrestling. Theory ate a cookie.
Analysis: That was clever. Nice of them to support Indi Wrestling.
Toni Storm was interviewed backstage by Mckenzie Mitchell with Storm saying she’s going to take the NXT Women’s Title from Io Shirai because Shirai can’t beat her.
There was a training video featuring Xia Li looking way more focused and aggressive than in the past. There were also clips of Boa getting beat up with kendo sticks with Boa yelling for more. Li also punched and kicked Boa repeatedly. We also saw the mysterious eyes of whoever the trainer is. Barrett said that Li and Boa were turning into a couple of warriors. That’s the idea of the segments – to show that the wrestlers are getting tougher.
Bronson Reed vs. Ashante “Thee” Adonis
This was Reed’s first match in a few months. There were a few punches and kicks from Adonis, but Reed ran him over with a running splash. Reed did a senton splash. Reed up top with the Tsunami Splash for the pinfall win after about one minute.
Winner by pinfall: Bronson Reed
Analysis: 1/2* A squash win to put over the big man Reed to show he was back in action. I can see him getting a sustained push in early 2021.
Io Shirai was shown walking backstage with Mckenzie Mitchell walking up to her and Shirai said she heard what Toni Storm said. Shirai made her ring entrance even though she did not have the NXT Women’s Title with her. Shirai sat in a chair in the ring: “Toni! Toni Storm! Come on!”
That led to a cheap attack from Mercedes Martinez making her NXT return with a choke on Shirai. Martinez whipped Shirai into part of the set at ringside and into the barricade. Martinez shoved Shirai into the ring post. Martinez drove Shirai into the ring apron and into the bottom part of the announce table.
Analysis: Welcome back to Mercedes Martinez as the NXT women’s division gets even stronger. Martinez was briefly part of the Retribution group on Raw, but then they took her out of the group and she’s back in NXT.
The Gargano Family Christmas was back with Johnny giving his wife Candice a gift. Gargano gave Candice a crushed wheel that he claimed were the last remnants of Shotzi’s tank (Candice ruined the tank). They wished us a Merry Christmas to end it.
Timothy Thatcher vs. Leon Ruff
Thatcher with a suplex across the ring. Thatcher pulled back on the arm of Ruff while calling out Ciampa. Thatcher kept on working over Ruff with punches to the ribs along with a belly to belly suplex. Thatcher set up a chair at ringside for Ciampa. Back in the ring, Ruff got an inside cradle for two, then a clothesline but Thatcher stopped him with an uppercut. Thatcher with a double underhook suplex across the ring. Thatcher lifted up Ruff, which led to Ruff getting an inside cradle to win after four minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Leon Ruff
Analysis: *3/4 It looked it was going to be a dominant with for Thatcher, but instead it was another upset win for Ruff, which has become something we have seen a few times from him.
After the match, Thatcher beat up Ruff with punches and kicks. Ciampa was looking at the camera, he was on the apron, so Ciampa ran out to the ring and Ciampa hit the Willow’s Bell DDT. Ciampa said he’ll see Thatcher in the fight pit. Ciampa sat in the chair and patted himself on the back.
Analysis: Going with the fight pit setup is a cool idea to make their next match feel different.
Damian Priest did a promo talking about his New Year’s Evil match against Karrion Kross in two weeks. It was quick as Priest said he will punk him out in front of the world.
There was a video with Dexter Lumis drawing a picture of Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Gonzalez with the New Year’s Evil logo while writing “Last Woman Standing” on it. Lumis is the host, so that’s official.
Analysis: That’s going to be an awesome match. I’m picking Gonzalez there.
Tyler Rust (w/Malcolm Bivens) vs. Arya Daivari
Rust is a newcomer in NXT. Daivari has been a regular on 205 Live for a few years. It’s great that they are using Bivens as a manager because he’s a talented talker. Rust lifted Daivari using the arm and spun him around. Daivari avoided a charge and hit a kick to the head followed by a neckbreaker. Daivari hit a dropkick while Rust was on the apron. Rust came back with a triangle choke attempt, but Daivari got to the ropes. Rust hit a flipping neckbreaker leading to a submission where he pulled back both arms for the tapout win after about five minutes.
Winner by submission: Tyler Rust
Analysis: *1/2 A shorter match to give Rust a win after he lost to Ciampa last week. I know most of the match was about putting over Rust’s technical skills, but I think if it was three minutes it would have been better for Rust.
There was a backstage scene with Leon Ruff talking to Mckenzie Mitchell. Ruff said he talked to William Regal and next week he’s going to get a rematch for the NXT North American Title held by Johnny Gargano. That should be a win for Gargano.
A video promo was shown featuring Karrion Kross talking about Damian Priest since they have a match in two weeks at New Year’s Evil. Kross told Priest it was a mistake to come after him while adding that he (Kross) will take back the NXT Title that he never lost. Scarlett said that “doomsday is coming, Mr. Priest” and Kross ended it with: “Tick Tock.”
There was a plug for NXT Awards voting on NXT.
Next week on NXT: Johnny Gargano defends the NXT North American Title against Leon Ruff.
The end of Velveteen Dream’s entrance was shown for the main event. Adam Cole was up next for the main event with Roderick Strong joining him. Bobby Fish is absent due to arm surgery while Kyle O’Reilly was not there. The announcers referenced Cole/Dream history at Takeover shows, plus the Backlot Brawl this past June and Cole won that match.
Adam Cole (w/Roderick Strong) vs. Velveteen Dream
Dream was able to take control with a punch to the face when Cole wasn’t expecting it. Cole came back with a kick to the chest followed by a running elbow. Cole with a pump kick to the face that rocked Dream. Cole charged into a boot to the face, but Cole was back into it with a jumping neckbreaker. Dream was on the apron with Cole hitting another pump kick to send Dream to the floor. Dream bounced off the turnbuckle and they did a headbutt collision. Pete Dunne showed up at ringside and he whipped Strong into the steel steps. Dunne slammed Strong with a Bitter End slam on the ring apron. Referees broke it up. Dream hit Cole in the throat with his shirt leading to a two count. That led to a break.
Dream was back in control as he went for a top rope elbow, but Cole moved out of the way, so Dream hit the mat. Cole got some offense in with an elbow followed by a slam off the shoulders into the knee for the Ushigoroshi. Cole with an enziguri kick to the head and a German Suplex for two. They announced Dunne vs. Strong next week on NXT and Ciampa vs. Thatcher in a Fight Pit match at New Year’s Evil in two weeks. Dream sent Cole into the top rope followed by a neckbreaker for two. Dream worked over Cole with repeated punches, Dream with an elbow, but when Dream went to the turnbuckle, Cole dropkicked the leg to knock Dream down. Dream kicked Cole out of the ring. Dream jumped off the top with Cole avoiding that and hitting a superkick to the ribs. The referee left the ring to check on Dream, then he talked to Cole and Cole hit a superkick. Cole slapped on the Figure Four Leglock in the middle of the ring with Dream managing to get to the bottom rope to break the hold. Dream managed to come back with a DDT and Dream went up top with the Purple Rainmaker elbow drop for a two count. Cole with a suplex into the top of the knee. Cole jumped off the middle ropes, Dream hit him with a superkick and when Dream jumped off the ropes, Cole hit him with a superkick. Cole hit the Last Shot knee to the back of the head for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Adam Cole
Analysis: ***1/4 A solid main event match that was above average, but below the standards that you might expect from Cole. It seemed like Dream was off on a few spots and that hurt the match a bit, but they got through it fine. The ending felt rushed a bit as they were coming up against the end of the show. Dream didn’t control as much of the match as you might expect from a heel because I think they wanted to showcase Cole more.
After the match, Cole spoke into the camera saying that the NXT Title is once again coming to the Undisputed Era with Cole showing support for his UE buddy Kyle O’Reilly. That was the end of the show.
Analysis: Cole is without a storyline right now. I wonder if they’ll have him turn on O’Reilly to cost him the title and then go with that feud or if UE stays together. I don’t know what will happen.
Three Stars of the Show
- Adam Cole
- Rhea Ripley
- Oney Lorcan/Danny Burch
I give this show a 7.25 out of 10. Last week was an 8.25 out of 10.
This was a solid episode of NXT with pretty good matches all night long. There was nice storyline progression as well with a mix of quick promos, plus some cheap attacks. I liked the opening tag team match, Ripley vs. Kai was very good as the women’s division continues to impress and Adam Cole picked up a win in the main event.
They set up more matches for the New Year’s Evil episode in two weeks (January 6) with four big matches set to take place. That New Year’s Evil episode looks like a Takeover card. This wasn’t a big episode by any means, but an easy two-hour wrestling broadcast where everything felt like it had some meaning.
Here are some matches for the New Year’s Evil show on January 6.
NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) vs. Kyle O’Reilly
Last Woman Standing: Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Gonzalez
Karrion Kross vs. Damian Priest
Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Timothy Thatcher
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