Welcome to the WWE NXT review here on TJRWrestling. The next Takeover is coming up soon on Sunday, February 14 although nothing is official going into this week’s show. I’m doing the usual NXT format with summaries of the matches and then play by play for the main event.
This is episode #440 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.
It’s NXT, so we start with action right away. The announce team was Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett and Beth Phoenix, who is in the CWC with the guys this week.
Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic First Round: The Way (Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory) vs. Kushida and Leon Ruff
Ruff started with Theory with Ruff hitting a dropkick, Theory blocked a move and then Ruff hit another dropkick. Kushida tagged in and immediately went after the arm of Theory with a hard kick to the arm. Kushida slapped on an armbar, Theory stepped on the foot and did a head whip into the mat as the heels took over. Gargano was in for a bit and then Theory tagged in with an impressive roll through into a dropkick. Gargano was back in as The Way hit a double team elbow and Johnny hit a dropkick to the back of the head. Kushida broke free after avoiding a suplex from Theory, which led to Ruff getting the hot tag with several quick kicks to the head. They did this cool spot with Ruff jumping off the turnbuckle, Theory caught him on the shoulders and hitting a spinning slam for two. That led to picture in picture break.
The Way heel team were in control of Ruff with Gargano hitting a neckbreaker. Ruff managed to break free briefly, but Gargano pulled Kushida off the apron to prevent a tag. Gargano managed to get a running neckbreaker for a two count. Ruff hit an impressive Cutter off the middle ropes and then Kushida got the hot tag against Gargano. Kushida was on fire with a back elbow on Theory, he knocked Gargano off the apron and Kushida hit a Tornado DDT on the floor. That was incredible! Kushida went for the armbar on Gargano, but Theory broke it up. Gargano with an enziguri kick, Theory with a cradle suplex into the knee and Gargano with a superkick for two. Ruff got back into it with a dive onto Theory on the floor. Kushida with a dropkick to Johnny, a punch to the face and a Fisherman Suplex while holding the arm for the pinfall win after 15 minutes. Big win for Kushida pinning Gargano.
Winners by pinfall: Kushida and Leon Ruff
Analysis: ***1/2 This was a very good tag team match featuring four guys that have worked together well in the past. It’s so great to see Kushida finally being utilized the right way. Ruff is terrific at being the face in peril selling for most of the match and then hitting his unique offense. I’m really looking forward to Gargano vs. Kushida in a singles match and I assume that will be at the next Takeover on February 14. Kushida pinning Gargano was the right finish even though they could have had Theory take the pin there.
That win means Kushida and Leon Ruff will face the Grizzled Young Veterans in the quarterfinals. I think Grizzled Young Veterans will win that match.
Pete Dunne did a promo while videos played showing highlights of Dunne and Finn Balor. Dunne said he built NXT UK, now he’s here and he’s coming after Finn Balor. Dunne told Balor that he’s just somebody taking part in Dunne’s legacy.
Malcolm Bivens was interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell with Bivens talking about Tyler Rust is a diamond in the rust. Rust left the room saying we’ve got the match against Bronson Reed and Bivens told Rust that’s not the direction he would have gone in, but what’s done is done. Bivens told Rust that tonight Rust is going straight to the top.
Karrion Kross (w/Scarlett) vs. Ashante “Thee” Adonis (w/Desmond Troy)
This will be quick. Scarlett was in full black leather from head to toe. Kross with a Northern Lights Suplex followed by a Saito Suplex sending Adonis high on the neck. Kross did another Saito Suplex as the referee checked on Adonis. Kross wit ha running forearm to the back of the neck for the pinfall win in a match that went over one minute.
Winner by pinfall: Karrion Kross
Analysis: 1/2* A quick match to put over Kross in dominant fashion. I thought Kross might go after Finn Balor next, but it seems like Pete Dunne will be the next challenger to Balor.
After the match, Kross got a hold of Desmond Troy and slapped on the Straitjacket submission that is like a rear-naked choke. Kross had a serious look on his face as he stood over the guys he destroyed.
There was a video of the MSK duo Lance Carter and Wes Lee talking like Borat at the start of the video. Ember Moon talked about how they were an innovative tag team. The wrestlers spoke about the blood, sweat and tears. Lee said they fought for this for so long with Carter saying this is everything to them. They did not tell us what MSK stands for.
There was a promo from Mercedes Martinez and Toni Storm talking about how they’re going to beat Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter.
Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic First Round: Imperium (Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner) vs. Lucha House Party (Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik)
There is no explanation as to why LHP can be on Raw and NXT at the same time while nobody else can do that. It’s not a complaint. I just think WWE needs to explain things. A lot of quick tags by Dorado/Metalik early with Dorado hitting a hurricanrana leading to Metalik hitting a splash off the shoulders of his partner for a two count on Barthel. Aichner tagged in to take control with a headbutt to the ribs on Metalik. Aichner with a backbreaker for a two count. Metalik with a reverse Slingblade, Dorado was back in and they cleared the ring. Dorado with a suicide dive onto Aichner, who drove Dorado into the apron and hit a body slam on the floor. Barthel and Aichner hit a double dropkick on Metalik by the turnbuckle as the show went to break.
Dorado was the face in peril who hit a springboard Stunner, but Barthel prevented him from tagging out. Barthel set up Dorado on the turnbuckle, Barthel hit Dorado with a kick to rock Dorado and Dorado came back with a tornado DDT as Metalik got the hot tag against Aichner. Metalik was on fire with a rope walk into a hurricanrana and a moonsault off the top onto Aichner for two. Barthel tagged in, blocked a Metalik move and Aichner hit an assisted DDT for two as Dorado broke up the pin. Dorado was back in, Metalik hit a dropkick into a sunset flip bomb for a two count as Barthel broke up the pin. That was a cool spot. The Imperium duo each hit slams on their opponents for a two count. Dorado countered a move and Metalik hit a hurricanrana off the ropes to take out Barthel. Metalik with a dive off the ropes onto Aichner on the floor. Dorado with a kick to Barthel. Dorado went up top with a Shooting Star Press on Barthel for the pinfall win after 14 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Lucha House Party (Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik)
Analysis: ***1/4 Another very good tag team match on this show as the Dusty Cup matches continue to get over 10 minutes to allow the wrestlers to have these good matches. That’s a result that was surprising to me since Imperium are regulars on NXT while LHP are not, so I figured LHP was in the tournament to put over the Imperium guys. There were so many cool moves from Dorado and Metalik throughout the match. It makes you wonder why WWE doesn’t let them show off what they can do on Raw because they’re the kind of exciting wrestlers people want to see. Imperium was technically sound throughout the match as usual.
Lucha House Party moves on to the quarterfinals against Legado Del Fantasma. Wade Barrett was shocked that his pick Imperium lost the match.
After the match, Alexander Wolfe from Imperium was on the ramp looking at his buddies and Barthel/Aichner each put their hands behind their back to salute their stablemate.
They showed a weigh-in from earlier in the day with Tommaso Ciampa weighing 201 pounds. Timothy Thatcher’s official weight was 225 pounds. NXT GM William Regal wished them the best of luck. Thatcher shoved Ciampa and referees separated them. That’s the main event.
Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Introduction
The NXT General Manager William Regal was on the stage with WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix with the Women’s Dusty Cup. Beth talked about how great it was to be there because NXT has been at the forefront of the Women’s Evolution. Phoenix talked about how women like Bianca Belair, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Asuka, Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss, Bayley, Carmella and Shayna Baszler and so many more have been a big part of the Women’s Evolution. Beth talked about how these women headlined Takeovers, Pay Per Views and WrestleMania. Beth said that the fans wanted this. Tonight, they will make history again. Beth and Regal were joined on the stage by the eight teams of wrestlers that are in the tournament.
Analysis: Good promo by Beth while also noting some of the great women’s wrestlers that have come through NXT over the last six years or so. The Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic has 16 teams while the women’s tournament has eight teams. That means we go straight to the quarterfinals.
Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Quarterfinals: Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter vs. Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez
Carter and Catanzaro have teamed together many times while the heel team was just put together for this tournament. Storm got the early advantage with a dropkick on Carter and then Martinez tagged in against Carter, who managed to bring Kacy in. Kacy and Carter hit a double kick to the head followed by Kacy hitting a senton splash over the top onto Martinez, who came back with a hard chop to the chest. Kacy tried a spinning DDT, but Martinez blocked it and hit a powerslam for two as Carter made the save. They went to break.
The match returned with the heels still in control as Storm hit a running hip attack on Kacy against the turnbuckle. Martinez continued to work over Kacy with a superplex attempt, but Kacy blocked that and hit a hurricanrana off the ropes. Carter tagged in against Storm with a flurry of offense including forearms and a dropkick into a splash. Carter with a running boot to the face of Storm. After Martinez got involved, Kacy took her out and hit a dive on the floor. Storm came back with a German Suplex on Carter. Io Shirai showed up and slammed Martinez onto the announce table as payback for Martinez attacking Shirai in the past. Carter tripped up Storm, Kacy tagged in, Carter took down Storm and Kacy hit an incredible twisting splash where she landed her back onto Storm for the pinfall win. That was an awesome move! Wow. This match went about 13 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter
Analysis: ***1/4 This was another fun tag team match on this show with the babyface team of Kacy and Kayden coming up with the big win. It does come off as an upset since the heels are more accomplished singles wrestlers, but I like that Kacy and Kayden won since they are a regular team in NXT. If you’re going to promote tag team wrestling then it’s the right call to put over the heel team. Plus, it wasn’t totally clean since Shirai took out Martinez to prevent Storm from tagging out. Martinez and Storm did a good job as the heels here.
They replayed Kacy’s incredible twisting splash. The win means that Kacy and Kayden move on to the next round.
Finn Balor went into GM William Regal’s office. Balor told Regal he wants to face Pete Dunne. Balor said he was going to take out Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, so Regal said Finn has to get himself a partner. Balor told Regal he doesn’t have friends anymore and all he has are enemies. Regal reminded him of the “keep your enemies closer” phrase.
Bronson Reed was shown walking down a hallway backstage with Isaiah “Swerve” Scott telling him something we couldn’t here. After the break, we saw that Scott told Reed to stay out of his business.
There was a backstage celebration from Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro talking about how they’re going to win the whole damn thing.
Bronson Reed vs. Tyler Rust (w/Malcolm Bivens)
Rust tried to use his speed early on to avoid the big man, but then Reed with a shoulder tackle that led to Rust taking a break on the floor. Reed with a fallaway slam out of the ring. Rust did an arm wringer against the top rope leading to a single arm takedown. There was a backstage scene with Io Shirai and Toni Storm getting into a pull apart fight by the locker room area. Reed got the momentum back with forearms and two running splashes. Reed with a spinning Chokeslam for a two count. Rust with a pump kick while Reed on the turnbuckle and Rust got a Samoan Drop for two. Reed came back with a senton splash. Reed went up top and hit the Tsunami splash for the pinfall after five minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Bronson Reed
Analysis: *1/2 A dominant win by Reed as you would expect here. I don’t think they should have booked Rust in this match because he has done well recently and booking him to lose in five minutes is going to hurt Rust more than it will help. I guess they did it because it will show that Rust made a mistake taking this match just like Bivens told him.
After the match, Bivens told Rust to let him pick Rust’s battles and Rust agreed.
Finn Balor was interviewed backstage with Finn saying that a couple of people around here owe him a favor.
After the break, Finn Balor went into the Undisputed Era locker room. Balor said he wanted payback, so he needs a partner. Balor told Kyle O’Reilly he knows why Balor is there, so is Kyle in or is Kyle still sucking his meals through a straw? Roderick Strong spoke up, but Adam Cole told him to stop. Kyle told Balor that he is in, so that tag match is on for next week.
Let’s Hear from Santos Escobar
The Cruiserweight Champion Santos Escobar did a promo saying he was a true champion. Escobar said that he didn’t have to conquer a curse like Johnny Gargano and he doesn’t have a glass jaw like Finn Balor. Escobar said that people try to act like a champion like Karrion Kross, but then sometimes they can’t even make it to defend the title (like Kross). Escobar said he backed up every word that he has said as he was joined by his stable Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza. Escobar bragged about beating Gran Metalik. Escobar told Raul and Joaquin that they won their first round match in the Dusty Cup, so that puts them one step closer to becoming NXT Tag Team Champions and joining him as the Champions of Champions.
Lucha House Party’s Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik interrupted as they got into a brawl with Legado Del Fantasma. Escobar was about to do a move, but Curt Stallion tripped up Escobar. Stallion and LHP cleared the ring of the heels.
Analysis: It was a good segment in terms of telling the audience that Curt Stallion will be the next contender for Escobar’s title. I like Escobar a lot. He’s been a great champion, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him going after another title facing different opponents down the road.
Killian Dain and Drake Maverick were interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell about how they won their Dusty Cup match last week on 205 Live. Drake talked about how Dain was his best friend with Dain not looking happy about it. Drake said that they are going to win the Dusty Cup. Dain said that was pretty good and slapped Drake on the back.
Ring announcer Alicia Taylor did a good job of saying “Welcome to the Fight Pit” and we saw the ring was set up.
Curt Stallion’s interview was interrupted by Santos Escobar. Santos said that next week he’ll defend the NXT Cruiserweight Title against Stallion.
Next week on NXT:
* Finn Balor and Kyle O’Reilly vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. The team of Lorcan and Burch are NXT Tag Team Champions, but it is not a title match.
* Dusty Rhodes Classic Men’s Quarterfinals: MSK vs. Drake Maverick and Killian Dain
* Dusty Rhodes Classic Men’s Quarterfinals: Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Kushida and Leon Ruff
* NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Santos Escobar (c) vs. Curt Stallion
It was main event time as Timothy Thatcher made his entrance first followed by Tommaso Ciampa. This is only the second Fight Pit Match with Thatcher beating Riddle in the first one of these matches. I started reviewing NXT regularly shortly after that match.
Fight Pit Match: Timothy Thatcher vs. Tommaso Ciampa
The rules are:
* Decision Must Happen Within The Pit
* No Pinfalls
* Win By Knockout or Submission
There are no ropes in a Fight Pit Match. They set up a walking area about ten feet about the ring, which is surrounded by a steel cage with no ropes. There were two referees on hand with one referee up top and another in the ring. Thatcher was in control early with forearms while they were ten feet above the ring and then Thatcher hit a suplex on the hard structure. Ciampa kicked his way free from a submission attempt and Ciampa chopped Thatcher repeatedly. There were a lot of punches/kicks as they continued to battle on the structure above the ring. Ciampa did a catapult that sent Thatcher throat first into the steel railing. They went to a PIP commercial break.
They were in the ring now with Ciampa kicking Thatcher into it while Ciampa went down into it willingly. Ciampa whipped Thatcher into the cage three times followed by a running knee against the cage. Thatcher whipped Ciampa’s left shoulder into the cage. Thatcher with a suplex leading into a wrist lock submission attempt. After Thatcher broke free, Ciampa sent Thatcher into the cage. Ciampa with a catapult that sent Thatcher into the steel and Ciampa slapped on a half crab submission followed by a hard kick to the back. Thatcher kicked Ciampa back first into the cage. Thatcher slapped on the sleeper, Ciampa was still standing and Ciampa did a low blow back-kick to rock Thatcher because that’s a legal move. The referee checked on Thatcher and Ciampa managed to hit the Willow’s Bell DDT. The referee counted Thatcher down for a nine-count, but Thatcher got back up. They slugged it out exchanging forearms, Ciampa with a hard chop to the face and Ciampa drove Thatcher’s head into the cage. Ciampa hit the Fairytale Ending, which is like a lifting DDT. Ciampa tried to choke out Thatcher but Thatcher sent Ciampa back first into the cage. Thatcher with a standing sleeper, Ciampa went between the steel corner o of the ring and then Ciampa’s right leg was trapped between the cage. Thatcher did a Stretch Muffler submission with Ciampa’s left leg around the neck of Thatcher and that led to Thatcher grabbing his hands together. Ciampa was in pain and he tapped out to give Thatcher the submission after 14 minutes.
Winner by submission: Timothy Thatcher
Analysis: ***3/4 This was awesome. I liked a lot of things about it from the slow pace early on building to the bigger moments and then all of the submission moves that each man was trying during the match. I like that it felt like a fight from the moment it started right into the finish. Obviously, that’s what they were going to do in a match called the Fight Pit Match. Thatcher took a beating, it looked like Ciampa was going to win by knockout and then Thatcher managed to take advantage of the cage setup to trap Ciampa’s leg leading to the Stretch Muffler submission to win. It’s a fitting way to win the match for Thatcher because he’s a submission specialist, so he’s not limited to a certain submission. Thatcher should be able to win in multiple ways. It’s also because for Thatcher since Ciampa is a main event guy in NXT, so it builds up Thatcher as a credible threat to other wrestlers in NXT.
Thatcher was happy about the big win. Barrett called it the biggest win of Thatcher’s career and he was right in saying that as the referee raised Thatcher’s hand.
After the match, Thatcher walked over towards Ciampa and was on his knees near Ciampa as they looked at eachother. It looked like it was a sign of respect although there was no handshake or anything like that. The show just ended with the two guys looking at eachother after having a very physical match.
Analysis: It was a huge win for Thatcher, who lost to Ciampa when they had a Takeover match, so I expected Thatcher to win this. I think they might end up having a third match although if this is the end of the rivalry then that’s okay too.
Here’s a post show scene with Thatcher telling Ciampa he didn’t break his leg out of respect. Ciampa said there’s an opening in the Dusty Cup, so Thatcher nodded at him as if to say he (Thatcher) will team with Ciampa.
Three Stars of the Show
1. Tommaso Ciampa – He lost, but I thought he was the star of that match.
2. Timothy Thatcher
3. Kushida/Leon Ruff
This week: 7.75 out of 10
Last week: 6.75
2021 Average: 7.75
This was a very good wrestling show with a lot of tag team wrestling because the Men’s and Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournaments are going on at the same time. NXT focuses on in-ring action a lot, so they’re willing and able to give four matches on the show over 10 minutes including the main event. I really liked the booking of the three tag team matches with all three babyface teams winning. That finisher by Kacy Catanzaro was outstanding too.
The Fight Pit Match between Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa was a very physical match that lived up to the name of the match. It was a fight from the opening bell right until the finish. I liked how they did the ending too with Thatcher picking up the big win.
If you’re a fan of in-ring action then NXT never disappoints. I think they have some good characters too, but it’s mostly about what they do in the ring. That’s perfectly fine with me.
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