Welcome to the WWE NXT review here on TJRWrestling. It’s the big Halloween Havoc show that they have been promoting for several weeks. I’ll go summary style rather than play by play for most of the matches and then play by play for the two title matches.
This is episode #428 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.
There was a cool video to open the show. There was the NXT Halloween Havoc logo in the building and a big orange pumpkin balloon as well. The Halloween Havoc host Shotzi Blackheart was on the stage in a costume. There were some fans in the building and the video wall had fans faces that WWE recycled from past shows at the ThunderDome setup.
Damian Priest made his entrance for his NXT North American Title on stage. There was a guitarist by the entrance that played part of his song. Johnny Gargano entered as the opponent in this rematch from Takeover 31 earlier in the month. Gargano cut the inflatable pumpkin to break it. The announcers are Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett in the arena and Beth Phoenix at home in North Carolina.
It was “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal” time as Shotzi Blackheart spun the wheel and it landed on “Devil’s Playground Match.”
NXT North American Championship Devil’s Playground Match: Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano
It was mentioned by Joseph that it is No Disqualification, No Countout and Falls Count Anywhere in this Devil’s Playground match, which is another way of saying this is a Falls Count Anywhere Match.
Priest with a forearm, Gargano blocked a corner charge and Priest hit a lifting flatliner. Priest with three corner splashes, Gargano with an elbow shot and Priest hit a spinning heel kick for two. Priest with a punch that sent Gargano out of the ring. Priest on the apron, Gargano kicked him, Priest blocked a slingshot Spear attempt and Gargano managed to get out of the ring. Gargano shoved Priest into the steel steps. Gargano grabbed a kendo stick from under the ring while Priest had a black nightstick or something like that. They went to picture in picture break.
The match returned with Gargano hit a dive off the stage (which is only about six inches off the ground) and knocked down Priest. Gargano with some kendo stick shots to the back. Priest had the nightstick, he blocked an enziguri kick and Priest hit a sitout Chokeslam off the apron for a two count. Gargano sent Priest to the floor, suicide dive by Gargano blocked and then Johnny managed to send Priest into the barricade. Gargano hit a Sliced Bread neckbreaker on the bottom half of the steel steps for a two count. Gargano went for a DDT on the floor, but Priest hit a suplex/slam onto the hood of the announce table. Gargano found a casket that was vertical, he opened it up, there was a skeleton and Johnny gave it a superkick. That was funny. Priest knocked Gargano down as they went brawling to the back with Gargano firing off some fire extinguisher spray at Priest and then Gargano sent the back of Priest against a garage door three times in a row. Gargano put the trash can on Priest and then rammed it repeatedly against the door. Gargano rolled a cart into Priest as well, which led to another picture in picture break.
The match continues with Priest and Gargano battling by the part of the set where the wheel was up on a stage. Priest threw a garbage can at him. Gargano avoided a slam and hit a superkick. Gargano with seven garbage can shots to the back of Priest while they were on the stage. Gargano trash talked the wheel because he hates wheels. Priest came back with a jumping kick to the face and then a spin kick into the trash can while Gargano was holding it. Priest was going for The Reckoning on the stage and then a mystery attacker hit Priest in the back with a steel pipe of some kind. The mystery attacker was wearing a mask like the one in the movie Scream (from the mid-1990s) and Priest went down. We couldn’t see who it is. Gargano hit a spinning DDT on the stage and Gargano looked at the masked man as if he had no idea who it was, but then he nodded at him as the masked person left. Gargano was handed Gargano a tombstone that was part of the set, Gargano hit Priest and Priest bumped of the structure onto another part of the set with Priest landing on the floor. There were some “holy shit” chants. Gargano crawled over Priest on the floor and covered for the pinfall win after 21 minutes.
Winner by pinfall AND NEW NXT North American Champion: Johnny Gargano
The win means that Gargano is now a two-time NXT North American Champion. Gargano is the first two-time NXT North American Champion. Priest’s reign as champion ended at 67 days.
Analysis: ***1/2 It was a very good match just like their Takeover 31 match was, but this time Gargano got the win in cheap fashion. I liked how they structured the match by having Priest getting plenty of offense in the ring while Gargano managed to get in some cheap offense, which was legal in a match with no rules. The mystery man attacker was a cheap way to do a title change, but NXT likes booking finishes like that with mystery attackers. The way the mystery attacker angle was done made it look like Gargano had no idea who it was at first, but then he showed that he knew the person and Gargano won the match because of the cheap attack. Big bump for the finish was a smart way to do it. It also gives Priest something to complain about since he lost due to a cheap attack and not in a regular match. I like Johnny holding the title again because there are a lot of faces in NXT that could benefit from working with a great performer like him.
Johnny Gargano posed with the NXT North American Title no the stage where the wheel was while Priest continued to sell the attack by laying on the floor.
The announcers were shown with Wade Barrett questioning Vic’s Halloween outfit since Vic was dressed like Waldo of “Where’s Waldo?” fame. Wade did not have an outfit. Vic noted that Wade challenged him to a costume contest. Wade said he was dressed as his favorite superstar “Bad News Barrett.” Well played! Wade did his “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news” line because Vic looks like a moron while Wade won the costume contest. That was funny.
There was a backstage shot of Pat McAfee with his buddies Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan, who are the new NXT Tag Team Champions.
A video aired about NXT Champion Finn Balor, who is still out of action after jaw surgery.
Cameron Grimes complained to Commissioner William Regal about his match with Regal telling him his match was out in the parking lot.
Let’s Hear from Pat McAfee and Friends
Pat McAfee was in the ring with NXT Tag Team Champions Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. McAfee said that the entire world agreed that he had the greatest debut in the history of this business at Takeover 30 back in August. McAfee said even the idiots in the Internet Wrestling Community and the crowd there can even agree with that, which drew boos. McAfee said after he put on a show during his first time in the ropes, Adam Cole didn’t say congratulations or that he appreciated what McAfee did for him. McAfee said that idiot Adam Cole flexed on top of him. McAfee said on his private plane back home to Indianapolis, he thought about how big of a bum Adam Cole was. McAfee talked about how he couldn’t come back down sooner because of his Sirius XM radio show, his Youtube show over 1 million subscribers talking about sports, he’s got College Gameday, the biggest show on the internet and that meant he couldn’t be there. McAfee made a call to a man named Ridge Holland, who asked for a car, McAfee gave him a Mercedes and Holland dumped Cole’s body over the barricade. McAfee said then he saw Ridge Holland fracture his leg in “700 pieces” and he thought he couldn’t give up just yet. McAfee said that Lorcan/Burch told him they couldn’t be bought, then they lost to Undisputed Era and then Lorcan/Burch contacted McAfee about some help.
Kyle O’Reilly of the Undisputed Era showed up for the interruption with the three other guys in the group on the (storyline) injured list.
While Kyle was on the ramp, Pete Dunne made his return after about seven months. Dunne looks as ripped as ever and in the best shape of his life. Dunne had two steel chairs with him. O’Reilly and Dunne scared McAfee, Burch and Lorcan to the apron, then when Kyle stepped forward, Dunne hit him in the back with a steel chair. Dunne kicked O’Reilly in the face as Lorcan and Burch attacked O’Reilly while McAfee was celebrating it. Dunne stomped on the left elbow of O’Reilly on the steel chair. Burch and O’Reilly hit the assisted double team DDT on a steel chair. McAfee told O’Reilly that they are smarter than him and his friends, they’re the new kings of this brand and that “Cauliflower Kyle O’Reilly in undisputed.” End segment.
Analysis: Welcome back, Pete Dunne! Yes! One of my favorite wrestlers in all of WWE. Dunne has been home in England since the pandemic started, so now WWE must have found a way to bring him to the US for work and Dunne is back in NXT as part of this new group with McAfee. As for McAfee’s promo, I really liked it. He’s a great talker since that’s his post-NFL playing career and he’s had a lot of success on his various shows as he mentioned. It sets up for a huge 4 on 4 match with this group against Undisputed Era, which could be a WarGames match although I’m not sure if WWE wants to do that kind of match without a big crowd.
Cameron Grimes left the arena where there was a white van that was supposed to take him to his fight against Dexter Lumis. Michael Hayes of the Fabulous Freebird (a long time WWE Official) exited the van, Grimes was freaked out and then Grimes went into the van.
Santos Escobar (w/Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde) vs. Jake Atlas
This is not for Escobar’s NXT Cruiserweight Title. Escobar was wearing purple/black tights like Rey Mysterio at the amazing Halloween Havoc 1997 match against Eddie Guerrero and some white/black face paint where they honor deceased members of their family. Escobar worked over Atlas with a kick to start the match and a running knee attack. After Escobar slapped Atlas in the face, he told him to quit and Atlas fired up with punches along with a German Suplex leading to a forearm for two. Atlas hit a cartwheel DDT with Wilde putting Escobar’s foot on the rope and Atlas hit a dive onto both guys on the floor. Mendoza with a headbutt to Atlas that the referee didn’t see. Escobar hit a double underhook where he drove Jake’s chest into the knee for the pinfall win after about four minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Santos Escobar
Analysis: **1/4 This was one of those matches with a story where the younger guy Atlas put up a fight and was competitive for most of the match, but he wasn’t good enough to beat the champion Escobar due to outside interference. I would have liked to see them get more time, but it’s a loaded show.
Ember Moon was featured in a video talking about how Dakota Kai stepped up to attack her, which is what she wanted meaning she wanted a new rival.
Shotzi Blackheart was in another Halloween outfit showing off her body a bit more and said Haunted House of Terror was next.
Haunted House of Terror: Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis
This was a cinematic “match” with a Marilyn Manson song “Don’t Chase the Dead” playing during it. Grimes was dropped off in a van looking for Lumis in some wooded area with Lumis hitting by a tree. Grimes entered the house, he stared at a moose head and then Lumis followed him in the house. Grimes asked a referee if it was pinfall or submission with the referee looking like he was in a horror movie. Lumis broke down a door, Grimes tried to get away and there was a woman in the shower with Grimes saying he didn’t realize Lumis had a sister. When the shower opened, a woman screamed at Lumis and he tried to run away. Grimes managed to stun Lumis a bit with a kick to the head and Grimes grabbed a weapon, but then there were zombie people in the house to scare Grimes. A bunch of zombies chased Grimes, who went into the van and Lumis was in the driver’s seat. Grimes ran away to end it with “to be continued” appearing on screen.
Match Result: To be continued?
Analysis: I don’t rate these taped cinematic matches. It was okay if horror movies are your thing. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but it was different from everything else on the show. They shot this like a horror movie with the way the camera angles were and all of the surprises. It furthered this story between Grimes and Lumis, which will probably lead to a match in the ring at some point in the future.
Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Gonzalez
This has been built up for a few months as a battle between two of the tallest women in WWE. Ripley with a big headbutt, Gonzalez shook it off and hit a forearm to the face. It became a bit of a hard-hitting match as they exchanged strikes for a couple of minutes at least. Ripley knocked Gonzalez out of the ring with a dropkick. Gonzalez managed to get a hold of Ripley outside the ring and powerbombed her into the barricade/plexiglass leading to picture in picture break time.
Gonzalez was in control with a clothesline to the back along with another clothesline. The announcers kept talking about how powerful both women were as Ripley hit a basement dropkick. Ripley slapped on the inverted cloverleaf submission, but Gonzalez powered out of it and booted Ripley in the face. Gonzalez hit a spinning powerslam for a two count. Gonzalez set up Ripley on the turnbuckle, Ripley hit a headbutt and Gonzalez managed to fight back with a slam for two. Ripley sent Gonzalez into the turnbuckle, then a kick to the face and Ripley hit the Riptide for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Rhea Ripley
Analysis: ***1/4 This was pretty good. It was a physical match with a lot of hard shots by both women. They weren’t afraid to hit, that’s for sure. Ripley is the better of the two women, but Gonzalez has improved a lot during the year after mostly being an associate of Dakota Kai. Gonzalez has shown she can stand on her own. There was a lot of offense from heel Gonzalez, then Ripley made the big comeback and got the decisive win.
Cameron Grimes was shown on the street running back to the Capitol Wrestling Center.
There’s a big NXT Championship match on NXT UK on Thursday with Walter defending the title against Ilya Dragunov. I don’t watch NXT UK every week, but I’m going to check out that match.
Drake Maverick and Killian Dain were interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell backstage. Drake was dressed as “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan and there were two guys as The Giant and Yeti to “hug” Hogan. Killian Dain showed up in a Shockmaster mask to tell Drake that he wasn’t going to fall down like him. Drake put on the Shockmaster mask and fell down, which made Dain laugh. That was it.
Analysis: This is a nice reminder that wrestlers like stupid moments in wrestling history as much as the fans do. That doesn’t mean that every fan is going to know early 1990s bad gimmicks in wrestling, but I certainly appreciate it.
Cameron Grimes was back inside the Capitol Wrestling Center where he laid down in the makeshift cemetery where some of the zombie freaks happened to be. Grimes went into the ring where Dexter Lumis was waiting for him and Grimes hit a bulldog along with a spinebuster. There was also smoke filling the ring. Grimes hit his Cave In leaping kick on one of the zombies. A zombie went onto Dexter’s shoulders as Grimes was freaking out. Lumis hit a sitout uranage and then the head/arm choke to cause Grimes to pass out. Grimes left while the four zombies filled the ring around Grimes, who was selling like he was out of it. Lumis looked into the camera as “THE END” appeared on screen to put an end to it.
Analysis: It fit into the gimmick of Lumis as a creepy character unlike anybody else in NXT. I don’t really like it that much, but I give them credit for being unique at least.
There was a video about Io Shirai defending the NXT Women’s Title against Candice LeRae in a rematch of their NXT Takeover 31 match.
Tommaso Ciampa did a promo saying he didn’t recognize NXT anymore. He said that the attitude, culture and people walking around asking for an opportunity. Ciampa said that he’s hungry, so he’s going to eat. Ciampa talked about how people think they can create buzz with a tweet. Ciampa spoke about how he wasn’t handed anything – he was the greatest and he was NXT. Ciampa said that it’s time he takes it all back while adding that it all begins with the 25-year-old prodigy, Velveteen Dream. Ciampa called him a “dead man” for hitting him with a cast twice.
Next week on NXT on my birthday, November 4:
* Tommaso Ciampa vs. Velveteen Dream
* Ember Moon vs. Dakota Kai
It was main event time as Candice LeRae made her entrance with a unique looking jacket and a Halloween themed look for her. Io Shirai was up next as the NXT Women’s Champion with the signer Poppy there to sign part of her entrance. Shotzi Blackheart did the “Spin the Wheel, Make a Deal” and it stopped suddenly by whoever was gimmicking it to stop on the right spot. It landed on Tables, Ladders and Scares.
NXT Women’s Championship Tables, Ladders & Scares Match: Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae
The referee put the NXT Title on a hook and it went up because this is a TLC match where they say Scares instead of Chairs. The winner must climb a ladder to retrieve the title.
Shirai knocked LeRae out of the ring and then she hit a cross body block on the floor. LeRae got back into it by whipping Shirai into the barricade. LeRae got a table from under the ring along with a mystery. When Candice dumped out the mystery bag, it had fake human head and bloody limbs in it. Scary stuff, so Candice freaked out. Shirai hit LeRae with one of the limbs, then charged and LeRae tripped up Shirai to send her into a ladder that was on the floor. Shirai sent LeRae into the ring post and then Shirai tossed LeRae over the announce table. LeRae blocked a slam attempt through the table, LeRae got a laptop and hit Shirai in the head with it. LeRae grabbed a ladder and set it up from the table to the edge of the ring. Shirai threw a chair at LeRae. There were three referees on the floor to check on the wrestlers while also giving them time cues and stuff I’m sure. Shirai with a double knee attack on LeRae against the steel steps. LeRae brought five chairs in the ring while also jabbing LeRae in the ribs with a chair. Shirai with a suplex on the floor leading to a break.
The women were battling on the floor near two tables that were set up beside eachother. They went back into the ring with a ladder set up as LeRae hit a front slam. LeRae set up a table against the turnbuckle as LeRae nailed her with an uppercut palm strike. Shirai with a backbreaker where she planted LeRae onto five chairs. Shirai went up top, she jumped off with a moonsault, LeRae moved and Shirai landed on the chairs. Ouch. Shirai was favoring her knee leading to LeRae hitting multiple chair shots to the back. LeRae set up a chair in a seated position, but Shirai managed to come back with a suplex onto the chair. Shirai tried a climb, LeRae slapped her in the face and fell against the ladder, so Shirai charged, Candice moved and Shirai hit the ladder with double knees. LeRae went up top, Shirai hit her with a forearm to stop her and Shirai set up two open chairs in the ring. LeRae managed to knock Shirai down, Shirai caught the leg with a chair and then twisted the leg with the chair. Shirai went for a 619 kick, LeRae moved and LeRae hit Shirai in the back with a steel chair. LeRae hit a neckbreaker off the apron that put both women through the tables. Brutal. It was well executed, but it looked terrible. The masked superstar showed up to help LeRae, but then Shotzi Blackheart put the masked person and slammed them onto the chairs in the ring. LeRae was near the top of the ladder as Shirai got back in the ring with another ladder. Shirai was right beside LeRae with both women on a ladder, so LeRae did an eye gouge. Shirai managed to shove LeRae off the ladder leading to LeRae falling off the ladder and onto the ladder bridge between the apron/table on the floor. Holy shit! That looked like a brutal landing. LeRae did take it perfectly by landing on her back, but it still looked rough. Shirai looked at LeRae down on the ladder as the referees checked on Candice to make sure she was fine. Shirai climbed to the top of the ladder, she sat on top and reached up to retain the NXT Women’s Championship. The match went about 17 minutes.
Winner: Io Shirai
Analysis: **** This was an awesome match with a lot of cool spots and fun moments that saw both women being creative throughout the match. Shirai is one of my favorite wrestlers in the entire company because of how consistently great she is no matter the match type or opponent. LeRae is very smart in the ring because you can tell how she thinks about the next spot all the time and she’s always in the right spot. I also really admire LeRae’s willingness to do those big bumps to create memorable moments like that ladder spot off the ladder in the ring and then crashing through the ladder on the floor. I would have liked to see Shirai sell a knee injury a bit more because after the moonsault on the chairs, she stopped selling the knee that was favoring for a bit, so I would like to see a bit more of that. It’s not easy to have an awesome TLC match, but they did a tremendous job here and they deserve a lot of praise for it.
There were replays shown of some of the big bumps in the match including Candice’s huge fall off the ladder onto the ladder on the floor.
Io Shirai celebrated with her NXT Women’s Championship as “NXT” chants filled the arena. That was the end of the show.
Three Stars of the Show
- Io Shirai
- Candice LeRae
- Johnny Gargano/Damian Priest
I give this show an 8.25 out of 10.
Great show. It felt like a Takeover after weeks of build to the big matches and they had some memorable moments like Pete Dunne’s return leading to the heel turn to set up a rivalry with Undisputed Era. Dunne looks bigger than ever too. I’m glad he’s back. Pat McAfee’s promos are awesome. The women’s division continues to be a strength in NXT with two very good women’s matches in the second hour and each of them were given plenty of time (13 and 17 minutes). Io Shirai continues to amaze while Candice LeRae took one of the craziest bumps of the year going off a ladder in the ring through a ladder that was between the apron/announce table. Huge respect for taking that kind of bump. Rhea Ripley picked up a big win over Raquel Gonzalez, who continues to improve.
Johnny Gargano became NXT North American Champion again thanks to a mystery attacker going after Damian Priest. The NXT brand really loves mystery attacker angles. It’s not a complaint by any means. I’m just saying it happens quite often including the last two weeks for Tag Team Title and North American Title changes.
Some of the things weren’t great, but I could still tolerate it. I’m talking about the Dexter Lumis/Cameron Grimes segments, but I did appreciate how it was filmed and how they tried to make it like a horror movie.
This was a fun episode of NXT. I think it was one of the better episodes of the year.
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