Tom Phillips immediately kicks it to Charly Caruso, and you know tonight’s gonna be something different - we’re getting all four quarterfinal matches from the Dusty Classic!
First up, we’re off to San Jose, California, where they filmed two tag tourney matches this past weekend. Roderick Strong & Austin Aries are greeted with louder cheers than TM-61, and everybody’s bummed when A-Double points out the obvious - that he’s wearing street clothes and not competing tonight. Aries says he has a “broken eye-hole” and NXT officials begged him not to compete because he’s such a valuable commodity for the brand. He suggests Shane Thorne & Nick Miller forfeit so they aren’t embarrassed by losing a handicap match to the Messiah of the Backbreaker.
That brings out General Manager William Regal, who confirms that Aries is not cleared to compete here. But since he should be ready next week (in kayfabe only) and because Dusty Rhodes was all about competition, Regal makes this a singles match to determine who advances. The Aussies pick Thorne to wrestle Strong and we’re off!
After starting with a feeling out period, a back elbow followed by a moonsault earns a quick two count for Thorne. A distraction by Aries creates an opening for Roddy to land a kick and deliver a backbreaker across the turnbuckles as we head to a break. Strong is in control when we return, but eventually falls victim to a series of uppercuts. After another backbreaker, Roderick sets up for a superplex, but gets headbutted into a prone position for Shane to deliver a double-stomp a la Alberto Del Rio (complete with “Sí” chants).
Great sequence where Strong delivers a couple of knee strikes before slamming Thorne on his face, only to be answered by a clothesline and Falcon Arrow - which earns another nearfall. Shane follows that with a sitout powerbomb, but Aries distracts the referee. Roddy follows that with a jumping knee for two, but delivers a baseball slide to the outside to keep Miller away from his partner. The Australian rolls him up with a small package to move his team to the semis after a seven minute match.
- Guessing the rash of injuries the roster suffered after the field was announced has dictated the presentation and pacing of this year’s Dusty Classic, but I could be wrong. Having one semi-final over the last two weeks to set up for Toronto works out nicely, but it does leave them with spots to fill on the TakeOver card - and potentially having one of those be a tag title match which could outshine the tournament final probably isn’t how they drew it up.
- Speaking of not how they drew it up, while I really dug Roddy vs. Shane, TM-61 still aren’t clicking for me the way a potential top babyface act should. Thorne seemed to win San Jose over somewhat throughout the match, but going against Strong in (even Northern) California was alway gonna be an uphill battle. Neither the crowd’s enthusiasm - or mine - carried over from cheering his comeback to being glad his team advanced.
- Can’t blame Aries, who delivered a rock-solid heel promo to set this up. It was the kind of performance which would have easily been my favorite thing on the show if not for a speech by another injured wrestler which soon followed. But even A-Double in full arrogant slimeball mode couldn’t get me 100% invested in seeing Roddy lose. It wasn’t Almas vs. Dillinger bad or anything, but we still need more reasons to want to root for and the Aussies.
- On the flip side, this is the debut Strong should have gotten at Full Sail. The muted reaction in Florida remains baffling, and Thorne was a much better dance partner than Otis & Tucker - much as I like Dozovic.
- We’ll see how he handles interviews, which have never been a strength and something he’ll probably need to work on in order to connect with fans who don’t know him from his previous work and have a chance at a main roster run of any magnitude. But this was a great example of what makes Roddy special. Vicious-looking but safe offense that leaves him and his opponent looking great, win or lose.
Back at Full Sail, Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano hit the ring for thier highly anticipated rematch with The Revival. When Dash & Dawson’s music hits, however, Scott is on crutches. Wilder hands him a microphone, and he asks for quiet so he can deliver some really bad news - he tore every ligament in his knee. It’s an injury which would end the career of jamokes like #DIY, but he just needs a few days and some ibuprofen. The tag champs want to tough through the injury, beat their rivals and win the tournament, but they’re going to follow doctor’s orders and pull out of the tournament. While Ciampa & Gargano and the crowd processes what they just heard, Dash congratulates #DIY on making it to the next round, and says they should be grateful they don’t have to tap out to the top guys again.
We see a couple quick interviews from Dasha Fuentes. First, Cedric Alexander speaks on his time in NXT, and thanks Andrade “Cien” Almas for showing him you can’t just be happy to be here. Almas showed him you need a mean streak, and he’d like to thank him for that lesson in the ring - anytime, anywhere. Then, Johnny & Tommaso show off their “not surprised” faces when asked about The Revival’s latest stunt, and reiterate their goals... win the Dusty, and beat Dash & Dawson to become tag champs.
Back in San Jose, the crowd is crazy for Rich Swann & No Way Jose, who will face the Authors of Pain. The big men are lead to the ring by Paul Ellering, who dispatches Akam to start with Jose. No Way can’t connect with any offense despite angering his opponent with dance moves and makes a quick tag to Swann, who gets an assist from Jose on a Rana takedown. Rezar comes in, and though Rich dodges him at first and even lands a couple ineffective strikes, he ends up in a bearhug. He makes the mistake of trying a crossbody to the floor after he wiggles free and gets caught by both Authors, but Jose launches himself off the top to send everyone crashing down.
Ellering huddles up with his charges, who quickly put Swann in peril. They work him over, with even their Hall of Fame manager getting a choke in while the referee was distracted. Rich creates space with a couple enziguris, then bring Jose in hot after rolling away from a drop elbow. The Dominican sensation drops Akam and nails Rezar with big right hands before hitting the legal man with a TKO. The move only brings a two count, and Rezar tags himself in so the Authors can catch Jose with the Last Chapter and pick up the win in seven minutes.
- Don’t worry about me. Go watch a Top Guy run his mouth in that video up there. That’s the good stuff, and why - more than being the best tag team in the world - Dash and especially Dawson are some of the best heels working anywhere today. I love him and I’d boo the $#!+ out of him.
- Which is all to say, if (please God let) his leg is healed up for Nov. 20 and Johnny & Tommaso get another shot at taking the Revival’s precious belts, I bet it’s the best match on the card again.
- FINALLY! It shouldn’t have taken this long for Ced to address Almas actions, but better late than never. I’d put that match on at TakeOver, even though I don’t think they will. Alexander gets cheered everywhere he’s gone with WWE, and if they want to cement ACA as a rudo to be reckoned with, Cedric will help make that happen.
- So, I still want to see more of his serious side - we got a taste of it in the Aries program, but then they never really followed up on it - but I’m coming around on No Way. A performance like this is a big reason why. The dancing stuff was there early, but when it became clear it wasn’t helping him he bailed on it... and there was never time to play up the goofier elements of his baseball schtick. But he’s a big guy who can move and scoop these big boys in AoP up like they were cruiserweights. Combine that with the way he can get an audience behind him in any situation and, well, you find a way to use - and push - that guy.
- This was the first bump in the road for my love affair with the Authors, however. I commented a while back how I love watching them squash people, and I do. But in a couple opportunities to see them not squash people (here and live at the Baltimore/Bel Air show)... it’s not as fun. Until they learn to be a little less station-to-station, maybe get Ellering involved more? I think this was his first time interferring on their behalf, and giving the team a third guy for fans and opponents to keep an eye could cover for Akam & Rezar while they learn.
- But if they fall flat again next week against another uber-face team in #DIY, I’ll start being as worried about them as I am TM-61.
Video package (re)introduces us to Mickie James ahead of a rundown of the three matches officially announced for TakeOver: Toronto. We also learn that next week will feature a contract signing between Samoa Joe & Shinsuke Nakamura’s NXT title bout on Nov. 19, and the semi-final match-up between #DIY and AoP.
Our main event is Alexander Wolfe & Sawyer Fulton, along with the rest of the SAnitY gang, vs. TJ Perkins & Kota Ibushi to determine the final Dusty Classic semi-finalists. Ibushi and Wolfe start of with headlocks and wristlocks, but Kota eventually takes the bigger man down with a dropkick. Perkins in, and eventually get Wolfe in a knee bar, but he tags in Fulton - who also immediately gets caught in the submission hold. He escapes with another tag, and TJ brings in his partner. They work a double team that sends us to a break.
The Cruiserweight Classic finalists work over Fulton with quick tags and strikes. Sawyer runs through a double clothesline, but ends up getting dropkicked to the outside - as does his partner. Ibushi flattens Wolfe with the triangle moonsault, but TJ’s plancha onto Fulton ends up with him caught and slammed onto the ring apron twice. Back in the ring, a couple splashes lead to a cover attempt and when that fails, Perkins gets slammed onto Alexander’s knees for another nearfall. The heels work over the former Cruiserweight champ, and he looks done after a knee strike/gutwrench suplex combo, but he kicks out.
Perkins counters the slam onto Wolfe’s knees when SAnitY tries it a second time, and sends Fulton into his partner which allows him to make a tag. Ibushi lights up Alexander with kicks and a standing moonsault gets two. But after TJ takes out Fulton with a dropkick and a Golden Star Powerbomb seems to finish off Wolfe, Eric Young & Nikki Cross distract the referee. Sawyer levels Kota then tags himself in, and the heels hit a powerslam-into-DDT combo to pin him after a little more than nine minutes.
- That Mickie video was a fantastic piece of business. Look for a breakout on it once they release it on YouTube.
- Not new points - but I love SAnitY’s entrance in equal proportion to how much I loathe TJP’s.
- Given my enthusiasm for NXT’s newest stable and all things Ibushi... the main event fell kind of flat for me. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t move me and was probably my least favorite of the three quarterfinal bouts we got.
- Chalk it up to either Fulton & Wolfe still being works in progress, lack of chemistry between the teams or both. I’m surprised how much they limited Young & Cross’ involvement considering how little they’ve had EY do on television so far and how much emphasis they’d put on Nikki being uncontrollable.
- Big ups to Kota for doing the job, and now probably shuffling back to his home country to wrestle a transgender kaiju or something (love you, sir!).
Good stuff, and two of my favorite old-school, advance the story while pissing people off heel promos in recent memory. But the injury-driven changes to the tournament and a couple of pretty-good matches I probably wouldn’t rewatch rank it a smidge behind last week’s show for this reviewer.
How’d they do getting you ready for the semis?