NXT returned to us last night (Nov. 13) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.
The main event was the ladder match between Io Shirai and Mia Yim to decide who gets the WarGames advantage.
The ending was never in doubt. The heels always always always have that advantage in WarGames (to be read in the William Regal voice this entire recap). But the match was actually a very good ladder match.
It didn’t go overboard with five ladders and a ton of ladder based offense. Hell, the ladder barely came into play the first half of the match. Instead they tired to neutralize the other, knowing they’d need to do that before bothering to climb.
Then when the ladder was introduced, it was one at a time. One was discarded when it looked like it was damaged too much to climb. That ladder would come into play later for the big spot at the end but was forgot about until then.
Io Shirai was great using the ladder as a weapon (and selling an arm injury so much she once lifted a ladder using her back) while Mia Yim brought the fire in this match. When she was fighting from underneath, the crowd was very behind her. Personally, it’s probably my favorite Mia match in NXT.
Dakota Kai had promised Yim earlier she’d have her back. While it looked to be an obvious set up for a heel turn, it didn’t go that way. When Mia was hurt, she powerbombed Mia from the ladder and set up Mia to get the win. That’s when Kay Lee Ray revealed herself as the fourth member of Shayna’s team, tipped Mia’s ladder so she went through the ladder that was left behind earlier in a brutal looking spot, and allowed Io to win.
I know of Kay Lee Ray. I’ve seen a couple of her matches, and I know she’s the UK champ. But as someone who doesn’t watch NXT UK regularly, the reveal was a bit flat to me. Not knowing much about Ray, it didn’t resonate as a big reveal.
Kay Lee had never been on NXT Prime. Even if they had a couple showcase matches with her in the past month or so, the reveal may have held a little more weight for an audience who didn’t know her. She fits the team well, but the reveal didn’t land as a big deal.
What was a big deal was Bayley’s last minute attack on Shayna Baszler, ambushing her with a chair, dropping her face first on the title, and then running off. This was set up earlier when cameras found members of both WarGames laid out, hinting this was a brand attack.
As with the men who we’ll touch on shortly, NXT is doing a great job servicing their own storylines and the big Survivor Series story very well.
A Finn Bálor promo transitioned into a Keith Lee/Roderick strong match into the reveal of the another member of the WarGames match. It was a seamless transition, showing that NXT is very good at intertwining their stories.
Bálor cut a great heel promo, showing disgust at what NXT has become. He referred to Johnny Gargano’s neck injury, one that is keeping him out of TakeOver, as a bruise. He railed on people whining on Twitter. His contempt with the business and the fans while minimizing a friggin’ neck injury was all very good villainy. It’s been said before, but Finn Bálor is so comfortable in this persona. He’s never been better.
He then turned his focus to Matt Riddle, the man he attacked in the main event last week. Well that didn’t last long as the Bro came for his pound of flesh. The Prince retreated and that’s when Undisputed ERA came out to get one up on the Bro.
This was as smooth transition as Undisputed has issues with Riddle given their on opposite sides of WarGames. But it also makes us wonder if Finn really has some alliance with the ERA given how things have unfolded.
Bálor disappeared and this turned into a standoff between Team Ciampa and Undisputed. And it led to a match between Roderick Strong and Keith Lee.
The match itself was good, but really took a backseat to all that came before it and afterwards. When the ERA came back out to aid Roddy, this brought Tommaso and Riddle back to neutralize them. And once again, here came Finn who picked his spot and attacked Riddle again.
This confusion allowed Keith Lee to pick up the win (so this set up a title feud down the road), but ERA was more than happy to now exploit their 4 on 2 advantage.
Finally, Dominik Dijakovic came down to even up the score. He shook Ciampa’s hand and then the hand of his big rival Keith Lee.
There’s a lot going on in NXT. There’s managing Finn Bálor given Johnny’s injury. There’s WarGames. There’s the feud with the other brands. And NXT is mixing it all together seamlessly. That’s not easy but they do it in a way that’s chaotic but not sloppy. It adds a continually unpredictability but doesn’t get too far off the tracks. It gives NXT a feeling of a larger world where everything connects. It makes for good TV.
NXT kicked the show off with an incredible cruiserweight title match between champion Lio Rush and challenger Angel Garza.
In the very beginning of the match, they made sure to set someone up as heel and someone as babyface. That’s smart given both these guys are cocky, charismatic characters. So when Garza went into the crowd, stood in front of Lio’s wife, and tore his pants off (a move I will never tire of), that set him up as the heel of the match.
It wasn’t completely necessary. This match was friggin’ fantastic without it. But it added another layer to things for fans to sink their teeth into if they so chose.
Rush won with two Final Hour frog splashes, but not without some controversy. Garza briefly had his foot on the rope but Rush pulled his leg back before the referee could see. That could be used to extend this feud. And given how great this was, it’s the way to go.
All the Rest:
- Pete Dunne had a scheduled match with Killian Dain, but that shiz never even got off the ground. Damian Priest predictably interjected himself, attacking the Beast of Belfast during his entrance. (It’s smart to give us as little of Dunne/Dain as possible.) This turned into a brawl that the Archer of Infamy got the best of. Triple Threat, here we come!
- Xia Li defeated Aliyah in a rematch from months back. They really booked Li strongly here. Aliyah got little offense in and the announcers put over Xia’s kicks most of the match. After the win, doctors tended to Aliyah for some bleeding from the mouth or nose. I wonder if the next step in all this is Xia facing Aliyah’s bud Vanessa Borne.
- Isiah “Swerve” Scott defeated Bronson Reed. Feels like these Breakout Tournament guys fight each other a lot. Still, it was a decent match and Scott still looks like a star.
NXT continues to do a very good job balancing all their stories without it getting to be too much.
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