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NXT recap & reactions (Dec. 11, 2019): Angel’s big night


NXT returned to us last night (Dec. 11) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. You can find the results in the live blog here.

Thank the pants

NXT kicked the night off with a cruiserweight title match between Lio Rush and Angel Garza.

And it was a damned banger.

Playing into the emotion of the match and the mind games that Garza had played (he even had a lipstick kiss mark on his right cheek), Lio came out hot. But he was too emotional, playing right into the challenger’s hands. Angle played it cool and dominated the champion early on because of it.

Of course Garza wasn’t going to keep Rush down for long. The champ battled back. He eventually hit his Final Hour frog splash finish, but when he tried to stop Angel from rolling out of the ring, Garza’s tearaway pants ripped and he escaped. That directly led to the finish where Angel tapped the champ.

Because it’s all about the pants.

Only in wrestling can a pair of tearaway pants start and finish a feud (and do it in a way that is very good). This whole match was laid out very well, from Rush’s emotions working against him to the pants coming into play a couple times, including the finish.

Garza is an incredible competitors and one of the Breakout Tournament standouts. Hewill make a great head of the cruiserweight division.

The proposal during the commercial break is one of those things that we are willing to turn off the kayfabe for, knowing this is scripted entertainment. Sure, he was just working heel by messing with Lio’s family and now he’s cutting a babyface promo and proposing. But we’re willing to forget all of that because she said yes.

Main Event

The main event was the triple threat #1 contenders match between Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, and Finn Bálor.

The size and power of Lee was the story of the match. It was very difficult for both Ciampa and Bálor to find an answer for that, though each would find the way here and there. Tommaso had to resort to a thumb to the eye at one point, ghosts of the old Ciampa, but that’s just the type of challenge Keith Lee poses. Tommaso would eventually lift the much larger Lee for an Air Raid siren, but even that wasn’t enough to put down the Limitless One.

The ending was clever. Keith Lee delivered a Spirit Bomb to Ciampa. But the body of Tommaso obstructed Lee’s view of Bálor climbing up to the top rope. So when Lee landed the Spirit Bomb, Finn quickly struck with a Coup De Grace to Keith for the win.

Pinning Lee is a bit of a risk given his ascension has been quick and therefore easier to derail. But we’ll see how that plays out in weeks to come.

Bálor vs. Cole should be very interesting. It’d be surprising to see Finn win the title, but I don’t expect any clean loss either. I’m excited to see how they play it.

Upper hand

It’s odd the way NXT keeps booking Dakota Kai’s segments with Mia Yim to end with Yim having all the momentum.

It happened last week when Mia attacked Dakota and beat her up around the arena. And it happened tonight too

They went one on one and despite Yim having control of most of the match, Dakota won by dastardly methods, exposing the turnbuckle. And that’s good. That’s a way for her to get the upper hand again.

But a post match attack by Yim undid all of that yet again. She beat up Kai, and ended up back body dropping her through a table off a structure out in the crowd. Once again, that leaves us with Dakota getting more comeuppance.

This is weakening all the heat she earned from the big WarGames attack. And as a fresh heel, she needs to be coming out on top more than this. They can advance a feud with Yim prior to Tegan Nox’s return and still have Dakota maintain that heel heat.

Kai will likely beat Yim in some street fight or a similar stipulation and then transition to a feud with Nox, which is the real story here. It will just be missing some of that fire that it had coming right out of WarGames.

All the Rest:

- Kushida cost Cameron Grimes a win against Raul Mendoza by stealing Grimes’ top hat mid match. This was a retaliation after Grimes attacked Kushida in the locker room earlier. A silly hat steal isn’t the most proportional response to such an attack, but it ensures they’ll fight again, and that should be good.

- Breezango defeated the always entertaining Singh Brothers. While it’s not as bad as the main roster, it feels like Tyler Breeze and Fandango are struggling to find time on NXT as well. Figured they would have been featured more, especially having some main roster cred that some of the wider audience knows.

- Bianca Belair and Kayden Carter had themselves a pretty dang fun match. It did a good job of both reminding us Belair is awesome and showing what Carter can do. Belair won but Kayden looked really good, which is what these matches should do.

- NXT is promoting the World’s Collide special during Royal Rumble weekend so they’re having interbrand matches between NXT UK and NXT Prime. This week, Travis Banks defeated Jaxson Ryker (kicked out at 3), handing the big man his first singles loss. An odd spot to deliver Jaxson a rare L, but it’s not as if the Sons were getting some huge push right now.

The opening and closing match were both great. But the middle of the show felt inessential. Not that there were bad matches in there, but they could have used another angle alongside the Dakota/Mia stuff to make the show feel like it was meatier.

Grade: B

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