NXT returned last night (Jan. 15) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.
Undisputed ERA really set out to continue to establish itself as a top heel unit after returning from the UK where they attacked Imperium. And they mixed it up with some old enemies in doing so.
Keith Lee opened the show to hype his North American title match against Roddy Strong.
He didn’t say anything big of note, but he said it with his trademarked cool charisma. And that’s more important. It’s all about how you say it in wrestling, and Keith Lee owns that vibe.
Unfortunately, he was cut short when the Undisputed interrupted and then attacked him four on one. Roddy put a chair on the Limitless One’s left leg and stomped it from the turnbuckle. Lee is over enough and this was dastardly enough to get Full Sail fully booing the heels.
Ciampa made the save, but it was too late. (Hey, maybe he was in the can or something.) The ERA ran off when the Blackheart arrived.
This was a smart opening segment. Lee is booked very strong so introducing a leg injury evens the playing field for Roddy Strong next week. And there’s an excuse if they want to extend the program a bit longer. Personally, I’d probably pull the trigger next week, but my territory sucks.
Later in the night, Tommaso Ciampa called out the ERA and the same thing happened. Because of course it did. What the hell was he expecting? Perhaps Ciampa desperate that Adam Cole has taken his life (Goldie) from him and he isn’t thinking straight.
Lucky for him, Johnny Gargano was feeling generous and saved his butt, despite his issues currently being with Finn Bálor.
Because of their long, complicated, fascinating history, this didn’t feel like something that was rushed so they could book a big Worlds Collide match against Mustache Mountain. Yes, that’s exactly what it was, but it was done in a way that made sense (it’s not like Johnny doesn’t have issues with the ERA) and plays into a long history.
But that wasn’t all for all of these men.
When #DIY were deciding to accept Mustache Mountain’s challenge, the ERA came storming at them outside the building, being held back by a slew of security. That’s when Keith Lee came out of no one and friggin’ pounced a dude through the hedge. He threw another onto a car windshield before shouting “Within me, the prophecy ends with me next week!”
Damn, talking about putting some bass in your voice.
Yeah, I’d put the title on him next week.
Battle Royals can be hit or miss. The goal of a battle royal, outside the stated goal such as “Crown a #1 contender,” is advance stories or characters. And throw in a couple surprises while you’re at it.
Well we got the surprises. Kacy Catanzaro returned after time away (and speculation that she was hanging it up). Shayna Baszler was the final entrant. While she’s been a fixture of NXT for years, after losing the title to Rhea Ripley, many expected we wouldn’t see her on NXT again.
As for advancing stories or establishing characters, Dakota Kai, who was originally advertised for the match but then suddenly not in it when they opted to put Tegan Nox in, obvious cost Nox the match. Mercedes Martinez had a strong showing in a great moment with Baszler. (And it was a treat for those who watched their story way back in the first Mae Young Classic.) And Shotzi Blackheart got to be the one to eliminate Shayna Baszler, which could be a moment meant to set her apart from a lot of the other names in the match.
Then there was the final two, Io Shirai and Bianca Belair, who pretty much gave us another match at the end. A match that was absolutely fantastic. These women made sure to amp up the drama for all the times they battled on the top turnbuckle or out on the apron. (And the moments when Io used Belair’s braid against her were very clever.)
Bianca winning in the end was surprising. My guess was Candice LeRae, who should have a title shot eventually to reward her WarGames win. When it came down the final two, Io made more sense, especially since Belair has a one on one loss to Ripley a couple months back in match that was... OK.
That being said, Belair is a fantastic character and could be a strong first foil to Rhea Ripley.
The Dusty Classic continues to rule, probably because NXT tag team wrestling rules.
In the first match, the Broserweights defeated UK team of Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews. And it was nuts.
But outside all of the fantastic moves and counters, my favorite moment was when Riddle and Dunne both struck their poses that the Bro referenced in his fantastic promo last week before hitting tandem kicks.
As someone who normally dislikes seeing makeshift teams defeat established ones, it was appreciated that Mauro Ranallo and Beth Phoenix mentioned a couple times that Andrews and Webster were in a grueling ladder match just days ago.
While this was a blast, the second match was a bit of a bummer.
Not because it wasn’t good. It was. But it was a let down seeing Alex Shelley and Kushida lose their reunion match.
This isn’t a criticism of the segment. It was supposed to be a big bummer. The Grizzled Young Veterans are heels, and they’re supposed to stomp out our hopes. And the promo that Zack Gibson cut after the fact really rubbed it in.
Since that one loss is probably not it for Alex Shelley, it’s just the beginning of a story. Their fallout interview challenged all comers so expect to see the Time Splitters on NXT TV for a bit longer.
All the rest:
- Isiah “Swerve” Scott defeated Tyler Breeze & Lio Rush to earn the right to participate in the fatal 4-way match at Worlds Collide. It was a fun, cruiserweight style match. Good to see Swerve get a little more spotlight too.
This was as strong episode, one where it felt like no wasted motions. Next week should be a banger too with Righteous Lee facing Roddy Strong.
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