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NXT recap & reactions (Nov. 25, 2020): Power Shift

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NXT returned last night (Nov. 25) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Heel turn!

Toni Storm shifted alignments this week at the expense of her (former) friend Ember Moon.

Moon opened the show in a match against Candice LeRae, but it was really a 4 on 1 handicap match. Indi Hartwell, Dakota Kai, & Raquel González were all lurking at ringside for most of the match. It took a good deal of cheating for Candice to score a pinfall victory against Ember Moon.

That puts Moon at 1-2 in singles matches since returning, the sole one being a gimme match against Jessi Kamea. Now both of those losses were dirty, but it still takes some of the shine off her big return. She felt like she was automatically a top gal in the division given her history when she returned. But losing the two singles matches against real competition, no matter the reason, hinders that.

Granted, she’ll have the WarGames match itself to reestablish herself so this is by no means some big travesty.

The Toni turn was well done in the sense they really set up something obvious last week that most people (including myself) bit on. The teams felt set. Then they shook it all up.

Toni’s tenure in NXT is new so it’s not like this was necessary for her character. But it suddenly made her more interesting. It also gives her a readymade feud with Ember Moon, who revealed her return the same night that Storm did. Moon could use a blood feud to help reestablish herself as a top star.


Not Going Anywhere

Rhea Ripley addressed her future, but her segment was really meant to advance the WarGames angle.

In short, she said she wasn’t going anywhere, that her focus is still on the NXT title. While I don’t fully believe her when it comes to the long term (and in this case, I mean even months), the short term has her back in the cage at WarGames.

An interruption from Candice LeRae led to the reveal that her squad took out Io Shirai in the back. Dropping the champ’s limp body onto the ramp, they turned their focus onto the Nightmare. The badass that she is, Ripley held them off for a decent amount of time before she just couldn’t any more.

With both her and Io left laying by the baddies, we can be pretty sure that she and Shirai are rounding out the WarGames match. And with only one more episode prior to the event, a second swerve is not very likely.

This should be another baller WarGames match, and maybe more importantly, the heels and faces can then break off into different singles feuds afterwards.


3-1

Undisputed lost their first WarGames advantage match this week after winning their last three.

And of course they did. They’re the good guys now. The good guys never win this match.

NXT has done a great job booking their WarGames matches, but at the core of the concept, there’s a predictability to them. It’s a guarantee that the heels always have the man advantage in the beginning of the match. It’s a staple of the Dusty Rhodes creation. While the why makes sense (good guys having an extra person advantage isn’t a babyface thing), it leads to some predictability.

There was never any doubt that Pete Dunne was going to defeat Kyle O’Reilly in the ladder match to gain the advantage. The mystery was only going to be in the how. In this case, it was a masked individual who pushed over the later when KOR had the match won. The members of both teams were watching from the balconies. Pat McAfee was not there tonight, though the individual was wearing the same mask Pat wore when he revealed himself as the mastermind behind the Kings of NXT. It’s likely we’re to assume it was him, but we could be dealing with another mystery individual.

The match itself was brutal in a good way. These two attacked each other’s limbs until neither could move properly. Their styles meshed nicely, giving a physical, bone crunching match.It was enjoyable despite the pretty obvious result.


Kevin Owens Show

Kevin Owens hosted the KO show while he was at the CWC at the announce desk this week.

He hosted Leon Ruff, but it was predictably interrupted by Johnny Gargano and then Damian Priest before William Regal made the North American triple threat championship match official for WarGames.

This segment had its moments, with KO exposing the tropes of these talk shows, but comedy all seemed off a beat. There were too many awkward silences, and I don’t know if they were trolling KO or just couldn’t get the timing right, but they kept screwing up his countdown to ring music gag.

It also felt like they took a step back with Leon Ruff from where they left off last week. They had already established him as a man who we shouldn’t be taking lightly, who was a player in all this. This week, they made him seem more like a man who lucked into this position. He was more of a goof again. I took him more seriously last week than I did this week. That’s not how this should progress.

They set up the match, which was going to happen, and we got to see William Regal use “playa” in honor of Teddy Long so it did have its moments. In the end, comedy is subjective and while I normally enjoy Owens, this didn’t work for me.


Tapped Out

With Tommaso Ciampa watching at ringside, Timothy Thatcher tapped out to Kushida.

Let me say that again. Timothy Thatcher tapped out.

That’s an amazing feat for Kushida, something that Vic Joseph on commentary made sure to put over. Beating Thatcher isn’t the biggest accomplishment. He’s very good but he can take a pinfall loss. But to make a man who is so versed in Catch Wrestling submit is a huge accomplishment.

At this point, I think it’s almost a lock that Kushida will be Finn Bálor’s next challenger. He’s too hot for the North American title. We need to see Bálor vs. Kushida.

This obviously was a way for them to advance Ciampa’s program with Thatcher. Tim didn’t look too focused tonight with Tommaso at ringside. We’ll see if he can right the ship in a match against the Psycho Killer.


All the Rest:

- Cameron Grimes defeated Jake Atlas without too much struggle, showing that they still don’t have a path for Jake yet. After the victory, Dexter Lumis slinked up behind Grimes and proposed, in his own unique way, a strap match. Grimey wasn’t having any of it, but William Regal made the match for TakeOver.

- The Boa and Xia stuff was weird and wild again. Who is this mystery woman???

- The Grizzled Young Vets returned this week, attacking Ever-Rise before a scheduled match could really get underway. Outside Jordan Devlin, they’ve got all the UK wrestlers they lost when the pandemic hit.


The twists and turns of the women’s WarGames match was the highlight of the show. The main event was a fight. Comedy is subjective, but the KO Show didn’t hit for me, but even that wasn’t really bad.

Grade: B+

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