NXT returned last night (Dec. 16) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results of this episode at the live blog here.
This episode crowned the #1 contender for the New Year’s Evil NXT title match.
This was achieved by pitting Pete Dunne and Kyle O’Reilly against each other. Another match between these was bound to be good. And what would you know? It was!
NXT decided to get all of the overbooking that’s normally reserved for the end of the match over with before the bell even rang. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, who accompanied Dunne to the ring, were ganged up on by Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Killian Dain, and a returning Breezango. (Drake Maverick tried but he was laid out immediately so I am not really counting him. Try harder next time, DM.)
Before the bell, this type of booking is fun. It was all the sins of Pat McAfee’s gang coming back to bite them in the ass right here. But more importantly, it left Pete and Kyle to just go ham on each other for 20 minutes. It got the outside action out of the way so it didn’t sully the performance these two men gave by factoring in the end.
This match was a barn burner. I don’t envy my man Sean having to live blog this one because this was just back and forth, non-stop action. There were a few times that the Bruiserweight seemed to have the upper hand for a little bit of time, but really it was reversing holds and trading stiff shots in various creative ways. It was brutal and it was awesome.
In the end, it was a suplex to the outside (which Kyle delivered by reversing the Bitter End on the apron) and then a knee to the back of the head from the top that earned O’Reilly the end.
It was a war between these two.
This sets up a rematch between Kyle and Finn, an outcome that was a bit surprising. I figured they’d go triple threat or Pete vs. Finn. Instead, they went for the rematch.
I’m certainly not mad about it. The TakeOver: 31 main event was a baller match. And the story is already there with Kyle losing the match but putting Finn on the shelf for months with a broken jaw. There’s less work needed to build a compelling match. And maybe they don’t want Pete to lose a title match just now.
Let’s just hope these men don’t do the damage to each other they did last time around.
A Big L
The main event of this week’s show was a bout between Rhea Ripley and Toni Storm.
There was little to no build for this one. These two have history that could have been further explored. They touched on that history a bit during a video earlier in the evening that helped promote this match, specifically discussing their rivalry in NXT UK. But there was still some more that could have been done. I’m of the opinion that every big match deserves one face to face promo segment prior.
None-the-less, the match was great. These women clearly do not like each other, and they relayed that with their aggression in this match. Given the way this ended and the lack of real build, this is a match I hope they come back to in the future and spend a little more time on.
Raquel González was directly involved in the finish, letting us know that this match was more to set up that program than this being a program of its own. Raquel seemed to come out for her spot prior to her queue when Storm was on the apron instead of Ripley. It was an awkward moment that ended with González meekly being chased back into the crowd.
She returned again when the right woman was on the apron, knocking Rhea off, catching her over her shoulder, and running the Nightmare head first into the steel post. Storm took it from there, nailed the Aussie’s head in the corner and then putting her away with Storm Zero.
So this was one Rhea’s losses that we wondered about in this morning’s preview. It was protected, but it is still an L. And conversely, it’s a big win for Storm heading into her next feud, whether it be against Ember Moon or Io Shirai.
Ripley will surely face Raquel González, probably at New Year’s Evil. And once again, she’ll probably take another loss. We’ve speculated here that this is Rhea putting people over before going to the main roster. If not, then they’re going to need to tell a story of Ripley once again suffering a set back.
All the matches should be good. The women’s scene in NXT is superb. The big question is what happens with the Nightmare when it’s all said and done?
A Winning Way
This is the Way.
Because of course proud nerd Johnny Gargano would name his stable after a phrase from the Mandalorian. Sasha Banks would approve.
Austin Theory picked up his first win in ages teaming with Johnny as they faced Leon Ruff and Kushida. Theory took advantage of a blind tag, catching Ruff unaware and hitting his finish (now named “This is the Way”) for the win.
This establishes that Gargano is in fact the way for Theory to find success in NXT. Though I’m still not sold on Austin’s place in the group. The Garganos’ other padawan Indi Hartwell fits. She reacts to Johnny’s ridiculous BS very well. But Austin doesn’t click with the group like she does, at least not yet. He’s still a rather dull character. Maybe that’s something they’ll play with. It’s still early. But I’m not sold.
Giving Austin an elusive win meant Kushida picked up a rare loss. Now he wasn’t involved in this match much at all and certainly wasn’t involved in the finish. Leon did the lion’s share of the work.
So this loss doesn’t hinder Kushida at all and we’re likely headed towards a North American title feud for the Japanese superstar. While that’s a bit disappointing because I had my hopes up for a match with Bálor, the more I think about it, the more I come around to it.
The NXT title scene is very busy right now, especially with Karrion Kross back. A strong run with the North American title can allow Kushida continue to build his resume in NXT for a main title opportunity that is even more earned.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. He needs to earn a match with Johnny for the burgundy strap first.
Big Debut Match
It looks like NXT is high on this Tyler Rust guy.
He debuted just last week to help Timothy Thatcher, even though he’s not actually associated with Thatcher. Meanwhile manager extraordinaire Malcolm Bivens was trying to recruit him backstage, recruit him before he even had a match in NXT. It all felt like we were at a part in his story where I should know more about who he is but don’t.
Rust’s match with Tommaso Ciampa this week, stemming from Tyler inexplicably aiding Thatch, proved that Bivens has an eye for talent. Because Tyler Rust took Ciampa to the limit.
On paper, this should have been one segment where Ciampa easily dispensed with the NXT newcomer. But instead, this match went two segments and there were legitimately spots where I thought Rust could score a major upset. He didn’t. He succumbed to Willow’s Bell. But he came very close. The announce team made sure to put him over big time as a future star in NXT.
A weird debut one week and a strong showing another doesn’t mean he’s getting the world title this year. But the amount of offense he had against an NXT great was definitely notable. The night ended with him apparently joining Bivens Enterprises so we’ll see where that takes both men.
Throughout all this, Ciampa and Thatcher played their mind games with each other, but nothing really moved in that regard.
All the rest:
- Karrion Kross squashed one Desmond Troy before telling Damian Priest he’ll see him at New Year’s Evil. Part of me was hoping Priest would attack Kross during his sacred entrance. Maybe next time.
- The torture for Boa and Xia Li continues. It really is time to start moving this along.
- Indi Hartwell got herself DQ’d against Shotzi Blackheart when she used Candice’s WarGames trophy against Shotz right in front of the referee. While there was an actual corner botch earlier, her failing to cheat behind the ref’s back was a planned one. Despite them still getting the best of Blackheart after the bell, Candice and Johnny’s wrestle kids still have some work to do.
There were two great matches this week - the main event and the #1 contender’s match. Nothing else was essential.
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