NXT returned last night (Dec. 30) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.
NXT had one real baller segment this week that hyped up a New Year’s Evil show that was already rather hyped.
Finn Bálor & Kyle O’Reilly won the Year-End Award for match of the year, a choice that we agreed with. They worked it into an angle to sell next week’s title match.
Finn didn’t take his award, leaving it with General Manager William Regal. But he took Kyle’s to give to him. The champ marched to the ring and called out his challenger for next week. He told KOR that he doesn’t need the award to remember the match. He has the hardware to do that - not just the NXT title over his shoulder but the three screws in his jaw.
O’Reilly knew Finn’s gesture was patronizing, that it was a consolation prize. But he told the champ the hardware wasn’t beneath him. Because it was proof that he deserves to share a ring with Bálor and deserves to be on top of the card. The champ then told his challenger that next week, he’s going to get revenge for what O’Reilly did to his jaw.
This was strong promo work from both men, particularly O’Reilly, to really amp up the excitement for next week’s match.
However, they were interrupted by Karrion Kross and Scarlett. Kross’ dark angel told the men in the ring that it doesn’t matter who wins next week because the gold belongs to Karrion. Add in Dunne trying to step up to Finn after the Brit beat Roderick Strong, and the title scene is getting a bit crowded. In a good way.
Kross has other problems though. He he was dropping his “Tick tock” catchphrase, Damian Priest was suddenly behind him. But he didn’t attack his New Year’s Evil foe from behind. He waited for him to turn around.
Then these two beat the crap out of each other all over the arena. I’ve said this the last few weeks, but Priest has found his groove as badass babyface. Holding his own against the unstoppable Kross helped raise his star. I doubt the Archer of Infamy wins next week, but if they book it similar to how they did this brawl, he’ll be just fine.
This segment has me more excited for New Year’s Evil than I already was.
Johnny Gargano was worried coming into this week’s North American title defense.
Gargano has never successfully defended a singles title. He felt he was cursed so he and the rest of The Way tried their best to avoid anything that could cause bad juju. They inexplicably saw a black cat at the end of the hallway and walked the other way in what was my favorite of their bits this week. (Plus, the idea of someone bringing their cat in from home for this bit tickles me.)
However, by the time he walked through the curtain for the match, Austin Theory jinxed him, he broke a mirror, and he walked under a ladder.
Fortunately, none of that affected the outcome of his match with Leon Ruff as Johnny finally beat the man and retained a title. It was a fun match, and a reminder that Ruff is a really good wrestler. In his time since upsetting the leader of the Way to initially win the gold, he’s become much more than an enhancement talent who had a fluke win. He has integrated more offense into his matches while still playing the underdog. It’s a formula that will suit him well going forward. This entire angle has made Leon a player in NXT and hopefully he continues to grow on Wednesday nights.
Now it’s time for Gargano and his family’s next feud. I wonder if Kushida is next on the docket.
The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic is back in a couple weeks so we had some tag team focus this week.
The Grizzled Young Vets defeated Breezango in a competitive match. But once again, Ever-Rise (who RULES by the way) stole the show with their post match comedy antics. Chase Parker and Matt Martel walked out after the match with a referee who they were kind of using to make it look like she was holding them back. But when she was tired of their crap, she left and suddenly these dudes changed their tunes, wanting none of GYV.
Ever-Rise has slowly gone from “Who are these guys?” to two dudes I find hilarious every week. I hope NXT uses the Dusty Classic to present them as more than a comedy duo to help round out their presentation.
We don’t know if Ever-Rise is in the Dusty at all. We do know that Undisputed ERA are in it, with the new team of Adam Cole and Roddy Strong representing the Year-End Award winning unit.
Bronson Reed picked up a win over Isaiah “Swerve” Scott.
It wasn’t a squash, but I felt they put themselves in a corner booking this match. Big Thicc isn’t going to lose after just re-debuting. It’s clear they have big plans for him. But Swerve is also going through a heel turn. They discussed his new attitude and lack of sportsmanship on commentary tonight. A loss so soon could risk hurting the change he’s undergoing.
Given he’s in a transition state, this loss shouldn’t really hurt though. Maybe it’ll just reinforce his embracing the dark side.
All the Rest:
- Pete Dunne defeated Roderick Strong in a match pitting up to long term rivals. I wonder if Dunne is going to run through the ERA... maybe to get to Kyle as champion?
- Raw’s Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik interrupted a Santos Escobar promo when he was talking about how William Regal is going to have trouble finding someone who can challenge him. Dorado took exception to Escobar saying what lucha is before two thirds of the Lucha House Party (are they still the LHP?) defeated Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Noah. Escobar will defend his cruiserweight title against Metalik next week.
- Mercedes Martinez squashed a poor soul this week. I’m glad they are leaning into her heel persona this time around. She was a heel last time, but they also paired her with goofy Robert Stone, which detracted. Now she’s just a killer.
- Xia Li & Boa’s training is done and they’ll be returning to NXT next week. It’s about time, but now I’m starting to wonder if this is going to translate in the ring. And whether greener talent like Xia and Boa are going to be able to perform at a level that it needs. Clearly NXT thinks so, so we’ll find out next week.
- We got a hype video for the Raquel González/Rhea Ripley Last Woman Standing match next week. It was very good like most of their videos are. This played into their real life friendship to make their feud very personal. Before it was more about two powerhouses clashing. Now there’s more to it.
I’m going to admit that I was distracted during much of this show. Normally I try to tune everything out and focus on NXT objectively, something I’m better at certain times than others. But tonight I really wanted to be watching the Brodie Lee tribute show on Dynamite instead. Brodie’s death is still hard to comprehend and I would have preferred to be watching alongside other grieving wrestling fans as it aired.
Because of that, NXT matches that were solid or better such as the tag team bout or Roddy/Dunne weren’t grabbing my attention as I bet they normally would.
Trying to remove my distraction and look at this as objectively as possible, this was still a good show. That second half had some strong segments, such as the Finn/Kyle leading into the Priest/Kross and the main event title match. If you watched Dynamite and are wondering what to check out from NXT, all of the show was solid but definitely the second half.
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