The WWE NXT Reaction column is back. I haven’t done it for a few weeks and I apologize for that. Life is hectic, but I feel like the best time for me to do it is Friday mornings after it gets uploaded to WWE Network on Thursday evening. As I've mentioned previously, the full two-hour edition of NXT is not on TV in Canada.
As a reminder, this is not a play by play review of the show. Instead, it’s more of a reaction that will include my star ratings for the matches as well as my analysis. It’s a big episode with two title matches, so let’s get to it.
Live from Full Sail University in Orlando, FL. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. I am watching the WWE Network version of the show. Let’s roll.
The show began with a recap of last week’s show.
Let’s Hear from Keith Lee
A promo to start the show? What is this, Raw or Smackdown? I guess it’s okay to do it occasionally on NXT as well. Lee talked about how he was the number one contender for the NXT North American Title and he also talked about how Undisputed Era had a great 2019 because they hold every title. Lee said they had a great year out of everyone except maybe him. Lee said Undisputed Era has reached their limit while he is Limitless, which is his nickname.
There was a predictable interruption from The Undisputed Era foursome of Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish. They did a 4-on-1 attack on Lee with Strong hitting Lee in the knee with a chair, Cole hit the Last Shot knee and Strong stomped on a chair on the left ankle of Lee.
Tommaso Ciampa showed up for the save as he beat up some of the group while Cole ran away. Lee was selling the left ankle injury.
Analysis: Good heat segment that put over the Undisputed Era as a dominant heel group. It also weakened Lee going into his title match next week. I feel like it’s a good time for Lee to win the title, but if they want to move Lee to Raw or Smackdown then Strong will probably hold onto it.
It was officially announced that Finn Balor will face Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover Portland on February 16. That’s going to be amazing.
The announcers for the show were Mauro Ranallo and Beth Phoenix. There was no Nigel McGuinness this week after he worked the NXT UK Takeover Blackpool show and the tapings in the days that followed. Later in the show, Mauro said that Nigel was given some time for some R&R in his native England.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Tournament Quarterfinals: Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne defeated Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews
They are using the name The Broserweights for Riddle and Dunne, but I don’t know if that’s official yet. Webster and Andrews are a good babyface team from the NXT UK brand and they are former NXT UK Tag Team Champions.
The match started, then they went to a break about one minute in and the action picked up from there. Andrews was a flurry offense with kicks for everybody, then a bulldog into a DDT spot and a double team somersault dive by the Webster/Andrews tag team. Dunne got his chance to unleash his offense on Andrews and they did this great suplex into a Powerbomb spot followed by stereo kicks for a two count as Webster broke up the pin. That led to one of many “NXT” chants. Riddle got some nearfalls on Andrews with a German Suplex and a rising knee strike.
After Andrews was isolated for a few minutes, Webster was on fire with dropkicks on both guys followed by a somersault dive off the top onto Dunne and Riddle on the floor. Good nearfall for Webster/Andrews when they hit a knee strike/reverse rana combination for a two count. The fans chanted “tag team wrestling” for them as Andrews hit an amazing Tornado DDT on Dunne on the floor. Riddle with a Spear for both opponents followed by Webster countering a Jackhammer attempt with an inside cradle for two. Awesome nearfall. Dunne and Riddle hit a double team knee/kick to the head for two for another excellent two count in this match. They did this cool spot where Webster was pinning Riddle after a hurricanrana and then Dunne punched Andrews to have him land on both guys to break up the pin. Dunne blocked a DDT attempt by Andrews, but then Andrews hit a Stunner. Riddle took out Webster with Gotch Driver on the floor. Dunne took out Andrews with a forearm to the face to counter a Shooting Star Press move and Dunne/Riddle hit a double rising knee to the face of Andres for the pinfall win after 18 minutes.
Match Analysis: **** This was a great tag team match that was given a lot of time and was very competitive from the beginning. Since they are both babyface teams, this wasn’t one of those tags where there was a face in peril for a long time. They had an even match. I think it was the right call to have Dunne/Riddle get the win because they might be the team to win this tournament and also become a babyface tag team that can go for the titles. I’ve seen Andrews/Webster in other long matches like this and they always impress. These four guys worked well together. There is a lack of depth in terms of tag teams in NXT right now, so it wouldn't be a bad thing to use Andrews/Webster more in the US instead of just the UK brand. They're fun to watch.
The win by Riddle/Dunne means they will face Imperium in the semifinals in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament.
A clip aired from NXT UK Takeover Blackpool showing Undisputed Era’s attack on Imperium on Sunday. Those teams are having a match at Worlds Collide on January 25th.
Let’s Hear from Tommaso Ciampa
Ciampa did an in-ring promo as fans chanted “Daddy’s Home” for him. Ciampa listed Velveteen Dream, Imperium and Keith Lee as part of Undisputed Era’s hit list. Ciampa said that Adam Cole is on his hit list. Ciampa said he needed Goldie (NXT Title) back, so he is taking back his life. The Undisputed Era foursome went to the ring to attack Ciampa and they overwhelmed him due to the numbers game. That’s when Johnny Gargano showed up to save his former #DIY partner Ciampa. Gargano cleaned house with clotheslines, punches and Strong tried to bump over the top to the floor, but he couldn’t do it and went under the ropes. Ciampa with a DDT off the ropes on O’Reilly while Gargano hit a superkick on Fish. Gargano and Cole hit a double team kick/knee strike on Fish as fans chanted “DIY” for them. Gargano and Ciampa just stared at eachother as a sign of respect.
Analysis: This was good and the crowd loved it. What I like about it is they don’t waste time with boring promos that drag on too long. Ciampa spoke for about one minute when Undisputed Era showed up. It’s a better flow for the show where we don’t have to hear longer promos that are just there to kill time. That’s a problem on Raw most weeks and Smackdown sometimes. The obvious NXT Title match at NXT Takeover Portland is Cole vs. Ciampa, so this was just done to build to that. I'm sure Ciampa will win a #1 contenders match soon to earn the title shot.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Tournament Quarterfinals: Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson and James Drake) defeated The Time Splitters (Kushida and Alex Shelley)
It’s cool to see Shelley in the NXT ring. He has been a very good wrestler all around the world for a long time, so I’m glad he has found his way there. I hope he is in NXT regularly although it’s not known right now if he’s going to be back very often. Shelley is 36 years old, so he has many good years left in him. Kushida and Shelley teamed together in Japan for years. The Grizzled Young Veterans team are heels from the NXT UK brand. I’ve been really impressed by them, especially Gibson.
The heels worked over Shelley for a bit at the start, then Kushida helped his partner and they hit dives over the top onto the heels. Kushida got in some hard kicks on Gibson while also working on the left arm and a double suplex by the Time Splitters. The heels took over with some good double team moves including dropkicks and trips. That led to a break. Gibson and Drake were in control as they worked over Shelley as the face in peril. Kushida was on fire when he got the tag with a handspring back elbow on Gibson and an armdrag into a cross armbreaker submission, but Drake countered into a pin attempt. After Gibson went into the ring, Drake hit two kicks into a neckbreaker for a two count. Kushida fought off the heel with a headscissors, then a double knee strike by the faces and Shelly/Kushida hit a double team splash/moonsault for two as Gibson saved his partner. Kushida with a dropkick while Shelley held Gibson in place on the mat. The match turned when Kushida was on top, Gibson shoved him off the top and Drake/Gibson hit their Ticket to Mayhem double team move leading to Drake pinning Shelley for the win. It went 12 minutes.
Match Analysis: ***1/4 It was a pretty good tag team match. They worked hard, had a competitive match and built to the finish well. The big spot was Kushida getting shoved to the top, which led to Grizzled Young Veterans hitting their double team double knee finisher for the win. I was disappointed that the heels won. Perhaps that is what WWE’s creative team wanted us to feel, but I think the Time Splitters need to continue as a team and a win here would have been nice to see. It’s not a knock on Gibson/Drake at all. I just wanted to see more of the Time Splitters in this tournament.
After the match, Kushida and Shelley wanted a handshake. Gibson and Drake walked away saying they didn’t want to shake their hands while adding that they derailed this reunion tour on the first stop. Gibson said that Kushida and Shelley are a great team from the past, but they (the Grizzled Young Veterans) are going to win the Dusty Classic.
The semifinals of the Dusty Classic are Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Undisputed Era and Matt Riddle/Pete Dunne vs. Imperium. Both of those matches will take place next week.
Analysis: That means there are three heel teams plus Riddle/Dunne as the lone face team. The finals will likely be Riddle/Dunne vs. Undisputed Era and I’m going with Riddle/Dunne for the win. I would have liked to see Kushida/Shelley vs. Undisputed Era next week.
They showed a clip of Chelsea Green arriving with representative Robert Stone arriving to the arena earlier today. Stone said that Green is better than the best, so that’s why she’s not in the battle royal. They left in a car.
There was a promo from Finn Balor talking about Ilya Dragunov because they face eachother at Worlds Collide. Balor said “when you come at Finn, you better not miss” and said he’ll put him down.
Analysis: The “you better not miss” line is from one of my favorite HBO shows ever The Wire when Omar would say it, but Omar would say "When you come at the king, you best not miss." I loved that show. Anyway, heel Finn is doing very well too.
The NXT Cruiserweight Champion Angel Garza joined the commentary team for the next match.
Isiah “Swerve” Scott defeated Tyler Breeze and Lio Rush
The winner of this match got to move on to the Fatal 4-Way match for the NXT Cruiserweight Title at Worlds Collide on January 25. The pace of this match was very quick as all three guys got in some offense while Garza said he didn’t care who won. Rush knocked Scott out of the ring, Rush was on the apron, he kicked Breeze and Rush did a backflip to avoid a dive by Scott. That was incredible followed by Rush hitting a headscissors on Scott on the floor. That led to a break.
When the match returned, they did a unique Tower of Doom Spot off the apron with Breeze doing a German Suplex on Scott, who gave Rush a suplex at the same time. That was cool. Breeze dominated from there with punches, a forearm, a clothesline and Rush hit a suicide dive on Breeze while Scott hit a twisting dive on Rush. Back in the ring, Rush hit a Spanish Fly splash on Scott for a two count while Garza said he wanted something different instead of facing Rush again. Breeze connected with supermodel kicks on both guys to give him some nearfalls. Rush go back into it using his incredible and a reverse rana, a suicide dive and a Final Four Frog Splash off the top on Scott for two because Breeze broke up the pin. That led to “NXT” chants. Breeze got knocked down after two kicks, but then he hit a Supermodel kick on Scott. Rush took down Breeze and hit the Final Hour Frog Splash on Breeze. Rush with a Come Up Stunner on Scott, Breeze came back with a spin kick and Scott hit the JML Driver on Breeze for the pinfall win. That move looks pretty dangerous, but he did it as safely as possible. This match went about 13 minutes.
Match Analysis: ***1/4 It was a very exciting, fast-paced match featuring three of the best cruiserweights in the company. I wouldn’t have had a problem with any of them winning because they’re all talented. It would be nice if Breeze was featured more (now that Fandango is out long term with an injury), but I can understand wanting to give Scott the win since he’s still new in NXT. Rush is a former champion, so maybe they felt like he didn’t need the win, but Rush was the most impressive guy in this match. I hope Rush gets used outside the cruiserweight division because he’s so skilled in the ring and he’s a good talker. There’s a lot of potential for Rush in NXT.
The win by Scott means he’ll be one of Angel Garza’s three opponents for the NXT Cruiserweight Title at Worlds Collide on January 25.
Rhea Ripley was interviewed by Cathy Kelly. She said she’ll beat Toni Storm at Worlds Collide and she’ll beat the battle royal winner at NXT Takeover Portland as well. Very basic promo.
Johnny Gargano was interviewed by Cathy Kelly outside the arena. Tommaso Ciampa walked up to talk to him as Cathy left. They mentioned tagging together against Moustache Mountain at Worlds Collide on January 25 and they agreed to it. The Undisputed Era group tried to go at Ciampa and Gargano, but security broke it up. Keith Lee showed up to go after Undisputed Era, then he tossed a security guy onto a car windshield and another guy onto a table. Lee wasn’t selling the ankle injury that much, so that was a bit odd.
Analysis: The Cole/Gargano match against Moustache Mountain at Worlds Collide will be amazing. I have high expectations for that match.
Next week on NXT:
* Roderick Strong vs. Keith Lee for the NXT North American Title
* Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Semifinals: Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne vs. Imperium
* Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Semifinals: Undisputed Era vs. Grizzled Young Veterans
The introductions took place for the women’s battle royal main event where the winner earned an NXT Women’s Title match at NXT Takeover Portland.
The order of entrances went like this: Candice LeRae, Mia Yim, Bianca Belair, Kacy Catanzaro (back in action after being off for a few months), Mercedes Martinez (recently signed a contract) and then there was a break.
When the show returned they showed the entrances of Io Shirai, Tegan Nox (back in action after she was attacked at WarGames in November) and then Shayna Baszler was last with Mauro Ranallo freaking out that she was in the match. The other women that were in the ring that made entrances during the break were: Shotzi Blackheart, Indi Hartwell, Catalina, Vanessa Borne, Kayden Carter, Santana Garrett, Io Shirai, Deonna Purrazzo, MJ Jenkins, Jessi Kamea and Xia Li.
Bianca Belair won the Women’s Battle Royal to Earn an NXT Women’s Title Match
This might be more of a play by play review since it’s a battle royal. There was a lot of standing around and attempts to dump people out of the ring without much happening for a few minutes. The first elimination happened when MJ Jenkins was trying to hang on, but Baszler ripped on her fingers and Jenkins was eliminated. Bianca Belair put Jessi Kamea over the top, but Kamea saved herself. Belair picked up Kamea again and dumped her over the top to eliminate her. Catalina got in some offense on Baszler with a dropkick, but when she tried a headscissors, Baszler dumped Catalina over the top to the floor. That looked like a painful bump. Baszler continued her dominance by knocking out Kayden Carter with a forearm. They went to break there.
When the match returned, Baszler knocked out Santana Garrett with a kick to the face. It was mentioned by the announcers that Indi Hartwell was eliminated and Mia Yim kicked Vanessa Borne out of the ring. Deonna Purrazzo was eliminated, then she hit a kick on Shotzi Blackheart on the floor. Baszler got rid of Xia Li after Li tried to get rid of Bianca Belair. Io Shirai eliminated Kacy Catanzaro, who had a few moments where she got to show off her athleticism and the fans chanted for Shirai even though she’s a heel. Belair with a press slam on LeRae, who managed to stay alive until Belair sent her to the apron and whipped her into the ring post. Great bump by Candice there. Martinez had an impressive elimination of Yim as she hit a suplex to send Yim out of the ring. Martinez and Baszler had slugfest with Martinez sending Baszler over the top to the apron, but then Baszler turned it around on her and dumped Martinez out.
The final four (or so we thought) were Shayna Baszler, Tegan Nox, Bianca Belair and Io Shirai. Nox got in some offense against the other three women with running forearms, running sentons against Belair and Baszler while Belair was able to hang on to avoid elimination. Nox gave Shirai a Chokeslam onto Baszler. Belair hit a spear on Baszler, Nox with a running knee on Belair, Shirai sent Nox to the apron and Dakota Kai showed up to pull Nox off the top rope, so that eliminated Nox. Kai threw a knee brace at Nox to continue that rivalry. Baszler was about to eliminate Shirai, so then Shotzi Blackheart went back into the ring to eliminate Baszler because Shotzi was not eliminated. Shirai and Belair were the last two with Shirai hitting the 619 kick, but then Belair came back with the fallaway slam. Belair and Shirai battled on the top rope, Shirai with a step-up enziguri, but then Belair pulled down the rope and Shirai went to the apron. They ended up back in the ring with Belair hitting a spear, but then Shirai hit a release German Suplex. Belair managed to get Shirai on her shoulders and gave her the KOD slam over the top to the floor. The battle royal went 23 minutes.
Match Analysis: **3/4 It was pretty good for a battle royal. I think booking a battle royal for nearly 20 minutes is too long, but they did give them the main event spot and treated it like a big deal, so I guess it’s okay to run that long. If they got about 12 minutes instead of 20 it probably would have been a better match because there was a lot of stalling early on. The last few minutes were great with Kai costing Nox the win, Blackheart getting the surprise elimination on Baszler and then the final two was fun with Shirai and Belair.
Belair celebrated the win that will mean she gets an NXT Women’s Title shot at the NXT Takeover Portland show on February 16. The current champ is Rhea Ripley, but Ripley has to get by Toni Storm at Worlds Collide on January 25 first. I expect Ripley to win both of those matches.
Three Stars of the Show
- Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne
- Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews
- Bianca Belair
I give this show a 7.25 out of 10.
There were only four matches in two hours which meant that everything got a lot of time. All four matches were over 12 minutes. I like to see that. They advanced a lot of the storylines well. Some of the bigger names in NXT weren’t in matches this week, so that hurt a bit and made it feel like a bit of a lesser show that was used to build to some bigger matches next week.
The five matches announced for Worlds Collide on January 25 are:
* Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly, Bobby Fish & Roderick Strong) vs. Imperium (Walter, Marcel Barthel, Fabian Aichner & Alexander Wolfe)
* DIY (Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano) vs. Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)
* Finn Balor vs. Ilja Dragunov
* NXT Women's Title Match: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Toni Storm
* NXT Cruiserweight Title Fatal Four-Way Match: Angel Garza (c) vs. Isaiah "Swerve" Scott vs. (Jordan Devlin or Ligero) vs. (The Brian Kendrick or Travis Banks)
The first two matches announced for NXT Takeover Portland on February 16 are:
* Johnny Gargano vs. Finn Balor
* NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Bianca Belair
There will likely be at least five matches on the card because that’s what most Takeover events have.