NXT HITS & MISSES 12/11: Balor vs. Ciampa vs. Keith Lee for title shot, Garza vs. Rush for Cruiserweight Title, Breezango vs. Singh Bros., Yim vs. Kai

By Nate Lindberg, PWTorch contributor

PWTorch editor Wade Keller presents a special Thursday Flagship edition of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast featuring a WrestleMania 36 Preview with ex-WWE Creative Team member and professional stand-up comedian Matt McCarthy.
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Angel Garza vs. Lio Rush (c) for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship – HIT: We had a taste of this match this week on 205 live. Admittedly, I did not see the match but I did see some highlights around the web and it was well received from what I saw. For the first time since Buddy Murphy’s title win, I was excited for a cruiserweight title match! It started off looking like a brawl more than a wrestling match. Considering the story, Garza harassing Rush’s wife and family, a brawl is exactly what it should have looked like. To my surprise, the crowd was behind the heel Garza more than Rush throughout the match going so far as to boo Rush’s offense on more than one occasion.  Rush’s selling throughout was incredible. There were a few spots where he was bounced either off the apron or the ropes where I thought he must have been injured. Nope, he’s just that good. Something worth noting, Garza hit a beautiful Spanish Fly on Rush and covered him for two. While he was covering, Garza was almost shaking Rush and kept pulling his shoulders off the mat. Didn’t stop the ref from continuing to count until Rush kicked at two. Towards the end of the match, they were trading blows trying to one-up one another which was so incredibly entertaining. The finish to the match was a little confusing, the camera didn’t pick up Rush tapping to Garza’s submission very well. I had to go back and see what exactly happened. That said, I was very surprised that Rush lost the belt so quickly considering the comeback story they were telling and where his family was being harassed. Oh well, that’s the direction that they went, and I can’t be too upset about it. A very deserved win for Garza. One hell of an opener.

Shayna Bazsler Video Package Followed By Balor Video Package – HIT: This is a plea to the writers, producers and those who make decisions for NXT. GIVE ME MORE OF THESE! A quick 1 to 2 minute video that just gets us more invested in these characters. Shayna’s was so well done and showed what she is like outside of the ring. Balor’s was more wrestling-centric, but both videos served as a wonderful way to showcase these talents and allow them to elaborate on each of their individual mission statements.

Garza’s Championship Celebration – HIT: After the break and those two video packages the announce team cut to a replay of Garza celebrating after his win. He said that wrestling is important to him, as is his girlfriend. He brought her into the ring, got down on one knee and proposed in the middle of the squared circle. A heartwarming and wholesome segment, I liked it. Congrats to them both!

Raul Mendoza vs. Cameron Grimes – HIT: I’ll be honest. I really expected Mendoza to get jumped from behind yet again but he actually made it all the way to the ring during his entrance! They cut to a video of “last night” at the performance center where Grimes continued his beatdown of KUSHIDA. Mendoza supposedly getting revenge for KUSHIDA as well as his own beat down from Grimes last week. An explosive start to the match with Mendoza taking it to Grimes. KUSHIDA made his way ringside, somewhat distracting Grimes, allowing Mendoza to pick up a very quick win. As Mendoza made his way up the ring, KUSHIDA stole Grime’s hat and put it on his head while making his way to the back. A short, but intense and enjoyable contest.

Jaxson Ryker vs. Travis Banks (NXT UK) – HIT: A bit of a preview for Worlds Collide coming up in a few weeks. Before the match, we had a quick video package introducing Banks to the NXT US audience. This was your typical David vs. Goliath match where Ryker had such a size advantage over Banks. Somewhere in first few minutes of the match, Banks was busted open the hard way over his eyebrow making the beating he took from Ryker look so much more believable. Banks going over, while I didn’t expect it, I think makes the most sense. NXT UK does not have the audience that NXT has so putting their guys over, especially after Ohno lost last week, and making them look strong going into Worlds Collide is important. Unfortunately, Ryker looked like a bit of a buffoon in his loss. He had the size and strength advantage and he still lost cleanly to a smaller opponent. Destined to be forever forgotten?

Mia Yim vs. Dakota Kai – HIT: Yim was not out for revenge in this match, as she said on Twitter earlier in the day. She was hell bent on punishing Kai. The newly turned heel Kai made her way to the ring, once again holding Nox’s knee brace like a war trophy. A minute or two into the match, Mia Yim pulled off one of my favorites yet asinine, submission moves: The Tarantula! Oddly enough, shortly after that move there was a bit of a production issue. Yim whipped Kai into the ropes and then… nothing. My feed went black for approximately 50-60 seconds. I checked with a few people and it seems like it happened for all of them so I’m not sure if it was an issue at Full Sail or with USA Network. Once the feed came back, we were at commercial for another few minutes. A shame that a good four- or five-minute chunk of this match wasn’t seen on TV. I absolutely adore this new Kai. She reminds me of a stereotypical 80s movie “good girl gone bad”, and I mean that in the best way possible. Kai may have won the match, but Yim won the war. She attacked Kai after the match and the two brawled through the crowd and into the tech area before launching herself and Kai through two tables below said tech area. Kai’s neck look like it may have whiplashed off of the second table. You could see her squeeze the ref’s hand at first, but then was shown talking to the ref moments later. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.

Breezango vs. The Singh Brothers – HIT: I don’t think we’ve seen Breezango in close to two months on NXT TV, so I was glad to see one of my favorite “guilty pleasure” tag teams back in action. As I was watching this match, something of note, both teams were main roster acts that found their way back to NXT. Whether that’s relevant or not, I haven’t the foggiest. This match was a lot more entertaining than I had expected going into it. While all four men put on a great performance, Fandango was the standout to me. Since returning, he’s seemingly slimmed down and toned up which lends to his performance here. He’s always been the powerhouse of the duo, but he had an extra “oomph” tonight that was a pleasure to see.

Rhea Ripley Video Package – HIT: Ask and you will receive! Another phenomenal video package showing the audience exactly who Ripley is and how important and meaningful the match against Baszler next week really is.

Kayden Karter vs. Bianca Belair – MISS: A showcase match for Belair with a predictable win. The match itself was okay, but nothing to necessarily write home about when it was all said and done. Kayden Karter has major potential, but there were a few points in the match that looked a little off. She could use a little more polish but hey, that’s what developmental is for! That said, Karter seems to have the look and charisma down pat, and I am impressed with her arsenal of moves. I think that she just needs a little more refinement to truly find who Kayden Karter really is.

Balor vs. Ciampa vs. Lee Hype Video – HIT: Yes! Keep these coming! This video package ended in such a brilliant way too. They seamlessly cut to Ciampa, live backstage, saying “Goldie, tonight is for you!” before making his entrance. But they did it in such a way where you didn’t know it was live until he walked out on stage. Brilliant. Loved it.

Finn Balor vs. Tommaso Ciampa vs. Keith Lee (Winner faces Adam Cole next week for the NXT Championship) – HIT: How could this match be anything but awesome? I’m always hesitant before multi-man matches, but lately NXT has found a way to make them entertaining and enjoyable. Starting the match, the Ciampa/Lee alliance looked like it might play a role as they seemed to focus their efforts on Balor. But that theory was quickly thwarted before the first commercial when Lee took both of his opponents down. One thing that stood out to me in this match was that all three men seemed like credible challengers to Cole’s title. Their stories up to this point have all been told in such a way where I could easily make the case for any one of them to walk away victorious. Ciampa riding his momentum after Survivor Series and Takeover ready to reclaim his gold. Keith Lee “breaking out” from the rest of the pack into the main event. Finn Balor returning to NXT and looking to make a splash. All three stories are believable and would be entertaining to watch play out. Three possible angles, all entertaining. When was the last time we saw intricacies like that on the Red and Blue brands? Not only that, each of them just exudes star power and credibility. However, there was a rather large oversight in this match. Lee placed Balor on the ground, back down, near the corner and then placed Ciampa on top of him before climbing to the top. He effectively made Ciampa cover Balor and the Ref didn’t count. Balor’s shoulders were pinned to the mat and a three count could have very easily been made. Perhaps where Balor won, Ciampa can use that to claim that he should have won and turn that into an angle where he gets another shot. I was actually kind of surprised that Balor won, I had a feeling that Lee was going to go over given his trajectory lately. But, then again, I guess it makes sense for the longest reigning NXT Champion (292 days) and the first ever Universal Champion to win if you look at it from a kayfabe perspective.

CATCH UP… NXT HITS & MISSES 12/4: Mauro Ranallo returns, Killian Dane open challenge, Undisputed Era promo, Xia Li vs. Shayna Baszler, Lee & Dijakovic & CIampa vs. Undisputed Era, Ohno vs. Riddle

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