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WELLS’S NXT TV REPORT
DECEMBER 25, 2019
TAPED IN ORLANDO, FLA. AT FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY AND IN BROOKLYN, NY AT BARCLAYS CENTER
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Hosts: Cathy Kelley, Pat McAfee, Sam Roberts
Announcers: Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, Tom Phillips, Beth Phoenix
-Recap of last week’s episode, of course ending with Rhea Ripley’s championship victory.
-Kelley, McAfee and Roberts teed up the show. McAfee and Roberts heeled on one another.
(1) AUSTIN THEORY vs. RODERICK STRONG (c) – Open Challenge for the North American Championship
At Gorilla Position, Strong said it would be season’s beatings for someone. Theory was known by some of the audience, who popped for his entrance, but a lot of others who didn’t seem to know him.
Dueling chant, probably 55-45 favoring Strong. Wristlock by Strong. He leaned on Theory and worked him into a crucifix for a one-count before a reset. Headlock takedown by Strong. He jawed at Theory to bring it. Theory escaped and and hit a snap mare. He taunted Strong by saying “All Day.” Strong took down Theory again and hit an armbar into another wristlock. Theory reversed and said “I guess that’s Undisputed.” Strong snapped and took down Theory and put the boots to him. Chop in the corner. Theory hit a dropkick and covered for one. Theory threw a kick in the corner and Irish whipped Strong to the opposite corner. The two traded some kicks and forearms. Rope run and Strong put on the brakes. Theory took down Strong and hit a standing moonsault for two.
Backbreaker by Theory. He mounted Strong and threw some punches. Strong escaped a suplex but got dumped with a lariat. Theory followed Strong out and they exchanged blows until Strong threw Theory into the barricade and then suplexed him into the post. Theory teased a countout but got in at 9.99995. Strong put the boots to Theory when he got in. Kick to the ribs. Strong dropped an elbow and covered for two. He took the boots to Theory again. “Season’s beatings” chant. Strong hit a dropkick and covered for two.
Strong folded up Theory and worked the back. Hope spot but Strong hooked Theory’s mouth and the ref broke it up. Strong threw feet and said he could do this all day. Theory threw chops from the floor as Strong continued to ground him with kicks. Pendulum backbreaker by Strong for two. Strong grabbed Theory in a chinlock but Theory hit a dropkick to get back in it. Both got to their feet and exchanged fists until Theory took down Strong with a series of lariats. Fisherman buster by Theory. Strong hit a back bodydrop but got covered for two in a weird spot. Theory fought off the Stronghold and hit a bucklebomb and a backbreaker for two.
Theory lifted Strong but sold back pain, and Strong hit a step-up knee in the corner. He set up Theory on the top rope and hit a superplex. He tried rolling through, but Theory reversed and hit a sitout powerbomb for two. “This is awesome” chant. Action went up to the top turnbuckle again, and Strong used the turnbuckle as a backbreaker on Theory for a long two. The two headed to the apron and jockeyed for position and Theory hit a sick backbreaker on Strong, then rolled him in for a near-fall. I winced even on the replay.
Blows and chops exchanged. Strong jumped into a high knee and then returned the favor. Strong was able to snap on the Stronghold for the tap.
WINNER: Roderick Strong at 16:47.
(Wells’s Analysis: As a surprise opponent here, Theory makes perfect sense. You don’t want to burn a major challenger on a show many will miss, but Theory was a great foil for Strong. The two have a lot of similar offense and it made for a strong, no-nonsense, mat-based affair. Very good stuff.)
-The hosts talked up Austin Theory although Roberts kept it heel by saying Strong’s win was still a foregone conclusion. He ran down how Undisputed Era did everything they said they were going to do.
(2) ISAIAH “SWERVE” SCOTT vs. JACK GALLAGHER
This one was taped at the Barclays center, with Phillips and Beth on commentary. Jockeying for position. Swerve wrenched Gallagher’s arms but Jack reversed to work the joints on the left hand. Swerve hit a snap mare and blocked Gallagher, but Gallagher countered with a headscissors and grabbed a headlock. Swerve hit what looked like it would be a pendulum backbreaker, but dropped Gallagher on his back. Swerve worked an arm and Gallagher tried to roll Swerve to his back to break. It didn’t work so he lifted Swerve instead and tossed him away. To their feet, both guys escaped some moves until Swerve hit a dropkick. Gallagher bailed to avoid a dropkick, then charged in and got dumped anyway. PK from the apron by Swerve.
Back into the ring. One count for Swerve. Swerve worked Gallagher’s left arm and digits, then put on a headlock. Gallagher got to his feet and ran Swerve into the corner. Action went to split screen commercial. This is a strong technical affair so far, but the crowd is restless.
Back to full screen, Gallagher was in control after tossing Swerve into the ring. Both guys threw blows and Swerve hit a hard lariat. Small “NXT” chant picked up. Swerve threw kicks to the chest against the ropes. Swerve hit a flatliner for two. Gallagher grabbed digits but Swerve hit him with a backbreaker. Superkick by Swerve with the return headbutt by Gallagher for two. Scott wanted a powerslam but Gallagher rolled him into a submission move. Swerve reversed. Gallagher reversed. Swerve stomped on Gallagher’s arm and hit his finisher, House Call, for the win.
WINNER: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott at 13:47.
(Wells’s Analysis: That was realistically every bit as good as the first match, but the crowd only partially bought in and some were booing the kickouts near the end. Gallagher’s presentation has long been a little iffy and Swerve hasn’t been given much other than minutes in the ring. Fans don’t know who he is)
-The hosts rambled about whatever. Johnny Gargano was mentioned.
(3) CANDICE LERAE vs. TAYNARA
This one was at Full Sail. Taynara hasn’t been on TV since a rough outing (for both) against Santana Garrett, who returned to TV last week. Taynara had a push going then, but this isn’t likely to be a win for her.
LeRae snapped Taynara and went to the top. Taynara bailed but LeRae hit a sliding dropkick and then a springboard cross-body. Back in for two. Taynara backed up LeRae to the corner. LeRae went up but Taynara yanked her feet and dropped her into the turnbuckle. Taynara put the boots to Candice leading into a split-screen commercial. Taynara controlled the break.
Both were fighting to their feet upon return. LeRae wanted a crucufix, but Taynara held on and slammed LeRae for two. She tried another cover for two. A frustrated Taynara batted at Candice’s head. Candice put her hair back and lit up Taynara. Back splash in the corner. Missile dropkick for two. Taynara wanted her finishing kick, but Candice reversed and took down Taynara. Quebrada finished.
WINNER: Candice LeRae at 7:46.
(Wells’s Analysis: As always, Taynara’s heel act is just fine. She showed up in this match as well, and had a much-needed strong outing after her last match. Good pop for Candice, though she seems kind of lost in the shuffle at the moment again)
-The hosts talked about Candice’s up-and-down year, and mentioned her feud with Io Shirai leading into next week’s NXT Awards show.
-Arturo Ruas vignette. It’s a basic mission statement, but he came off as very intimidating and the screen ended with “Coming Soon,” so he’s getting a reset of sorts, and hopefully a heel push, as that side could use some help.
(4) DOMINIK DIJAKOVIC vs. BRONSON REED
From Barclays Center. Nice reaction for Dijakovic. Headlock by Dijakovic. Reed backdropped Dijakovic to briefly escape, but Dijakovic put it on again and leaned on Reed. Reed finally reversed. The two collided in the ring a couple of times but neither went down. Block by Reed took down Dijakovic, and then Reed sat on Dijakovic’s back leading into split-screen commercial.
To full screen, Reed had control with a forearm and a German suplex. Avalanche in the corner for two. Suplex by Reed for two. Reed missed a splash in the corner and Dijakovic hit a back elbow. Dijakovic failed three suplex attempts but finally hit the fourth for two. Dijakovic wanted Feast Your Eyes but Reed fought out of it. Headbutt by Reed, but Dijakovic struck back with a cyclone boot for two. Dijakovic went up and hit a moonsault for a long two. Reed headbutted Dijakovic’s hand to take it out of the equation. Reed hit a Thesz press from the top for a semi-convincing two. Reed went up, but Dijakovic popped up and followed Reed up the ropes. Reed headbutted Dijakovic to the floor again, but Dijakovic poppuedup again and hit a chokeslam with his good hand to finish.
WINNER: Dominik Dijakovic at 12:15.
(Wells’s Analysis: The Barclays crowd was fairly muted again, but in their defense, this one never really kicked in. It’s surprising that two powerhouses known for impact moves would never really find that gear. It was a fine match, but these two can do better together)
-NXT:UK spot, leading into hype for Worlds Collide.
-Cathy, Pat and Sam hype the main event for Worlds Collide: Undisputed Era vs. Imperium in a four-on-four. I don’t love a heel-heel match as a main event in general, but I don’t know how you don’t run this match at some point. Should be wild.
-Cathy teed up a short hype video for Bianca Belair. Sam said she had an okay year. She’s up next.
(5) SHOTZI BLACKHEART vs. BIANCA BELAIR
Blackheart was signed to NXT in October at an EVOLVE show. This one’s back at Full Sail. Shotzi takes Belair to the corner. She taunts with a wolf howl, then offers a hand, which Bianca slaps away. Bianca taunts but gets caught in a bridge. Belair escapes and drops on the bridged Shotzi. Blackheart wanted a sunset flip but Bianca escaped. Blackheart rolled up Bianca for two. Shotzi draped Bianca up on the second rope and hit a senton. “Shotzi” chant. Belair bailed. Shotzi went for a tope, but got caught and slammed on the apron leading into split-screen commercial.
Back to full screen, Bianca had Shotzi in a headlock. Shotzi rolled up Bianca for two. Lariat by Bianca. Sunset flip by Shotzi for two. Dropkick by Belair for two. Three-quarter nelson by Bianca. Shotzi backed her into a corner, but Bianca put the cravat on again. Shotzi hit a clothesline and a reverse sling blade. High kicks by Shotzi. Shotzi slammed Belair for an almost-believable near-fall. Belair backed Shotzi into the corner, then got dumped to the apron. Shotzi jumped off the ropes inside to DDT Belair on the apron (sort of). Back in, Belair rolled away from a top-rope move and caught Shotzi with KOD. Belair did a good job selling a combination of confidence and relief after a surprisingly close call.
WINNER: Bianca Belair at 10:14.
(Wells’s Analysis: These two really work well together. Good power vs. speed stuff throughout. Shotzi could be a star before long if there’s a spot for her to pick up wins in a more-crowded-than-ever women’s field)
-Pat and Sam went after each other again as Cathy Kelley attempted to get things on track. Sam heeled on Bianca a little, as always (though she’s a heel now so it doesn’t work as well).
(6) KEITH LEE & LIO RUSH vs. DAMIAN PRIEST & TONY NESE
Once again back to the Barclays Center. Priest entered first, followed by partner Tony Nese. I still don’t know if Priest turned face last week or not; I hope not. Lio was out next, followed finally by Keith Lee. Lio wore an elf vest and Lee was wearing a Santa hat and eating cookies on the way to the ring.
Nese and Rush to start, as you’d expect. Nese teased contact but tagged Priest. Rush walked up to Priest. Priest choked Rush, who escaped and used some rapid-fire movement. Priest tossed Rush toward his own corner. Rush didn’t make the tag, but Lee tagged in. Priest tossed away the Santa hat to some boos. Spinning heel kick by Lee. Leapfrog and cross-body by Lee. Nese tagged in, and Rush tossed cookies at him. Nese ran off and Rush followed; Nese pounced and sent Nese sailing over the announce table. The show went to commercial, and for the first time, it wasn’t split-screen.
(Wells’s Analysis: I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that a pair of wacky tag teams main eventing on Christmas night would essentially work a comedy match. It’s still been far more dignified than Raws and SmackDowns of Christmas past)
Rush and Priest were legal upon return. The faces hit some tandem offense but Priest hit Rush with a forearm smash. Back elbow in the corner. Falcon Arrow for two. Tag to Nese, who put the boots to Rush and taunted Lee. Rush went for a sunset flip on Nese, who rolled through and kicked Rush for two. Nese wrapped up Rush in his legs and a “Let’s go Lio” chant got started as the Barclays crowd was far more receptive to this match than the other two. Nese stomped a mudhole on Rush in a neutral corner. Nese missed a couple of kicks but Lio couldn’t tag. Again. Lio hit The Come Up and both guys sold on the mat. “NXT” chant.
Priest made the tag but Lee tagged in as well. Lee splashed Priest and hit a big forearm, then a clothesline for two. Lee wanted a Spirit Bomb, but Priest rolled through and made a blind tag. Nese with a springboard moonsault on a surprised Lee for two. Lee lifted up Nese and carried him to his corner. Lio tagged in and lit up Nese, then tagged Lee again. Priest yanked Lee off the corner and then slammed Lio on the apron. Priest cocked the arrow but Lee popped up into the frame like a couple of weeks ago, this time with his Santa hat on. Lee, outside, caught a flying Priest upside-down (good god) and powerslammed him.
Back in and Lee and Nese were legal. Jackhammer by Lee. Lio Rush, with a mouthful of cookies, wanted to finish. He went up to stand on Lee’s shoulders and hit The Final Hour to finish.
WINNERS: Lio Rush & Keith Lee at 13:23 (no split-screen during the commercial, so I can’t be certain of that time)
(Wells’s Analysis: The silliness was kept to a reasonable NXT-level, and the tandem work by the unlikely teams was fun. It seems obvious that Keith Lee would end the year scoring the pin, but the Lee-assisted Final Hour was too good a spot to pass up. There are a lot of options for Lee if he’s in the Dusty Rhodes Classic, but I hope he teams with Lio now)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Some good wrestling throughout, though there weren’t any real ongoing issues on the episode, and it was largely treated as one you could easily miss. Theory-Strong was a good time, though if I were to suggest any other parts of this show to catch, it would be the Shotzi-Bianca match and the strong Arturo Ruas hype video. Safe travels, everyone. The PWT Talks NXT podcast will record tomorrow night. Cheers to you and yours.