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WELLS’S NXT TV REPORT
JANUARY 1, 2020
TAPED IN ORLANDO, FLA. AT FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
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, Percy Watson (pre-recorded matches only)
-Pat McAfee ran down NXT’s 2019. The women’s WarGames match was featured, as well as Rhea Ripley’s championship win, accompanied by a lot of shots of Undisputed Era with their title belts.
-Cathy Kelley announced that the #3 pick for match of the year was the four-way tag team ladder match at TakeOver XXV on June 1st where The Street Profits defeated The Forgotten Sons, The Undisputed Era and Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan to win the tag team championships. The match was joined in progress, leading into a commercial break. Upon return from break, the match picked up from Jaxson Ryker’s appearance and went to his exit, leading into another commercial. The remainder of the match was shown after, including the Profits celebrating in the crowd.
(Wells’s Analysis: As much fun as these four-way ladder affairs can be, they’re not really on my radar for match of the year. Still, there’s no denying the big moment for the Profits, and the awesome finish with Montez Ford’s long jump to the ladder)
-The hosts talked about the aftermath of the championship win, and their (supposed) rise on Raw.
Tag Team of the Year
Nominees: Street Profits, Grizzled Young Veterans, Viking Raiders, Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster, Undisputed Era.
WINNERS: The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly).
-All four members of the Undisputed Era walked to the ring at Full Sail (empty arena) where William Regal held the trophies for them. O’Reilly said maybe it should read “Collective of the year” since any two of them make a world-class tag team. They posed with their belts and the trophies.
(Wells’s Analysis: There’s really no argument against UE as the tag team of the year, so you might as well get it out of the way first)
Male Competitor of the Year
Nominees: Adam Cole, Walter, Johnny Gargano, Velveteen Dream, Tyler Bate, Tommaso Ciampa.
WINNER: Adam Cole.
-Back at Full Sail, the four made another entrance, with Fish and O’Reilly still holding their awards. They riffed on Regal again and he took off. Cole looked into the camera and pledged to win the next few awards, and it would be renamed the Adam Cole Award. The guys shot from the hip and broke each other a little bit.
Female Competitor of the Year
Nominees: Shayna Baszler, Io Shirai, Toni Storm, Kay Lee Ray, Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley.
WINNER: Shayna Baszler.
-At Full Sail, Shayna entered the ring with Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir hanging around. Regal handed her the award and moved on. She said no doubt. She’s the most dominant champion WWE has ever seen. And if you think losing the title would change that, think again.
-The hosts backed Shayna as the winner and Sam said she was probably more dangerous now than she’s ever been. Cathy hyped the Overall Competitor of the Year Award and said the next in our Match of the Year Countdown would be up next.
(Wells’s Analysis: As strong as 2019 was for the NXT roster, these are all foregone conclusions so far. There’s a bit of drama over which of them will be Overall Competitor of the Year, so at least there’s that. There’s been no mention yet of the announcement of the Dusty Classic teams yet tonight, which seems like another hook the show should cover)
Rivalry of the Year
WINNER: Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano. Three minutes of recaps of their feud were shown. No other nominees were mentioned. Gargano went to the ring to get his award from William Regal, and he didn’t say anything before Adam Cole was announced as well, and he went to the ring without his UE brothers. Johnny told Adam it was his second year in a row winning the award, and obviously he gets involved with a lot of terrible people. Things got testy, as things tend to do. Gargano said he wishes his dad would’ve punched Cole in the face.
-Cathy Kelley announced the #2 choice for Match of the Year: the Women’s WarGames match. It was joined in progress with Rhea Ripley entering the ring to help Candice LeRae beat down Bianca Belair and Io Shirai. Kay Lee Ray’s entrance led into a commercial break.
-Back to action, a tower of doom spot led into the magnificent payoff in the Dakota Kai saga, as she turned heel on best friend Tegan Nox and destroyed her leg. Nox has wisely been kept off TV in the month-plus since to sell the injury, though I’d expect to see her soon to gear up for the February 16th TakeOver. Shayna Baszler entered and a few minutes of action were shown before one more commercial. The remainder of the match was shown, with Rhea Ripley overcoming and pinning Shayna Baszler to gain her eventually successful shot at the Women’s Championship.
(Wells’s Analysis: This was just as exhilarating the second time around. There were multiple storylines converging to tell the oldest of professional wrestling stories: good defies the odds to defeat evil. This feud and match are a master class in how to create stars. This was a nominee for Women’s Match of the Year on Torch podcast Grit & Glitter. Tom Stoup of PWT Talks NXT and I presented the award. Listen to see if it won!)
-The hosts talk about the women’s roster being the best in any wrestling organization.
Future Star of the Year
Nominees: Kushida, Xia Li, Bronson Reed, Tegan Nox, Dakota Kai, Ilja Dragunov, Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, Taynara, Cameron Grimes.
WINNER: Dakota Kai.
-Dakota strode to the ring and said that everyone who voted for her was just late to the party. She makes her own opportunities now.
(Wells’s Analysis: Given how wide open this category was, I wondered if Kai was included – despite significant time in NXT compared to most others – to be the next small step in moving her up. As the world’s biggest fan of Dakota Kai, I approve, though I adore a good percentage of the nominees and wouldn’t have been disappointed regardless. If you don’t follow NXT: UK, I recommend seeking out some of Ilja Dragunov’s work. Check out his match with Cesaro at TakeOver: Cardiff)
-The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic returns in 2020!
Representing NXT: Undisputed Era (Fish & O’Reilly), Forgotten Sons (Blake & Cutler), Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne, Kushida & ???
Representing NXT UK: Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake), Gallus (Mark Coffey & Wolfgang), Imperium (Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel), Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster
(Wells’s Analysis: With both NXTs being represented, I’m disappointed we won’t see a 16-tam field. This could have been a great opportunity to elevate or create some new stars. On the other hand, every single match should deliver. With NXT: UK going live this year, it makes sense to work UK into this tournament and do a few more temporary roster trades)
TakeOver of the Year
WINNER: WarGames. No other nominees were shown.
(Wells’s Analysis: I would’ve said Cardiff, but I can live with this)
Breakout Star of the Year
Nominees: Damian Priest, Piper Niven, Dominik Dijakovic, Angel Garza, Joe Coffey, Keith Lee, Candice LeRae, Matt Riddle, Rhea Ripley
WINNER: Keith Lee.
-Triple H gave Lee this award backstage. Lee thanked the fans for their passion, pride and love. Oh my god, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
(Wells’s Analysis: The line between “Breakout Star” and “Future Star” seems thin, given that Dakota Kai really should’ve been in this category. That aside, this was an interesting one, as both Keith Lee and Rhea Ripley were very believable winners. I agree with Lee getting the nod, as his rise was so organic and fan-driven from the beginning. Not that I would’ve taken issue with Rhea winning)
-The winner of Match of the Year is up next. It should be Tyler Bate vs. Walter, but I’m not sure the voters are as plugged in to the UK product.
Match of the Year
Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano, 2 out of 3 falls from TakeOver: New York. This is where Gargano won the Championship, and not the Three Stages of Hell match where Cole won it back. Though Walter vs. Bate was my match of the year for probably any company I watched, I would’ve been surprised if a Cole-Gargano match hadn’t won this category, and of the three, this is the one I’d choose. The match was shown almost in its entirety, with the first two falls shown before commercial. I’d forgotten just how many believable near-falls there were down the stretch of this one, leading up to Cole tapping and Gargano finally winning the big one…for a while.
Overall Competitor of the Year
Adam Cole. One last time, Cole walked to the ring with his buddies to gather an award, allowing UE to carry six trophies. He puts over UE one more time and says it’s just begun.
FINAL THOUGHTS: With no matches and only basic in-ring promos after award wins, this show is easily skipped unless you’re a sucker for awards shows. The matches shown were good ones, but can be found without commercials on the Network if you want to see them again. As always, though this episode was a lot of fluff, it drove home how good a year this was for NXT. I’m eager to get back to the ring next week, and to get started with the Dusty Classic. Who will Kushida’s mystery partner be? A lot of fans would probably love to see Alex Shelley, his old partner in Time Splitters, but Shelley seems fairly entrenched in ROH right now. I’m surprised Keith Lee and Lio Rush aren’t in the field after the match last week, but with a small field it makes sense. We also have the tag team champions of both NXT promotions in the tournament, so there are a couple of opportunities to create new feuds. If I had to name a winner right now, I guess I’d say either Kushida’s mystery team or Imperium, unless they want to work toward a champions vs. champions final. (Edit: The first round was announced, and includes champion Undisputed Era vs. champion Gallus, so that won’t be the final)
Tonight, Tom Stoup, Nate Lindberg and I will try to stretch this glorified clip show into a semi-meaningful podcast. See you in seven, gang.