SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Rhea Ripley addresses the crowd, brawl ensues, becomes Six Women Tag – MISS: The crowd began chanting “You deserve it!” before she even brought the microphone to her mouth. I can’t agree more. Toni Storm’s music hit. She said she would win the NXT UK championship this Sunday and will go on to World Collide to become a double champion. Rhea accepted the challenge when NXT UK Women’s Champion, Kay Lee Ray, Io Shirai, Candace LaRae and Bianca Belair made their ways to the ring to lay claim to Rhea’s title. All six women began brawling and it became a six-woman tag team match, playa (channeling my inner Teddy Long). I must say, I’m a little bit tired of this trope where a bunch of wrestlers enter the ring for one reason, and it turns into a tag team match. The only thing here I would give a “hit” would be Belair’s promo.
Six Women Tag – Toni Storm & Candace LaRae & Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair & Io Shirai & Kay Lee Ray – HIT: Thankfully, the match was a lot better than the tired set up to it. I am very high on all six of these women and I’m convinced it would be near impossible for them to have a bad match. Bianca Belair, for me, was the standout in this match. Each week, she impresses me more and more with what she brings to the table. When I was first introduced to her a year or two ago, she was not one of my favorite women to watch. Now, I very much look forward to her segments. I also hope this means we get more of Toni Storm on NXT US. One of my co-hosts on PWT Talks NXT may not be very high on her, but Storm, in my opinion, has all of the makings of a major star. After the Team Ripley win, the three faces looked like they may begin brawling until LaRae raised all of their hands high in the air. A fun 3/5 star match to kick off 2020.
Betty Phoenix’s Jacket – HIT: I don’t ever do this, but Beth Phoenix was wearing a jacket on commentary that was a mix of swirling red, yellow and touches of blueish grey. It was so loud and gawdy… I absolutely loved it. It looked like something Jimmy Hart would wear if he was managing the Hulkster.
Ciampa Video Package – HIT: KEEP THESE COMING! Lately, the video packages coming out of NXT have been killer. This was no exception. Tommaso Ciampa talking about his past title win, his injury and his journey to recapturing Goldie. Very well done.
Keith Lee Promo – HIT: Backstage, Lee cut a quick 20 second promo laying claim to the North American title. He didn’t sound overly scripted and like the star that he undoubtedly is becoming.
DUSTY CLASSIC – Forgotten Sons vs. Imperium (Aichner & Barthel) – HIT: Wow, it was hard for me to “Forget” about Steve Cutler this week. The Sons may have lost to Imperium, but I was very impressed with Cutler’s crisp offense and wonderful selling. This match was Tag Team wrestling nearly at its finest. Both teams worked together very well, kept the ring split down the middle and kept the crowd entertained throughout. I’m very intrigued to see how far Imperium goes in this tournament.
Matt Riddle talks about his Dusty Classic Partner – HIT: He said that he doesn’t know Dunne very well, but he approached Dunne backstage and was said “Hey, Pete. Dusty Classic?” Pete agreed, and the “Bro-serweights” were born. I have been wondering about the decision to put these two together, and this very easy-going and laidback promo from Riddle was such an awesome way to explain this pairing.
Austin Theory vs. Joaquin Wilde – HIT: I was very happy to see Austin Theory back in the Full Sail arena after his awesome match with Roddy Strong on the Christmas episode of NXT. We haven’t seen Wilde since the breakout tournament a few months back. Mauro made mention of Wilde needing to knock off the ring rust since he hasn’t been in competition for quite a while. The crowd was not really into the match to start, but by the end the two men had them hooked. I can’t wait to see more of Theory in NXT, and I think with some more polish Joaquin Wilde could also be a player in the future. Very impressed with Wilde’s athleticism. I’d actually love to see him in contention for the Cruiserweight Title.
DUSTY CLASSIC – NXT Tag Champions, Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) vs. NXT UK Tag Champions, Gallus (Wolfgang and Mark Coffey) – HIT: Glad to see Fish back in action after a small injury kept him out of action for the last month or so. I somewhat question the decision to make both sets of tag champs face each other in the beginning of this tournament. With the trajectory that U.E. has been on, there was no way Gallus was going to get the W. Again, some excellent tag team action here as you would expect out of the NXT and NXT UK Tag Champs. I haven’t seen much of Gallus and this was a treat.
Gargano addresses the crowd – HIT: Johnny Wrestling said he had waited quite a long time to get a live mic and address the Prince, Finn Balor. What an amazing and heartfelt promo from Gargano calling Balor out. Balor emerged from the back and cut an equally great promo against Gargano to set up the match at Takeover Portland. Very well done by both men.
Alex Shelley named Kushida’s Dusty Classic Partner – HIT: In somewhat of a lackluster announcement, Kushida and Shelly reform the Time Splitters and enter the Dusty Classic! I’ll give the way that they made the announcement, in a match graphic, a miss. But it’s a big hit to see Shelley team with his former NJPW partner and enter the Dusty Classic.
Mia Yim vs. Kayden Karter – HIT: This was a very nice surprise for this NXT Columnist. Mia Yim, in my opinion, has been underrated as of late and it was a bit of a disappointment that she was left out of WarGames. Granted, we got the Kai heel turn because of it, but still. I was looking forward to seeing what she brought to the table in that match. I’ve also been high on Karter. The last time we saw her on NXT TV, it was clear that she still needs a bit of work in the ring. However, this time I was very impressed even in her loss. Clearly a quick showcase match for Yim, but fun to watch nonetheless. After the match, Chelsea Green took both competitors out. Some dorky looking guy, Robert Stone, appeared on the ramp and said that his brand has arrived and Chelsea Green will run roughshod on the NXT Womens Division.
North American Championship #1 Contender Match: – Cameron Grimes vs. Dominick Dijakovic vs. Keith Lee vs. Damian Priest – HIT: Have you ever seen one man use another man as a weapon? Dijakovic went for a suplex on Priest who was caught by Lee in a powerbomb position. Lee swung Priest around and took out both Dijakovic and Grimes in the process. What a unique and awesome spot. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a thousand more times, I’m sure. I don’t usually like multi-men matches like this. A lot of the tropes that I dislike, like two guys “taking a nap” outside the ring certainly surfaced here. Even with some of those tried and tired tropes, they still told a great story and kept the crowd (as well as myself) entertained for the entirety of the bout. All four men put on a great performance and the correct competitor, Keith Lee, walked away with the win.