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MCLENDON’S NXT ON USA ALT-PERSPECTIVE REPORT
JANUARY 22, 2020
WINTER PARK, FLA. AT FUL SAIL UNIVERSITY
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY JAMES MCLENDON, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Mauro Ranallo, Beth Phoenix
-Highlights aired from last week’s NXT.
(1) UNDISPUTED ERA (BOBBY FISH & KYLE O’REILLY) vs. GRIZZLED YOUNG VETERANS
Adam Cole stops by the announce table and tells the team that they aren’t running from Imperium and they know where they can find them. Match begins with an UE chant with a light GYV response. Undisputed Era took charge early on with kicks and tandem offense keeping Drake in their corner. Focusing on the knees and legs trying to take away the strength of the Grizzled Young Veterans as Mauro and Beth pointed out on commentary. McGuinness took the homer approach with the NXT UK team.
During the break, GYV pulled the action back to their corner. Gibson hit the side drop off the top on Fish but, Fish countered into a leg lock. Gibson and Drake hit Fish with a tandem move for a near fall. After a tag, Fish dumps Gibson outside and is hit by O’Reilly’s flying knee off the apron.
The teams go into a flurry of stiff forearms and kicks. UE gets the advantage and hit Drake with a tandem kicks. Imperium’s music plays. The group is standing on the perch above the announcers table. UE turns their attention to Imperium including Fish and O’Reiley. O’reiley is picked up by Gibson and they hit the Ticket to mayhem for the three count and win with UE distracted.
-Video promoting Toni Storm vs Rhea Ripley
(McLendon Analysis: Fun tag match to get the show started. They picked right up with the UE/Imperium story. The tag team wrestling in NXT is just so good. I don’t particularly like watching matches that are Heel vs Heel although UE is clearly the “babyface” team in this situation just by popularity. I don’t think that UE has gotten the upper hand on Imperium to the point that they should have been that worried about them to lose the match, but nonetheless it was a somewhat logical way to continue the story. I’d assume UE will return the favor during Imperium’s match later in the evening.)
-Shotzi Blackheart Vignette
(2) TONI STORM vs. IO SHIRAI
Big chants for Io during her entrance and at the beginning of the match. The women started off with some chain wrestling exchanging holds. Storm nails Io with a quick kicking and punching combination, but Io flips away and counters with a nip up at the end to an applause from the crowd. Io takes advantage of Storm but is pushed to the outside of the ring. Io nails storm with a single leg dropkick while she was stuck on the ropes. The fans begin to do the annoying thing where it seems like they aren’t paying attention because they’re trying to come up with dueling chants.
The pace began to slow down as Io looks to get the larger storm grounded on the mat with holds. After the break, Shirai reverses a back belly hold by storm with a roll up and a chest stomp. Storm regains the advantage and nails a reverse German suplex. Io blocks storms finishing move, but then Storm hits Shirai with a huge lariat. Shirai goes for a 619 and is caught by storm in the ropes. Storm goes for dive to Shirai but was met with a right hand by Bianca Bel Air for a DQ. She hits a spear on Storm and taunts the crowd. Rhea Ripley comes out to confront Bel Air and the two women brawl until they are cut off by Shirai. She hits the two women with a moonsault off the middle rope to the outside. Then, Storm hits toupe on Io. She holds the championship up to a negative response from the Full Sail Crowd.
(McLendon Analysis: From watching the show week to week, the cool factor of Io’s character has definitely endeared itself to the full sail crowd. She is certainly my favorite women’s’ wrestler on the brand. I was worried what taking a loss would do for her especially after losing the battle royal last week. I felt this was a good way to intertwine the storyline for Saturday and the title match for Bel-Air and Rhea. I feel like they are potentially setting the stage for Io to be added to the match. The lukewarm response to Storm doesn’t have me particularly excited for the match Saturday, but we know that these two always put a strong match.
-Ilya Draganoff Vignette
(3) FINN BALOR vs. JOAQUIN WILDE
Finn was incredibly aggressive from the start of this match. Commentary highlighting how different his demeanor has been since his NXT return. Wilde slows Balor down with a kick to the face in the corner, but Finn nails him with a huge dropkick. Finn hit the running dropkick into the corner which leads to Coupe de Gras. Balor finished off Wilde with 1916 for the overpowering win after yelling “If you come at Finn, you better not miss”
Cathy Kelley backstage interview with Shayna Basler. Says Blackheart didn’t make a statement, but started the end of her career. Vows to go through the entire locker room until she gets her championship back.
(McLendon Analysis: This was probably the most aggressive Balor has been since his return. A key reminder of why squash matches are necessary. I haven’t seen much of Ilya Draganoff, so the vignette and Finn’s match with some very pointed actions towards him, have me excited to see their match on Saturday. Finn certainly plays “The Prince” 10,000 times better than the “Extraordinary Man who does extraordinary things”)
Vignette hyping the DIY return this Saturday.
(4) SHAYNA BASZLER vs. SHOTZI BLACKHEART
Commentary does a great job providing backstory for Blackheart. They started with a tie up and Bazler takes Blackheart straight to the ground and pats her on the head. Baszler controlled Shotzi on the mat. The crowd is very much so behind Blackheart. Unsure if there is something Blackheart has done before this other than eliminating Baszler and Shayna being great at her job. Baszler pounds Shotzi with knees and forearms on the apron. She rolled her in and Blackheart kicks out at two.
Shotzi begins to gain momentum and rolls out of the Caribouda clutch from Basler. Blackheart hits Shayna with a tornado DDT out of the corner. She pins her and Shayna kicks out at two. Blackheart goes to the top, but Shayna stops her with a kick to the face. Shotzi hit Baszler with a reverse DDT on the apron. She goes to the top for a senton but Shayna caught her with a Caribouda Clutch. Blackheart reverses it to get Shayna on her back, but Shayna reverses it and Blackheart taps out. Shayna doesn’t let go until Blackheart passes out.
-Tegan Nox-Dakota Kai vignette on their history and Dakota’s turn. Dakota finally explains the turn on her friend. The two will go one on one next week on NXT.
(McLendon’s Analysis: Shotzi has a lot of fire and the crowd was definitely behind her the entire match. I think at the start it was simply because she had the upper hand on Shayna from last week, but by the end of this match, it was certainly because she earned their respect. Shayna did a great job making her look like a credible opponent. I would like to see how she does moving forward against the rest of the roster. Shayna’s promo before the match gave me the impression they will tell the story of her having to go through the division to get back to the top. A division that looks very different than it did when Shayna began.)
Angel Garza promo about his Championship match Saturday. Says there’s no pressure when you’re as good as he is. He says that this isn’t Swerve’s house, it’s his house.
(5) MATT RIDDLE & PETE DUNNE vs. IMPERIUM (Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner)
Dunne and Eichner started the action off with some very physical ground wrestling. Eichner tags in Bartell and they do more of the same. Commentary continuing to highlight the accolades and history of Imperium, which is very helpful for me as I do not follow the NXT UK product as closely. Riddle comes in and displays his strength with gut wrench suplexes on both members of Imperium. Bartell got the upper hand but was stalled by Riddle’s open hand chest slaps.
Dunne and Eichner were tagged in at the same time and the pace definitely quickened. After Dunne took out both members he and Walter came face to face before Eichner hit him with a running uppercut and Martell threw him into the stairs. Martell was really taking it to Dunne with kick and forearm combinations. Martell jumped off the top rope into a huge forearm from Dunne. Dunne injured his knee on the moonsault earlier in the match and it keeps him from fully taking control of the match. Riddle got the hot tag and took Imperium out with a series of bro-tons and PK’s. Commentary mentioned again how well the two are working as a team, right as Riddle accidentally hits Dunne.
Dunne was caught by Imperium and nailed with a combination wheel barrow into a diving DDT, but, Riddle broke the count at two with a knee. Riddle and Dunne locked in stereo submissions on Imperium but Eichner breaks out first. Riddle hit Eichner with a Bro-hammer for a two count. Eichner goes for a hurricanrana off the tope rope but Dunne saves him. The teams went back and forth until Riddle and Dunne hit tandem knee strike and drop kick for the win.
GYV cut a promo on Riddle and Dunne. They called Dunne selfish and say he has been in their way every time they try to make the next step. They vow to win next week and bring the trophy back to Blackpool. Riddle makes a joke about GYV mentioning a joint and he lost focus. Dunne finishes off by saying they’ll lose again.
(McLendon’s Analysis: Riddle and Dunne continue to put the effort into their team presentation. Almost to the point where I want to continue to see them as a team opposed to the breakup it appears they are inevitably heading towards. This was a strong, hard – hitting match that really moved a quick pace. I was a little surprised Imperium lost without a rebuttal from the UE, but technically they both have gotten heat on each other leading into their match Saturday. The outcome was given away a little bit, but the outcome of match one. But, I am interested to see the outcome of the finals matchup next week. GYV has had the opportunity to tell their story on the microphone too and I think NXT has done a great job of making this a match that people look forward to even with a team that isn’t readily known to the US NXT audience and make-shift team.)
(6) KEITH LEE vs. RODDY STRONG – NXT North American Championship Match
The story of Keith Lee’s ankle is being told on commentary. Highlighting how he refused medical attention. Lee tried to use his speed to get away from Lee. Keith Lee caught him, but strong slapped Lee which then led to Lee throwing him around the ring multiple times and then out of the ring. Strong throws Lee to the ropes and Lee leap frogged Strong and then hit a cross body. Commentary points out during the break THAT Strong went hard after the ankle they injured with the chair last week. Lee chased off the UE, but the distraction was enough to help Roddy regain the upper hand and attack that ankle again. Strong trapped Lee’s ankle and smashes it with the ring steps. Strong continued the ankle attack in the ring with ankle locks and other holds.
Commentary focused on the size difference big time and mentioned strong will want to be the Messiah of the Ankle Breaker since he doesn’t have the strength to pick up Lee for a backbreaker. Roddy went for the running forearms but missed from the front, so he nailed Lee in the back of the head. Lee and Strong exchange blows, Lee threw Strong into the ropes and caught him with one hand for the slam. Strong retreated to the outside. Lee threw him into the ring, but was kicked in the leg from behind by Fish. Lee went for his moonsault, but the knee forced him to go slower and Strong caught him. Roddy tried to pull Lee down, but Lee fought him off. Strong came back and hit Lee with an Olympic Slam off the top rope. Lee kicks out at two. Lee hit a pounce knocking Strong over the top rope.
Lee went for the moonsault one more time, but missed it. Strong locked in the Ankle Lock while pounding on his heels. Lee spends a lot of time fighting off distractions from UE. Strong went to strike Lee again, but Lee caught him with the finisher for the three count
(McLendon’s Analysis: Great match that told an excellent story. Building off the leg injury of Keith Lee from last week and the numbers advantage the UE always holds. There was no other way to go with the time and investment that was put into Lee since the Survivor Series angle. I also assumed whenever the first member of UE lost their title, it would be trickle down into the group losing their titles as well. This probably doesn’t connote a similar showing in the Royal Rumble for Lee, but I’m curious to see who challenges next or does Strong regain quickly?)
FINAL THOUGHTS: There was a ton of action in this episode which is very normal for NXT. I thought the show was great, my only complaint is that there are too many matches where I don’t clearly know who the heel is and who the face is. The Riddle/Dunne vs Imperium, Blackheart vs Baszler, and Lee vs Strong matches were the only ones where it was clear cut. I know that the thing to do is to have “shades of gray”, however story telling is most effective when the faces and heels are clear. I think the buildup to Worlds Collide has muddied that up just a little bit. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but just something I am a stickler for. Sometimes it makes it hard to get invested in the matches outside of being impressed by the moves. This show did an amazing job setting the stage for Saturday. There are wrestlers on the show, I know very little about and the vignettes and matches provided me with the backstory to look forward to their matches on Saturday.