SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NXT ON USA
SEPTEMBER 8, 2020, 8PM EST
ORLANDO, FLA., AT FULL SAIL LIVE
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Commentary: Vic Joseph, Beth Phoenix, Wade Barrett
Join the “PWT Talks NXT” Dailycast with me, Nate Lindberg & Tom Stoup to break down the episode:
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-Recaps. Wade Barrett said tonight’s main event would settle which one was NXT’s all-time best. Heavy stakes!
-Finn Balor’s music played to bring him out to the ring. I would have bet on the cage match to open, but here we go.
(1) FINN BALOR vs. ADAM COLE – NXT Championship match
Alicia Taylor handled formal introductions as William Regal stood in a corner holding the vacant belt. Cole and Balor jawed a bit before the bell.
Balor backed Cole into a corner, then made a clean break to some applause. Balor took down Cole and held a front facelock, then a chinlock. After a couple of quick reversals, Balor was on top with a headlock. Cole tried to roll Balor up to break as Vic repeated that tonight’s match would largely settle the debate of NXT’s best ever. Cole reversed and worked an arm, but Balor was able to go back to a headlock. They’re pacing out to go quite a while, it seems, with over two and a half minutes of slower-moving mat work.
Hammerlock by Cole. Balor reversed and took down Cole yet again and worked an armbar with a knee down on Cole’s head. Cole hit his feet and hit an armdrag, but Balor reversed and worked a headscissors. Cole finally got free and hit a basement dropkick and threw the first forearm of the match. Another forearm. Cole with a chop at the ropes. Rope run and an ushigoroshi by Cole for two. The match went to split screen about 5:15 in.
Balor was in control upon return to full-screen, where he kicked a grounded Cole in the back and covered for two. Headlock by Balor, who seemingly is working heel tonight as part of Cole’s ever-unclear presentation. Cole hit a jawbreaker but ran the ropes into a back elbow. Running elbow drop by Balor for two. To a corner, Balor stomped a mudhole and then chopped Cole, who crumbled in the middle of the ring. Basement dropkick by Balor for two. A graphic on the bottom promoted the cage match and referred to it as “Battle of the Badasses.”
To a corner, blocks by Balor, then a chop. The PC, in a rare move, did a dueling chant. Irish whip by Balor, who followed with a chop. Same thing in the opposite corner. Cole fought back with some forearms. Rope run and Cole hit a clothesline, a back elbow and a pump kick to ground Balor. Backstabber by Cole for two. Cole took a moment to breathe and sell the match. Cole recovered and the two exchanged reversals. Sling blade by Balor. Shining wizard by Cole for two. Cole lowered his knee pad for the Last Shot, but Balor caught him and took him down. The action spilled out and Balor beat down Cole with kicks. Balor set up Cole on a chair and ran the length of the ring outside, but ran into a superkick as the match went to another split-screen commercial.
Cole had control during much of the break, but immediately upon return to full-screen, Balor hit a step-up enzuigiri then went for Coup de Grace, which missed. Cole hit a figure four and yelled at Balor to quit. Balor reached the bottom rope fairly quickly to break. Another sling blade by Balor. Shotgun dropkick (called a “double dropkick” by Vic) by Balor. This time, Coup de Grace hit. Finn sold his knee for a moment, and Cole kicked out as Wade and Vic lost their minds and said nobody had ever kicked out of it. Cole blocked 1916 and hit another figure four, with this one dragging on longer. Cole let go as Balor reached close to the ropes, but got rolled up for two. Superkick by Cole. Last Shot by Cole. Very long two count, and Cole sold shock that Balor kicked out.
Cole went up the turnbuckle and went for Panama Sunrise, this week called correctly by Vic, but Balor caught Cole and hit an inverted 1916, but was selling his knee and didn’t cover. Balor went up the ropes, but Cole popped up and hit a superkick, then followed Balor up the buckles. After a surprisingly short exchange of shots, Balor hit 1916 from the top rope to finish.
WINNER: Finn Balor at 23:08.
After the match, Balor put on the strap, went up the ramp, and did the Bullet Club fingers into the camera.
(Wells’s Analysis: Given the first six or seven minutes of the match, I felt as if this might actually be gearing up to go 40 minutes or so, but instead it was a more TV-friendly length. A good match, obviously, though it didn’t offer anything that we haven’t seen before other than maybe the finish. Balor was the pick of all three of us on PWT Talks NXT before the four-way, as he seems like the freshest option on top. Also, as a tweener leaning babyface, he’s the most logical option given the heavy heel skew at the top of NXT right now)
-Rhea Ripley was backstage, and she stood in front of a chain-link fence and made dire warnings to Mercedes Martinez to hype the main event.
-Backstage, an unseen reporter started a question to Finn Balor, and he stated he showed up for this – the NXT Championship.
-McKenzie Mitchell was walking with Robert Stone, who had dragged her to see something. He wanted to take a weapon to Shotzi Blackheart’s tank, but she showed up and beat him down. Aliyah got involved and took some shots at Shotzi, but in the process, ended up ruining a photo shoot Io Shirai was doing, and Io chased Aliyah to the ring. Before long, all four were in the ring. Stone went up and tried to do something or other to the women, but Shotzi caught him with a shot and the faces cleared out the heels. Io went for her belt and Shotzi grabbed it, and they had a tense moment.
-Dinner with the Garganos! Johnny made clear to Candice that he wasn’t looking forward to this, but Candice said she needed Tegan Nox in her life. Tegan rang the doorbell and Johnny got it. Things got awkward quick as Johnny did “Gimmie a five, up high, down low, too slow” to her. They all sat at the table and Candice said “Let’s talk!” After a pause, Tegan tentatively said “…okay” and we abruptly went to commercial.
-Timothy Thatcher was holding a film study as part of Thatch as Thatch Can. Today’s video was on Damian Priest. He talked about Priest leaving himself open to counterattacks, particularly because he poses a lot and likes to fly and leave his feet. He said life grinds people like Priest down until they quit, just like he does.
(2) ASHANTE “THEE” ADONIS vs. VELVETEEN DREAM
With all that’s been going on near the top of the card, I genuinely forgot Dream had turned heel. Adonis was already in the ring when Dream was introduced. Before the bell, Dream was mocking Adonis’s wardrobe. Dream did his backing-up taunt and asked Adonis if he wanted to get cute. Adonis said he could get cute a whole lot better than Dream. Dream shot in with a forearm, but Adonis hit a few lariats and a nice dropkick. He rolled up Dream for a very long two. Dream pushed off the ref, hit a thumb to the eyes, and hit Dream Valley Driver for the three.
WINNER: Velveteen Dream at 1:33.
After the match, Kushida stormed the ring and went after Dream. Three refs held him back and convinced him to leave the ring. Kushida got another shot in, though Dream grabbed Kushida’s top knot. Kushida yanked Dream’s shoulder hard into the post. Again. Kushida hit a cross armbreaker through the ropes and Dream wailed. Kushida made a couple more threats down at Dream as his music played. He went up the ramp.
(Wells’s Analysis: Like a lot of enhancement talents before him, Adonis was given a bit of shine. Kushida’s return was welcome, and it’s nice to see him get fired up, as he’s been largely even-keeled during his solid and yet unmemorable run.)
-Breezango sat in chairs backstage and talked up their championship win. Imperium, elsewhere, said that Breezango were destroying the titles. Breezango said Imperium no sizzle. Imperium said that next week, they would make Breezango the shortest-reigning tag team champions in NXT history. Breeze said Imperium thought they were a joke, but next week, Imperium would be the punchline.
(Wells’s Analysis: A nice, brief hype package that would have been welcome before the first championship match they had)
-At the Gargano table, Johnny said it was really uncomfortable, and asked if it was he that was making it weird. Nox’s raised eyebrows suggested yes. Candice brought up “Tegan’s mistakes” and Tegan took issue. Candice said it didn’t seem like Tegan understood the Gargano Way. Tegan suggested that Johnny was getting to Candice, but Candice said she was who she’d always been. Candice said she was always the big sister, and she wouldn’t do her wrong. She asked what Tegan had to lose, and Tegan took a swig of her water and mulled it over.
(3) BRONSON REED vs. AUSTIN THEORY
Reed was introduced first. Theory was booed heavily during his entrance. He flapped his mouth during his introduction and walk down the ramp. Beth said his attitude was going to get him into trouble.
Theory went for a handshake, and Reed didn’t consider it for a moment. Reed ran in and Theory grabbed a headlock. Reed pushed him off and hit his own headlock. Theory tried to power out but Reed held fast. Theory tried to run Reed across the ropes but got blocked. Reed held on and grounded Theory. Theory got to his feet and hit some shots to the midsection. Theory stomped Reed’s foot and ran Reed across the ropes, but Reed returned with a pounce. Reed hit a slingshot back elbow on a grounded Theory and got two. Theory tried to bail, but Reed grabbed Theory and armdragged him back into the ring. Reed knelt and hit another headlock. Theory threw shots to break, but ran into another back elbow.
Theory bailed again and threw a shot from the apron. He floated in and went for a sunset flip, but Reed dropped on him for two. Theory bailed to the floor but Reed pounced from the apron to lay out Theory as the match went to a split-screen commercial. Theory finally got some sustained offense about halfway through the break.
Theory held a chinlock upon return, but Reed hit his feet and splashed back on Theory as the crowd stomped in approval. Theory came in for a right, but Reed blocked and hit one Again. Rope run and a big forearm by Reed. Inverted atomic drop and a bionic elbow by Reed. Splash in the corner. Jagged Edge got a long two for Reed. Reed floated through a suplex, and tried one of his own but his back gave out. The announcers seemed like they were covering, almost making it look like a botch. Theory came out of the corner with a blockbuster and got a near-fall that was hard to buy given Theory’s lack of offense. Theory put up Reed in a fireman’s carry, but he buckled and got squashed. Reed went up the ropes and hit the Tsunami on Theory’s back. He rolled Theory over for the win.
WINNER: Bronson Reed at 10:48.
(Wells’s Analysis: We were asked on the podcast last week whether Theory showing up on NXT was a demotion during some iffy times for him. This match, essentially a long squash, won’t do anything to stop people from asking. That said, Theory is a wonderful bump machine, which is precisely what Reed needs in an opponent as he works his way up the ladder. Good stuff here)
-McKenzie Mitchell asked Adam Cole how he felt about tonight’s match. Cole admitted the better man won tonight. He said that Finn was better tonight, but better hope he doesn’t get another shot, because if he does, he’ll take the championship back, and that’s undisputed.
(Wells’s Analysis: Pure babyface work by Cole. His whole vocal style changed for this. Given how Strong, Fish and O’Reilly were acting recently, I think it’ll eventually be a break, with Cole battling his old stablemates. The question then would be whether the group gets a new leader, or O’Reilly is given a shot to take over)
-Mercedes Martinez said a lion looks for the strongest enemy they can find to prove itself. She warned Rhea she was going to take it to her in the cage tonight until nothing was left of her.
(4) KILLIAN DAIN vs. RODERICK STRONG (w/Bobby Fish)
The UE (minus Cole) have had an ongoing issue with Killian Dain and Drake Maverick for a few weeks, though Drake and Dain aren’t allies – yet. Dain entered second to some scattered cheers. UE had no mic time and didn’t appear to be selling Cole’s loss earlier in the night. Kyle wasn’t present, so he may be taking some more time off.
Dain backed up Strong, who bailed. Strong used Fish briefly as a shield to take the advantage and throw shots. Into the ring, Strong hit forearms in the corner. Strong said “I told this dork he was gonna get it,” and the dork exploded out of the corner and bealed Strong into the buckle. Irish whip to the other corner. Strong hit a jumping boot and Dain hit the apron, and he hit a big uranage on Strong, who was still inside the ring. Fish clipped Dain’s legs, unseen by the ref, heading into commercial.
Back to action, Strong had a headlock on, but Dain broke it and put down Strong with a lariat. Another. Back elbow. Running avalanche by Dain. Cross-body by Dain got two. Dain snorted and stared down at Strong. Dain ran into a boot, but blocked a running knee and slammed Strong, then hit a quick senton. Fish dragged Strong to safety. Dain cleared out Fish, but Strong hit a jumping knee to finish.
WINNER: Roderick Strong at 7:32.
After the match, Fish and Strong stomped down Dain in a corner. Drake Maverick came to the ring wit a steel pipe and took out both guys, ut they caught up with him as well and worked him over. UE scattered as they looked across the ring and saw Dain had taken up the steel pipe. After they were gone, Dain stood over Drake with the pipe. Drake backed up to a corner and cowered. Dain tossed the pipe away and started to leave. Drake stopped him, and once again offered a hand of friendship. The zebra couldn’t change his stripes, though. Dain laid out Drake with a punch.
(Wells’s Analysis: The numbers game was obviously going to come into play, but a simple knee to finish doesn’t do Dain any favors. The story continued with Drake and Dain, but isn’t paid off yet. I suspect Drake will eventually break through Dain’s icy defenses to create an odd couple)
-Candice and Tegan were having cocktails and Candice toasted to the next Women’s Champion – her. They exchanged some words and Candice tossed a full salad at Tegan. Tegan threw a drink. Gargano came back downstairs and got in Tegan’s face. Tegan threw a bowl of spaghetti on Johnny, saying “You know what, Johnny? F**k you.” Candice tried to throw a remote control at Tegan, but Tegan ducked, and the remote hit the TV. Tegan ran off. Gargano lamented the loss of the TV as the camera panned over to the busted LCD panel.
(Wells’s Analysis: This was bound to get silly, and it did. While the Gargano-LeRae act is working, it’s also not really coming off as a main event act. Hopefully bumping shoulders with the Garganos does Tegan some favors, as she’s been treading midcard water for her entire NXT run despite the company clearly wanting to get behind her)
-McKenzie Mitchell told Damian Priest she was just informed that next week, he’d be facing Timothy Thatcher. Priest said his main takeaway was that Thatcher is ugly. He says Thatcher doesn’t need to watch film, as he’s pretty straightforward. He said he’d rearrange Thatcher’s face, which could only be an improvement. He finished by saying the celebration would continue, and McKenzie was always invited.
(Wells’s Analysis: Priest, the face, has rarely said such heelish things. His charisma thus far is allowing him to get away with it)
-Next week, additionally to that, Breezango defends against Imperium and Io Shirai faces Shotzi Blackheart in what doesn’t look to be a championship match.
(5) RHEA RIPLEY vs. MERCEDES MARTINEZ (w/Robert Stone) – Steel Cage match
Intros didn’t start until 18 to the hour, so for a cage match, I guess this might be brief. Martinez got a bunch of chairs from under the ring and tossed them into the ring. She got a table as well, but Rhea Ripley ran in and put Mercedes into the cage. She set up Mercedes between the cage and open door and smashed her. Rhea ripped off her jacket and tossed it at Robert Stone to send him off, then put the table into the ring. She entered, the door was locked, and the bell rang.
Mercedes intercepted Rhea and twice tossed her into the cage. Rhea threw shots from her knees but Mercedes battered Rhea’s chest. Mercedes swung and missed with a chair. Ripley hit a lariat and threw Mercedes into the cage.Rhea wrenched Mercedes’ arms over the top rope and then smashed her into the cage. Back elbow by Rhea. Thrustkick to the jaw. Rhea clubbed down on Mercedes and threw a kick at a kneeling Martinez’s stomach. Rhea smashed Mercedes down into the canvas and hit a stomp. Riptide attempt was countered and Mercedes hit a fisherman suplex. Both sold for a moment.
From the outside, Robert Stone mocked Rhea, and backed away wen she got near him, even through the cage. Ripley blocked a chair and went up top, but Mercedes hit a running powerslam on a chair for a two count. The match went to split-screen. Throughout most of the break, Rhea was in control while Robert Stone tried to distract her.
Mercedes hit a German suplex from the top just as the match came back from split-screen. Mercedes sold for a bit while in the tree of woe, then faced inside the ring while sitting on the top turnbuckle. Rhea launched a chair at her, then ran and hit a high dropkick. Rhea went up the turnbuckle and hit a superplex. Rhea crawled over after some selling and got two. Rhea brought Mercedes to her feet. Mercedes threw some shots and hit a spinebuster, and the two went back to selling on the mat again. Mercedes hit her feet first, but when Rhea got up, she caught Mercedes with an electric chair drop. Rhea hit her Prism Trap, but Mercedes grabbed a kendo stick from the mat and hit her with it. Rhea took up the kendo stick, but Robert Stone tried to crawl in the ring. Rhea looked to suplex Stone into the ring, and Mercedes put the kendo stick to her back twice. Mercedes went up and put Rhea’s face into the cage, then hit a neckbreaker off the top rope with Stone still draped over the top of the cage.
Mercedes crawled over for two. The crowd stomped emphatically. Mercedes yelled in frustration, then set up the table inside the ring near a corner. She pulled Rhea up and took her to the corner. Chop. She set Rhea up and followed. She wanted a fisherman suplex from the top, but Rhea blocked. Rhea hit a headbutt, and another. Rhea hit Riptide through the table and covered for the win.
WINNER: Rhea Ripley at 14:22.
(Wells’s Analysis: The first half of this match was pretty rough, as it was extremely slow with both women selling a half-hour’s worth of action within about three minutes. The second half was the great exchange of power that you’d expect. Rhea’s been in desperate need of a big win, but this was real early for Mercedes to take a decisive defeat, and it’ll be interesting to see how she recovers)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Interesting match order, with the championship opening and the cage match getting the main event slot. Finn Balor, in fact, wasn’t even mentioned after his championship win. Rhea Ripley continues to be the centerpiece of the women’s division despite not being champion, which is great for her but potentially harmful to a genuinely great champion in Io Shirai. Next week, NXT continues to blow off some feuds and present championship matches, operating at an unsustainable level in the long-term unless we return to the Attitude days of 14-to-28-day championship reigns being the norm.
While NXT seems to be getting more cartoonish in some ways, a large portion of the roster is at least in a feud, and the major matches seem to carry some sort of weight. I just wonder when the bubble will burst if NXT keeps giving away every match they can think of.
Join me, Tom Stoup and Nate Lindberg tonight on PWT Talks NXT at the link at the top of the page, or listen tomorrow. Cheers.