9/23 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s report on men’s five-way Gauntlet and women’s battle royal for TakeOver championship matches

By Kelly Wells, PWTorch contributor


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

NXT ON USA
SEPTEMBER 23, 2020, 8PM EST
LIVE IN ORLANDO, FLA., AT FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Commentary: Tom Phillips, Beth Phoenix


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[HOUR ONE]

-In memory of Jon “Road Warrior Animal” Laurinaitis – 1960-2020

-Wade Barrett is “off tonight.” No mention of Vic Joseph.

-A large number of women had entered the ring already for the battle royal to determine Io Shirai’s number one contender. Candice LeRae got full entrance. The poison pixie wore fairy wings on her black jacket. Just moments ago, backstage, she attacked Tegan Nox with a lead pipe, taking her from the battle royal. Nox sold the agony of the injury. Rhea Ripley also got full intro. Raquel Gonzalez stared at her

(1) BATTLE ROYAL – to determine Io Shirai’s challenger for the NXT Women’s Championship

Lots of new faces in this one, so hopefully they name them upon elimination. Rhea Ripley eliminated Gia. Raquel eliminated Raven. Rhea eliminated Ellie. I’m guessing a lot of these PC girls just have one name as they continue to build characters backstage. Rhea eliminated Marina Shafir. Raquel eliminated Avery. Raquel eliminated someone that the announcers didn’t name. Raquel eliminated another, also unnamed. Tom called it “Glamazonian strength” and Beth agreed it tames one to know one. Rhea eliminated Emily, giving four each for Rhea and Raquel.

Raquel eliminated Catalina. Aliyah eliminated Kacy Catanzaro, but her feet didn’t touch and she snuck back in. She was entirely on the floor other than her feet, so it wasn’t one of the cleaner spots of its type. The match went to split-screen. During the break, Rhea eliminated Aliyah when Robert Stone couldn’t save her from the fall. Kayden Carter eliminated Xia Li during the break as well; that seems like an odd way to treat someone who just turned heel. Raquel and Dakota Kai double-teamed but couldn’t eliminate Shotzi Blackheart.

Back to full-screen, Kacy had been thrown to a barricade, but used it and the Plexiglass to get to the steps. Indi Hartwell kicked her from the steps, but she caught herself on the barricade as well. Kayden Carter reached to try to help her, but Raquel eliminated Kayden. Kayden helped Kacy back into the ring. Rhea and Raquel were at it in the center of the ring, and they ended up eliminating each other. The two had to be pulled apart by officials.

Five remained: Blackheart, LeRae, Hartwell, Kai and Catanzaro. Catanzaro eliminated Hartwell with a headscissors. Kai and LeRae double-teamed Kacy, and Kai hit a face wash to eliminate her. Kai and LeRae double-teamed Blackheart, but Shotzi eliminated Kai after a missed face wash.

Final two were Shotzi and Candice. Shotzi hit a reverse sling blade and put Candice on the apron, but Candice saved herself. Step-up enzuigiri by Shotzi. Candice hit a neckbreaker on Shotzi and put her on the apron. High kick by Shotzi, who entered and went up the turnbuckle. Candice recovered and joined her. Both got dumped to the apron and Shotzi dropped Candice to the bottom step, but Candice launched Shotzi to the floor to win. Always a bridesmaid, Shotzi. Johnny Gargano celebrated in the ring with Candice.

WINNER: Candice LeRae at 15:10.

(Wells’s Analysis: This seemed wide open, as Io Shirai has no particular feud going. I figured Candice and Tegan would go at TakeOver so this was a minor surprise. Given Candice’s heel work, though, I love her going over here.)

-Damian Priest was interviewed by Sarah Schreiber. He said he was ready for his TakeOver match with Johnny Gargano (announced earlier today on WWE.com). Tonight he faces Austin Theory. He said Theory’s talent is beyond his current win-loss record, but the slide will continue tonight. Priest told Sarah she’s really good at this, and said he’d see her at the after-party tonight.

-Fandango, in a Sherlock Holmes outfit, stood in front of a white board with eight misspelled names on them. He pitched an idea to William Regal: men from four teams face off, and the mismatched guys who win the match will then face each other for a tag team title match at TakeOver. Regal warned Fandango against using a silly English accent.

(2) JAKE ATLAS vs. TOMMASO CIAMPA

Atlas, who was introduced second, stood on the buckle and Ciampa stared him down. Ciampa backed Atlas to a corner. Atlas switched and threw fists. Ciampa hit a big forearm and went for Willow’s Bell. Atlas jumped off the apron to fight it off and yanked Ciampa to the floor. Back inside, Ciampa hit a big lariat. Ciampa stomped on Atlas and said he was the champ and the main event. Rope run, and Atlas hit an inverted atomic drop and a dropkick. Ground and pound by Atlas. Pump kick by Atlas in the corner. Beth joked that she saw a tooth go flying after the good-looking kick.

Ciampa bailed but Atlas jumped his sweep attempt and hit a moonsault to the outside. Atlas rolled Ciampa inside and hit a top-rope blockbuster. Ciampa blocked a move and hit Willow’s Bell. He covered for one, then got up. He jawed down at Atlas, then slapped his head. He hit Fairytale Ending to finish.

WINNER: Tommaso Ciampa at 4:48.

(Wells’s Analysis: Given Ciampa’s stature in NXT, even getting a match with Ciampa built on an issue feels like a win, and Atlas got probably two more minutes than I figured he would. Ciampa still feels as if he’s of great importance, but he has nothing for TakeOver yet)

-Ridge Holland vignette. During his rugby career, he nurtured an ability to hurt people, and now he’ll do it in an NXT ring. The NXT Universe is going to learn what Ridge Holland is all about.

-Up next, Roderick Strong and Danny Burch face Fabian Aichner and Raul Mendoza.

-The world premier of Corey Taylor’s single “Culture Head” played as the five men from tonight’s gauntlet match (Cameron Grimes, Kushida, Timothy Thatcher, Kyle O’Reilly and Bronson Reed) promoted themselves. The song was…as you’d think. Despite that, it was a good promotional piece for the main event.

(3) RODERICK STRONG & DANNY BURCH vs. FABIAN AICHNER & RAUL MENDOZA

Strong and Burch weren’t thrilled about teaming; they entered to the Undisputed Era theme. The other two didn’t get an entrance and were already in the ring when Strong and Burch got there.

Strong and Aichner to start. Aichner backed Strong to a corner. Irish whip, reverse, Aichner caught and slammed Strong. Mendoza tagged in. PK and a springboard moonsault by Mendoza got two. To Burch’s corner, and Burch tagged himself in. Burch hit a headlock. Rope run and Burch slammed Mendoza for two. Irish whip by Mendoza, who missed a charge. Burch went up, Aichner distracted him, and Mendoza yanked him to the mat as the match went to commercial.

Aichner was dominating Burch. Head to the turnbuckle. Mendoza tagged himself in by slapping Aichner’s chest. Mendoza choked Burch on the rope with his leg. Mendoza went for a cover and got two. Mendoza worked a headlock and jawed out at Roderick Strong. Burch hit a sunset flip but didn’t see Mendoza tag Aichner. Burch made it to the corner but Strong had been knocked down. Strong made an unseen tag and started dominating. Olympic Slam got two, broken by Mendoza. From the apron, Mendoza hit Strong with a knee and Aichner backdropped Strong for two. Mendoza tagged in and hit a dropkick. Irish whip and Mendoza fought off both Strong and Burch. Strong hit a knee strike on a draping Mendoza and Burch hit a bulldog and covered for the win.

WINNERS: Roderick Strong & Danny Burch at 10:01.

(Wells’s Analysis: I would have thought Legado del Fantasma would be the next challengers, but apparently not. Burch and Lorcan face Undisputed Era next week, I assume)

-Sarah Schreiber caught up with Austin Theory. Johnny Gargano got into the frame and gave some pointers, and said if he softened up Damian Priest before the TakeOver match, he wouldn’t forget it. Gargano left. Schreiber wished Theory luck. “Luck?” He scoffed.

(4) DAMIAN PRIEST vs. AUSTIN THEORY

Non-title. Beth said Theory wanted to eventually be the flagbearer for NXT. Theory sarcastically cheered Priest’s entrance. A main roster ref handled this one, perhaps due to the COVID outbreak.

Theory charged in and Priest wrenched his left arm. Theory rolled through and reversed. Arm drag by Priest, who grinned at Theory. Waistlock by Theory, reversed, headlock by Priest. Rope run and a back elbow by Theory. Rope run and a charging elbow by Priest. Priest walked the rope old school and hit a cross-body. Theory used a drop toe-hold to put Priest down in a corner, then hit a belly to back suplex. Cover for one. Theory said “I knew that. I knew that.”

Shot exchange. Lariat by Theory. Standing moonsault got one. Theory threw lefts and put up Priest in a fireman’s carry. Bell clap by Priest. Ripcord flatliner by Priest. Priest went for a springboard move but Theory recovered and dumped Priest going into commercial.

Priest missed a pump kick and Theory hit a dropkick for two. He told the ref he’d never seen anything that good. Chinlock by Theory, who riled up Priest as he continued to jaw at him. Big combo of kicks and a forearm and lariat by Priest. Arrow and a big elbow. Falcon arrow got two for Priest. Priest missed a discus kick and then a splash in the corner. Theory hit a blue thunder bomb for two. Action went outside. Priest wanted South of Heaven, blocked. Cyclone kick by Priest. Razor’s Edge on the apron. Priest rolled in and fired up the simulated crowd (I don’t think there’s an actual crowd, due to the COVID thing). The Reckoning finished.

WINNER: Damian Priest at 11:04.

During the low-light post-match celebration, Johnny Gargano struck. Phillips called out Johnny TakeOver but the camera didn’t linger.

(Wells’s Analysis: I think Theory has lost three in a row, but he continues to get more and more minutes as he hangs with some of the mid-to-uppercard guys. The post-match attack by Gargano is fine but does little to offset the fact that this match was made with no fanfare, was the result of nothing specific and still has no issue)

-In a hype segment, Isaiah “Swerve” Scott reminded Santos Escobar that he had pinned him twice. He said he was the better competitor and he’s -this- close to beating him. He wants to do it again – no Legado del Fantasma, no manipulated lucha masks.

(5) ANTONIO DE LUCA vs. RIDGE HOLLAND

The slim De Luca charged and hit a few shots, but Holland shoved him away. Launch/pounce by Holland. Huge release belly-to-belly. Wow. Another. The simulated crowd booed Holland; seriously, where are all the babyfaces? Big headbutt in the corner. A series of headbutts on the sitting De Luca. Northern Grit, a sort of blockbuster powerslam, finished.

WINNER: Ridge Holland at 1:32.

(Wells’s Analysis: I’ve seen a lot of this from Ridge on NXT: UK, but this was a great enhancement match for him for a new audience.)

-The Garganos busted in on an Io Shirai interview. Damian Priest showed up and there was a lot of yelling. Up next, it’s the Gauntlet Eliminator, and the first two entrants will be Kushida and Kyle O’Reilly. The rules are that two begin and one more is added every four minutes, and eliminations happen via pinfall or submission.

-Connor’s Cure spot.

-Announced for next week thanks to tonight’s battle royal, Shotzi Blackheart faces Dakota Kai.

(6) KUSHIDA vs. KYLE O’REILLY vs. TIMOTHY THATCHER vs. BRONSON REED vs. CAMERON GRIMES – Gauntlet Eliminator to determine Finn Balor’s challenger for TakeOver

#1 Kyle O’Reilly, #2 Kushida

Kyle worked a brief headlock, then the two exchanged a number of grapples on the mat. Reset after about 45 second of that. Kushida grabbed a leg but Kyle worked a wristlock. Reversal. The two traded leg holds and broke at the rope at 1:30. Kyle worked a headlock. Rope run and a block by Kyle. Pump kick. Armdrag/dropkick by Kushida. Kushida wrapped up Kyle’s arms in his legs and wrenched them back. Kyle threw some kicks at a grounded Kushida but Kushida kicked upward and hit his feet. Kick exchange and a timer showed up in the bottom right corner. Shot exchange to the bell.

#3 Bronson Reed

Reed threw a forearm to Kushida, then launched him onto O’Reilly. Splash in the corner on both guys. Double back elbow by Reed. Enzuigiri on Reed by Kushida as Tom weirdly said the ring was “crowded” on a night with a battle royal. Kyle worked a heel hook on Reed and Kushida hit Kyle with a hoverboard lock. Reed splashed Kushida, oddly breaking up the elimination attempt. Huh? Reed blocked Kushida in the corner. Kyle threw some sots to Reed but Reed knocked him down. Reed went up top but both other guys slowed him down with shots. All threw went up the turnbuckle but Reed headbutted Kushida down. Kushida knocked Kyle from the ring. The ref checked on Kyle, and Velveteen Dream charged in and hit Dream Valley Driver on Kushida. Reed, who didn’t see it, hit the Tsunami to eliminate Kushida at 7:47.

#4 Timothy Thatcher

Thatcher tried to hit the ring but was knocked down by Reed upon entrance. The show went to commercial, still with 20 minutes to the hour, so this one will go a while after Grimes enters unless there’s a post-match angle.

Time was running out upon return as all three guys went at it with waistlock switches in the middle of the ring.

#5 Cameron Grimes

Grimes entered with a top-rope cross-body on Reed. Dropkick by Grimes for Thatcher. PK for O’Reilly. Thatcher went for the Fujiwara armbar and Grimes slipped out. All four guys hit rapid-fire impact shots. Grimes hit a slam on Thatcher and Reed hit Grimes with a big lariat, leaving all four guys selling on the mat.

O’Reilly and Thatcher exchanged shots on the apron. Reed charged in and Thatcher hit a headlock on him, and Grimes hit a superkick on Thatcher. Reed used the ropes to launch Grimes on top of the other two guys outside. Reed joined the other three on the NXT logo at the foot of the ramp. Thatcher took control and put Reed in the ring. Death valley driver got two for Reed. O’Reilly joined Reed for some action and Reed hit a powerbomb and held on for two. O’Reilly slipped out and Grimes entered to try Reed next. Grimes hit a forearm and a big kick for two. Reed bealed Grimes and Grimes bailed. The heels fought outside and Reed hit a tope on all three as the match went to split-screen. Through much of that segment, Thatcher and O’Reilly paired off, as did Reed and Grimes.

Upon return to full-screen, Grimes and Thatcher double-teamed Reed as O’Reilly was outside. Reed fought back but O’Reilly jumped in, then Reed took him down with a powerslam that Phillips called out as a tribute to Road Warrior Animal. Reed slammed Grimes on top of Thatcher and covered Thatcher for two. Reed went to the top, but Grimes held his leg. Thatcher went up with Reed and Reed fell down, and O’Reilly pinned Reed at 21:35 after a knee strike.

Thatcher struck in, but O’Reilly hit an ankle lock. The two exchanged grapples and shots. Grimes charged in and hit a release German on O’Reilly. Grimes fought off Thatcher briefly but Thatcher hit a reverse belly-to-belly on Grimes. Phillips announced that next week, Damian Priest and Io Shirai would face the Garganos in a mixed tag.

All three exchanged shots in the center of the ring. Thatcher caught O’Reilly with a sleeper. Grimes charged in but O’Reilly caught him. In the chaos, Grimes got dumped and O’Reilly hit his awesome kicks on Thatcher and grounded him. Rope run and Thatcher hit some European uppercuts. More kicks by O’Reilly. Sick palm strike by Thatcher. Backslide by O’Reilly got two. Rollup by O’Reilly finished Thatcher at 25:14. Cave In by Grimes got two, and O’Reilly got his foot on the ropes. Grimes thought he had it and protested when the ref told him O’Reilly’s foot was on the rope.

Grimes kicked down O’Reilly a couple of times and said “You’re nothing like Adam – he was the man of the group.” Was? Grimes did his twisting cross-body for a long two. The two exchanged shots on their feet, both in slow motion, selling the effects of the match. Grimes hit a big kick and missed a Cave in. O’Reilly caught Grimes with a submission and Grimes immediately tapped.

WINNER: Kyle O’Reilly at 27:48.

Tom said “here are the rest of the Undisputed Era boys” as Adam Cole and Roderick Strong, but not Bobby Fish, hit the ring to celebrate. Finn Balor made finger guns from the ramp as the show ended.

(Wells’s Analysis: With no obvious challenger to Balor, that was wide open. It amuses me that a brand chock full of heels ended up with a face vs. face championship match for TakeOver, given that Kyle has largely been on the babyface side of things with Adam Cole as part of the ongoing rift that may be developing in UE. I have no idea how the championship match will be handled, or if it’ll be the main event when it could easily be the proven matchup of LeRae vs. Shirai that gets the honor, but I can’t wait to see O’Reilly in a big singles spot. This match moved Kushida’s story forward and then produced some pretty strong action, especially in the last five minutes)


FINAL THOUGHTS: Apparently, there were significant changes to creative as a result of the COVID outbreak. Interestingly, to me, some of the missing faces are known anti-maskers, and I wonder if that’s where this new outbreak started. It was different – although I can’t say it was worse – not to have the PC crowd behind the glass; the lights were down behind the glass areas so as not to call attention to the lack of people. The show itself was okay, though it still feels a little haphazard to have three championship matches for TakeOver move forward on the same show, just 11 days from TakeOver, in these multi-person matches and a wacky tag mismatch. Nothing was bad, but we didn’t have that one standout singles match that we usually get on the show. I suppose it’s a necessary evil with just one week of TV left before TakeOver.

Check out PWT Talks NXT tonight at the link at the top of the page and follow me on social media @spookymilk.

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