SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NXT ON USA
SEPTEMBER 30, 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
Join the “PWT Talks NXT” Dailycast with me, Nate Lindberg & Tom Stoup to break down the episode:
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-Recaps from last week opened with last week’s Gauntlet Eliminator match, followed with the women’s battle royal and finished with the setup for tonight’s mixed tag match.
(1) SHOTZI BLACKHEART vs. DAKOTA KAI (w/Raquel Gonzalez)
Shotzi was introduced first and drove her tank to the ring and howled. Tom Phillips mentioned that Wade Barrett is off again this week, so although NXT is coy about this kind of thing, this was likely taped after last week’s show.
Kai shoved Shotzi’s face. Both missed some shots early leading to a Kai waistlock. Standing switch. Rope run, Kai missed a PK. Rollup by Shotzi for two. Both women got two counts on rollups. Inverted atomic drop by Shotzi. She dropped her legs on Kai’s midsection, making her wait while she yelled out “Welcome to the ball pit.” Armbreaker by Shotzi, who rolled up Kai again for two. Shotzi tied up Kai’s legs and bridged, looking for a submission, but Kai escaped and looked for an armbar. Shotzi powered out of it and cleared out Kai, then took some shots in the corner. Kai took Shotzi to another corner and leaned in with a boot. Shotzi threw some forearms but Kai knocked her to a seated position and leaned in with a boot again. Suplex by Kai for two; Kai complained about the slow count.
To a corner, Kai threw shots. She leaned on Shotzi with a knee against the ropes, then charged in but Shotzi hit a drop toe-hold. Rope run by Shotzi, but Raquel was waiting. Kai hit a big backbreaker and the match went to split-screen.
Kai missed a pump kick. Shotgun dropkick by Shotzi, followed by a bulldog. Rising knee and a discus forearm. Step-enzuigiri. Shotzi hit a senton against Kai, who was draped on the ropes. Bridging chicken-wing German got two for Shotzi, who sold frustration. Shotzi charged the corner but Kai stomped her with double knees. Slam by Kai got two. She communicated with Raquel and they nodded at one another. Fireman’s carry and Shotzi escaped. Action went to a corner and both spilled to the apron and exchanged shots. Kick exchange. Shotzi blocked a pump kick and hit a question mark kick, then hit Sliced Bread off the top turnbuckle onto the apron, after which both spilled to the ground. Good Lord.
The referee headed out and checked on both wrestlers. Shotzi got back in the ring and she ran the ropes for a tope, but Raquel tripped her. Rhea Ripley charged down the ramp and slammed Raquel into the apron. In the ring, Kai went for a face wash. Shotzi moved, then quickly rolled up Kai for the win.
WINNER: Shotzi Blackheart at 13:08.
(Wells’s Analysis: Rhea is a surprise when she shows up, just because she’s been so far below where she’s been in the past. Rhea and Raquel doesn’t look like it’s going to make the TakeOver card, but we’ll get a few more weeks of TV out of it. The match here was a second straight very strong outing for Shotzi. This is a precarious position for either talent, who are hovering below the main event scene. Both need some signature wins, but it looks like Shotzi is the higher priority for the moment.)
-Tom Phillips moderated a chat between Santos Escobar and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, in split screen. Swerve said he was the only one to beat Santos Escobar, and he’d do it again. He said previous opportunities weren’t fair, but this one will be. Escobar said he hates things that linger. He called Swerve a loose end. He said the match will be fair, and Swerve asked if it really would be. He said there’s always something with Escobar. Escobar says all he hears is excuses, but when it really counts, Swerve can’t deliver. Swerve said the reality is that he’s adapted to everything in this business. Every roadblock. He’s ready for everything. He said he was going to showcase to the world what he’s really capable of, and that Santos Escobar is a fraud. Escobar said that’s the difference between them. Swerve made it about himself, and that’s where he’ll fail. Escobar said he built the cruiserweight title in his image. He said Swerve has no respect for his culture, and all of Swerve’s showcasing won’t be enough. He said what Swerve calls “a bag of tricks” is a century of tradition, and he’ll bury Swerve with it. Swerve said he’d like to see him try.
(Wells’s Analysis: Not sure why these two have seen so little ring time lately. They’ve done a great job of selling the match with what they’ve been given, but I have to assume there’s something keeping them from being able to bring it to the ring, beyond the obvious explanation of too little time to go around)
-TakeOver 31 spot briefly promoted the three singles championship matches.
-Another spot like last week hyped the return of a former NXT talent returning at TakeOver. It was lit in green and the talent, with a manipulated voice, rode a motorcycle and talked about going home again.
-Kyle O’Reilly vignette. He said he would still be wrestling even if it was just for five dollars a weekend. He said Undisputed Era was the best thing that ever happened to him, and they were his legit best friends. Adam Cole put him over as a great friend and one of the best he’s ever shared the ring with. Cole said being NXT Champion meant more than anything to Kyle. O’Reilly said he’d had his sights on Finn Balor for a long time, and they’re finally in the same place. Some videos of old Kyle O’Reilly matches from the indies, interspersed with some shots in the PC, played as he promoted his match. He said if he wins, the Undisputed Era sticks together. This is just the second wave of the golden prophecy, and that’s Undisputed.
(Wells’s Analysis: Good hype package, as always, showing O’Reilly in a pure babyface light even though UE are in a very disjointed place right now. Today on the NXT Conference Call I asked Triple H about O’Reilly’s push, and he acknowledged that the timetable was being sped up because of the Karrion Kross situation, but they’ve had a singles run in mind for him for some time. I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if O’Reilly is the next NXT Champion, but I don’t think this will be the match; I expect this match to blow up UE to some degree and for Kyle to get another shot completely free of the group)
-Tegan Nox’s legit torn ACL was framed as being the result of an attack by Candice LeRae. The Garganos were interviewed and they said it was karma, really; Nox broke their TV, and Candice tore her ACL. Johnny said tonight the power couple teams up, and their destiny is to become the first married couple to be NXT Champions at the same time. LeRae said it starts tonight, and Sunday, it’s finished. Gargano mocked interviewer Sarah Schreiber as she walked off, saying she was so good.
(2) ARIEL DOMINGUEZ vs. CAMERON GRIMES
Grimes, introduced first, said he wasn’t in the best mood right now. He said it was all taken away by the Gauntlet Eliminator. He said it couldn’t be Regal because he’d think of something way better. He said he had an idea: The Cameron Grimes Invitational Stepping Stone to the Moon match. He said he’d hand-picked the opponents. Ariel was introduced as Grimes made up a fake name (Joey Pistachio) and attributes for him. Grimes hit an immediate Cave In.
WINNER: Cameron Grimes at 0:07.
Grimes introduced the second competitor, Joey Strong (who had the name “Lockhart” on his gear) but Ridge Holland destroyed Lockhart on the ramp and inserted himself, against Grimes’s wishes.
(3) RIDGE HOLLAND vs. CAMERON GRIMES
Holland went at Grimes with forearms, then stomped him quickly and repeatedly until the ref called for the bell. After the “match,” Holland glared out at Grimes’s carcass and walked up the ramp.
WINNER: Cameron Grimes via DQ at 0:36.
(Wells’s Analysis: It looks like Holland will be a brute babyface, and not heel. That’s a good thing given the breakdown right now)
-Sarah Schreiber asked Austin Theory about his struggles. Theory said he should’ve been in the Gauntlet Eliminator. He said it was inspirational that it took Kyle O’Reilly 15 years to get a championship opportunity. He said that’s over half his life now. He said Kyle should be trying to catch up to Austin Theory.
-Kushida vignette. He said it was hard to concentrate with his life in transition when he got here, and injuries set him back, but the time has come to gear up a notch and go ballistic. He said he’d explode at TakeOver and dance into the core of NXT. He said the new Kushida is vicious.
(Wells’s Analysis: With Kushida’s presentation coupled with Velveteen Dream’s real-life struggles right now, I’m expecting a decisive win for Kushida at TakeOver before we inevitable start asking the question again about what they’ll do with Dream next. Kushida doesn’t seem ready for the main event scene quite yet, but can be a realistic and credible opponent for the North American Championship or Cruiserweight Championship as soon as there’s room for a challenger)
(4) KUSHIDA vs. TONY NESE
Beth said Kushida was sick of people mistaking his humility for weakness, and he’s done with that. Nese, introduced second, hasn’t been on NXT since shortly after the Cruiserweight tournament.
Nese flexed and Kushida kicked him in the face. Another boot to the face. Rope run and Nese put on the brakes and hit a forearm. Slingshot. Action went outside and Kushida put Nese’s shoulder into the post. Back inside. Kicks by Kushida. Nese hit a pumphandle to set up a slam, but Kushida, wrenched his arm and slammed down on it. He ran with it again and drove the arm to the canvas. He stomped on Nese’s chest while holding his arms, then did the spot again. Hoverboard Lock.
WINNER: Kushida at 2:12.
(Wells’s Analysis: They’re not kidding around with Kushida this time. Here’s hoping he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle)
-After the match, a purple filter went out over the arena and Velveteen Dream showed up on the tron. Dream said he always puts on his best performances under the biggest spotlight.
-Backstage, Cameron Grimes was whining and he wanted to know where William Regal was. He stopped cold when he ran into Dexter Lumis backstage, unseen since injury took him out of the North American Championship ladder match. “Do you know where Mr. Regal is?” Grimes asked. After Lumis of course said nothing, Grimes said “Whatever. You’re a freak” and he walked off as Lumis followed him with his eyes.
-Adam Cole was in the ring with a mic. He said for three years, Undisputed Era has dominated. He said the prophecy of winning every championship came true. Even more importantly, people in the locker room knew that if you crossed Undisputed Era, you’d pay. Then the prophecy ended. People felt the UE changed and they could say what they wanted to them without repercussion. He said they were the same UE that won the first WarGames match in NXT. The same UE who dominated the brand like no one else. So Austin Theory…you want to run your mouth about Kyle O’Reilly? Bring your ass to the ring.
Theory hit the ramp and told Cole to calm down and not be so mad. Theory wouldn’t come down the rest of the ramp. Cole said he had two options: fight him like a man, or stay right where you are because he and the rest of the Undisputed Era will make him wish he chose option one. Theory hit the ring.
(5) ADAM COLE vs. AUSTIN THEORY
Cole beat Theory from one corner to another. Mudhole stomp. Knee and a pump kick by Cole. Neckbreaker. Rope run and Theory ducked a pump kick and bailed. Cole followed him out and hit the pump kick on the NXT logo. Cole battered Theory’s head into the apron, then tossed him into the steps. Back inside, Theory tried to catch Cole but he hit a step-up kick and entered. Rude Awakening by Cole for two. Theory, from his back, said he could do this all day.
Another neckbreaker by Cole. Cole tied up Theory in the corner and hit a dropkick. Sleeper hold on the mat and Theory still jawed, saying “Undisputed Crap.” Theory hit his feet and took a couple of shots but ran into a back elbow. Cole tossed Theory into a corner. Irish whip, reverse, and Theory hit a big dropkick for two. The match went to commercial after Theory’s first offensive move.
Theory stomped a mudhole as Phillips said Theory had controlled through the break. Chinlock by Theory, who rubbed his elbow in Cole’s face. Cole tried some shots but Theory hit a backbreaker. Standing moonsault got two for Theory. To a corner, Theory charged a boot. Cole hit two back elbows and a pump kick to put Theory down. Step-up kick and a backstabber by Cole for two. Another pump kick and an ushigoroshi by Cole got two. I guess Phillips doesn’t know what the move is called either.
Panama Sunrise was blocked. Theory kicked the back of Cole’s head. Blue Thunder Bomb got a long two. Theory jawed at Cole some more and the two, from their knees, exchanged forearms. To their feet. Lefts by Theory. Rights by Cole. Rope run and Cole hit a superkick. Theory rolled to the apron. He rolled into the ring and took another superkick. Last Shot by Cole finished. Cole got into the camera’s face and said Kyle O’Reilly was born ready. He said O’Reilly would shock the world on Sunday, but he wouldn’t shock Cole.
WINNER: Adam Cole at 12:57.
(Wells’s Analysis: I love guys like Cole and Tommaso Ciampa having multiple finishes so they can fail at one and swiftly fall back on the other. It’s another long match with a star and another loss with Theory, who’s winless since his TV return. Even in the case that the losing streak is a sort of punishment for Theory’s role in #speakingout, he’s benefiting huge from being in this spot and his ring work continues to deliver in a big way. Adam Cole’s heavy endorsement of O’Reilly continues to suggest the two might end up babyface while the other two members of UE don’t follow them)
-Sarah Schreiber interviewed Damian Priest and Io Shirai ahead of their mixed tag. Priest and Io, the rock stars of NXT, would take care of business. Io spoke for a minute in Japanese, and then put up devil horns and said “rock star.” Priest fist-bumped her with his own devil horns and said “She’s cool as hell” to Sarah and walked off. Io said “He’s not bad.”
(6) KAYDEN CARTER (w/Kacy Catanzaro) vs. XIA LI
Xia still went with her babyface entrance so I guess she’s still got another heelish thing or two to do before the full turn. Quick rollups and reversals to open. Reset. Waistlock, switch, rollup by Kayden for two. Dropkick by Kayden for two. Li bailed. Li tripped Kayden from outside, then yanked her hard to the floor outside. Catanzaro tried to fire up Kayden as Xia went back to the ring and waited. Carter entered and Li stomped her down for two. Xia hit some knees and a thrustkick for two. Li covered again out of frustration and got one. Again.
To a corner, and Carther threw several chops. Rope run and Carter hit a superkick to a kneeling Li. Cover for two. Sunset flip by Li for two. Carter semi-awkwardly rolled up Li for the win. Li sulked in the corner. Carter helped her up, but Li shoved her to the mat. Catanzaro tried to talk to Li but she shoved her away as well.
WINNER: Kayden Carter at 3:23.
(Wells’s Analysis: This seems like taking the same step with Xia that was already taken, but I guess they wanted one more week out of the turn. A heel turn might do something for Xia Li, but losing to women on the lower end of the current totem pole with rollups won’t do her many favors)
-Shawn Michaels was in the ring with Kyle O’Reilly and Finn Balor, in an empty arena in low light. HBK said there doesn’t seem to be any animosity, and said they could shake hands, which they did. The two put each other over briefly. HBK said Finn was doing his best work and he asked him about O’Reilly. Balor said O’Reilly wasn’t a secret to him. He might be a secret to the fringe wrestling fan, but not him.
O’Reilly said Finn was so…good…at stroking his own ego. He said Finn was facing certain defeat. He said UE’s success was great but this Sunday is about Kyle O’Reilly’s moment. HBK asked about the “elephant in the room,” which was problems that might arise if Kyle wins the Championship. Kyle started getting pretty goofy comparing himself to Adam Cole and Finn made some threats. Kyle said this is the Finn he wanted. Finn said there would be no room for jokes on Sunday. Kyle said this Sunday wasn’t just the biggest match of his career, it was the biggest match of his life. Finn said he needed to know the difference between a main event that lasts a night, and a main event that lasts forever. Kyle said that the fact he’s considered the underdog is bulls**t. He said Finn’s never stepped in the ring with a man like him. He said this Sunday a so-called “tag team champion” would do it again. HBK said Finn, the champion, got the final word. Finn said Kyle was really, really good, and he would be the champion if the belt was on the waist of literally anyone else.
(Wells’s Analysis: Kyle has leaned more and more babyface for so many weeks, it was jarring to see him heel from his first comment. That’s another hint that Kyle’s story has a lot more left in it. They didn’t have a lot of time to work with for this championship match, but they put some somewhat believable doubt on Sunday’s outcome throughout the show tonight and O’Reilly’s credibility should continue to get a big boost from it after a probable hard-fought loss that earns Balor’s respect)
-Tom and Beth ran down the five-match card for TakeOver 31, finishing with my call for the main event, Candice LeRae and Io Shirai (though I also wouldn’t be shocked if it opens)
(7) DAMIAN PRIEST & IO SHIRAI vs. JOHNNY GARGANO & CANDICE LERAE
Gargano & LeRae were introduced first as the announcers asked the question of whether they could walk out of TakeOver both wearing gold. Priest, then Shirai, each got their music played and got revved up on the ramp. They hit the ring and cleared it while the light show was going on. The ref got everyone to their corners to get the match underway.
The men started. Gargano tried to duck, punch and move. Rope run and Priest hit a big boot. Big forearm and shots in the corner by Priest. Irish whip and a huge sidewalk slam by Priest. Gargano tagged LeRae and Priest, who wanted to continue the onslaught on Johnny, reluctantly tagged.
Palm strikes in the center of the ring. LeRae took Io to a corner and charged but ate boots. Candice blocked a German and rolled up Shirai for two. Flapjack by Shirai. Candice collapsed in a corner and Io went in for the kill, but Gargano charged in and blocked her. Priest entered and hit a big thrustkick with Io between them. The Garganos headed outside the ring, and Priest put Io up on his shoulders and she splashed both of them as the match went to split screen.
The women were in the ring upon return, with Candice in control. She stomped Io as Johnny cheered demonstratively on the apron. Candice jawed down at Shirai, who hit a big palm strike followed by a German suplex with a release. Hot tag and the men were in the ring. Lariat by Priest. Charging elbow in the corner. Broken Arrow got two. Gargano slipped out of Razor’s Edge and took down Priest, who returned fire with some kicks. The women tagged in and Io took down Candice with some blocks. Candice blocked the Tiger Driver but Io hit the crossface. Gargano yanked Shirai off of Gargano. Shirai knocked Gargano from the apron with Priest’s help, but LeRae took control in the ring. LeRae missed a moonsault and LeRae hit a backbreaker and went up for the moonsault. Gargano rolled LeRae from the ring and Priest hit him with a bell clap to knock him down. Shirai hit the moonsault on Gargano and tagged Priest. Priest wanted the Reckoning, but the ref tied up with Shirai, and LeRae hit a low blow on Priest. One Final Beat by Gargano was enough.
After the result, the Garganos took a couple more shots at the champions. Replays played, after which Gargano went out and grabbed both belts so he and Candice could pose with them. He presented the Women’s Championship to Candice like he was proposing to her with it. They held the belts high as the show ended.
WINNERS: Johnny Gargano & Candice LeRae at 10:14.
(Wells’s Analysis: The conceit of a tag match where each person can only face one of the other team is absurd, but WWE has gotten a lot better at the formula. There was a lot of pure fun in here and the Priest/Shirai pairing seems like it could have legs if there was such a thing as a mixed tag division. The challengers of course went over heading into TakeOver, where I’m predicting Candice but not Johnny to win gold.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: This week was a lot more polished than last week’s show, where nearly everyone on the roster had a shot to be on TakeOver as a challenger. The build to Sunday has been short and lacking, but as go-home shows go, this was fairly strong and put some new intrigue on a couple of the matches. Then there’s the big question of who’s returning to NXT on Sunday, and I’ve heard every answer from Bo Dallas to Kevin Owens, though I think the pick I like most is Tom Stoup’s suggestion of Ember Moon, who never found much footing on the main roster and might be right at home in NXT again, though the women’s division is as crowded as ever.
The in-ring minutes were fairly light this week at 42 compared with the average of about 50-55 (with last week surpassing 70), but the three matches that got time were all worth seeing, so it’s a thumbs up this week, with the caveat that I hope future TakeOvers don’t seem to take the booking team by surprise.
Follow me on social media @spookymilk and check out PWT Talks NXT tonight using the link at the top of the page.