SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Kushida vs. Tommaso Ciampa
As the bell rang, on commentary Wade Barrett suggested that this was a Takeover Caliber matchup. I couldn’t agree more with that statement. Ciampa is arguably the top guy in NXT. Whether he is in title contention or not, his stories matter on NXT TV. Everything that he does feels important. Kushida is a bit of a reclamation project after injuries set him back. He’s been showing an intensity lately that we haven’t ever seen out of Kushida in either NXT or NJPW.
That new found intensity from Kushida coupled with the charisma and star power of Ciampa made for a compelling match on paper. Once the two men entered the ring, they lived up to my expectations. This was a very fast-paced and energetic contest. Ciampa may have had a bit more control of the match, but this was a more even fight than Kushida/Dream was this past Sunday.
While I enjoyed the match proper, the finish left me scratching my head. Sure, I can understand Velveteen Dream wanting revenge after his loss at Takeover. But why was Kushida disqualified? When Dream came off the top rope, he hit both men which should have resulted in a no-contest. Ciampa was awarded the victory instead. The match itself was entertaining enough for this segment to warrant a HIT. But, I was not overly impressed with that finish.
I also don’t understand why this company continues to promote Velveteen Dream, but… I’ll leave those rants for PWT Talks NXT.
Ember Moon Returns to NXT TV
Back from a commercial break, Ember Moon stood in the center of the ring. She was the “mystery biker” who we have seen vignettes for over the past few weeks. Moon acknowledged that she was on the shelf for 14 months and is glad to be back. She cut a promo about riding her motorcycle that remind me of that shoot-style promo The Undertaker cut in 1999 about he and The Big Show going riding. At least the start of her promo, anyway.
The segment got rather chaotic when Moon said that she wanted gold. Io Shirai confronted her in the ring. Before she could say anything, Rhea Ripley emerged from the back. Then Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzales attacked Ripley, prompting Moon to go to Ripley’s aide. Regal then made a tag match, Kai & Gonzales vs. Ripley & Moon for later in the night.
I think this segment served it’s purpose to move the NXT Women’s Division storylines forward. But this felt a bit too main-roster for me. I’m okay with the outcome, but as a whole it felt a bit messy to me.
Drake & Dain Interviewed
Earlier in the day, they filmed a segment with Drake Maverick & Killian Dain. Maverick is convinced that the duo is a tag team. Killian Dain continues to deny it. This made for some funny banter between the two men leading into the announcement of a match against Ever Rise.
Shirai Backstage Interview
Shirai was asked why she didn’t intervene when Ripley was attacked. She said that none of the women involved were her problem. The NXT Womens Championship “is her problem”. She spoke in broken English, but I took that to mean that she is focused on the title. Not on squabbles between other competitors.
Frankly, that is exactly the mentality that I think a champion should have.
Undisputedly Upset at Ridge Holland
At Takeover 31, we saw Ridge Holland deliver a beaten and unconscious Adam Cole ringside during Balor/O’Reilly. Undisputed Era addressed this in a promo where they were all sitting together backstage. This was the first time we saw all of them on screen together in weeks, with the exception of the end of Takeover 31 for that beatdown. They stood unified and told Holland that he would pay for what he did.
I think Holland is a red herring, I don’t believe he was the one who carried out the attack. I think he found Cole and was trying to do the right thing by bringing him to his buddy, KOR. It just seems to obvious that Holland was the culprit.
Ever Rise vs. Killian Dain & Drake Maverick
Dain & Maverick have the potential to be my new favorite comedy tag team, a void left by the Broserweights. They entered the ring to their new “Tag Music”, which was hilariously awful. Maverick is giving this his all, thinking he just needs to win over the big man. Meanwhile, Dain wanted nothing to do with the match until Ever Rise started mocking him. Then, Dain did what he did best. Wrecked everyone. Including his tag partner, powerbombing Maverick onto Martel for the win.
After the match, Maverick was dancing to their new music, and Dain clobbered him once more. On his way up the ramp, he started to feel bad, turned around, and carried Maverick to the back.
This will not be everyone’s cup of tea. The comedy is relatively lame and dorky. But for those of us who are fans of lame humor, thumbs up!
Dog Walking With The Gargano’s
Johnny and Candice were out walking their dog, talking about how much “Sunday sucked” only to return home and find a new TV on their doorstep! After their guest room TV was destroyed in that incident with Nox, Indi Hartwell of all people sent this gift. LaRae couldn’t figure out why Hartwell would have sent the TV while Johnny didn’t care. “Hey, Free TV!”
This was the Gargano’s at their comedic best, and I appreciated the snarky Johnny. The inclusion of Indi seemed odd here, but it was fleshed out later in the show.
Austin Theory vs. Leon Ruff
Glad to see Leon Ruff actually getting some TV time. Botched move at the end of the match aside, Ruff looked great as a bump machine for the controversial Austin Theory. After Theory won, he called out Adam Cole and his “broken ribs” He then said that he is the future of NXT and no one can do a thing about it, challenging someone to another match.
Dexter Lumis answered the challenge, and he made his way to the ring.
Austin Theory vs. Dexter Lumis
With the exception of Theory’s bumping, I wasn’t really into this matchup. The two just didn’t seem to have chemistry together. The relatively lackluster response from the audience didn’t help matters either.
This just seemed to serve as a platform to launch Lumis into a feud with Cameron Grimes, who attacked after the match. While I am all for a Lumis/Grimes feud, Theory just seems to be in an odd place on the card right now. He’s lost week after week and then keeps calling out Adam Cole. Other than their one matchup, Cole hasn’t really responded to any of Theory’s trash talk. In fact, he’s now embroiled in a feud with Ridge Holland.
Due to the mediocre match and booking of Theory, I couldn’t give it a HIT.
Kai & Gonzales, Confident as Ever
McKenzie asked the duo why they stepped into Rhea Ripley’s business earlier in the night. They responded with a headstrong attitude that is 100% fitting of their characters. They believe that they are the rightful contenders to Shirai’s title and that they’ll prove it in their match later on in the night.
I continue to love this pairing. I compared Kai to Bayley quite a bit when they both individually broke bad. Both women had similar face gimmicks before their heel turns. At the time, I thought Kai was outshining Bayley in he heel work. Then Bayley stepped her game up with her shenanigans with Sasha. Now, I feel like the two women are near equal in the work they produce.
Prime Target Video: Takeover 31 Main Event
This was a very well-produced video that showcased the story of KOR going into the match, the match itself and its outcome. The match at Takeover was one of the best that I’ve seen all year, so it was a joy to relive it in a packaged segment. Plus, it took a look at the respect between the two men and the injuries they inflicted on one another.
Finn Balor broke his jaw and KOR walked away with some bumps and bruises. They said that KOR will be out of action this week and it will be “some time” before we see Balor back on TV. However, they didn’t mention needing to strip him of the title. I take that as a sign that they believe Balor will not be gone long.
Ridge Holland vs. Danny Burch
While I still think Holland is a red herring, not actually being the one to take out Adam Cole, they positioned him as the heel tonight against Danny Burch. A very short but technically sound match, really putting the emphasis on the brutality of Holland.
Holland looks to be bound for a feud with Adam Cole/Undisputed Era. In the meantime, I am a-okay with Danny Burch and potentially Oney Lorcan getting some TV time along side him.
Return to the Gargano’s
Johnny found a USB stick in the box with the TV. The USB contained the Women’s Battle Royal match from a few weeks ago. Indi Hartwell edited the match to point out every time that Indi saved Candice from being eliminated, showing LaRae that Hartwell is in her corner.
This blew my freaking mind. Rarely will they put enough foresight into a story where they will incorporate a small detail like this into a show, only to pay it off weeks later. While Hartwell hasn’t impressed me yet in the ring, I will wait to pass judgment on her just yet. Tom Stoup, one of my PWT Talks NXT cohosts is very high on Hartwell after seeing her perform in person numerous times. I trust Tom, so I’m waiting patiently to see how Indi fares over the next few weeks.
Shotzi Blackheart vs. Xia Li
An incredibly short match between the newly announced host of Halloween Havoc, Shotzi Blackheart, and her opponent Xia Li. Li has been on a losing streak lately, losing consecutively to Kayden Karter and Kacy Catanzaro. Tonight she looked to try and topple Shotzi, but Shotzi couldn’t be tanked. (I apologize… that was an awful joke. Just not awful enough for me to delete it).
Interestingly, Chinese wrestler Boa emerged ringside after Shotzi’s win. Boa has been injured for months after making his debut in NXT in late 2019. It seems he may be in a non-wrestling role here, as he showed up in a suit with some sort of letter for her to read.
While I’m totally on board with this Li/Boa pairing, as it is certainly intriguing, I kind of shake my head at the same time. I believe they are the only two Chinese wrestlers on the roster. If the company didn’t have a history of placing wrestlers of similar ethnicities together, I might over look this. But to me, this seemed like “Hey, lets put the two Chinese wrestlers together because they are Chinese! What a novel idea!”
Maybe I’m wrong. But, case in point – The Hurt Business.
Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzales vs. Rhea Ripley & Ember Moon
I’ll give Ember Moon a bit of a pass considering this is her first match back after 14 months out of the ring. However there were a few clear signs of ring rust as the match progressed. Moon was a strong competitor in NXT and I feel like she floundered on the main roster. Seeing her back in the NXT environment is promising that she will be a dominant force once again.
Speaking of dominant forces, I am longing for the Rhea Ripley of 2019. The damage is reversible at this stage, but the shine she once had has started to fade after her Wrestlemania loss. Tonight, she was the one in the ring taking all of the offense from Kai/Gonzales so they could build to an Ember Moon hot tag.
Of course, putting the returning Moon over strong is a smart way to go. Sacrificing the dominance of Ripley by allowing her to take a beating for as long as she did seems like the exact opposite. A year ago, we would never have seen Ripley take this much punishment.
They continue to bill her as the most dominant force in NXT. If you were to watch this match in a bubble, with no other storyline context, I can’t see anyone calling Rhea “dominant”
This whole match seemed chaotic and disjointed, seemingly by design. I enjoyed it enough to give it a HIT, but it wasn’t quite the main event that I was hoping for.