11/18 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s report on Shirai defending against Ripley, Grimes vs. Lumis blindfold match, Finn Balor status update, more

By Kelly Wells, PWTorch contributor


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

NXT ON USA
NOVEMBER 18, 2020, 8PM EST
LIVE IN ORLANDO, FLA., AT CAPITOL WRESTLING CENTER
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Commentary: Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, Beth Phoenix


Join the “PWT Talks NXT” Dailycast with me, Nate Lindberg & Tom Stoup to break down the episode:

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[HOUR ONE]

-After the introduction of Leon Ruff, the show threw to a recap of what happened last week interspersed with a tiny bit of history on him. Johnny Gargano interrupted and said nobody wanted to see it. He told Ruff he was a pawn in Damian Priest’s game. The crowd chanted “Johnny Failure.” Ruff smiled in Gargano’s face until he called him a joke; Gargano threw a cheap forearm while still talking.

(1) LEON RUFF (c) vs. JOHNNY GARGANO – North American Championship match

Gargano blocked Ruff repeatedly in the corner, then whipped him to the opposite corner. Punches and chops in the corner by Gargano. He took a lap around the ring and Ruff fired back. Ruff did his corner escapes and Gargano briefly caught him, but Ruff fought back with some quick offense and dropkicked Gargano from the ring. Ruff ran the ropes and went for a tope, but it completely missed (Ruff landed on his feet so it wasn’t so bad). Back into the ring, Gargano took control and darted Ruff into the second turnbuckle. He repeated the move in the opposite corner and asked Ruff if he wanted to quit. Gargano set up a superkick and Priest hit the top of the ramp for the distraction. Ruff rolled up Gargano for two. Lariat by Ruff. Ruff missed a top rope senton and Gargano hit a superkick that showed a lot of light. Powerbomb by Gargano. One Final Beat was enough for Gargano to…nope, Priest yanked Ruff out of the ring and said “Sorry, kid” before laying him out with a punch for the disqualification. Priest tied together the North American championship belt and put it over Ruff’s head as he sold the pai of the match on the ramp and Gargano lost him mind.

WINNER: Johnny Gargano by disqualification at 4:48.

(Wells’s Analysis: I figured Gargano might get his championship back this week even before knowing there would be a match, but Priest continuing to destroy Gargano’s mind is a good way to go. Now we go back to waiting for Ruff’s (probably?) inevitable loss back to Gargano)

-Cameron Grimes promoted his blindfold match, up next.

-Outside, Rhea Ripley arrived ahead of her match with Io Shirai looking focused.

(2) DEXTER LUMIS vs. CAMERON GRIMES – Blindfold match

Before both put on their blindfolds, Grimes lurked behind Lumis looking for a moment for a cheap shot that never came. Referee Darryl Sharma – the zombie ref from the House of Terrors match – was of course the official. Both men put on the blindfolds and the bell rang. Lumis quickly laid out Grimes. Grimes searched obsessively for Lumis, who stood still near a corner. Grimes threw a punch and Sharma had to duck. Grimes accidentally backed Sharma into a corner, and when he touched him, he thought it was Lumis and he put him down, then booted him repeatedly. Grimes took off his blindfold and showed brief concern, then he charged Lumis, who moved. Lumis took off his blindfold and took total control, hitting a corner lariat and a bulldog. Lumis went for the Silencer and Grimes elbowed out of trouble and bailed. He tried to leave over the barricade but Lumis caught him and battered him into the Plexiglass, then did so again. He tried to toss Grimes into one section of Plexiglass, but Grimes hopped up and over the glass to escape. I assume they’ll come back to it later.

NO DECISION (so far) at 4:25.

-Backstage, Damian Priest was talking to William Regal and he said the whole thing with Leon Ruff was a bit of a joke. Ruff showed up and asked if Priest thought of him as a joke; Priest backtracked and said it just looked like he needed help and he didn’t want Gargano to win the title. Ruff said if he can’t defend it on his own, he doesn’t deserve to be champion. Priest again looked to smooth things over, and Ruff slapped him, then walked away. “That serves you right,” Regal said. I see a Ruff retention in a triple threat on the horizon.

-Shotzi Blackheart vignette. She said when life beats you down, you rebuild. She warned Candice that she knows something Candice doesn’t: on December 6th, they’re going to war. The screen confirmed that WarGames is on.

(3) KACY CATANZARO & KAYDEN CARTER vs. CANDICE LERAE & INDI HARTWELL

Hartwell and Carter opened. Carter shot in and took down Hartwell, then tied her up briefly before tagging Kacy, who rolled up Hartwell for two. Hartwell got up and took a shot, but Kacy made a blind tag. The two made a couple of quick tags and Catanzaro floated over with a senton for one. Headscissor takeover by Catanzaro allowed Candice to tag in. Stomachbreaker by Candice, who then worked an armbar. She cut off the tag and shot Catanzaro to the heel corner and mocked Carter. Hartwell tagged in and stomped Catanzaro. Hartwell whipped Catanzaro into the heel corner again and continued to fight off her attempts to get back in it. Sidewalk slam by Indi got two. Candice tagged in again and hit a body slam. She went for the step-over senton, but missed. Carter tagged in and took some quick shots. She draped Candice over her knee backward and threw lariats, then hit a flatliner from there. Scissor kick got two as Hartwell and Catanzaro laid each other out on the outside. Candice hit a brainbuster suplex, and Hartwell yanked Catanzaro away from a save. Candice hit Wicked Stepsister to win.

WINNER: Candice LeRae at 4:29.

-Brief Arturo Ruas vignette. He’s the former Adrian Jaoude who was seemingly marked to appear on the main roster over a year ago before his vignettes went away. He’s up next.

(4) KUSHIDA vs. ARTURO RUAS

I thought they were setting up a Ruas squash with the vignette. These two could have an incredible match given time, but I doubt we’re going long here. Ruas grounded Kushida briefly to open and took him down again with a leg, then worked an armbar and Kushida kicked his way free. Ruas put a knee in Kushida’s face and took him down again. He dropped elbows on Kushida’s arm to soften it and work against the Hoverboard Lock. McKenzie Mitchell, via phone, told us she hadn’t seen Finn Balor yet tonight.

Ruas took down Kushida by his hair and got two. Ruas worked the digits on Kushida’s left hand and slammed it down. Ruas took down Kushida in a Kimura lock and Kushida threw forearms to break it. Ruas hit a quick knee but Kushida hit a basement dropkick to the knee, then hit several kicks and his somersault into a dropkick for two. Kushida stomped on Ruas’s hand Ruas blocked a strike, but Kushida jumped into a Kimura lock of his own, which Ruas blocked. Ruas put on a lock but Kushida trapped him by bridging into a pin. Kushida seemed to briefly endorse Ruas, who sold frustration.

WINNER: Kushida at 4:23.

-McKenzie was backstage with Ember Moon and Toni Storm. Ember said she was glad to be at Storm’s side, and Storm said they’d take care of business. Things got mildly tense as they teased their plans for the NXT Women’s Championship, but they decided to table it for now and focus on tonight’s match.

-Hype for the women’s championship match. Several onscreen and backstage talents, including Road Dogg, Shawn Michaels and Triple H, weighed in on their thoughts about who would win tonight’s match. Simple stuff to give the main event even more weight.

(5) EMBER MOON & TONI STORM vs. DAKOTA KAI & RAQUEL GONZALEZ

Kai and Gonzalez were finishing their entrance when we joined them, and the faces both got full entrance. Moon and Storm teased entering the ring as the heels looked to get some cheap shots in, but they made it in without incident.

Storm and Gonzalez to open. Gonzalez laid out Storm quickly twice and tagged Kai, who ran the ropes and hit a face wash for a one count. Kai put Storm’s head in a turnbuckle and leaned in with her foot, then stomped on her and covered again for one. Inverted atomic drop by Storm, who ran the ropes and hit a basement dropkick. Snap suplex by Storm for a two count. Kai threw shots from her knees and took control. Snap mare by Kai, but Storm caught a running PK and made the tag, then threw Kai into a Moon lariat. Moon and Storm teamed up to clothesline Gonzalez from the ring leading to a split-screen commercial.

Back to action, Gonzalez was dominating Storm, who was on the receiving end of a heat segment during the break. Storm threw Raquel with a headscissors and made the hot tag. Moon grounded Gonzalez with kicks, stomped her and hit a running senton, then a superkick to a kneeling Gonzalez. Lungblower from the second buckle by Moon, but Kai pulled Moon off of her from the outside. Moon took the bait and gave chase, and Gonzalez laid her out with a lariat on the outside. Gonzalez face-planted Moon on the apron, then rolled her in for a two count.

[HOUR TWO]

Gonzalez worked a backbreaker submission over her shoulder, but Moon rolled through and dumped Gonzalez. She wanted the tag but Gonzalez stormed into the ring and pounced, charging Moon across the ring. She whipped Moon into the heel corner and tagged. Kai took down Moon for a two count. Kai took a cheap shot on Storm, opening space for Moon to headscissor Kai away and make the tag. Storm charged in and hit a couple of German suplexes. Kai tried to elbow out of a third, but Storm hit it. Hip attack in the corner by Storm. Fisherman suplex by Storm, and Gonzalez made the save. Storm headbutted Gonzalez and Moon superkicked her. The illegal women got dumped while Storm and Kai sold. They hit their feet and threw forearms. Storm went to the corner and Kai hit a face wash. Storm hit a kick of her own. Kai tied up the referee and Gonzalez took a shot at Storm, but Moon took out Gonzalez. In the ring, Kai went in toward Storm, who hit a small package for the win.

After the bell, Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell showed up on the ramp and beat down the faces, then threw them in the ring so the heels could pick the bones. Hartwell and LeRae looked into the ring at Kai and Gonzalez, obviously offering a spot on their WarGames team.

WINNERS: Ember Moon & Toni Storm at 12:07.

(Wells’s Analysis: Lively, fun tag match that probably deserved better than a small package ending, but the feud is continuing at WarGames, so whatever. We likely have the four heels here vs. Blackheart, Moon, Storm and one more, leaving Rhea Ripley or Io Shirai as a likely fourth (barring a WarGames Women’s championship rematch). Time again to wonder if the loser of the main event will go to the main roster)

-The unnamed four-man heel faction led by Pat McAfee arrived via limo.

-Finn Balor’s appearance later in the show was promoted.

(6) AUGUST GREY vs. TIMOTHY THATCHER

Grey was wearing trunks that looked like early-’90s Skybox basketball cards or the background when ToeJam & Earl are going to a new level. They certainly set him apart. Grey got in some quick shots but Thatcher hit a belly-to-belly and then hit an uppercut for a one count. Thatcher stomped Grey in the corner, then held Grey with a hammerlock and threw a big right and hit another suplex for a two count. Thatcher transitioned into a headlock and briefly cut off Grey’s breathing until he was forced to break. Big repeated uppercuts by Thatcher. Thatcher grounded Grey with a knee and threw a stiff punch to the ribs. He brought Grey to his feet for another uppercut. Grey tried a kick to get into it and Thatcher grounded him. Thatcher looked to trap a leg and Grey furiously kicked his way out of trouble. Grey hit repeated rights and then a superkick from the apron. Grey came off the top for something but got hit with an uppercut. Cravat finished. Thatcher got in Grey’s face and said the next lesson was not to pick a fight with someone you can’t beat. He went for the cravat again, but Tommaso Ciampa’s music played and he strode out to the ring. He faced off with Thatcher, who said he had no problem with Ciampa. Thatcher backed up and left the ring and Ciampa’s music played again.

WINNER: Timothy Thatcher at 4:26.

(Wells’s Analysis: Nobody has a bad match with Timothy Thatcher. Grey looked fine with what little offense he got, but I didn’t get a sense of his ceiling here. Interesting post-match development, although Ciampa’s “get off my lawn” act of the last couple of weeks would make it seem like he’d want to team with Thatcher, not take him down. Oh well. The usual dynamics don’t always seem to apply to Ciampa.)

-McKenzie caught up with Ciampa, who said he wanted to fight Thatcher.

-Damian Priest was introduced for a match that was never meant to happen, as Johnny Gargano charged and attacked him on the ramp. The two went at it in the ring and Priest got the better of Gargano. Priest took Gargano outside and cleared off the announce table. He rolled Gargano on top of it and Gargano kicked Priest away to avoid getting put through it. The action went back inside and Priest grabbed a chair, then entered the ring. Leon Ruff showed up and he got the better of both men, partially by accident as Priest was collateral damage. Ruff fired up and looked to exude genuine joy as he held up the belt. Wonderful visual as the two on the outside looked in incredulously at Ruff. Ruff escaped and taunted them with the belt on the ramp. The big question is whether this can last to WarGames or if it’ll be a TV payoff.

-Vic promoted The Undertaker: The Last Ride after USA tonight. Wade Barrett announced that he wasn’t able to be present next week, but he’s enlisted his good friend Kevin Owens to work the show in his place.

-William Regal went and knocked on a door looking for Boa. Boa answered the door and said he wasn’t going to the PC. He said “She’s coming.” Regal thought Boa meant Xia Li, so Boa reinforced his fear and that “she” wasn’t Xia. At least for now, it looks like the older man from last week’s segment was merely needed as a one-time messenger.

-WarGames spot. Black Sabbath’s song “War Pigs” is the theme (it played during the Shotzi scene earlier as well).

(7) RHEA RIPLEY vs. IO SHIRAI (c) – NXT Women’s Championship

Alicia Taylor handled introductions in low light. There’s plenty of time left in the hour, but of course we still have Finn Balor’s segment coming, and likely something with Pat McAfee.

Ripley planted Shirai from a collar and elbow. Arm drag by Shirai, followed by a shotgun dropkick. Chops by Shirai. Shirai went for a sunset flip, but Ripley fought her off and hit a shoulderblock. McKenzie Mitchell confirmed that Finn Balor was here and would speak after the women’s championship match. Ripley was dumped and Shirai went in for a tope, but Ripley popped up and hit Shirai with a forearm. Ripley hit Shirai with an electric chair drop on the apron leading to split-screen commercial.

Ripley controlled throughout the break and had Shirai in a triangle, but Shirai rolled to the top and threw forearms to break. Shirai missed running double knees and Ripley planted her to take control again. Ripley stomped Shirai and went for a suplex, but Shirai went for a small package. Impressively, Ripley rolled through that and hit the suplex anyway for a two count. Ripley hit an abdominal stretch as Balor arrived outside.

Shirai fought with shots to the breadbasket, but Ripley put Shirai up on the top turnbuckle and threw a big palm strike. Ripley went to the second turnbuckle and wanted a superplex, but Shirai slipped through Ripley’s legs and hit a big German suplex for a two count and an “NXT” chant, the first on a night of mostly quick matches. Shirai wanted a suplex but Ripley blocked. Shirai hit a double stomp on Ripley and ran the ropes for a basement dropkick and a two count. The camera didn’t shy away from a lot of blood on Ripley’s left ear, perhaps emanating from her gauged earring. Rhea used the blood to make a mark under her eye like a badass. Shirai worked on Ripley’s arm, wrenching it over her shoulder, then dropkicked the same arm. Ripley wanted a body slam but Shirai took her arm and wrenched it over the top rope, then did the same three times over the edge of the apron.

The two went up to the apron and fought for position. The action went to the floor and Shirai put Ripley’s bad arm into the steel steps as the match once again went to split-screen commercial. This time, Shirai controlled during the break as there’s no heel and each one had their own heat segment coming.

Ripley hit a superplex as the match returned to fullscreen. Ripley crawled over and covered for two. “This is awesome” chant. The two exchanged forearms from their knees and then their feet. Ripley blocked one and hit Shirai with some knee strikes. Snap mare and a dropkick by Ripley for two. Ripley showed some frustration, then went into the Prism Trap, which Wade again called the “inverted cloverleaf.” Did that move lose its name for some reason? Rhea spun Io around and planted her, still holding on, and Shirai fought her way over to the bottom rope to break.

Ripley went for Riptide, and Shirai countered and went into an armbar submission on the mat. Ripley desperately tried to break, and she raised up Io, who rolled through and held on. Ripley finally reached the bottom rope to break. Shirai went for 619 and missed, then tried again through the lower ropes and missed again. She hit some kicks and finally connected on 619. Shirai went up and hit a missile dropkick for two. Shirai sold frustration, then ran the length of the ring for double knees in the corner. Shirai went up and missed the moonsault. Ripley hit a lariat for two and then screamed as she didn’t get the three. Again Ripley went for Riptide but Shirai reversed into a DDT. The two sold on the mat. “NXT” chant.

Ripley went to the apron, and Shirai floated over her and walked her over and powerbombed her through the announce table. My oh my. Shirai went back to the ring and Ripley hobbled to the ring and made it in at nine to break as the crowd chanted that it was, indeed, awesome. Shirai hit her snap moonsault to finish. After the finish, the two women embraced outside on the ramp and shared a moment that could just as easily have been a goodbye.

WINNER: Io Shirai at 22:03.

(Wells’s Analysis: Wonderful TV championship match that picked up steam as it went on and told some good psychological stories. With Io not only retaining, but retaining clean, I have a sneaking feeling that Ripley is on her way north – likely to the troubled Raw roster.)

-Finn Balor passed by Shirai and headed to the ring. He congratulated Io Shirai and got on the mic. He said the last time he was there, he had a broken jaw. Now he’s back and a bad son of a bitch. Pat McAfee’s faction hit the ramp and Pat said that it was their show now, and he missed a lot. He said Finn must have seen what they were up to. He called out the men they’ve laid out. He was going to do the Fandango dance and song, but Pete Dunne held his hand to stop him. “You’re right,” McAfee said. He called out all of UE as their victims as well. All four men jumped up to the apron and McAfee said Balor should just hand the championship over to their group. Finn said “It’s easy for the mice to play while the cat’s away. But the cat is back – and look what I just dragged in.” Undisputed Era’s music playedand the four of them ran to the ring and battered McAfee’s faction. They were all in UE hoodies and jeans, all in black, so it was pretty messy as McAfee’s group was all in black as well. The battle raged on as the show ended.

(Wells’s Analysis: So, they used Balor’s announcement as a hook, but in the end, the segment was used to create the WarGames match and therefore they bought more time for the decision of whether to have Finn continue to be champion. None of this couldn’t be seen from a mile away, but it was still fun to get there, and in a single night we have our WarGames matches almost completely laid out despite no official announcements)


FINAL THOUGHTS: NXT, after a couple of shaky weeks of frenetic pacing and scattershot storytelling, seem to be finding a happy medium (or maybe I’m just willing to get used to it). We genuinely seemed to be moving toward some interesting places here, and existing feuds were given time as well. It’s frustrating that the second Ghostface story seems to have been completely dropped or put on the backburner, but other than that, this show made use of a very large portion of the roster, all leading to Io Shirai successfully defending in a fantastic main event that seemed all the more epic considering it was on a show with five matches that went under five minutes each. I’m not sure how NXT will fill out the rest of the TakeOver: WarGames card, but this episode proved once again that the brand is very good at getting from point A to point B in one night, no matter the number of moving parts. Join me and Tom Stoup tonight as we break down the show on PWT Talks NXT, and I’ll see you next week.

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