11/18 NXT ON USA TV REPORT: Hustwaite’s “alt-perspective” report on Io Shirai vs. Rhea Ripley for the NXT Women’s Championship, Leon Ruff vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT North American Championship, Finn Balor, more

By Matt Hustwaite, PWTorch Contributor


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

NXT ON USA TV REPORT
NOVEMBER 18, 2020
ORLANDO, FLA., AT CAPITOL WRESTLING CENTER
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY MATT HUSTWAITE, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Announcers: Vic Joseph, Beth Phoenix, Wade Barrett

[HOUR ONE]

– NXT North American champion Leon Ruff was introduced, and be bounded to the ring, still enthusiastic about his surprise title victory over Johnny Gargano last week. A highlight package began to air but it was cut off by Johnny Gargano, who told Ruff he was a pawn in Damian Priest’s plan to humiliate Gargano. Ruff held the championship up and Gargano told Ruff he was a joke.

(1) LEON RUFF (c) vs. JOHNNY GARGANO – for the NXT North American Championship

Gargano tacked Ruff into the corner and rammed him. Gargano sent Ruff into the opposite corner with an Irish whip and unloaded with punches and chops. Ruff fought his way out of the corner after Gargano arrogantly did a lap of the ring. Gargano tried to roll Ruff up but Ruff countered with a handstand kick. Ruff mounted some offense and sent Gargano to the outside with a dropkick. Ruff dove over the top rope and missed a tope. Both wrestlers returned to the ring and Gargano countered a crucifix driver attempt from Ruff with a clothesline.

Gargano launched Ruff into the second turnbuckle. Gargano took Ruff to the opposite corner and did the move again, trash-talking Ruff as he did so. Gargano was distracted by Damian Priest, who walked out to the entrance area. Ruff tried to take advantage of the distraction with a rollup but Gargano kicked out. Ruff went up top and attempted a senton, which Gargano managed to avoid. Gargano hit a powerbomb on Ruff and followed-up with a One Final Beat. Gargano covered Ruff for the pin but Priest dragged Ruff out of the ring. Priest apologised to Ruff before knocking him out with a right-hand to cause a disqualification.

WINNER: Johnny Gargano by disqualification at 4:50

– Gargano freaked out in the ring as Priest dragged a still loopy Ruff up the ramp. In a funny visual, Priest put the title belt over Ruff’s head.

– Cameron Grimes was walking backstage and bragged about coming up with the idea of a blindfold match to hide Dexter Lumis’ “scary face”. [c]

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: This storyline is being executed very well. Gargano is still looking strong, as he dominates Ruff in the ring, Priest is showing he can be a likeable babyface outside of being a “cool dude” and Ruff, well, Ruff is getting TV time as a champion. Although, some in-ring weaknesses of his are exposed when he not simply “jobbing out”. That said, Ruff plays his role really well.)

– Rhea Ripley was shown arriving at the Capitol Wrestling Center ahead of her NXT Women’s Championship match against Io Shirai.

(2) DEXTER LUMIS vs. CAMERON GRIMES in a Blindfold Match

Grimes looked like he wanted to jump the blindfolded Lumis before the match began but he didn’t follow through. Grimes ticked all the boxes for a heel in a blindfold match – fearing putting the mask on, blindly stumbling around the ring and taking swings. Lumis landed a blow on Grimes. Grimes searched around the ring for Lumis as Lumis simply stood in the corner. Grimes attacked the referee, thinking the ref was Lumis.  Grimes removed his mask and realised he took out the referee. Grimes tried to take advantage by attacking Lumis but Lumis felt it coming and took Grimes down with a right hand. Lumis’ mask ended up coming off and he dominated Grimes. Grimes escaped to ringside, but Lumis followed and threw Grimes into the barricade. Grimes ran away to escape as the match seemingly ended.

No Contest (?) at 4:20

– Backstage, William Regal chewed out Damian Priest for interfering in the North American Championship match. Priest played things down and said it was just a joke. Leon Ruff took issue with being called a joke. Priest tried to explain himself and apologized. Ruff said he would prove he is not a joke and slapped Priest before leaving. [c]

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: Blindfold matches are always a bit hokey and Grimes vs. Lumis was no exception. I imagine the match will continue later on or at least have the non-finish lead to another gimmick match at WarGames.)

– A vignette for Shotzi Blackheart aired, promoting a match at WarGames vs. Candice LeRae.

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

Carter started the match with Hartwell and tagged in-and-out with Catanzaro to isolate Hartwell. Catanzaro hit a running senton for a one-count. Catanzaro hit a headscissor takeover and Hartwell ended up close enough to her corner for LeRae to tag in. LeRae hit a gutbuster and applied an armbar. Hartwell tagged back and double-teamed Catanzaro with LeRae. Hartwell hit a sidewalk slam for a two-count. LeRae tagged in and missed a step-over senton. Catanzaro made the tag to Carter, who went after LeRae with shots to the chest followed by a flatliner.  Carter knocked Hartwell to the floor and hit LeRae with a superkick for a two-count. LeRae regained control after pulling Carter’s hair and dropped her with a brainbuster. LeRae hit the Wicked Stepsister and covered Carter for the win.

WINNER: Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell at 4:30

– A promo for the return of Arturo Ruas aired. Ruas will be in action after the commercial break. [c]

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: A basic showcase match to introduce the audience to the new duo of LeRae and Hartwell. Not much more to note!)

– Io Shirai was shown entering the arena.

(4) KUSHIDA vs. ARTURO RUAS

Back and forth mat wrestling started the match, with Ruas attempting to take control with a Kimura that Kushida managed to avoid. Ruas landed a combo of forearm and elbow strikes and locked in an armbar. Ruas slammed Kushida for a two-count. Ruas targeted each finger on Kushida’s hand and locked in another armbar. Kushida fought out of the hold with forearm strikes. Kushida hit a basement dropkick and then his somersault dropkick for a two-count. Kushida applied a kimura which Ruas reversed into a surfboard. Kushida managed to counter by pinning Ruas shoulders for a pinfall.

WINNER: Kushida at 4:20

– McKenzie Mitchell was backstage with Ember Moon and Toni Storm. Moon and Storm hyped their match against Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai, talking about how they were a common enemy. Storm referenced the chance that she could face Moon en route to an NXT Women’s Championship match and Moon said they could worry about that later. [c]

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: It seems as if Kushida is back into the lost world of the NXT mid-card match. He looked good, as did the returning Ruas, but that this match just appeared on television out of nowhere shows that there aren’t any clear plans for Kushida.)

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

Gonzalez and Storm started the match, with Gonzalez asserting her strength over Storm early. Gonzalez tagged out to Kai who sent Storm into the bottom turnbuckle with a Face Wash. Kai choked Storm with her boot and put Storm on the mat for a two-count. Storm came back with a dropkick and a suplex. Storm tagged Moon and Moon took Kai down with a clothesline. Moon hit Gonzalez with a dropkick and Storm came back in for the faces to dump the heels to the floor as the show went to picture-in-picture commercial. [c]

[HOUR TWO]

Gonzalez controlled the match during the picture-in-picture commercial and was asserting her strength as the show came back to full screen. Storm managed to hit a hurricanrana and made the hot tag to Moon. Moon ran wild on Gonzalez, with a flurry of moves culminating in a superkick. Kai goaded Moon into coming after her at ringside, which was a setup for Gonzalez to rail Moon with a big clothesline. Gonzalez hit a flapjack on Moon and got her back in the ring for a cover, which Moon kicked out of at two. Gonzalez got Moon up into a Gory Special but Moon managed to flip out of the hold and sent Gonzalez to ringside. Gonzalez quickly recovered and returned to the ring to hit Moon with a Pounce for a nearfall.

Kai tagged in and Moon took her down with a headscissors, allowing Moon to tag in Storm.. Storm hit Kai with repeated German suplexes and a hip attack in the corner. Storm had Kai pinned after hitting a fisherman’s suplex but Gonzalez interfered to break the pin. Moon took out Gonzalez with a tornado DDT and was soon after leveled with a superkick from Kai. Kai and Storm charged at each other and took each other out with clothelines. Storm recovered and hit Kai with a Yakuza kick. Gonzalez made her way back in and sent Storm flying into the turnbuckles. Moon went flying onto Gonzalez, sending both of them through the announce table. Storm rolled up Kai for the victory.

WINNERS: Ember Moon & Toni Storm at 12:10

– Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell ran out and attacked Moon and Storm, tossing them back in the ring for Gonzalez and Kai to hit their finishers.

– Pat McAfee and his crew were shown arriving at the Capitol Wrestling Center. The camera cut to Io Shirai warming up backstage as the show went to commercial. [c]

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: Plenty of good action here and Vic Joseph wasn’t too far off on commentary when he said that the NXT Women’s Division is the best in pro-wrestling. This felt like a more productive showcase of Storm and Gonzalez continues to impress with her big woman gimmick. Looks as if we are headed to a WarGames match involving these three teams, perhaps with Shotzi Blackheart taking one of the two remaining spots on the face team.)

(6) AUGUST GREY vs. TIMOTHY THATCHER

Grey got some early offence in, landing a number of punches on Thatcher. Grey went for a pin via a backslide, but Thatcher kicked out at two. Thatcher took control with a big hip toss and then locked in a Cravate. Thatcher rocked Grey with a European uppercut. Thatcher took Grey to the corner and laid the boots in. Thatcher got another two-count after a suplex. Grey tried to turn the tide but Thatcher methodically beat him down.

Thatcher applied double wrist lock and stopped Grey from countering the move by hitting him in the ribs. Grey tried to rally again, scoring with some punches and a superkick. Grey went up top and dove at Thatcher who telegraphed the move and rocked Grey with an uppercut. Thatcher hit the Butterfly Jackhammer and applied a choke hold to submit Grey for the win.

WINNER: Timothy Thatcher at 4:25

– Thatcher said his next lesson would teaching to not pick a fight with someone you can’t beat. When Thatcher went to beat up Grey again, Tommasso Ciampa came to the ring. Ciampa and Thatcher went face-to-face until Thatcher backed off, saying that he has no problem with Ciampa. [c]

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: It’s good to see Thatcher finally transitioning into a proper feud with a notable wrestler. No doubt Thatcher and Ciampa will have great matches, and I am intrigued to see how this plays out storyline-wise as Thatcher would seemingly fit the bill of what Ciampa has been saying wrestling needs more of.)

– McKenzie Mitchell was with Ciampa backstage and asked about what happened before the commercial break. Ciampa said that it’s obvious – he wants to fight Thatcher.

– Damian Priest made his way to ring but was jumped by Johnny Gargano. The two brawled in and around the ring, eventually leading to Leon Ruff joining the fray. Ruff hit Priest with a dropkick and Gargano with a hurricanrana. Ruff hit Gargano with a dropkick, which sent Gargano into Priest which, in turn, sent Priest out of the ring. Ruff managed to get Gargano out of the ring and retreated to the entrance set as Priest and Gargano looked on.

– Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett plugged the Undertaker documentary airing on USA Network after NXT. Barrett announced that Kevin Owens will be filling in for him next week and Joseph recapped the Xia Li/ Boa/ mystery man story from last week.

– William Regal found a rough and poorly dressed looking Boa. Regal told Boa he needed to get back to work, but Boa said he can’t because “she’s coming”. Regal assumed that Boa was talking about Xia Li, but Boa said it isn’t her. [c]

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: A good pair of segments to further those storylines. Ruff is doing a very good job in his role. The Xia Li/ Boa story is still a little hokey so far, but I’m interested nonetheless.)

– Ruff vented at Regal again about being thought of as a joke and demanded a match against both Priest and Gargano.

– Alicia Taylor gave formal ring introductions for the NXT Women’s Championship match.

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

Ripley drove Shirai into the corner but Shirai was able to fire back with a dropkick. Shirai chopped the chest of Ripley and went for a sunset flip which Ripley stopped with a shoulder block. Shirai hit another dropkick, which sent Ripley out of the ring. Shirai went for a suicide dive but Ripley saw it coming and hit the diving Shirai with an elbow. Ripley hoisted Shirai onto her shoulders and dropped Shirai on the apron with a facebuster as the show went to a picture-in-picture commercial. [c]

Ripley worked over Shirai throughout the commercial break, with the referee checking with Shirai about whether she wanted to continue. As the show returned to full screen, Shirai fired up but was cut off by a Ripley facebuster. Ripley dropped Shirai with a big suplex for a nearfall. Ripley got Shirai into position for a superplex, but Shirai countered the move into a German suplex from the second rope. Shirai tried for a Tiger Driver but couldn’t connect. Shirai landed a palm strike and transitioned from a victory roll into a double stomp. Shirai hit a shotgun dropkick for a two-count.

Ripley’s ear was gushing with blood, presumably due to some damage sustained to her piercings. Shirai worked over the arm of Ripley and locked in successive armbreakers. Shirai drove Ripley’s shoulder into the mat with an arm wrench. Shirai continued to target the shoulder and drove Ripley’s shoulder into the ring steps. Ripley cried out in pain as the show went back to a picture-in-picture commercial. [c]

During the commercial, Ripley managed to set Shirai up for another superplex and was able to hit the move. Shirai kicked out of the pin attempt at the two-count. Ripley hit a knee strike combo on Shirai. Ripley hit a basement dropkick for a two-count. Ripley locked in The Prism but Shirai made it to the ropes to break the hold. Ripley went for the Riptide but Shirai countered into a cross armbreaker.

Ripley powered up and went for a powerbomb but Shirai rolled through and held on to the armbreaker. Ripley eventually made it to the ropes for the break. Ripley was draped on the ropes and Shirai attempted a 619 but missed. Shirai tried again but missed for a second time. Shirai unloaded on Ripley with palm strikes and went for the 619 again, this time hitting the move. Shirai went up top and took out Ripley for a nearfall.

Shirai went back to the top rope and dove off with a moonsault. Ripley avoided contact and flattened Shirai with a clothesline. Ripley went for the Riptide but Shirai was able to counter the move again, this time with a tilt-a-whirl DDT. Ripley ended up on the apron and Shirai got her up for a powerbomb that sent Ripley through the announce table. The referee started the ten count and as Ripley just rolled in before the ten count, Shirai came flying off the top rope and scored with the moonsault for the pinfall.

WINNER: Io Shirai at 22:00

– Shirai and Ripley hugged at ringside before Shirai posed on the entrance set. As she posed, Finn Balor made his entrance.

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: I had to pause here so I could get my feelings out about this match before the Balor segment rolled on. WOW. What a spectacular match from Shirai and Ripley, easily the best of their matches to date. Ripley sold excellently but didn’t lose any of her dominant luster. Shirai is at the top of her game but Ripley was the star here. The end seemed to have a curtain call feel to it, perhaps Ripley is being brought up to the main roster to take one of the Survivor Series spots?)

– Once in the ring, Balor congratulated Shirai for retaining the title and said it was time to get down to business. Balor said that the last time he was seen on NXT he had successfully defended the NXT Championship with a broken jaw. Pat McAfee and his crew cut Balor off. McAfee said that things have changed while Balor was out and listed off everything that McAfee and his crew have done over recent weeks. McAfee said that if Balor had any respect for NXT, he would give him the NXT Championship. Balor wasn’t fazed and revealed that he had Undisputed Era with him. All four members of Undisputed Era rushed the ring and attacked McAfee and his crew. The show ended with Adam Cole landing a big kick on McAfee as all the other wrestlers brawled.

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: McAfee continues to impress as the top heel on NXT. It was a hot show-closing angle which was well done in keeping Balor relevant without making him feel missed on the WarGames card. I could’ve done without the inadvertent devaluing of the NXT Women’s Championship match though.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: NXT never seems to fail with delivering a solid and entertaining two hours of television. Despite the seeping in of main-roster-style “sports entertainment” of late, this show managed to find more a balance with what has made NXT standout and the clear desire to change the tone of the show somewhat. The pacing was much better this week, and the show was very much structured around building to the more lengthy main event – this was executed to perfection.  It’s kind of crazy to think that WarGames is coming up so soon but, despite some matches feeling a little rushed in their setup, things are building nicely to the feature show.

Make sure to check out Kelly Wells’ report for his perspective on this show and make sure to check out the PWT Talks NXT podcast in the Audio section. You can find me on Twitter at @mattyhuss. 

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