SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Candace LaRae w/ Indi Hartwell vs. Ember Moon
The odds were completely stacked against Ember Moon throughout this match. Interference from not just Hartwell, but Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzales played major parts throughout the story. Even after LaRae won, the beatdown on Moon continued. Toni Storm looked like she was coming out to help, however she also turned on Moon. I’ve been thinking for weeks that Moon is being built up for something big, and I think that might wind up being a high profile match with Storm. Both women are newly returned to the roster and it looks like they may be trying to build the women’s division around them. With Rhea Ripley seemingly bound for the main roster, that leaves a massive gap for somebody to fill.
Legado del Fantasma Vignette
My love for this trio continues, as the three men sat around somewhat expensive looking furniture. Dressed to the nines, they discussed each member of the cruiserweight division and how they’ve beaten everyone. They singled out a newcomer, Chris Stallion, and that he won’t be much of a challenge for Escobar to defeat. They continue to keep that “drug lord” vibe going, which works so very well for this team.
Undisputed Era Speaks
After quite some time off TV, we saw UE return last week to attack McAfee and his cohorts. I’ve thought that UE might be destined to split for awhile, but tonight they showed as much unity as they always have. KOR demanded a fight with Pete Dunne tonight and the team backed him up 100%. Adam came off as the clear leader with KOR showing his gruff as a clear standout.
The Women’s team looked to be shaping up during the opening segment, as Candace, Storm, Gonzales & Dakota Kai announced that they were the first team during a backstage segment. Ember will most likely make her picks before the end of the show, if not the following week. This is a solid choice for a team, though I wish Hartwell was a part of it. She’s been an integral part of LaRae’s story and development that one could argue that she could take Kai’s spot. Kai is “represented” in the match as is by Gonzales. I’d say to keep Gonzales in the match because she’s the “beast” that every heel team needs, but it also allows Kai to get heat by looking like a coward. Nitpicking, otherwise I’m totally on board!
Timothy Thatcher vs. Kushida
Just as the match was about to be underway, Ciampa came out with a steel chair and sat ringside. The match itself was a wrestling clinic between these two men. Thatcher used a plethora of unique holds, including a number of them involving stretching a body part on the ropes. Kushida showed a lot of fire with a series of strikes and kicks. Kushida is no stranger to technical wrestling himself and certainly showed that off throughout the contest. Ciampa just sat stoically watching, adding that layer of mystery. All of a sudden he stood up and threw his chair, just as Thatcher tapped out to Kushida.
Thatcher was embarrassed that he actually tapped out, with Ciampa goading him on from the entrance stage. I’m not going to complain about this feud if it goes somewhere, as I can only dream of the slugfest that they’d concoct.
The Kevin Owens Show!
That’s right! Kevin Owens returned to NXT tonight as a guest commentator, and halfway through the night the announced that the next segment was going to be the KO Show with him interviewing the North American Champion, Leon Ruff. He added a wonderful layer to the commentary table throughout the night, and it’s a shame that this is a one night thing. Though, I don’t want to see him retire from the ring just yet!
KO and Ruff sat in the center of the ring, and for the first time Ruff was actually able to speak and we’re able to learn a bit about our new champ. He said he only signed his contract seven weeks ago, and now he’s the North American champ. He seemed so giddy and happy to he there, especially with an NXT legend like Kevin Owens. KO told him to be proud of what he was able to accomplish, and the limited crowd started chanting for Ruff. Gargano interrupted, and KO brought him a chair. He immediately threw it out of the ring, and KO brought in another chair saying it was for someone else, “he had a hunch”. Of course, Priest joined them as soon as Gargano mentioned his name.
I don’t know why they decided to interject Kevin Owens in this episode tonight, but I wish this was a long-term thing. He added such a great level of charisma to the show. He was able to raise all of the men up. Including some meta humor that, personally, I popped for.
A triple threat match for the NA Title was made between Priest, Gargano and Ruff at War Games.
Cameron Grimes vs. Jake Atlas
KO returned to commentary as two of my favorite rising NXT talents entered the ring. Atlas gave Grimes a run for his money, though Grimes was able to overcome him very quickly. Lumis appeared and scared Grimes away up the ramp before playing “highlights” of the haunted house of horrors, giving Grimes what seemed to be a PTSD moment before he retreated backstage.
After commercial, Grimes bumped into William Regal who accused him of being afraid of Lumis. Lumis tried to weasel his way out of the building, but Regal made a strap match between he and Lumis. Grimes, with the line of the night “Regal, why do you hate me so much?” Regal almost corpsed as he pat Grimes shoulder and walked away.
Rhea Ripley Addresses Her Future
She said that there was a lot of speculation on what her future would be, especially after the hug between her and Shirai after their match. She said it was out of respect, not a sending off. Ripley said she is here to stay as LaRae interrupted her with Storm by her side. LaRae said that Shirai needed help to beat her, but she beat Ripley on her own. There’s that hint of truth from the heels that stings the face!
The rest of the Wargames team came out with Shirai draped over Gonzales shoulder. Ripley started fighting all four women, in defense of her formal rival. Try as she might, she could not overpower LaRae, Storm, Kai & Gonzales.
With Shirai laying lifeless on the ramp and Ripley laying in the ring, the four women retreated backstage without any help from the babyface locker room.
Grizzled Young Vets Return!
Ever Rise was making their entrance when GYV bum-rushed the ring, took out the rookies and proclaimed that they are back! A very short segment, but glad to see this incredible team make their return! The last time we saw them, I could have sworn they were next in line for the NXT tag titles. Hopefully, big things are in store for them in the future.
Kyle O’Reilly vs. Pete Dunne
This marks the first time that we’ve seen Pete Dunne in singles action since the start of the pandemic. Dunne looks incredible, bulking up during his time off. This was a ladder match to determine who would get the advantage for Wargames. Whoever grabbed the briefcase would win the match. This was a great showcase between two of the greatest wrestlers that NXT has on their roster. There were so many moments where I thought Dunne would have the advantage, and others where I thought KOR would. It took outside interference by a man in a golden mask, seemingly Pat McAfee who was no longer standing ringside with Lorcan and Burch.
A little bit of an underwhelming finish, but I’ll accept it. I would have rather seen something a bit different than a “masked wrestler” finish considering the Ghostface angle’s continuation with LaRae and Gargano.
Overall though, this was an effective heat builder for McAfee and his crew and certainly has me hyped for War Games.