12/2 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s report on Shotzi Blackheart vs. Raquel Gonzalez for WarGames advantage, final hype for TakeOver, more

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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-Normally there’s a Wednesday pre-TakeOver Triple H Media Call, but this time they’re doing it on Thursday so I have nothing to report until tomorrow. I’ll post any interesting tidbits from that call after it happens late tomorrow afternoon.

-The entire NXT roster was on the ramp together, and the camera panned up above them to reveal Pat Patterson on the tron. The show went to a montage of Patterson throughout his career with Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” playing. Many backstage shots were shown with Patterson sharing the shot with a lot of different stars. Pat Patterson 1941-2020. Triple H looked moved and William Regal kept his eyes closed. After that, the usual NXT opening played with a lot of new shots of the roster.

(1) DAMIAN PRIEST & LEON RUFF vs. LEGADO DEL FANTASMA (Santos Escobar & Raul Mendoza)

Johnny Gargano was revealed at the announce table; he jawed at Priest during his entrance, which was first. In a WWE Network exclusive, Priest said he removed Ruff’s planned partner and inserted himself because he had a vested interest in Ruff making it to TakeOver.

Ruff had to convince Priest to let him start the match; he did with Escobar. Collar and elbow. Escobar shoved Ruff and Ruff looked over to Priest and said it was fine. Quick rollup by Escobar for two. Mendoza tagged in. Mendoza wrenched Ruff’s arm and put him in the corner, but Ruff did his corner escape combo and hit a dropkick for a one count. Escobar tagged in and hit a flash knee, and Ruff crumbled to the babyface corner and tagged Priest. Mendoza tagged in again. Priest fought out of a waistlock and put Mendoza in the corner, but Mendoza escaped several attempts at shots until he ran right into a back elbow. Mendoza bailed and Priest followed and dropped him on the apron, then put him into the Plexiglass. Priest broke the count and went back out, then hit a bell clap and a thrustkick on Mendoza. Priest spotted Ghostface watching from the audience and got distracted. Escobar tagged in and hit a tope on Priest heading into split-screen commercial.

The show returned to Priest still on the bad end of a heat segment, and the announcers went after Gargano, trying to figure out what was up with Ghostface. Gargano played dumb in a wink-wink manner. Escobar worked Priest’s leg with a couple of elbow drops and tagged Escobar, who beat Priest down with kicks and a drop on the same leg. Mendoza threw forearms at a kneeling Priest, then ran the ropes right into a huge flatliner. Escobar tagged in and Priest reluctantly tagged Ruff. Ruff hit a huracanrana for two. Mendoza made a blind tag as Ruff hit a neckbreaker on Escobar and tried to cover. Escobar went for a back bodydrop but Ruff flipped through and tagged Priest. Priest laidout both heels and cleared out Escobar with a forearm. He shot his arrow and hit a corner splash on Mendoza. Escobar briefly interfered but Priest set up for the Reckoning with his big arm signal, and Ruff tagged in. Priest hit the Reckoning and Ruff hit a frog splash for the pin.

After the finish, the faces looked out at Gargano at ringside, and behind him (and the glass) were two Ghostfaces watching.

WINNERS: Damian Priest & Leon Ruff at 12:22.

(Wells’s Analysis: Is one of the Ghostfaces Indi Hartwell again? If so, are we supposed to take that as a given? If not, are there two male Ghostfaces? I hadn’t figured them to be a big part of TakeOver, but after this, I expect they probably will be. The match itself was fun enough, with the differences between Ruff and Priest telling a story without resorting to making either of them look heelish.)

-Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” played over another segment with Shotzi Blackheart doing some metalwork. Rhea Ripley and Ember Moon were with her in the garage. Moon got Blackheart’s attention and Ripley told her “Every war machine needs an engine.” They revealed something to Shotzi that we couldn’t see, but it lit up their faces a la Pulp Fiction. They asked Shotzi what she thought, and she said “I think I’m in love.” The screen promoted the WarGames match as Team Candice vs. Team Shotzi (who still only had three members, but Io Shirai isn’t booked in a match so I expect it to be her).

-A special look at Undisputed Era. The four rode in a limo and talked about their highs and lows. There was a shot of them walking in slow motion in suits like Reservoir Dogs, so I guess we’re doing Tarantino in two straight segments. The four went to a diner and reflected on what got them where they are today. Bobby Fish broke the silence and said “I feel like we’ve reflected long enough. I’m ready to whip somebody’s ass,” and the other three laughed. Shots of all four were shown staring down menacingly at the camera (which evoked Kill Bill; I wonder if this run was intentional or not). The screen showed the eight men in the WarGames match this Sunday.

-McKenzie Mitchell spoke with the heel women’s WarGames team and Indi Hartwell. Candice put over Indi for taking one for the team and did most of the talking. Raquel Gonzalez said tonight, Shotzi Blackheart will feel like she got run over by a tank.


Grimes theatrically pulled a long strap out of a bag to remind us of his strap match with Dexter Lumis this Sunday. He set it over the cabling in the corner. Grimes dominated early until Grey ran the ropes and hit a quick kick. Grey hit a dropkick and staggered Grimes, then hit a jawbreaker and a neckbreaker. In the corner, Grey laid out Grimes and hit him with a flying cross-body for two. Grey rolled up Grimes for two but Grimes staggered Grey and hit the Cave In to finish. Grimes put on his hat and, of naturally, grinned and grabbed the strap. He looked into the camera and told Dexter Lumis he made a mistake. He put the other end of the strap on Grey’s arm and first hit a lariat, then whipped Grey hard with the strap a couple of times. Grey got dumped and when Grimes pulled him back toward the ring, with his back to him. Lumis had snuck in and grabbed the other end, and Grimes said “Oh s—,” which was bleeped. Lumis whipped Grimes and Grimes ran up the ramp.

WINNER: Cameron Grimes at 2:20.

(Wells’s Analysis: With Lumis’s character being what it is, it falls on Grimes to almost single-handedly promote this feud. He’s doing a great job of it, though I suspect he’ll have to do the job this Sunday. I hope I’m wrong. August Grey is good as a bump-taking enhancement talent for now; no idea if there’s more in store for him)


After Atlas’s squash loss last week crushed his momentum, a match like this was necessary to get well. Atlas took down Nese and Nese complained that Atlas had messed up his hair. Flash in the middle of the ring ended with Atlas dropkicking Nese from the ring. The action went back inside and Nese hit a huge palm strike. Outside the arena, Pat McAfee and his faction arrived. I guess we’ll cut away from the low match on the totem pole every week to see them arrive.

Nese put up Atlas in a torture rack and Atlas elbowed out of it and hit a couple of forearms. Nese hit a back kick and ran the ropes into a hard lariat by Atlas. Back bodydrop by Atlas. Atlas hit a few shots and a German suplex for a two count. Vic mentioned that Nese is a former Cruiserweight champion, which puts over Nese a little but doesn’t do any favors to the championship since Nese rarely wins. Nese hung Atlas on the top rope and went for a moonsault, but missed and landed on his feet. Superkick by Nese got two. Nese shoved Atlas down in a corner and threw some boots, then missed running knees. Atlas planted Nese, went up and hit a cartwheel DDT to finish. Vic called it the biggest win of Atlas’s career. Okay, sure.

WINNER: Jake Atlas at 5:22.

McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Atlas outside the ring after the match. Atlas said he would take three steps back but then a giant step forward. He said he wasn’t there as the Cruiserweight champion, but this was just the beginning, and one day he’d get back to Santos Escobar and the Cruiserweight title.

(Wells’s Analysis: Good, simple babyface promo by Atlas that shows he won’t be leaving the championship picture for now. I’m a bit surprised that it seems to be Jake Atlas that will be next champion, and not Swerve, but this could just be another way to extend the reign. As always, Nese looked good in defeat)


-A WarGames hype video played, narrated by William Regal, who laid out the rules.

-Pat McAfee’s group entered on the ramp. He had an “FTB” shirt and again the tron showed his “For the Brand” logo; this still hasn’t been revealed as an official group name. McAfee took the mic and told Vic to shut up. McAfee took a moment to show respect for Pat Patterson, who had given everything to this business. He said on the other end of the spectrum, there was every wrestling fan in the world. He said earlier tonight we were forced to watch a night out with the Undisputed Era. He said it was the lamest night out on the town that he’d ever seen. Rented tuxes, boxed wine in glasses. He said Undisputed Era’s nostalgia was running wild, so his would too. He said a lot of money put together this group, which included a Mercedes for a man (Ridge Holland) who wasn’t even here right now. He said they had run the place since they got there. He said this Sunday, it was about Pete Dunne, the longest-reigning UK champion of all time. A man who had ended careers. A man who one week ago won a ladder match for the WarGames advantage. He said this Sunday was also about two main eventers who had just won the tag team championships and would main event the biggest Pay-Per-View in history. He told the losers at home that they were going to tune in to see Pat McAfee get torn limb from limb, but it wasn’t going to happen. He said the boys broke the Undisputed Era’s spirit last week. Pete Dunne grabbed the mic and said this Sunday, he would end the Undisputed Era. McAfee reminded the fans that they were the greatest, and the fans all suck. Cheers.

(Wells’s Analysis: Another strong outing for the unnamed foursome. Their momentum is huge right now but the Undisputed Era aren’t exactly at their most successful these days, so both sides seem like they could really use a win. I expect the heels to win all the same, as perhaps the subtly teased breakup of Undisputed Era might still be in play)

-The heel women pumped up Raquel Gonzalez for their match tonight.

-A brief vignette hyped the Grizzled Young Veterans, who are up next.

-Xia Li and Boa, in another cinematic segment, were being tested (tortured?) by having to dunk in water over and over as the old Chinese man kept telling them to do it again. They once again supplicated in front of the mysterious cloaked woman in front of them, and they bowed. The old man nodded, and unseen goons smacked Li and Boa in the back with kendo sticks.

-The Grizzled Young Veterans arrived for a match with Ever-Rise, but Imperium jumped Ever-Rise, denying them a match for the second time in as many weeks. Marcel got on the mic and said they were here to put GYV in their place.

(4) GRIZZLED YOUNG VETERANS (Zack Gibson & James Drake) vs. IMPERIUM (Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner)

Referee Darryl Sharma can just make matches official, I guess. Gibson hammered Barthel to open and tagged. Drake kicked Barthel in the midsection and then the two exchanged forearms. To the corner, Drake floated over with a rollup for two. Big right by Barthel, who dropped an elbow on Drake and took a few more shots before tagging Aichner. Aichner threw Drake into a kick from Barthel and then hit a belly-to-back suplex. Drake recovered and threw a couple of shots but Aichner got the better of him and stomped him in the corner. After an ugly suplex attempt into a blind tag, GYV repeated the spot so Gibson could tag in. Gibson cleared out an interfering Barthel and yelled “Back of the line!” Rope run and Aichner hit a body slam. Gibson hit an armdrag and a chop. The two continued reversing moves and action spilled outside, with all four men jawing at one another and Sharma looking to restore order, heading into a commercial.

Upon return, Gibson tagged in and GYV double-teamed Aichner in their corner. Spinning heel kick and a cover by Gibson for two. Gibson kept Aichner in the GYV corner and tagged. Tandem move and Drake covered for two, then sold frustration. Aichner suplexed Drake onto the rope, and Gibson tagged in but got double-teamed by Imperium in their corner. Barthel covered for two. Barthel threw a forearm in the corner and hit a step-up enzuigiri. Barthel hit a double-underhook suplex out of the corner and flew off the second rope, but Gibson chopped him in the throat. Barthel quickly did the same and they both sold the throat shots. Aichner tagged in but Drake was still out on the floor. Imperium double-teamed Gibson with a gut-wrench by Barthel and a cover by Aichner for two. Aichner went for a moonsault but ate knees. Drake tagged in and hit a step-up enzuigiri, then chopped Aichner in the corner. Drake took Aichner to the second turnbuckle. Aichner snuck out and went for a powerbomb, but Drake pushed him off. Barthel shoved Drake into Aichner for a slam, and Aichner covered for two with Gibson breaking it up.

Gibson dumped Barthel and held Aichner in a corner for a dropkick. Drake wanted a tag but Barthel yanked Zack to the floor. Aichner dumped Drake and wanted his own tag, but couldn’t make it because Barthel was outside. Aichner hit a plancha on the guys outside, and Ever-Rise showed up again and attacked both for a bell and an apparent double-DQ.

WINNERS: Double disqualification at 14:05.

(Wells’s Analysis: I figured Ever-Rise would get something out of this because it didn’t seem like a coincidence that it was their team that was denied a match two weeks in a row, but it didn’t occur to me that they might get involved so soon. I’m not sure about GYV coming back to face Imperium in a match where both need to remain heels, but this seems to be heading somewhere and maybe Ever-Rise will get a longer TV match out of it. The tag division is Burch & Lorcan, Undisputed Era, Breezango, Ever-Rise, Grizzled Young Veterans, Imperium, Drake Maverick & Killian Dain, and potentially Indus Sher if the injuries end soon. The tag division was their biggest liability six months ago, and while they aren’t going to challenge the athleticism of AEW’s tag division, it’s worth watching now)

-Outside, McKenzie Mitchell tried to catch up with Ever-Rise. They ran into a car that was already running and said “You wanna know what happened? Ever-Rise rules, that’s what happened” and they drove off. They were booed. Where are the babyfaces in this three-team issue?

-Timothy Thatcher set up a Thatch as Thatch Can segment in the ring with a student he didn’t name. He said tonight’s theme was distraction. Tommaso Ciampa stormed the ring and said he wasn’t there to learn, he was there to teach. Ciampa went after Thatcher, but the student took some shots at his back and allowed Thatcher to get the better of it and lay out Ciampa in the middle of the ring. Thatcher sneered as he went up the ramp.

-This Sunday, Wade Barrett and Sam Roberts host the TakeOver pre-show with guest Ariel Helwani, an MMA expert from ESPN.

-The announcers ran down the WarGames card, with four matches: men’s and women’s War Games, Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis in a strap match, and Leon Ruff vs. Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano for the North American Championship. Ciampa-Thatcher is apparently not being added to the card, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up running there anyway.

-McKenzie talked with Timothy Thatcher, who was impressed by his student. He said tonight Tommaso learned something about distraction, and would soon learn a lesson about respect.

(5) SHOTZI BLACKHEART vs. RAQUEL GONZALEZ – Ladder match for the WarGames one-woman advantage

It was never really mentioned that this was a ladder match, even though the men’s match was a ladder match, so I wondered all night long if it would be. Gonzalez took down Shotzi early and slammed her, then put her on the apron. Shotzi spilled to the floor and Gonzalez went outside elsewhere to get a ladder. She set up a ladder on the outside right next to the apron as if she was going to put it in the ring, and Shotzi dropkicked her into it. Shotzi went inside and dropkicked the ladder onto Raquel, then rolled the ladder into the ring. Shotzi went for a cross-body on Raquel, who caught her and slammed her on the ladder. Raquel tried to use the ladder inside but Shotzi recovered quickly and went for a sleeper. The two spilled outside but Shotzi held on. Raquel backed Shotzi into a post and laid her out, then ran her hard into the Plexiglass. Raquel missed a running boot nd Shotzi dropkicked Raquel into the steps. Raquel tried to put Shotzi into the Plexiglass again, but Shotzi jumped off and hit a back senton on Raquel. Both sold on the outside of the ring. Raquel stomped Shotzi into the steps a few times as the match went to split-screen commercial.

Upon return to full-screen, the two were fighting with Raquel on the apron. Two ladders were grounded in the ring. Shotzi went over to probably try a DDT, but either it or the camera angle was a problem. The camera caught the two teams on separate platforms watching the action, with the heels having a one-woman advantage in number because the faces don’t have a fourth member. Gonzalez planted Blackheart outside and set up and then climbed the ladder. Shotzi charged up the other side and yanked Gonzalez’s arm through to smack her into the ladder a few times. Both women ended up spilling to the mat after a shot. Blackheart sold a bad ankle. The two pulled each other from the ladder and Shotzi knocked it over with Gonzalez on it; it went cockeyed but Raquel was ready and averted injury. Raquel battered Shotzi in the corner with a ladder, but Shotzi hopped over the second shot and hit a headscissor takedown, then hit a senton on Gonzalez against the leaning ladder. That should’ve looked really contrived, but they got away with it.

Gonzalez went to the outside and Blackheart laid her out with a senton at the foot of the ramp. The refs checked on both, seemingly genuinely. Over at the heel platform, Indi Hartwell set up a ladder against the platform so all the women could interfere. Soon after, the faces charged and fought. Indi Hartwell set up a ladder and tried to get the briefcase herself, and Shotzi went at her, but Raquel hit a hard lariat. Raquel climbed the ladder, but Io Shirai hopped on her back out of nowhere to stop her momentum. Io dumped Raquel and hit a moonsault on the huge pile of women and referees on the outside. “NXT” chant. On the inside, Shotzi was the only person left. And with that, she scaled the ladder and the babyfaces actually won a WarGames advantage match.

After the decision, the four faces posed. Shotzi was up with a hand on the ladder, Ember Moon and Io Shirai were midway up the rungs, and Rhea Ripley was standing in front of it. Cool, strong visual to end the show.

WINNER: Shotzi Blackheart at 14:38.

(Wells’s Analysis: Babyfaces don’t win these matches. Ever. I figured they had a chance in the case that the fourth unnamed member showed up here, but face advantages in WarGames just don’t happen. The match will likely need to start with Raquel Gonzalez and any face besides Ripley, since she’s protected enough to fight off multiple women at once as a monster. This was more a long angle than a match, but there were a few decent spots and the story sold it anyway. Shotzi as the assumed leader of the face team is a great spot for her given the talent on her team; she doesn’t even have to be much of a leader to still get the rub from weeks of the show promoting “Team Shotzi.” The segment was extremely effective in that I want to see this match even more than I did before, but it’ll be interesting to see just how bad it was to have this up against Moxley-Omega)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Like last week, we’re still going at a pretty brisk speed, but they seem to have found a way to stay in that gear and still not feel the need to give everything away on TV as they lead up to a big show. The War Games matches have both gotten a strong amount of build in very different ways, and both of them could easily go either way (though I think I’d pick heel men and face women at this precise moment). The North American triple threat has also had a pretty good organic build, and Cameron Grimes is just so damned good at being bad that people will love seeing him getting beaten up by Dexter Lumis again. There were just five matches this week, so also like last week, the show is sacrificing matches to move stories toward blowoffs in other ways, and at least for me, that’s working very well. Pretty strong for a dreaded go-home show. Check out PWT Talks NXT tonight live or tomorrow morning, and I’ll post any interesting tidbits from the Triple H Media Call tomorrow if anything is worth posting. Cheers.

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