12/16 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s report on Kyle O’Reilly vs. Pete Dunne in a #1 Contender’s match, Rhea Ripley vs. Toni Storm, Ruff & Kushida vs. Gargano & Theory, more

By Kelly Wells, PWTorch contributor


DECEMBER 16, 2020, 8PM EST

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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Kushida and Ruff were in the ring finishing their entrance as the show opened; there were no recaps per usual. The women of the Gargano faction walked the ramp with Gargano and Theory before the match as well.

Kushida and Gargano opened. Gargano backed up and tagged Theory as Kushida moved in. Kushida and Theory worked the mat early. Theory missed a lariat and Kushida hit an inverted atomic drop and a kneelift. Ruff tagged in and cut off the tag. Theory hit a kick and a snap suplex as Indi Hartwell and Candice LeRae (still in the wrist brace) looked on, pleased. Gargano tagged in and put Ruff in a headlock and threw some forearms. Ruff hit a couple of ranas and covered for two. Ruff hit a chop in the corner. Gargano fought back with a forearms , then planted Ruff near the heel corner. Vic promoted Karrion Kross returning to action tonight as Theory tagged in.

Chop by Theory. Theory whipped Ruff into the heel corner and tagged Gargano again. The two laid out Ruff in the heel corner and made another tag to set up a tandem suplex, but Kushida made the save and the faces dropkicked the heels from the ring. Ruff ran the ropes for a planned somersault from the corner, but Ruff tripped and took a pretty bad landing. The camera covered for him as the announcers couldn’t help a big reaction to the possible injury. The action went back into the ring and Theory set up Ruff for a missile spear as the match went to commercial.

Theory had Ruff in a chinlock/armbar upon return. Ruff threw some shots to the midsection and hit a clothesline off the ropes. Theory made the tag. Ruff hit a spinning kick and made the hot tag. Springboard back elbow for Theory. Theory went for the stomp spot on Gargano. Theory made the save and Kushida fought him off. Kushida went for the guillotine but Gargano blocked. Kushida tagged and Ruff hit a missile dropkick. Faces dropkicked Gargano in the corner and Ruff covered for two. Gargano hit a short-arm lariat and made the tag.

Theory went for a powerbomb. Ruff fought him off but Theory took him to a corner and hit a spinning slam from a fireman’s carry and covered for a near-fall. Gargano tagged in and double-superkicked Ruff. Gargano covered for a long two and Kushida broke it up. Kushida laid out Theory on the outside but Gargano hit a superkick and put Kushida outside as well. Ruff, inside, hit a crucifix bomb on Gargano but had missed a blind tag and didn’t know Theory was legal. Theory said “This…is…THE WAY” as he hit a pumphandle flatliner to finish.

WINNERS: Johnny Gargano & Austin Theory at 13:34.

(Wells’s Analysis: I was pretty sure the faction was called The Way, but they made it clear tonight. Good action, though it was clear the match existed to get Theory back into the win column and continue pushing the new faction. Kushida, for his part, seems to have run into his usual problem of getting a push, winning multiple feuds and then being given token TV spots as the show doesn’t seem to know where to go with him next)

-Toni Storm gave a promo in a vignette. She said tonight in the main event against Rhea Ripley, she wins the feud on her terms.

-Backstage, UE sparred as Kyle O’Reilly prepared for his match with Pete Dunne. Elsewhere, Dunne’s faction pumped him up.

-Progressive brings you a brief spotlight of Legado del Fantasma.

-McKenzie Mitchell asked Shotzi Blackheart about tonight’s match with Indi Hartwell. Hartwell said she was proud of her WarGames team, who “nearly survived.” That’s unintentionally funny. She said tonight she’d break Candice’s best friend. She howled.

-“Lazaretto” by Ghostmane is your theme for New Year’s Evil. It ain’t War Pigs.


Rust is the former Rust Taylor, who was on New Japan Strong as recently as four weeks ago; he was also a first-round loser in the ROH Pure Tournament. He’s a good, rangy bruiser in what little I’ve seen; less than a month ago I was saying it was criminal that he hadn’t gotten a bigger shot.

Rust stared intensely and waited for Ciampa. Ciampa took Rust to a corner and shoved him; Rust shoved back. Rust worked a wristlock and took down Ciampa. Ciampa reversed to a headscissors and Rust broke, but fell right into a front chancery. Rust escaped briefly but Ciampa hit a headlock. Timothy Thatcher walked to the ring and took a look at Ciampa’s folding chair set up at the foot of the ramp. Ciampa briefly looked over at him but threw a chop and a back elbow at Rust. He threw Rust out of the ring near Thatcher, then went at Thatcher. Rust tried to boot Ciampa and Thatcher ended up eating the boot instead. Officials coaxed Thatcher to the back, but Rust hit the apron and yanked Ciampa hard to the apron by his arm as the match went to commercial.

The match returned with Rust holding Ciampa in an abdominal stretch. Ciampa broke it by slamming back on Rust. Rust threw a big kick. Chop and a back elbow by Ciampa. Ciampa ran the ropes for repeated lariats, then a flying lariat. Ciampa hit air raid crash from a standing position and covered for two. Axe kick by Rust and he covered for two. Rust worked a wristlock but Ciampa rolled him up to break. Rust worked another submission but Ciampa stomped him to break. Ciampa hit a knee to put Rust on the mat and went for Fairytale Ending. Rust broke and hit a big boot, then a twisting snap mare for a convincing near-fall. Rust worked an armbar and Ciampa crawled for the ropes, but Rust yanked his arm back and trapped it. Ciampa desperately reached the rope with his foot to break.

Ciampa tied up Rust briefly in the ropes and hit repeated chops and a pump kick. Ciampa hit a running knee and then Willow’s Bell. That was it. Barrett put over Rust, saying we have a megastar on our hands. Timothy Thatcher tried to break through a sea of officials to get at Ciampa on the ramp, but for tonight, it didn’t get physical.

WINNER: Tommaso Ciampa at 12:23.

(Wells’s Analysis: Oh, mama. Rust had a wonderful NXT debut and should open a lot of eyes for those who didn’t see his relatively high-profile non-WWE appearances of late. As good as this match was, I wonder about Rust’s ceiling in NXT, as he’s a crony for a guy who himself rarely ever wins)

-Grizzled Young Veterans vignette. Holy smacks, James Drake is speaking! And he’s decent at it! Nothing too groundbreaking here; just a hype segment to continue the push.

-Karrion Kross vignette. Doomsday is coming.

-During the break, Malcolm Bivens went to the ring and told Tyler Rust that he’s a star. He was quite insistent about it. Rust fist bumped Bivens and they walked to the back. Rust and Bivens? This might be one of my favorite new acts.

-Dexter Lumis was drawing (digitally) on a tablet up on a perch. He was drawing the New Year’s Evil logo.

(3) KYLE O’REILLY (w/Adam Cole & Roderick Strong) vs. PETE DUNNE (w/Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch) – Winner gets NXT Championship match at New Year’s Evil

Before Drake Wuertz could get the match going, Killian Dain and Drake Maverick charged and went at the tag champions. Breezango got involved out of nowhere as well. The brawl resulted in literally everyone leaving ringside, leaving O’Reilly and Dunne rolling solo.

Mat stuff to start. Dunne wrenched O’Reilly’s right leg but O’Reilly reversed and worked a quick cross-armbreaker but Dunne reversed. Rope run and Dunne hit a lariat. O’Reilly bailed to the outside. Dunne went over to the corner for a moonsault. O’Reilly moved but Dunne hit his feet and hit a thrustkick. O’Reilly worked a brief sleeper on the outside and the two threw forearms until the count of nine and they rolled in at the very last moment to continue the shot exchange in the ring.

O’Reilly kicked Dunne’s leg out from under him and he booted Dunne to the outside as the match went to split-screen, with a commercial featuring AEW personality Snoop Dogg. Oops.

Upon return, both were selling the effects of the match but O’Reilly was in control. Dunne reversed a suplex attempt into an x-plex. Dunne was bleeding from the mouth and it looked like he may have lost a tooth. He wrenched O’Reilly’s arm back and stomped him. O’Reilly threw kicks from the mat but Dunne returned fire to retain control. Dunne hit a neckbreaker as the camera went in tight on Dunne, hoping to see what was going on with his bloody mouth. Dunne went in and grabbed an arm and stomped O’Reilly’s head. Action went to the corner and Dunne ran into an O’Reilly knee to the midsection.


Back elbow by Dunne. Rope run and a knee by O’Reilly. Repeated quick knees and strikes by O’Reilly, then a running forearm in the corner. Double-underhook suplex trio by O’Reilly. He covered for two. O’Reilly went for a belly-to-back suplex but was blocked. To the corner, O’Reilly crotched Dunne on the top rope and then went for a superplex. Dunne went for joint manipulation, but O’Reilly went for a German suplex. Dunne rolled through and then stomped on O’Reilly, who had fallen into the tree of woe. Again the match went to split-screen.

Upon return, the two were on opposite sides of a corner buckle, taking turns yanking each other into the buckle. Both guys crumbled, then went into the ring. Dunne hit a knee and a quick powerbomb for two. Dunne stomped O’Reilly and worked an arm submission and O’Reilly rolled to the ropes to break. Dunne went for a Gotch-style piledriver but O’Reilly broke and countered. Quick counters led to an ankle-lock by O’Reilly. Dunne jumped into a guillotine on O’Reilly and released, then hit a headbutt. O’Reilly rolled through a powerbomb and hit a brainbuster. Both guys sold as they received a well-earned “This is awesome” chant. O’Reilly went in and hit a knee, then a…fisherman suplex…?…for a long two. Dunne’s mouthpiece had fallen out on the knee. Dunne crawled for it and O’Reilly stepped on his arm. O’Reilly caught Dunne and worked a mat submission and the two went back to frequent reversals on the mat. O’Reilly hit a running boot on a kneeling Dunne. Dunne came back and hit a big kick, then bent back the fingers and hit a PK on a draping O’Reilly. Both hit the apron and Dunne went for The Bitter End, but O’Reilly reversed and hit a suplex to the floor. “Holy sh*t” chant. Back inside and O’Reilly hit a flying knee to finish.

After the match, O’Reilly posed in the ring for a minute or so and then a shot showed up on the tron promoting his match with Finn Balor. He nodded at it.

WINNER: Kyle O’Reilly at 22:46.

(Wells’s Analysis: Excellent no-nonsense TV match that continues O’Reilly’s push and yet likely puts him in a position to lose again, given that Karrion Kross is back and will probably have a feud for the championship before long. However, given the fantastic match O’Reilly and Balor had the first time, this rematch was inevitable.)

-McKenzie Mitchell spoke with Rhea Ripley, who said she had known Raquel Gonzalez a lot longer than people realize. She said she’s always been a piece of trash as she pumped herself up for the fight.

-Chinese torture segment time. Xia Li cried, but had to fight on. Boa begged for an end to the pain as the old Chinese man yelled that it had to continue. The cloaked woman still didn’t reveal herself. The camera went out and revealed that it was Xia herself who had to continually beat Boa in the face as both of them bled. Huh. As superfluous as I expected this scene to be, that was a genuinely surprising development.


Blackheart’s tank says “TCB” on the front. Wade guessed that it meant “Tank Commander Blackheart,” though Beth pointed out that it was “Taking Care of Business.”

Snap mare by Blackheart. Standing switch and a takedown by Hartwell. Another takedown by Hartwell. Blackheart elbowed out of trouble and blocked Hartwell. Running clothesline by Blackheart, and Hartwell fell at kind of an awkward angle. Shotzi wrapped up Hartwell’s arm as the camera revealed that all of The Way were at ringside. Shotzi flew to the corner and hit a senton on Hartwell, who briefly had her legs up before putting them down. There’s something off with the preparation for this match.

Hartwell hit a sort of full nelson slam for two. She looked out at her faction, who pumped her up. Fireman’s carry and Blackheart broke free. Blackheart with some shots in the corner and then she draped Hartwell on a corner buckle and hit a senton. Rope run and Blackheart dropkicked Hartwell to the floor. Candice LeRae went to the apron and looked to distract the ref. Hartwell grabbed the Shotzi trophy from earlier and smacked Shotzi with it. The ref saw it at the last moment and called for the DQ. I’m not totally sure the ref was supposed to see it, as the timing yet again suggested something was off. The four members of The Way stood over Shotzi as the camera cut to the next segment.

WINNER: Shotzi Blackheart via DQ at 4:04.

(Wells’s Analysis: Oy, this was messy. Hartwell has had a couple of singles matches on NXT and they haven’t gone overly well. I’m told she’s done some great work on house shows when house shows were happening, so it’s anyone’s guess as to why the TV matches haven’t come together. As a segment, it did put over The Way again, and cemented the long-term aspect of the LeRae-Blackheart feud, so at least that part worked out)


Troy is the very talented former Denzel Dejournette. Not sure if I’ve covered him since that name change. Kross hit a Saito suplex a couple of times and the Kross Jacket was good to finish.

After the match, Kross got into the face of the camera and called out Damian Priest for New Year’s Evil on January 6th. Tick tock.

WINNER: Karrion Kross at 1:05.

(Wells’s Analysis: The questions upon hearing Kross was ready to return were whether he’d have his same entrance, and whether he’d remain heel. So far: yes to both)

-McKenzie Mitchell asked Isaiah “Swerve” Scott about his loss and handshake rejection to Jake Atlas last week. He said he had been here longer and wasn’t happy about losing to someone like…and then he caught himself before he said something cold. He said he had a match next week.

Ever-Rise charged in and talked to McKenzie and said they had the three-way stricken from the record books, so they were coming for Goldberg’s streak. They reminded Mitchell that Ever-Rise rules.

-Dexter Lumis continued his drawing of New Year’s Evil, which now showed that he is the host for New Year’s Evil. That…will be something.

-Finn Balor vignette. He said O’Reilly broke his frickin’ jaw, and he was tough. He warned that this wasn’t Finn-Kyle II, this was Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly – The End.


NXT: UK viewers will have gotten to see a lot of these two against each other, as Ripley became the initial champion over Storm in a tournament final, and Storm won the title a few months later.

Collar and elbow. Rhea put Toni in the corner and slapped her chest as a clean break. The growing crowd, now a little more split in general, was very pro-Rhea. Block attempt by Toni didn’t bear fruit, but Rhea blocked Toni to the mat. The women exchanged rollups for one-counts. Rope run resulted in a couple more rollup attempts. Inside cradle got a one by Toni as she reversed a suplex. Chop exchange. Double slap on the back of Toni by Rhea. Short-arm by Rhea and a ripcord crescent kick. Rhea went to the apron and Toni joined her and drove her into the post, then booted her to the floor as the match went to commercial.

Storm had Ripley in a rear headlock. Ripley got to her feet but Storm yanked her to the mat by her hair. Ripley missed a couple of kicks and then hit one to take Storm down. Basement dropkick by Ripley, who let out a primal scream. Ripley went for Riptide but Storm blocked. Storm hit a headbutt and both crumbled and sold the effects of the match.

The screen promoted next week: a Very Gargano Christmas!

Rope run and a headbutt by Storm. Rope run and a block by Ripley. Dropkick by Ripley got two. Ripley went for the Prism Trap and yet again Vic didn’t know what it was called. Storm broke with the rope and hit a German suplex with a bridge for two. Beale by Storm. Another. Storm missed a hip attack and dropped Storm face-first into the top buckle for two. We’re a couple of minutes into an overrun.

Legdrop by Ripley. Another two. She covered for two. Ripley booted Storm to the floor, but Raquel Gonzalez was outside and broke the fall for Storm. Gonzalez posted Ripley away from view of the ref and Storm hit Storm Zero to finish.

WINNER: Toni Storm at 13:55.

(Wells’s Analysis: Decent match, better angle. I’m not sure, though, how Ripley can continue to absorb these losses as a babyface monster. Gonzalez looked to be setting up for a championship match with her win at WarGames, but instead it seems like another Gonzalez-Ripley match is in order while Io Shirai tangles with Toni Storm? It all works for me, even if some of the storytelling feels out of order.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Good action (heavy on in-ring minutes this week at almost 68 with an average more like 52-55) leading into a kind of TV TakeOver-level show on January 6th. NXT has found a happy medium for the most part with the breakneck speed they want and a slower pace of storytelling necessary to get over the talent. Pat McAfee’s faction took a huge backseat this week again as Johnny Gargano’s faction came to the forefront with some mixed results. Kyle O’Reilly emerged as #1 contender again and will get the second straight televised title shot against Finn Balor, who hasn’t worked a TV match since the retention at TakeOver. Tyler Rust could be a star in the making and my experience with his work in the last month says this is almost certainly true, so I look forward to gushing over his work in the coming weeks.

All in all, a strong show top to bottom outside of the messy Shotzi Blackheart-Indi Hartwell match. I’m interested to see if anything in the women’s division changes as a result of that. Check out PWT Talks NXT tonight and follow me on social media @spookymilk. Cheers.

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