SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NXT ON USA
DECEMBER 23, 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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-The trons were embellished with wintry scenes and said “Happy Holidays.” No recaps again.
(1) KILLIAN DAIN & DRAKE MAVERICK vs. DANNY BURCH & ONEY LORCAN (c) – Street Fight for the NXT Tag Team Championship
Maverick and Dain jumped the champs on the ramp during their entrance and we were off and running. The challengers laid out the champs and set up two tables next to one another outside the ring on the ramp side. The champs recovered and fought off the faces to boos when the fans realized the tables wouldn’t be broken yet. The action made it to the ring with Maverick laid out on the outside, and the champs teamed up on Dain with frequent tags and forearms. They set up two folding chairs facing one another in the middle of the ring, but Dain back bodydropped Lorcan through them (he broke through one but didn’t really hit the other). Maverick hit the apron and the challengers made the tag. Dain slammed Maverick onto Burch. Maverick wanted a high five but Dain instead used Maverick as a battering ram on Lorcan. Maverick and Dain hit stereo dropkicks on Lorcan in the face corner and Maverick got a two.
Dain and Lorcan fought on the outside as the others were legal. Burch hit a hard running lariat on Maverick as Lorcan hit a blockbuster on Dain on the outside. All four guys sold for a moment. Burch set up a chair in the ring and hit Maverick onto it with a drop toe-hold. Burch went outside and he and Lorcan leaned a table up against the Plexiglass. Dain tossed Burch over the exposed barricade and Lorcan and Dain fought near the table. Dain charged at Lorcan, but Lorcan moved and Dain broke the table as the match went to commercial.
When the match returned to TV, Maverick was the face in peril as Oney Lorcan whipped him in the ring with a belt (probably Maverick’s). Lorcan tagged Burch, who also grabbed the belt and whipped Maverick, which Maverick sold with his usual aplomb. “Please, sir, can I have another?” Burch yelled mockingly as he whipped Drake again. The champs whipped Maverick into Maverick’s own partner, mocking him because Dain wasn’t there since he was laid out on the outside. The champs put him in the corner again and Burch started to posture to the fans. Dain appeared in the face corner and slapped Maverick’s chest to tag in. He put the champs in opposite corners and hit repeated running splashes, and hit a powerbomb and an elbow drop on Burch. Maverick tagged in as Dain tried to set up something on Lorcan on the apron. The heels were able to regroup and push Dain from the apron onto the tables, which bizarrely didn’t break as Dain sort of slid over them. “We’ve got reinforced tables here in NXT,” Barrett quipped.
In the ring, Maverick fired up after hitting a low blow and retrieved his belt, then repeatedly lashed both of the champs with it. He hit Lorcan with one particularly vicious lash across the neck. Lorcan was able to get the cricket bat and hit Maverick with it. The champs hit their finisher on Maverick.
WINNERS: Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan at 15:35.
After the match, the champs jawed into the camera, then at Dain on the outside as they passed him. Both tables were bent in the middle, so at least there’s that. Dain retrieved Maverick from the ring and carried him out.
(Wells’s Analysis: The tables didn’t play along, despite the fact that all four of the competitors were doing their parts. Oh well. A decent Street Fight if you like them, I guess, though nothing overly memorable.)
–Christmas at the Garganos: Gargano was playing the piano and he said “You’ve heard of elf on the shelf…what about Gargano on a piano?” Gargano said he had a question for the love of his life, as he focused his camcorder on his North American Championship belt. Gargano, wearing a festive Christmas suit, gave Austin Theory a gift: Gargano-branded protein powder.
-Two weeks from now at New Year’s Evil, Finn Balor and Kyle O’Reilly have a rematch for the NXT Championship. Tonight, they comment on the match while watching it. O’Reilly said Balor was the man he was destined to face for a long time. Balor said as soon as you lock up with someone – you know everything about them. Whether they’re nervous, scared or excited. He says O’Reilly is calm and collected, and on another level. He said O’Reilly makes him feel alive. O’Reilly said he remembered the moment of the match where hope escaped his body, and watching it kind of pissed him off. Balor said he was a shark in the water and smells blood. O’Reilly said he can’t blame Balor because he would’ve done the same thing. The two relived the moment where O’Reilly destroyed Balor’s jaw. Balor was upset that people only remembered that and seemed to overlook the fact that Balor won. O’Reilly said last time he shattered Balor’s jaw, but this time he’ll shatter his legacy.
-McKenzie Mitchell caught up with Tyler Rust and Malcolm Bivens. Bivens said Rust had the best NXT debut in history. Tonight with Bivens at his side, he’d prove he was a diamond…in the Rust. He said “Let’s go make some money” to Rust, who offered a fist bump. After the vicious fist bump last week, Bivens went in carefully so Rust didn’t hurt him.
(2) ISAIAH “SWERVE” SCOTT vs. JAKE ATLAS
Swerve entered the ring with Atlas already there. I understand the pacing they’re going for, but entrances get guys over. I wonder how this will change with “normal” crowds down the road.
Mat work to start. Crucifix roll-up by Swerve got two. Swerve missed a right and Atlas threw one. Swerve sold it with anger and took Atlas to a corner and threw mean shots. Swerve took Atlas down and tried to get hold of a headlock, but Atlas fought him off and got to his feet. Rope run and Swerve missed a stomp. Atlas grabbed Swerve’s leg on the next stomp attempt and hit a dragon screw. Swerve went to the outside and Atlas hit a springboard enzuigiri and Swerve fell to the outside. The match went to commercial.
Swerve had Atlas grounded and threw some forearms. Atlas reached one foot as Swerve held the other. Atlas used a corner to push off Swerve and he hit a Destroyer for a two count. Atlas went up for his cartwheel DDT and Swerve hit a superkick as Atlas was upturned. Atlas got back to the ring and Swerve hit a suplex for two. Swerve sold frustration briefly, then hit some nasty shoves on Atlas’s head with his boot as he looked at him derisively. Swerve took Atlas to a corner and put him up, then followed for a full nelson suplex attempt. Atlas fought off Swerve and hit a pump kick, then went for a headscissor takedown but Swerve landed on his feet. Swerve begged for more. The two exchanged superkicks. Swerve rolled up Atlas and the two exchanged quick one-counts. Atlas grabbed Swerve near a rope and Swerve hit a rear headbutt. Swerve hit the Confidence Boost to finish, and he gloated in Atlas’s face. Eventually, Swerve tried to show some remorse and ask for a handshake, but he was still acting cocky. Atlas rolled out of the ring and left.
WINNER: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott at 10:29.
(Wells’s Analysis: I’m sure Swerve will make a good heel, but with his charisma alone I’m surprised they didn’t go farther with his face push before this turn. On the other hand, NXT has turned a whole lot of workers in the past year, so what’s one more? The match itself was very strong, and it’ll be interesting to see if the two move on or if a rubber match is in order for New Year’s Evil)
-McKenzie Mitchell spoke with Adam Cole and Roderick Strong. Cole and Strong put over Kyle O’Reilly and promoted his match with Finn Balor. Velveteen Dream walked into the shot and said the mighty had fallen. He said that O’Reilly was obviously the leader of the Undisputed Era now and the others were lackeys. Cole smacked Dream quickly and said there was no leader in Undisputed Era, and he’d take on Velveteen Dream tonight.
(Wells’s Analysis: How the mighty have fallen, indeed)
-Timothy Thatcher addressed the camera in the back. He said at TakeOver, Ciampa tried to take his ear, and he tried to take Ciampa’s neck. He said he tried to ask Ciampa for a fight but he was ignored. No respect. He said tonight he’d take liberties with Leon Ruff tonight, and if Ciampa was the man he said he was, he would stop Thatcher.
(3) RHEA RIPLEY vs. DAKOTA KAI
For the first time tonight, both sides got full entrance, with Kai entering second. Ripley tweeted earlier that Gonzalez was sure to be there, and Gonzalez mocked Ripley in response and said Kai fights her own battles. William Regal stepped in and said since Gonzalez asked for it, she’d be banned from ringside. A nice touch to give Ripley a clean win tonight (I assume).
Ripley deadlifted Kai and spun her around and tossed her aside. She took Kai to a corner and threw a forearm, then whipped her to the opposite corner. Kai and Ripley went to the apron and outside and exchanged near-impact moves, and Kai caught Ripley and stomped her arm into the apron. Kai drove Ripley to the Plexiglass as Vic promoted the fact that this match would be shown in split-screen during the commercial.
Kai dominated the split-screen break, and she had Ripley grounded with a wristlock until Ripley raised up Kai and slammed her on the mat. Kai was blocked on a couple of lariat attempts and Ripley grounded her, then hit a basement dropkick on her back. Another dropkick by Ripley. Ripley held an arm and hit a back-kick, then hit a belly to belly into a face slam and covered for two. The two exchanged shots in the middle of the ring. Kai missed a face wash in the corner and Ripley hit an electric chair drop for two. Ripley sold the pain in her left arm and charged Kai in a corner but missed. Kai quickly ran the ropes and hit a face wash. Kai attempted to roll up Ripley, who caught Kai in the Prism Trap (still not being called as much, as apparently the name has been removed). Raquel Gonzalez had stepped to the top of the ramp, and Ripley was distracted but held on. Kai made it to the ropes to break as Ripley focused on her.
Ripley put Kai up in the corner and followed. Kai fought off a superplex and hit a backstabber in the ring for a near-fall. Kai threw some kicks at Ripley and Ripley caught Kai in a Riptide attempt. Kai fought it off for a guillotine. Ripley was able to reposition Kai for Riptide to finish.
After the match, a bevy of officials tried to keep Gonzalez from storming the ring. She made it to the ring and the two monsters faced off. Referees said “Not now, girls” but they weren’t having it. The two fought through the officials as many times as they could to get their hands on one another in a long brawl.
WINNER: Rhea Ripley at 11:30.
(Wells’s Analysis: Kai is so good that it’s criminal to see her being used to enhance her mate’s feud, but they’re working toward the monster feud that they want, so it’s inevitable. Good action that worked toward the blowoff, which is likely at New Year’s Evil)
-Christmas with the Garganos: Indi Hartwell opened her gift – a PS5. She was overjoyed until she realized it was an empty box. Gargano said the box was for dramatic effect, but he had a better gift for her: she was now christened Indi Wrestling. Indi hooted and hollered as Theory shed a tear and said it was beautiful.
-Toni Storm gave Io Shirai some warnings via an interview with McKenzie Mitchell.
-Xia Li and Boa trained at the weird intense secret facility. They were both taking intense shots better than ever, and no longer showed any fear. The two were essentially…baptized?…suggesting a new beginning. We once again got a very quick shot of the cloaked woman in charge.
(4) BRONSON REED vs. ASHANTE “THEE” ADONIS
This is Reed’s first match back after a few months, which the announcers acknowledged, though they didn’t mention why. Adonis was very briefly seemingly in line for a push, but apparently that’s not happening right now.
Reed laid out Adonis, hit a senton and a Tsunami.
WINNER: Bronson Reed at 1:07.
Vic said Reed had changed the landscape, and Reed got into the camera and told everyone to be afraid.
-McKenzie Mitchell tried to interview Io Shirai, who told the music guy to play her theme as she headed to the ring. Shirai tossed a chair angrily into the ring and sat on it. She told Toni Storm to head to the ring. Storm’s music played, but instead, Mercedes Martinez appeared behind Shirai and she laid her out. Martinez tossed Shirai into a corner post and then the steel structure near the announcers. Shirai tried to fight back but Martinez shoved Shirai back into the apron, then threw her the other direction and broke her through the front of the announce table. Finally, a table breaks when it’s supposed to! Martinez posed as the show went to commercial.
-Christmas with the Garganos: the final gift from Johnny was to Candice LeRae. It was the destroyed wheel from Shotzi Blackheart’s tank. He said he spent 17 hours in a junkyard looking through the rubble for the last remnants of Shotzi’s tank. LeRae loved it. The four posed for a photo as Theory stuffed his face with protein powder. They all said “Merry Christmas” for the photo, and Theory spit powder all over the place.
(5) LEON RUFF vs. TIMOTHY THATCHER
No entrance for Ruff. Thatcher grounded Ruff early and worked a brief chinlock, then wrenched Ruff’s head using his nostrils. Back elbow by Thatcher sent Ruff quickly back to the mat. Another elbow by Thatcher. Ruff jumped into a headlock, then another after Thatcher broke it. Ruff ran the ropes and Thatcher hit a back elbow. Suplex by Thatcher. Thatcher called out for Tommaso Ciampa to show up. Thatcher worked a submission on the mat and covered his mouth to keep him from breathing, then rolled him up for two. He hit a couple of knees to Ruff’s midsection. Ruff tried to throw a couple of strikes but got nothing. Belly-to-belly by Thatcher. Thatcher went to the outside and got a chair, then set it up where Ciampa sometimes sits to watch matches. Thatcher went back into the ring and Ruff rolled him up for two. Ruff hit two kicks and a lariat, but couldn’t take Thatcher down. Ruff went for a springboard elbow but got hit with a European Uppercut. Suplex and a couple of kicks by Thatcher. Thatcher lifted up Ruff and held him there, and looked to the ramp again. Ruff rolled up Thatcher for the pin.
WINNER: Leon Ruff at 3:57.
After the decision, Thatcher tossed Ruff around and Ciampa showed up quickly and hit Willow’s Bell. He said “You want to fight? I’ll see you in the Fight Pit” to Thatcher before giving him a kiss of death on the forehead. Ciampa sat on the chair briefly, slapped his own back, and walked off.
(Wells’s Analysis: Nice that Ruff isn’t falling all the way down the card immediately, but Thatcher almost never wins and yet remains in a high-profile feud. The finish with Thatcher’s hubris getting the better of him worked, but you have to wonder who they’re willing to job to Thatcher right now)
-Damian Priest, in a backstage segment, promoted his match with Karrion Kross at New Year’s Evil. He said he’d punk out Kross in front of the world.
-Dexter Lumis, official host for New Year’s Evil, put the finishing touches on a drawing of Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Gonzalez, captioned “Last Woman Standing.”
(6) ARIYA DAIVARI vs. TYLER RUST (w/Malcolm Bivens)
Super weird spot for Daivari to make a rare (first?) appearance on NXT. Rust had new awful theme music. Oh well. Rust took down Daivari early and worked Daivari’s wrist. Daivari reversedbut Rust reversed back and went for an abdominal stretch as Daivari got to a rope. Bivens went to the guys at the announce table and gloated about Rust. Rust worked Daivari’s wrist again and propped him up over his own shoulder, then spun around and tossed Daivari. Rust went for an arm submission but Daivari got to a rope. Rust threw an uppercut in the corner and whipped Daivari to another. He missed a charge and Daivari hit a kick, then a neckbreaker over a rope. Daivari dropkicked Rust from the apron to the outside, then rolled him back into the ring.
Daivari did a little ground and pound as Bivens said he hadn’t done anything yet. Daivari trash talked Rust, who grabbed him into a triangle and held on to a four count as Daivari reached a rope. Rust threw repeated kicks to Daivari’s arm. Uppercut and a kick by Rust. Rust put on an arm submission using his legs that seemingly doesn’t have a name yet. Vic said “Diamond in the Rust” again.
WINNER: Tyler Rust at 4:34.
(Wells’s Analysis: Last week I was thrilled to see Rust in NXT, and this was another strong outing as Rust builds himself up for something bigger. Weird spot for Daivari, though I guess if anyone can take a loss, it’s him)
-Leon Ruff was still beaming about his win over Timothy Thatcher, but said the good news didn’t stop there: he’s got a rematch with Johnny Gargano coming up for the North American Championship next week.
-Karrion Kross cut a promo about Damian Priest making the biggest mistake of his life as he works his way back to what he never lost (the NXT Championship). Tick tock.
-Voting is open for the year-end awards for NXT!
(7) ADAM COLE (w/Roderick Strong) vs. VELVETEEN DREAM
Cole’s intro was at nine to the hour, so either it’s an overrun or a squash. I could see either happening.
Dream backed up a lot to start. He locked up with Cole, who took him down with a headlock. Beth and Wade talked about Cole having real leadership or the same jealousy as anyone. Beth invoked the Grinch and said Wade’s heart was two sizes too small. Clean break by Cole in the corner and Dream charged with a forearm. Cole came off the ropes with a kick and an ax-handle. A forearm by Cole laid out Dream. Another did the same. Pump kick by Cole put Dream on the mat. Cole whipped Dream and then charged and ate boots, but Cole hit a jumping neckbreaker. Cole put Dream on the apron and hit a pump kick to send Dream to the floor. Cole rolled Dream into the ring and the two were both laid out as they went for a headbutt at the same time.
Pete Dunne stormed ringside out of nowhere and took out Roderick Strong and put him on the apron. Dream ran at Cole and knocked him down with his shirt in a dopey-looking spot as the ref was distracted. The match went to split-screen.
Dream body-slammed Cole and went to the corner and up the turnbuckle. He missed an elbow as Cole moved. The two exchanged forearms and Cole hit a couple of lariats and an ushigoroshi for two. Cole worked a waistlock and then hit an enzuigiri and a German suplex. Cole covered for two. Vic promoted a match next week between Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong, and a Fight Pit match in two weeks at New Year’s Evil between Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa.
Dream hit a powerslam for two. Dream threw some rights in the corner, then a back elbow. Dream tried to go up but Cole superkicked the back of Dream’s knee to knock him down. Cole went for a figure four and Dream reversed and put Cole on the outside. Dream went for an ax-handle from the top but ran into a superkick. Cole seemed to go in to tell Dream something and then he went into the ring and backed up in a weirdly-produced moment. The ref checked on Dream. Dream went into the ring and Cole caught him in a figure-four. Dream reached the rope to break. Cole missed a superkick and Dream rolled him up for two. Dream hit a DDT and hit the Purple Rainmaker elbow and Cole kicked out.
Cole hit a neckbreaker and went for Panama Sunrise, but Dream superkicked him. Dream went up and jumped into a superkick. Last Shot by Cole finished. Cole jawed into the camera as the show faded out.
WINNER: Adam Cole at 13:18.
(Wells’s Analysis: There is absolutely no sizzle with Dream right now. They don’t want to promote him in multi-week feuds and keep him top of mind in the wake of his personal issues, so these show-length feuds are all he gets, and he usually gets very little offense on the way to losing. I don’t know what they’re trying to salvage here. Assuming people elect to forget his issues, which is a pretty big assumption, there’s a lot of work to do to get Dream back to his once-high perch. Okay match, harmed by the fact that nobody would reasonably give Dream a chance to win).
FINAL THOUGHTS: The show ended on a bit of a thud as it pitted Adam Cole, who’s a bit cold at the moment, against Velveteen Dream who’s ice cold. Otherwise, the show made some good strides toward the next two weeks of TV. The Balor-O’Reilly segment stood out as a strong promotional tool for New Year’s Evil.
As has been the case a lot lately, the show was very busy. We had Mercedes Martinez returning, Bronson Reed returning, Leon Ruff vs. Timothy Thatcher in a match that got them both closer to their next feud payoff, Tyler Rust’s first win and the continuation of multiple other feuds. If one can keep it all straight and remember it all, it’s a pretty strong offering. The Christmas with the Garganos segments will likely be loved or hated, as a heel group with a lot of talent are all being used for comedic effect. I don’t mind the decision, as they’ve shown a willingness to reinvent Gargano and LeRae when the need arises, so I’m sure their days of being more straightforward characters aren’t over either.
Join me, Tom Stoup and Nate Lindberg tonight for PWT Talks NXT. Cheers, and I’ll see you next week.