NXT HITS & MISSES 12/23: Tag Team Championship Street Fight, A Gargano Christmas, Balor vs. KOR Preview, Swerve vs. Atlas, Ripley vs. Kai, Reed vs. Adonis, Martinez Returns, Thatcher vs. Ruff, more

By Nate Lindberg: PWTorch Contributor


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

Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch vs Killian Dain & Drake Maverick – NXT Tag Team Championship Street Fight

As the NXT Champs, Lorcan and Burch made their way to the ring to kick off the show, Maverick and Dain attacked from behind. Within seconds of the show going on the air, the action was underway. I like this from time to time, I just hope they don’t go back to starting each week in a chaotic fray.

Maverick and Dain started out strong but Maverick was taken out quickly, which allowed for the champs to get their heat. I love oddball pairing tag teams and Dain & Maverick are no different. They work off of each other very well and I’m glad that they’ve found their niche. Lorcan used Maverick’s own belt (the kind to hold up your pants, not a title belt) to whip him, which I thought was a unique touch for a street fight. Otherwise, it was your average WWE street fight. Dain took a nasty table bump off of the apron when neither table intended for him to go through broke.A

There was a false finish about 3-4 minutes in where Maverick pinned Lorcan for a two count that should have won the match. The ref said that Lorcan’s foot was under the rope. It was, absolutely. But it’s a street fight. Rope breaks need not apply.

Lorcan and Burch retained in the end. Their reign is too infantile for them to have lost them so soon, so I believe this was the right choice to keep them strong.

Verdict: HIT

Christmas With The Gargano Way

“Forget Elf on a Shelf. They had Gargano on a piano.” Easily the line of the year, as far as I’m concerned. Everything about this skit was pure gold. From the cheesy outfits, to the 1990s style home video. Gargano and LaRae calling Hartwell and Theory their “Kids”. Using WWE merch as Christmas decor. The Gargano “Whey” protein powder pun.

I continue to eat everything about this stable up for breakfast.

Verdict: HIT

Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly New Year’s Evil Hype Video

Even though I’m looking forward to this match, I don’t think that the public perception is that this is a top level feud just yet. Even Wade Keller said on his daily Hotline that KOR doesn’t quite seem on the level as Adam Cole. And while I agree, he’s not on that level yet. I think that he has the potential to be a top guy. He can flap his gums, he has charisma coming out of his ears and is easily one of the best workers in the company.

This video, while not the best hype video that I’ve seen from NXT production, was solid. I don’t know if it  would have raised the perception of KOR for anyone who doesn’t believe in him yet, however.

Verdict: HIT

Tyler Rust & Malcolm Bivens Interviewed

Bivens and Rust were backstage and approached by Mackenzie Mitchell. Bivens talked Rust up and said he had one of the best debuts in NXT history. Arguably, he’s right. Not many newcomers have dared to even challenge Ciampa, let alone take him to his limit.

Verdict: HIT

Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. Jake Atlas

Swerve showed off this new attitude this week once again. New entrance gear and dyed hair, I appreciate the changed look. However, Swerve is just so  charismatic and entertaining as a face, that I’m having a hard time buying him as a heel.

Atlas didn’t get an entrance tonight, which foreshadowed his loss to me. Plenty of false finishes kept me on my toes, but once Swerve landed the Confidence Boost, I knew it was over for Atlas. He put on a great performance, but with Swerve’s recent gimmick change he needs to be booked strong right now.

Last week, Swerve refused a handshake from Atlas after he lost to him. This week, Swerve got right in Atlas’s face, offering a handshake mockingly. Great heat building. I hope he keeps these little details up, slowly converting me to believe in him as a heel going forward.

Verdict: HIT

Roddy & Cole Speak On KOR’s Chances of Winning

The two Undisputed Era members showed unity and support for their brother until they were interrupted by my personal favorite (LIE) wrestler on the roster, Velveteen Dream. He started making fun of Cole saying that KOR has taken Cole’s spot as leader of the UE. Cole slapped him and said that there is no leader and set a match up for later in the night.

Personally, I see why NXT is doing this. They still see money in Dream. However, I want nothing to do with him after the allegations against him were never fully refuted by the company. Sorry, not sorry.

Staying unbiased and trying to keep Patrick Clark separate from the Dream character, I think this has the potential to be a decent feud. Cole makes a great babyface and Dream has always leaned into whichever side he’s on, heel or face.

Verdict: HIT

Rhea Ripley vs. Dakota Kai

Booked correctly, this could be an NXT Takeover main event match. This feud isn’t meant to be the most important thing on the card, which is totally fine. It just made me giddy that we’d get this match on free TV. What a match between these two amazing athletes. Kai and Ripley have always seemed to have amazing chemistry with one another.

This match was no different. Raquel Gonzales was barred from ringside but that didn’t stop her from standing at the stage. Gonzales was Kai’s heater for quite some time, though they don’t make much mention of it. Her presence added mystery to the match, but ultimately it didn’t play a part in Ripley’s win. If you told me 5 months ago that Kai would be losing a match to build to Gonzales vs. Ripley, I may have scoffed at the idea. However, I’ve enjoyed the build and if their NXT UK history is anything to go on, this should be a solid match come New Years Evil.

Verdict: HIT

Toni Storm, What’s Next?

Dressed like a member of the village people, Storm cut a halfway decent promo against Shirai. Including bringing up the fact that she beat her in the finals of the Mae Young Classic. While I’m not personally super high on Storm, I think that she has the appeal to the younger and more mainstream audience to be a star.

Verdict: HIT

Bronson Reed vs. Ashante “Thee” Adonis

Nothing but a showcase match for a returning Bronson Reed. Not that I’m complaining. I think Reed has a lot of potential as a mid to upper card face.

Verdict: HIT

Io Shirai Respond to Storm

Shirai made a bee-line for the ring and sat dead center on a folding chair. She said she wouldn’t move until Storm came out. When Storm’s music hit, Mercedes Martinez came out of nowhere and decimated the NXT Women’s Champion. Martinez made her debut earlier this year but she’d largely been off of TV for the majority of the Pandemic era.

I’m not sure what to make of this, but ultimately I’m excited about it. Mercedes Martinez is such an underrated veteran talent and deserves a spotlight in the NXT Womens Title scene.

Verdict: HIT

Leon Ruff vs. Timothy Thatcher

Thatcher essentially toyed with Ruff for the majority of the match. It wasn’t so much of a beatdown on Ruff as it was a message to Ciampa. However, Thatcher’s focus on Ciampa who was nowhere to be seen, ultimately cost him the match. He took his eye off the ball and allowed for Ruff to get a quick rollup for the upset win.

Ciampa came out after the match and challenged Thatcher to a Fight Pit!

YES! Another Fight Pit! Riddle vs. Thatcher in the Fight Pit earlier this year was arguably the Match of the Year in NXT. I can’t wait to see what these two do to one another inside NXT’s version of an MMA cage.

Tyler Rust w/ Malcolm Bivens vs. Davari

Rust is clearly being positioned to be a top guy here in NXT. Or at least a key player in the promotion! Rust is a long-time ring veteran in his own right and will be an amazing addition to the roster. With Indus Sher supposedly going to NXT India, I feel like this is also a prime place for Bivens as well.

Davari, while never a major player in the WWE, is also a great talent. He made Rust look like a million bucks and should also be commended in this matchup.

I can’t wait to see what Rust brings to the table in the future.

Verdict: HIT

 Adam Cole vs. Velveteen Dream

Putting aside my vitriol for Patrick Clark, I can’t deny his talent in the ring. His charisma and in-ring talents are certainly well above average. Cole is one of the best workers in NXT today. Any time these two have clashed in the past, even if it’s been part of multi-man feuds, have been entertaining. This was no different.

Dunne’s interference helped to make this match feel like Cole was the clear underdog. With Bobby Fish out of action and KOR tied up in another feud, now Cole had nobody in his corner. Perhaps Lorcan, Burch or even McAfee himself could have still interfered on behalf of Dream, however. It kept the illusion of Cole being the underdog alive.

Cole beating Dream was the best choice as far as I’m concerned. Keep the crowd happy at the end of 2020 and keep the Undisputed Era strong as we roll into New Years Evil.

Verdict: HIT

 

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