NXT NEW YEAR’S EVIL HITS & MISSES: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Finn Balor, Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Gonzalez, Xia Li & Boa’s Debut, The Gargano Way, Gran Metalik vs. Santos Escobar, Damian Priest vs. Karrion Kross, & more

By Nate Lindberg: PWTorch Contributor


Dexter Lumis As Host

What a strange choice for a host. A character that never speaks? The opening sixty to the show were supremely boring as Dexter Lumis walked into the Capitol Wrestling Center, quiet as a mouse. He walked up to the light & soundboard and pressed a bunch of buttons to turn on the lights and music. On a night when most wrestling eyes are on AEW and the eyes of the country are on the nation’s capitol, this was not a great 60 second hook to capture anyone who may be channel flipping.

His only other involvement came during The Way vs. Shotzi & Kushida which was somewhat entertaining. Otherwise, I forgot he hosted.

Verdict: MISS

Damian Priest vs. Karrion Kross w/ Scarlett

While Priest hasn’t had the most protected run ever in NXT, he is portrayed as somebody tough to beat. Kross has also been booked to be a major force within the company. Needless to say, there was certainly a bit of anticipation for this contest going into the night. I’ve liked the short and rather straight to the point booking for this feud, and I think they pulled this match off rather well.

Priest was sure to work Kross’ recently repaired left shoulder, playing into the narrative of the match throughout. Both appeared to get an equal amount of offense in, Kross perhaps a bit more towards the end. Priest could definitely eat a loss here, he’s already well established. Karrion Kross needs to keep as much momentum as possible after returning from injury. This was a rather strong win for Kross when everything was said and done, and I look forward to what he does next.

Verdict: HIT

Gran Metalik vs. Santos Escobar – NXT Cruiserweight Championship

Last week, Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik interrupted Legado del Fantasma during an in-ring segment. Lucha House Party’s win over Fantasma lead to this match tonight. LHP represents the fun side of Lucha Libre, Fantasma believes that Lucha Libre deserves respect and should be taken seriously. In that sense, I guess you could make the case for it. But LHP have been defined as nothing more than a jobber tag team over the years. I don’t know what was stranger: Seeing LHP show up in NXT, or the fact that Gran Metalik wrestled for the Cruiserweight Title.

One thing of note however, was that Vic Joseph did bring up Jordan Devlin. Devlin never lost his Cruiserweight title, he just couldn’t defend it as he was stuck overseas due to the pandemic. Devlin is technically still the actual Champion with Escobar being the interim Champion. However, this was the first time that they referred to Devlin’s title as the NXT UK Cruiserweight Championship. I’m not sure if that was a slip of the tongue or if that may mean Devlin will defend his title at the same time?

While this wasn’t a bad match, I never once believed that Gran Metalik had a chance. Ultimately, that prevented me from ever getting invested in it. I applaud their performance, but I’m still scratching my head as to why Gran Metalik was a better choice than any other cruiserweight on the actual NXT roster.

Verdict: MISS

Xia Li w/ Boa vs. Katrina Cortez

I absolutely loved the presentation during Li & Boa’s entrance. It may have been a little over the top when Li started showing off her skills at the base of the ramp, but still. Having this mystery woman sitting on a throne at the top of the ramp was a wonderful touch as well.

We saw Katrina briefly make the main roster last year, however she’s largely been unheard of ever since. Tonight, she was absolutely decimated by the new Xia Li.

I’ve been waiting for Li to get her moment to shine since the 2nd Mae Young Classic. I feel like she pulled off this new gimmick beautifully tonight. I can’t wait to see Boa get his moment to shine either. As to who the mystery woman is, that is a mystery for another day it seems. Frankly, I don’t even have a guess to who it may be.

Verdict: HIT

Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Gonzalez – Last Woman Standing

My most anticipated match of the night. I don’t typically like the Last Person Standing stipulation as the finish is always somewhat lack luster. The audience is essentially waiting for the ref to count to 10 after one competitor can’t get up. That sounds riveting, doesn’t it?

Ripley and Gonzalez have quite the history together. While not all of said history aired on NXT TV, last week they showed us their journey together coming up through the Performance Center. The two former best friends and tag team partners finally clashed tonight. Gonzalez came off as a monster, taking Rhea Ripley to town on more than one occasion. Ripley even handcuffed her to the chain link barricade between the ring and the crowd and Gonzalez just ripped the chain link fence to escape.

Rhea Ripley may have lost, but she put up quite the fight. Unfortunately, Ripley has seemed to lose more high profile feuds as of late which took some shine off of her. Gonzalez, in contrast, beat a former NXT Champ and someone who wrestled at WrestleMania. A big win for Kai’s former heater!

Verdict: HIT

The Way Arrives

Johnny Gargano, Candice LaRae, Indi Hartwell & Austin Theory entered the arena after a parade of cars with lights and sirens paraded them to the venue. They entered the ring and congratulated Gargano for breaking the curse and defending his NXT NA Championship last week.  They gave him a plaque and family photo before he and Theory announced they were going into the Dusty Classic.

Shotzi Blackheart interrupted the party and Theory rushed Shotzi and her tank. Shotzi launched a Vortex Football out of the cannon into Theory’s gonads before she and LaRae went at it. Kushida sided with Shotzi when all of a sudden the bell rang. Dexter Lumis appeared with the bell and all of a sudden a mixed tag between LaRae & Gargano and Kushida & Shotzi was underway.

Verdict: HIT

Johnny Gargano & Candice LaRae vs. Kushida & Shotzi Blackheart

This impromptu match immediately went to commercial as soon as it started, taking some heat away right from the get go. This was a fun and somewhat comedic match at times, and I think it showcased the strengths of The Way beautifully: cowardly, charismatic and delusional. It was a relatively short match, but it may be a foreshadowing to a rival stable perhaps?

Verdict: HIT

Kyle O’Reilly vs. Finn Balor – NXT Championship

Some don’t take Kyle O’Reilly for a main event, singles star. Six months ago, I was probably one of those people. However Kyle O’Reilly has shown that he can hang with the main event talent as of late. Early on, KOR used his mouth to grab the rope to break a submission hold. Unique, and it allowed for Balor to kick KOR in the back of the head while still biting the rope. KOR spent the rest of the match selling the jaw. This was clearly an act of revenge for KOR legitimately breaking Finn Balor’s jaw in three places a few months ago.

This was a high intensity brawl between these two incredible performers. KOR played his underdog role extremely well. In the 2nd half of the match especially, Balor seemed to have more of the offensive than KOR did. He played it so well, I thought that he may actually squeak out a win.

I’m a little disappointed, as I think KOR would make a great NXT Champion. However, at the end of the day we knew this was going to happen. Last week, Pete Dunne stepped up to Balor backstage planting the seed for a match between the two of them. After that, I knew there wasn’t a chance in hell for KOR to walk away champion. Regardless of the booking, the match in and of itself was entertaining and worth the watch.

Verdict: HIT



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