1/20 NXT ON USA REPORT: Lindberg’s report on Thatcher vs. Ciampa in the Fight Pit, First Round Dusty Classic Matches including Theory & Gargano vs. Kushida & Ruff, & more.

By Nate Lindberg: PWTorch Contributor


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

NXT ON USA
JANUARY 20, 2021, 8PM EST
LIVE IN ORLANDO, FLA., AT CAPITOL WRESTLING CENTER
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY NATE LINDBERG, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Commentary: Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, Beth Phoenix


[HOUR ONE]

-The show kicked off with a video package recapping last week’s Dusty Classic matches for both the men and women before hyping the Fight Pit between Thatcher & Ciampa later in the night. They cut to the arena where they showed the fight pit set up in an area next to the ring. Vic Joseph & Wade Barrett welcomed Beth Phoenix back to the in-person booth.

(1) LEON RUFF & KUSHIDA vs. AUSTIN THEORY & JOHNNY GARGANO

Ruff & Kushida were already in the ring when the camera cut to them. Gargano & Theory entered the arena, stopping to admire the Dusty Cup. The bell rang and Ruff and Theory kicked things off. Theory threw Ruff across the ring to start, with Ruff immediately bouncing back and locking up. Headlock by Ruff, but shot off the ropes and met with a dropkick by Theory. The two traded reversals and Ruff climbed to the top looking to fly. Theory caught him in a reverse death valley poistion looking for a crucifix bomb, and Ruff was able to reverse.

Kushida tagged in, he and Ruff used their 5 count to double team Theory before Kushida locked in an arm lock. Theory escaped, but Kushida slapped it right back on. Theory made it to his feet and made the tag to Gargano who blitzed into the ring and took Kushida down. “I AM THE BEST” he shouted, and while showing off, Kushida made it to his feet. Gargano quickly made the tag and Theory landed a massive dropkick for a quick pin attempt.

Theory got Kushida into the corner and whipped him into the opposite corner, Kushida falling to the mat. Theory tried locking in a submission, but Kushida countered. Theory was able to reach back and tag Gargano and the two double teamed Kushida for a quick cover.

Gargano quickly made another pin attempt before quickly tagging Theory back in. They kept Kushida in their corner and far away from his partner Ruff. Theory went for a suplex, Kushida reversed and made the hot tag. Ruff, on fire, came with a massive crossbody followed by a series of dropkicks and strikes on Theory. He got Theory into the corner, and climbed the rope behind him. Theory caught Ruff once again off the top and successfully delivered the Crucifix Bomb for a two count.

(Lindberg’s Analysis: Going into the first commercial break, I’m already finding myself disenchanted with the idea of so many meaningless tag matchups. However, so far they have put on a great performance. It is a bit odd that Theory and Gargano are in the traditional Face corner while Kushida and Ruff are in the traditional heel corner, though.)

Going into a picture-in-picture commercial break, Theory kept his offensive strong against Ruff. He made the tag to Gargano who put Ruff into an armbreaker. Gargano spent some time showboating before choking Ruff on the middle rope before the ref broke it up. He grabbed Ruff in a headlock and brought him to the center of the ring for a suplex before tagging Theory back in. Theory stomped Ruff, and easily tossed him into one of the corners. He picked Ruff up and slammed him to the mat for a quick two count.

Theory wrenched in a neck hold, and Ruff was able to escape to his feet before being swiftly clotheslined to the mat. Theory tagged Gargano back in, who immediately locked in a headlock.

Back from commercial, Gargano made a quick cover for a 2 count before tagging Theory back in. The two attempted a double team move, and Ruff was able to reverse and try to scramble to his partner. Theory got in the way, but after an enziguri, Ruff almost made it to Kushida. Gargano snuck up behind Kushida and knocked him off the apron. Gargano went for a pin on Ruff, who kicked out.

Theory and Gargano went for another double team move, but Ruff was able to reverse it into a massive top rope cutter. He tagged Kushida in who swiftly took out both members of The Way. Kushida hit a handspring elbow on Theory and launched himself out of the ring to take Gargano out. He threw Gargano, the legal man, back in the ring but Gargano reversed with a heelkick to the jaw. Kushida was able to get his armbar submission locked in, but Theory broke it up before Kushida could tap.

Kushida and Gargano traded strikes before Theory was tagged in and hit a reverse death valley on Kushida for a two count. Theory and Gargano double teamed Kushida and Ruff made the save, taking Theory out of the ring. Kushida hit a fishermans suplex on the North American Champion and bridged to a pin for the win.

WINNERS: Leon Ruff & Kushida in 14:57.

(Lindberg’s Analysis: Kushida has now beaten Gargano twice, meaning I’m sure he’ll be going for a title shot soon. Surprising that The Way is out of the tournament so early, but frankly this could be used as a massive heat building device for the already (amazingly) annoying Gargano)

-After the match, they cut to a video package on Pete Dunne and his quest for NXT Gold. He called Balor out and said they came from the same humble beginnings. He said they are different because Balor left while Dunne built up NXT and is always unfairly compared to him. He said he’s the real threat to the title and he knows as well as Dunne does, it’s inevitable. This title is his.

(Lindberg’s Analysis: While this wasn’t groundbreaking, it was a well produced package that really cemented Dunne’s mission. Dunne may not seem like a main eventer and I doubt he’ll dethrone Balor. However, it should make for a fun feud.)

-A quick vignette played to hype Karrion Kross and Scarlett tonight.

-Mackenzie Mitchell met Malcolm Bivens outside of Regals office who said he had something to present to Regal. Rust walked out of Regals office saying they had the match against Reed. Bivens didn’t seem super happy about it, and said it wasn’t the opponent he would have chosen.

(2) KARRION KROSS (w/Scarlett) vs. ASHANTE ADONIS

Kross and Scarlett made their walk to the ring. Scarlett wearing a full body suit and some strange medusa (the god, not Alundra Blayze) headdress. Adonis did not get an entrance, but his partner Desmond Troy was ringside. Kross immediately suplexed Adonis twice and Adonis sold his neck until a third Saito suplex was delivered. The ref kept saying she wanted to call it, but she didn’t. Kross quickly clotheslined Adonis for the pinfall.

WINNER: Karrion Kross in 1:17.

(Lindberg’s Analysis: As much as I love Troy and Adonis, they are low on the totem pole. It makes sense that a returning Kross would have slaughtered someone like Adonis. A very strong win for Kross, I think they should have done this more before returning him to storylines)

-After the match, Kross attacked Troy with a chokehold as Troy was trying to help his partner out of the ring.

-The announcers cut to a backstage vignette introducing Wes Lee & Nash Carter with Carter the duo doing a horrible Borat impersonation. A bunch of clips of last week’s match were shown along with Ember Moon endorsing the duo. They said that they’ve fought for this for a long time and they won’t let this opportunity at the Dusty Cup slip away.

(Lindberg’s Analysis: As someone who isn’t super familiar with The Rascalz, now MSK, I wish they gave us just a little bit more about these two. Their “Stoner” gimmick kind of came across, I think? But it really just seemed like two goofballs rather than an impressive team. I don’t think this was groundbreaking introduction for what I’ve heard is an incredible team.)

-Mercedes Martinez & Toni Storm appeared on screen and said that they don’t even need friendship. They aren’t friends, but two strong women who will win the Dusty Classic.

(3) IMPERIUM vs. LUCHA HOUSE PARTY

Lucha House Party were already in the ring as the former NXT Tag Champions, Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel entered the arena. Dorado and Barthel kicked things off with Barthel in control with a suplex into armbar. The announcers said Dorado may not be in the best of shape after getting beaten by The Hurt Business on Raw, which was great continuity that we don’t usually see. The two traded strikes before Dorado was able to make a tag to Gran Metalik who took out Barthel with a headscissors. He climbed Dorado’s shoulders and splashed Barthel for a two count.

Aichner tagged in and took Metalik to the mat with an uppercut. He whipped Metalik off the rope and punched him in the gut on the rebound. He propped Metalik in the corner and the strikes continued. Aichner landed a power slam for a quick two count.

Metalik was able to hit a slingblade and tagged his partner in. As Dorado took out Aichner, Metalik took Barthel off the Apron. Aichner was able to retaliate and delivered a devestating powerbomb to the mat outside the ring to Dorado. Metalik tried to dive off the top rope, but was knocked into a tree of woe by Barthel. He and Aichner delivered a double dropkick to the prone Metalik as they cut to commercial.

Back from the break, Aichner and Dorado were in the ring and Dorado landed a stunner. Barthel quickly tagged in and took Dorado down with a headlock. Dorado fought out and backed into the corner. Barthel sat him on the top rope and Dorado kept trying to fight to get out. Barthel went for a superplex, but Dorado reversed into a tornado DDT. He couldn’t make a cover, but went for a hot tag to Metalik. Both men tagged their partners and Metalik immediately took Aicher to the mat with a series of springboard kicks into a top rope hurricanrana. He climbed up again and landed a moonsault for a two count. Aichner went for a powerslam but Metalik reversed and Barthel made a blind tag. Barthel and Aicher double teamed Metalik and Barthel pinned, but Dorado broke up the attempt.

Aichner tagged back in and went for a suplex on Metalik who escaped and tagged in Dorado. Double teammed for a two count, and Barthel broke it up. Dorado delivered a series of strikes to the head of Aichner who then was able to catch Dorado in a suplex for a two count.

Barthel tagged back in and the two doubleteamed with a spinebuster but Dorado and Metalik broke up the double team offense. Barthel rolled up Dorado for a quick pin but he kicked out and climbed to the top rope. Dorado hit a moonsault and pinned Barthel for the win.

WINNERS: Lucha House Party in 11:12.

(Lindberg’s Analysis: I’m kind of shocked. I did not expect LHP to last past the first round, let alone see them take out Imperium. Boy how far Imperium has fallen in this past year. However, I should have seen it coming considering they face Legado del Fantasma in the next round.)

-After the match, Alexander Wolfe, who has been absent for months, showed up on the ramp and saluted his Imperium bretheren.

-They cut backstage to Ciampa being weighed in at 201lbs for the fight pit, followed by Thatcher at 225. Regal wished both men luck and Ciampa went to shake Thatcher’s hand. Thatcher pushed Ciampa away and security broke them up.

-William Regal introduced Beth Phoenix to kick off the Women’s Dusty Classic. She said that NXT has been at the forefront of the women’s evolution and named off the top female NXT alumni and their accolades. She said we make history again tonight and kicked off the first match. All 16 women involved were on the stage as well.

[HOUR TWO]

(4) KACY CATANZARO & KAYDEN KARTER vs. MERCEDES MARTINEZ & TONI STORM

The four women walked down the ramp together, oddly enough, and the match was underway. Storm and Karter kicked things off and locked up in the ring. They traded wristlocks for a minute or so and Karter took a headlock. Toni shot her off the ropes and then no-sold a body block. She knocked Karter down with a drop kick for the two count.

Storm tagged Martinez in who delivered a sidewalk slam and elbow for a two count. Karter fought to her feet and tagged Kacy. They double teamed the larger Martinez and Kacy made a cover for two. Martinez pummeled Kacy to the mat, picked her up, and chopped her back down. Martinez with a European uppercut and then wrenched Kacy’s neck. Kacy made it to her feet but Martinez grabbed her by the hair and threw her down. She essentially treated Kacy like Lesnar would treat Rey Mysterio. Martinez hit another sidewalk slam and almost made the three count, but was broken up by Karter as they hit commercial break.

Back from break, Storm was now legal against Kacy, but she quickly tagged Martinez back in. Martinez and Storm double teamed her with Martinez covering for two. Kacy desperately tried for the hot tag, but Martinez kept her isolated from Karter. She hoisted Kacy to the top rope and looked for a superplex. Kacy blocked it, but Martinez just picked her up on her shoulders. Kacy flipped around and turned it into a Frankensteiner from the top rope. Martinez made the tag to Storm and Karter was tagged in as well. She came in and promptly took both Martinez and Storm out with a series of strikes and dropkicks.

Storm was sat prone against the lower rope and Karter kicked her in the face with a running boot. She rolled Storm up for a two, kicked her again and went for another cover. Martinez broke it up, but Kacy came in to take out Martinez and even the playing field.

Karter made it to her feet but Storm headbutted her and gave her a german suplex to take control. She slammed Karter to the mat and went for the single leg boston crab. Karter looked like she might tag, when Io Shirai came out of nowhere and took Martinez out, off of the apron. The distraction was just enough for Karter to trip Storm and tag Kacy. Kacy landed something almost as beautiful as The Red Arrow, and in the second Dusty upset of the night – Kacy and Kayden defeated Storm and Martinez.

WINNER: Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Karter in 12:30.

(Lindberg’s Analysis: Well, I didn’t see that coming. As much as I’ve wanted to see Kacy and Karter flourish and as happy as I’ve been to see them get a push as of late, I did not expect them to advance against Storm and Martinez. Perhaps this leads to a feud between Storm and Martinez over the loss?)

-MacKenzie Mitchell followed Finn Balor into Regals office. He said he wanted Pete Dunne and he knows the game Dunne is playing. He wanted to start with a match against Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. Regal said he can’t fight both of them, so he needs a partner. Balor said he didn’t have friends, only enemies. Regal said “Keep your enemies closer” and Balor walked off screen.

-Bronson Reed encountered Swerve backstage who seemed to give Reed some advice before his match against Tyler Rust. “Don’t ever get in my business again” it was revealed that he actually said before the next match.

-Drake Muertz was shown explaining the rules of the fight pit to Ciampa.

-McKenzie Mitchell said that Adonis is not able to compete in his Dusty Cup match when she was interrupted by Kacy and Karter who were celebrating their win.

(5) TYLER RUST (w/Malcolm Bivens) vs. BRONSON REED

Rust and Reed locked up and jockied for position before Reed held a wristlock on Rust. They traded headlocks and Rust shot Reed off the ropes. Reed grabbed the headlock again and it was broken up by the ref. Reed delivered a massive body block, sending Rust out the ring.

Bivens helped Rust up and told him to get back to work. Rust attacked Reed, who hoisted him up in a Gorilla Press into his knee. Reed with a fall away slam, and Rust once again rolled out of the ring. Rust got back in the ring and started attacking the left arm of Reed. A split screen came up, showing Io Shirai and Toni Storm fighting backstage with refs trying to contain them. They cut back to the live action with Rust in control.

Reed clubbed a kick from Rust, and contined the clubbing blows. He shot Rust off the ropes and hit a modified Lou Thesz press followed by a chokeslam for a two count.

Reed climbed up top for a big move, but Rust shot up the ropes and took the big man off balance before delivering a massive Samoan Drop for a two count.

Reed made it back to his feet and knocked Rust to the mat, he climbed the top and hit his top rope splash for the win.

WINNER: Bronson Reed in 4:54.

(Lindberg’s Analysis: They must be playing a long game with Rust. Rust came into the promotion with high fanfare. But to get beaten so definitively in his first match was a bit shocking. Reed has been a reclamation project and while I’d hate to see him lose, losing to a hot new talent may not have been that damaging if done correctly.)

-Balor was asked by McKenzie Mitchell backstage if he had picked a partner. He basically brushed it off, almost offended that he needed a partner. He said a few people owe him a favor and it’s time he had a few chats before walking off camera.

-Drake Muertz was shown backstage prepping Thatcher for the match, as he did with Ciampa a bit earlier.

-Balor entered the Undisputed Era dressing room. Finn said he was calling in his favor and they are all grown men. He looked at Kyle O’Reilly and asked if he was in, or if he was still sucking his meals through a straw. Strong took offense to this and Cole backed him off. Kyle eventually said “I’m in.” Balor paused and said “See you next week.” “See you next week… champ…” KOR said as they awkwardly stared at one another before Balor backed away.

(Lindberg’s Analysis: KOR was the immediate person I thought of when Regal said he needed a partner. The respect the two men built for one another over their two matches led me to believe that it wasn’t over between the two.)

-Santos Escobar entered the ring and said that a real champ does what he wants when he wants. He’s the champion of champions as the Cruiserweight champ. He said he wanted to explain a true champion. A true champion doesn’t have to conquer a curse like Gargano or have a glass jaw like Balor. A lot of people use pomp and circumstance like Karrion Kross, but they can’t even make it to their first defense. Escobar said he beat everyone in his path. He stood with his two cronies in the ring and claimed that nobody can destroy his empire.

He congratulated Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza for their victory in the Dusty Classic, putting them one step closer to being the tag team champions. Lucha House Party apparently didn’t have enough, and came out to attack Legado del Fantasma before their matchup next week. Legado del Fantasma took out Metalik and they were about to take out Dorado when Curt Stallion from 205 live came out and made the save for Lucha House Party, sending Legado packing.

-McKenzie Mitchell congratulated Drake Maverick and Killian Dain on their victory. She asked Dain his thoughts first and Maverick jumped in with his love for Dain. He said he knows who MSK are but they won’t win. They will, because they have their friendship. Dain said “Hey, that was pretty good!”, slapped him on the back and said “See ya next week!” before walking away.

-The ring announcer said “Welcome to the Fight Pit!” in her best Shotzi Blackheart impression. They then cut to commercial.

-Back from commercial, they didn’t go to the fight pit. Instead, an incensed Escobar approached Curt Stallion, putting the title on the line if he’d fight him next week.

(6) TIMOTHY THATCHER vs. TOMMASO CIAMPA – Fight Pit match

Thatcher entered first, followed by Ciampa. A ref checked each of them to make sure they didn’t have any weapons on them. They displayed the rules on screen.

The rules are:

  • The decision must happen in the pit.
  • No pinfalls
  • Win KO or Submission

Each man stood at an opposite corner at the top of the pit as the bell rang. Ciampa inched closer to Thatcher, who backed off before the two bum rushed one another, slugging it out atop the pit. Thatcher tried throwing Ciampa off the pit to the outside right off the bat, Ciampa returned the favor. Neither man was able to, and Thatcher was able to take control of the match with strikes and blows to Ciampa before delivering a suplex to Ciampa on the hard surface at the top of the pit.

Thatcher delivered kicks to the spine of Ciampa while slowly edging Ciampa towards the pit. Ciampa made it to his feet and superkicked Thatcher down. Ciampa stomped a mudhole in Thatcher, who then made it to his feet. The two traded chops before Thatcher was able to land a few body shots to Ciampa. The two jockeyed for position and Ciampa overtook Thatcher, slingshotting him into the steal barricade around the top of the pit.

They cut to commercial, picture in picture. Thatcher spent some time selling that slingshot before Ciampa threw him into the pit and jumped down after him. Ciampa ground Thatcher’s face against the cage before the ref broke it up. Thatcher grabbed a leg, and took Ciampa to the ground. He locked in a modified chokehold. It was hard to tell in the picture in picture, but it looked like Ciampa bit Thatcher’s thumb to escape.

Thatcher didn’t waste much time before locking in another neck submission. Ciampa fought to his feet and elbowed Thatcher in the face before throwing him off the cage three times in a row. Thatcher was leaning against the cage and Ciampa came with a flying knee to Thatcher’s face on the cage. The ref counted and made it to six before Thatcher made it to his feet.

Thatcher threw Ciampa into the corner, and Ciampa sold the shoulder like death. Thatcher thread the fingers of Ciampa into the corner support for the Pit and looked like he was trying to rip them off. He picked Ciampa up and suplexed him to the center of the ring before locking in another modified armbar.

Ciampa’s face was met with a series of forearms before Thatcher picked up Ciampa’s arm and threw it to the mat, seemingly damaging the already damaged shoulder of Ciampa. Ciampa was able to recover and slingshot Thatcher into the cage. He immediately followed it up with a single leg crab. When he realized he couldn’t get Thatcher to tap, he kicked him in the spine.

Ciampa continued his assault on Thatcher, but Thatcher was able to get the upperhand and lock in a sleeper submission. Ciampa wouldn’t go down and held on to the cage to stay upright. He low-blowed Ciampa and landed a Willows Bell off of the back of Muertz. I can’t even begin to explain how he set that up, so, I’m not going to try.

Thatcher made it to his feet at the count of five and reversed the fairy tale ending. Ciampa and Thatcher traded punches and Ciampa bashed Thatcher’s head off the steel cage. He landed the Fairy Tale Ending and put Thatcher into a sleeper. He made it to his feet somehow, and threw Ciampa neck first into the cage. He locked in a sleeper of his own. He then took Ciampa’s legs and thread them through the break in the cage near the turnbuckles. He locked in some sort of leg submission around the steel cage, forcing Ciampa to tap.

WINNER: Timothy Thatcher in 15:36.

-After the match, Thatcher celebrated his 2nd win in the fight pit while the ref attended to Ciampa. The two men traded glances, as Ciampa had a look of defeat come over him as he sat in the corner. Thatcher moved closer and we weren’t sure if they were going to hug or continue the fight as the show went off the air.

(Lindberg’s Analysis: While I think the first fight pit was better, this was still an awesome match. Perhaps slow for some with the amount of submissions, but this was exactly my cup of tea. Two hoss’s trying to see who’s better. Thatcher needed the win here, as his only other high profile win has been in the Pit. Ciampa, while also needing a strong win, can take a loss. He’s the biggest star that they have on that roster.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: They absolutely stepped their game up from last week. While a lot of these matches still are leading to the Dusty Classic finals, there seemed to be more of an importance placed on the matches. There seemed to be more of a sense of urgency tonight to tell stories. Last week, it was a rebuilding week so I may be a little unfair in that judgement. However, it didn’t make for captivating TV. This week, there was enough going on to keep my attention but not too much where I lost track of what was going on. Not an A+ show, but no stinker either.

 

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