TJR: WWE NXT 09/23/20 Review

Welcome to the WWE NXT review here on TJRWrestling. The next NXT Takeover event is on Sunday, October 4 and it looks like WWE is simply calling it NXT Takeover 31, which is fine with me. Earlier on Wednesday, NXT announced that North American Champion Damian Priest will defend his title against Johnny Gargano at Takeover 31. On this week’s show, we’ll learn about two other matches. I’ll go play by play for the opener and main event this week while the other matches will be more of a summary. Check out my past WWE NXT reviews right here.

Rest in peace, Road Warrior Animal. What a rush.

The show took place at Full Sail University as usual with development wrestlers in the crowd behind the plexiglass. It was taped earlier on Wednesday. They had Tom Phillips on play by play instead of the usual host Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett was also off this week. Phillips was joined by Beth Phoenix (from her home in North Carolina) on commentary.

They showed the entrance of Candice LeRae. There was also a clip of Candice attacking former friend Tegan Nox in the backstage area and sending a cart into Nox’s knee. That means Nox wasn’t in the match.

Women’s Battle Royal

The winner will challenge Io Shirai for the NXT Women’s Championship at NXT Takeover 31.

There was a lot of standing around with punching and kicking to start off. The first elimination was Rhea Ripley lifting Gia over the top to the floor to eliminate her. Raquel Gonzalez eliminated a woman they were calling Raven, who looks a lot better than the former wrestler with that name. Ripley tossed out another woman they were calling Ellie. Ripley sent Marina Shafir to the apron and eliminated her with a headbutt. Gonzalez eliminated another woman with a clothesline while on the apron. Gonzalez sent Brandi Lauren to the apron and kicked her to eliminate her. Another woman went for an armbar on Gonzalez, but that didn’t work as Gonzalez lifted her over the top to the floor. Ripley with a boot to the face to another woman who was on the apron. Catalina went to the middle ropes, so Gonzalez booted her over the top to the floor. Indi Hartwell thought she eliminated Kacy Catanzaro, who landed on her back, but Kacy’s feet didn’t touch the floor. Kacy showed off her incredible athleticism with a handstand against the ropes and she avoided elimination as the show went to picture in picture.

Catanzaro was nearly eliminated again, but she was hanging on against the guardrail. There were some eliminations during the break, but no big names. Catanzaro jumped onto the steel steps, Hartwell kicked her, but Catanzaro still managed to hold on. Raquel Gonzalez eliminated Kayden Carter, who was on the apron and Carter helped Kacy back in the ring. Ripley and Gonzalez exchanged strikes, then Ripley went on Gonzalez’s shoulders, which led to both women going over the top to the floor. Shotzi Blackheart nearly eliminated Candice LeRae, who managed to hang on. Catanzaro did a headscissors on Hartwell to eliminate her. LeRae with a running splash on Catanzaro and Kai with a running boot to the face of Catanzaro to eliminate her. That left Blackheart against LeRae and Kai, but Blackheart managed to avoid a kick from Kai leading to Blackheart dumping Kai over the top to the floor. That meant it was down to LeRae and Blackheart as the final two. Blackheart sent LeRae to the apron, but Candice got back in with a shoulder tackle to the ribs. Blackheart with a step-up enziguri, but the running splash attack by the ropes missed and Shotzi was stuck against the ropes. LeRae with a neckbreaker. Blackheart with a kick to the face. Blackheart went to the middle rope where she sat on the top rope, LeRae sent her to the apron, but Blackheart drove LeRae to the ring post. LeRae had her feet on the steel steps. Blackheart tried to attack there, but Candice kicked her off with Shotzi landing on the floor, so Candice won the match after 15 minutes.

Winner: Candice LeRae

Analysis: **3/4 Good stuff towards the finish of the match. The early part of battle royals are often too slow, but they picked up towards the finish with only a few women left. Ripley and Gonzalez were booked as the two dominant women in the match, which was no surprise since they were the two biggest and it was fitting that they eliminated eachother. I liked the way that Blackheart avoided the LeRae/Kai double team to get rid of Kai and Blackheart winning would have been a cool moment. I like LeRae winning because she has yet to become a champion in NXT and has a history with Io Shirai, so that should be a great match.

Post match, Candice celebrated the win while her husband Johnny Gargano joined his wife in the ring to celebrate the victory.

Analysis: I think it’s very possible that Candice LeRae will beat Io Shirai for the title. There’s a ready-made feud for Candice as champion against former friend Dakota Kai as well. Perhaps Io Shirai will be on Raw or Smackdown after she loses the title, so that’s why I think a title change might happen.

Damian Priest, who was the NXT North American Champion, was interviewed backstage by Sarah Schreiber. Priest said that as long as he’s the champion, the title will slide through Gargano’s fingers since Johnny is his Takeover opponent. Priest thinks that Austin Theory is good, but Priest is confident he’ll beat him. Priest told Sarah he’ll see her at the after-party tonight.

There was a backstage scene with Fandango dressed in a detective outfit saying they would take a member of four tag teams, put them in a tag team match and then the winners have a tag team match after that. It’s a bit confusing, but that match is later.

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Jake Atlas

It started off as a fight with Atlas pulling Ciampa out of the ring and working over him with punches. Atlas was about to send Ciampa into the bottom steel under the ring, the referee warned Atlas it would be a DQ, Ciampa got out of it and then back in the ring where Ciampa hit a clothesline to take over. Atlas came back with a clothesline, atomic drop and a dropkick. Atlas continued on offense with a running boot to the face. When Ciampa was on the floor, Atlas hit a moonsault off the middle rope. Atlas got a two count with a Blockbuster neckbreaker off the ropes. Atlas went for a move off the ropes, Ciampa kicked him in the gut and hit a Willow’s Bell DDT with no cover. Ciampa yelled at Atlas and hit the Fairytale Ending for the pinfall win after five minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Tommaso Ciampa

Analysis: *** A lot of action for a match that went just under five minutes. I think that was the right amount of time for it with Ciampa winning as expected. I’m glad it was not a total squash match because Atlas got some offense and looked credible. Atlas is a guy with a bright future that NXT can build around if they give him a chance to show off his personality a bit more. I like Atlas’ potential a lot and working with former champions like Ciampa will be good for Atlas, who needs to come back strong after this.

There was a video featuring Ridge Holland with images of him playing rugby and running over some guys. Holland said that the perfect place for him to show his ability is in the NXT ring.

A video package aired about the main event with some quick promos from the wrestlers while a music video was shown.

Roderick Strong and Danny Burch vs. Fabian Aichner and Raul Mendoza

Aichner and Mendoza were in control against Strong early. Burch tagged in with a slam on Mendoza, then a leaping kick and Mendoza managed to slam Burch off the middle ropes. They went to break there. When the match returned, Aichner was in control of Burch with a belly to back suplex. Burch was the face in peril for a few minutes, Strong got the tag and decked Aichner with clotheslines along with a leaping kick. Strong tossed Aichner into Mendoza and got a two count after an Olympic Slam. Mendoza with a knee to Strong’s back leading to Aichner getting a spinebuster for two. Strong stunned Mendoza with a jumping knee and Burch hit a cutter off the top rope for the pinfall win after about ten minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Roderick Strong and Danny Burch

Analysis: **1/2 This was okay with both teams having issues due to not being with their regular partners. That’s a logical thing to happen in a match where they aren’t teaming with regular partners. Strong and Burch were more of the babyface team that worked well in the end to get the victory. I like how the finishing sequence was set up.

The win means that Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish will face Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. The winners of that match will challenge for the NXT Tag Team Championships against Breezango. I assume that title match will be at the next Takeover, but that wasn’t made clear.

Austin Theory was interviewed by Sarah Schreiber, then Johnny Gargano showed up and told Austin he had all the God-given talent in the world to be a major player. Gargano told Theory if he softened up Damian Priest before Takeover, Johnny won’t forget it. When Sarah wished him good luck, Theory laughed off the idea that he needs “luck” to win his match.

Damian Priest vs. Austin Theory

This is not for Priest’s NXT North American Title. Theory hit a running elbow and then Priest came back with a jumping elbow. Priest grabbed Theory’s arm and did a rope walk into a cross body block. Theory got some momentum going after a drop toe hold into the middle turnbuckle leading to a belly to back suplex. Theory hit an impressive standing moonsault for two with the announcers putting over his athleticism. Priest hit an impressive lifting flatliner. After a break, Theory hit a rolling dropkick to take control with a chinlock. Priest fired back with the punches along with some loud yelling. Priest with a toss Falcon Arrow slam for a two count. Theory avoided a corner splash leading to a Blue Thunder Bomb for two in a move that looked pretty good. They were on the floor with Priest hitting a Cyclone Kick to the head and a Razor’s Edge onto the ring apron. Priest followed with the Reckoning neckbreaker for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Damian Priest

Analysis: **1/2 It was just an average that may have gone a few minutes longer than needed. I get why they gave them that much time because Theory’s a young guy with a bright future. The viewer at home knew Priest was going to win here, so there wasn’t much drama to the match. I think Priest has been doing well in the last few months and his offense looks great. This match just didn’t stand out that much.

Priest celebrated the win in the ring and Johnny Gargano showed up with a superkick. Gargano mimicked shooting an arrow like Priest does as Priest sold it like he was knocked out.

Analysis: There was no storyline for the Priest/Gargano match at Takeover, so having Gargano do the cheap attack was necessary here.

There was a video of a mystery person talking about how they were going to come back to NXT to take what is theirs and this held up the NXT Title or one of older versions of it. They will return at the next Takeover on October 4. Here’s what was said: “I’m not sure what happened. I helped create something out of my own blood, years and years of dedication to be taken over by paper champions. These NXT championships have been in isolation for far too long, now I’ve come back. The Takeover is mine.”

Analysis: My guess is that it is Bo Dallas, who is the first NXT Champion that has been doing nothing for most of 2020. Yes, he’s still under WWE contract. Bo is a talented guy that needs a fresh start, so this could be it for him.

Isaiah “Swerve” Scott talked about wanting to face Santos Escobar for the Cruiserweight Title while noting he has pinned Escobar twice.

Analysis: That should be a Takeover match. I really like both guys and it might be time for Scott to win the title.

Ridge Holland vs. Antonio De Luca

Holland decked De Luca with a forearm to the face. Holland launched De Luca across the ring followed by two overhead belly to belly suplexes. Holland attacked De Luca with repeated headbutts and a Northern Grit cradle slam for the pinfall win after two minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Ridge Holland

Analysis: * A squash match victory for Holland, who is a star on the rise in NXT. Holland’s power is very noticeable, so it’s easy to see why WWE’s brain trust are excited about him. They just need to work on his personality.

Io Shirai, the NXT Women’s Champion, was interviewed by Sarah Schreiber with Shirai saying she didn’t like Candice LeRae, so Candice showed up with Johnny Gargano. Damian Priest showed up to deck Gargano with a forearm to the face. Referees showed up to separate them.

Analysis: It looks like a setup for a Gargano/LeRae vs. Priest/Shirai mixed tag team match.

Next week on NXT: Shotzi Blackheart vs. Dakota Kai. That’s all they announced even though next week’s NXT show was already taped. During the main event match, they made the Gargano/LeRae vs. Priest/Shrai match official.

Gauntlet Eliminator Match: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Kushida vs. Cameron Grimes vs. Bronson Reed vs. Timothy Thatcher

Two guys start the match and then every four minutes, another man enters until all five men have been in the match. You can get eliminated by pinfall or submission. It’s Kyle O’Reilly and Kushida to start the match. I’m going with Kyle for the writeup instead of O’Reilly just due to typing less words.

Kushida and Kyle started with some mat wrestling where they had their legs locked leading to them getting tied up in the ropes. Kushida got in a dropkick on Kyle leading to a submission where he pulled back on the arm and tried to ground Kyle with an armbar. They got into a slugfest where they exchanged forearms and the clock ticked down for the third entrant.

Bronson Reed was the third man in the match as he knocked down Kyle and Kushida with punches. Reed gave Kushida a press slam onto Kyle followed by Reed hitting a running corner splash on both guys. Kushida bounced off the ropes with a double back elbow and a jumping enziguri kick to Reed’s head. Kyle managed to hit kneebars on both guys, but then Kushida hit a moonsault and went for an armbar on Kyle. Reed hit a stalling suplex on Kushida followed by a running senton splash on Kyle. Reed with a body slam on Kyle, then Reed went up top, Kushida went after him and Kyle hit Reed with a forearm. Kushida hit a flipping kick on Kyle to knock him out of the ring and stun Reed on the top. The referee checked on Kyle on the floor, so Velveteen Dream showed up with a Dream Valley Driver on Kushida (the referee never saw it) and Kushida was down in the ring. Reed capitalized on that with a Tsunami splash off the top on Kushida and pinned him to eliminate Kushida.

Kushida eliminated by Bronson Reed

Timothy Thatcher made his entrance as the fourth man in the match looking ready to go, but then Reed knocked him down as they went to break.

The match returned with about 20 seconds until the fifth man was about to enter. That fifth man was Cameron Grimes as Reed hit German Suplexes on Thatcher and Kyle. Grimes with a cross body block on Reed and then a moonsault off the turnbuckle on Thatcher. Grimes with a running kick on Kyle as well. Thatcher tried an armbar, Grimes with a superkick and Reed knocked Grimes down. Thatcher with a spinning slam on Kyle, but then Reed decked Grimes with a clothesline. All four guys were down. When Thatcher got up to try a submission on Reed, Grimes knocked Thatcher down. Kyle went after Thatcher on the floor. Reed launched Grimes over the top to the floor on top of Grimes/Thatcher on the floor. Reed had Thatcher on the shoulders leading to a Death Valley Driver for a two count. Reed with a Powerbomb on Kyle for a two count. Grimes with a running kick on Reed for a two count. Three guys were on the floor, so Reed ran the ropes leading to a suicide dive to take out all three of them. A cool spot there by the big man. That led to a commercial.

The match returned with Grimes chopping everything in sight and an atomic drop on Grimes. Reed with a powerslam on Kyle for a two count. Reed slammed Thatcher onto Grimes with Reed getting a two count on Thatcher. Reed went up top, Thatcher battled him there, Reed knocked Thatcher down and went for the Tsunami splash off the top, but Thatcher moved out of the way, so Reed hit the mat. Kyle jumped off the top with a knee to the back of Reed and Kyle covered Reed for the pinfall elimination.

Bronson Reed eliminated by Kyle O’Reilly

After the elimination, Thatcher slapped on an ankle lock on Kyle, but Kyle turned it into an ankle lock of his own. Thatcher with an uppercut, Kyle with a forearm and Thatcher with a knee strike. Grimes back in with a knee strike on Kyle. Thatcher with a release belly to belly slam on Grimes as all three guys were down. Kyle with a knee to the ribs of Thatcher, then they exchanged forearms and Kyle hit an enziguri kick on both guys. Thatcher slapped on a sleeper on Kyle, Grimes went after Kyle and Kyle put on an ankle lock. Kyle countered Thatcher into a pin attempt for two. Kyle knocked Grimes out of the ring while Kyle hit a sweep kick to trip up Thatcher. Kyle with a running forearm on Thatcher, who came back with two uppercuts and a hard slap to the face. Kyle with a backslide pin on Thatcher for two. Kyle managed to get a ROLLUP OF DEATH~! on Thatcher to beat him.

Timothy Thatcher eliminated by Kyle O’Reilly

Right after that elimination, Grimes hit the Cave In double foot stomp to the chest on Kyle, who was right by the ropes so Kyle got his foot on the bottom rope to break up the pin. The referee informed Grimes it was just a two count with Grimes looking shocked about it. They did a spot where Kyle charged right into a powerslam into a cross body block into a pin attempt for Grimes for two. O’Reilly with a knee to the ribs and then he wrenched on the left ankle of Grimes. Grimes came back with a kick to the back of the head. Kyle avoided the jumping Cave In attempt, Kyle got a hold of the left foot/leg and wrenched it leading to Grimes tapping out quickly. That’s the win after 28 minutes.

Cameron Grimes eliminated by Kyle O’Reilly

Winner: Kyle O’Reilly

Analysis: ***3/4 This was a great match with a lot of drama towards the finish. It didn’t feel too long since there were five guys in the match. It’s pretty cool that Kyle O’Reilly is getting an NXT Title shot at the next Takeover. I thought Grimes might win this, so it was nice to see him make it to the final two. Reed continues to impress me as a talented big man that can do a lot of athletic things while also showing off his power. All four eliminations made sense to me because O’Reilly beat three guys in a row to win the match. The spot with Velveteen Dream showing up to cost Kushida because it plays into their story. I just think they did an excellent job of booking this in a way to show that Kyle O’Reilly was a deserving winner that will get the next NXT Title shot.

After the match, there were replays of the key spots.

Kyle O’Reilly celebrated in the ring with his Undisputed Era buddies Finn Balor and Roderick Strong celebrating with him. No sign of Bobby Fish. The NXT Champion Finn Balor showed up with the NXT Title, O’Reilly looked at him and Balor did the point at him as if to say he’s next. End show.

Analysis: I doubt O’Reilly wins the title at Takeover 31 and that might hurt the match because fans are going to expect a Balor win. However, I strongly believe that it will be an awesome match.

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Kyle O’Reilly
  2. Cameron Grimes
  3. Candice LeRae


Final Thoughts

I give this show a 7.5 out of 10.

I thought it was a very good episode of NXT this week with a lot of in-ring action and not that much talking. They built up some of the top matches for Takeover thanks to the Gauntlet Eliminator main event and the women’s battle royal. Most of the other matches were okay. There wasn’t anything that bad on the show.

The NXT brand does a nice job of making the wins matter more than Raw and Smackdown, so that helps advance storylines. I’m happy that Kyle O’Reilly is getting a singles push leading to his NXT Title match at Takeover 31. They really booked it in a smart way by having Kyle beat three straight opponents to earn the title shot. Candice LeRae also won the battle royal in a clever way that was fitting for a heel like her.

The lineup for the next Takeover isn’t the strongest in NXT history by any means in terms of build to the matches. However, there should still be some great matches on October 4.

The next NXT Takeover event is NXT Takeover 31 on October 4. Here’s what we know so far.

NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) vs. Kyle O’Reilly

North American Championship: Damian Priest (c) vs. Johnny Gargano

NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai (c) vs. Candice LeRae


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John Canton


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