The WWE NXT brand as been trying to juggle two different storylines, between WarGames and Survivor Series. The show started with a replay of the action last week. It did a good job of trying to summarize the stories they have been portraying while also showing highlights from the endless action they put in the ring every week.
I’d also like to point out that adding the Undisputed Era’s promo before getting beaten down by The O.C. was a neat throwback to how last week’s show started.
NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Angel Garza vs. Lio Rush (c)
Angel Garza has been impressive in the ring since making his NXT debut. He has a heel personality, but he enters the ring like a mega babyface. He gets a kiss from someone in the front row every week. He’s been getting a decent pop from the crowd. Lio Rush showed that his family was in the crowd during his entrance. That’s always a mistake in wrestling. Early in the match, Garza jumped into the crowd and did his tearaway pants shtick in front of Rush’s wife and kids. It’s good to see he can still do that gimmick every week and always find a creative way to use it. His use of it in the Tony Nese match was still the biggest payoff.
Rush responded to Garza’s gimmick with a lightning fast suicide dive, which had Garza crashing into the rails. The match moved with intense speed early on. Within the first 3 minutes of action there were already two suicide dives. The 2nd dive took the action into a PiP commercial break. During the break, Garza was in complete control. I’m starting to develop a theory that whoever is in command during the majority of the PiP commercial, will end up losing the match. It’s not an exact science, but it’s been happening often enough for me to take notice.
When the action came back to full screen, we got a full shot of Angel Garza using both hands to pick a wedgie. Big miss by the TV crew, but it was pretty funny to me. The culmination of the quick pace had Garza landing a powerslam moonsault on Lio Rush off the rope. Garza went for a cover but Rush kicked out at 2. The crowd was into it. They started a “Holy Shit” and “This is awesome” chant. It certainly was.
The finale of this match was its only downfall. After a 2nd frog splash attempt by Rush, he went for a cover. He didn’t initially hook Garza’s legs and Garza was clearly touching the rope with his feet. The ref never saw (or chose to ignore) and Rush got the victory. An untimely botched finish to an otherwise fantastic match. It’s hard to knock this match because of how good it was, but the ending left the NXT crowd with an uneasy feeling. Rush had a mixed reaction as he walked away victorious.
Winner (AND STILL): Lio Rush
After the match we found both Tegan Nox and Rhea Ripley laying on the ground, writhing in pain. They had clearly been attacked from behind. This story would continue to develop later in the show.
Xia Li vs. Aaliyah
I really want Xia Li to be good. She looked amazing in her Royal Rumble debut, and it’s clear that she possesses in ring talent. With that being said, I don’t think I’ve seen a match from her in NXT that wasn’t riddled with botches. This is the second time both Li and Aaliyah have squared away, so it’s unclear who may or may not be at fault. Both competitors show flashes of good wrestling, but continue to be sloppy. It makes the viewer more worried about a performer’s actual well-being, instead of enjoying the fight.
In this match alone, Li hit Aaliyah with a high leg strike and it drew blood. Li’s strikes usually look strong, but this one in particular looked relatively harmless. It got enough of Aaliyah though, so I hope she’s doing well.
Winner: Xia Li
The following events happened at a breakneck speed. Finn Balor came out to talk about NXT being nothing but a bunch of little boys. He was immediately interrupted by Matt Riddle, who chased him out. This made Finn look kinda weak (for now).
Riddle was then interrupted by the Undisputed Era. All 4 members surrounded Riddle until Tommaso Ciampa and Keith Lee came to Riddle’s aid.
The pace slowed as the men went to the mic. Keith Lee initially called out Adam Cole, but had his offer for a fight intervened by Roderick Strong. Strong is a great in-ring performer, but has been off on the mic recently. Despite wearing the NXT North American Championship belt, he comes off as someone suffering from Napoleon Complex. The action awkwardly moved to a singles match between Keith Lee and Roderick Strong.
Keith Lee vs. Roderick Strong… I guess?
The conversion from promo to match was the most Monday Night Raw-esque transition I’ve ever seen. Without any prior story or set up, Keith Lee and Roderick Strong were squaring away. It was such an awkward transition that we never officially saw or heard the match start. We returned from a commercial break to have the match in progress.
This match may have lacked in story and depth, but it didn’t disappoint in the action department. Lee was booked incredibly strong early in this match. He was throwing Strong around like a rag doll. Strong tried getting offense in, but it seemed to have no effect on Lee. At one point Lee had double chest slapped Strong into the ground so hard I thought he might break through the mat. Strong was selling well for Lee. Strong eventually chopped Lee down to his size, where the two engaged in a great back and forth of offense. The action was delayed in the ring when the Undisputed Era came out to ringside. They were immediately chased off by Ciampa and Riddle. However, Riddle was then blindsided by Finn Balor.
Balor has such a lethal dropkick. He knocked Riddle into the steel steps after removing his shirt to reveal he’s still got it. “It” is referring to the insane body Balor still has, that guy looks like an absolute animal. Lee and Strong remained unphased by the chaos outside the ring and continued battle. Lee powerslammed Strong in the center of the ring and got the 1-2-3. This match was entertaining, despite the lack of story build leading into it.
Winner: Keith Lee
Lee’s celebration didn’t last long when the Undisputed Era started to beat him up in the center of the ring. Ciampa tried helping but he was taken down quickly.
Dominik Dijakovic came out to make the save. He laid out the Undisputed Era and sent them running. He wanted the last spot on Team Ciampa and he was going to get it. Keith Lee locked eyes with Dijakovic as the Full Sail Arena chanted “hug it out.” The two men shook hands and agreed to go to war together.
More women on the roster were found attacked outside of the arena. This time it was Jessamyn Duke, Marina Shafir and Candice LeRae. All signs are pointing to whoever is going to be the last spot on Team Baszler. We would find out more later.
Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. Bronson Reed
Bronson Reed came out with new wrestling trunks that said “THiCC” on the front. He’s really gunning for that “resident thicc boi” title. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott has been fantastic in most of his matches since making his NXT debut. I enjoyed his match with Dijakovic, but it has gotten mixed reviews from fans. Scott is a fun wrestler to watch perform. His offense is quick and he shows innovative counters ton his opponents. This type of offense isn’t what we saw in his match with Reed. The match itself was quite slow in pace. Most matches feel like they’re getting to a fever pitch before this first break, but this one felt like it hadn’t started.
What I found most irritating about this match was the amount of setups that never delivered. We would watch the two men set up a spot that looked like it was going to deliver a massive move, but it would fall apart as one competitor would counter at the last moment. When big spots get set up, it slows the match down to a screeching halt. If you don’t follow through with those setups, you’re going to annoy your viewer.
Eventually, Scott hit Reed with his finisher the “House Call” for the win. The move is a jumping back kick to the blindside of an opponent. It looks really good when timed right, but when it isn’t, it looks like an awkward missed kick. If these two get a chance at a rematch, it would be nice to see them play more towards their strengths on offense. Both have impressed in the past and are more than capable of showing more.
Winner: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
After the match, it was announced the Finn Balor would be taking on Matt Riddle at NXT Takeover WarGames. The cross in the fighting style and personalities should make for a good match. The PPV will be Balor’s in-ring return to NXT. It’s highly unlikely we see a return of the demon at Takeover.
Because Riddle is fighting Balor, his spot on Team Ciampa was taken by Dominik Dijakovic. There is still one spot left for Team Ciampa.
The Forgotten Sons got a video promo. The promo showed replays of their in-ring action. It seemed to be heavy on the chair, ladder and table shots. TLC season is coming soon, I wonder if this promo is setting them up for a push next month. The NXT Tag Team division is thin right now. The Street Profits are on Raw, and that left a big hole on the NXT tag roster.
Pete Dunne and Killian Dain were set to have a match until Damian Priest attacked Dain during his entrance. The three men engaged in fisticuffs until they were briefly separated by NXT staff. Priest did his step-up flip suicide dive on Dain and Dunne, then walked away looking strong. That move looks amazing when it lands well. These three will be in a triple threat match soon and it should be a good one.
Ladder Match for WarGames Advantage: Io Shirai vs Mia Yim
For someone who suffers from chronic back pain, watching ladder matches always gives me a heightened level of stress. It didn’t take long for me to bust out a heat-pad as I sat and watched these two women take on some big ladder bumps.
Io Shirai took the first bump. She was superplexed onto a ladder and did not bounce. Usually you see a wrestler bounce off of ladders when impact is made (Finn Balor – Money in the Bank 2019), softening the blow. When Shirai was slammed, it looked like her body was broken in between the ladder’s steps. Shirai wasn’t done being tormented by ladders. Mia Yim countered Shirai and sent her awkwardly into a ladder. The ladder was leaning against the corner ropes, and it appeared that Shirai got her foot and hand caught in the ladder steps as her body torqued in the opposite direction. It was a case of a botch that still looked like it did some nasty damage.
Things got scary when Mia Yim took a ladder to the forehead. She was holding a ladder when Shirai springboard missile dropkicked the ladder into her face. Yim was instantly split open, and blood started to pour from her forehead. You could tell Shirai was unsure of what to do as the moment took a hold of her. Shirai awkwardly lifted the ladder with one arm, stalling as long as she could. Miraculously, Yim got up and continued to compete. That is some incredible tenacity from Yim. To be spewing blood from your head, only to return to action seconds later after being patched up. Incredible.
Dakota Kai came to Mia Yim’s aid outside of the ring. Earlier in the show, amid all the attacks on the women’s roster, Kai told Yim that she had her back no matter what. Kai powerslammed Shirai off of the ladder and tried helping Yim get back in the ring. As Yim was climbing the ladder, Kai was blindsided by NXT UK Women’s Champion Kay Lee Ray. Kay Lee Ray then threw Yim off the top ladder, crashing into a ladder that was set up outside the ring. Both the entrance by Ray and the bump Yim took left the NXT crowd in awe.
I sincerely hope that Mia Yim is okay after this match. She took an absolute beating in the ring and finished her night breaking a ladder in half. Get an ice bath ready. Ray helped Shirai to the ladder, where Shirai grabbed the briefcase for the win. Bianca Belair joined Shirai and Ray in the ring.
I have a hard time gathering feelings for this match. It was entertaining, but I felt myself more worried for the safety of the performers. These two are usually pretty smooth in the ring, but when Yim got her head split open the match went to an unavoidably odd pace.
Winner: Io Shirai
Shayna Baszler came out to applaud Ray, only to be attacked by Smackdown Women’s Champion, Bayley. Bayley invading NXT as a heel might be something no one ever saw coming. She attacked Baszler with a chair and NXT went off the air.
The women’s teams for WarGames have been set. Kay Lee Ray will take the last spot on Shayna Baszler’s squad joining Belair and Shirai. Ripley’s team includes Candice LeRae, Mia Yim and Tegan Nox.
The three matches announced for NXT Takeover WarGames so far looks like this:
WarGames – The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong) vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic and TBA
WarGames – Rhea Ripley, Candice LeRae, Tegan Nox and Mia Yim vs. Shayna Baszler, Io Shirai, Bianca Belair and Kay Lee Ray
Finn Balor vs. Matt Riddle
Maybe I was paying closer attention this week, but it seemed that this episode had far more botches than what we’re used to seeing on NXT. Mistakes will always happen, but for the safety of the roster, I hope this was just a fluke. The performers on this roster are capable of putting amazing matches together, so let’s do our best to stay healthy, eh?
The juggling of the storylines continues to make it difficult to follow who is aiming for who. The matches and episodes are still entertaining, but the quality of stories is starting to take a sudden dip. After Takeover and Survivor Series, we should see things settle down and watch the roster rekindle their feuds.
I know Gargano is “injured” right now, having his match pulled with Balor at Takeover, but I still think he makes the recovery to join Team Ciampa. The only other member of the roster I could see joining that team will be Gargano or the winner of the impending Triple Threat Match we’re definitely going to get between Dain/Dunne/Priest. Who would you like to see take the final spot? Comment below or continue the conversation on Twitter.