Hello and welcome to the first episode of NXT post-TakeOver. The biggest advantage I’ve seen of the live era of NXT is that this week, instead of us having the normal combination of online interviews and filler matches, we’re straight back in with meaningful storytelling. Sure, there were a fair few recap packages but for the most part, what we got tonight was all-action. Anyway, let’s get into it.
Mansoor def. Shane Thorne // Mansoor got the pinfall off a Slingshot Neckbreaker. Solid squash-style stuff. Shane Thorne threw those Saito suplexes like a champ.
Xia Li def. Vanessa Borne // Li was about to finish the match when out came Baszler & pals to interrupt. Luckily, Xia Li hit a kick for the pin before Baszler & pals made their attack. Post-match: Shafir and Duke attacked and Li fought them off, she even fought off Baszler for a bit till the numbers game became too much. Baszler then gave a promo on why she’s the best before Ripley came down to the ring and reminded her she beat her and wants a title match.
NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Lio Rush (c) def. Akira Tozawa // Rush pinned Tozawa off two Frog Splashes. This was a very good match but considering the build to a rematch between Rush and Garza, it lacked any real tension of a title change.
Promos & packages
We opened on Wrestle & Flow’s Josiah Williams hyping up the NXT arena as most of the roster party and celebrate a victory over the 2 other brands. The Undisputed Era crashed the party declaring themselves the winners of the weekend. They confronted directly Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Dominic Dijakovic & Matt Riddle. Finn Bálor came out and talked shit to Ciampa making a match for later then Keith Lee said for Fish & O’Reilly to get in the ring for their match to happen right away.
Recap – Dakota Kai’s attack on Tegan Nox
Candice LeRae said she wanted revenge on Dakota Kai for Tegan Nox because she thinks of Tegan as a little sister and now she’s a pissed-off big sister.
Tommaso Ciampa was interviewed about Finn Bálor, he put over Finn as the longest-reigning NXT champion of all time but declared that he is the King round here.
Recap – Rhea Ripley’s week of constant victory
Cameron Grimes got a highlight reel that I missed most of because I was getting a sausage roll out of the oven.
Recap – Pete Dunne vs Killian Dain vs Damian Priest. Apparently Priest worked the match with some broken ribs. He faces Killian Dain next week.
Finn Bálor was interviewed about Tommaso Ciampa, he declared that Tommasso may think he’s a king but he hasn’t faced the Prince before. Ok.
NXT Tag-Team Championship: Keith Lee & Dominic Dijakovic vs The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish then Roderick Strong) (c)
I have to give props to Strong for stepping in, literally during the ad break to replace FIsh who aggravated an ankle injury off a landing onto Kyle O’Reilly. Wrestling in his jeans with his red Calvin Kleins sticking out of the back, Strong didn’t look a step out of place, showing off his professionalism. If he wasn’t so effective at playing the preppy frat heel, I’d genuinely applaud him. Other noteworthy points, Dijakovic hit a one-armed powerbomb-chokeslam combo, Keith Lee pounced Adam Cole like 3 rows deep off the ramp, Kyle O’Reilly continued to be really good at kicking people.
Overall, this was a relatively minor outing for these four men, it got the crowd hot but it never really seemed invested in convincing us a title change was coming. I enjoyed it, in-ring action-we it was practically flawless but coming off the beautiful construction that was the Era vs The Revival last week, anything would struggle to compete. After Lee pounce-yeeted Cole, the Era hit Total Elimination high-low kick combos on Dijakovic for the pin.
Winner: The Undisputed Era
Candice LeRae vs Dakota Kai
It is appropriate that the women’s division was dominated by NXT at Survivor Series as it continues to have the best division in all the WWE and, let’s face it, constantly produce show-by-show highlights. Match-wise, they worked a fairly classic back-and-forth structure with LeRae getting a fiery comeback before Kai hit her with Tegan Nox’s knee brace for the disqualification. But what put this over the top in terms of enjoyment was how immediately Kai’s heel persona has begun to kick into place. Her in-ring style has always been uniquely aggressive but it only took a few tweaks for her to turn what was impassioned fightback into full-on painful domination. Plus we got the return of her destroyer-back cracker variation which is always a treat. LeRae, for her part, well-measured her performance here to sell both her own aggression while also allowing this to highlight Kai. This disqualification finish was smartly done as well, letting Kai continue the beatdown while keeping points in LeRae’s scorebook. Post-match: Kai slammed LeRae into the steps and went to hit her with the crutch but got it taken off her by the ref so she grabbed a chair from under a man and went to use that but had her chair taken away by a flying Rhea Ripley. They really are trying too hard with her.
Winner: Candice LeRae via DQ
Tommaso Ciampa vs Finn Bálor
I don’t know what’s happened but, so far, Finn is 2 for 2 on matches that could’ve been classics and instead have been fine. Ciampa, for his part, worked hard to show why he might be the greatest NXT champion of his generation but Finn just seemed to be struggling to take the electricity surrounding his return to his old persona, the one that founded the Bullet Club and to translate it to the ring. But then, Prince Devitt was never known as the guy that was constantly putting on great matches. It was still a perfectly serviceable main event match but it, much like the Riddle match, if slightly better than that as Ciampa was working a harder match than Riddle, just felt like it never got out of second or third gear. That said, Ciampa hit some insane near falls such as an avalanche Air Raid Crash. The finish came as Cole came out for a distraction, hitting an enzuigiri on the apron allowing Finn to hit the 1916 lifting reverse DDT for the pin. Post-match: Cole and Bálor celebrate in the ring together until Bálor hit Cole with a Pelé kick.
Winner: Finn Bálor
This was an interesting episode of NXT, one that did a lot to propel forward various stories but had a lot of matches given feature-length running times that didn’t really need them. It might be that is a direct attempt to try and run the AEW formula of trying to make every match feel like an epic but it did lead to a few occasions of me having the same issue as Dynamite where I just got bored. Also, I feel like they’re trying too hard to really force the ‘Rhea Ripley is a badass and totally competition to Shayna Baszler’ storyline. It would have been fine with one of the video package or the two post-match confrontations. We didn’t need all three. We get it, you’re big on tall blondes with unique-enough personalities that we won’t get them confused with Charlotte but that you can still reference Charlotte. Anyway, a solid watch but nothing of instant-classic status.
Damian Priest vs Killian Dain
All images and videos courtesy of WWE