Hi, and welcome to the penultimate episode of NXT for 2019. This week’s episode is in many ways a purgatorial one, still handling the fallout from WarGames and Survivor Series weekend, but also with one foot in the future as we head towards next week’s episode, something of a Wild Card Finals (remember the Wild Card Finals? Those were the days). Anyway, with a title match, a number one contender’s match and a straight-up piece of street retribution to cover, let’s get into it…
Raul Mendoza def. Cameron Grimes // Raul schoolboy rolled Grimes off a distraction by KUSHIDA for the pin. Short & sweet, it’s nice to see Mendoza win for once and continuing a feud between KUSHIDA and Grimes could be fun
Travis Banks def. Jaxson Ryker w/ Blake & Cutler // Banks hit the Slice of Heaven second rope leaping kick for the pin. NXT and NXT UK are now 1-1 going into “Worlds Collide.” Banks was good value, Ryker continues to not know how to sell.
Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) def. The Singhs (Sunil & Samir Singh) // Fandango hit a leg drop for the pin. The Singhs are almost as bland as The Forgotten Sons on the offence but, when it comes to selling, they make everyone look great. It’s great to see Breezango look so motivated.
Bianca Belair def. Kayden Carter // Belair hit a lifting slam for the pin. Carter was great here, looking very good and making Belair look good. It was weirdly long for an enhancement match, making it somehow feel a little extended at 4 minutes. Still, both performers did well.
Promos & Packages
The opening credits were interrupted by an angry Adam Cole in the production booth, running down the reasons why each man in the match tonight doesn’t deserve a title shot and how he hopes they tear each other apart so he will get an easy match next week. This was very good.
Shayna Baszler talked about her car. Also how she’s going to beat Ripley next week. She made some compelling arguments.
Finn Bálor made the argument that he shouldn’t have to compete for a shot at the title and should just be given it. What a dick.
Mia Yim talked about how Dakota Kai put her in an ambulance so, tonight, Dakota Kai will be the one in the ambulance.
Keith Lee talked about why he’s going to win and how he might have fought alongside Tommaso Ciampa, but tonight is every man for themselves. Lee continues to dominate even at promos. Bask in his goddamn glory already.
Rhea Ripley talked about how she’s loved wrestling since she was a child, a sentiment it’s hard to find adorable when that was like 3 years ago. If you want more information about this, watch the Prime Target special next Tuesday folks.
Tommaso Ciampa got his opportunity to say why he’s going to win and just to make it special, they transitioned straight from the end of the package into his entrance. We’ll get more on that later.
NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Angel Garza vs Lio Rush (c)
What a start. I love a mat classic as much as the next person, it’s always fun if you’ve got two Juniors who hate each other to just go full pelt into a sprint start and not let up from there for fifteen minutes. This was as good as, if not better than, a lot of the Best of the Super Juniors action as both men went out of their way to throw the best they had at each other, while never forgetting to keep the storytelling as simple as we don’t like each other. No need to overcrowd it with bad ref calls or false finishes, just good wrestling. The finish came as Lio Rush went for a Dragon’s Call frog splash to the outside but Garza got the knees up, rolled Rush back in and hit the Wing Clipper butterfly stunner for a great near fall only for Garza to convert it into an inverted full nelson lock for the tap-out and we have NEW CHAMPION!
Ever since he got to the WWE, Garza has excelled and the moment of him winning here and then proposing to his girlfriend was great. To his credit, Lio Rush has held the title with respect and dignity, bringing it in his every match here on NXT. If both men’s stock hasn’t risen after this series, something has gone wrong.
Winner: Angel Garza
Dakota Kai vs Mia Yim
Mia Yim declared earlier this wouldn’t be a wrestling match but a straight-up fight and you know what? She wasn’t kidding. I can’t say I loved this match because as much as it made sense for Yim to be the aggressor for the opening part of the match, it did seem the more she dominated, the more that the audience seemed to be sympathising with Kai again. That said, the finish as Kai exposed a turnbuckle and slammed Yim into it before hitting a roll-up was heel tactics 101 but it did work because, in the end, Yim came to fight but almost forgot she was still in a wrestling ring. The post-match plunder as Yim continued the beatdown before hitting a big old backdrop driver through a table (resulting in Kai needing stitches) was mighty fun. Not either woman’s best work but within the story, it made perfect sense that this is what happened.
Winner: Dakota Kai
NXT Championship Number One Contender’s: Tommaso Ciampa vs Keith Lee vs Finn Bálor
Finally, that Finn that we remember seems to be back. After a pair of somewhat underwhelming matches, he delivered here the goods, not just matching the modern NXT guys for pace but showing some new things in his arsenal such as a b-e-a-utiful Coup de Grace reversal off a Keith Lee sit-out crucifix Spirit Bomb. There was a little worry going into this that it would fall into the classic triple threat trope of 2 guys at a time, alternating spots until the one guy that’s been gone for a while turns up for a surprise pin. And, in a way, it did fall into that trap but it still kept the action moving well and the macro-story of Ciampa and Lee being uneasy about turning on each other after going to war together was well told. If there was a problem with this, it’s that it didn’t quite sustain it’s feature-length running time but when you have three performers as compelling as these, it’s not awful to have to spend more time with them. Bálor got the pin off a Coup de Grace double stomp on Lee after he’d Spirit Bomb-ed Ciampa. It’s an interesting choice to go for a heel vs heel title match but not an unexpected one.
Winner: Finn Bálor
More than just bookending the episode with great matches, this week was just a good, easy watch. Nothing was actively bad, except for maybe Ryker but nothing quite compared to that opener. Now if for the “Worlds Collide” event they can give me Garza vs the best NXT UK performer under 205 lbs, Jordan Devlin, I will be a happy man indeed.
NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley vs Shayna Baszler
NXT Championship: Finn Bálor vs Adam Cole (c)
All image courtesy of WWE.com