Hi, and welcome to another episode of waiting around for an hour and a half for Keith Lee to pin Cameron Grimes. This week’s episode was main-evented by a North American Championship number one contender’s match featuring Keith Lee probably pinning Cameron Grimes while Dominik Dijakovic and Damian Priest were also there. There were also two first-round matches in the 2020 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Let’s find out if it was any good…
Dusty Classic First Round: Imperium (Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner) vs Forgotten Sons (Blake & Cutler) // Barthel got the pin off a European Bomb combo. Imperium got a promo during their entrance. Forgotten Sons didn’t even get a televised entrance. They continue to live up to their name. Imperium were good.
Austin Theory def. Joaquin Wilde // Theory pinned Wilde off an Argentine Cutter. Theory and DJZ had a match at EVOLVE 102 that was perfectly solid. This match was shorter than it.
Dusty Classic First Round: Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) def. Gallus (Mark Coffey & Wolfgang) // Fish pinned Wolfgang off Total Elimination flying kick/leg sweep combo. Imagine explaining to someone that this was a big champ vs champ match. Not necessarily bad but probably the blandest match I’ve seen Fish &O’Reilly have had in NXT, not for lack of effort on their part.
Promos & Packages
We opened on one of those classic revolving door promos, as Rhea Ripley thanked Full Sail for having her back, Toni Storm came out to say that she’s going to beat Kay Lee Ray and Piper Niven at TakeOver: Blackpool II and at Worlds Collide, she wants a match for the NXT women’s championship. Ripley accepts the challenge. Out came Lee Ray to tell Storm she will, in fact, lose, followed by Shirai who wants the title, Bianca Belair also wants it and tells everyone she’s better than them while also easily stealing this scene then LeRae comes out because this has become a 6-person tag match. Not bad but not exactly thrilling.
Tommaso Ciampa got some time to talk about how he got injured and since coming back, he is incomplete without Goldie. Adam Cole took his life and he wants it back. They split this promo over two parts intercut with footage of Ciampa in-ring and in-hospital. This had all three of Kurt Angle’s I’s. Can highly recommend.
Keith Lee talked about why he should have to prove himself again in a fatal four-way to determine how quickly he can get the pinfall on Cameron Grimes while Dijakovic and Priest are also there.
Matt Riddle explained to Cathy Kelly how his team with Pete Dunne came about. This segment was perfect.
Johnny Gargano airs some grievances with Finn Bálor, he challenges him to a match.Bálor came out to accept the challenge for TakeOver: Portland in February. Johnny was very good here, talking with passion, focus and realism.
KUSHIDA’S PARTNER FOR THE DUSTY CLASSIC IS ANNOUNCED AS ALEX SHELLEY TIME SPLITTERS REUNITE PUTTING THIS SENTENCE IN ALL CAPS WITH NO COMMAS WAS NOT A TYPO EXCLAMATION MARK X3
Dominic Dijakovic tells everyone why he’s going to win even though he’s wrong because Keith Lee is going to pin Cameron Grimes.
Rhea Ripley, Toni Storm & Candice LeRae vs Kay Lee Ray, Io Shirai & Bianca Belair
Of course, because Bianca Belair won the opening promo, she took the pin here as Ripley hit Riptide on her for the pin. But before we got there, this was a solidly fun, little tag match, easily the best of the three tag encounters on this show as the dynamics between the face and heel teams were kept clean, the action was delivered with little need for extended lulls. Of course, no one will be surprised to hear that my highlight of this match was the continued interactions between LeRae and Shirai but everyone entertained, even Storm. It was very much a TV match, it stuck to a set formula of keeping things big but not too big as to ruin any upcoming Network Specials but overall, a good time and a strong choice to start the year.
Winner: Ripley, LeRae & Storm
Mia Yim vs Kayden Carter
The match here is not the story. Don’t get me wrong, both Yim and Carter put in good work, selling Carter just hard enough to make you wonder if she could take it, though the commentators did not help this by describing that notion as a “major upset”, as we all know that is code for ‘never going to happen. But after Yim hit the Eat Defeat ripcord chin kick, she was celebrating and putting over Carter when suddenly Chelsea Green attacked the two of them. Accompanied to the ring by the former Impact ‘star’ Robbie E now going by Robert Stone, they introduced the Robert Stone brand claiming this was to be their year.
While it’s far too early to tell whether this angle will work, it was smart work to take the first proper show of 2020 and give some screentime to a new team and especially if at some time this year we lose Baszler to RAW/SmackDown it will be useful to build some more villains for the Women’s Division. However, why they put in Robert Stone when they had a perfectly good Malcolm Bivens backstage, I’ll never know, especially considering the hostility between him and Mia Yim.
Winner: Mia Yim
NXT North American Championship Number One Contender’s: Keith Lee vs Cameron Grimes vs Dominik Dijakovic vs Damian Priest
Keith Lee hit the Spirit Bomb on Cameron Grimes for the pin. The match was your classic modern NXT main event, spot-heavy, story light, very entertaining but not particularly memorable after the event. While it never felt like Lee was, in any way, not the man who was winning, it did give everyone an opportunity to shine, especially Grimes whose work so far has been solid but rarely spectacular. He’s always been talented but here, he was both the obnoxious heel while also playing David to three Goliaths without ever trying to force you to sympathise with him. Even with the forgone conclusion of Lee winning, it seems that there was a level of investment here in everyone that suggests good things for all four men this year. I’d be quite happy with a Dijakovic-Priest feud going forward.
Winner: Keith Lee
While there was no standout in-ring content, everything served the purpose to push forward stories, develop new ones and even get in some last-minute promotion for Sunday’s UK TakeOver special. It’s a shame that the Dusty Classic first-round matches were somewhat disappointing but next week’s match-ups seem set to change that…
Dusty Classic First Round:
Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) vs TIME SPLITTERS (KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley)
Broserweights (Pete Dunne & Matt Riddle) vs South Wales Subculture (Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster)
Battle Royal for a shot at the NXT Women’s Championship at TakeOver: Portland: Bianca Belair, Candice LeRae, Chelsea Green, Dakota Kai, Vanessa Borne, Kayden Carter, Mia Yim, Santana Garrett, Io Shirai, Shotzi Blackheart and Xia Li announced.
All images courtesy of wwe.com