This is a story about love and friendship and kindness pulling you out of the darkness and kicking one door open when another one gets slammed shut. This is a story about never giving up and doing your best, always. This is for me, @KUSHIDA_0904, and all of you, @WWENXT.
— @Lx$ (@fakekinkade) January 15, 2020
Hi, and welcome to Alex Shelley Presents: NXT. Last week, NXT had no Alex Shelleys and this week’s episode has one so therefore, this is officially the best episode of NXT of the year. I don’t make the rules, it’s how it works. Anyway, beyond Alex Shelley’s wrestling spectacular, this week also features two number one contender’s matches and a match featuring the debut of a team known as the Broserweights, let’s find out how it went…
Promos & Packages
There were multiple segments over this show that I’m summarising into one section because really, they are all part of one story. We opened the show on Keith Lee putting over The Undisputed Era’s 2019 but talking of how 2020 is his, this brought the era out for a gang attack with Roderick Strong pillmanising Lee’s knee before Tommaso Ciampa came out to run them off.
Later on, Ciampa came out to call out Adam Cole for a title match leading to another Era attack only for Johnny Gargano to even the odds. While Keith Lee was being seen backstage by medical, Ciampa and Gargano responded to a challenge by Trent Seven via Twitter for a DIY vs Moustache Mountain match at Worlds Collide. Then later on as Johnny and Ciampa were leaving through the car park, the Era came back again for another confrontation, only for a surprise Keith Lee to pounce them through a hedge.
I liked the approach here of telling a few different stories over multiple segments and weaving them into each other as it makes sense that the top faces would want to have each other’s backs against a dominant faction like The Era. It also helps that they have all clicked very firmly into their despicable bastard roles so I am always happy to see them pounced through hedges. More hedges in wrestling, please?
Tegan Nox is back! And just as she’s about to tell us what she’s going to do to Dakota Kai, a surprise Candice LeRae got a leaping hug locked in on Nox for a victory via friendship.
Robert Stone and Chelsea Green were seen leaving the Full Sail University campus. Stone let us know that he’s pulling his client from the Battle Royal because reasons.
Finn Bálor was seen backstage watching Ilja Dragunov vs Saxton Huxley and commenting why he’s going to beat Ilja at Worlds Collide next week
Rhea Ripley was asked to comment on who she wants to face from tonight’s Battle Royal. So, of course, she spends a lot of it talking about Toni Storm. Anyway, standard stuff, she tells us it doesn’t matter because she’ll beat whomever it is.
Dusty Classic First Round: Broserweights (Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne) vs South Wales Subculture (Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster)
This seemed like a fun, little sprint and it had a great set-up with the history between Mark Andrews & Pete Dunne as well as the classic set-up of two larger men throwing around the smaller, flippier men. For the most part, I thought there was a very good match in parts here as spot-by-spot, there was little to fault here and there was a good sense of flow to it. However, spreading it over two ad-breaks did lend it an element of feeling somewhat fractured. It also seemed somewhat indulgent for a match of this style to run as long as it did, meaning that by about halfway through, I was suffering from diminishing returns. But Riddle, as always, brings something special to matches and his and Dunne’s tag-team moves and chemistry seems already well-placed.
As historically, the Dusty Classic has been won more frequently by two dudes teaming together than established tag-teams, it seemed quite obvious that Riddle and Peter were going to win here but they did work hard to make the few near-falls in the match matter. There are going to be those who loved this and that’s fine but for me, it was just a little too much.
Dusty Classic First Round: Time Splitters (KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley) vs Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake)
People often forget at the end of Rocky, he loses. This is a story about an 18-year journey to the WWE, about a man who never quite got the respect he deserved for helping advance a style and of his reunin with one of the two men with whom he helped put Junior tag wrestling on the map in a much larger way. The fact that he even made it here is a happy ending, so what I’m trying to say is, if you’ve already watched this match, it may hurt to know Alex Shelley lost but you should feel alive just to know he was here. This was a perfect tag match in structure, working an early succession of quick tags as both teams looked to get an upper hand followed by a heat segment which allowed KUSHIDA to play a very impressive ace-in-peril leading to a thunderous hot tag and a small mistake leaving a lone Shelley to be dropped by a Ticket to Mayhem tombstone lungblower-codebreaker combo.
If there was a fault to this match, it’s that it could have done with a few more minutes on its coda to really throw in some more convincing near-falls and when Gibson pushed KUSHIDA off the top-rope at the end, it did seem like KUSH jumped more than he was pushed but ultimately, this was a match to not only put over GYV but also to show us that Shelley is still here and it is our pleasure to live at the same time as him. Though it must be said, the fact that we’re not going to get another Time Splitters vs ReDragon match next week does disappoint me.
NXT Cruiserweight Number One Contender’s Match: Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott vs Lio Rush vs Tyler Bate
Spots! Spots everywhere. This was everything people want from a cruiserweight-style match, it moved quickly, it had flips, it had kicks and it circumvented expectations by keeping all three men involved for the entire time. But what made it really good was it seemed like each man was trying to take advantage of any opening they had to go for a pinfall, it wasn’t just spots, though believe me, the spots were good, it actually felt like three men trying to win a match from the get-go. Partially because I don’t like doing play-by-play I won’t go into recanting any particular spots as this is a match worth enjoying for yourself. Just three men doing impressive stuff for about 12 minutes of fun. Swerve eventually got the win offa JML Driver, a half-nelson sitout package driver on Breeze. This sends him into the Cruiserweight Championship four-way dance at Worlds Collide against two people from NXT UK (hopefully one of whom is Jordan Devlin) and champion Angel Garza who did a cracking job on commentary here. Watch this match.
NXT Women’s Championship Number One Contender’s Batte Royal
Bianca Belair, Candice LeRae, Io Shirai, Mia Yim, Mercedes Martinez, Tegan Nox and Shayna Baszler received the entrance treatment which seemed to hint at who might make it to the end. Also in the match were Catalina Garcia, Deonna Purrazzo, Indi Hartwell, Jessi Kamea, Kacy Catanzaro, Kayden Carter, MJ Jenkins, Santana Garrett, Shotzi Blackheart, Vanessa Borne and Xia Li. The apparent lack of Dakota Kai made her eventual turning up to screw over Tegan Nox an inevitability. Like any Battle Royal, thishad to get through the first about five-ten minutes before it really kicked into gear. But once we’d eliminated the never-going-to-happens, it really banged.
As she seems to be positioned as the Women’s divisions Kofi Kingston, Kacy Catanzaro got a spot to do something gymnastic, surviving by jumping off Kayden Carter’s back into the ring, Shotzi Blackheart and Deonna Purrazzo had what might be the start of a feud after Purazzo was eliminated and pulled Blackheart out near kicking her head off, only for Blackheart to come back in and eliminate Shayna Baszler. And there was a two-three minute stretch that was just Tegan Nox doing cool shit till Dakota Kai inevitably came out and pulled her off the top rope. While normally it’s hard to build to a finishing stretch that is ‘heel’ vs ‘heel’, Belair and Shirai put on a very good match, giving us the best women’s singles match in WWE since Shirai’s ladder match with Mia Yim. You can very easily jump to the other side of the ad-break and not miss anything important but especially the final act of this match, was very indeed.
Winner: Bianca Belair
I can’t say this was a perfect episode of television but even the weaker stuff like the opening to the main event and vast stretches of the opening match were still well-done enough that they weren’t offensive, just a little unnecessary. With two semi-final matches in the Dusty Classic, a North American Championship match and a lot of building to Worlds Collide to do, expect next week’s event to deliver just as much if not more.
Dusty Classic Semi-Finals:
Imperium (Marcel Barthel & Fabian AIchner) vs Broserweights (Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne)
Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) vs Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake)
NXT North American Championship: Keith Lee vs Roderick Strong (c)
All images courtesy of WWE.com