NXT should be in full celebration mode this week after a successful TakeOver and winning Survivor Series. With the new live format, the post-TakeOver shows with TakeOver dark matches on them are gone. Instead, we’ve got a Tag Team Championship match, Undisputed ERA defending their titles against Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic, and Lio Rush defending his NXT Cruiserweight Championship against Akira Tozawa. We should also hear from Tommaso Ciampa about whether he plans to try to reclaim Goldie, and from Dakota Kai about her heinous actions towards Tegan Nox at WarGames.
Undisputed ERA def. Keith Lee & Dominik Dijakovic
Mansoor def. Shane Thorne
Candice LeRae def. Dakota Kai
Lio Rush def. Akira Tozawa
Xia Li def. Vanessa Borne
Finn Balor def. Tommaso Ciampa
No Mauro Ranallo on commentary tonight because he’s unwell (and Corey Graves is a prick). Tom Phillips stepped in to help Nigel McGuinness and Beth Phoenix.
The show opened with most of the roster celebrating at ringside. Well deserved. Undisputed ERA came out to stop the party and take all the credit. Team Ciampa, who beat them at NXT TakeOver WarGames, stood in the ring looking at them while they rewrote history and told the roster they aren’t NXT, Undisputed ERA is NXT.
Tommaso Ciampa finally had enough and shut Adam Cole up, reminding them they had their asses whooped at WarGames. He told them they’re the only ones who couldn’t see that WarGames marked the end for the Undisputed ERA. And tonight the collapse continues when Lee and Dijakovic take the tag titles. He’s sure Roderick Strong’s days are numbered. But he told Goldie she had to wait because Daddy was going to war. Now the war is over and he’s coming to get her back. And there’s no one standing in his way.
Finn Balor arrived and said he’s standing in Ciampa’s way. Ciampa said Balor says he doesn’t watch the business, the business watches him and that’s good because tonight he wants the whole world to see, ‘Prince, you just met your king’.
Balor agreed to the match off-mic, then Keith Lee called O’Reilly and Fish to come and defend their titles.
Undisputed ERA (C) vs Keith Lee & Dominik Dijakovic – NXT Tag Team Championship match
Bobby Fish was removed from the match early on for medical reasons (knee injury, bad landing when he was thrown out of the ring), so Roderick Strong stepped up to take his place. It was so on the fly that Strong wrestled in jeans.
There looked like there was going to be a bit of aggro between Lee and Dijakovic at one point and O’Reilly and Strong tried to take advantage. But Lee and Dijakovic were ready for them and that sequence ended up with Lee being suplexed onto them by his partner.
A chop block on Dijakovic from Strong gave him a target and Undisputed ERA the advantage, for a time. The image of Strong and O’Reilly holding Dijakovic by the leg, trying and failing to prevent him making a tag, was particularly amusing.
They had to work together to take down Lee. Once again Strong went with a chop block, and O’Reilly followed it up with a knee to the head, but they couldn’t keep Lee down, or stop him tagging back out.
O’Reilly got Dijakovic in a triangle and Strong came in while Dijakovic, predictably, stood up to powerbomb him. So Dijakovic added a chokeslam to Strong to O’Reilly’s powerbomb. But still, there was no finish.
Keith Lee was chop blocked again, so was Dijakovic, but only after he’d dived over the top and taken out Strong and O’Reilly.
Adam Cole came down to interfere and Keith Lee pounced him into the middle of the second row (seriously, go find the gifs on twitter, it’s hilarious, he flies out of shot). Dijakovic was so shocked he got caught by a high low from Strong and O’Reilly and was pinned.
» After the recap of the women’s WarGames match, it was announced that Dakota Kai was fined for putting her hands on William Regal. We saw a tweet from Tegan Nox saying she’s banged up and needs time to heal, but she’s more emotionally than physically hurt and wants answers
Candice LeRae was interviewed by Cathy Kelley who asked her about Dakota Kai. LeRae said she’s sick of hearing about Kai. All she can think about is seeing Kai attack someone LeRae thinks of as a sister. Tegan Nox will get hers, she knows that. But LeRae has a match against Kai tonight and Dakota Kai isn’t fighting her friend Candice LeRae, she’s fighting Tegan Nox’s pissed off big sister.
» We got to see footage of Lio Rush attacking Angel Garza after Garza’s TakeOver Preshow match. Rush faces Akira Tozawa for the title later, but the issues with Garza aren’t over.
Shane Thorne vs Mansoor
Mansoor hasn’t been seen much outside Crown Jewel and Super ShowDown, highlights of which were shown during his entrance. Shane Thorne has also been absent, despite making some vague noises about being great and deserving chances. This match was short but decent. Not sure it did anything much to raise either of their profiles. Commentary made a lot of the fact Thorne has suffered some losses in his last few matches. Nothing changed in this one, Mansoor got the win off a neckbreaker.
Candice LeRae vs Dakota Kai
It was a clearly angry Candice LeRae who arrived at the ring. Not helped when Dakota Kai turned up looking mean and carrying Tegan Nox’s knee brace like a trophy.
So this was the first chance to see how Dakota Kai translates from nice girl to bitter and vicious. Pretty well as it turns out. Her kicks look nasty and brutal, and the methodical way she immobilised LeRae in the ropes to deliver them, then made LeRae look at the hate in her eyes, looked unhinged. I think she’s going to be great in this role.
A LeRae suplex on the apron put them both down on the floor after Kai hit with a glancing blow that looked really ugly, but it was Candice LeRae’s turn to take control when they got up.
Kai moved to avoid the springboard moonsault. LeRae kicked out of the Kairopractor. Kai managed to scramble out of the Gargano Escape and rolled out of the ring.
Candice LeRae went to follow via suicide dive and got hit in the head with the knee brace. The ref disqualified Kai, who seemingly couldn’t care less and threw LeRae into the steps, the ringpost, and the steps again. She got a chair, but Rhea Ripley ran down and kicked it out of her hands before chasing her off with it.
» Tommaso Ciampa had a backstage interview ahead of the main event. He said he issued the challenge because he wanted the match. Balor can call himself the demon or the price, but he’s the longest-reigning champion in NXT history. But it’s Ciampa who turned Goldie into the most prestigious championship in the business. And standing in his way was Balor’s mistake.
» Cameron Grimes got a ‘getting to know you’ package.
» Rhea Ripley got a ‘look what she’s been doing recently’ video. She really has had an incredible couple of weeks and she thoroughly deserves every single opportunity.
Lio Rush (C) vs Akira Tozawa – NXT Cruiserweight Championship match
The cruiserweight title matches are always so good, and this was no exception. Tozawa and Rush’s styles mesh beautifully. They were part of a great triple threat match on the Survivor Series Kickoff alongside Kalisto, so this was Tozawa’s one on one opportunity.
It was a match full of big moves and swift kicks. At one point they dropped each other with simultaneous kicks to the face.
Tozawa suplexing Rush off the apron to the floor early ended the match in a double count-out, but both rolled into the ring at nine and a half.
Akira Tozawa was rocked after he lost his mouthguard. Rush looked to be out on his feet after being caught in a snap German suplex as he came off the ropes, but he still kicked out of the bridging German that followed and got his knees up for the senton from the top.
It took two final hours from there to get the pin, but Rush retained his title.
» Finn Balor interviewed by Cathy Kelley. He said tonight Tommaso Ciampa is living in his world and it’s a dark place. He’s already put Johnny Gargano in hospital, and Matt Riddle found out at TakeOver, now Tommaso Ciampa meets the prince.
Xia Li vs Vanessa Borne
Last time we saw Xia Li, she broke Aliyah’s nose with a stray kick. Vanessa Borne was there to get some retribution for her best friend and fellow mean girl. Borne was, unsurprisingly, alone as Aliyah is still on the injured list.
Borne didn’t get her revenge. She got her ass handed to her by Li in a very short match.
Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke, and Marina Shafir appeared just before the end of the match and attacked Li after she won. Xia Li did a great job initially, but the numbers caught up with her and she took a beating before being kicked out of the ring.
Baszler grabbed a mic and said everyone is trying to take credit for Survivor Series weekend, but no one had a weekend like she did. She beat SmackDown Women’s Champion, Bayley, and RAW Women’s Champions, Becky Lynch, at the same time.
The crowd chanted for Rhea Ripley while Baszler was boasting, and apparently summoned her to the ring. Baszler and friends vacated the ring before she got in and Ripley asked where they were going. She came out because she had something to say to Baszler face to face. Baszler got up on the apron and Ripley congratulated her. She did beat Bayley and Becky, but when she went face to face with Ripley, Ripley beat her. And she’ll do it again, but next time it will be for the belt. Baszler got in the ring and they got nose to nose. Baszler said she’s heard it all before. Ripley might be the nightmare but she’s the reality and the reality is that Ripley will be tapping or napping like the rest of them. Ripley challenged her to do it now. Baszler declined. Ripley said Baszler knows if she steps back in the ring. Ripley will drop her. Baszler left anyway.
» A recap of the Pete Dunne vs Damian Priest vs Killian Dain triple threat at TakeOver WarGames led to the announcement Damian Priest has a couple of cracked ribs, and a match against Killian Dain next week.
Tommaso Ciampa vs Finn Balor
I’ve always liked Balor, but his TakeOver match bored me. This one didn’t. It’s a different Balor to the watered-down character we’ve had on the main roster. There’s an intensity we haven’t seen since he left NXT the first time. And Ciampa is flying high since his return as well, so it was a hard-fought contest from the off.
Balor tried for 1916 on the ramp but got planted with an Air Raid Crash by Ciampa instead. It took Balor until nine to get in, but Ciampa was waiting. He delivered Project Ciampa, but Balor kicked out and started winding up to his finish with a double stomp and dropkick, then climbed the turnbuckle. Ciampa chased him up and brought them both down with an Air Raid Crash.
Ciampa was about to finish Balor after saying ‘this is for Johnny-boy’ but had to break off to deal with Adam Cole, who dropped his title in the ring when Ciampa dropped him. Balor picked it up and the ref tried to wrench it out of his hands and Ciampa tried to capitalise on his distraction but failed. Balor drove Ciampa into the mat and his head hit the title, but as it wasn’t deliberate the ref let it go.
With the ref distracted removing the title from the ring, Cole kicked Ciampa in the head and Balor finished the match with 1916.
Cole got in the ring to retrieve his title after the match. He and Balor stood over Ciampa doing their respective gestures, then Balor Pele kicked Adam Cole in the head and left.
That’s how you do the show after a PPV, straight into new storylines. So much better than the between tapings shows. It’s really good to see storylines happening that have nothing to do with the titles. Long may it continue.