Shotzi Blackheart hosts tonight’s special, and it does look like it’s going to be a very good show. Candice LeRae has another shot at Io Shirai’s NXT Women’s Championship in one of the ‘Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal’ matches. Her husband, Johnny Gargano, tries to relieve Damian Priest of the NXT North American Championship in the other. Cameron Grimes faces Dexter Lumis in a Haunted House of Terror match. Rhea Ripley and Raquel Gonzalez get their match. And Jake Atlas goes one on one with NXT Cruiserweight Champion Santos Escobar, in a non-title match.
Johnny Gargano def. Damian Priest
Santos Escobar def. Jake Atlas
Rhea Ripley def. Raquel Gonzalez
Dexter Lumis def. Cameron Grimes
Io Shirai def. Candice LeRae
Shotzi Blackheart looked incredible for her hosting duties.
Damian Priest (C) vs Johnny Gargano – NXT North American Championship ‘Devil’s Playground’ match
Damian Priest got played in live for his entrance. Johnny Gargano slashed the inflatable pumpkin during his. The wheel gave them a Devils Playground Match, which apparently is no-DQ, no count-out, falls count anywhere. It didn’t take long for Gargano to pull out a kendo stick from under the ring, but Priest turned as he tried to sneak up on him and he was holding a nightstick.
The match went backstage after they’d bounced each other around at ringside. Trash cans. Fire extinguishers and various other fixtures and fittings came into play. Apparently, Priest put Gargano through a wall during a break (where the US had picture in picture), but they were fighting on the Halloween Havoc set when we came back. Gargano spent too much time posing on top of the plinth and got kicked in the face. But just as he was about to be thrown off the top, someone dressed as the Grim Reaper hit Priest with a steel pipe. Gargano looked wary of his helper until the reaper handed him a headstone.
Johnny Gargano hit Priest with the headstone and Damian Priest crashed off the plinth through the set to the floor. A three count later, Johnny Gargano is the new NXT North American Champion. The first to win the title twice.
Wade Barrett and Vic Joseph sort of had their costume competition. Joseph dressed as Waldo (Wally in the UK) and Wade Barrett dressed as Bad News Barrett.
Cameron Grimes had to be encouraged to the parking lot by William Regal to be picked up for his Haunted House of Terror match. He tried to convince Regal that it should really be a wrestling match instead, but there was no budging him. The smile on William Regal’s face said it all. He’s been very patient with Grimes, now it’s time to pay the price.
Pat McAfee came to the ring with new, and undeserving, NXT Tag Team Champions Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. McAfee talked about how great his debut was and bitched about Adam Cole not giving him credit for a job well done after beating him. It was McAfee who arranged for Ridge Holland to attack Cole. He bought him a Mercedes as payment. Burch and Lorcan came into the picture after Holland got injured (catching Oney Lorcan) and they originally turned him down. Then they lost to Undisputed ERA and came back to him.
Kyle O’Reilly arrived before McAfee finished his story. I knew I like O’Reilly, but shutting McAfee up seals it. Pete Dunne arrived, carrying two chairs as O’Reilly got to the ring. He joined O’Reilly on the apron and handed him a chair without taking his eyes of Burch, Lorcan, and McAfee, who got out of the ring before Dunne and O’Reilly got in. Then Pete Dunne hit O’Reilly across the back with a chair and kicked him in the head. O’Reilly got thoroughly beaten up by Dunne, Burch, and Lorcan while McAfee watched, then Dunne stamped on O’Reilly’s elbow on a chair (similar to Shayna Baszler although I’m not sure who has been doing it longer) and O’Reilly took Burch and Lorcan’s double team onto a chair which McAfee placed under him.
When William Regal got Cameron Grimes to the door Grimes begged him to let him take the loss and go back to the locker room. Then he begged him to come with him. Michael Hayes emerged from the van sent to collect Grimes, and there was a blue light and smoke inside it. Cameron Grimes eventually got in though.
Jake Atlas vs Santos Escobar, with Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde
Do I really need to say this was great? Atlas is great, Escobar is great. Match was great, if a little short. Jake Atlas is still establishing his place in the NXT pecking order. He’s somewhere near the bottom at the moment having not long arrived and taken a few losses. He took another one here, just as he was making a solid fightback and after he’d taken out Wilde and Mendoza with a dive. Every single performance says he’ll be climbing the ranks soon though. A headbutt from Wilde, while wearing the weaponised Lucha mask was the difference makers. He was basically out when Santos Escobar planted him into the mat and pinned him.
Ember Moon said Dakota Kai has a receipt coming and she’s not going to like it.
Cameron Grimes vs Dexter Lumis – Haunted House of Terror match – Part 1
The first half of the match was a cinematic job and the scariest thing about it was the camera work. Grimes seemed to be under the impression it was Dexter Lumis’ house. There were some classic horror movie style jump scares including a creature emerging from the shower. There was a bit of fighting between Lumis and Grimes but Grimes ended up running out of the house with a zombie on his back, pursued by more zombie. Once he’d ditched the one on his back over the wall, he tried to escape in the van but Lumis was in there.
Cameron Grimes ran all the way back to the Capitol Wrestling Center so the match was TO Be Continued.
Rhea Ripley vs Raquel Gonzalez
Commentary focused a lot on how physical this match was, and on the fact neither woman is used to facing people who match their power and size. They weren’t wrong. This match was a tribute to how far women’s wrestling within WWE has come from bra and panties hair pulling and bitch slaps. I mean, there were bitch slaps and probably some hair pulling as well, it’s a convenient handle, but there was so much more.
Going into a break Gonzalez slammed Ripley into the barricade then powerbombed her to the floor, which was much more representative of the level of brutality on display. Ripley took some damage to her back, which hindered her progress a few times, and Gonzalez dominated long sections of the match. I think it’s the best match I’ve seen from Raquel Gonzalez, but I’m sure that would be no consolation to her. She lost via a Riptide.
Drake Maverick dressed as a tiny Hulk Hogan for Halloween. Killian Dain was wearing a Shockmaster mask. Maverick complained that Dain didn’t like the tights or the music or anything else, then put the mask on himself and fell over.
Cameron Grimes vs Dexter Lumis – Haunted House of Terror match – Part 2
The Zombies caught up with Grimes in the graveyard part of the set and followed him to the ring where Lumis was waiting. The match was all over in a couple of minutes after interference from Zombies, one of which was thrown at Grimes by Lumis (looked suspiciously like Kacy Catanzaro). Grimes went to sleep in Lumis chokehold and Lumis stroked his hair until the zombies surrounded them, then left Grimes in the ring with them.
The first Halloween Havoc was on October 28th 1989. This was the 13th one.
Tomasso Ciampa doesn’t recognise NXT anymore. It’s the attitude and the culture, everyone is walking around like they’re owed something. Everyone wants to blame someone else for what they don’t have and they’re too obsessed with social media. But he was never like that, he was simply undeniable. The greatest sports entertainer of all time. For a long time, Tommaso Ciampa was NXT. Fate took that away from him and it’s time to take it back. It all starts with Velveteen Dream ‘A 25-year-old prodigy, oozing it factor who can’t seem to get out of his own damned way’ (which is one way of putting it, I guess). He finished with, ‘Hit me with a cast once, shame on you. Hit me with a cast twice, you’re a dead man’.
Next week Tommaso Ciampa faces Velveteen Dream and Ember Moon gets her hands on Dakota Kai.
Io Shirai (C) vs Candice LeRae – NXT Women’s Championship ‘Tables, Ladders, and Scares’ match
Poppy sang Io Shirai to the ring, and came to the ring with her for her entrance, which was cool. Shirai and LeRae had much the same reaction to the tables, ladders, and scares stipulation, not thrilled but unphased. The belt was hoisted above the ring while they were on the outside.
A mystery bag LeRae opened contained severed limb and head props. Io Shirai immediately beat her with an arm. That was funny, but there were some brutal bumps in this one. This was only the third women’s TLC match in WWE and the first outside of the TLC PPV. As is often the way, the women made the fullest of full uses of the stipulation.
Io Shirai laid LeRae on a pile of chairs and went for a moonsault, but LeRae rolled away and Shirai landed on the chairs and hurt her right knee. LeRae got suplexed onto an open chair and caught her back on the chair back. She was holder her left shoulder after that. Shirai went for double knees in the corner but again LeRae moved and she got double knees into a ladder. LeRae put them both through two tables with a neckbreaker.
The death character turned up as it did in Gargano’s match (Indi Hartwell?) and carried LeRae to the top of the ladder. They laid her over the top then were immediately dragged down on Shotzi Blackheart’s shoulders and dropped backwards on a pile of chairs.
LeRae came to fingertips from the title, but with Shirai setting up a ladder next to her. LeRae managed to knock Shirai to the mat and got one hand on the title, but it wasn’t to be. The most brutal bump of the night was the final one. Io Shirai pushed the ladder over with LeRae still right at the top and Candice LeRae crashed through a ladder set up between the ring and the announce desk. She hit it kind of sideways, legs first and crumpled.
Io Shirai could have gone for a coffee before climbing the ladder after that, but she didn’t waste time. She retrieved the title and won the match.
Johnny Gargano was checking on LeRae as the show went off air.
It’s good to see Pete Dunne back in NXT, I think it’s a better fit for him than NXT UK. I’m happy to see him back as a heel because he’s great in that role, but I am beyond disappointed by his alliance with Pat McAfee.
Both parts of the Haunted House of Terror match were deeply weird and ridiculous, but it’s Halloween Havoc so what the hell.
The NXT women’s division is the best in the world. I will keep saying it because it’s true. Ripley versus Gonzalez was great and Shirai versus LeRae was easily the match of the night.