NXT are looking to start the year off strong with a not quite TakeOver but definitely special show. New Year’s Evil is set to be hosted by Dexter Lumis, presumably via drawing as he doesn’t speak. Finn Balor versus Kyle O’Reilly for the NXT Championship is the main event match, but the rest of the card looks great too. Damian Priest faces Killer Kross in the opening match. Raquel Gonzalez and Rhea Ripley have a Last Woman Standing Match. Santos Escobar defends the NXT Cruiserweight Championship against Gran Metalik. And with Xia Li and Boa returning tonight, we might finally find out what’s been going on.
Karrion Kross def. Damian Priest
Santos Escobar def. Gran Metalik
Xia Li def. Katrina Cortez
Raquel Gonzalez def. Rhea Ripley
Kushida & Shotzi Blackheart def. Johnny Gargano & Candice LeRae
Finn Balor def. Kyle O’Reilly
The show opened with Dexter Lumis in the empty Capitol Wrestling Center. He played with the lights a bit, trying to find the right one, then pulled a big lever and he was in his hosting gear and everything was in place.
Damian Priest vs Karrion Kross
Damian Priest’s ribs weren’t in great condition going into the match, and within a couple of minutes they were in worse condition. Kross is bigger than Priest and far more powerful. That’s not a combination Priest has to deal with that regularly.
Priest barely saved himself from being squished between a pillar and the steps, but a kick in the stomach persuaded Kross to drop the steps. He started to come back and delivered a flatliner with no issue, but his ribs gave out while trying to suplex Kross and the broken arrow didn’t have quite the impact it should.
Kross picked up some damage to his left arm and Priest worked it hard. It barely slowed Kross down and Priest’s ribs were soon taking another pounding. Somehow, Priest delivered the Razor’s Edge, but it hurt him so much he took way too long to cover and Kross kicked out. Sensing an opportunity, Priest went high risk with a flip over the top rope and South of Heaven after a spinning heel kick from the top. Kross still kicked out.
Kross nearly put Priest through the canvas with a powerbomb, but it was only enough for two. On the outside Priest landed a couple of kicks, but Kross plucked him out of the air, slammed his ribs into a column, then slammed him on the steps. There was a little defiant talk from Priest after that, but he had nothing left. A Saito suplex preceded the final blow to the back of his head. Karrion Kross remains undefeated.
The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic is back from next week. Undisputed ERA, Ever-Rise, Breezango, Curt Stallion & August Grey, Drake Maverick & Killian Dain, and Imperium are the teams announced so far, with more to come in the next few days.
Undisputed ERA versus Breezango is the first announced match. Adam Cole and Roderick Strong acknowledge that Breezango are good, but they’re confident they’re better.
Grizzled Young Veterans were shown in the crowd, so I guess they’re in too, but they weren’t in the ad.
Santos Escobar, with Legado del Fantasma, vs Gran Metalik, with Lince Dorado – NXT Cruiserweight Championship match
It’s fun having a non-NXT challenger for the title, but I can’t help thinking how many creditable challengers there are already on the NXT roster. That said, it was a hugely entertaining match and if this is what it takes to make raise the title up, then why not.
It was actually nice to see Gran Metalik doing what he does best. He had the champion reeling several times in the match, but a couple of issues with his mask which cost him some concentration. Wilde and Mendoza had one attempt at interfering, but Lince Dorado cut them off before they had chance.
The end came fast when Escobar caught Metalik on the turnbuckle. He hoisted him up for Legado then again for a Phantom Driver to retain the title.
Mercedes Martinez says it’s really good to be back. She coming after Io Shirai and it doesn’t sound like she’s planning to wait long.
The scary painted face person brought Xia Lia and Boa back. They are fighting machines now. Well, Li is, Boa accompanied her to the ring for her match wearing a suit.
Xia Li vs Katrina Cortez
The pained person sat on the ramp in their ornate chair to watch Li’s match. She’s always been impressively quick, but she’s looking sharp, focused, and determined now. Of course, she won. I’m more interested in seeing when happens when she gets into it with the rest of the roster.
The fight pit match between Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa, originally scheduled for this show, has been postponed due to a minor injury to Thatcher. William Regal assures us that as soon as he’s cleared, the match will take place.
Bronson Reed said he sat at home with injuries and it built aggression inside him. That aggression is what NXT is going to see this year and he’s putting the whole locker room on notice. It’s going to be a colossal year. He also predicted a win for Rhea Ripley.
Rhea Ripley vs Raquel Gonzalez – Last Woman Standing
They took a minute or two to just beat on each other before the toys came out. A chair got a brief use, the kendo stick was a favourite for both of them, then Gonzalez got the handcuffs out. Ripley took them off her and handcuffed her to the chainlink, but Gonzalez pulled herself free, taking some twisted strands of chainlink with her and using it to smack Ripley in the face. Rhea Ripley tried to use the hammer for the bell, so Gonzalez drove her head into the bell instead.
Gonzalez put Ripley through the announce desk and buried her to try to keep her down for ten, but it didn’t happen. Over the course of an ad break which was picture in picture in the US, they made their way up to the stage, with Gonzalez carrying some steps. A kick in the face sent Ripley rolling down the stairs from the stage and they went off backstage. Gonzalez appeared in control, until Ripley put her through a glass door. They both broke the count at eight.
Ripley got some height on top of some lockers and leapt off them to put Gonzalez through a table. As Gonzalez was barely breaking the count, Dakota Kai turned up and beat the hell out of Ripley with a kendo stick. It just pissed Ripley off. She beat on Kai, shoved her in a locker and pushed a packing crate int front of it, then went to find Gonzalez.
She found her on the stage, with a chair that quickly made contact with Ripley’s back. Gonzalez tried to shove Ripley’s face onto the leg of the chair, but found herself in an inverted cloverleaf with the chair around her neck. Extracting herself from the hold sent Ripley flying into part of the set headfirst. As soon as they were up Ripley smashed her into the backboard and she landed hard on her head.
Gonzalez tripped Ripley so she landed hard on the steps she’d brought to the stage, then climbed on them and powerslammed Ripley, and herself, right through the stage. Raquel Gonzalez made it back to her feet at eight. Rhea Ripley was still laying there long after Gonzalez had her hand raised.
The Way got a police escort to the arena for Johnny Gargano’s curse-breaking celebration. It set the tone for it perfectly. Gargano was at his most egotistical. Candice LeRae got him a plaque to commemorate breaking the curse. Indi Hartwell and Austin Theory got him a picture of them all as superheroes. And Gargano announced that he and theory will be entering the Dusty cup.
Shotzi Blackheart arrived on stage in her tank and asked LeRae is she’d forgotten about her. Theory tried to shut her down and Blackheart shot him in the balls with a plastic missile. Gargano ran to comfort him. Blackheart got in the ring, threw Hartwell out, then beat on LeRae and kicked her down for Hartwell to catch. Gargano for on the apron to threaten Blackheart, but was dragged down by Kushida who joined her to hold the ring.
A bell rang. The ringer was Dexter Lumis who pointed to the screen which was showing a cartoon match graphic. Mixed tag incoming.
Johnny Gargano & Candice LeRae vs Kushida & Shotzi Blackheart
A short and unexpected match which would have been so, so, much better if it had been an intergender match instead of a mixed tag. Lumis joined commentary and managed to make Wade Barrett backtrack something he said with that unsettling stare. Kushida and Blackheart worked together great and they would have had no trouble without Theory and Hartwell’s interference. Indi Hartwell effectively took Blackheart out of the match by dragging her off the apron, but Theory got caught by Kushida, dragged into the ring, and Gargano’s head catapulted into his balls when Kushida tripped him. When Gargano turned back from apologising, Kushida pinned him.
The next NXT TakeOver is on Valentine’s Day, February 14th.
Ever-Rise versus Grizzled Young Veterans is the other Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic match next week.
William Regal announced the first women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic will happen this year.
Finn Balor (C) vs Kyle O’Reilly – NXT Championship match
Balor picked up some arm damage, blocking a kick aimed at his recently repaired jaw, early in the match. That gave O’Reilly a target and he went back to it at every opportunity. An abdominal stretch saw O’Reilly break the hold by biting the ropes. Before he could move away, Balor kicked the rope then stamped on his face. O’Reilly was reluctant to let the medic take a look at it, insisting it was fine. Now they both had a target.
O’Reilly was holding his jaw whenever his hands weren’t otherwise occupied. He stayed on Balor’s arm, and Balor retaliated with headlocks pressing on the jaw and face stamping.
After Balor kicked O’Reilly in the jaw to get himself out of a submission, O’Reilly kicked him in the face so hard his momentum sent him out of the ring. It took him until nine to get back in. The champ couldn’t get to the ropes in the next series of submissions, but a punch to the jaw knocked O’Reilly flat. The follow-up punches, using only his uninjured arm, met with no resistance and it looked to be all over when O’Reilly landed in another submission hold. He managed to hit Balor’s injured arm to get him to release it.
Again, it looked like O’Reilly was done for. Balor had him down and went for the Coup de Grace, but O’Reilly was on his feet and suplexed him off the turnbuckle. It was somewhere around then Balor’s eyebrow started bleeding.
It had to end by submission. An abdominal stretch, taken to the mat, just too far for O’Reilly to get to the ropes. When Balor changed his grip to wrench the jaw, Kyle O’Reilly tapped.
Balor stood, blood smeared over his face, and looked at a despondent O’Reilly being comforted by Adam Cole and Roderick Strong and being checked on by officials. There wasn’t a handshake, but there was definitely respect.
The announcement of the women’s Dusty Cup is interesting. Surely it’s going to have to be cross-brand. NXT’s women’s roster is huge compared to the other brands, but I’m still not sure they’ve got enough women to pull it off without at least NXT UK.
For me, that was a good show. Xia Li’s reappearance would have been better saved for next week. It just didn’t fit. But everything else was great. Kyle O’Reilly and Finn Balor elevated each other with this feud. Balor’s return to NXT has been lacklustre until O’Reilly but these matches have been interesting. Sometimes the chemistry just works, and O’Reilly has cemented himself as the main event player he has long been.