The biggest news ahead of tonight’s NXT is Edge paying his first-ever visit to the brand, but there’s a full card for him to watch while he’s there. Santos Escobar puts the NXT Cruiserweight Championship on the line against Curt Stallion. The men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic continues with Undisputed ERA versus Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher, and Lucha House Party versus Legado del Fantasma, both quarter-final matches. And we’ve got a women’s semi-final between Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter and Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez.
Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez def. Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter
Austin Theory def. Leon Ruff
Legado del Fantasma def. Lucha House Party
Toni Storm vs Jessi Kamea – No Contest
Santos Escobar def. Curt Stallion
Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher def. Undisputed ERA
Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez vs Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-final match
Both teams are convinced they’re going to win the whole thing. Carter and Catanzaro sound like they’re having more fun.
The biggest issue for high-flying teams like Catanzaro and Carter is opponents strong enough to either swat them out of the air or outright catch them. That’s the case with Raquel Gonzalez and that’s how Kacy Catanzaro ended up stranded on the wrong side of the ring. They’d been doing pretty well until Gonzalez caught the dive off the apron and threw her back into the ring. Kayden Carter was a perpetual motion machine when she got in, and quite happily took on Gonzalez and Kai for a time, but a distraction from Kai on the outside led to Carter being shoved off the apron so hard she hit her head on the announce desk.
Kacy Catanzaro made sure no one could pluck her out of the air on her next dive. She climbed high up one of the metal columns and wiped out Kai and Gonzalez. Sadly, she couldn’t make the pin stick on Kai though. She would have got the win with one of her incredible twisty somersaults, but Dakota Kai broke it up (Gonzalez might have been kicking out anyway). Kai took Carter out at ringside and Gonzalez slammed Catanzaro damned near through the mat for the win.
Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez will meet either Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon or Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell at NXT TakeOver Vengeance Day on February 14th.
Wade Barrett has become a US citizen. Vic Joseph and Beth Phoenix bought him presents to celebrate.
Toni Storm talked to Alyse Ashton about the now official triple-threat for the NXT Women’s Championship at TakeOver. She said Io Shirai has been untouchable since the day she walked into NXT, to anyone whose name isn’t Toni Storm. Last week, when she held the title up with Io Shirai at her feet, was just a preview. Shirai can’t stop her. Mercedes Martinez can’t stop her. She’s on the top of her game and that’s going to be on full display later in the show.
We got to see William Regal talking to Edge. Two legends together.
Leon Ruff vs Austin Theory, with Johnny Gargano
Austin Theory’s entrance features him standing silhouetted in the light. Johnny Gargano was stood behind him and you could barely see him. I don’t know why that amused me so much, but it did.
Gargano was obviously going to be a factor at some point. He got kicked in the face for his efforts, and punched off the apron. Ruff ended up laid out on the floor next to him moments later after colliding with Theory in the middle of the ring. Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell came out to tend to Gargano. Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon came out to beat on LeRae and Hartwell.
Gargano and the ref stared up the ramp as Moon and Blackheart carried off LeRae and Hartwell. Gargano turned around first so Leon Ruff clapped and fell to the floor screaming and holding his face. It worked. The ref sent Gargano to the back.
The match nearly finished a few seconds later with a cutter off the top rope, but Theory got his foot on the rope. Theory dropped Ruff face-first on the barricades, rolled him back into the ring and delivered the ATL for the win. One wasn’t enough for him though. He came back for a second then got the ring ball. He didn’t get to use it though. Daxter Lumis appeared from nowhere and put him in The Silence. Theory broke free, but Lumis ended up with a lock of his hair.
Legado del Fantasma are supremely confident that all three of them will be victorious tonight. They got in a dig at Karrion Kross at the end of their promo, which probably wasn’t their smartest move.
There was an interesting video segment relating to Xia Li and Boa and the mysterious figure pulling their strings. It was a story, so I think it’s better to just watch.
Lucha House Party vs Legado del Fantasma (Wilde/Mendoza) – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Quarter-final Match
I loved every minute of this one. Legado del Fantasma were in the ascendency going into the break, but there was a lot of match left to go. We got back in time to see Gran Metalik deliver a sunset flip powerbomb to Mendoza and give himself the chance he needed to tag out.
The entire match was fast and bouncy and all the things that make this style of wrestling so very entertaining to watch. Gran Metalik stood on the top rope and used a hurricanrana to pull Mendoza off the middle rope onto Wilde. Lince Dorado followed up with a moonsault onto Legado del Fantasma that saw all three of them smashing their heads into the announce desk, with Dorado taking the worst of it.
In the end, it was a missed tag that caused the result. Dorado didn’t know Mendoza was legal until he kicked him in the face and pinned him.
Legado del Fantasma meet MSK in the semi-final. That should be incredible.
MSK came out to tell them to enjoy the feeling of victory because it is only going to last until next week, then they become part of MSK’s meteoric rise.
Pete Dunne arrived with Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan. It would appear that now Pat McAfee is no longer around, Dunne is the leader of the trio. He wanted to go and find Finn Balor, so that’s what they set off to do. William Regal needs to have a word with them about their timekeeping, they’re always arriving halfway through the show.
Dunne said he told Balor to his face that he’s not waiting anymore, but he didn’t listen. Then last week he gave him the message again and snapped his fingers. Don’t force him to make it any more clear than that.
Balor came straight out. He accused Dunne of hiding behind Burch and Lorcan. Dunne disagreed and with a bit of taunting, asked them to leave the ring. He told Balor to hold onto the title because the first chance he gets he’s taking it. Balor said he’s got his chance, TakeOver Vengeance Day.
And that’s when Edge arrived. He said the NXT ring feels good. A lot of times in WWE they put the focus on the E, but in NXT the focus is on that second W, and that’s fun. For years he watched the show as a fan like everyone else. He saw passion, hunger, fire in eyes. What people don’t know is that NXT helped him find the passion to get his career back after nine years. He used that passion to win the Royal Rumble, and that allows him to challenge any champion in the company.
When he looks at them he sees two of the best. He told Pete Dunne (not for the first time by the sounds of it) that he sees a lot of himself in him. The good and the bad. Dunne shrugged at him and Edge said, ‘I would have shrugged my shoulders just like that ten years ago too, kid’.
To Balor, he said he sees a guy who is operating at an entirely different level. He’s in a zone that is special to watch. So, he’s going to be watching their match at TakeOver because he’s never had the NXT Championship, so whoever wins that’s intriguing. If he hasn’t made his choice by TakeOver, their fight might make him make that choice.
Johnny Gargano’s interview was a bit of a comedown after that. The Way are happy about Theory’s win and Gargano said Theory would put Lumis in his place if he keeps messing with him. He also said Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell would win their match next week. When Alyse Ashton told him he was facing Kushida at TakeOver for the North American Championship, he refused to believe her. He dragged her to Regal’s office and made the cameras follow so we could see her get fired for lying.
Kushida was in Regal’s office when they got there. He said Mr Regal was busy and Gargano said he’s come back later then punched him. The resulting brawl left Gargano laying on the floor holding the arm Kushida had just kicked with William Regal standing over him.
Toni Storm vs Jessi Kamea, with Robert Stone and Aliyah
For what it’s worth, Kamea is an official member of the Robert Stone Brand now, although I thought her teaming with Aliyah last week confirmed that.
The match barely got more than a minute before Mercedes Martinez arrived in the ring. Jessi Kamea objected because she’d been doing quite well. She fell out of the ring as Storm got to Martinez and they brawled in the centre of the ring. Kamea tried to get back in for some reason, but Stone and Aliyah pulled her back down.
Io Shirai came down and just sat in the turnbuckle and watched. When they were both at ringside, she climbed the turnbuckle nearest them and took them out with a moonsault.
The is the biggest opportunity of Curt Stallion’s life. He won a fatal five-way on the 205th episode of 205 Live to earn it. Santos Escobar has been running, but tonight he’s got him backed into a corner and he’s going to make everybody in Texas proud.
Cameron Grimes got a hype video because he’s back next week.
Santos Escobar (C) vs Curt Stallion – NXT Cruiserweight Championship match
It’s quite a way to make an in-ring debut in NXT, although he’s been around and getting involved for a few weeks. Scarlett was watching the match from the podium. It took a while for Escobar to see her, but he smiled at her while he wrecked Curt Stallion’s arm. Escobar kept looking up at her and he was clearly concerned about where Kross might be.
That hung over the match, for me anyway. Ninety percent concentration on the match and ten percent on whether Karrion Kross was going to show up. Escobar had the same problem at times, but Stallion kept him plenty busy.
It finished in favour of the champion, with Insult to Injury, then Legado del Fantasma’s attention was on Scarlett. That’s when Karrion Kross showed up. Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde went to meet him, but wiping them out barely slowed him down.
Kross told Escobar they have an ever-growing rivalry. He’s going to give him the gift of time, but all that means is more time to think about the inevitable. Then he told him to run along and said, ‘Tick Tock’. After a moment’s hesitation, Escobar did as he was told.
Edge told an unseen interviewer in the parking lot that he hasn’t made a decision and if he had he probably wouldn’t tell him. Karrion Kross strode over and told him he has a very big decision to make. It’s one he’s going to have to live with for the rest of his life so he hopes he chooses logically not emotionally. At the end it’s not going to be Pete Dunne or Finn Balor it’s going to be him, taking back the title he never lost.
Edge said that sounds threatening. Words like that can be motivating and might motivate him to come back to NXT. He doesn’t know if Kross would like that.
Undisputed ERA vs Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Quarter-final Match
This was a predictably great main event, I just can’t find much to say about it. Ciampa fought Cole then Thatcher fought Strong. Timothy Thatcher made Roderick Strong’s face go an interesting shade of purple with one of his submissions, but Strong somehow got to the ropes.
Adam Cole nearly tapped out Thatcher while Strong held Ciampa in a submission, but Ciampa got free and broke it up just in time. An Undisputed ERA double team looked like it had Ciampa out cold, but he still kicked out. Thatcher dragged Cole out of the ring before they could try again and put him down with a couple of uppercuts. Roderick Strong left the ring and gave Thatcher a high knee and a backbreaker on the barricade.
Strong got halfway back in the ring but Ciampa met him with Willow’s Bell pinned him.
Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher will face Grizzled Young Veterans in the semi-finals. They had a standoff on either side of the cup. Officials and William Regal arrived just in time for Ciampa to slap Zack Gibson and pile into James Drake. They were still splitting them up when the show ended.
As a result of the post-Rumble call-ups (call-ups, lateral moves, downgrades?) Damian Priest has moved to RAW, which seems like a very good fit for him. Rhea Ripley has apparently also moved brands, but it’s not clear which brand she will join yet. Personally, I’d rather see her go to RAW right now because I believe her best match options are there. SmackDown probably needs her more, but I don’t want her on the same brand as Bianca Belair. I want them to take over a brand each.
Edge versus either Finn Balor or Pete Dunne is definitely an intriguing prospect. I still think it’s more likely he’ll pick Roman Reigns or Drew McIntyre, but you never know. There are a lot of good reasons for him to choose NXT. He’s never been there. It’s a different type of challenge. It’s an entirely new roster to test himself against. He’s at the point in his career where he’s already a legend, so he can do what he likes. But he knows his days in the ring are limited, so it’s now or never if he wants to add it to his resumé. And his wife works there, which could be a very real factor.
I question whether the brand needs him. NXT has an exceptional roster, already with more potential top stars than slots. Would adding a superstar of Edge’s calibre throw off the dynamic or stop other’s getting chances? On the other hand, there’s no doubt NXT could do with a ratings boost in the so-called ‘Wednesday Night War’. AEW have been consistently trouncing them, which apparently matters to some people. A couple of months with Edge as the champion could possibly help.
Anyway, just because the NXT brand might not strictly need his presence doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. A legend in the mix will have all kinds of positive effects on the locker room. I’m sure you’d be hard-pressed to find many who wouldn’t jump at the chance to work with him and learn from him. And I want to see some of those matches.