Kyle O’Reilly is kicking off tonight’s NXT which, considering the end of NXT TakeOver Vengeance Day, is hardly a surprise. If you’re not up to date on the antics of Vengeance Day you can read the full review here, but the relevant bit here is that after Finn Balor beat Pete Dunne, he was beaten down three on one by Dunne with Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan. Undisputed ERA, led by Kyle O’Reilly, ran down to help him out. Balor lined up with them once they’d cleared the ring, then Adam Cole superkicked Balor in the face. O’Reilly asked Cole what the hell he was doing, so Cole kicked him in the face too. Roderick Strong was left to decide where his loyalties lie. That’s it, you’re all caught up.
Also on tonight’s show, both Dusty Cup-winning teams have celebrations. Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell face Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart. And Johnny Gargano is still looking for Austin Theory.
Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart def. Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell
Leon Ruff def. Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott
Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Cater def. Aliyah & Jessi Kamea
Kushida def. Tyler Rust
Zoey Stark def. Valentina Feroz
Pete Dunne, Danny Bruch, & Oney Lorcan def. Finn Balor, Kyle O’Reilly, & Roderick Strong
Kyle O’Reilly didn’t even wait for his intro. He cut commentary’s housekeeping bit short with his arrival and said he keeps playing the moment Adam Cole kicked him in the face over and over in his head, trying to make sense of it. He shocked, confused, he’s hurt, he’s pissed off and disappointed. They were supposed to be unlike every other group in the industry, they were special and Cole ruined it for everybody. He kicked him in the face, but he stabbed him in the back. He asked Cole to come out and explain because he’s still his brother and he wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. He wants to hear him out, needs him to explain himself, but he’ll probably punch him in the face when he’s finished.
Roderick Strong came out instead and tried to play peacekeeper. He talked about how much they’ve been through together and how special Undisputed ERA is. He’s convinced that Cole acted on pure emotion and is regretting his actions.
O’Reilly said he didn’t need to hear that from him. It meant nothing from him, he needed to hear it from Adam and Strong was just wasting everyone’s time. He warned Strong not to get in the ring and said he doesn’t trust him because he doesn’t know who to trust. He barely even trusts himself. He needs to talk to Adam. Once again, he called for Cole to come out.
Finn Balor joined them and made it clear he thought O’Reilly knew Cole was going to superkick him. On Sunday O’Reilly offered him his hand and he knows he shouldn’t have taken it. Strong argued that O’Reilly clearly didn’t have a clue, so Balor asked if he knew. Strong said no and they were still arguing when Pete Dunne, Danny Burch, and Oney Lorcan attacked them.
Strong was dispatched quickly. O’Reilly was dragged away from protecting Balor and beaten down in a corner by Burch and Lorcan while Pete Dunne stamped on Balor until officials forced him away.
Santos Escobar refused to take the match against Karrion Kross. He said he’s not doing it on William Regal’s time or Karrion Kross’ time, so he’s going home. William Regal said the match is next week and if Escobar doesn’t show up, he’ll be suspended indefinitely and stripped of the NXT Cruiserweight Championship. He then announced the six-man tag as a result of the opening ambush by Dunne, Burch, and Lorcan.
Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell vs Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart
Johnny Gargano joined commentary for the match. He’s been handing out missing posters for Austin Theory. Annoyingly, Gargano’s delusional waffle detracted from a decent match. As did a white van being shown on the big screen. That did get Gargano to leave, but led to more match distraction with him checking the van out.
The match they were largely ignoring was great, but it wasn’t the point of the segment. There is still obvious animosity between the teams, and they brought that into play from the off, or slightly before considering Blackheart fired her tank’s missile at them on her way to the ring.
LeRae and Hartwell controlled the match from the point where LeRae sneak attacked Shotzi Blackheart from the outside, while Blackheart had Hartwell tied up in the ropes. The attack freed Hartwell to kick Moon in the face. It took most of the rest of the match for them to turn it around. It could have been a much-needed win for Hartwell and LeRae if it wasn’t for Johnny Gargano.
At the end, Gargano reappeared having rescued Austin Theory. That cost them the match because Candice LeRae ran up the ramp to greet Theory, who was tied up, in a t-shirt and boxers, and had a bag over his head. Indi Hartwell got pinned with a rollup from Moon, while LeRae was on the stage.
Pat McAfee gloated from his private plane about being right all along that Adam Cole is an asshole.
Kushida isn’t done with Johnny Gargano and the North American Championship. Bronson Reed interrupted his interview to tell him he was also going for the North American Championship. It was a very civil exchange that ended with a fistbump. When he’d gone, Malcolm Bivens interrupted and told Kushida he should have a match tonight and he had the perfect competitor in mind. He checked Kushida was cleared then ran off to see William Regal.
Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott vs Leon Ruff
Just an observation, and definitely a matter of opinion, but this would have been a more entertaining match before Swerve’s recent character change. It would have been a good-natured contest, the veteran and the new boy showing off their respective skillsets.
As it was, it was still a very good match. Ruff may have come in as a fluke winner and an unlikely champion, but he’s more than worthy of his spot in NXT and a run with someone like Swerve, could cement that.
Leon Ruff got the win with a crucifix. Swerve started fake laughing after the match and offered Ruff his hand. Rookie mistake, Ruff shook it. They hugged, then Swerve beat the crap out of him. When Ruff was down Swerve said he’s tired of Ruff getting handed everything while he has to scratch and claw to get his. This is Swerve’s time.
I like the Black History Month vignettes WWE are doing. Famous quotes with a bit of context, read by WWE superstars.
Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs Aliyah & Jessi Kamea
Before the match, we got a recap of what happened with Xia Li last week. In a video, they explained they know it’s not really Li, it’s the influence of the Mei Ying/Tian Sha character.
Jessi Kamea and Aliyah didn’t pose too many problems for Catanzaro and Carter, until Boa appeared on the stage and Carter got momentarily distracted. Kamea took a lot of the strain for her team, which is good because it’s all building a picture of her still, but it was Aliyah who took the pin.
Xia Li came out with Boa at the end of the match. Catanzaro held Carter back but approached Li herself, looking to make up and telling her it doesn’t have to be this way. Li grabbed Catanzaro’s wrist and marked her with two black lined across the back of her hand. She said, ‘Next week I will purge you’, then left.
Malcolm Bivens has got the match against Kushida for Tyler Rust. He said Kushida was impressive on Sunday but he’s not going to beat him ‘Diamond in the Rust’.
Beth Phoenix took to the ring for the trophy presentation. She talked about Dusty Rhodes before showing highlights of this year’s tournaments.
MSK got to see their names on the trophy first, the first time we’ve really seen Wes Lee and Nash Carter outside of match or promo time. They’re taking their title shot on March third. They’re very likeable, all positive and bouncy, like large enthusiastic puppies.
MSK stuck around to celebrate with Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez, they even held the ropes open for them like gentlemen.
Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax made their entrance while Kai and Gonzalez were praising themselves for their performance. MSK held the ropes for them as well.
Dakota Kai made the introductions. She said Nia is big and Shayna ran away after Rhea Ripley kicked her butt. Gonzalez asked if that was the same Rhea Ripley she beat in a Last Woman Standing match and Kai confirmed. MSK were in the corner with Beth Phoenix, and somehow they were eating popcorn.
Jax said she was there to honour Dusty Rhodes, who she got to work with in NXT. Dusty called her a big bad beautiful bitch. Gonzalez said that’s only because he never met her.
Shayna Baszler said they were coming back on March third to humiliate them on their home turf. Gonzalez told Jax to be careful what she says because she’s going to stick that boot (the trophy) so far up her hole she’ll never get it out.
By this point, there was popcorn all over the floor because Wes Lee was laughing so hard he was laid on the floor being tended to by Nash Carter and Beth Phoenix.
So, two tag title matches on March third then.
Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong were arguing in the parking lot. We couldn’t hear what they said but O’Reilly looked like he was losing the plot.
Cameron Grimes had a music video vignette. I have no words to explain it, you’re just going to have to watch it.
Toni Storm crashed Io Shirai’s photoshoot, so we got to see the photoshoot of Storm beating Shirai up. As Storm wasn’t pinned or submitted in the title match, she clearly thinks she has a case for another shot.
Kushida vs Tyler Rust
I’m not sure if Malcolm Bivens is helping Tyler Rust in any way. We know very little about the character of Rust, who he is, what he’s aiming for, or why NXT don’t trust him to talk for himself.
He’s doing a decent job of speaking for himself in the ring though. He’s clearly got the skills for the job. Kushida took a nasty landing and hurt his neck when Rust pulled him off the turnbuckle and Rust zeroed in on it. He had a couple of solid pin attempts, and a couple of close calls with submissions as well.
Kushida has been intense and aggressive of late and when he got the Hoverboard Lock sinched in, Rust tapped out.
LA Knight was annoyed by a reporter knocking on his door, which is fair enough. He told them he’d knock their head off if they did it again. The rest of it was the usual hyperbole about being the hottest free agent and taking over the game and so on.
Zoey Stark vs Valentina Feroz
This was Stark’s single’s debut on NXT. I would have liked a promo video or something, but she let her ring work do the talking instead. She’s strong and she’s quick. She didn’t have it all her own way but it was a dominant if short performance. She finished Valentina Feroz off by spinning her into a knee in the face.
Scarlett and Karrion Kross said Santo Escobar’s time is up. Either Escobar shows up next week and Kross puts his arm through the back of Escobar’s skull. Or Escobar doesn’t show up and he loses his title, then Kross catches up with him anyway.
Finn Balor, Kyle O’Reilly, & Roderick Strong vs Pete Dunne, Danny Burch, & Oney Lorcan
The dynamics in this match were complex, with Balor, O’Reilly, and Strong having no idea who was on whose side. Their consummate professionals though, and they all hate Dunne, Lorcan, and Burch, so the lack of trust didn’t interfere.
Burch and Lorcan separated a set of steps early in the match but didn’t bring either half into play. There was far too much going on for anything that takes that kind of time.
O’Reilly ended up in trouble going into an ad break when Dunne punched him out of the air and left him clutching his jaw, and he was still taking punishment when we came back. He eventually got to Balor, who still had some rage to take out on Dunne. Lorcan had to break the pin attempt. Strong came in to deal with Lorcan and put him down at ringside, but got punched in the face by Danny Burch.
Balor kicked Dunne into the ref while Burch was trying to hand Dunne the title. Balor went to the top as the ref was getting up, but Adam Cole appeared and pushed him off, straight back into the ref.
Adam Cole superkicked Kyle O’Reilly in the face then delivered a brainbuster on the steps.
Strong stopped Lorcan using the belt on Balor and touched Balor on the shoulder. Balor Pele kicked him without looking round. While he was still looking at what he’d done, Pete Dunne got him with a Bitter End and pinned him.
Adam Cole returned to superkick Balor and pose with the title, while officials were calling for medical assistance for Kyle O’Reilly.
O’Reilly was reportedly stretchered out after the show with unofficial reports of a potential seizure and ensuing social media panic, partially fuelled by concerned tweets from other NXT superstars. WWE are not reporting an injury and later reports confirm it is a storyline injury and O’Reilly is a very good actor.
Adam Cole will break his silence next week, apparently. We’ll wait and see what he says, but I think it’s been clear from the outset that Kyle O’Reilly being the top guy in Undisputed ERA had a time limit, and O’Reilly’s complicated alliance with Finn Balor was just one threat too many for Cole. He got tired of not being the centre of attention.