This is the final live episode of NXT this year (they are showing a taped episode next week) and they’re looking to leave a lasting impression. The show will start with Adam Cole versus Finn Balor for the NXT Championship, ad break free for those not still stuck watching it 24 hours late on Network. We have another title match to look forward to when Shayna Baszler defends the NXT Women’s Championship against Rhea Ripley. And there will be more build for the Worlds Collide tournament.
Adam Cole def. Finn Balor
Damian Priest def. Killian Dain
Cameron Grimes def. Kushida
Io Shirai def. Santana Garrett
Pete Dunne def. Travis Banks
Rhea Ripley def. Shayna Baszler
Adam Cole (C) vs Finn Balor – NXT Championship match
I was a little under-hyped going into this one. I don’t like Adam Cole (yes, I know how good he is, but you can’t like everyone) and Balor’s matches since he’s been back have lacked something. As it goes, it was good.
The crowd thought it was over after an Adam Cole superkick found its mark, but Balor kicked out. Cole got another cheeky close call after taking a Pele kick from an already rocked Balor and managing to crawl on top of him, but still no.
Balor landed a double stomp and a dropkick, but Cole kicked him off the turnbuckle to the floor when he tried to go a Coup de Grace. Balor could have been counted out but Cole broke the count then got backdropped on the outside and dropkicked into the barricade, which promptly fell onto the front row. Cole delivered a Last Shot after avoiding Balor’s Coup de Grace attempt, but Balor kicked out again.
The end wasn’t far off though. Balor finally landed a Coup de Grace and was about to finish Cole with 1916, when Johnny Gargano walked onto the stage. That distracted Balor and the referee just long enough for Cole to deliver a low blow and a Last Shot and pin him.
Gargano walked down to the ring after the match and grabbed a chair. Adam Cole quietly left Balor laid out in the ring and made for the exit. Gargano got a couple of chair shots in before Balor rolled out of the ring, then a couple more at ringside before Balor ran away.
Damian Priest vs Killian Dain
Damian Priest was out for revenge for Dain cracking a couple of his ribs. Killian Dain is just permanently angry, apparently. Whatever their individual motivations, they beat the shit out of each other.
Priest’s ribs were taped, but they became an issue almost immediately when he tried to lift Dain. They were the prime target for Killian Dain and the tape was ripped off mid-match. Unsurprisingly, it was Dain who had the best of the offence and when the action broke for ads Priest looked to be in trouble. When they cut back in, he was in charge.
Dain decided to walk away, so Priest launched himself over the top to stop him. He got Dain back in the ring, but couldn’t make the pin stick. Damian Priest got his knees up for Dain’s Vader Bomb and delivered The Reckoning for the win.
» We got a reminder of the categories and nominees for the NXT Year End Awards. This year, NXT UK are involved as well. You can find the details here.
» The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic will take place again in 2020. The teams will be announced on New Year’s Day.
Cameron Grimes vs Kushida
Cameron Grimes asked for this match after Kushida distracted him last week, causing him to lose to Raul Mendoza. Really good match, both these guys are invariably fun to watch. Grimes got one back for his win-loss record after a plethora of moves from both competitors that could, and probably should, have ended the match. He caught Kushida with a high double stomp to the chest and got the pin.
Io Shirai vs Santana Garrett
Io Shirai got a hype package before the match. She’s only been gone a couple of weeks. Mauro Ranallo informed us that seven of Shirai’s matches are on the match of the year nominations list. It was good to see Santana Garrett, just a little bit of a shame she was obvious cannon fodder for Shirai. Lovely match to watch, almost everything Io Shirai does is exquisite. It finished with a moonsault.
Pete Dunne vs Travis Banks
All of a sudden it was Progress 2016/2017, and that’s not a bad thing. I’m a big fan of matches where it’s obvious the wrestlers know each other very well. It just makes for a flow and an intensity that’s impossible to manufacture. I enjoyed this one a lot.
On this occasion, the meeting was to promote the Worlds Collide tournament taking place the night before Royal Rumble. Twice, Travis Banks countered the Bitter End. But after an avalanche x-plex and a kick in the head, he was unable to counter the third attempt and got pinned. Pete Dunne offered a fistbump after the match and got one.
» Dakota Kai talked about getting eight staples in her head after Mia Yim put her through the tables after their match last week. Kai wanted to remind everyone that she won that match, and she’s going to beat every woman in the locker room until she’s NXT Women’s Champion.
» Next week, on the Christmas episode, Roderick Strong will issue an Open Challenge and Lio Rush teams with Keith Lee against Damian Priest and Tony Nese.
Shayna Baszler (C) vs Rhea Ripley – NXT Women’s Championship match
I’ve been looking forward to this since it was announced. Rhea Ripley has had an astoundingly good year, and this would be the perfect end to it. The match didn’t let me down, despite my high expectations, I loved it. They have great chemistry.
Ripley caught Baszler’s foot when she tried to stomp her arm and had the champion backing off when she raised her fist. Baszler has not looked as intimidated by any of her previous opponents.
Inevitably, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir appeared when it became clear that the match wasn’t going Baszler’s way. Ripley kicked Duke off the apron then Baszler shoved Ripley out of the ring. Rhea Ripley responded by pulling Baszler’s feet out from under her on the apron then trying to take out all three with a dive. Baszler got out of the way and caught Ripley with a knee, then stamped on her elbow.
Having an injured limb to work on is key for Shayna Baszler and she worked Ripley’s arm over good. During a break, she had a bit of help from Duke and Shafir, which happily got them ejected from ringside. It also led to Ripley being assessed by medics and insisting the match continue.
The crowd were firmly behind Ripley. She landed a dropkick but Baszler crashed into the ref who went down. Rhea Ripley’s pin from the successful Riptide had no one to count it. Things got vicious on the outside and Baszler planted Ripley’s head onto a chair just as the ref was coming to. But Rhea Ripley kicked out.
Ripley got to all fours while in the Kirifuda Clutch and almost made it to the ropes but Baszler pulled her back, twice. When it looked like she was fading, Ripley grabbed the ref by the shirt, powered out of the hold and stomped on Baszler. She couldn’t make her own submission stick either, but a headbutt and a Riptide from the second turnbuckle got Rhea Ripley the pin and the title.
The final shot of the show was the ring full of fans with Rhea Ripley on their shoulders, delivering her to the corner to hold the belt aloft.
NXT have put on consistently good shows since they went to the two-hour live format, but this was a particularly strong showing to mark the final live episode of the year. Heading into the new year both singles divisions are in great shape. The North American Championship is being defended next week, the Cruiserweight Championship changed hands last week, so it’s only the tag division which really needs to pick up. Announcing the teams for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic 2020 next week should take care of that too.
Keep voting for the NXT Year End Awards and have a good festive season however you celebrate.