The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic is in full swing for the men, with two more first-round matches tonight. Kushida & Leon Ruff versus Johnny Gargano & Austin Theory may well be more about settling scores than qualifying for the next round, but it should be fun. Lucha House Party face Imperium in the other Dusty Cup match, that’s going to be a very odd mix of styles. The Women’s Dusty Cup starts this week as well, with Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter facing Toni Storm & Mercedes Martinez. The main event of the night is Tommaso Ciampa versus Timothy Thatcher. They’re going to hurt each other in the Fight Pit, where the only way to win is via submission or knock out.
Kushida & Leon Ruff def. Johnny Gargano & Austin Theory
Karrion Kross def. Ashante Adonis
Lucha House Party def. Imperium
Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Cater def. Toni Storm & Mercedes Martinez
Bronson Reed def. Tyler Rust
Timothy Thatcher def. Tommaso Ciampa
Beth Phoenix joined commentary in person this week for the first time in months. She said she had to be there for the first match in the first Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Wade Barrett and Vic Joseph welcomed her back with party poppers.
Johnny Gargano & Austin Theory vs Kushida & Leon Ruff – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
A lot more tactical than I thought it would be. I expected these teams to rip each other apart from the off. They ramped up to it slowly, then got there all at once, after Gargano ripped Kushida off the apron just as Ruff reached for a desperately needed tag.
Leon Ruff is the Duracell bunny. He never stops moving. Kushida is equally athletic but more fluid. There is no wasted motion in his wrestling and it’s kind of beautiful.
After a highly entertaining, almost twenty-minute match, Ruff took Theory out on the outside with a dive off the top turnbuckle. Kushida pinned Johnny Gargano with a bridged suplex.
Kushida and Leon Ruff progress. But, arguably just as important, Kushida pinned the North American Champion, again, and we know what that means.
Pete Dunne had a message for Finn Balor in his video promo. He said they’re cut from the same cloth. They came from the same humble beginnings but Balor left and Dunne didn’t, he stayed and built NXT UK. And all he gets in return is to be constantly compared to Balor. Balor told him to ‘get in line’ but he knows Dunne is the real threat to his title. He might not watch the business, but he’s been watching him. They both know their meeting is inevitable, and this time Balor won’t be able to leave. When that day comes, Balor will pass the torch. History will speak well of Finn Balor, but it will speak better of Pete Dunne. The day they finally meet people are gonna realise Balor is just someone taking part in Dunne’s legacy.
Kyle O’Reilly reaggravated his jaw injury last week but has been cleared to compete.
Malcolm Bivens was waiting to see William Regal about Tyler Rust. He was telling McKenzie Mitchell how big of a star Rust was going to be when Rust emerged from Regal’s office. He got there early and organised himself a match against Bronson Reed. Bivens was clearly not impressed.
Karrion Kross vs Ashante Adonis
This was not a match. This was a man being thrown around and beaten down. It didn’t last long, but it was definitely long enough for Adonis. The Kross Jacket finished it.
While medics and his tag team partner, Desmond Troy, were tending to Adonis, Kross came back and put Troy in the Kross Jacket as well.
MSK, Wes Lee and Nash Carter, got to introduce themselves properly after their debut last week. They’re planning to be the number one tag team in NXT and they’re going to win the Dusty Cup. They’re a great addition to the NXT tag division. I thoroughly enjoyed their work on Impact and so far they seem a little toned down in character, but not stifled. Time will tell, they might be right.
Mercedes Martinez and Toni Storm mocked Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden’ Carter’s friendship in their pre-match promo. They aren’t interested in friendship. They’re there to win.
Imperium vs Lucha House Party – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
There was a distinct clash of styles, but this was great. Imperium seemed like the favourites going into it, but it was competitive and entertaining as hell all the way through. If Barthel and Aichner could have kept Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado grounded, they might have stood a chance, but there was too much bounce and spring to keep up with.
Lince Dorado pinned Marcel Barthel with a shooting star press from the top after flooring him with a superkick.
Alexander Wolfe appeared on stage at the end of the match and struck the Imperium pose. Aichner and Barthel assumed the pose as well, so I guess maybe Alexander Wolfe might be back with Imperium.
Lucha House Party winning might be a bit of an upset, but I’m here for it.
Tommaso Ciampa weighed in at 201lbs ahead of the Fight Pit match. Timothy Thatcher was 225lbs. William Regal wished them luck, and they started fighting when Thatcher shoved Ciampa for offering a handshake. Regal helped officials separate them and yelled at them to, ‘Save it for tonight’.
William Regal invited Beth Phoenix to say a few words and show off the trophy before the Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. She talked about all the women who have come through NXT and
The women in the tournament were up on the stage with them and you’d be forgiven if you don’t recognise half of them. There are a lot of newbies in this tournament. It’s also half the size of the men’s tournament, but we have to start somewhere.
On side one
Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell vs Gigi Dolin & Cora Jade
Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon vs Marina Shafir & Zoey Stark
On side two
Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs Toni Storm & Mercedes Martinez
Aliyah & Jessi Kamea vs Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez
Toni Storm & Mercedes Martinez vs Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter
Mercedes Martinez and Toni Storm have a lot of years of experience advantage over Carter and Catanzaro. Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter have athleticism, teamwork, and enthusiasm on their side, but nothing quite makes up for all the tools experience provides.
It meant that Storm and Martinez controlled the majority of the match, but Carter and Catanzaro are resilient and resourceful and they couldn’t keep them down. Catanzaro created a break in their favour, bringing Martinez down from the turnbuckle with a hurricanrana.
Kayden Carter got to show what she can do when she got in against Toni Storm. Martinez had to break up a pin on Storm to save the match. Catanzaro dropkicked her out of the ring then spun herself over the top rope on top of her.
Io Shirai appeared, dragged Martinez off the apron and threw her over the announce desk (ok, Martinez had to roll some of the way herself). Toni Storm looked on disbelievingly for a moment then got her legs taken from underneath her by Kayden Carter. Carter flipped her over in a submission then Catanzaro finished her off with something very complicated from the top turnbuckle.
If Lucha House Party winning wasn’t enough of an upset, then this must be. Surely Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez would have been considered among the favourites before the tournament began.
Finn Balor told William Regal he wants Pete Dunne, but first he wants Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan. Regal said he completely understands, but he has to save him from himself, so Balor needs to find a partner. Balor said he doesn’t have friends anymore, just enemies. Regal told him, ‘You know the saying, keep your enemies closer’.
Interesting and completely coincidental that commentary mentioned Kyle O’Reilly has been medically cleared earlier in the show.
Bronson Reed and Swerve were shown having a conversation in the corridor. We later found out Swerve was telling Reed never to get in his business and wishing him luck for his match.
Carter and Catanzaro interrupted McKenzie Mitchell telling us the Ashante ‘Thee’ Adonis picked up an injury in his beating from Karrion Kross and will not be cleared for his Dusty Cup match on Friday. They were very excited, leaping around and yelling that they told us so and they’re going to win the whole thing.
Bronson Reed vs Tyler Rust
It doesn’t seem like Tyler Rust really wants, or needs, a manager. Bivens dished out pep talks whenever Rust ended up outside the ring, which happened a few times, but didn’t offer anything concrete.
Rust had some limited success with working over Reed’s arm and even had a credible pin attempt or two, but he had no answer to Bronson Reed’s power advantage. Reed landed the Tsunami Splash and it was all over.
Malcolm Biven was saying reassuring things to Rust as he staggered out clutching his ribs.
The Reed vs Rust match was interrupted picture in picture by Toni Storm and Io Shirai brawling backstage while officials tried to separate them.
Finn Balor told McKenzie Mitchell there are a couple of people who owe him a favour. Moments later, he approached Undisputed ERA and asked Kyle O’Reilly if he was in for the match. There’s still no friendship there, but there is an oddly intense kind of respect. Roderick Strong got upset when Balor made a jibe about O’Reilly sucking his meals through a straw, but Adam Cole held him back and told him to leave it. O’Reilly accepted the invitation/challenge.
Legado del Fantasma came out because Santos Escobar had stuff to say. A real champion does what he wants when he wants, apparently. He’s the champion of champions. He’s not someone who has to break a curse like Johnny Gargano, or who has a glass jaw like Finn Balor. And he doesn’t need to act like a champion with all the pomp and circumstance but can’t make it to the first defence, like Karrion Kross. He backs up every word he says and he’s beaten every person on his path. Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado came and tried to destroy his empire, but he sent them packing.
Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde won their first Dusty Cup match, which puts them one step closer to joining him as the champions of champions.
Lucha House Party arrived and it immediately got violent. Curt Stallion arrived to help out Metalik and Dorado, and they successfully cleared the ring.
Stallion was talking to McKenzie Mitchell backstage a little later when Legado del Fantasma interrupted for Escobar to tell him his title match is next week.
Drake Maverick is happy to be walking into this year with his ally, best friend, and tag team partner. They have MSK next and they’re not underestimating them, they’re phenomenal, but they’re not going to win because the winners will be Killian Dain and Drake Maverick.
Killian Dain didn’t seem so sure about the best friend stuff, but he gave Maverick a congratulatory slap on the back for the promo. Maverick was holding his ribs when he called after him that he still needs his number.
In addition to Santos Escobar defending the cruiserweight title against Curt Stallion next week, we’ve also got Balor & O’Reilly versus Lorcan & Burch, and the first two quarter-finals of the men’s Dusty Classic.
Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher – Fight Pit Match
Commentary were really hyping the fact this is only the second time the Fight Pit has been used, and Timothy Thatcher is the only man who has won a Fight Pit Match. The first, of course, was against Matt Riddle with Kurt Angle as the special guest referee. Wade Barrett said he’s never hated anyone enough to put himself through something like this.
Thatcher and Ciampa had both been shown earlier in the show being told the rules.
The first thing Tommaso Ciampa did was try to throw Thatcher off the platform to the outside. Happily, that didn’t work. It wouldn’t have helped much because the decision must happen in the pit.
Once they got down off the platform it was everything you’d expect from putting Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa in a steel cage and telling them they have to knock each other out or tap each other out. There was a fairly equal distribution of both approaches and it really could have gone either way.
Ciampa utilised a low blow and delivered a Willow’s Bell using the ref as leverage. He almost got a knock out from that, but Thatcher was up at nine. A Fairytale Ending wasn’t enough for Ciampa, so he tried to submit Thatcher instead. He managed to get to his feet and slammed Ciampa into the steel to make him let go.
Thatcher got a sleeper locked on and while he was trying to get out, Ciampa got his leg wedged in the gap in the corner of the cage. Timothy thatcher took advantage and twisted Ciampa until he had no choice but to tap.
There was a weird staredown after the match. No handshake. No outward show of respect. But they were staring at each other like wounded animals when the show went off air.
Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic matches took place on 205 Live as well, so the first round is now just one match from being complete. That will happen on 205 Live. In the Men’s Quarter-Finals so far are:
Drake Maverick & Killian Dain (qualified on 205 by beating Curt Stallion & August Grey)
Lucha House Party
Legado del Fantasma
Kushida & Leon Ruff
Grizzled Young Veterans.
Only Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter have qualified for the women’s Semi-Finals (the tournament is half as big), but another team will join them on 205 Live.