We’re in the midst of both Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournaments at the moment, but the main event of the evening lies outside that. Finn Balor and Kyle O’Reilly take a break from beating the shit out each other and team up against common enemies Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan. Speaking of taking a break from beating the shit out of each other to team up, Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher qualified for the quarter-finals of the Dusty Cup on 205 Live. Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell qualified for the women’s Dusty Cup on the same show in the first women’s division match on the brand. Tonight’s Dusty Cup matches are Drake Maverick & Killian Dain versus MSK and Leon Ruff & Kushida versus Grizzled Young Veterans in the men’s quarter-finals, and Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez versus Aliyah & Jessi Kamea in the women’s first round.
MSK def. Drake Maverick & Killian Dain
Tyler Rust def. Dante Rios
Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez def. Aliyah & Jessi Kamea
Grizzled Young Veterans def. Kushida & Leon Ruff
Bronson Reed def. Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott
Finn Balor & Kyle O’Reilly def. Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan
Drake Maverick & Killian Dain vs MSK – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
MSK are so much fun to watch and I’m still over the moon they’re in NXT. Maverick and Dain are also fun to watch, if you like a little silly in your wrestling, and they’re looking like a proper team now as well. There’s some very fluid teamwork, even if Dain is still regularly using Maverick as a weapon.
Unfortunately for Drake Maverick, Killian Dain was taken out at ringside by Nash Carter and couldn’t prevent him being pinned with an MSK double team.
MSK will face either Lucha House Party or Legado del Fantasma in the semi-finals. Either way, it should be good.
Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez created their unbreakable bond a year ago, now they’re only three wins away from winning the Dusty Cup according to Kai. Robert Stone said Aliyah and Jessi Kamea are waiting for the opportunity to break out and the Dusty Cup is it.
McKenzie Mitchell sat down with Curt Stallion, ahead of his title match against Santos Escobar, for him to tell her what the NXT Universe needs to know about him. He asked if she’s ever driven 19 hours straight by yourself because he has, more times than he cares to remember. He did because he was making towns, following a shooting star, metaphorically, one assumes. Anyway, he’s planning to win the NXT Cruiserweight Championship.
Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez vs Aliyah & Jessi Kamea, with Robert Stone, – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
Dakota Kai’s hair is a pinky-purple colour. It’s cute.
Aliyah is looking great. I keep hoping the next thing they try with her will be the thing that sticks. She’s had so many reimaginings that I worry for her. In the meantime, she’s been working her ass off and it shows. Jessi Kamea has the potential to make her mark as well, but she’s in danger of getting lost in the no character development wasteland.
As it was, while the match was decent, Aliyah and Kamea never stood a chance. Raquel Gonzalez planted Jessi Kamea and put herself and Kai through to the semi-finals. They will face Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter in the next round.
Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell are convinced they’re going to win the women’s Dusty Cup. Johnny Gargano is now paranoid and superstitious about the name Kushida after getting beaten by him twice. He says Kushida isn’t getting a title shot, but I don’t believe that’s his decision to make.
Scarlett had a vignette on behalf of Karrion Kross. She did a tarot reading which of course said Kross will dominate.
Tegan Nox is on the road to recovery and she’s been training, via video link, with Captain Marvel, Brie Larsson.
Tyler Rust, with Malcolm Bivens vs Dante Rios
Bivens hand-picked Rust’s opponent for tonight, which is why Rust was fighting someone whose name was not displayed on the show. The dude should at least have got a properly respectful name check after the first time he got a near fall on Rust. Or after he took a Shayna Baszler style elbow stamp and got thrown around by the injured arm. Definitely, after the backslide nearly got him a pin. The ref, Aja Smith called him Rios and commentary did once or twice, but they did some verbal gymnastics to avoid using his name at times. I had to wait until the results went up on the website, then check Twitter, to find out who he was. He is Daniel Garcia. He got submitted in the end and suffered the humiliation of Rust standing over him with Bivens to take a selfie.
The disrespect of not announcing a wrestler’s name for a televised match really pisses me off.
McKenzie Mitchell asked Finn Balor for his thoughts on tonight’s tag match. He didn’t get to give them because Kyle O’Reilly arrived for another intense stare-down. O’Reilly asked if Balor was ready, Balor said he’s always ready. He asked if he can trust him. Balor said what do you think? O’Reilly decided he doesn’t have to trust him if they’re on the same page. Balor replied with ‘See you out there then’. O’Reilly agreed and left. They stared into each other’s eyes for the entire exchange.
Grizzled Young Veterans vs Kushida & Leon Ruff – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
Both teams revealed in their pre-match promos that they think they’re going to win… but what else are they going to say.
Kushida and Leon Ruff are pretty great together, but James Drake and Zack Gibson are a team. That said, you can be the greatest team in the world and it doesn’t matter a damn if you can’t get to your partner, which was a problem Drake had for much of the early part of the match. When Gibson did come in, he very nearly got pinned by Ruff, which would have been perfect payback for calling him a one-hit-wonder in his opening preamble.
He would have got that payback towards the end of the match if Drake hadn’t been there to pull his partner to safety. That was Ruff and Kushida’s last chance as well. Moments later Drake tagged in and kicked Kushida off the apron before he and Gibson gave Ruff a Ticket to Mayhem.
They will face either Undisputed ERA of Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher in the semi-finals.
Johnny Gargano and Auston Theory attacked Kushida and Leon Ruff after the match. Grizzled Young Veterans saw them go past, but left them to it. Dexter Lumis appeared from behind the barricade while Theory was taunting Ruff. Theory ran to Gargano and Lumis gave Gargano his cold, unblinking, stare until the segment ended.
Curt Stallion was attacked backstage. He told William Regal is was Legado del Fantasma. The championship match was cancelled.
William Regal burst in on McKenzie Mitchell’s interview with Legado del Fantasma absolutely furious. Escobar denied having anything to do with it. Regal said the match would be next week and if anything happened to Stallion in the meantime there would be consequences for all of them.
After Regal left, Escobar found one of Scarlett’s tarot cards. Karrion Kross is no cruiserweight, so the title’s safe from him, but there’s a good chance Escobar is getting his ass kicked soon. Escobar pretended to be freaked for a moment, then laughed and made a joke about the end being near because happy hour finishes soon.
Toni Storm came to the ring to direct a message at Io Shirai. When she wants something she doesn’t just wait her turn she makes it happen, like the Mae Young Classic or winning the NXT UK title. But Shirai took away the chance for her to win the first women’s Dusty Cup, so now she wants to hurt her, ruin her, and most of all, take the title away.
Io Shirai came out to with a message of her own. She said she’ll fight Storm anywhere and she’s already made it clear she doesn’t like her. It got physical then and Shirai took the ring. Mercedes Martinez attacked her from behind and slammed her into the ring so she rolled to the outside. Martinez picked up the belt, Storm took it off her, and Shirai dropkicked Martinez into Storm before anything could happen.
Storm dragged Martinez from the path of an Io Shirai moonsault, then slammed her back into the apron and left her laying on the floor while she got in the ring and hip-attacked Shirai three times in the corner.
Toni Storm held the title up to end the segment. Will the TakeOver title match be a triple threat?
McKenzie Mitchell asked Swerve why he got in Bronson Reed’s face before his match. Swerve has a bit of a complex about people blaming him for stuff.
Imperium had a vignette where they talked about their accomplishments while they’ve been separated and how their real power is in their unity. Their unity will restore global domination and Wolfe’s arrival is only the beginning. It sounds like WALTER might be coming to NXT.
Adam Cole and Roderick Strong talked about their upcoming match against Ciampa and Thatcher. They know Ciampa very well and they know Thatcher is tough. They’ve got their hands full, but they have had since they arrived in NXT. Strong and Cole have more team experience and they’re confident, as always, that they’ll get past them.
Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott vs Bronson Reed
These two came into this match 1-1 in recent bouts, and they don’t like each other. I don’t think this new version of Swerve likes anyone. Going into a break, Swerve added to the beating and bad landing he’d already been taking by getting wiped out by a Bronson Reed suicide dive. He was back in the ring and in control when we came back, having shoved Reed into the post in the break.
Reed took some shoulder damage on his trip into the post and it gave out on him at a crucial point and gave Swerve the in he needed. He brought Reed down from the turnbuckle to damage the shoulder even more and landed a perfect 450 splash, but it wasn’t enough. He trash-talked Reed and slapped him. Reed headbutted him clotheslined him to the mat and finished him with a tsunami splash.
Tommaso Ciampa said he’s been doing this thing for sixteen years now. There are the fights you win, the fights you lose, but then there are the fights you remember. The fights that command respect.
Timothy Thatcher joined him and said the fight pit changes a man. Changes him physically, changes him mentally and changes his vision forward. Out of anguish and struggle respect grows, and that’s why he accepted the offer.
Ciampa said the Dusty Cup represents opportunity. Next week, Undisputed ERA, it’s going to be a war.
Also next week is Lucha House Party versus Legado del Fantasma to finish the semi-final line up.
Finn Balor & Kyle O’Reilly vs Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan
When Balor and O’Reilly got to the ring, they still looked like they were there to fight each other. I like the intensity, and this is easily the most interesting Balor has been since his return.
Obviously, O’Reilly’s jaw was the target whenever he was in the ring. There’s a difference between medically cleared and ok. For a non-team who don’t like each other, Balor and O’Reilly were remarkably in sync for the most part. But whenever they didn’t have to be dealing with Lorcan and Burch they were back to staring at each other.
Balor got isolated for a while by Burch and Lorcan and somehow O’Reilly ended up fighting both when Balor tagged him in. A couple of kicks to his injured jaw had O’Reilly reeling, but as Danny Burch came off the turnbuckle, O’Reilly caught him in a leg lock and tapped him out.
O’Reilly and Balor were talking after the match when O’Reilly pointed out Pete Dunne. Before either had time to react, Lorcan pulled O’Reilly out of the ring and slammed him into the barricade so Balor would have no backup for the incoming attack. O’Reilly got back in the ring before Danny Burch arrived, but not quickly enough to stop it. Burch and Lorcan sent O’Reilly into the post and all he could do was lay in the corner and watch as Balor was held still, kicked in the head, and had his fingers snapped.
Adam Cole and Roderick Strong arrived and Dunne and co. escaped to the stage. Undisputed ERA spread out behind Balor, but during the stare-down, he stepped into line with them. Cole looked wary. Strong isn’t necessarily happy. But there was another intense look and nod between Balor and O’Reilly before Balor stepped backwards and exited the ring.
Looking at the photo gallery, there was a final moment of staring that we didn’t see. So much staring in this storyline.
Ask anyone who’s ever read an NXT review I’ve written and they’ll tell you I don’t like Adam Cole. However, I am into this whole Undisputed ERA and Finn Balor thing and Cole has grown on me a lot since Kyle O’Reilly has stepped into the main event picture. He’s displaying layers he wasn’t showing before, and I like it. There’s so much potential in the storyline going forward, so many ways it could play out. And I genuinely don’t know where it’s heading or how it will get there. I’ve been watching wrestling for 35 years. At this point, it’s fairly unusual for me not to be able to map out a storyline. That’s not a boast on my behalf, just a reflection of most WWE storytelling style (and it is a style, people like to guess right, it makes them feel clever).
Anyway, the Dusty Cup is great for the tags divisions and every title has at least two contenders baying for a chance. NXT is easily the most consistent of WWE shows and the Valentines Day TakeOver is looking awesome already.