NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong def. Austin Theory
Austin Theory was one of the last people I expected to answer the open challenge, but I'm happy he did. This marked his official debut on NXT TV and he had a hell of a showing. Granted, it's hard for Strong to have a bad match with anyone, but I thought Theory more than held his own here and gained a ton in defeat. This was an incredibly exciting championship clash and I'm looking forward to seeing more of Theory on the black-and-gold brand.
Isiah "Swerve" Scott def. Gentleman Jack Gallagher
Watching this match in person live from the Barclays Center, I can tell you that people were bored and sat on their hands for most of it. Technically speaking, there wasn't anything wrong with it, but I felt they relied way too much on rest holds instead of working the chaotic style we've come to expect from the Cruiserweights in NXT. I know for a fact that they have a much better, more exciting encounter in them. For what this was, though, it was solid.
Candice LeRae def. Taynara Conti
I've said this before, but Taynara is coming along really nicely as an all-around performer. Her in-ring skills are improving and her facial expressions are awesome. She has a certain presence about her that allows her to stand out among the other women, even if she has largely been positioned as an enhancement talent in NXT's women's division so far. This was a perfectly fine match where Conti scored plenty of offense before falling short.
Dominik Dijakovic def. Bronson Reed
This match came at a point in the show at the Barclays Center where people started leaving because they weren't familiar with the names being used for the NXT TV taping. Dijakovic is a star on the rise but of course not on the level of a Johnny Gargano, Matt Riddle or Adam Cole yet. Despite that, I really enjoyed this. It started out slow, but once they picked up the pace (and overcame the Baby Yoda chants from the crowd), they won over the audience with their athleticism. It was a hard-hitting hoss fight with the right winner.
Bianca Belair def. Shotzi Blackheart
Blackheart was recently signed to an NXT developmental deal but was a breakout star on the independent scene before that, most notably in EVOLVE. She has plenty of potential and I'm happy it didn't take her long to debut on NXT TV, even if it was in a losing effort. She and Belair received plenty of time and had a pretty good match. Belair continues to pick up victories without any real sense of direction.
Keith Lee and Lio Rush def. Damian Priest and Tony Nese
As random of a match as this was, I found it to be an absolute blast. Lee and Rush clearly had chemistry as partners while Priest and Nese played their roles remarkably well. Of the three matches taped at the Barclays Center, this was easily the one the fans were most hyped for. The action was entertaining, but Lee really stole the show here. I got a kick out of the holiday stuff with Lee wearing the Santa hat and bringing Christmas cookies down to the ring, too.
I fully expected NXT to air a clip show in place of live matches because of the holiday, but I appreciated that they taped matches in advance prior to recent NXT TV tapings at Full Sail University and then after Friday Night SmackDown in Brooklyn (which I just so happened to be at). All six matchups were fun for what they were, and while there was nothing must-see about the show, the two hours were a holiday treat. It was also announced that Undisputed Era will face Imperium at Worlds Collide next month. Merry Christmas!
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