NXT Women's Champion Rhea Ripley, Toni Storm and Candice LeRae def. NXT UK Women's Champion Kay Lee Ray, Bianca Belair and Io Shirai
The revolving door of promos felt like something you'd see on Raw or SmackDown, but it worked to set up the subsequent six-woman tag team match and plant the seeds for a possible Ripley vs. Storm matchup at Worlds Collide later this month. Speaking of Storm, I believe this marked her Full Sail University debut, so while I wish it felt a bit bigger or was saved for another time, I realized it was done to hype NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II and her NXT UK Women's Championship Triple Threat on Sunday. This also served to showcase NXT's stacked women's division. Meanwhile, Belair and Shiari have been spinning their wheels since TakeOver: WarGames III, so this was a nice use of them as well. This was a strong way of opening the episode.
Imperium def. The Forgotten Sons in a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Quarterfinal Match
I didn't have high hopes for this considering it was heel vs. heel, but to their credit, both teams went above and beyond and exceeded my expectations. Imperium always have great matches, but this was easily one of the better Forgotten Sons matches I've ever seen. Props to them for maintaining an exciting pace throughout and keeping the crowd engaged. Imperium advancing was obvious, but Forgotten Sons gained a ton in defeat. That's what we need to see from them more often.
Austin Theory def. Joaquin Wilde
Theory has only made two appearances on NXT TV so far and already comes across like a complete star. He has the look, can talk (from what I've seen), and can certainly go in the ring. This match acted as another example of that. Wilde got to shine a bit too, but I still think he'd be better off as a heel. He fit that role to perfection in IMPACT and hasn't clicked with the audience as a babyface. This was fun while it lasted and I'm looking forward to seeing more of Theory on NXT TV in the new year.
NXT Tag Team Champions Undisputed Era def. NXT UK Tag Team Champions Gallus in a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Quarterfinal Match (Non-Title)
I thought it was weird they were giving away a major champions vs. champions match in the first round of the Dusty Classic, but in retrospect, I'm glad they got it out of the way early. Honestly, I thought Imperium vs. Forgotten Sons was better than this. It never felt like they hit that next gear. I don't know if it was a lack of chemistry of what, but this was solid at best and nothing more. Like Imperium, Undisputed Era heading to the next round was a given.
Johnny Gargano Accepted Finn Balor's Challenge to a Match at NXT TakeOver: Portland
I wasn't sure how long Gargano would be out of action for when he had to take time off late last year, but it's awesome he'll be cleared to compete in time for TakeOver next month. Gargano showed more intensity on the mic than usual by going off on Balor. I especially loved when he took a shot at the dumb "extraordinary" nickname WWE gave Balor a few years ago as well as when he brought up that he opted to stay in NXT while Balor chose to leave for the main roster in 2016. Balor's response was short, sweet and straight to the point as well, leaving me excited for their upcoming encounter.
Mia Yim def. Kayden Carter
Carter is basically the babyface version of Taynara Conti in that she's a stepping stone for the other women right now but has shown potential in her many matches on NXT TV and will be one to watch for in the future. For now, she's doing an effective job of getting the other ladies over and making them look good. The match wasn't anything of note, but Chelsea Green making her NXT TV debut afterward definitely was. It looks like she'll be paired with Robert Stone (the former Robbie E from TNA) going forward with the tease that more people might be joining his stable. It's about damn time!
Keith Lee def. Cameron Grimes, Dominik Dijakovic and Damian Priest in an NXT North American Championship No. 1 Contender's Fatal 4-Way Match
This was an incredible array of talent and they unsurprisingly delivered an excellent main event. It was all action from start to finish and the amazing athleticism from all involved was impressive, to say the least. I wasn't a big fan of Grimes being involved (though I understand why he was since he beat Kushida a few weeks ago), but he had a top-notch performance and ate the pinfall for Lee, who was the right winner. I figured they would save Lee vs. Roderick Strong for TakeOver, but they're instead going ahead with it in two weeks on the show (the last episode before the Royal Rumble). Does that mean by fantasy booking scenario of Lee shockingly winning the Rumble is still alive?! I doubt it, but a guy can dream.
There were two terrific video packages that aired throughout the evening highlighting Tommaso Ciampa's history with the NXT Championship and how he'll do anything to get it back from Adam Cole. We also found out that Kushida's mystery partner in the Dusty Classic next week will be none other than his old Time Splitters partner from New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Alex Shelley (!!!). Now if they could just bring in Chris Sabin and reform The Motor City Machine Guns... At any rate, there wasn't a ton that happened on this edition of NXT, but the two hours were enjoyable as always, nonetheless. The Dusty Classic kicked off, matches were either hinted at or confirmed for Worlds Collide and TakeOver: Portland, and the wrestling was top-notch per usual. What more could you ask for?
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