Tommaso Ciampa Interrupted Undisputed Era
The NXT "rally" of sorts was actually pretty damn cool, especially since it illustrated the importance of NXT's dominance over Raw and SmackDown at Survivor Series. There wasn't anything on the line, mind you, but at least their wins aren't being ignored. Josiah Williams of Wrestle and Flow fame (he also rapped Adam Cole to the ring at TakeOver: XXV in June) did a terrific job of rallying the NXT troops before Undisputed Era interrupted. They took credit for the brand's success over Survivor Series weekend, but before Ciampa could officially challenge Cole for the NXT Championship, Finn Balor emerged and announced his intentions of acting as a roadblock between him and the title. I'm not usually high on promos kicking off wrestling shows, but this was a strong segment that served to set up the night's main event of Ciampa vs. Balor and segue into the NXT Tag Team Championship match.
NXT Tag Team Champions Undisputed era def. Dominik Dijakovic and Keith Lee
Bobby Fish was legitimately injured early on, so Roderick Strong filled in for him halfway through while still in street clothes. Amazing! I really want a prolonged program between these two teams, so while I wasn't a big fan of this being blown off with a clean finish on this show, it was a hell of a tag team title clash. The action was exciting and Lee and Dijakovic unsurprisingly had tremendous chemistry together as partners. I appreciated that Lee wasn't pinned following his breakout performance at Survivor Series, and at least fans will remember him sending Cole into the front row with that beautiful shoulder block.
Mansoor def. Shane Thorne
I always thought it was strange Mansoor won those two huge matches at Super ShowDown and Crown Jewel over in Saudi Arabia this year yet he couldn't crack NXT TV. That said, it's nice to see NXT starting to take the appropriate steps toward featuring him more (unless he's being built up to lose someone else but I doubt that's the case). He's a lot better than most give him credit for and I was happy he had a chance to showcase his skills here. Throne is exceptional at making his opponents look good and I thought they did a decent job of maximizing their minutes.
Candice LeRae def. Dakota Kai by Disqualification
It's only been four days since Kai turned on Tegan Nox at WarGames III and she already has a new entrance theme (whereas it took Bayley nearly a month to get updated music after going heel). Sometimes those little things are what matter most. I loved how they worked with a sense of urgency and Kai's newfound aggression was great. The non-finish was the way to go here, as neither woman should be losing clean at this current point. Post-match, Rhea Ripley came to LeRae's aid, so look for those two to do battle eventually.
NXT Cruiserweight Champion Lio Rush def. Akira Tozawa
No explanation was provided as to why Tozawa was awarded another opportunity at the NXT Cruiserweight Championship after already failing to win it at Survivor Series (or how he's a Raw wrestler competing on NXT). Maybe because he wasn't pinned in the Triple Threat in that match? Regardless, this was a fun, fast-paced affair with Tozawa proving just how skilled he is when he's allowed to be (similar to when he faced Buddy Murphy last week on Raw). I was slightly surprised to not see Angel Garza resurface afterward to continue his feud with Rush.
Xia Li def. Vanessa Borne; Rhea Ripley Confronted NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler
Borne was out for revenge after Li beat her best friend Aliyah two weeks ago on the show. It was a nothing match that ended within a minute and only existed so Baszler and her cronies could come out afterward and lay her out. Baszler bragged about beating Bayley and Becky Lynch at Survivor Series before being confronted by Ripley, who said she pinned Baszler at TakeOver and she'll do it again, next time with her title on the line. Ripley is red-hot coming out of Survivor Series weekend, so I'd argue she has a better shot than anyone of finally dethroning Baszler as champion sooner rather than later (assuming they don't hold out until the next TakeOver in February).
Finn Balor def. Tommaso Ciampa
As a first-time-ever encounter, this absolutely should have been saved for a later day (or at least advertised one week out). It didn't feel as special as it probably should have, especially when you consider Balor put Ciampa's longtime friend Johnny Gargano on the shelf with an injury, but it was still solid for what it was. I didn't love the interference from Cole, but it did further their feud and protect Ciampa in defeat while seemingly setting up a Triple Threat for the NXT Championship between Cole, Ciampa and Balor.
This was the first time in years that we had a post-TakeOver edition of NXT that featured fresh content. It ended up being a newsworthy night between the two title matches, Kai getting off to a stellar start as a heel, and several storylines (including Cole vs. Ciampa vs. Balor and Baszler vs. Ripley) progressing. Here's hoping more people will be paying attention to NXT following their successful showing at Survivor Series. There's a lot to be excited about at the moment, even though the next TakeOver isn't until February.
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