The SmarK Rant for NXT–10.23.19

The SmarK Rant for NXT – 10.23.19

OK, so we had Dynamite putting on a hell of a show this week, now for the counterpoint, so that I can get both sides and then tell you definitively what your opinion should be.

Live from Full Sail.

Your hosts are Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuiness & Beth Phoenix

Rhea Ripley v. Bianca Belair

They fight for the test of strength to start as Mauro is throwing out more pop culture references than a David Spade Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live. Belair takes her to the corner for some abuse, but Rhea boots her away, so Bianca takes her down and they trade kicks. Rhea wins that battle, but misses a blind charge and they fight for a suplex, which Rhea wins. They slug it out on the apron and Ripley goes up, but Belair slams her off for two. Belair with the suplex this time, for two, and goes to the abdominal stretch. Ripley powers out of it and we take a break. Back with Belair beating her down in the corner, but she tries a crossbody and Ripley literally boots her out of the air. Low dropkick gets two. She tries for her submission hold, but Belair makes the ropes and escapes to the floor, so Ripley follows with a senton off the apron, at which point DARK IO SHIRAI runs in and hits her with a 619. Belair gets two off that, but Candice Larae saves and Ripley hits Belair with the pumphandle powerbomb to finish at 13:04. Good opener and I hope to god this means Ripley gets the title shot and finally gets the belt off Shayna Baszler. ***1/4

Meanwhile, Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate arrive at the arena and Dunne doesn’t care about Killian Dain. That’s fair. Not many do.

Meanwhile, Tomasso Ciampa is back from neck surgery with Cena-like efficiency. I’m still mad he missed the longevity record by like two weeks.

Matt Riddle v. Cameron Grimes

Grimes looks like he should be fronting an Allman Brothers tribute band, which I’m sure is exactly what he was going for. They both dive in for the big finish immediately, but miss. Riddle takes him down with a waistlock, but Grimes rolls him up for two, so Riddle rolls into an armbar attempt and Grimes makes the ropes. Riddle throws the kicks in the corner and follows with running forearms to set up the exploder and a penalty kick for two. STOP CHANGING CAMERA ANGLES GODDAMMIT. It’s really hard to follow what’s going on when you can’t focus on it for more than 2 seconds. Riddle with a high kick for two and he follows with a Jackhammer for two. Another senton gets two as the crowd gives him a “Riddle” chant to the cadence of “Goldberg”. Riddle works for another armbar, but Grimes rolls out of it, so Riddle kicks him down. And then Grimes flips into a deadlift german for two and we take a break. Back with Riddle hitting a Pele kick and knee strike into a GTS and german suplex for two. Sick sequence, bro. Grimes fires back with a kick from his back, but Riddle hits him with a PK and they exchange tombstone attempts before Grimes gets a spinning uranage for two. Grimes goes up and Riddle brings him down with a superplex for two. Riddle goes up and hits knee, but they reverse finishes and Grimes manages to hit him with a Spanish Fly off a crossbody for two. Grimes tries a rana and Riddle counters with a powerbomb, then hits another knee strike and finishes with the Bro Derek piledriver at 11:53. Riddle was really worked up here and he was going at a much faster pace than usual, and it was super effective. **** Grimes makes the mistake of brushing off the fist bump from Riddle, and then getting in Tyler Bate’s face at ringside, and that results in him getting knocked out by whatever Bate has named his fists.

Tyler Breeze, Fandango & Isaiah “Swerve” Scott v. The Forgotten Sons

Apparently the Sons are a TRUCULENT TRIUMVERATE, although I think “laconic and sloth-like” wins the battle of the wordplay for Wednesday. Breezango are rocking the Top Gun cosplay this week (Beth: “They said I should grab the throttle, but make sure to use both hands.” Nigel: “You should be a limbo champion because everything goes over your head.”) and we get assorted Goose and Maverick jokes and take an early break with Fandango blocking a sunset flip. Back with Blake grabbing a headlock on Breeze and working him over in the corner. Breeze makes his own comeback and escapes, and it’s hot tag Fandango. I feel like he should just go back to Johnny Curtis because the whole Fandango gimmick is long dead anyway. Fandango with a suplex on Cutler, but Swerve comes in and gets caught with a backbreaker. The Sons triple-team him with a rana from Cutler into a double flying headbutt from the other two Sons, and that gets two. Scott slugs away on Blake but gets dropkicked, then gets a rollup into a jawbreaker in a smooth sequence and dumps the Sons. He goes for a dive, but Ryker cuts him off, so Swerve springboards off him and hits the other two Sons with the dive. Back in, Ryker tries a slingshot suplex, but Scott lands on his feet and brings in Breezango for a double superkick that gets two. What top tag team uses a double superkick for a finish? They’ll never get over that way. Fandango slugs it out with Ryker and they hit the floor, and then Blake tosses Swerve and then throws him back in to set up for the finish. Swerve escapes that and finishes Blake with a neck kick at 12:49, however. This was a lot of fun when the babyfaces were on offense and Swerve looked like a STAR. The Sons were best Forgotten, as usual. ***1/2

Meanwhile, Killian Dain appears to care much more Pete Dunne than Pete cares about him. Advantage: Dunne.

Angel Garza v. Jack Gallagher

You gotta feel for Gallagher, who looked like he was going to be a star coming out of the first CWC, but then got killed off by 205 Live and then got out-Britished by the British Strong Style crew. He doesn’t even have the best moustache anymore! Jack controls him with some crucifixes on the mat to start, but Garza stops to undo the pants and Gallagher relieves him of those as well. They slug it out and Gallagher deadlifts him into a delayed suplex for two. Gallagher tries for an armbar on the mat, but Garza takes him to the floor with a massive monkey flip and follows with a teased dive that turns into a slap instead. Wakka wakka. Back in, Gallagher headbutts him, but Garza powerbombs him and follows with a moonsault to finish at 4:03. This was OK. ** More importantly, why did Lio Rush suddenly become a serious babyface champion instead of an annoying hype man? That’s not working for me.

Tegan Nox & Dakota Kai v. Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir

I like that Kai has changed up her look to something other than the Bayley / Kylie Rae dorky babyface thing that’s getting overdone. Winner of this gets a shot at the Women’s tag titles next week as those belts finally become what they intended months ago. Duke charges in with a big boot on Kai right away for two, and Marina takes her down with a judo throw for two. Duke and Shafir get some awkward double-teaming on Kai and Duke puts her down with a high kick. Shafir works the arm, as Nigel points out that, EXCUSE ME, these two are supposed to be MMA submission specialists and Kai has a giant knee brace RIGHT THERE. Knox gets a hot tag and hits Duke with a cannonball in the corner into a crossbody for two. Kai wipes out Shafir with a pump kick, and Nox finishes Duke with a shining wizard at 3:25. They kept it short because somehow the Horsewomen are still not getting any better after more than a year being on TV. *1/2 This sets up a promo from the Kabuki Warriors on the big screen, as they’re apparently just heels now for no adequately explored reason.

NXT North American title: Roderick Strong v. Keith Lee v. Dominick Dijakovic

Strong runs away and tries a surprise shoulderblock on Lee, which results in a comedy bump to the floor. So Dijak hits Lee with elbows in the corner, but Lee slams him as we take a break. Back with Lee beating Dijak down. Strong tries to attack from behind and gets tossed out by Lee again, but tries a superplex on Dijak and gets dumped by Strong. Roddy gets his own superplex on Dijak for two off that, but Lee comes back in and they all trade huge kicks. Dijak gives Strong a backbreaker and hurls him across the ring, then suplexes Lee onto him to the horror of the crowd, for two. That ain’t right. Beth’s key to victory in a triple threat match: Don’t get squashed by Keith Lee. Lee bails and Dijak tries to cannonball him, but Lee CATCHES him, and then Strong dropkicks them over. Back in, Dijak is just annoyed now and beats on Strong in the corner to set up a superplex of his own, but Lee saves and we get the Tower of Doom spot, with Dijak doing a delayed suplex on Strong while on Lee’s shoudlers in powerbomb position, and take another break. Back with Lee backdropping both guys, but Strong gets rid of Dijak with a backbreaker and goes to work on Lee with running knees. Angle Slam gets two. Strong goes after Dijak, but Lee wallops him down and they all fight to the floor. Dijak hits Strong with Feast Your Eyes and Lee pounces him into the railing, and now it’s time to finish it in the ring between Lee and Dijak. So they slug it out and fight to the top, but Dijak boots him down and then takes him to the middle rope for a chokeslam from there, for two. Lee bails and Dijak tries to hit him with the Fosbury Flop, but Lee moves and poor Strong gets wiped out again. So with Dijak on the floor, Keith Lee decides to defy physics and hits him with a somersault tope. HOLY S---. Back in, they fight to the top and Dijak wants a rana, but Lee powerbombs him, and then Strong flies in with a knee strike and gets the pin on Lee at 20:34 to retain. GODDAMN. ****1/2 This was clearly the best match of the Wednesday Wars.

But then the Undisputed Era comes out to celebrate and lays the beats on Lee. But their celebration is interrupted by Ciampa, still carrying his crutch, and then Johnny Gargano, and finally the returning Finn Balor…who immediately turns on Gargano with a Pele Kick and then steps aside to allow the Era to DESTROY Ciampa. OH SNAP. Now there’s something we haven’t seen from Balor in a while. Gargano bails to the floor and Finn just kills him with a shotgun dropkick into the ring, knocking over a bunch of people (I assume plants) in the front row, before finishing with the Sunday Blood Sunday DDT on the ramp. And the crowd is just SILENT. Like, legit shocked and horrified and not even able to do their cutesy f------ chants in this situation. I LOVE IT.  I hope some 10 year old kids in the audience with Finn Balor shirts are permanently traumatized and grow up loving wrestling as a result.

Tough call this week! I was Team AEW all the way up until that main event and final angle, but I think NXT pulls it out despite AEW making a strong bid for the win with the Attitude brawl. Either way, some excellent stuff on both sides and A WINNER IS YOU.