The SmarK Rant for WWE NXT – 12.18.19

The SmarK Rant for WWE NXT – 12.18.19

OK, so let’s try swapping out Smackdown for NXT for a while.  And since this past Christmas show was pretty nothing, we’ll go back a week and do the show everyone’s been bugging me to do.

Live from Orlando, FL

Your hosts are Mauro, Beth and Nigel.

NXT title:  Adam Cole (BAY BAY) v. Finn Balor

I feel like I’m missing something, but what’s the deal with Balor’s Titantron graphic now having “C” crossed out in “Prince”?  They trade on the mat to start and Balor takes him down with a headlock, but Cole gets a sunset flip and Balor dropkicks out of it for two.  Balor works an armbar and they trade running chops and Balor gets another low dropkick for two.  Finn stomps him to the floor and follows with a baseball slide, but Cole superkicks the knee from the floor.  And it obviously hurts more because Finn was standing on the apron, which as you know is the HARDEST PART OF THE RING.  Back in, Cole with a neckbreaker for two and he slugs away on the mat.  Snap suplex gets two.  Cole goes to the chinlock on the mat and Mauro is just exploding with pop culture metaphors here.  Cole with another neckbreaker for two to continue working that body part, and he goes to the headscissors on the mat to grind him down further.  Finn comes back with a clothesline for two and hits the running chops in the corner, but Cole takes him down with a backstabber for two.  Finn tries a suplex and Cole counters with the enzuigiri, but Balor hits a sling blade.  And then Cole hits a superkick for two!  Great timing from Cole there.  They fight for a suplex and trade forearms, and then trade kicks and both guys fall on each other for two.  Both guys get all fired up and Cole superkicks him and tries the Panama Sunrise, but Balor counters out, so Cole gets the ushigoroshi for two instead.  Balor takes him down for the double stomp and shotguns him into the corner to set up the finish, but Cole superkicks him off the top rope and down to the floor.  Cole breaks the count and tries the Panama Sunrise off the apron, but Balor catches him and dropkicks him into the railing, taking out the planted section.  I wish they’d retire that spot, actually.  They’ve done it a lot lately in NXT and it’s obviously not real fans.  Back in, Cole escapes the finish and hits the Last Shot for two.  Balor fights back with the shotgun dropkick again and goes up for the Coup De Grace, but he sets up the 1916 and Johnny Wrestling returns to distract him.  Cole goes blatantly low off that and finishes with the Last Shot at 15:28 to retain.  I liked that no one’s music played and no one interfered, it was just Gargano coming out and Cole getting distracted by it.  This was all action and Balor came out of it still looking like a top level guy.  ****1/4   Balor tries to retreat and Gargano absolutely wrecks him with sick chairshots to the back, but at least they’re not to the head.

Killian Dain v. Damian Priest

I feel like we need some vignettes of Priest, like, doing archery or something.  Maybe he’s a nighttime vigilante in New York like Green Arrow?  It would certainly help to flesh out the ARCHER OF INFAMY thing they keep hammering at.  Dain charges in and beats on him in the corner as Mauro notes that they get along like “dogs and vacuums”.  Who is the dog and who is the vacuum in this particular metaphor?  Priest tries a suplex, but Dain takes him down with a crossbody for two and beats on the injured ribs.  Dain goes to a bearhug on the mat and then switches to the normal version before putting Priest on the corner and slamming him to the floor with a dropkick.  They fight on the floor and Dain keeps beating on him, kicking him repeatedly like a dog, so I guess that makes him the vacuum cleaner.  Glad we could figure that one out.  Back in, Dain suplexes him and just steps on the ribs, then goes to a chinlock while driving a knee into his back.  Priest fights out, but can’t hit a suplex because his ribs are still hurting, and Dain beats on the ribs with knees and a senton.  The crowd gets personal with “Shave your back hair”, so Dain just splashes the ribs even harder.  Why would you mock his body hair and make him madder?  That’s some poor strategy on the part of the Full Sail crowd.  Total rookie move.  Priest fights up, but Dain dropkicks the ribs and we take a break.  Back with Priest coming back with a Flatliner and a back elbow.  He tries yet another suplex, but Dain’s back hair provides too much weight, so Priest really has to MAN UP and hits it on a third attempt.  Good for him.  Dain heads to the floor and Priest follows him out with a tope.  Back in for the chokeslam for two.  Priest tries to finish, but Dain escapes and superkicks him in the ribs, then powerbombs him for two.  Dain with the avalanche into the electric chair, but Priest rolls him up for two.  Priest makes the comeback and tries a powerbomb, but Dain slams him into a senton.  Vader Bomb is blocked by Dain and he hits the Reckoning neckbreaker to finish at 12:38 after gutting out the rib injury for the entire match.  I really enjoyed this one, especially the focus on one injured part and Priest selling it in a way that made sense throughout.  ***3/4

NeXT Year:  The Dusty Rhodes Classic returns!

Cameron Grimes v. KUSHIDA

I feel like Kushida chose NXT too soon and had he waited longer and gone with AEW instead, he’d be much better off today.  Given their character stuff so far, I just think “wacky time travelling Japanese guy” would be a better fit there.  Kushida grabs a wristlock and takes him to the mat to work the arm.  Kushida gets the hiptoss armdrag and keeps Grimes on the mat, then sends him to the floor and follows with a baseball slide.  Back in for a flying chop and he wraps Grimes up with an Octopus, but Grimes reverses to a rollup for two as NXT ROLLS ON.  Back with Grimes tossing Kushida across the ring with a hiptoss and then working on the back with a high kick.  Grimes with a backbreaker, but Kushida fights back with a handspring elbow and flips into a dropkick on the ground.  Cross armbreaker, but Grimes makes the ropes right away to break.  Kushida tries to flip into the Hoverboard Lock, but Grimes slams out of it for two.  Kushida takes him into the corner and follows with a german suplex, but Grimes flips into his own german and deadlifts him for two.  They head to the floor and Kushida hits him with a senton from the top that nearly misses. Back in, they fight to the top and Kushida brings him down with a victory roll off the top for two.  They trade strikes and Grimes suddenly hits him with the Cave-In double stomp, and that finishes at 12:35.  I’m still not really seeing it with Grimes but this turned into a really good match after a weird style clash to start.  ***1/2

Io Shirai:  Still evil, still hot.

Io Shirai v. Santana Garrett

Io takes her down with a rollup for two, but Garrett rolls into a headscissors takedown and follows with a superkick.  Shirai takes her down with a flapjack and stomps away, but she misses the corner knees and Santana comes back with a legsweep for two.  Garrett tumbles into a forearm and flips into a neck vice, and honestly it’s a bit too much gymnastics.  Maybe tone down the tumbling into every move.  Shirai finally hits her with the running knees in the corner and finishes with the moonsault at 4:00.  See, Shirai did one flip and made it count.  *1/2

Pete Dunne v. Travis Banks

Not particularly familiar with Banks but apparently he was in the finals of the UK title tournament, which I reviewed.  Eh, that’s getting older for ya.  They trade pinning combos on the mat, but Banks takes him down with a dropkick and throws down on the ropes.  So then Dunne fires back with his own chops and that goes badly for Banks.  They head to the floor and Dunne drops him on the apron with the X-Plex as NXT ROLLS ON.  Back with Dunne winning a forearm battle, but he misses a charge and Banks hits him with a cannonball in the corner to put Dunne on the floor.  Banks follows with a tope into the railing and goes back into the ring with a springboard dropkick and double stomp into the corner for two.  Dunne flips over him in the corner and drops him with the X-Plex for two.  Banks fights back from the apron after Dunne takes too long to follow up, and they fight to the top rope for a sunset flip from Banks.  Dunne lands on his feet, however, and tries the Bitter End, but Banks reverses to a DDT.  He springboards out of the corner with a kick, but Dunne catches him and curbstomps him.  Banks with a Kiwi Krusher for two, however.  Banks charges and walks into a powerbomb, but Dunne goes up and Banks blocks him.  Dunne reverses a superplex into a top rope X-Plex, however, and finishes with the Bitter End at 9:22.  Good showing from Banks here, although I probably won’t remember him again.  ***1/2

Meanwhile, Dakota Kai might have been put through two tables by Mia Yim, but she still won the match.

NXT Women’s title:  Shayna Baszler v. Rhea Ripley

Shayna immediately takes her down with a wristlock, but Rhea catches the stomp and Shayna backs away from a punch.  Rhea boots her down and Shayna escapes to the floor, and we take a break as NXT ROLLS ON.  Back with Shyna missing a blind charge and Rhea drops her on the top turnbuckle with an electric chair and throws knees.  Baszler trips her up and slugs away to slow her down, but Rhea dropkicks her into the corner and they fight to the top for a superplex from Ripley for two.  And then Beth goes on a weird rant about how Shayna had “avoided opponents” for so long, which is complete nonsense.  In fact, that’s the one thing you CAN’T say about Shayna, since she literally cleaned out the entire women’s division multiple times over and had no one left to defend against.  The Horsewomen head down to run interference, and Rhea tries to hit them with a senton off the apron and Shayna gets a cheapshot to take over, injuring Rhea’s wrist on the stairs in the process.  Back in, Shayna works the hammerlock and goes to work on the arm with SMALL JOINT MANIPULATION.  That looked a little yucky.  Rhea escapes to the floor as we take another break, and return with Shayna still doing bad things to Rhea’s wrist and arm, and although Duke and Shafir have been ejected during the break.  Shayna throws kicks while the crowd is purely behind Ripley, which is a rarity for Full Sail.  Rhea catches a kick and fires back with a dropkick that bumps the ref and hits the Riptide for the visual pinfall.  The crowd can sense impending bullshit as Rhea chases Shayna out of the ring and gets caught in a choke on the floor, but slams Shayna into the apron to escape. Back in, they fight over a chair and Baszler wins that with a DDT onto the chair, for two.  Shayna hooks the choke, but Rhea powers to the ropes, so Shayna takes her down again as we seem to be approaching the usual Baszler finish where she overpowers the valiant babyface.  Rhea keeps fighting, however, as the crowd loses faith, but Rhea grabs the ref’s shirt and throttles him to make the comeback.  Then she stomps the shit out of Shayna and hooks the Prism submission, but Shayna kicks her to the corner to escape.  They fight to the top as Shayna is ready to finish her off, but Rhea beats on her one more time, and then hits the Riptide off the top to win the title at 20:13.  Hopefully this is the end of Baszler’s NXT story, as she threw everything at Rhea and finally got foiled before losing clean.  And what a match to go out on!  ****1/2 I really enjoyed the drama of the way that they played with the expectations of the screwjob finish and then kept piling on the potential bad endings for Rhea before going with the straight super-woman comeback and victory.  You don’t always need a million finishers and kickouts.

And we get a nice visual to end the show, as Rhea get mobbed by a crowd in the ring while celebrating with her new title.

So yeah, hell of a show this week.  This was basically their free TV version of a Takeover and really only the Shirai match wasn’t PPV-quality.  Congratulations to Rhea, who has a long line of natural challengers lined up now, and hopefully Baszler goes to the main roster and kicks the ass of everyone on Smackdown because I can’t take much more of Sasha Banks sleepwalking through her matches and Bayley turning into a soccer mom as the main storylines.