NXT – September 23, 2020

NXT
Date: September 23, 2020
Location: Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Commentators: Beth Phoenix, Tom Phillips

NXT has their backs up against the wall at the moment as we are less than two weeks away from Takeover, there is one match announced so far, and apparently the company has been rocked by the Coronavirus. I’m not sure what that is going to mean but we are getting two #1 contenders crowned tonight. Let’s get to it.

In Memory of Road Warrior Animal.

Opening sequence.

Battle Royal

Shotzi Blackheart, Candice LeRae, Xia Li, Kacy Catanzaro, Raquel Gonzalez, Dakota Kai, Kayden Carter, Rhea Ripley, Aliyah, Gia, Marina Shafir, Catalina, Raven, Ellie, Adrian, Rita, Emily, Indi Hartwell

The winner gets a shot at Io Shirai at Takeover. There is no Tegan Nox as Candice LeRae attacked her knee earlier today. I know I’m not going to be able to get everyone listed here as Gonzalez and Ripley have a staredown at the bell. That goes nowhere as everyone starts brawling everywhere else. Ripley tosses Gia without much trouble as commentary talks about William Regal trying to expand the competition for this match.

Raven gets tossed out and Ellie (I don’t know who these people are either) is gone as well. Ripley eliminates Shafir and Gonzalez gets rid of Adrian. Gonzalez isn’t done and eliminates a woman whose name we don’t hear. There goes Rita at Gonzalez’s hands as well and Rhea kicks Emily (they’re just getting single names here so it isn’t like you should know who these people are) out too. Gonzalez tosses Catalina but can’t get rid of Hartwell.

Aliyah sends Catanzaro to the floor but the feet don’t touch, allowing Catanzaro to do a Kofi Kingston style save, involving a backflip, walking on her hands, and pulling herself up by her feet. Back from a break with Kacy having to save herself again but Hartwell kicks her off the steps…and onto the barricade. Carter tries to help but gets eliminated, so Catanzaro stands on Carter’s shoulders for the save and gets back in. Ripley and Gonzalez gets in the big slugout but eliminate each other, leaving Kai panicking over her lack of an insurance policy.

We’re down to LeRae, Blackheart, Catanzaro, Hartwell and Kai, with Catanzaro swinging around the post to save herself again. A hurricanrana gets rid of Hartwell to get us down to four. Candice and Kai get together to finally get rid of Catanzaro and it’s time to double team Blackheart. Shotzi gets rid of Kai in a hurry and sends LeRae to the apron. LeRae gets back in so it’s a step up enziguri, only to have Blackheart miss the running charge into the ropes.

A neckbreaker drops Shotzi and LeRae sends her to the apron. Shotzi hits a kick to the head to get back in and goes up top but LeRae is right there again. They both go over the top and wind up on the apron, with Shotzi kicking her down onto the steps. LeRae manages a monkey flip to send Shotzi to the floor for the win at 15:06.

Rating: C-. It got some time and that isn’t the best idea in this case. The problem here was they had a bunch of people included to increase the numbers (probably indy wrestlers or Performance Center students), but it didn’t matter for the most part. Rhea and Raquel threw them out in a hurry to build them up and then just went out together, which didn’t make for the most exciting conclusion. Candice was the fairly obvious winner once we got near the end, though at least the ending was good.

Damian Priest is ready to beat Johnny Gargano at Takeover and he’ll warm up against Austin Theory tonight. Sarah Schriber is invited to the after party too.

Fandango, in a deerstalker hat, is in front of a dry erase board with a bunch of tag wrestlers around when William Regal comes up. After a warning from Regal about bad British accents, Fandango gives us his idea: we team up members of four teams (as in one member from four teams) in a tag match and the winning members’ teams face off to become #1 contenders for the Tag Team Titles.

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Jake Atlas

Fallout from Ciampa attacking Atlas a few weeks back. The threat of an early Willow’s Bell sends them outside with Atlas getting in some shots against the steps. Atlas pulls the ring skirt back and tries the catapult into the ring but Ciampa gets away in a hurry. Back in and Ciampa hits a hard clothesline but Atlas comes back and hammers away with right hands.

Ciampa is knocked outside for a middle rope moonsault, followed by a Blockbuster back inside. The cartwheel DDT misses though and Willow’s Bell gives Ciampa the…one count as he pulls off. Ciampa yells a lot before finishing with the Fairy Tale Ending (now spinning Atlas around to land on his back instead of his face) at 4:48.

Rating: C. This was all about making Ciampa look like a killer and that’s what they accomplished. Ciampa could be put into almost any level on the card and look good so I’m not sure why they are having him waste time with Atlas over a few different weeks. This should be it though and Ciampa can move on to something bigger and better.

Video on Ridge Holland, who is rather strong and rough.

Video on tonight’s Gauntlet Eliminator, set to a new Corey Taylor (of Slipknot) song, with all five participants saying they are ready to win.

Danny Burch/Roderick Strong vs. Fabian Aichner/Raul Mendoza

The winning team will then meet off in another tag match with their usual partners for a future Tag Team Title shot. Aichner throws Strong down to start and then brings in Mendoza, who is taken into the corner for the tag to Burch. The beating continues but Aichner’s distraction lets Mendoza pull Burch off the middle rope. Back from a break with Burch fighting out of Aichner’s chinlock but getting suplexed down hard. Mendoza stomps away in the corner and we hit the cobra clutch on the mat.

Aichner breaks up a sunset flip on Mendoza and even knocks Strong off the apron in a smart move. Therefore there is no one for Burch to tag so Aichner blasts him with a clothesline. The hot tag brings in Strong anyway and it’s time to start picking up the pace. An Angle Slam gives Strong two on Aichner but Mendoza gets in a cheap shot from the apron. Aichner hits a spinebuster for two but Strong kicks him in the face. Burch hits the Tower of London out of the corner to finish Mendoza at 8:49.

Rating: C-. This was a messy match, but that was kind of the point given that they aren’t regular partners. I’m a bit surprised to see Legado del Fantasma losing here as they seemed to be the next challengers, though maybe we are going to see Breezango win a big match before dropping them. Or I’m still really bad at fantasy booking, as I have been for years. Either way, this feels like a match thrown together because some partners might be missing due to illness.

Austin Theory is ready for Damian Priest but Johnny Gargano comes up to give him a bit of a pep talk anyway. Maybe Gargano will throw him a bone if Theory softens him up for Takeover.

Austin Theory vs. Damian Priest

Non-title. Priest works on the arm to start and then shoves Theory away without much effort. Theory seems to know he’s in a fight and then definitely knows he’s in a headlock. Back up and Priest goes up top for Old School before jumping down with a high crossbody to change things up. Theory is right back with a belly to back suplex into a standing moonsault for two as the pace slows a bit. Priest gets knocked outside in a heap and we take a break.

Back with Priest hitting the running elbow in the corner and the toss Falcon Arrow gets two. Priest misses the spinning kick to the head and Theory grabs a spinning torture rack slam (not a Blue Thunder Bomb Tom) for his own two. They head outside with Theory slipping out of a chokeslam onto the apron. The spinning kick connects this time though and there’s the powerbomb onto the apron to rock Theory. Back in and the Reckoning finishes Theory at 11:06.

Rating: C+. I like both guys and they both looked good here, as they should. Priest is infinitely better as a face than a heel. Just let him go out there and show off all of his cool stuff where we are supposed to cheer for it this time. That being said, the Reckoning isn’t exactly the most suitable finish for a monster of his size and athleticism. He can do something cooler looking, so maybe he should switch it up.

Post match Johnny Gargano runs in and superkicks Priest to set up their title match a bit more.

We get a night vision video with a distorted voice talking about titles. Someone wipes the dust off of a case holding some NXT Titles. The voice talks about coming back for what belongs to them and the person breaks the case to pick up one of the titles. The date of Takeover ends the show. Karrion Kross already? That seems a little optimistic but not impossible.

Video on Isaiah Scott.

Ridge Holland vs. Antonio de Luca

The much bigger Holland knocks him down to start but ducks his head to get kicked in the face. A Pounce sends de Luca flying though and an overhead belly to belly does the same. Holland headbutts him over and over in the corner (that was brutal) and Northern Grit finishes de Luca at 1:33. That worked.

Io Shirai is ready for Candice LeRae, who comes in to interrupt. Candice doesn’t think much of Shirai and Johnny Gargano comes in to yell as well. Damian Priest comes in and decks Gargano, likely setting up a mixed tag next week.

Next week: Shotzi Blackheart vs. Dakota Kai.

Gauntlet Eliminator

This is a hybrid of a Royal Rumble and a gauntlet match. There are five entrants and two start. Another comes in every four minutes and it’s pinfall/submission only for eliminations. The winner faces Finn Balor for the NXT Title at Takeover. Kyle O’Reilly is in at #1 and Kushida is in at #2, though neither get entrances. O’Reilly takes him to the mat to start and it’s time to hit the grappling. Kushida goes for the arm but O’Reilly gets in a bodyscissors until it’s a standoff to give them a breather from the grappling exchange. Kushida goes for the arm again but gets his legs tied up and they head to the rope.

Back up and Kushida gets in a hiptoss into the basement dropkick before cranking on the arm on the mat. That’s broken up as well so Kushida kicks away at the arm to mix things up a bit. They slug it out until it’s Bronson Reed in at #3. Reed wastes no time in throwing Kushida at O’Reilly and then fireman’s carries both of them at once. That’s broken up so Kushida kicks Reed in the ribs and then in the head.

O’Reilly goes for a cross armbreaker on Kushida but lets go to take Reed down by the leg. For some reason Kushida breaks that up for the Hoverboard Lock on O’Reilly until Reed breaks that up with a suplex to Kushida. Reed knocks Kushida outside and goes up top, only to be forearmed in the head by O’Reilly. Kushida knocks O’Reilly outside but here’s Velveteen Dream with a Dream Valley Driver to take Kushida down. Reed adds the Tsunami to get rid of Kushida at 7:48.

Timothy Thatcher is in at #4 and gets knocked off the apron as we take a break. Back with all three slugging away, with Thatcher going for Reed’s arm. Reed suplexes Thatcher down and it’s Cameron Grimes in at #5 to complete the field. Thatcher blocks Grimes’ kick to the face and goes for his arm but Reed knocks them both down. Everyone is down for a bit with Thatcher and O’Reilly being the first up for a slugout on the apron. O’Reilly knocks Thatcher off the apron and hits a running knee, with Reed catapulting Grimes onto the two of them.

Back in and Reed hits a Death Valley Driver for two on Thatcher and a powerbomb gets the same on O’Reilly. Grimes comes back in and gets sent down in a hurry, followed by a suicide dive onto everyone else. We take another break and come back with Thatcher and Grimes double teaming Reed. O’Reilly gets back in as Reed knocks the other two down. A Rock Bottom sends Thatcher onto Grimes for two and Reed goes up top. The Tsunami “misses” Thatcher (read as it hit Thatcher’s legs as he rolled away) so O’Reilly adds a top rope knee to Reed’s back for the pin at 21:37.

Thatcher and O’Reilly exchange ankle locks until Thatcher suplexes him down. Thatcher isn’t done and grabs Grimes’ leg before belly to bellying him down as well. O’Reilly goes for Thatcher’s arm but gets caught in a sleeper. That’s fine with O’Reilly, who ankle locks Grimes at the same time. That’s broken up by the sleeper so O’Reilly kicks off of Grimes to backflip onto Thatcher for two. O’Reilly strikes away at Thatcher and gets two off a backslide, followed by a rollup for the pin to get rid of Thatcher at 25:24.

We’re down to Grimes vs. O’Reilly with Grimes hitting a quick Cave In For two. Grimes yells about O’Reilly not being the star of the Undisputed Era and hits the flipping powerslam for two. O’Reilly is right back with a leg crank but Grimes kicks him in the face. Another Cave In misses and the knee seems to go out. O’Reilly grabs a heel look for the tap at 27:49.

Rating: B-. There was a lot to unpack here but what matters is they managed to make a new singles star, even if it is only in the short term, in O’Reilly. They needed someone fresh to go after the title and that’s what we got. That could be a heck of a match and O’Reilly has been on the big stage elsewhere before.

The problem here though is he didn’t exactly beat the biggest stars. The best illustration I heard about this match is that it felt like a North American Title #1 contenders match. Maybe that’s due to Coronavirus or maybe it’s due to trying someone new, but they might need O’Reilly to get one more big win next week. What we got was fine, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to carry it to the main event of a Takeover.

Post match Adam Cole and Roderick Strong come out to celebrate so here’s Finn Balor for the staredown to end the show.

Overall Rating: B. The big, long main event helped here as they are trying to slap things together as well as they can because their backs have never been this far up against a wall. What we could wind up seeing should work because it’s NXT, but dang they are stretching with some of these things. O’Reilly vs. Balor has my attention though and they could absolutely tear the house down. Couple that with a mystery return story and they could be fine. That’s a lot of could’s though, and that scares me.

Results

Candice LeRae won a battle royal last eliminating Shotzi Blackheart

Tommaso Ciampa b. Jake Atlas – Fairy Tale Ending

Danny Burch/Roderick Strong b. Fabian Aichner/Raul Mendoza – Tower of London to Mendoza

Damian Priest b. Austin Theory – Reckoning

Ridge Holland b. Antonio de Luca – Northern Grit

Kyle O’Reilly won the Gauntlet Eliminator last eliminating Cameron Grimes

 

 

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