All eyes go back on the Prince.
That’s how our episode of NXT really starts, after a quick video package of the fallout of War Games, the most recent edition of the NXT TakeOver series. The Prince and the NXT champ Finn Balor stands tall with the belt over his shoulder.
“War Games is done. And the time for team sports is over.” The champ is back, and he’s letting everyone know he’s not just here for moral support. He even makes an early note to say if anyone wants to come— Oh, hello Pete Dunne. And you didn’t bring your friends! That is so nice of you. Dunne immediately points out how similar they are and how it was only a matter of time before they met and it’s only going to be a moment of time before— Oh, hello “man who broke Finn’s jaw” Kyle O’Reilly.
What’s going on here? Is everyone just gonna come say something? O’Reilly digs into Balor but before he can ask him who he would rather face, Damian Priest shows up! Now, it’s a party! And Priest even has a new facial hair look that ages him ten years and gives him a sign on his doorstep. Clearly joking, but not a good look. Priest mentions that the marquee matchup of them two is what they both want, but Pete Dunne has had enough and reminds Priest he couldn’t even beat Leon Ruff, which is actually true, but not legitimately true. Priest has a good retort to remind the status of Dunne in Pat McAfee’s group, and O’Reilly even gets in on Priest. It’s starting to turn into some boys fighting, that’s for sure. Balor just leaves in the middle of all of this, disappointed. And he tells the boys that he’s got no problem who he faces, but it’s not his job.
And then the intrigue actually begins. Scarlett Bordeaux shows up and walks around, stalking Balor. Balor says he’s ready for Karrion Kross. Priest can’t get enough of himself, so he starts coming at Scarlett, which she just laughs off. Backstage, someone tries to get some words out of Dunne, but Killian Dain shows up for the first time in weeks to attack Dunne and they get split up by officials as we cut back to the ring.
And that’s just the beginning of the show! Whew.
Jake Atlas vs. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
Both men story wise here need a win. Atlas has had a couple of good wins and Scott has been empty handed. Curt Stallion is the #1 contender, but in a web exclusive video, he was attacked by Legado Del Fantasma, so the Cruiserweight belt is prevented from defense for now. So why not have the two most booked and familiar faces of the division recently on NXT programming go at it and really have a good match? And it was, really. I think in the effort and pace of the match between both men paints them as real contenders no matter the situation, which makes the title and the division that much more interesting going forward. Both men really pushed into a new gear, with Atlas impressing and Scott reminding. The finish was a bit strange, and I wish there was more to that, but maybe a feud brews here. Atlas wants a handshake after, but Scott refuses. So, maybe?
Tommaso Ciampa talks about his win against Timothy Thatcher at War Games and then immediately calls out Caaaaaaameron Grimes! And he wants to right a wrong. So, he mentions they’re gonna fight tonight, but not before… a TRIPLE THREAT tag team match!
Ever Rise vs. Imperium (Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner vs. Grizzled Young Veterans (3 ¼ stars)
Continuing from last week’s scheduled Vets vs. Ever-Rise-interrupted-by-Imperium-oopsie thing, Vets and Imperium were great last week and got out without a finish, which is fine by me to have Ever-Rise continue to work while also taking a fall. Or at least, that’s what I thought from the start. Not to belittle the work of what the men did – because it was a lot of last week’s even battle of great tag team warfare that was replayed here with added emphasis on Ever-Rise basically playing punching bag and irritators throughout. Grizzled Young Veterans really came into a new feel tonight, though, with a more unhinged attitude. They did lock down and focus and get the win here, too, which has continued their very good addition back into the Black and Gold.
There’s more War Games recap packaging and Toni Storm is being interviewed backstage she reminds the people watching that her one goal in NXT is getting the women’s belt and oh nice timing, Io. They get into it and fight literally into the ring, and when Toni thinks she has got away from Io, Ember Moon shows up and gives an assist to set up the Moonsault. And up next is…
Cameron Grimes vs. Tommaso Ciampa (4 stars)
The hairiest man in NXT, Cameron Grimes is in the ring when we come back from break. Ciampa comes out and all seems fine. Ciampa “winds down” Grimes from the get-go, but Grimes starts getting technical on Ciampa, but then Timothy Thatcher walks down and sits down ringside at the ramp. Despite the fact that a lot of people really dislike Cameron Grimes, I’m sure it’s obvious and clear I am a fan of the man. But him working with Tommaso is a HUGE upgrade from working with Dexter Lumis, even if this is for Ciampa and Thatcher’s story.
Surprisingly, it’s a pretty even match, Grimes maybe even having more offense and momentum, but coming back from the break, Ciampa turns it on and his comeback really goes off. Thatcher looks on and they get a good angle of the ear that Ciampa damaged with a knee. Grimes did a damn good job of reversing Ciampa’s Fairy Tale Ending and Willow’s Bell and even got his own finisher off, but, alas, it’s still not enough to put down one of the best the black and gold will ever see. Thatcher sends down a student and it distracts Ciampa for a brutally massive kick to his head from Grimes, but Ciampa manages to get a Willow’s Bell in some good ring awareness work and the victory.
As Ciampa leaves, he cautiously approaches Thatcher and Thatcher denies he didn’t send a student down in the middle of that. Ciampa walks all the way into the back looking at Thatcher and then Cameron Grimes starts picking a fight with Thatch. Not a smart idea. He lifts his leg and twists his knee in an awkward position and Grimes sells it to the gallery. It is art.
Raquel Gonzalez is being interviewed backstage and she admits right away that War Games was the biggest night of her life. And she’s out for blood with Ember for hurting Dakota Kai. We get another vignette of Xia Li and Boa being tortured for respect in a underground ritualistic cult. I don’t know. Don’t ask me.
NXT North American Champion Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae, Austin Theory, and Indi Hartwell all enter the ring and launched into the opening salvo of what he is dubbing the four of them as “The Way.” Austin Theory goofs it all up and Johnny rights the ship by announcing he’s a three-time North American champ. They goof for some more and Johnny gets Candice a War Games trophy. And Candice gets all weird for a sec and says she feels bad that she didn’t have a trophy for him, to which he replies, “The only trophy I need,” looking at his wife, “is the NXT North American Championship!” They do their catchphrase thing, and Damian Priest comes out to call out Gargano. He talks at Austin Theory then immediately heads down to the ring for KARRION KROSS OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE destroys Priest. Flat-out decimates Priest.
Rule Number 1, Damian: Don’t say anything to Scarlett. It’s practically unwritten because it’s obvious.
We get a quick backstage video of Tyler Rust, the student responsible for the attacks on Tommaso Ciampa at the direction of Timothy Thatcher. He’s being interviewed, but she’s cut off by Malcolm Bivens. Rust just looks happy to get away from the interview, so he goes off camera with Bivens.
Pete Dunne vs. Killian Dain (3 ½ stars)
Ooh, boy, this gonna be some brutal action. Dain gets in a ton of explosive work right from the get-go, cutting down and really making Dunne look very, very forgettable for a few brief moments. A hard task for too long, though, because Dunne’s striking and awareness far outweighed Dain’s power after the opening salvo. Dain and Dunne do a good job having a good match out of a good segment, so I can’t really say too much that is negative. Dain looked better here than I can ever remember, but I’m also not super versed in Dain’s history. Lorcan and Burch gets involved and Drake Maverick tries his best to ward them off with a chair, but the tag team champs force Dain to take the eyes off the prize. A Bitter End finisher and a 3 for a win for the Bruiserweight.
Leon Ruff is backstage to talk about his tag match next week against Gargano and Theory with his partner Damian Priest and Gargano interrupts Ruff from even talking. Matter of fact, I don’t even think Ruff says a single word in this entire segment. Because after Gargano taunts Ruff and says maybe he should take them on by himself, Kushida shows up out of left field and says he’ll be his partner, to which Ruff just nods and is pleased with the turn of events. They even fist bump.
Raquel Gonzalez vs. Ember Moon (4 stars)
Raquel starts out countering everything that Ember throws at her, no matter what advantage Ember gains. Then she powers her down. She’s out for revenge for her friend and it really shows. Throwing Moon around like a ragdoll, this doesn’t look like a match so much as a beatdown. When Ember finally gets back in it, it’s because Gonzalez has lost some gas, which is a good story to illustrate. The last few weeks have really given Raquel Gonzalez a very good look – her matches are constantly some level of impressive, she continues to gain more and more skill and presence, and her standing in the promotion right now is as good as it can be with a clean pin on the NXT champion at a major PPV for this brand.
That’s pretty staggering to look at on paper. The fact that Ember Moon’s comeback to NXT just feels like a victory lap for her being able to come back and compete as if she never left or was injured. Raquel is definitely the rising star here to look at going forward, while Ember stays important in the division by giving Raquel a damn good fight. There’s a spot on the outside where Moon gets her set up for a dive off of a column set up by commentary onto their table, but Raquel gathers herself in time to swing Moon’s leg all the way to cause her momentum to catch her falling on her shoulder into throwing her head first into the corner post and all of it is actually breathtaking to watch the grace of both competitors nail this perfectly.
Somehow Moon kicks out. There are a few different near falls after that big move on the outside, but the back-and-forth action at the end was an extra push to the already impressive match between these two. Raquel was destined to continue this streak and get revenge on her friend, so her victory was expected. However, Toni Storm comes down to stand over Ember Moon, echoing her previous statements in the night, but before she can get into attacking Moon. Rhea Ripley comes down and saves Moon from devastation and Ripley and Raquel circle each other. Raquel just leaves without any confrontation, but it’s boiling at this point and a nice touch for next week.
Somehow NXT keeps it going with the quality matches, and I’m not complaining, really. It’s just a bit baffling to see how they set all this up and how the story really doesn’t match the in-ring work a lot of the time, especially during the pandemic. But what they give us is still definitely worth keeping up with, a bar above most in the world right now in terms of wrestling promotions. Looking forward to next week.