Tonight was an interesting night for NXT. It was the go-home show for the pseudo PPV of World’s Collide, which occurs this Saturday in Houston, Texas for Royal Rumble weekend. The Black and Yellow brand had to straddle the line of advancing their TakeOver: Portland feuds, without doing a disservice to NXT UK. The balancing act was a bit messy and the show struggled to match the lofty bar last week’s episode was able to set, but was eventful nonetheless. Any show with a major title change and the set up for the finale of the Dusty Rhodes Classic makes for a good night of wresting. Let’s take a look at the full results, followed by a breakdown of all the night’s action.
Grizzled Young Veterans def. Undisputed Era
Io Shiari def. Toni Storm (DQ)
Finn Balor def. Joaquin Wilde
Shayna Baszler def. Shotzi Blackheart
The Broserweights def. Imperium
Keith Lee def. Roderick Strong for the North American Title
Grizzled Young Veterans vs Undisputed Era – Dusty Rhodes Classic
There is no better way to kick-off a show of NXT then the kickiest tag-team that ever did kick. The match was an exhibition of two tag teams that know exactly what they’re doing. If you appreciate tandem offense, plenty of strikes, cutting the ring in half and all the usual tricks of an NXT tag team match — then you enjoyed this match.
Everything is going full steam ahead, that is until Imperium flashes on the Titantron. WALTER and his faction stand illuminated on Full Sail balcony to watch the match’s conclusion. As you’d expect, this was the distraction the Young Veterans needed. They hit the powerbomb/code-breaker combo they use as a finisher to pick up the under-dog victory, while a stunned UE stand in the middle of the ring.
This was probably the right result on NXT’s part. It continues to advance the feud between the two factions and the current NXT Tag Team Champions and last year’s winner of the Dusty Rhodes Classic had nothing to gain from the tournament.
Toni Storm vs Io Shirai
Outside of a few flurries, the match is a slow burn to start — mostly consisting of submission holds by Shirai and the exchanging of strikes. Io maintains the momentum throughout much of the match until Storm regains her babyface fire and takes over. However, it was too little, too late as Storm looks to go to the outside with a Tope she is speared in a surprise attack by Bianca Belair, ending the match in a DQ.
Belair hammers away on Storm in the center of the ring until Rhea Ripley’s music hits. Instead of turning tail, Belair removes her earrings and prepares for the fight. The move worked to her advantage as she hits Ripley with a stunning spring board drop kick from the top rope. The melee finally ends with Toni Storm alone and holding the NXT Women’s Championship in the middle of the ring. It was a decent match, but a second screwy finish in a row was a little too “main roster.” I can’t say they made the wrong call. Storm losing really wasn’t an option and Shirai probably couldn’t eat the pin without having her drop from the title picture entirely. The segment did enough to continue the twin feuds of Ripley vs Storm and Ripley vs Belair.
Finn Balor vs Joaquin Wilde
Not much to say about this one (except a mention of Wilde once suffering a ruptured colon, yikes). Balor gets some stiff offense in and pins Wilde in under three minutes. The match succeeds in getting Balor on the card and not much else.
Shotzi Blackheart vs Shayna Baszler
The match born out of Blackheart’s elimination of Baszler last week from the Women’s #1 Contender Battle Royal last week. The match and accompanying promos were a rough patch in the episode to say the least.
Hopefully NXT gives a little more exposure to Shotzi Blackheart since the promo they showed earlier in the night did her no favours. The commentary team didn’t help her, making her sound like a massive edge-lord rather than a wrestler. The match itself lacked smoothness and showed a lack of chemistry between these two women. At one point, Baszler is forced to sell an awkward looking two-footed kick from the ropes by Blackheart that missed her by a foot (no pun intended). NXT did their best to put Blackheart over, allowing her to get in some offense on Baszler. To her credit, Baszler sold enough to put her over with the crowd.
Shayna eventually had enough. She counters a top rope senton, slaps on the Kirafuda Clutch and doesn’t let go until after the bell and after Blackheart blacks out. While I have been overly critical of this match, it was a stark reminder that though NXT is the third brand, they are still very much developmental.
The Broserweights (Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne) vs Imperium (Aichner & Barthel)
Matt Riddle coming out looking like Pippy Long-Stocking is something that only he could probably get away with.
This was a great match and easily the highlight of the night at this point. Dunne hitting a smooth crucifix bomb into a cover on Aichner for a near fall was a slick piece of work.
Wrestling is at its best when it can defy expectation or throw little wrinkles into familiar spots. This was done to perfection in a spot with Dunne on the outside on the apron. It looks like Barthel is about to sweep the legs from under him, but Dunne backflips off the ring and into Barthel before he even gets the chance. Little moments like that make Dunne look like a million bucks inside the ring.
Dunne and Riddle once again show off some impressive tandem offense for a tag-team that doesn’t work together regularly. Aichner and Barthel work like a well-oiled machine, with a wheel barrow into a diving DDT into a pin. Riddle saves the match with a quick knee to Bartell’s face. The protection spot by Riddle as he keeps Barthel from breaking up the arm bar Dunne has locked onto Aichner adds to the believability of these matches.
The 1-2-3 comes after Riddle counters a powerbomb attempt into a hurricanrana, a knee strike and eventually kicks in stereo give the Broserweights a berth to the Dusty Rhodes Classic final. It’s a surprising result depending on how you look at it. This match continued to make Riddle and Dunne look like absolute stars, considering NXT’s past, giving the win to a pair who aren’t a true tag team is not the norm. The Dusty Rhodes Classic final is set for next week as the Broserweights will take on the Grizzled Young Veterans for the Cup.
Keith Lee vs Roderick Strong for the North American Championship
Keith Lee comes out with pure power – knocking and throwing Strong around the ring like a rag doll. The match turns as the rest of the Undisputed Era act as a distraction while Strong slides into the ankle Lee “injured” last week. Strong’s focus goes to hobbling his opponent by attacking his injured appendage.
Roddy keeps coming after Lee with fly by strikes including a nice sequence of elbows while bouncing between the ropes. The flurry is enough to stagger Lee, but doesn’t get close to putting him away.
Strong tries to go for a second rope Olympic Slam which ends up being more of an Olympic fall. Lee sits up at one on the pin and at this point the “hulk up” is in full force. Eventually he knocks the three other members of the Undisputed Era off the rope, catches Strong and hits him with the Fireman Jackhammer. The Undisputed Era is triple gold no more. It was about time they put some gold on Keith Lee. He is arguably the hottest member of the NXT roster, but the trigger should have been pulled earlier and on a PPV. Better late than never and this will likely sew the seeds of descension in the Era moving forward.
With the Undisputed Era still in the ring, Imperium shows up at ringside and the two factions brawl until the NXT trademark ends the episode.