By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Taped in Winter Park, Florida at Full Sail University and Brooklyn, New York at Barclays Center
Aired December 25, 2019 on USA Network
[Hour One] The show started off with highlights from last week’s NXT episode with the Slipknot theme playing in the background…
Cathy Kelley, Sam Roberts, and Pat McAfee checked in from a studio set. There was Motorhead Christmas music playing in the background because, of course, this is a Paul Levesque production. Cathy set the show over to Mauro Ranallo, at Full Sail. The camera cut to Roderick Strong making Christmas references and about to enter the arena for his North American Championship title defense. Mauro Ranallo and Nigel McGuinness checked in on commentary…
John’s Thoughts: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! Hope ya’ll had a enjoyable Christmas day. Since I didn’t have anything scheduled for this time, I’m here to review/watch NXT with you wonderful readers. Let’s do this.
1. Roderick Strong vs. Austin Theory for the NXT North American Championship. The match started off with some ground based chain wrestling from both men. The match started off with about two minutes of ground based wrestling. Theory used a few flips to escape the chain stuff. Both men traded shoves. Strong’s shove was stronger as he aggressively beat up on Theory. Theory jumped over Strong and gave Strong a hugh dropkick. The replay showed that Theory got a ton of air as Mauro compared Theory to Santa’s sleigh.
Theory tripped up Strong and got a two count after a standing moonsault. Theory used a Northern Lariat to send Strong outside. Strong lifted Theory and hit him with a nasty looking Angle Slam on the ring post. Theory beat the ten count at nine, but Strong put the boots to Theory once he entered the ring. Theory was turned inside out by a high dropkick from Strong. Strong converted a Surfboard into a seated Camel Clutch. Strong fishhooked Theory’s face which caused the referee to break up the illegal move. Theory went for a rolling move, but Strong countered with one of his signature backbreakers.
Theory countered Strong’s suplex with his own snap suplex. Theory did a slingshot into a rolling Shotgun Dropkick. Strong and Theory then traded forearms. Theory gained an advantage after a backfist. Theory hit Strong with a slingshot stomp and Fisherman Buster. Theory hit Strong with an awkward blockbusters (the commentators weren’t sure hot to call the move). Theory gave Strong a Bucklebomb and an Ushigoroshi for a two count. Strong escaped a torture rack and gave Theory a high knee in the corner.
Strong hit Theory with a Superplex. Theory no sold the move and gave Strong a Blue Thunder Bomb for a two count. Strong backdropped Theory to the apron. Strong gave Theory a sick looking Super Backbreaker on the top turnbuckle. Mauro noted that Strong is adding a lot of pain to Theory’s back. Theory recovered and gave Strong an Attitude Adjustment on the ring apron to awe the invoke a “holy shit” chant from the crowd. This got a good nearfall. After trading punches, Theory caught Strong with two superkicks. One superkick even kicking Strong’s balls. This caused Mauro to yell “Strong’s bells have been jingled!!!”. Strong fought through the ball pain and hit Theory with End of Heartache. Instead of going for the pin, Strong locked in the Stronghold (Liontamer) for the tapout.
Roderick Strong defeated Austin Theory via submission in 16:47 to retain the NXT North American Championship.
Nigel noted that Theory wasn’t kicked low according to the replay…
The show cut to Kelly, McAfee, and Roberts giving their thoughts on the match. Roberts joked about McAfee making it to a Championship match (Super Bowl) and not coming out as a winner unlike the UE…
John’s Thoughts: An unexpected Takeover workrate match. I guess, a good Christmas present to NXT viewers. Lots of no-selling from Theory, but it worked in this sense to add a bit of legitimacy to a debuting star. Lots of ugly looking moves, but the good kind of ugly where the moves looked like they all hurt. It’s also always a treat to see Strong work his magic in singles matches.
The panel sent it over to Barclays Center with Tom Phillips and Beth Phoenix. The arena was using the Smackdown set. Isaiah Scott made his entrance to what I think was new entrance music. Scott also wore camouflage tights (to reflect his military background. While working for Lucha Underground he was a member of the US Army).
2. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. “Gentleman” Jack Gallagher. Scott trapped Gallagher in a bit of joint manipulation which Gallagher countered with his own joint manipulation. Beth noted that Jack is an accomplished MMA fighter. Scott hit Gallagher with a Blue Thunder Bomb into an armbreaker. Gallagher powered out of this by lifting Scott. Scott hit Gallagher with a shotgun dropkick combination. Gallagher rolled to ringside for a moment of respite. Gallagher was backdropped when he reentered the ring to ringside. Gallagher then ate a thrust kick from Scott.
John’s Thoughts: Uhm? Where the hell are the commercials?!?
Scott locked Gallagher in more joint manipulation. Gallagher escaped and gave Scott a whip into the bottom turnbuckle. Scott sold his shoulder. Right after I mention there not being a commercial about 40 minutes into the show, the show cut to a picture-in-picture commercial. [c]
John’s Thoughts: Finally, I was using the restholds to sneak in my thoughts. And I thought I was in for a post-takeover like clip show with minimal first run stuff.
Scott and Gallagher traded swerves to blows, as in dodges, no pun intended. Scott gave Gallagher a good looking lariat and then dropkicked the lower back of Gallagher. Scott hit Gallagher with rope assisted Muay Thai roundhouses. Beth noted that Gallagher’s chest is red. Scott hit Gallagher with a rolling Paydirt for a two count. Scott escaped a submission with a nice backbreaker on Gallagher. Gallagher hit Scott with a nice looking rebound lariat. Props to Tom Phillips for calling the move as an ode to Nigel McGuinness (Beth didn’t catch the reference).
Scott escaped an armbreaker and locked in his own armbreaker on Gallagher. Gallagher escaped and locked in an armbreaker. Scott hit Gallagher with a sick butterfly stomp on Gallagher. Scott then hit Gallagher with the killshot kick for the victory.
Isaiah Scott defeated Jack Gallagher via pinfall in 14:05.
Tom sent things back to “The Christmas Control Center” where the panel gave their thoughts on Barclays being a second home for NXT in a way. McAfee called Johnny Gargano, “Johnny Sports Entertainment” (is this a thing? Ciampa was using “Sports Entertainment” to draw heat). Roberts hyped Lio Rush and Keith Lee vs. Damien Priest and Tony Nese. McAfee hyped Taynara Conti vs. Candice LeRae who McAfee called “Mrs. Sports Entertainment”… [c]
John’s Thoughts: An okay 205 Live match. As per 205 Live tradition, the crowd wasn’t into it much at first. Thankfully, the talent of the two wrestlers in the ring won them over as much as they could. Scott is really coming off well in WWE now that he’s getting some solid in-ring time. Jack Gallagher is an interesting case, and there’s an argument that can be made that this guy is the most underutilized member of the entire WWE roster. Not only can the guy wrestle well in the ring with an MMA background, but they guy really stood out in a good way early in his 205 Live run as a character. Now he’s a glorified gatekeeper for a decimated 205 Live roster.
The show was taken back to Full Sail…
3. Candice LeRae vs. Taynara. LeRae hit Taynara with a hangman neckbreaker on the second rope. Taynara rolled away for respite. LeRae caught Taynara with a baseball slide and springboard plancha. Taynara tripped LeRae off the top rope for an ugly whiplash moment. The show cut to picture in picture. [c]
Taynara slammed LeRae with a Five Second Ride for a two count. LeRae got up, tied up her hair to show she was serious, and then pummeled Taynara with her signature chop combination in the corner. LeRae hit Taynara with a missile dropkick for a two count. Taynara ducked an enzuigiri. LeRae countered a bicycle kick. LeRae hit Taynara with a step up senton and lionsault for the victory.
Candice LeRae defeated Taynara via pinfall in 7:53.
Mauro yelled “Hip! Hip! LeRae!” after the pinfall win…
John’s Thoughts: A decent showcase for LeRae who currently doesn’t have a feud or program to work with currently. Taynara has gotten a lot of TV time on the USA NXT but WWE doesn’t seem to know what to do with her. She’s one of WWE’s developmental ty;es
The panel discussed what they just saw. The show cut to an Arturo Ruas documentary video package. They showed clips of Arturo’s war ridden hometown. Ruas said he was born in Lebanon during the civil war and the tough childhood is what forced him to pick up martial arts as a kid, in order to fight and survive. Ruas talked about being a black belt in a ton of martial arts like Aikido, Muay Thai, some thing I wasn’t sure of that he pronounced, and others. Ruas said his specialty is in capoeira. The vignette ended by saying Arturo Ruas, Total Destruction, Coming Soon… [c]
John’s Thoughts: Yo! That was sweet. I’ve been really high on Arturo Ruas after seeing his vast improvement from his Evolve time. The guy started off very green but has grown very well and has done a stellar job integrating the capoeira into pro wrestling. I’ve compared his move integration to John Morrison who stood out by introducing parkour into his moveset. This guy is someone to look out for and I’m looking forward to seeing what he brings to the weekly NXT show.
[Hour Two] Tom Phillips thanked Lemmy, Billy Gibbons, and Dave Grohl for providing the Very Metal XMas soundtrack for this episode of NXT.
John’s Thoughts: Now I’m just intrigued as to how Christmas is as the McMahon-Levesque household. I’m just imagining a burnt ass Christmas tree with skulls as ornaments. I just also wonder how it’s like for Hunter’s kids growing up with Metal AF Papa H as a dad.
The show cut back to Barclays…
4. Dominik Dijakovic vs. Bronson Reed. The match started off at a big man stalemate with both men trading tackles and chops. Reed used his weight to block the Time to Fly. Reed took down Dijak with a shoulder tackle. Reed then put Dijakovic in a seated Banzai submisison to head into the picture-in-picture. [c]
Reed was dominating back from break with a bunch of clubbing blows and a German Suplex. Reed hit Dijakovic with a running hip attack in the corner. Reed hit Dijakovic with an impressive hesitation suplex for a two count. Philips hyped up how impressive these moves look because a large man like Dijakovic is getting thrown around. Reed blocked Dijak’s Time to Fly again. Beth noted that Dijak needs to lower his hips. Reed blocked the suplex several times. Dijakovic hit Dijakovic with a shortarm kick combination. Dijakovic then hit Reed with the Time to Fly for a two count.
Reed hit Dijakovic with a headbutt. Dijakovic hit Reed back with a cyclone thrust kick to get a two count. Dijakovic hit Reed with a beautiful moonsault for a two count. Reed blocked Dijak’s chokeslam attempt by headbutting Dijakovic’s hand several times. Reed then hit Dijakovic with a top rope Theaz Press for a two count. Reed took down the straps and went high risk. Dijakovic recovered and staggered Reed on the top rope. Reed fought Dijakovic off. Reed blocked it initially, but Dijakovic pulled Reed off the top rope with a Choke Bomb for the victory.
Dominik Dijakovic defeated Bronson Reed via pinfall in 12:17.
John’s Thoughts: Solid match, but after the hot opening match the show has transitioned to House Show mode with matches not having any long term implications other than showcasing the credible NXT wrestlers. Back to this match, a good big man clash. That said, Bronson Reed loses way more often than he wins. I’m guessing if he does get pushed, he’ll get a repackage. It’s just odd seeing a powerhouse like him lose a lot…
An ad aired for NXT World’s Collide. Sam Roberts hyped Undisputed Era vs. Imperium for the World’s Collide Show…
The panel cut to a Bianca Belair video package. Sam Roberts made a reference to that one time he talked down about Belair…[c]
Awwwww yeah! Bay Area standout from the Hoodslam and APW promotions, Shotzi Blackheart, made her entrance. She also got to keep her name…
5. Bianca Belair vs. Shotzi Blackheart. Shotzi wanted a handshake early, but Belair slapped the hand away. Belair mocked Blackheart by blowing a bubble with gum. Belair was trapped in a front chancery. Belair escaped and hit Shotzi with a Banzai Drop. Belair used a wide base to block a Sunset Flip. Belair blew another bubble and Shotzi slapped the bubble. Shotzi hit Bianca with a huracanrana. Shotzi hit Bianca with a inverted cannonball to pin Belair to the second rope. Belair gave Shotzi an ugly looking snake eyes on the apron heading into picture in picture commercial. [c]
John’s Thoughts: I can never really tell if Shotzi’s just really good at selling or if she legit takes the move wrong. Some of the bumps she takes are nasty looking. Can’t blame her for all the hard work she puts in and I’m really happy to see her get a WWE contract after having WWE at one point pull her off the Tough Enough show due to heart complications in her medical report. Her time away from WWE has allowed her to put together a really good indie resume.
Shotzi hit Bianca with a sunset flip for a two count. Belair came back with a dropkick. Shotzi fought out of a cravate, but Belair went back at it. Shotzi escaped and hit Belair with a reverse Sling Blade. Shotzi slammed Belair to the mat for a two count. Shotzi DDT’d Belair from the ring to the ring apron for another one of those nasty Shotzi bumps. Belair dodged a pump kick and then hit Shotzi with a KOD for the victory.
Bianca Belair defeated Shotzi Blackheart via pinall in 10:20.
John’s Thoughts: More wheel spinning for Belair, but entertaining wheel spinning. Again, they’re in house show mode this week, but that said, the matches are still entertaining and this show doesn’t feel like a waste of time. Shotzi is someone I’ve been really hyping up for years after seeing her work in the Northern California indies. The only thing I keep stressing about her is I really hope she tones down her intensity about 25% because I’ve seen her miss time due to taking some nasty bumps (in fact, that’s what cost her a run in Impact Wrestling where they were pushing her as an upcoming heel).
The christmas panel discussed the match. Roberts joked about Belair being a better kicker than McAfee. Cathy Kelley hyped next week’s NXT Awards reveals…
They sent the show back to Tom Philips and Beth Phoenix at Barclays…
6. Keith Lee and Lio Rush vs. Damien Priest and Tony Nese. Keith Lee and Lio Rush wore Christmas themed pre match gear. Keith Lee shared some cookies with Lio Rush. Beth Phoenix noted that Keith Lee and Lio Rush were opponents against each other in the SoCal PWG promotion. Rush and Nese started off the match. Philips noted that both men are former Cruiserweight Champions. Nese tagged in Priest without landing a blow.
Priest pointed out the size difference between him and Rush. Rush used his short height to avoid Priest’s offense. Keith Lee tagged in wearing a Santa hat. Priest tossed the hat away. Beth called Priest a Grinch. Lee and Priest had a cool ass Kung Fu fight which the turned into a lucha libre exchange. Lio Rush threw cookies at Nese. Beth joked about all these carbs being thrown at the lean Nese. Nese then chased Rush around the ring. Lee gave Nese his signature Monty Brown Pounce, which sent Nese flying right into Tom Philips in what may be an unintentional bump by the non-wrestler. The show cut to a traditional commercial heading into the overrun. [c]
[Overrun] Tom Philips joked about having to recover from getting Tony Nese thrown at him. Priest hit Rush with a Falcon Arrow for a two count. Nese and Priest then cut the ring in half on Rush. Rush got a window of opportunity by knocking out Nese with the Come Up Stunner. Lee caught the hot tag who cleaned house. Lee hit Priest with a forearm and then turned Priest inside out with a lariat. Priest escaped a Spirit Bomb and Nese got the blind tag in. Nese caught Lee with a kick and springboard moonsault for a two count.
Lee tackled Nese to the corner and Rush tagged in. Rush caught Nese with a huracanrana and flying lariat. Rush used a CQC combo and basement Roundhouse on Nese. Priest tripped Lee off the apron, taking out the cookies. Priest choke slammed Rush on the apron. Priest pulled an imaginary elbow and all of a sudden Santa Lee emerged in the camera shot behind him. Lee tossed Priest to ringside. Nese went for a suicide dive but he fell right into the arms of Lee. Lee threw him into the barricade. Priest went for a Tope Con Hilo, but he fell into Lee’s arms too.
Lee used Priest like a battering ram into Nese. Lee then slammed Priest on the apron with a power bomb. Lee hit Nese with the Jackhammer. Rush tagged in and stood on Lee’s shoulders. Rush hit Nese with the Final Hour for the victory.
Keith Lee and Lio Rush defeated Damien Priest and Tony Nese via pinfall in about 9:00 of on-air TV Time.
Tom Phillips referenced the Lakers vs. Clippers game that’s happening now (The game I’m going to watch off the DVR once I’m done reviewing this show). The show closed abruptly during the post-match celebrations by Rush and Lee…
John’s Thoughts: A fun match with a bit of holiday hijinks sprinkled in. NXT definitely beats Raw and Smackdown in the Christmas special aspect by not going overboard as the other two shows do. The shot of Keith Lee rising up as Santa was great. Lee got a lot of shine here too as he’s been getting in the last few weeks following Survivor Series. Keith Lee is probably the biggest star to emerge from NXT coming out of the USA shift (an argument could be made for Rhea Ripley too). It’s also interesting, because it looked like they were building towards a heel turn for Lee, but he was being built to turn on ACH and we all know what happened with that situation. Thankfully, Lee got elevated coming out of the change in plans.
Overall, a nice two hours of television. The highlights were definitely the bookend matches. The show opened up with an unexpected Takeover workrate type of match. The main event was a fun house show main event. The middle of the show was pretty much house show matches, but it did showcase a few wrestlers. Another thing I liked was Arturo Ruas being announced as “coming soon”. The weird lowlight is the weird banter between Sam Roberts and Pat McAfee. McAfee was all over the place and Roberts is acting very heelish these days. That and Roberts cracking a bunch of jokes at the expense of Pat McAfee’s NFL career. Anyways, this show didn’t feel like a waste of time. I’ll be by tomorrow with my member’s exclusive audio review. Now it’s off for me to hit the DVR and watch the Christmas Battle for Los Angeles, the Lakers vs. Clippers game.