By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Taped in Winter Park, Florida at Full Sail University
Aired September 23, 2020 on USA Network
[Hour One] Before the WWE signature, they aired a “In memory of…” graphic for the recently passed Joe Laurinatis (Road Warrior Animal).Highlights from last week’s NXT show aired…
Tom Phillips and Beth Phoenix were on commentary. Phillips noted that Wade Barrett and Vic Joseph had the night off. A lot of women were already in the ring for the upcoming number one contenders battle royal. Candice LeRae and Rhea Ripley were the only ones who got televised entrances… They aired a clip of what happened right before the match, where Tegan Nox was left lying with an injured leg, presumably done by Candice LeRae who mockingly walked away from the scene. Dakota Kai attacked Tegan Nox while she was on the ground….
1. Battle Royal for Number One Contendership to the NXT Women’s Championship. Rhea Ripley eliminated “Gia” at under a minute. “Raven” was eliminated by Raquel Gonzalez at little over a minute. Of course, these women with single word names are presumably Developmental wrestlers. Ripley eliminated another wrestler, I think her name was Ellie? Marina Shafir was eliminated by Ripley. Gonzalez eliminated a random two wrestlers. Meanwhile, the rest of the match was a brawl.
Someone went for a armbar on Raquel, but she was deadlifted and dumped to the outside by Gonzalez. Ripley kicked another woman out of the ring. Gonzalez gave Catalina a big boot to eliminate her. Xia Li was shown trying to eliminate Dakota Kai to no success. Aliyah “eliminated” Kacy Catanzaro, but before her feet touched the ground, she ended up rolling to her back and then going into a handstand, a la Kofi Kingston, to avoid actual elimination. The show cut to picture in picture. [c]
Kacy Catanzaro did another elimination avoidance by doing a spiderman tightrope act around the plexiglass and guardrail. Kayden Carter ended up getting eliminated by Raquel when she tried to help Kacy. After her elimination, Carter let Kacy stand on her shoulders to get back in the ring from the guardrail. Ripley and Gonzalez traded blows in the center of the ring. Off a huracanrana, Ripley and Gonzalez eliminated each other. Dakota Kai showed concern over her insurance policy being eliminated. Indi Hartwell tried to give Cantazaro a power bomb, but Kacy used a headscissors to eliminated Hartwell.
Catanzaro was eliminated by Dakota Kai’s face wash after receiving some assistance from LeRae. Shotzi Blackheart dodged Kai’s kick and dumped Kai to ringside to eliminate her. Shotzi and Candice were the final two. Shotzi hit LeRae with a reverse sling blade. LeRae skinned the cat to avoid elimination. LeRae avoided a running senton against the ropes and then slammed Shotzi to the mat. Shotzi avoided elimination. Shotzi ate a palm strike at the top rope. Shotzi placed LeRae on the apron. LeRae pulled Shotzi’s hair to get her on the apron. Shotzi and Candice brawled on the steel steps. Candice won the match by using her feet to shove Shotzi off the steps to eliminate her.
Candice LeRae won the Battle Royal in 15:29
Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae posed at the top of the rope to end the segment…
Sarah Schreiber interviewed Damian Priest on facing Johnny Gargano at Takeover. He then talked about how Austin Theory, his opponent for tonight, is talented, but he is losing a lot. He then started to hit on Sarah Schreiber, inviting her to his “after party”…[c]
John’s Thoughts: A bit odd to have so many no-names on NXT television, but they served a good purpose as point-based cannon fodder for the two giants of the match, Rhea Ripley and Raquel Gonzalez. Them starting a scoring battle made me think that neither woman was winning and instead we were getting a feud between the two, which ended up being the case I assume when they did the double elimination. That should be a good feud. LeRae winning should lead to a good match with Io Shirai too, a revisit with Io being the babyface in this feud and LeRae being a heel this time around. I don’t think LeRae gets the title there and we might see Tegan Nox get involved somehow.
Fandango was shown in a detective costume where he came up with a solution to find the number one contender of the NXT Tag Team Championship. I wasn’t even sure what Regal and Dango agreed on, but Danny Burch figured it out somehow…
Tommaso Ciampa made his entrance wearing his cool as hell pre-match skull match…
John’s Thoughts: By the way, it’s a bit odd. They’re using canned heat and no spectator wrestlers tonight.
2. Tommaso Ciampa vs. Jake Atlas. Ciampa overpowered Atlas early on. Atlas avoided a Willow’s Bell attempt and then showed a bit of a mean streak with flailing blows at ringside. Atlas tried to catapult Ciampa into the steel beam under the ring, and the ref warned Atlas that he’d be disqualified. Atlas used a cartwheel to set up an atomic drop and drop kick to ground Ciampa. Jake Atlas used a double leg takedown to beat up on Ciampa. Jake Atlas caught Ciampa with a face wash. Atlas hit Ciampa at ringside with a Asai Moonsault.
Atlas hit Ciampa with a Super Blockbuster for a two count. Ciampa kicked Atlas in the arm during a Rainbow DDT attempt. Ciampa hit Atlas with the Willow’s Bell. Ciampa had the visual pinfall, but then he released the pin to inflict more pain and trash talk on Atlas. Ciampa hit Atlas with a modified Fairy Tale ending for the victory.
Tommaso Ciampa defeated Jake Atlas via pinfall in 4:48.
John’s Thoughts: Ugly offense form Jake Atlas, in a good way. He was furious for what Ciampa did to him a few weeks ago. Ciampa comes off as a professional for taking care of Atlas with a few powerful moves. Ciampa also looks vicious for not pinning Atlas when he should have. That and the canned heat boos makes it clear that Ciampa is a heel now.
A Ridge Hollan character profile vignette aired. He talked about growing up, leaving a trail of fallen bodies. Holland talked about his time as a professional Rugby League player. He said Rugby, without pads, is the next best thing to combat sport…
The match Roderick Strong and Danny Burch vs. Raul Mendoza and Fabien Aichner to help decide number one contender was advertised for after the break…[c]
A music video hype vignette aired, with background music from Corey Taylor, to hype up the Gauntlet Eliminator…
Tom Phillips thanked Corey Taylor for providing the song “Culture Head” for the next Takeover show…
Roderick Strong was the only wrestler to get a televised entrance with Mendoza and Aichner in the ring already and Burch coming out with Strong.
3. Roderick Strong and Danny Burch vs. Raul Mendoza and Fabien Aichner. Mendoza and Aichner had the advantage over Strong to start the match. Phillips noted the aggressive tags Aichner and Mendoza were trading. Burch tagged in and took down Mendoza with a headlock. Burch took down Mendoza with a flapjack slam. Burch hit Mendoza with a Gamengiri. Aichner tripped up Burch at the top rope so Mendoza could yank him down. The show cut to regular commercial. [c]
Aichner and Burch brawled back from the break. Mendoza tagged in and kicked around Burch, while also trash talking with Roderick Strong. Burch used punches to escape a headlock, but Mendoza got a knee on Burch. Mendoza avoided a pin attempt by tagging in Aichner. Aichner kicked Strong into the plexiglass. Strong tagged in. Strong took down Aichner and Mendoza. Strong tossed Aichner into Mendoza for an innovative backbreaker. Strong hit Aichner with the Angle Slam for a two count. Mendoza kicked strong in the back of the back. Aichner hit Strong with a spinebuster for a two count.
Mendoza tagged in and continued to work on Strong. Mendoza fended off both Strong and Burch with strikes. Strong hit Mendoza on the top rope with a high kick. Burch slammed Mendoza to the mat for the victory.
Roderick Strong and Danny Burch defeated Fabien Aichner and Raul Mendoza via pinfall in 6:17 of on-air time.
Some music I never heard before started playing. I’m assuming it’s Burch’s music that we seldom hear. Phillips noted that this sets up Undisputed Era vs. Lorcan and Burch down the road…
Sarah Schreiber tried to interview Austin Theory, but Johnny Gargano walked in and told Sarah to not talk down to a guy with such talent. Gargano then tried to inspire Theory to beat down Priest…
John’s Thoughts: A good match, but I’m not sure why they aren’t trying to build up or create actual tag teams and went with this weird way to get to the match they want. I know they lampshaded it with Fandango showing up goofy to show that it was a goofy concept, but I feel that some time could be used to build up teams in credible ways for their depleted tag division.
[Hour Two] Austin Theory made his entrance at the beginning of Hour Two…
4. NXT North American Champion Damian Priest vs. Austin Theory in a non-title match. Priest took down Theory early on with some armbars. Theory ended up reversing the pressure. Priest turned it into a armdrag to escape the hold. Theory caught Priest with an elbow, but Priest came right back at Theory to regain control. Priest took down Theory with a crossbody and armbar. Theory stomped on Priest’s foot to escape the bar. Theory drop toehold’d Priest into the buckle. Theory hit Priest with a Belly to Back for a one count. Theory took down Priest with a stiff lariat and a standing moonsault for a one count.
Priest hit Theory with a bell clap and flatliner to regain control. Theory shoved Priest off the top rope to avoid the cannonball. The show cut to regular commercial.[c]
Theory caught Priest with a haymaker and dropkick for a two count. Theory locked Priest in a shoulder stretch. Phillips talked about Theory debuting on Raw and then showing up at WrestleMania six days after his Raw debut. Priest hit Theory with a precision strike combo. Priest shot the arrow and hit Theory with a flying back elbow. Priest hit Theory with a release Falcon Arrow for a two count.
Theory avoided a back elbow and lifted Priest into a delayed Blue Thunder bomb for a two count. Theory escaped a chokeslam at ringside. Priest reversed Theory with a Cyclone Kick. Priest hit Theory with a Razor’s Edge on the apron. Priest hit Theory with the Reckoning for the victory.
Damian Priest defeated Austin Theory via pinfall.
While Priest was doing his post-match celebration, Johnny Gargano gave Priest a superkick to leave him lying. Gargano mocked Priest’s arrow pose, and shot an invisible arrow into the North American Championship…
John’s Thoughts: A good match with Theory continuing to show a lot of natural talent and Priest continuing to shine as a babyface. Theory has the potential to be a main eventer down the road. He’s in his early 20s and has plenty of time to develop. A good part about the slow build is it can lead to a better learning experience and more time to mature.
A vignette aired for a new (or current wrestler). It showed a guy in tactical gear finding a championship. He took a spear and threw it at a glass case holding a NXT championship belt. The date October 4, 2020 flashed on the screen…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Presumably this is for a new debuting wrestler, but I had the thought of “current” in my head because that vignette really reminded me of Isaiah Scott (Shane Strickland/Killshot) in Lucha Underground. Scott was an member of active military while working LU and he ended up shifting his character to that after a year of being pretty bland as a character. To be completely honest, when Scott changed to that character, it was the best stuff he’s ever done. Military Swerve could be a great thing if this were the case. Watch me be totally off with my hunch, but that’s what night vision and military-guy reminded me of. (Update: Apparently this is for a returning wrestler according to the words he was saying. At the time it was hard to make out due to the digitizing)
Speaking of Isaiah Scott, he cut a promo about coming after the cruiserweight championship…
John’s Thoughts: That promo makes it really likely that the military-guy is not Scott. Maybe it’s Steve Cutler or someone like that. Shame, because I still never understood “Swerve” and no one can really give me a clear answer as to what “Swerve” is and why it defines him? The Chaka Khan theme really character Shane Strickland’s character on the indies and he doesn’t have that anymore. I kinda hope that he ends up going to Military-Killshot despite it not looking so. He’s actually cut good promos as Military-Killshot because he has actual character direction and he isn’t just trying to randomly insert the word “swerve” in at random points.
5. Ridge Holland vs. Antonio Del Luca. Holland overpowered Antonio early on, and planted him with a stiff elbow. Holland pounced Deluca across the ring. Hollan gave Del Luca a series of belly to belly suplexes. Holland pummeled Del Luca with headbutts against the apron. Holland hit Del Luca with the Northern Grit for the victory.
Ridge Holland defeated Antonio Del Luca via pinfall in 1:31.
Sarah Schreiber interviewed Io Shirai about Candice LeRae. Io talked in Japanese a bit and addressed not liking Io. Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae walked in to trash talk Io. Damian Priest walked in through the door to punch Gargano. The referees pulled apart
Kushida and Kyle O’Reilly were shown walking backstage on their way to the ring…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Good squash. He’s still a bit rough around the edges. Not a pure natural like someone like Lars Sullivan who has a similar moveset. Hopefully he improves with more ring time, but it takes more matches to do that. That said, he looked good here and I’m looking forward to seeing the moment where he really shines.
A Connor’s Cure ad aired…
Beth Phoenix announced Shotzi Blackheart vs. Dakota Kai for next week…
Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong were already in the ring for the Gauntlet Eliminator Match…
6. Gauntlet Eliminator match to become number one contender to the NXT Championship. Kush and Kyle started off the match trading jujitsu guards on the ground. Neither man could lock in their submissions and the match started off as a few stalemates. The commentators reminded viewers that the other wrestlers will be coming out at 4 minute intervals. Kushida ended up taking advantage of Kyle with a dropkick. Kush then locked Kyle into an innovative butterfly submission. Kushida fell on his back to hyper extend the shoulders of Kyle. Kushida kept Kyle under control with a deep armdrag. Kyle escaped and worked on Kushida with low kicks, who blocked from the octopus defense position.
The clock flashed on the screen and counted down to reveal that “The Colossal” Bronson Reed was the next entrant. Reed military pressed Kushida on Kyle. Reed yelled “Colossal!” and gave both opponents a corner splash. Kushida and Kyle escaped a double Samoan Drop. Kushida caught Kyle and Bronson with a back elbow. O’Reilly locked Kushida in an armbar. Reed tried to get involved, but Kyle locked him in the heel hook. Kushida pulled Kyle off into a hoverboard lock. Reed pulled Kushida off and hit both opponents with Sentons. Phillips reminded viewers that you eliminate wrestlers only by pinfall and submission (a la Aztec Warfare).
John’s Thoughts: A small thing that gets on my nerves sometimes. When wrestlers break up submissions and pins in an elimination match.
Kushida hit Kyle and Bronson with handspring knees to knock them off the top rope. Velveteen Dream showed up and hit Kushida with the Dream Valley Driver. Reed recovered and hit Kushida with his finishing splash to eliminate Kushida.
Bronson Reed eliminated Kushida via pinfall at 7:59 of match time.
The show cut to regular commercial.[c]
Cameron Grimes was the next wrestler out. He quickly gave Reed a forearm and a beautiful top rope crossbody. Grimes hit Thatcher a springboard moonsault. Thatcher tried to lock a armbar on Grimes, but the other wrestlers got involved and they all took each other out with strikes. Grimes ended up hitting O’Reilly with a sidewalk slam. Reed took down Grimes with a lariat to leave all of the men lying. Thatcher fended off his opponents from the apron. O’Reilly took out Thatcher with a knee to the outside. Grimes hit the three men outside with a flip dive.
Reed gave methodical strikes to the men at ringside. Thatcher slammed Reed’s head to the apron. Reed gave Thatcher a snug Death Valley Driver for a two count. Reed held his ground when O’Reilly went for the leg. Reed hit Kyle with a power bomb for a two count. Phillips noted that Reed has the only elimination so far in the match. Grimes grounded Reed with a forearm and boot. Reed took out his three opponents at ringside with a diving suicide crossbody. The show cut to picture-in-picture. [c]
Reed managed to stand tall over his three opponents. He hit O’Reilly with a power slam. Reed hit Grimes by Uranage-ing Thatcher on him. O’Reilly was staggered on the top rope. Grimes prevented Reed from going to the top rope. Thatcher brawled with Reed on the second rope when Grimes was shoved to ringside. Reed shoved Thatcher to the math. Reed missed his finisher. O’Reilly hit Reed in the back with a diving knee to eliminate him via pinfall.
Kyle O’Reilly eliminated Bronson Reed via pinfall at 21:37 of match time.
Thatcher managed to fend off Grimes and O’Reilly. Thatcher ended Grimes’s momentum with a suplex. Tom Phillips announced Damian Priest and Io Shirai vs. Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae for next week which was set up from the pull apart. Thatcher locked Kyle in a sleeper. O’Reilly caught Grimes in an ankle lock, but Grimes walked back to escape. Kyle dumped Grimes to ringside. O’Reilly took down Thatcher with a striking combo. O’Reilly hit Thatcher with a superman forearm. Thatcher came back with stiff European uppercut. O’Reilly tried to create footsie separation with strikes but he ate a stiff slap from Thatcher. O’Reilly rolled up Thatcher two times and got the jackknife pin to eliminate him.
Kyle O’Reilly defeated Timothy Thatcher via pinfall at 21:13 of match time.
Cameron Grimes hit O’Reilly with the Cave In. O’Reilly got his foot on the bottom rope for the false finish nearfall. Grimes thought he won, but then the referee informed him he didn’t win. Grime trash talked O’Reilly and yelled that he thought Adam Cole was the star of UE not O’Reilly. Grimes hit O’Reilly with his Spanish Fly power slam for a nearfall. Grimes and O’Reilly traded fatigued strikes. Grimes hit O’Reilly with a roundhouse. Grimes missed a Cave-In. O’Reilly pulled Grimes into a kneebar submission. Grimes quickly tagged out.
Kyle O’Reilly eliminated Cameron Grimes via submission in 27:48 of total match time to win the Eliminator and become the Number One Contender to the NXT Championship.
Highlights from the match aired. Roderick Strong and Adam Cole walked out to hug and pat Kyle O’Reilly on the back. UE was in the ring. Finn Balor walked out to the stage with his title belt. He held out a finger gun at O’Reilly to close the show…
John’s Thoughts: A really good match with five guys who can all main event a Takeover if you want them to (with Reed and Thatcher well on their way to being credible enough to put in that position). Having wrestlers like O’Reilly and Thatcher in this match add that nice layer of uniqueness to make the match fun. I’m a bit surprised that they’re rushing to Kyle O’Reilly in the main event, because they’ve never really built him as a single’s wrestler since before Adam Cole made his NXT debut many years ago. This is a bit sudden. My guess is that he ends up losing to Finn, but this was done to put him in a high position on the singles ladder. He’s probably going to be put in a feud with Tommaso Ciampa later on given how he confronted Ciampa after Ciampa’s attack on Jake Atlas last week.
Not as overall hot as last week’s show, but solid stuff as usual from NXT. Good matches and we got some good video packages throughout the show. It does seem a bit random that we have a Takeover coming up, but hey, that means we have an amazing PPV-like show on the horizon. I’ll have more thoughts on my Member’s Exclusive Audio Review. Jason Powell will be by tomorrow with his Hit List.