By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal returning: I didn’t get a case of the warm fuzzies when NXT announced the return of Halloween Havoc. I probably have more bad memories than good from those WCW pay-per-views. For that matter, I wasn’t even a fan of the Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal gimmick when it was first used. But themed shows tend to deliver in the ratings, and the Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal gimmick feels like a better fit on television than it did on pay-per-view. The nostalgia will work on many viewers more than me, and I suspect the theme and gimmick will provide a ratings boost for one night.
Damian Priest vs. Dexter Lumis for the NXT North American Title: Priest continues to deliver quality matches as the NA Champion, and Lumis came through with one of his better in-ring performances. The interference by Cameron Grimes protected Lumis while adding heat to their feud.
Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish vs. Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan for an NXT Tag Title shot: I really hope Burch and Lorcan get a tag title run one of these days. They consistently deliver in the ring and have developed a lot of credibility with viewers despite rarely winning high profile matches. On the Undisputed Era side, it was interesting that Kyle O’Reilly took the lead role. Granted, Adam Cole had the night off, but it will be interesting to see whether this was a preview of things to come.
Shotzi Blackheart vs. Candice LeRae for an NXT Women’s Title shot: I mistakenly assumed that Blackheart would go over since LeRae just had a title shot at Takeover, and Blackheart is hosting of the Halloween Havoc themed show where the title match will take place. Instead, they continued the story of the Garano’s family new and interesting relationship with Indie Hartwell. We’ll have to wait a little longer for the rematch of that hot Io Shirai vs. Blackheart match from a recent NXT television show. Even so, Blackhart continues to feel like a fast rising star. I just hope they have her cut back on the howling that felt really over the top at the end of the show.
Toni Storm vs Aliyah: A good showcase win for the returning Storm. The production team went overboard with the crowd noise for her. It was distracting more than helpful, but it wasn’t enough to ruin a solid return. Here’s hoping they get it right with Storm this time around.
Drake Maverick and Killian Dain vs. Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel: The odd couple tag team of Maverick and Dain continues to be fun. This is right up Maverick’s alley and he’s doing a terrific job as the overly excited partner of grumpy straight man Dain. As for the match, Maverick can easily absorb losses and still be a fun act, and it was the right move to put over the more credible Aichner and Barthel duo. Is it wrong that I kinda hope Furry and Fury sticks as a team name?
Ember Moon sit-down interview video: It looks like we’ll never get the dark and brooding persona that many of us felt would have been perfect for Moon. Even so, the Moon featured in this video was likable in a different way. I like the way she framed her return to NXT as being her choice to be in the best women’s division rather than a demotion. It felt like a jab at Raw and Smackdown. NXT should feel young and rebellious, so I’m fine with the occasional crack that makes NXT wrestlers seem like they aren’t just waiting to be called up. I also wonder if this was done by design in terms of being the first poke taken heading into the brand vs. brand vs. brand bit at Survivor Series.
Johnny Gargano vs. Austin Theory: The in-ring work was entertaining, but I’m not really sure why they went with a heel vs. heel match. Companies can conceivably get away with heel vs. heel matches these days because there are not enough fans present to make it noticeable if those in attendance don’t have a rooting interest, but it doesn’t mean that viewers at home are sticking with the match. That said, it seems like this might be going somewhere with Gargano and Theory, so perhaps this match was a necessary step.
Jake Atlas vs. Ashanti Adonis: Atlas got the distraction finish, but this match was all about setting up an apparent six-man tag match with Atlas, Adonis, and Isaiah Scott vs. Legado Del Fantasma. Do you think I could pull off that jacket that Santos Escobar wore to ringside? Me neither.
None: This was just a good, solid episode. I wasn’t wowed by anything, but every segment served a purpose and I was never bored. The two hours flew by. That said, I give AEW Dynamite the edge for being the better show this week even though I fund Misses in their Hit List. Dynamite felt like a higher stakes show with four title matches and the anniversary celebration theme.